Paul Cook returns to Fratton Park on Easter Monday on Sky for the first time since his departure last Summer, and it raises the interesting question. How should we as fans react to him? Do we cheer or boo?
“Cookie” is an immensely talented manager and I don’t think that is up for debate. He led us to the League 2 title playing a brand of football that was pleasing on the eye.
He assembled a squad of players that are clearly talented, with a core of them remaining to this day. He gave us Burgess, Clarke, Naismith, Lowe and was probably responsible for identifying Nathan Thompson last Summer.
The brand of possession based football was mostly a pleasure to watch for most people, and we all looked forward to a campaign in League 1 with his style of play.
Then Wigan came calling.
His former club. Closer to home. Nearer his family. With an enormous wage increase that Portsmouth were unwilling to match. I mean we would all move right?
I get his reasons for moving. I really do. If he had come out in the following weeks and had been honest about his reasons for moving, then I think the reaction would have been much less toxic.
However, in his press interviews during his unveiling, he said
“After we got promoted I stated how I wanted to stay at the club for a long time, how much I loved the club and I didn’t want to leave.
“The big disappointment then was in the next couple of weeks. It was quite clear which direction the club wanted to go in with the new American owners coming in.
“With a heavy heart I decided now was the right time to move on. It wasn’t the Portsmouth that I had joined.”
If he had been honest and not used this excuse as his main reason for leaving, mentioned moving closer to home etc, then the response would have been more muted.
Blaming a change of ownership for moving seems like such a cop out, especially moving to a club like Wigan which has been at the centre of takeover talks for seemingly the last 8 months.
I’m not sure what “new direction” he was referring too. Ok the ownership has changed, but they clearly wanted to keep him, hence the offering of a new contract.
The central philosophies would be roughly the same whether the Eisner’s or the PST were in charge. The central plan of a combination of developing young talent and moving up the Football League didn’t really change.
At the away game in Wigan where the wounds were much fresher, understandably Cook got a bad reaction from our fans. He was roundly booed as him came out the tunnel.
Skipping the pre and post-match press conferences shows he was trying to avoid saying anything that could be misinterpreted – or he’s a coward depending on your point of view.
Obviously, it wasn’t a comfortable area for him then. But is it time for us to move on?
I certainly won’t be cheering him. Because we don’t cheer opposition managers. On the day of the match, he is the opposition. He is the guy we are trying to beat. He is the man who ultimately decided to abandon us, to move to Wigan, for more money.
I probably won’t be booing him. I can understand why he left for the money. I don’t like it one bit. But I get it. It’s also been nearly 10 months since he left.
It’ll probably a bit too much to boo a man who ultimately did turn the club around from the bottom half of League 2 and turn it around to earn promotion to League 1.
I think the best response would be pure indifference and to treat him like any other manager that we have come down to Fratton and focus on supporting the team rather than cheering or booing Cook.
He’s just another manager, one of 23 to come down to Fratton Park as a manager this season. Ultimately his Wigan team are extremely talented. That’s what makes it a Bitter Sweet reunion.
It’s hurtful to see a manager leave us to go elsewhere and achieve more success, that you feel he could have ultimately achieved here. Look at their great FA Cup run this year, even beating one of the best Premier League sides ever in Manchester City.
There’s a part of you that makes you wonder what could have been. What could he have ultimately achieved here?
It’s a driving force of the bitterness. But we have Kenny now. We’re a few points from the play offs, and should focus on backing the man in charge, and supporting the current leader of our football club.
On a side note, don’t boo Noel Hunt and Gary Roberts.
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Photo: Joe Pepler