Promotion parties are nothing new to Marc McNulty. He enjoyed two as a teenager at Livingston before heading south aiming to pop more champagne corks in England. That ambition is behind his recent loan move from Sheffield United to Portsmouth.
The Edinburgh-born striker moved to the south coast with a point to prove earlier this month after dropping out of favour at Bramall Lane. Helping fallen giants Pompey out of League Two would provide plenty satisfaction for a player deeply frustrated at how his year has panned out.
In January, his goals were helping League One Sheffield United knock Premier League Southhampton and Queens Park Rangers out of national cups. The arrival of Nigel Adkins to replace Nigel Clough as manager saw McNulty drop to fifth-choice striker. Such lowly status was never going to appeal.
He joined Portsmouth on loan until January, but is eager to stay until next summer. Despite a lack of action this season, he is confident of helping a huge club regain some momentum by achieving promotion.
Two successive moves up the lower leagues were highlights of his formative years in West Lothian after Livingston’s demotion to the old Third Division in 2009. Similar success in England would be on a far greater scale, however.
“Portsmouth should at least be in the Championship because they’re a massive club. Their fans are mad,” McNulty told the Evening News. “The club are looking to get promoted and I see myself being part of one of those teams. That’s why I came here.
“This loan is only until January at the moment but I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to extend it till the end of the season. Getting promoted is in my sights.”
Portsmouth sit fourth in League Two, just two points outside the automatic promotion places.
“There is a lot of talk about Portsmouth every week, about them getting promoted. The pressure and expectations at Sheffield United were no different and that’s what I like here. You’re expected to do well and it puts pressure on you. That’s what you want as a player, to thrive on winning every week.”
He is already taken by the fanatical Fratton Park fans after only two appearances there. “My first game was a cup game and, although the ground wasn’t full, I could tell it was pretty mad.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be part of two clubs that shouldn’t really be in the divisions they’re in. A lot of people said to me about dropping down a league but to come to a club the size of Portsmouth, with their reputation, it’s a jump from other League One teams. That’s why I’ve done it because I wanted to be a part of this.”
That winner against Southampton in the Capital One Cup was less than a year ago. His goal at Loftus Road in a 3-0 romp against QPR was only in January. Both feel like years ago to McNulty.
“One minute you’re scoring goals against Premier League teams in cup competitions, then next minute it all changes. Football is like that, though,” he said. “I was hoping for a run of games to establish myself as one of Sheffield United’s main strikers. Unfortunately, the manager has brought in two of his own strikers [Billy Sharp and Conor Sammon] and I’ve fallen out of favour.
“I sat about waiting for a chance but, bar a couple of games here and there, I wouldn’t say I’ve had a fair crack at it. I’ve had to go elsewhere to get game time after a few chats with the manager.
“I hadn’t featured a lot and I wasn’t getting a run of games that I felt I should’ve got. It’s not for me to make that decision. Week after week I wasn’t playing and, once I knew other teams were sniffing about, I thought it was best to get myself out. I just wanted to get down the road and get started here. A couple of teams in League One were interested but Portsmouth, given the size of the club, was a no-brainer.”
McNulty’s Sheffield United contract runs until June 2017. He isn’t sure whether he has a future there with Adkins in charge, although there are no plans to return to Scotland.
“I’d like to stay down here for the time being. I did pretty well in my first season in England and I wanted to establish myself as a regular and a goalscorer this year. I don’t really think I’ve had a fair chance of doing that so I feel I’ve still got quite a bit to prove down here.
“According to the manager, I’ve still got a future at Sheffield United so I can’t rule that out. I loved my time there and I’m still contracted there for another year after this. If the manager is saying I’ve still got a future then I’d never shut the door on that. I’ll look at it at the end of the season.”
If he gets his way, McNulty will need to dry himself off from another champagne-soaked promotion bash before assessing his options.