How Bognor and mid-game phone call formed backdrop to Portsmouth's capture of Accrington striker Colby Bishop

Pompey visited Nyewood Lane on Wednesday night / Picture: Martin DenyerPompey visited Nyewood Lane on Wednesday night / Picture: Martin Denyer
Pompey visited Nyewood Lane on Wednesday night / Picture: Martin Denyer
Danny Cowley was conspicuous by his absence when Harry Jewitt-White applied a classy volleyed finish.

Momentarily, Pompey’s head coach was no longer present in the visitors’ dug-out at Nyewood Lane. After all, duty called. A ringing phone interrupted Cowley’s overseeing of proceedings in Wednesday night’s friendly against the Rocks. See our Rocks-Pompey picture gallery here.

Clearly sufficiently important to warrant capturing his attention mid-game, he answered before heading for the privacy of the dressing room, while play continued. Minutes later in that first half, Jewitt-White demonstrated marvellous technique to meet Harvey Laidlaw’s left-wing cross and level the scores at 1-1. Yet Cowley was elsewhere – both physically and mentally.

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The collapse of Colby Bishop’s proposed switch to Blackpool had put Pompey on red alert, with machinations already underway on Wednesday to resurrect a Fratton Park deal. And amid the backdrop of a pre-match friendly at Bognor, the finishing touches were being applied to the £500,000 transfer.

In the aftermath of a 5-2 win at Leyton Orient the previous evening, Cowley spoke of ‘believing’ the door was shut when the issue of Colby was put to him by The News. ‘Sometimes it can be more painful if you lose a player for financial reasons – this one genuinely wasn’t,’ he added, alluding to the lure of Championship football for the striker.

Yet transfer landscapes can alter swiftly and, little more than 24 hours from uttering those words, Pompey were convinced they had their man. Again. Cowley, a workaholic boss who during Spanish evenings on the recent tour spent his downtime on the phone to agents or engrossed in a laptop rather than sharing a pint with his staff, is a man of immense professionalism.

Nonetheless, there was good reason for his mobile phone accompanying him in the dug-out against the Rocks. Likewise the decision to briefly duck out to accept incoming news which, as it turned out, involved a key update on transfer progress over Colby.

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Cowley would return to his post shortly before half-time, face impenetrable to read, with no trace of a spring in his step. Yet, unmistakably, something was stirring. There was even an opportunity for him to next send a text message from his dug-out position, albeit in between urging his Pompey XI team on.

The Blues’ head coach can be excused for falling to such distractions, such is the key recruitment of a 25-year-old who adds League One goals and experience to the ranks. Similarly, the Fratton faithful craved a timely lift having become disillusioned with a long-time striker hunt which was clearly struggling to snare strikers.

Still, that first-half phone call at Nyewood Lane from whoever delivered the news everyone wanted to hear – Bishop is a Blue.