GARY Taylor-Fletcher’s stock has never been higher.
In his early days at the club, the jury was out on whether Simon Grayson had spent wisely when he shelled out £90,000 to sign Taylor-Fletcher from Huddersfield.
Four years on, it seems a snip.
A star in the Premier League and on fire again this season, Taylor-Fletcher has surely proved the doubters wrong.
It says much about his standing at the club that he was able to play a little bit of hardball with Karl Oyston over a new contract.
It worked. After rejecting Pool’s first offer, he agreed a new one year deal with a further 12-month option earlier this week.
It means he can play with even more freedom at Portsmouth tomorrow, because while the contract impasse was ongoing, there were always one or two worries at the back of Taylor-Fletcher’s mind.
“The uncertainty means you are always looking out for that tackle that might put you out for the season,” admitted the frontman, who has two goals in seven games.
“But you have got to be professional, and try to put it out of your mind because you are still being paid. However, it does affect you.
“Because it dragged on so long, there was a temptation to say forget it and walk away at the end of the season.
“We thought we had hit a breaking point where nothing was happening, but the other day Karl Oyston rang me and said ‘come in and have a chat’.
“And when you sit down and talk properly, you get it done.
“The chairman was spot on with everything, I am delighted with the new contract and I hope the gaffer, Karl and the supporters are happy I have signed, and are happy to have me until the end of next season.”
Taylor-Fletcher believes his game has come on leaps and bounds in the last 18 months, mainly due to pitting his wits against the very best in the Premier League.
And it’s something he’d like to do again next season.
“The bottom line is that I still believe I could play in the Premier League and it is something I hope to do again,” he said.
“I feel I’m playing well this season and I think that’s because of the experience I got up there.
“I feel confident going into every game. If I am having a bad five minutes, I know that five minutes later I will be doing something special and something good.
“Maybe two years ago if I was having a bad five minutes, I would get a little bit down.
“But this year I just think ‘well that happens in football’, and I know that if I carry on, something good will happen.
“I just feel very confident and I think that is showing in the way I am playing.”
The trick now is to start picking up points on a regular basis and stay at the top end of the table.
“That’s the aim and we’re looking forward to Portsmouth, because we didn’t play as well as we can last week against Cardiff,” added the 30-year-old.
“But it is one in seven games that we haven’t played well.
“If you look at the next three games, they should be ones that we are looking to pick a minimum of six points from.
“And if we do that, we should be in the top six going into the next international break.
“People will moan when we have not played well, but look at where we are in the league and it is only early on.
“We are still getting players in and getting used to each other – where we are is magnificent and we are happy with it.”
Not as happy as he is at flying to the south coast tomorrow though.
“That is a massive bonus,” he added. “I think the chairman and gaffer looked at the Brighton game – when we had a horrible nine-and-a-half hour coach journey down – and it showed. In the first half we were sluggish, and couldn’t get to grips with the game. It was only in the second half that we got going.
“This time we won’t have any excuses – we will be prepared properly.
“My only concern is if any of the new lads have any fears of flying!”