Cook shoulders blame – but it was Pompey players who let us down

Should the players take the flak for the Crewe defeat? Picture: Joe Pepler
Should the players take the flak for the Crewe defeat? Picture: Joe Pepler

Paul Cook did exactly what most managers worth their salt would do in the same situation.

Throwing a protective shield over the men who’d just let everyone down is Football Management 101.

That, the Pompey boss did as he tried his level best to keep a lid on his frustrations in his debrief in the shadow of the Fratton End.

‘As a manager I must take the blame,’ the dejected Cook said.

‘As manager of Portsmouth Football Club I will shoulder the blame for the players until my last day. And I will now.’

And, yes, the buck does stop with him. Of course it does. On this occasion, though, it shouldn’t.

The fault didn’t lie with the Pompey boss on one of the bleakest afternoons at Fratton Park in recent years. And there have been a few.

This one was down to the players. Pure and simple.

This was down to the men who’d so let down the people who ensure their wages are among the most competitive at this level.

And equally they’d come up a long distance short for a manager who would inevitably cop the flak for his side’s failings. Cook’s response was to hurry his players from the pitch in the aftermath of a performance which started averagely – and then shocked as it careered downhill.

It was a defence mechanism to stop his men feeling the heat from a home crowd who were understandably furious at what they had witnessed.

That continued in his assessment after the game as the Scouser insisted the buck stops squarely with him.

For all his criticism, Cook has never gone hiding in his 22-month tenure as Pompey boss.

There has scarcely been an opportunity to disagree with his continually honest analysis of his side’s performances. And this time it was painfully honest.

‘I’d prefer to talk about how I feel disappointed,’ Cook said.

‘I’d prefer to talk about how I might feel let down and how I might have let people down.

‘Hopefully that pain might just trigger some fire in a few people to get this great club where it needs to be.’

That sentiment was a clear insight into the Pompey manager’s post-match inquest which lasted a good 30 minutes in the home dressing room.

‘I think he wanted us to feel what he was feeling,’ was the verdict of one of the men who’d come up painfully short on the day.

And it was disappointment which came across afterwards rather than anger. Cook’s words might have defended his men but the tone told of being let down by them.

Not a single shot on target across 95 minutes of worryingly flat play was the analysis wrapped up in the most telling statistic.

And that with seven attacking players on the pitch for the majority of the second half against a poor foe.

So, the week which was supposed to mark Pompey’s graduation into the top three ended in familiar disappointment.

The greatest irony is victory at Crawley tomorrow will see the men Cook is relying on to deliver arrive there.

‘It doesn’t feel like that right now,’ said skipper Michael Doyle afterwards. No, it didn’t.