Portsmouth's transfer stance explained with five days to go until start of new season at Fleetwood
Pompey kick off their 2021-22 season away to Fleetwood on Saturday with plenty of work still to be done on their squad.
With that in mind, we’ve sought clarity from chief sports writer Neil Allen to see exactly where Danny Cowley’s head is at this moment in his recruitment drive.
He’s what Allen had to say to us as we posed him six key transfer-related questions...
Saturday would have been the first opportunity for many fans to watch Danny Cowley’s Pompey team in action. Will they have been impressed with what they saw, in particular, the new signings on show?
Pompey looked sharp and confident and fully deserved their win.
And it was funny how fans kept chanting: ‘Championship, you’re having a laugh!’, because Peterborough were made to look very ordinary.
The star man was Ryan Tunnicliffe, who was one of the new signings on display.
He produced an all-action performance in the centre of midfield which was capped by a well-taken goal.
Him and Shaun Williams look a really good pairing in the centre of midfield, but that’s not the problem this season.
Instead, it’s the fact they’re the only midfield pairing on the club’s books presently.
Certainly, there was much to be optimistic about from the starting XI, while Clark Robertson was named captain and played well alongside Sean Raggett.
They are most certainly the preferred centre-back pairing ahead of the season starting.
The season kicks off on Saturday but we still seem to be talking a lot about triallists – why is that?
Pompey have been incredibly unfortunate this pre-season – on a number of levels.
Firstly, they had no access to academy youngsters following the internal investigation into racist social media posts.
Then, from those available, one contracted coronavirus and they subsequently had to self-isolate.
Straightaway, Danny Cowley has been short of numbers.
For example, at Chelsea last week, he spoke about how he would have liked five youngsters on the bench from the academy.
Yet, in reality, not a single one was available to him, which means the triallists are essential for bolstering numbers – both in training and pre-season friendlies.
The Cowleys have also been impacted by Ellis Harrison and Haji Mnoga being out with Covid at the end of last week, while the likes of Liam Vincent, Gavin Bazunu, Jayden Reid and Paul Downing have been missing through injury.
It’s clearly an understrength squad as it is, there’s not enough numbers, and the only way to get enough bodies on to the training pitch or in matches has been triallists.
It’s clearly not ideal. Danny Cowley wouldn’t want to be in this situation. But it’s through necessity rather than choice – there’s no doubt about that.
Is it still the case that no more triallists will be offered deals at Fratton Park or has that changed in recent days?
Danny Cowley, as ever, is keeping his cards close to his chest about triallists.
He’s declined to name most of them but has shown that if a few impress in training and pre-season games then they can win a deal.
We’ve seen that with Gassan Ahadme, Kieron Freeman and Jayden Reid – and there’s others he’s still looking at.
The latest is Dan Gyollai, who could be arriving from Peterborough and Louis Thompson.
Without question, there is a pathway for triallists and Cowley keeps talking about being open-minded with them, treating the triallists on a case-by-case basis.
Pompey are clearly still short of numbers after Danny Cowley initially said he wanted a squad together by the start of pre-season. What has went wrong?
In football, no-one has their squads in place for pre-season – no football club in the world has their squad assembled for pre-season. It just doesn’t happen.
It was a wish of Danny Cowley’s, a dream if you like, but it was never going to be practical in reality.
Even now, clubs are trying to sign players, Premier League clubs are trying to sign players. It happens.
Players come, players go throughout pre-season – even now, players could leave Pompey, with the likes of Ronan Curtis still interested in the Championship and Michael Jacobs still being pursued by Ipswich.
Pompey’s season starts on August 7 but that doesn’t mean that squad will be there for the rest of the season – there will be changes, there always are.
A deal for Connor Ogilvie looks close but there’s still a lot of work to do. What can we realistically expect both in terms of numbers and quality?
Danny Cowley has reiterated that he wants another two central midfielders, he wants a left-back, he wants a No10 – they’re the main positions for him at the moment.
It looks like, with Ogilvie, he will solve the left-back situation.
Therefore, he has cover and competition for every position in the back four and in goal.
It’s still a massive worry that he’s only got two central-midfielders, one of which is a 34-year-old, and no youngsters in the building who can fulfil those roles.
Up front, he’s got Ahadme, Harrison and Marquis. But surely he needs another striker, with two of those not able to get Pompey promoted over the past two years.
There’s also questions to be asked over the left flank, with Curtis maybe going and Jacobs coming back from injury, while you have to ask what’s next for Reeco Hackett-Fairchild?
Furthermore, on the right, Marcus Harness is the only real, natural right-sided winger.
So, clearly, there’s a lot of places still to fill by Pompey, although they still have three loans slots available.
If you get your crystal ball out, would the team that faces Fleetwood on Saturday differ much to the one that will line up against Plymouth, when the transfer window has shut?
Pompey are eager to bring in three loan players who are all capable of starting in the first team.
If they succeed in that, you’d imagine several would line up in that first game after the window closes against Plymouth.
Kenny Jackett’s approach to loan players was largely to fill squad numbers and provide competition for the bench.
Whereas Cowley is adamant he wants loanees to feature regularly in his first team.
It’s a completely different approach.
A lot of loanees under Jackett were frustrated over their treatment and their lack of match minutes, while the likes of Lloyd Isgrove didn’t even play.
If Cowley does want them straight for his first team you have to presume that some will be featuring against Plymouth following the closing of the transfer window.