Triallists descend on Portsmouth as we see clues of how Cowley era will unfold

The sprinklers launched into the Hilsea sky, providing some unexpected but appreciated relief to the Pompey players in the summer warmth.

Monday, 28th June 2021, 4:12 pm
Updated Monday, 28th June 2021, 5:07 pm

The groundsmen were prompt in answering their demand from Danny Cowley to add some zip to a Roko training surface in fine condition, but nonetheless a tad dry.

Drenching the players mid-drill was a little surprising, however, but absolutely no cause to put a halt to proceedings.

‘Only cats don’t like getting wet,’ was the no-nonsense assessment from new coach Simon Bassey as the players continued about their business, under the new management team’s watchful gaze.

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Aside from the impromptu soaking, there were few surprises as Cowley’s players returned to the club’s newly acquired training facility and started the business of getting the Blues out of this division at the fifth time of asking.

There was certainly no shock as the anticipated swathe of triallists arrived to swell the numbers to 23, and get the kind of workable session Cowley required.

That number included 13 of the 16 men currently contacted for next season.

Ronan Curtis was absent, granted extra leave after his international duties with the Republic of Ireland this summer.

Pompey back in training at Roko today. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 280621-11)

Michael Jacobs was away from the group doing some running and ballwork as his rehab work continued, while Ryan Tunnicliffe had a date with his bride and some nuptials before his Fratton career begins in earnest.

It was, of course, the identity of the triallists which was creating the greatest chatter on social media.

They numbered 10, as they joined the hundreds throughout the game looking for employment next season.

The News was sworn to secrecy over the identity of those mysterious figures. Suffice to say there were few if any the handful of supporters looking on from Rugby Camp would have recognised.

Simon Bassey. Picture: George Wood/Getty Images

In years gone by we’ve seen hard miles the focus of early pre-season dates. The balls were quickly out this time under Cowley.

Head of European scouting, Roberto Gagliardi, looked on as the pace quickened in drills and new boy Liam VIncent began his bid to make an impression in the pro ranks.

Coach Nicky Cowley spoke of the importance of positive body language in the face of a loose touch, before focus turned to splitting into two teams - essentially triallists v contracted players - for the next phase of the session.

Michael Poke was the man entrusted with putting Alex Bass and two keeper triallists through their paces, as the club wait to announce the arrival of Manchester City teenager Gavin Bazunu.

And then after two hours, the session was over. Shaun Williams looking tidy, Sean Raggett dumping Vincent on his backside and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild back in town on an upbeat opening afternoon concluding with a gym session.

Not before Cowley had imparted some final words of wisdom, however - the focus on making time for each other and ensuring everyone had a friendly welcome for new faces.

So few shocks on Pompey’s training return, not even a new haircut to ridicule on this occasion. But a renewed sense of purpose and an opening insight into the intensity with which the Championship dream will be pursued this season.