The chances of Newcastle United triallist earning Portsmouth deal, how Leicester City arrival will operate and Fleetwood Town squad clues - what we learned from Bournemouth clash
There was plenty of clues and insight on offer ahead of the new campaign, as Pompey finished their pre-season warm-ups against Bournemouth under-21s yesterday. Here’s what we learned.
Looks can be deceptive when it comes to new Pompey arrival at George Hirst.
At 6ft 4in, the season-long loanee arrival from Leicester City has often been marked out as a target man in his career to date.
That did the son of legendary Sheffield Wednesday striker, David Hirst, a disservice, however.
Although obviously competitive in the air with his physical assets, Hirst values his ability to run the channels and hold up play with the ball at his feet as stronger areas of his game.
On the evidence of what was witnessed at the Canford Arena, you can see why the 22-year-old is of that opinion.
Hirst won his fair share of high balls, but it was a decent level of mobility for a big man which caught the eye as well as his ability to bring others into the game.
That was showcased for the only goal of the match in the 20th minute, as the former Owls trainee slotted in Reeco Hackett-Fairchild who emphatically roofed his finish.
Danny Cowley has made it clear how he sees Hirst operating, attacking space behind defences and making the most of the wing-play the Pompey boss values so much.
In a maiden 45-minute showing, the Blues’ new striking arrival offered positive evidence of how that approach could work fluently in the new campaign.
Ludwig fails to hit the right note
Another of the huge number of pre-season triallists was unmasked at Bournemouth.
The huge defender on show in the 1-0 win was identified as Frenchman Ludwig Francillette, who was released from Newcastle this summer.
The centre-back completed a meteoric rise from the reserve team of sixth-tier outfit AS Quetigny Football to St James’ Park two years ago, where he joined the Magpies’ under-23 side after a trial.
Francillette made five appearances in the EFL Trophy in his time on Tyneside before his summer release.
That paved the way for the 6ft 4in man to link up with Pompey on trial, where he featured in the 2-0 loss against Chelsea under-23s last week.
He has stuck around and was again involved against the Cherries.
Francillette didn’t look particularly comfortable, however, and was withdrawn at the break with academy youngster Izzy Kaba getting a chance to shine.
The 22-year-old looks a player who will put his natural physical attributes to good use, but building from the back with the ball at feet didn’t appear to be a natural part of his game.
With the way Cowley is looking to play out - as seen in the work of Clark Robertson in pre-season - it’s a stretch to see how Francillette will have any meaningful part to play in Pompey’s story moving forward this term.
Can Reeco hack it?
There’s been plaudits for the work being put in by Reeck Hackett-Fairchild this pre-season from Danny Cowley.
And the winger did his chances of making it into Cowley’s squad against Fleetwood on Saturday no harm with his Bournemouth showing.
Operating on the right flank in a 4-2-3-1, Hackett-Fairchild lit up the game with its only goal - an unerring rocket of hit into the top corner in the 20th minute.
That capped a busy effort in which he moved up front as Cowley switched to a 3-4-3 formation after the break.
Hackett-Fairchild certainly should’ve had a second goal before the interval, however, but his left-footed effort lacked conviction and was easily saved.
There’s much for the 2020 arrival from Bromley to move this term, with just one EFL Trophy appearance to his name in royal blue to date.
There was also a largely unconvincing loan spell at Southend as they were relegated to the National League last term.
But with Jayden Reid injured long term, that leaves just Marcus Harness, Michael Jacobs and Ronan Curtis as the other wingers in the building at present.
There’s still a winger berth to snap up - and it’s up to Hackett-Fairchild to now seize that opportunity.
Michael Jacobs was once again the standout performer in the Pompey XI side.
The winger is building his way back into the equation in pre-season after recovering from a recurrence of a knee issue in April.
After his Luton Town comeback he’s joined the second string for outings against Chelsea and now the Cherries, with a cameo against Peterborough sandwiched between.
At Cobham last week, he looked the best player on the pitch by some distance for long periods.
It was a similar story against the Championship side’s under-21 side, as he operated in the central attacking role behind Hirst in Cowley’s 4-2-3-1 formation and prompted proceedings.
Seeing the winger, nicknamed Crackers, get 90 minutes into his legs was a real positive for Cowley going into the Fleetwood game.
There, of course, remains that question mark over his future with Ipswich continuing their pursuit of the 29-year-old through the summer.
And, of course, a justifiable doubt has been his ability to put an extended run of games together in his time at Pompey.
There’s little doubt, however, what a fully fit and firing Michael Jacobs can bring to the table this term.