Pompey still to find feet after summer upheaval – Interview
Tuesday, 27th Aug 2019 19:16 by Clive Whittingham
Portsmouth were a play-off final defeat away from promotion in May having led the league in January, but attempts to go one better in 2019/20 have been hampered by clubs plundering their best players, according to Fratton Park regular Wayne Harris.
Portsmouth were top of the league when we last met in January, why didn’t they see promotion through?
From January onwards a mixture of a drop in form from key players (Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe), losing our centre half Jack Whatmough through long term injury, our loan players failing to make an impact (Joe Mason, David Wheeler) and the talismanic Ben Thompson returning to Millwall played the most part in our failure to win promotion.
Kenny Jackett still there despite missing out, what’s the general consensus on him at the moment? Under pressure?
Kenny may be under pressure from the fans yes. Chorus of boos at the final whistle vs Coventry recently after we failed to beat nine men. Personally, I'm not part of that group. I respect our fans 'opinion' of course but it's a 'fact' that Kenny’s tactics haven't changed since he began his tenure here. In January we were flying at the top, but a lot has changed in eight months. We have virtually a brand new back four after the sale of Matt Clarke, the long term injury to Jack Whatmough the departure of Nathan Thompson and most recently the injury to Lee Brown. Added to that we no longer have last season’s top scorer Jamal Lowe. So, it's a very different team from 12 months ago. However, our expectant fans will choose to berate the man who statistically has succeeded here. I'm glad to say that most importantly the board are behind him.
Who came and went over the summer and what did you make of the business done? We saw Jamal Lowe for Wigan at the weekend…
Transfers out- inevitably Matt Clarke to Brighton, Jamal Lowe to Wigan, Nathan Thompson to Peterborough, Louis Dennis to Leyton Orient, Adam May to Swindon and Dion Donohue to Mansfield.
Transfers in - John Marquis from Doncaster, Ross McCrorie loan from Rangers, James Bolton from Shrewsbury, Paul Downing from Blackburn, Marcus Harness from Burton, Ryan Williams from Rotherham and Shaun Raggett loan from Norwich.
So, yes, a few changes at the club with personnel. The Marquis signing was one I thought would never happen so was delighted it did. He'll score goals for us in this league. Harness looks a decent addition so far filling the boots of Lowe more than adequately and the midfielder McCrorie from Rangers looks promising so far. I can already see he has that quality to play at a higher level. Unfortunately for us, I expect him to be recalled by Gerrard in January. From two new centre halves Downing and Raggett, it's Downing who looks the better. Raggett however just the one outing thus far and that was a bit of a calamity vs Coventry.
Good business on the whole. Good to see us spending big money.
Ins >>> Ellis Harrison, CF, 25, Ipswich, Undisclosed >>> John Marquis, CF, 27, Doncaster, Undisclosed >>> Marcus Harness, RW, 23, Burton, Undisclosed >>> James Bolton, RB, 24, Shrewsbury, Free >>> Paul Downing, CB, 27, Blackburn, Free >>> Ryan Williams, RW, 25, Rotherham, Free >>> Ross McCrorie, CM, 21, Rangers, Loan >>> Sean Raggett, CB, 25, Norwich, Loan
Outs >>> Matt Clarke, CB, 22, Brighton, £3.5m >>> Jamal Lowe, RW, 25, Wigan, £2.45m >>> Louis Dennis, CF, 26, Orient, Undisclosed >>> Nathan Thompson, TB, 28, Peterborough, Free >>> Dion Donohue, LB, 25, Mansfield, Free >>> Adam May, CM, 21, Swindon, Loan >>> Dan Smith, CF, 19, Released
Assess your start to the season so far…
It's been a below average start for us with four points from four games. Our fans expect more and, honestly, I expected more points too. But it's early days and with new players you have to be patient. We have potential and I believe we'll be challenging again. I'm not worried.
Results so far >>> Shrewsbury 1-0 Portsmouth, League One >>> Portsmouth 3-0 Birmingham, (Harrison 30, 54, Close 59), League Cup >>> Portsmouth 2-0 Tranmere, (Close 29, Naylor 75), League One >>> Sunderland 2-1 Portsmouth, (Harness 22), League One >>> Portsmouth 3-3 Coventry, (Curtis 10, Marquis 43, Evans 56), League One
Stand out players and weak links in the current side?
Marcus Harness, attacking right sided player, has been our shining light thus far. He's already made an impact with goals and assists. Ross McCrorie - currently filling in at right back but usual position is defensive midfielder which suits Kenny’s preferred 4231 or 433 formations. Decent on or off the ball. Very versatile. A promising player we hope great things from until January we'll see what happens? John Marquis - Has scored a bucketful in League One over the last couple of seasons and we hope that continues for us. Hard working forward, opened his account for us vs Coventry. First of many.
Promotion, presumably, the be all and end all this season – will this season be different to last and what will make the difference?
Last season we had the best defender in the league without question in Matt Clarke. He stood out in pretty much every game I watched. He's obviously not going to be easily replaced so Downing and Raggett have a lot to live up to. It's a team game but great players like that win you matches. Last season in Clarke that was very much the case. Kenny will always set his stall out and play a very similar way every week. Predicable or effective or both, whichever way you look at it, it worked for long periods last season and we totalled 88 points missing out on a play off final by the odd goal. I expect a similar return again and a top six finish which our players are capable of.
What will make the difference? Holding a lead and controlling the game more than we have so far would be nice. Our new players need to gel quickly to get our season off and running. A positive result on Wednesday would give everyone a lift. On the flip side, a heavy defeat and the daggers will be out again. Hope it’s a good game at a ground where we're due a win.
The Twitter @loftforwords, @wayneharrispfc
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