Cook: Ben Davies still first-choice for Pompey
Paul Cook is convinced he possesses the best two full-backs in League Two.
And he has reassured Ben Davies he remains first choice – despite the loan arrival of Kieron Freeman.
Davies and Enda Stevens have been ever-present for the Blues in League Two so far and caught the eye with their attacking play.
Yesterday Cook surprised many fans by adding to his right-back options in recruiting Freeman on loan from Sheffield United for the remainder of the season.
Pompey’s boss insists the move was driven by the need to strengthen his squad with fixtures piling up for the club.
And, following the departure of Rommy Boco this week, Cook wanted more right-back competition.
He said: ‘Kieron is there to challenge Ben, without a doubt, not take over his place.
‘I believe we have the best two full-backs in the league. I must admit, I wouldn’t swap Enda or Ben for any other full-backs in League Two.
‘Ben has been absolutely fantastic, but we just have to be careful with the fixtures coming up.
‘We could get a draw with Bournemouth tomorrow, which will mean another Tuesday night game. We could get a win against Bournemouth which will mean again another game.
‘In our squad now we have young Brandon Haunstrup at left-back who we feel is ready to play and is exciting.
‘We have no cover for Ben Davies, if he got injured tomorrow we would be on a bus to Morecambe with no right-back.
‘Right-back has been a little bit of a problem area in terms of cover and for the final 20 games we felt it important to get good cover.
‘The reality now is with three games in a week Ben Davies won’t be under pressure to play all three.
‘We are delighted with Ben, this is nothing to do with him, it’s just we felt having cover there for a run-in is very important.
‘The numbers have been cut lately but we need a little bit of squad depth. We must maintain quality.’
Freeman has played 22 times for the Blades this season, yet has been out of the first-team frame since November.
Now he links up with ex-colleagues Michael Doyle, Davies and Marc McNulty.
Cook added: ‘Kieron is a lad we have been after for a long time. I think our supporters can see when we try to bring in players we try to bring in quality.
‘He is a very, very attacking right-back who has played at a good level and has great energy.’