Atangana has Pompey future after winning over Cook

  • Atangana made 35 appearances last term during maiden Pompey campaign
  • Previously impressed in non-league football with the Hawks

Nigel Atangana’s contract prevented him becoming another casualty of the new Pompey regime.

Now the French midfielder has emerged as a key figure in Paul Cook’s first-team plans after catching the eye of his manager.

Nigel Atangana. Picture: Joe Pepler

Nigel Atangana. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Blues boss was unaware of Atangana’s talents after arriving from Chesterfield in May.

With Cook focused on League One, his path hadn’t crossed that of the former Hawks man tasting a first campaign in the Football League.

But the 25-year-old soon impressed during pre-season to establish himself alongside Michael Doyle in the holding midfield spots.

After Cook shuffled his side for the Capital One Cup victory over Derby, Atangana is poised to return to the starting line-up against Plymouth Argyle tomorrow.

As a manager, the majority of my games are spent watching the opposition, I wouldn’t have seen Portsmouth at all last year

Paul Cook

And Cook has spoken of his admiration for the player recruited by Andy Awford on a two-year deal in 2014.

He said: ‘I felt the need for changes coming into the club, there was a necessity.

‘I felt it was important for drastic change to create a new environment and the best way to do it was to remove the lads who had been here.

‘Certainly Nigel was one of the few that had a contract remaining. If he hadn’t he probably wouldn’t be here, that’s just the way football falls.

‘He has been one of the brighter lights but so has Ben Close, Conor Chaplin has had a fantastic pre-season, there are plenty of shining lights for us and unfortunately they can’t all shine at the same time.

‘I didn’t know a lot about Nigel when I arrived here, he had only been in the Football League for a year and I wouldn’t have seen a lot of League Two last year.

‘As a manager, the majority of my games are spent watching the opposition. I wouldn’t have seen Portsmouth at all last year.

‘I like his energy, the way he handles the ball, his conduct around the club in general. He wants to learn, he watches his clips, he trains, he gives you a lot of ticks in a lot of boxes and that is great to see – and there is more of him.

‘He’s a good player and it’s great for Nigel. He hasn’t leapfrogged ahead of people, he has just played in games and said “I can play at this level” and long may it continue.

‘If the lads can stake claims they can stay in the team. Sometimes it is just about opportunity.’

Atangana lasted 68 minutes of the 3-0 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge last weekend before getting cramp.

Regardless, Cook prizes the midfield versatility he possesses.

He added: ‘Without a shadow of a doubt he can also play in the attacking three, he has the energy to do that comfortably – and the ability.

‘I think he will be one of the ones in our squad who can play both. If you look at our midfielders, probably only Nigel is the one who can do that.

‘Barton, Hollands, Close and Doyle will do a lot of sitting, be competitive and pass the ball.

‘Atangana would have the energy to embrace the other positions.’