Danny Cowley's classy farewell message to Rochdale-bound Paul Downing - and explains why ex-Blackburn and Doncaster man had no Portsmouth future

Danny Cowley rued Paul Downing’s injury record as he bid a touching farewell to the central defender.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 4:55 am

Downing endured a difficult time on the south coast after arriving in June 2019 on a free transfer from Blackburn to bolster promotion ambition.

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Nonetheless, Cowley recognised the ex-Walsall man’s qualities – both as a player and human being.

And he sent a classy message to the outgoing defender, who made just 27 Pompey appearances.

The Blues boss told The News: ‘Paul’s an excellent professional, an intelligent defender and a really, really good human being.

‘We wish him nothing but success moving forward.

Paul Downing is departing Fratton Park on loan to Rochdale for the remainder of the season. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘Unfortunately for us this season, he has picked up injuries at the wrong time.

‘He found a really good way into pre-season and picked injuries up, he just hasn’t been able to find his way back into the team.

‘Paul’s a really good professional and we wish him nothing but success.’

Downing was much sought-after in the summer of 2019, yet Pompey won the battle to recruit him as a free agent.

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He was earmarked to replace Matt Clarke in the Blues defence, establishing a new-look partnership with fellow newcomer Sean Raggett.

As it was, he lost his place just six games into the League One campaign following a 2-2 draw with Burton at Fratton Park in September 2019.

The next time he was named in a league starting line-up was 19-and-a-half months later – by new head coach Cowley.

Downing was handed a shock start in a 3-1 triumph at AFC Wimbledon in May 2021 which put the Blues on course for play-off qualification.

He was then preferred to Raggett for the final match of the season, depriving the ex-Norwich man of his league ever-present record that term.

However, Cowley’s men slumped to a 1-0 defeat to slip out of the play-off positions and end the campaign in a disappointing eighth spot.

Hamstring issues then cut short Downing’s pre-season, before his availability this term was impacted by a calf injury, Covid and then another hamstring problem.

Downing finished with four appearances this year, with his final involvement as an unused substitute against Exeter in last week’s Papa John’s Trophy encounter.

He is scheduled to join a Rochdale side which are presently 17th in League Two, with one win from their last seven matches.

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