Danny Cowley addresses 'competitive' Portsmouth right-back battle as newcomer locks horns with Callum Johnson
Danny Cowley has finally succeeded in capturing long-time target Kieron Freeman.
Yet Pompey’s boss is adamant it is too early to declare who will be next season’s first-choice right-back.
Freeman has arrived at Fratton Park to challenge Callum Johnson for a starting spot.
For Cowley, it completes his right-back pool, with Haji Mnoga also an option, although the 19-year-old is likely to be loaned out for experience.
Still, it signifies an intriguing battle in the position, with Johnson sufficiently impressing in his maiden Pompey campaign to be named third in The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season.
Yet with Freeman being a player long admired by Cowley, it promises to be quite a scrap.
Pompey’s head coach told The News: ‘Kieron’s got a wealth of experience, a real technical quality, and is an overlapping attacking full-back.
‘I like to sign players that have come out of winning environments – and he has been part of a group which will be forever remembered at Bramall Lane.
‘Last year would have been a frustrating year for Kieron. We would actually have taken him at Huddersfield if we’d have stayed there.
‘We worked hard to get that to a place, so I’m delighted to be able to take him this time around. He has a point to prove and that could be powerful in itself.
‘You want competition for places and that’s certainly what we are looking for, it drives up standards.
‘All of our young full-backs at the club – Liam Vincent, Haji Mnoga and Callum – will benefit massively from someone like Kieron and his experience.
‘However, I don’t think you are ever picking your team on July 15. We’ll pick what we see in pre-season.
‘We’ve got competition now for the goalkeeping spot, competition for the number two spot – now we have to create some more competition for the other spots.’
Johnson arrived at Fratton Park for an undisclosed fee from Accrington in September 2020.
He went on to make 46 appearances and score once in his maiden campaign with the Blues.
Cowley added: ‘Callum is a young player who has spent a lot of his career as a central midfielder and has come to right-back a little later in his career.
‘He’s got athleticism when he overlaps, but with the combination play with Marcus Harness on the right-hand side, we always felt we were one short.
‘On the left, we felt Ronan and Lee (Brown) had a link, yet in last year’s team we didn’t quite find that extra third player to link with Callum and Marcus.
‘Hence that is why we signed Ryan Tunnicliffe, who likes that right half space and makes the dynamic number 8 runs.’
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