Joey Barton shocked at Danny Cowley’s demise as he documents Pompey’s struggles

The Gas’ prediction of 4-4-2 worked out to be right for Danny Cowley and Portsmouth
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Joey Barton says he did not expect Bristol Rovers opponents Portsmouth to fall as fast as they did, which ultimately led to Danny Cowley’s dismissal.

Cowley along with his brother was sacked by Pompey in early January and their near month long search saw them appoint Oxford United captain John Mousinho. Portsmouth had been expected to challenge for promotion but a nine game winless run saw them lose footing in the promotion race.

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The 44-year-old had been at Fratton Park for 22 months and had started the campaign brightly. He was named Manager of the Month in August, which included a 3-1 win over Rovers. In the aftermath of the defeat, Barton mocked Cowley’s use of 4-4-2, and he alluded to that the opposition boss had not played the game professionally. Despite steering away from the formation, Cowley could not save his Pompey career and he ended up losing his job.

He said: “They were top of the league at that point when they beat us. It worked for them on that occasion. It’s well-documented what I said after the game, I didn’t expect the demise to happen as quickly as it did.

“Even that would have shocked the most ardent Portsmouth fan because they were going well at that point. They were top-of-the-table and have always had bigger budgets and some of the division’s better players. It went a bit pear-shaped and obviously John’s got a chance now to fulfil their destiny.

“I think they’re on a good run. John has gone in and hit the ground running. The results have been good of late. It’s taken a bit of time to get his personnel in and put his stamp on it but he’s made a good start to life in League One.”

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Portsmouth have been in League One since being promoted from League Two in 2018. They had a turbulent couple of years which saw them go from the Premier League to the fourth tier in just four years. Since then, the Hampshire have had near misses but have not yet been able to at least reach the Championship. The closest they got was a fourth-placed finish in 2019 but lost to Sunderland.

Kenny Jackett had a go at it and oversaw more than 200 games, but could not lead them to promotion. Cowley in 96 matches had a positive record but ultimately fell short. Mousinho, who is in his first managerial role of his carer, has now been tasked with leading the club back to the second tier. He has so far won seven games out of the 13 he has overseen and his side are nine points off the playoffs with a game in hand.

Portsmouth though are not the only fallen side trying to get out of a division that is unforgiving to some of the biggest clubs. Sheffield Wednesday lead the way, but Ipswich Town, Barnsley, Derby County, five of the top six teams have all been in the Premier League. Their FA Cup win in 2008 is in the memory of Barton, but he added that the league is a tough nut to crack.

“They’ve been trying to get out of League One for a long period,” said Barton. In my Fleetwood times, it was Kenny Jackett, in recent times it was the Cowley Brothers and now it’s John’s time now.

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“They’re a huge club, I remember playing against them in the Premier League and I’ve seen them lift the FA Cup in my lifetime. It’s a shock to see clubs that big in these divisions but there is a lot of them now. Have a look around our division, Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton, Ipswich, big big Premier League outfits who are stuck in League One. It’s tough.”

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