What Portsmouth CEO Andy Cullen has had to say about Danny Cowley's 'quality over quantity' transfer approach

Andy Cullen has acknowledged Pompey’s current squad number could be a cause for concern among sections of the Fratton Park fan base.

By Mark McMahon
Saturday, 26th February 2022, 4:55 am

But the Blues chief executive insisted the ‘quality over quantity’ approach being adopted by Danny Cowley was the manager’s call – and he respects that.

Following the closure of the January transfer window, when Pompey saw eight players leave and five arrive, the Fratton Park have headed into the second half of the season with 20 senior players.

That number shrunk over the course of February following injuries to Shaun Williams, Kieron Freeman and Michael Jacobs – while Joe Morrell also missed the past three games because of suspension.

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That has seen untested youngsters Jay Mingi and Harry Jewitt-White called up to recent match-day squads as Cowley attempts to fill the gaps.

However, Cullen admitted the high-risk strategy is something the head coach is comfortable with as he aims to fast-track the style of play he desires with players he knows he can trust.

And he added how successful that approach is will be determined when compared to the club’s long-term ambitions.

Speaking at the recent Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference, Cullen said: ‘The size of the squad is ultimately up to the manager.

January signing Aiden O'Brien started Pompey 2-1 win at Shrewsbury and scored his second goal for the club at New Meadow. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

‘If the manager wants to go for quantity over quality, or the other way round, that’s up to him.

‘It’s for him to decide how to utilise the budget.

‘In these early two windows, Danny’s opted for quality, and that is understandable, meaning he’s been able to fast-track the change of playing style he wants to bring in by defining the players who can best fit that identity.

‘The club set itself a number of key objectives for January and everyone will naturally make their own judgements as to how successful we’ve been.

‘The club must measure success against our long-term strategic aims.’

Tyler Walker and Hayden Carter were brought in on loan from the Championship in January, while both Denver Hume and Aiden O’Brien landed at Fratton Park via stints at Sunderland.

They, along former Crystal Palace youngster Ollie Webber, have replaced the likes of John Marquis, Lee Brown, Ellis Harrison and Paul Downing in the Blues ranks – players who found themselves on the fringes of things with their contracts due to expire at the season’s end.

There’s no doubt Cowley would have called on the above and others who have left if they had stayed at Fratton Park beyond January given the quick turnaround in League One games.

However, his new intake – bar Webber – are likely to contribute far more starts.

And that’s another reason why Cullen is comfortable with Cowley’s current way of operating.

‘The issue of numbers is a fair and reasonable concern, especially if we suffer a bad run of injuries,’ he added.

‘That was a discussion we have had several times throughout the season.

‘Danny has been keen to go for high quality players in this early transition phase.

‘Some of the "outs” were not contributing in terms of league starts, and we’ve been bringing in players who are.

‘Though eight players left, apart from John Marquis and Lee Brown, six of those who moved on either permanently or on loan had 10 league starts between them.

‘The five who’ve come in will contribute far more starts.

‘We’ve now got greater competition for places.

‘If we have a run of injuries, we will need to draft academy players to the bench, but that’s a short-term issue.’