But after 12 months at the Fratton helm, he now also views the breadth and scale of the work required to realise that potential.
A clear picture has crystallised for the man from the London borough of Havering, over what’s needed to finally get this football club moving towards its place in the natural order of the English game.
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But Cowley is wondering whether he’ll be afforded that rarest of footballing commodities to benefit from what he can see is palpably required.
The clock is ticking and the time is nearing when judgements will be made more keenly on the Pompey boss.
Whether you’re in agreement or not, the 2021-22 campaign has been marked as one of transition for this football club on the pitch.
The man making the key decisions has opted to use that time to streamline a squad, with a policy of signing players he sees as higher quality over favouring quantity.
That has exposed his team on occasions, but was always done with a view to what comes next.
Whether enough progress has been carried out at this stage is a subjective business, and probably depends on your vantage point.
A year into his tenure, Cowley believes he's made strides - a statement caveated by the reality there is still a vast amount of work ahead this summer.
He will be aided by the fact the big attacking earners in Ellis Harrison and John Marquis have been freed from the wage bill, even if the £1.45m to secure their arrivals was frittered away.
But those of us who’ve been around longer are left looking at the squad which came into the division five years ago, and the one that’s in play now. Which was stronger?
And there lies the issues for the Pompey boss. Cowley isn’t the man culpable, but next season will be the club’s sixth at this level. Sixth!
The need for stadium investment and structure in the football operation is acknowledged, but it’s on the pitch where the ultimate judgements are made.
That means patience will be brittle from the outset when League One battle commences on July 30. Pompey fans may be known for their indomitable backing, but they’ve also shown they have a breaking point.
So Cowley will feel time is against him, but this summer will also be his third transfer window in the Fratton hotseat.
By the 43-year-old’s own estimation, that is a reasonable time span and period of evolution to put your own imprint on a squad.
Yet, he currently has 10 senior contracted players and not a single centre-forward to call his own.
No doubt, that point will be made over the dinner table in the coming days, as Tornante and Cowley meet face to face for the first time. Likewise, needing the finances to make a much-trumpeted change in transfer policy to landing players on the rise workable.
He will have to work overtime to create the best conditions for himself this summer, because for all the success of Blackpool, Luton and, to a degree Plymouth this season, money usually talks when it come to getting out of the division.
And that’s what will be demanded of the Pompey boss moving forward. In terms of producing a top-six finish, it will be time to deliver.