Danny Cowley issues youngster 35-game target next season - and it may not be at Portsmouth

Danny Cowley is targeting a 35-game campaign for Haji Mnoga in the 2021-22 season.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 5:30 pm
Danny Cowley believes Haji Mnoga needs to play 35 games next season to aid his development. Picture: Joe Pepler

And the Blues boss is prepared to send the teenager out on loan if that ambition can’t be achieved at Fratton Park.

This term has yielded a Football League debut and maiden first-team goal for Mnoga.

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The defender has totalled 13 Pompey outings since his debut as a 16-year-old at Crawley in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Yet Mnoga’s sole experience away from the Blues is a Rocks match against Bishop’s Stortford in August 2019.

And Cowley is convinced the Academy graduate needs regular first-team football next term to flourish, regardless of whether it’s for Pompey.

He told The News: ‘For Haji next season, he has to play 35 games.

‘He’s a great kid, he has travelled everywhere with us. He is right with us and he’s ready to go.

‘I’m waiting for the opportunity and it wouldn’t scare me at all to use him if necessary.

‘All of our young players need a pathway, they improve through high-level training and coaching both on and off the pitch, and then a relevant games programme.

‘When they come back for pre-season, especially young players, as they become more and more competent then they’ll become more and more confident.

‘Somewhere along that development process is a swingball that they can hit, then, all a sudden, they explode – and it’s confidence.

‘I wouldn’t rule out Haji playing 35 games for Pompey next year, he’s got a lot to achieve.

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‘However, if we don’t think it’s going to be for Pompey next season, then maybe we have to make a brave and unselfish decision and let him go out on loan.

‘Then we could bring in another right-back in.’

Earlier this season, Kenny Jackett resisted the urge to send out the defender on loan, with Weymouth showing interest.

With Mnoga required at Fratton Park and the early curtailment of the non-league campaign, he never again had such an opportunity.

He has gone on to appear nine times for the first-team this season, yet none since March, while hasn’t made the last 10 squads under Cowley.

Pompey’s head coach added: ‘Let’s be honest, if I was making a selfish decision, I would want Haji here.

‘He’s a great trainer, he’s going to be great competition in the right-back position and maybe on the right of the back three as well.

‘But we have to think long-term with all of our young players.

‘We have to look at the bigger picture – and we owe it to the player and football club to make the right decision for their long-term benefit.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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