Steve Cotterill returns to Portsmouth
5 November ~ Steve Cotterill comes back to Fratton Park today a mere 22 days after leaving. His in-form Nottingham Forest team are likely to get the better of us. One way or another he is guaranteed to get a warm reception from the home fans. Some of us will want to show appreciation for the job he did at Pompey, although others will want to direct him to the nearest bonfire. Cotterill and Portsmouth was not supposed to end like this. There was optimism among Pompey fans in pre-season. The Russian-owned Convers Sports Initiative (CSI) took over the club in June without so much as a press conference.
They have yet to reveal their long-term ambitions for the club but most fans seem happy with their low-key approach. Commentators and pundits saw us as the Championship's "dark horses". They said we had one of the strongest squads in the league on paper. Fans praised Cotterill for sticking with us through difficult times the previous year.
The gloom started descending about eight games into this season. Fans felt that a nine-point return wasn't good enough and that performances were not promising. Cotterill was allegedly drilling the team to "hoof" the ball. He had lost the dressing room. He had always been an awful manager – eight games into the season proved this beyond doubt.
Cotterill went to Nottingham Forest in October and Pompey are still without a replacement. He has won three of his first four games in charge at Forest, and Pompey have picked up seven points in the five games since he left. I appreciate that message boards and phone-ins are not always the best measure of how the majority feel, but fans of both sides seem happy thus far.
I will reserve judgement until the honeymoon is over. Predictably, almost every out-of-work manager has been associated with the vacant position at Fratton Park. Whoever takes over will not be universally supported by fans and I'm not sure any of the likely candidates will do a better job than Cotterill. We have one of the most expensive first 11s, but there is not much untapped quality in there.
My only substantial criticism of Cotterill's time in charge was that shortly after he arrived at the club he agreed to get rid of our reserve team – a cynical move to get around the rules on minimum squad numbers. He should have stayed a bit longer and tried to turn things round. But with fans directing their frustration at him and attendances dropping, it was probably best for all concerned that he moved on.
Someone like Sean O'Driscoll would be my choice to replace Cotterill. He is experienced, used to working with limited resources and willing to play attacking football. Some might think that appointing a manager such as O'Driscoll would prove that CSI lack ambition, but I'm not sure what else can be expected for a club in Pompey's financial position. Just over a year on from almost going out of business altogether, I'm grateful we still have a club to support. Leon Tricker
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