Paul Cook: No pressure to play Pompey loan signings

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Paul Cook has confirmed he is under no outside pressure to play his loan recruits.

The Blues boss partnered loanees Caolan Lavery and Marc McNulty in a two-pronged attack in the goalless draw with AFC Wimbledon at the weekend as he moved away from the 4-2-3-1 formation employed for the majority of the season.

Caolan Lavery. Picture: Joe Pepler

Caolan Lavery. Picture: Joe Pepler

Defender Matt Clarke – on loan from Ipswich – also made his playing return as a substitute in the same game for his first appearance in more than a month after starting the first 12 games of the League Two season.

Some loan agreements are structured in such a way that clubs will pay a higher percentage of wages if the player does not feature in the first team.

But Cook claims that is not the case at Pompey and he would never take a player on loan if forced to play them.

He said: ‘Every loan deal is different.

We are offering these lads an opportunity to play football and they must earn their place in the team like anyone else

Paul Cook

‘Some clubs will make you pay money for them if they don’t play.

‘Especially with the younger lads, there can be those sorts of stipulations.

‘With ours, there are no stipulations.

‘We are offering these lads an opportunity to play football and they must earn their place in the team like anyone else.

‘We’re not under any pressure to play anyone.

‘I wouldn’t take the player if we had to do that.

‘Lads have to earn their place in the team.’

During a recent conversation with Mick McCarthy to discuss Clarke’s progress, the Ipswich boss had no problem with the defender being left out in recent weeks following a bright start to the campaign.

After bringing him back into the side at the weekend, Cook has hinted he could be due another run in the team.

Although with Adam Webster continuing to impress alongside Christian Burgess at the heart of the defence, a potential recall for Clarke is far from cut and dry.

Cook added: ‘I spoke with Mick recently and he was delighted that he (Clarke) played 12 league games on the run.

‘He is in and around the first-team squad every day as an 18-year-old lad, which I think is good.

‘Matt is now knocking on the door to come back into the team.

‘I’ll never criticise players but there is a sloppiness about us as a team and you have to look at a few things.

‘We have to brush up on that as a group. It’s not just an individual thing.’

Up front, meanwhile, Cook is confident his strike duo from the two big Sheffield-based rivals will improve with more match sharpness and time to settle in.

‘They have both trained very well,’ Cook said.

‘McNulty and Lavery will get stronger and stronger with games.

‘They are different types of players up that end of the pitch and they both offer massive qualities to our club.

‘But they both need minutes on the pitch.

‘It’s the same with Adam McGurk. He has had no continuity in his season so far.

‘The more minutes these lads get, the stronger our results will be.’

Meanwhile, loanee Jayden Stockley is nearing his return from an ankle injury.