Danny Cowley on unravelling Portsmouth number nine problem which devastated Fratton careers of Lincoln's John Marquis, Michael Smith and others

John Marquis represents yet another casualty of the malaise which has claimed the Pompey careers of a number of centre-forwards.

Thursday, 14th April 2022, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th April 2022, 5:20 pm

That’s the verdict of Danny Cowley, who admits the 29-year-old failed to rediscover his impressive Doncaster form following a £1m move in July 2019.

Marquis netted 38 goals in 127 outings for the Blues – of which 11 came in his last 55 appearances.

He returns to Fratton Park tomorrow with Lincoln, yet is not alone in terms of strikers struggling while at the Blues.

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Michael Smith has reinvented himself at Rotherham since his Pompey days, while current number nine Tyler Walker has been tremendously disappointing.

And Cowley believes it’s an ongoing centre-forward issue which requires solving.

He told The News: ‘We wanted to try to make it work, John’s someone the club had invested a lot of money into and a very, very good player at a level.

‘But sometimes this is the life of the number nine, they go to a club and, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t quite work out.

Danny Cowley believes John Marquis was another casualty of the Pompey number nine shirt. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

‘There have been a lot of number nines here like that. Michael Smith has been the best centre-forward in the division this year and it didn’t work out for him at Pompey.

‘We must try to understand this and why the number nines in recent times haven’t done so well. We have to find the solutions, because in the summer it’s a department we definitely need to add to.

‘John came to Pompey off the back of a brilliant spell at Doncaster, where he scored consistently over a sustained period of time. For whatever reason, it didn’t quite happen.

‘It wasn’t through the want of trying, I think the majority of Pompey fans respected John’s work ethic.

‘But unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find the form that was probably the reason the club signed him in the first place.

‘We did everything we could to try to make it successful, so did John. When he left, he told me he almost felt he had tried too hard to make it happen – and I can understand what he meant by that.’

Yet in November that changed when Marquis was ruled out for five matches with a tendon problem.

In his absence, Hirst started every fixture, including being handed a Blues full debut 0 and there was no way back for the ex-Doncaster man.

Cowley added: ‘When George first arrived, he was coming back from a hamstring injury and had a really disrupted pre-season.

‘It was about getting him up to speed physically. Then, once you do that, you must try to get him into a rhythm where they can gain confidence.

‘We’ve now seen George in a rhythm and with confidence – and his levels are improving by the game.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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