Why Danny Cowley believes football romanticism isn’t dead after crowning Paul Downing his Portsmouth star performer

Paul Downing has proven football romanticism isn’t dead.

By Neil Allen
Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 5:00 pm
Paul Downing was pinpointed as Pompey's man of the match against AFC Wimbledon by Danny Cowley. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages
Paul Downing was pinpointed as Pompey's man of the match against AFC Wimbledon by Danny Cowley. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

That’s the verdict of Danny Cowley after handing the central defender a first League One start in 593 days.

Downing was surprisingly brought back in from the cold to turn in an impressive display in the Blues’ crucial 3-1 triumph over Wimbledon.

It was a performance hailed as ‘man of the match’ by Cowley, who was delighted with Downing’s showing after being absent since September 2019.

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Cowley told The News: ‘I’m pleased for Lee (Brown) and his two goals, but, for me, head and shoulders man of the match was Paul Downing. I thought he was exceptional.

‘He’s a model professional and I am so pleased for him because he hasn’t had it easy for a long while now.

‘He was obviously out of the previous manager’s plans, while when we came in he’d just come off a hamstring injury. He couldn't get any luck, he couldn’t get a run.

‘But Paul’s got his head down, he’s worked hard, he’s seen that probably his qualities fit ours and what we require from that position in terms of our game idea – and I think that has motivated him.

‘I’m a football romantic, I believe in the football gods, and I believe that, if you work hard as a player, football is an honest game and it repays you.

‘On Saturday it repaid him and that’s why I’m so pleased for him. He would have gone home really proud of his level of performance.

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‘To have played so little football and come into a game of such magnitude and play as well as he did is superb. I thought he was immaculate.

‘You don’t play for the clubs he’s played for and have the career that he’s had without being a good player.’

The return of Jack Whatmough following his four-game ban will ramp up central-defensive competition for the final match against Accrington.

Now the 24-year-old will be vying for a first-team spot with a resurgent Downing.

Cowley added: ‘We now have Jack Whatmough coming back as well and that gives me a selection headache – and I haven’t had enough of them since I’ve been here.

‘The team has picked itself and we have nowhere near the competition for places and the difficult decisions I’d like because of injuries and suspensions.’

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