BY HIS own admission, Guy Whittingham is a firm advocate of neat, attacking, free-flowing football.
But Pompey’s stand-in boss believes his players need to know the time and place to exhibit their own brand of stylish play.
And with his inherited Blues squad sitting seventh from bottom in League One following five games without a win, he believes now isn’t the ideal stage of the season to play their way out of danger.
Instead, Whittingham has called on his charges to be more streetwise to their now-familiar surroundings.
He wants them to adapt more to the situations they face on a week-to-week basis in the third tier of the English game – and be prepared to battle hard for the right to be respected in a division where reputations mean nothing.
‘We’ve played enough games in this league now to know that you should be able to realise and recognise the situation when you can play your football and when you need to spin it round the corners and put it down the line,’ said Whittingham.
‘And I don’t think we do that enough.
‘I don’t think we have that intelligence or where-with-all in this league.
‘The team was playing football under Michael Appleton.
‘Michael wanted them to play football and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
‘I want them to play football, Andy Awford wants them to play football, and they want to play football – but there’s the right time and the right place to do that.
‘I watched a Premier League game last week and remember saying: “wow, look at all the time they have on the ball there”.
‘But you do in the Premier League and one of the main reasons for that is because you have got top players there and they will find themselves time.
‘But it’s not as “hurly burly and get out” as this league is.
‘We have got good players here, too, but at the moment we’re probably trying to play a bit too much.
‘We need to certainly realise when the time to play is and when the time is to work the ball up the pitch in different ways.’
That ‘good’ pool of players Whittingham refers to was added to yesterday following the loan arrivals of striker Paul Benson and winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from Swindon and Peterborough respectively.
Both players are expected to walk into the starting line-up for tomorrow’s visit of Doncaster Rovers to Fratton Park.
And with the duo on board, the Blues’ caretaker boss is adamant the side are now already more than capable of performing the practices he preaches.
‘We’ve got pace in the team with Izale (McLeod) and with Mendez-Laing coming in,’ said Whittingham.
‘We’ve also got a clever body within Benson, who knows when to make runs, when to get into the box and when to get on the end of things.
‘We’ve got a midfield three with a lot of experience, and we’ve got a steady back four.
‘That just needs to come together now.
‘We’ve just got to gel the ones together and we need to in the right areas.
‘We need to make sure we’re not taking risks and we’re playing at the right time and that’s what it’s really been about for the past three or four days in training.’