Danny Cowley's first week in the Portsmouth hot seat assessed - and when we can expect his methods to really bear fruit

Danny Cowley has now spent a full week with his inherited Pompey squad following his appointment as the Blues’ new head coach.

By Mark McMahon
Friday, 26th March 2021, 1:39 pm

He got off to a flying start with victory against Ipswich on Saturday – less than 24 hours after his appointment was officially confirmed.

And with another tough game coming up tomorrow at Shrewsbury, we’ve spoken to Pompey writer Will Rooney to get his thoughts on Cowley’s first full week in the job.

Q You caught up with the new boss on Thursday, how do you think that first week in the job went?

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It sounded all positive.

It was what the Cowleys – Danny and his brother Nicky – needed after obviously coming in last week and wanting to impart their knowledge and footballing philosophy on the players and trying to get their demands across, really. I think that was the key aim.

What I took out of my conversation with Danny was that they want to learn about the players before they really start putting their methods into practice, though.

That’s been key – getting to know the players, getting to know their personalities and attributes better so they can tailor training around what is required and what will get the best out of the players who are currently in the dressing room.

New head coach Danny Cowley takes his Pompey team to Shrewsbury tomorrow

Q So they’ve been trying to get to know the players better but is there any specific areas they’ll have focused their attentions on on the training pitch?

I think on Saturday you saw how they wanted to up the intensity, the pressing and how quickly Pompey pass the ball – being aggressive with it, taking as few touches as possible with it, and getting it up there on the deck.

I think that’s been important this week and something they’ll definitely have worked on further.

No doubt, there’s been a few sessions tailored around that to help with those requirements. It’s crucial to what they want.

Defensively, I think they’ll have been working with individuals as well as those key partnerships, both left-side and right side, which, perhaps under Kenny Jackett, weren’t as solid as they should have been.

Q How have the players responded to Danny Cowley’s introduction, along with his requirements and methods?

I think it’s been a big boost to every player.

As we’ve said previously, I don’t think Kenny Jackett lost the dressing room, but I think things probably got a little bit stale.

After nearly four years of the same voice, and with a lot of players being around for that time, I think a fresh voice and new ideas will have lifted the players.

It’s brought a new enthusiasm and hopefully that will reignite a promotion push now because we all know there’s talent in this squad which should be competing in the top six at a minimum.

So I think the Cowleys’ outlook, which is very modern in the game, has been appreciated by the players.

Q Ronan Cutis is absent for the trip to Shrewsbury because of international commitments. But barring that, surely it will be hard to change a team that came from behind to beat Ipswich last weekend?

Other than the Curtis replacement, I can’t see why they would change it.

The back four were solid for most parts and It looks like Lee Brown has potentially made the left-back position his own after being rotated with Charlie Daniels under Kenny Jackett.

Sean Raggett they know, Jack Whatmough had a good game, and James Bolton – even though Callum Johnson has been training, I can’t see him being risked.

So no changes there, but the one they could be tempted with, although I can’t quite see it yet, is brining Ben Close in for Andy Cannon.

Close had a really good impact coming on as a substitute against Ipswich and he’s a player the Cowleys rate highly.

But going away from home, you might just need that little bit more energy in the middle, so Cannon might just get the nod.

Q So who replaces Curtis? Will it be a so-called like-for-like replacement or will we see a change in formation to work around his absence given Michael Jacobs’ recent injury and Harvey White not being in the squad last Saturday?

It’s certainly a dilemma Cowley is faced with.

There is an obvious candidate in Michael Jacobs, who, in normal circumstances, would come in. But do you risk him?

He’s already had one serious injury this season and a couple of hamstring niggles, but do you risk him with 10 crucial games of the season remaining after the Shrewsbury match?

Or do you bring him off the bench again, likey the did against Ipswich?

Just purely for team balance reasons, you could maybe see them give Jacobs a start and playing him for 55-60 minutes to get Pompey into a winning position.

Hopefully then they can change it and they can afford to bring him off and maybe bring on Harvey White on the left.

In terms of formation, I think because of the current lack of strikers available, you’ve got to play Ryan Williams up there with Jordy Hiwula, and then I just think you need another ball-winner next to Tom Naylor in midfield in a 4-4-2.

Cannon’s stats this season show that he’s nearly made more tackles than anyone else in the division, so I think away from home it will probably be more pragmatic to play him rather than bring Close in.

Q Shrewsbury have proven to be tough opponents this season for many. There’s no denying this is another major test for Cowley and Pompey’s promotion credentials.

It is absolutely, and as you mention, they seem to be better against the so-called top teams than the teams around them in the table.

Last week they drew with league-leaders Hull and Grant McCann said afterwards that they’re a tough team to break down, which is what you get from a Steve Cotterill side.

So I think there’s going to be patience needed from Pompey.

They’re going to have to wait for those key moments and ultimately they’ll have to take advantage of them because Shrewsbury are going to be very hard to break down.

You can image there’s not going to be too many opportunities coming Pompey’s way.

Q Will this game provide us with a clearer picture of where Pompey are under the new manager and their promotion hopes?

I think it’s still a little bit too early, maybe one or two games too soon to make that call.

Perhaps we should judge the state of play after the Wigan game on Easter Monday, by which stage there will have been at least four games played and eight matches still to go.

By then you’d expect the Cowleys to have had a decent look at the team, where they are, and how they can get the best out of the players.

I think then will definitely be the best stepping stone to see where they are.

They’ll have another full week’s worth of training, with Rochdale coming on the Friday, and I think after the Wigan game that’s when you’ll get a true picture of Pompey’s credentials ahead of a vital period of the season.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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