What Danny Cowley would bring to Portsmouth as fans express style of football concerns

Danny Cowley – a name which, on paper, ticks all the Pompey boxes.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 1:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 1:44 pm

Yet a good portion of fans on social media – many with German flags next to their name in support of Daniel Stendel – have already expressed discontent towards the former Lincoln and Huddersfield boss potentially taking charge at PO4.

And there is one clear reason why.

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According to almost all of the anti-Cowley camp, his style of play is too close to Kenny Jackett’s direct approach.

For whatever reason, the former Braintree boss has gained a reputation for playing route-one football rather than an expansive brand that’s very much craved at Fratton Park following almost four years of a pragmatic and safety-first technique.

But The News understands the former PE teacher’s blueprint for the PO4 outfit would be contrasting, to say the least.

First of all, we have it on good authority that Cowley feels his moniker for being a 'long-ball merchant' stemmed from his first season at Lincoln.

Arriving at Sincil Bank in the summer of 2016, he inherited a squad where Matt Rhead was the main striker.

As a result, Cowley didn't play the kind of football he’d ideally have liked given Rhead's perceived lack of mobility and his strength in being a target man.

Instead, the Imps orchestrated a way for the ex-Mansfield man to press high to win the ball deep in enemy territory.

It resulted in promotion back to the Football League when a top-10 finish was the aim, as well as reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup before losing to Premier League Arsenal.

Danny Cowley. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Over time, though, as Lincoln progressed up the divisions, so did their style.

Recruiting players such as Jorge Grant, Anthony Scully and Harry Anderson – all of whom remain key players under current boss Michael Appleton during their surprise promotion push this season – helped achieve that.

Diminutive playmaker Jack Payne was also a key player.

He's aware there is a lack of confidence in the current squad against the backdrop of just one win in seven league games, along with the defeat to Salford in the Papa John's Trophy final.

However, there's the feeling that some clarity and some solid training would swiftly restore belief in among the players.

Adding some spark and energy, perhaps letting Pompey off the leash a little bit more than Jackett allowed, would be paramount.

Whoever arrives as Jackett’s successor will surely aim to get John Marquis firing back on all cylinders.

Cowley's solution, The News understands, would be for Pompey to move away from straight balls up to Marquis, but instead ensure swift passes are into feet so he can provide a point of reference.

That, then, would be achieved by a high-pressing style.

Cowley and his brother Nicky’s preferred brand is fast and attacking – even defending requires an abundance of energy.

The duo have been inspired by coaches such as Marco Bielsa and Ralf Rangnick who favour playing on the transition.

Appearing on The Coaches' Voice, they gave an insight into how they encourage diagonal balls and runs, hitting half-spaces with pace and getting players in the number-eight and number-10 roles on the half-turn to drive towards goal.

What’s more, when Cowley left Lincoln for Huddersfield in September 2019, he inherited a club deep in the mire.

After being relegated from the Premier League, they were second bottom of the Championship when he took charge, having collected just one point in six games.

However, after two opening defeats in the dugout, it was followed by an eight-match unbeaten run which included five wins.

That suggests he could quickly rejuvenate Pompey’s current side.

It was the success of the January transfer window which ensured the Terriers’ second-tier safety. The likes of Harry Toffolo was poached from Lincoln, while the highly-regarded Emile Smith Rowe from Arsenal arrived on loan.

After almost four years of Jackett’s pragmatic and safety-first style, it’s understandable why the Fratton faithful are craving a more expansive, attacking brand on display.

Winning would be Cowley’s first priority if he lands the job – but ideally in an aggressive manner.

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