Latest on Oxford United target Ellis Harrison's Portsmouth future

Ellis Harrison’s future remains shrouded in doubt as he gets set to return to the Pompey fray.

Friday, 6th August 2021, 4:55 am

And Danny Cowley has admitted he’s unlikely to have four strikers to call on beyond the close of the transfer window.

Harrison is due to make his Blues return today, following a period of isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.

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That talk intensified with 6ft 4in striker George Hirst arriving on loan for the season from Leicester City this week.

Cowley is continuing his Pompey overhaul with the midfield area a clear area of focus, and a creative, forward-thinking player a priority in that area.

The head coach may have to free up wages in his budget to make that happen, with Harrison an obvious contender to help do so.

Ellis Harrison

Cowley can call on Hirst, Harrison, John Marquis and Gassan Ahadme up front at present, but admitted he’s unlikely to go into the season with four strikers.

He said: ‘Ellis will continue to train and we’re getting there with his fitness.

‘We’ve made some progress and he got to 75 minutes in the Chelsea game.

‘He’s still working hard and we all know what Ellis Harrison can do.

‘He’s a big, strong powerful number nine who’s very difficult to play against.

‘You’d like four forwards, most squads have four forwards.

‘In an ideal world that would be the case, though I don’t think we’ll get to four.

‘We need competition and what you’d like a nine and a 10 who can play together, then you’d like another nine and 10.

‘Four who could all play together would be the ideal and give you real tactical flexibility, because you could come in and out of formations then.’

Hirst’s arrival adds another powerful front man to Pompey’s ranks in a similar vein to Harrison, although Cowley believes there are fundamental differences in the way the pair operate.

Despite not expecting to have four out-and-out forwards to call upon beyond the end of the month, the Blues boss explained versatile players who can play up front may help when it comes to options.

He added: ‘Ellis is different to George.

‘George is a nine-and-a-half - you can play into him, up to him or down the sides to him.

‘Ellis is a handful, street strong and won’t give defenders a moment.

‘He’s working hard on his fitness to getting back to being that mobile, penetrative number nine we know he can be.

‘We have Ronan as well who can play as a nine and Marcus who can play as a 10.

‘Reeco has shown some flexibility in what he can do and has played as a seven and we know he can play as an 11, while he has played in that ‘Gassan’ role.

‘For us, we like competition for places. That’s what we’re striving for.

‘When I first arrived we had one striker at the club.

‘We don’t want to leave ourselves short in that position, because one and nine define you.’

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