The Cross Word: Good luck, Cookie - a city expects

Paul Cook
Paul Cook

The Sky Sports camera centred on Paul Cook with his side in the heat of play-off battle.

Pompey’s new manager was overseeing his side’s bid to complete back-to-back promotions as the drama unfolded against Preston last Thursday.

Take Harry Hill’s glasses off, stick him in a tracksuit and rev him up to Tasmanian Devil speed, and you get the gist of it.

The game was being played out but the editors still felt it warranted spending almost a minute documenting Cook’s whirling dervish activities in the technical area.

Easy to understand why, too, because it turns out observing the Scouser’s antics could be a spectator sport in itself.

Take Harry Hill’s glasses off, stick him in a tracksuit and rev him up to Tasmanian Devil speed and you get the gist of it.

‘It was passion on the sidelines,’ said Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin. ‘But passion with a sense of humour.

‘It was controlled aggression. Our fans will warm to that.’

All the noises from Derbyshire point to a man big on character as the fourth manager of the community-ownership era.

He’ll need all of that charisma and personality, too, as he steps into a football city increasingly expectant and desperate for lift off.

Of the names in the managerial frame since Andy Awford’s departure, Cook’s was, initially, underwhelming to many.

Ian Holloway was the early fans’ favourite, Neil Warnock had support and then we went into la la land with names like Mark Warburton, Nigel Adkins and even, ahem, Harry Redknapp.

But Cook was always the board’s first choice and, when you do your due diligence on the 48-year-old, it’s easy to see why.

In two-and-a-half years at the Proact Stadium, the former midfield schemer took his side from fourth tier obscurity to the brink of the Championship via a League Two title.

He did so with a brand of football in the image of the creativity his playing days were associated with.

And he achieved that with a budget which is dwarfed by the one Pompey failed with last season.

The talk from those who have worked with him is of an accessible operator, who the Pompey players will enjoy working with.

‘He’ll not suffer fools, though,’ said former Pompey favourite, Kevin Ball, who worked with Cook for two seasons at Burnley. When a man like Ball is saying the former Wolves man is not to be crossed, you know he’s not to be crossed.

So Pompey get the man who was always at the top of their shopping list and paid around £150,000 to do so.

With the likes of Barnet boss Martin Allen, who was out of contract after winning the Conference with Barnet, initially available, it shows how Cook is valued.

Southend’s Phil Brown, too, dallied on signing a new deal, as the supporters waited for the identity of their new on-pitch leader to be confirmed.

The Fratton faithful agreed with the decision, as early reservations reside with a whopping 87 per cent of fans backing Cook’s appointment, at the latest count, on the Great Pompey Survey.

And they can look forward to their promotion charge taking place on principles of free-flowing football.

The notion PO4 is an historical hot bed of the beautiful game is a bit of a myth.

There are glorious examples from the halcyon double title-winning days of the 40s and 50s to Redknapp’s irresistible Division One winners and FA Cup conquerors.

But there are countless examples of perspiration being favoured over inspiration in this working class city.

What supporters really crave now is success. A road forward, a path back to where this club belongs.

Good luck, Cookie. Pompey expects.