Danny Cowley outlines latest on Ellis Harrison's Portsmouth future amid Sheffield Wednesday, Oxford United and Fleetwood Town transfer interest
Ellis Harrison has been backed to be a Pompey asset as he edges closer to a Fratton stay.
But Danny Cowley has laid down demands for the striker to find the intensity to his game required to make him a central part of his set-up.
Harrison has been heavily linked with a Blues exit this summer, with Fleetwood, Oxford United and Sheffield Wednesday among his suitors.
With four days remaining of the transfer window the 27-year-old is still at PO4, however, with Cowley indicating there has been no concrete interest.
The head coach isn’t writing off a late change in events before 11pm on August 31, but he feels Harrison can still be a useful pawn in his squad if he stays.
Cowley said: ‘There’s big demand for number nines at the moment, so Ellis being a number nine there will always be demand for him.
‘We’re just focussed on trying to get him fitter and ready to start games for us, because we feel he could be a valuable asset if we get him to the player he’s capable of being.
‘For us with Ell, it’s not just about him being a target man.
‘He’s a boy who can link the play, also stretch the play and we need to get him to a place where he can run hard enough to stretch the pitch.
‘If he just becomes a target man, he’s not good enough at that element of the game to only have that in his game.
‘Thankfully, he’s got a lot of attributes. He can link it, he can occupy defenders and he can also stretch the pitch - three really good qualities in a number nine.’
Harrison’s pre-season progress has been hampered after testing positive for coronavirus, with contracting the disease leading to significant weight loss over a short period.
The £450,000 arrival from Ipswich in 2019 has built his fitness since, but his only involvement so far was as a late sub in the win against Shrewsbury last week.
Cowley wants his stamina at an optimum level to fit in with is game ideal, before extended inclusion is considered.
He added: ‘He hasn’t really been fit enough to stretch the pitch, but we’re getting there.
‘The numbers and intensity is starting to get there.
‘Our number nine is our first defender, so you have to run and enjoy running. We’re getting there with Ellis.
‘He’s in a much better place and we’re just trying to build his lungs and ability to do repetitive sprints.
‘That’s where we’re getting with him, where he doesn’t have to stretch his run into the channel, press the goalkeeper and then have to recover and catch his breath. We’re trying to get him to a place where he can make those runs repetitively.
‘That’s something John Marquis does incredibly well.’
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