Portsmouth Q&A: Why it's not clicking on the pitch for Blues, what Danny Cowley needs to do in January and why owners might need to spend to save season
Pompey progressed to the second round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win against Harrow Borough – but something clearly isn’t right within the Blues squad.
The News’ Head of Sport, Mark McMahon, asked chief Sports Writer Neil Allen why that was and what can be done to rectify it along with a couple more Pompey questions that we feel need addressing.
Here’s what was said...
Q Looking at the facts, Pompey are unbeaten in their past four games – their best run since August – but clearly something is not right. Would you agree?
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The performances aren’t great, are they.
They’re not playing with a swagger, there’s nothing stylish, there’s nothing about them is there at the moment.
It’s a bit of a grind, a bit of a toil to watch, a bit lacklustre, it’s just not great.
I know Pompey won on Saturday, a comfortable win and they didn’t look like losing, which you’d expect.
But you can’t give them too much credit for beating a Harrow Borough side who play in the same league as Gosport really.
They won but there was nothing about them and there was no suggestion that they could hammer them, thrash them, whatever. It was just disappointing.
It’s a difficult one, you came out of it and it didn’t feel like a defeat.
Don’t get me wrong, it was just so underwhelming and that was the issue, especially second half.
So there’s clearly problems there, we’ve not been entertained for a long time, have we really?
It’s just very functional Pompey at the moment. There’s problems all over the pitch you can see at the moment, especially up front, and there’s 56 days until the transfer window.
I worked out there’s 11 games, so Cowley’s got to strengthen up front or wherever in the transfer window which he desperately needs – but folks we’ve got another 11 games of this!
Q There’s nothing really exciting on the pitch to watch. Why is that? Where’s this come from and who is to blame? Is it the players, the manager? Where do you see the problem at the moment?
The start of the season they played so well, they looked good, but we were aware that they were playing teams like Crewe.
Crewe are probably one of the worst teams we’ve seen this season. It’s all very well beating Crewe 2-0 but they weren’t very good.
There was a victory over Shrewsbury, who have struggled over the large part, a goalless draw over Doncaster who have really struggled, although Williams did miss that penalty.
On paper, it wasn’t that bad a start to the season, Fleetwood away at the start as well. So perhaps it's the type of quality they are,
There’s issues everywhere.
He (Danny Cowley) has got two wingers on his books; strikers who we’re all sick and tired of speaking about; the wing-back system he bought in with one fit centre-half, (Gavin) Bazunu having a meltdown over two games as well.
There’s been all these little things, it’s not been good and it’s not been fluid.
There’s been nothing fluent about Pompey and that's down to the players and the manager really.
We all know better players need to be brought in but 14 players were brought in last summer and at the moment there is nothing to suggest this team is better than the side that finished eighth in League One last season.
Q Do you think Danny Cowley regrets not being able to find the forwards/strikers needed to make Pompey are greater attacking force?
He can only speak for himself but it was a missed opportunity, because Jayden Stockley was going to come in and Ellis Harrison was going to leave as well and that collapsed.
So he brought in Gassan (Ahadme) and he brought in (George) Hirst, who are nowhere near the calibre of players required at that stage.
We’re seeing the issues and the backlash of that now really.
I wrote very strongly about it in my latest match report.
Some people were saying it’s a good thing you’re saying this but, honestly, I've been saying this for over a year now.
I’ve been banging on about this in nearly every match report, on Twitter I've told people, I’ve said to people there’s massive striking issues here.
John Marquis’ 11 goals in 49 appearances for me since he’s been at the club, two-and-a-half years, has been disappointing for a £1m signing.
In my opinion, he’s been a disappointing signing.
I know some people bang on about how much he scored goals for Doncaster or whatever but that was two-and-a-half years ago .
We can only judge John Marquis on what he has done at Pompey – and what we’ve seen in 121 appearances is really disappointing for me.
It’s not through a lack of effort or desire, but it just hasn’t worked out.
We’re two-and-a-half years in, when do you stop saying Pompey need to get the best out of him.
Sometimes moves don’t work through no fault of the player, but it hasn’t worked out, has it?
But he’s the best player available to Danny Cowley at this moment in time so he’s been starting him.
So in January Cowley needs to bring in a change up font. He has to.
It’s been obvious since the end of last season that he needed two new strikers and he brought in two loan gambles and he’s still not resolved that area of the pitch. For me, that's a massive issue.
Q What can Danny Cowley realistically expect to do in January?
Realistically, he's looking at loans.
He has to rejig his loans because he’s got enough in the building already.
It needs to be loans because, financially, unless they sell a player, who's really bankable at Pompey at the moment other than loans?
So that is the situation he’s dealing with.
He realises he needs a striker, he acknowledges that.
And it doesn't matter if you rate John Marquis or not, every single person out there must acknowledge Pompey need a change up front and need to strengthen because this has gone on for far too long.
If you don’t do it in January that's still another six months until the end of the season with the same strikers. You can’t do that.
Q Do the Eisners need to intervene in January with some additional money for Danny Cowley to spend in order to prevent the season drifting further without hope?
It’s petering out already isn’t it?
What are we on – November 8 – and there’s nothing to suggest Pompey are getting into the play-offs, so it’s petering out.
I don't think there’ a relegation problem it’s just mid-table isn’t it?
The owners have said right from the very start that they’d run the club sustainably and there’s been little indication that will change to enable Pompey to have a mightier transfer window if you like.
We’ve not spoken about this for a number of years, but that's the message they’ve given across that they are not going to be putting more money into the budget to give Cowley more options rather than the loan market.
Q Surely the self-sustainable model only works if there’s a team on the pitch that has fans flocking to the ground? If the season is already petering out and there’s no reason for fans to be enthused to go to game, does that not effect the budget going forward?
Yeah, I’d love to be able to ask them that. I haven’t spoken to them in years.
You look to the summer and a lot of the biggest earners are out of contract so there will be a big overhaul to give the Cowleys, if they’re still in charge of the job, so much flexibility in their budget to bring new players in.
That's what we’re all looking for, it’s just limping towards the end of the season.
It’s not a great feeling around the place, it’s just flat.
They need something in January to lift people and results to lift people, it’s just horrible around the place.
Something needs to change, you can talk about getting rid of managers and bringing managers in, but they’re still going to inherit the problem with the strikers.
So you can change all the managers you like but you’ll still have the same problem with the strikers.
Will John Marquis rediscover his form from previous clubs under a new manager?
He hasn’t done it under two. So something needs to change, but what?