Triallists, tans but no strikers as Portsmouth boss breaks new territory on first day of term

Michael Appleton still leads the way when it comes to ill-prepared pre-seasons.

Danny Cowley oversees the first day of training at Pompey's Roko base. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Danny Cowley oversees the first day of training at Pompey's Roko base. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Who can forget the Pompey boss not having a senior player to his name, as a band of triallists and youngsters headed off to Spain a decade ago?

Appleton eventually signed a completely new side on the eve of the campaign, at the end of the most shambolic build-up for competitive action imaginable.

Of course, there’s been others.

How about Steve Cotterill, who could call on just eight players in 2010, with the club in disarray, after falling out the Premier League as its first club to enter administration.

Then there was Guy Whittingham and his players on a Farlington school playing field, as the Trust era commenced in 2013.

Danny Cowley himself just made it into double figures for contracted players last summer, as a procession of triallists came and went in his maiden pre-season as Pompey manager.

So, for all the talk, things really weren’t that bad as his players reported for duty after their summer break.

That said the Londoner was breaking new territory for his 15-year managerial career, in not having a senior striker to work with.

Still, the boundless enthusiasm of the Cowleys was there to see for the first day of term.

‘Think of the people we represent who love to be here doing this,’ smiled Nicky Cowley, as the players limbered up for their second session of the day at their Roko training base.

A video presentation had greeted the players on their return, before the more cardiovascular challenging fitness tests got underway.

The players were pleased to see the balls quickly come out after lunch.

A group of 18 outfield players were put through their pace on pitch one, while new goalkeeping coach Joe Prodomo oversaw three keepers with Alex Bass back home after his Bradford sojourn.

Tans were topped up a little over seven weeks since the final-day defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, while Haji Mnoga’s bleached blonde barnet and Connor Ogilvie’s shaved bonce were the hairstyle talking points.

Speculation circulated as to the identity of triallists, with a few onlookers peering through the car park fence for a glimpse of the action.

Not recognising some academy talent invited into the session, along with third-year scholars and first-year pros, led to talk there were as many as six new faces.

There were in fact three, with The News respecting the club’s wishes not to identify those present as we were invited to watch proceedings.

They contributed to a high-tempo game to finish the session, with three small-sided goals at each end of the pitch.

Ryan Tunnicliffe and Connor Ogilvie made it clear standards were being maintained, as a couple of tasty tackles went in.

That helped ensure Cowley could reflect on his ‘favourite day of the year’ reaching expectations - strikers or no strikers.