Niall McCaughan gives PompeyNewNow the Lowdown on new Pompey signing Andy Cannon.
Hugh – Pompey fans will be familiar with your outstanding work at Express FM. Can you explain a little about your new role for Communicorp UK in Manchester?
Niall – Communicorp UK is home to some of the best brands in commercial radio locally right now, such as Capital Scotland and Smooth North West.
I was brought in as Football Journalist for the company’s ever-expanding Football Social arm, which sees us produce daily radio shows and podcasts on Manchester City and Manchester United, as well as focusing on Greater Manchester’s EFL clubs (of which there are a few!)
I also produce daily flash briefings for Communicorp UK on Premier League clubs, which can be accessed via Amazon Alexa – they are basically like mini news bulletins for your smart speaker.
I still have my freelance business open so I have also occasionally appeared on BBC Radio 5Live to chat about the Premier League.
Lots of new things to learn and very different to working for Pompey and Express, but fun all the same.
Hugh – Firstly, congratulations on breaking the transfer news of Andy Cannon’s move to Pompey.
Cannon has made 12 appearances for Rochdale this season, which is under half of Rochdale’s league games. Why has Keith Hill not started Cannon more in a struggling Rochdale side?
Niall – Thanks Hugh.
Originally I was informed that Keith Hill and Cannon did not see eye to eye, but I think that is a little bit of an over the top analysis on the actual situation.
Hill claimed Cannon wasn’t playing due to a series of niggling injuries, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story.
I believe it was a difference of opinion on Cannon’s best position – the player prefers to play through the middle in a more advanced role, but can also drop into a more central role if required.
Hill had a tendency to play Cannon on the right, and on occasion even at right-back, thus leading to dispute over playing time. Rochdale have some talented midfield players in their ranks, such as Callum Camps – I can only imagine Hill saw Cannon’s alternatives as more suited to start games under his leadership.
Hugh – How do the Rochdale fans feel about the transfer?
Niall – He was certainly a fan favourite at Rochdale. During Pompey’s FA Cup game at Spotland earlier this season, Cannon’s introduction from the bench drew the biggest roar amongst the home crowd in that unlucky 1-0 defeat.
However, I think it is fair to assume that with a lack of game time under Hill, they can’t really blame him for wanting away, particularly with a club the size of Pompey interested.
Hugh – Cannon put in a man of the match performance in Rochdale’s historic FA Cup 2-2 draw with Spurs last season. His assist for Ian Henderson’s goal was a beautifully weighted pass. What are his strengths Pompey fans should look out
Niall – Pompey fans love players who will give 100%. Cannon is one of those players. He will run his heart out, and that determination is certainly a key requirement for a side striving for promotion.
Not only will he put in the effort but he is also not shy of a challenge, and has sharp feet.
From watching him in the past he also has a few tricks in the locker too, so keep an eye out for those.
Hugh – Does he have any areas in his game you think he can improve on?
Niall – He’s only ever played for Rochdale after coming through their youth system, and no disrespect to Dale, but it is a far cry from playing in front of 18,000 every other week.
Cliché I know, but we’ve seen it time and time again over the past few years, some players in the lower tiers freeze under the Fratton pressure. Time will tell whether Andy can embrace the change in environment and expectation, but Kenny Jackett knows his onions, so I’m sure he will cope just fine.
Perhaps one other concern is game management, something Pompey have been excellent at this season. Knowing when to hold on to the ball and when to put the pressure on is sometimes the difference in tight games.
Hugh – Kenny Jackett told the club website “I see Andy as an attacking midfielder”. However, Joe Gallen told The News “We think he can play next to Tom (Naylor) as a number 4”. Where do you feel Cannon fits best into Pompey’s 4-2-3-1 formation?
Niall – I remember when Anton Walkes came in he was labelled as a holding midfield player, and he has played almost exclusively at right-back for Pompey.
Kenny Jackett is a very shrewd man. He will always answer your questions, but at the same time, he will never give too much away.
What we’ve seen with signings under Kenny is that they have an element of versatility about them. Oli Hawkins is another. He has done a job at centre half in the past as well as leading the line, sometimes in the same game!
I would tend to agree with the gaffer here though.
Hugh – Pompey fans will be wondering if Cannon can fill the void left by Ben Thompson’s return to Millwall. Is this a realistic expectation or would you encourage fans to temper their expectations?
Niall – Ben Thompson was fantastic during his loan spell at Fratton. It would be unfair to draw comparison between the two players at this stage.
Thompson’s first half against Sunderland was lacklustre, but then second half he came out like a man possessed and put in one of the best central midfield displays I have seen in recent memory at Pompey. He was a proper battler and will be a big loss for the Blues.
Cannon is very much one to develop for the future, much like Ben Thompson came to Pompey to develop.
I would suggest not to expect Cannon to be the Ben Thompson ‘replacement’ – the Millwall man has always been a central midfielder whilst Cannon finds more joy further forward.
Hugh – Kenny Jackett has found some under the radar transfers that have proved to be fantastic value for money. Ronan Curtis springs to mind! Do you think the £150,000 Pompey paid for Cannon is fair value?
Niall- I think so. Rochdale valued Cannon at £150k so Pompey paid it. It is up to the player to prove that he is worth the money at the end of the day – but that is about going rate these days in the EFL.
Hugh – Is there anything else you can tell Pompey fans about Cannon?
Niall – Andy sustained a nasty injury in a game against Fleetwood last season where he fractured his cheekbone and required brain scans before eventually having an operation which kept him out for a while. He is also a big Manchester City fan, and was at the Etihad to see Pep and the lads lift the Premier League trophy back in May.
Hugh – It is January so I have to ask your opinion on the transfer window. Where should Kenny Jackett look to strengthen his squad?
Niall – I think a bit of speed and agility up front is a must, particularly with Championship ambitions. Pompey need to add a bit of variation to their striking options as despite their individual strengths, both Pitman and Hawkins are not blessed with great pace.
More importantly however, Portsmouth need to tie down their assets. Whatmough, Evans, and Thompson are all valuable players to have in the Championship and are currently in talks with the club over new deals which is encouraging.
Hugh – What are you working on now? Is there anything you would like to share?
Niall – If you have an Amazon smart speaker and are interested in receiving daily updates on Premier League clubs (bar the obvious one from down the road which I don’t do) then search ‘The Football Social’ in the Alexa store and add the relevant club to your flash briefings.
Also, keep an ear out for BBC Radio 5Live this Sunday lunchtime as I will be previewing Spurs v Manchester United. I always like to sneak a few Pompey references in where I can!
Hugh Bunce – @puckdropuk
Niall McCaughan – @Niallpfc
Feature image – Colin Farmery
Image within article – Andrew Hurdle