Portsmouth's 'solid citizen' guaranteed Sheffield Wednesday start after impressively winning positional battle

Pompey’s ‘solid citizen’ appears to have claimed the right-back position for Saturday’s Sheffield Wednesday opener.

Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 4:00 pm

Yet despite Joe Rafferty’s apparent head start, Danny Cowley is adamant Zak Swanson should not be ruled out of the equation.

The Blues’ line-up against Coventry last weekend was the clearest indicator yet of Cowley’s preferences ahead of League One’s launch.

That includes Rafferty at right-back following his arrival on a free transfer from Preston earlier this month.

Indeed, the 28-year-old caught the eye with a strong display, before replaced by full-back rival Swanson in the 77th minute of the 2-0 defeat.

Cowley told The News: ‘Joe is a solid citizen, different from Connor Ogilvie but the same level of maturity, experience and a really good professional.

‘He’s good with the younger players while had a fantastic education at Liverpool and then went to play in the Championship.

‘Joe was probably starved of football last year and came to us off the back of our training camp in Spain, so he’s still working towards game fitness and getting that rhythm and that fluency that all players need.

Joe Rafferty is likely to be Pompey's first-choice right-back at the start of the season. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

‘When he arrived, we did some aerobic capacity testing and he was actually third in the group, so his base fitness started high.

‘But there’s not so much football, so we’ve had to work towards that.

‘It’s a fair fight between Joe and Zak, it’s going to be interesting and we will make a call.

‘Every day it’s the players’ responsibility. I pick the team by the way they play, the way they train.’

Swanson has still to make his Football League debut, although turned out in six Papa John’s Trophy outings for Arsenal under-21s.

And Cowley continues to be impressed by the 21-year-old’s early impact.

He added: ‘Zak has some athleticism and quality, but has some work to do on his game understanding.

‘I thought he was the stand-out player at Bognor, but he has to experience little bits.

‘There was a mistake in the second half when he had a bad touch and went out for a throw-in. They then threw it in the space behind him.

‘These are little details which all young players need to pick up on - but wow does he have some technical qualities and athleticism on the overlap.

‘Our ambition for Zak is to develop him and improve his game, to keep working on his attributes and strengths, but also start to add to some of the areas we feel we can help him with.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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