League Insider - Cotterill
Peter Fraser praises the work of Steve Cotterill amid the sensational drama at Portsmouth.
Last Updated: 01/11/10 10:08am
Even The Wall Street Journal has been following business at Portsmouth over recent months to provide an indication of the magnitude of events at Fratton Park.
'One of the most extraordinary sagas in English football finally reached a conclusion on Sunday - and this one had nothing to do with Wayne Rooney," wrote WSJ's Jonathan Clegg in his opening paragraph this Monday morning.
Now, obviously, America's foremost financial newspaper is more interested in covering monetary issues, but as you read the article, entitled 'Portsmouth's survival secured', there is not one mention for boss Steve Cotterill.
With due respect, WSJ has bigger fish to fry and the homepage of the European version of its website deems G-20, TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, don't you know) and the Singapore Exchange as more newsworthy than a football manager with a strong West Country accent in England's Championship.
But here at skysports.com we can see beyond the spreadsheets and the FTSE and are prepared to salute a somewhat unsung hero amid what has been a period of unmatched turmoil at Portsmouth.
On Sunday, Pompey emerged from administration after Balram Chainrai completed another takeover, which signified an incredible turnaround for a club that had been on the brink of liquidation on Friday due to a dispute over a £2.2million debt owed to former owner Alexandre Gaydamak.
Some Pompey followers have been labelling Chainrai, who fronts a group that also includes Levi Kushnir and Deepak Chainrai, as a saviour for saying goodbye to the administrators and a Football League transfer embargo, although there are also doubts about his long-term commitments. But there is another man who deserves immense credit.
The whole sorry story at Portsmouth has come as tremors from the attempts to chase success in 2008, when the FA Cup was won by a team of high-profile players who were signed on impossible salaries. Mountains of debt, points deductions, inevitable relegation from the Premier League and High Court visits followed.
Critics have suggested that Portsmouth were essentially 'cheating' two years ago and it has been demanded that football's governing bodies take steps to prevent a repeat. Referring back to our friends in New York, I did find myself thinking of Portsmouth during a recent viewing of 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' (Not a patch on the original, but Michael Douglas was brilliant - for any budding Claudia Winklemans). "I once said, 'greed is good'. Now it seems it's legal," Gordon Gekko told us. Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules are imminent to attempt to ensure that is no longer the case.
All in all, Pompey have been fighting boardroom fires since 2008 against a soundtrack of sniping from rivals and that therefore makes the achievements of Cotterill all the more impressive. The current man in the Fratton Park hot-seat preaches the importance of hard work, commitment, team work and honesty. If only some of the previous regimes at Portsmouth had adopted similar principles...
Having guided Notts County to promotion from League Two, Cotterill quit Meadow Lane in May due to a lack of budget. He then took charge at Portsmouth and arrived with trademark confidence and resilience, declaring that he could have kept the South Coast side in the Premier League with the players on the books in 2009/10.
After a terrible start to the 2010/11 campaign for a side shorn of its best players, which resulted in seven matches without a win in the league, the Championship play-off positions are now only three points away. Sixteen points have been taken from a possible 18 to suggest that Cotterill's passion, self-assurance and organisation are beginning to have an infectious impact.
A knee injury ended his playing days in 1995 and since that time the now 46-year-old has honed his managerial skills at Irish side Sligo Rovers, Cheltenham Town, Stoke City and Burnley, where he masterminded the famous FA Cup win over eventual European champions Liverpool in 2005, before arriving at County. Cotterill also spent time as assistant to Howard Wilkinson at Sunderland, which was notoriously unsuccessful, but must surely have helped deal with adversity.
It is, of course, still early days, however, Portsmouth appear to be reaping the rewards. With an inherited, paper-thin squad, Cotterill has blended creativity with purpose, and experience with youth to make his side play as a unit. In Saturday's 2-1 win at Hull City, not one player averaged beneath eight in the opinion of fans in skysports.com's player ratings. That is almost unheard of.
One Portsmouth message boarder may have been getting a little carried away by suggesting that Cotterill ranks in the same bracket as managerial legend Alan Ball and two-time First Division winner Bob Jackson. In different circumstances, though, that gives a measure of the task being performed.
It only requires a look at Liverpool to see how boardroom and financial uncertainty can affect on-field displays. However, Cotterill has brought stability and now it seems that he is beginning to bring a winning attitude. It will be fascinating to see what he does in the winter transfer window.
Pompey went into their weekend meeting with Hull well aware that it could be the last game in the club's 112-year history. Cotterill made sure that it made no difference.