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Portsmouth has spent big bucks – at least by English League Two standards – to procure Paul Cook from Chesterfield and one thinks that Pompey may justify fourth-tier favouritism at the third time of asking as a result of Cook’s arrival.
Money talks in the English Football League as much as it does in the English Premier League and it is only a matter of time before Portsmouth, which won the English FA Cup in 2008 prior to being relegated from the English top flight in 2009, climbs back up the English pyramid. Portsmouth had an average English League Two home crowd of 15,242 spectators this season, more than double every fourth-tier team except Luton (8,702) and the 18th highest in the English Football League – not bad for a side that finished 16th in its division and never really threatened a promotion push.
Portsmouth has made some dumb managerial appointments since it dropped into English League Two, none more stupid than giving the gig to Guy Whittingham full time. Whittington, who made his name as a striker playing for Portsmouth in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was Pompey’s caretaker manager during its relegation from English League One and somehow, despite having no senior coaching experience, ended up in charge of the Fratton Park side on a permanent basis. What Portsmouth needed was a boss who knew the lower reaches of the English Football League like the back of his hand – what Portsmouth got was a novice manager with none of that nous.
Richie Barker was the next full-time Portsmouth boss and it did not work out, either. Barker inherited a Bury team that was capable of winning promotion from English League Two and he received the plaudits when the Shakers went up. Barker was unable to build on Bury’s success but that did not stop Crawley from knocking on his door. Barker lasted 15 months at Crawley before being axed and, therefore, one was not shocked when he did not take Portsmouth to great heights.
Andy Awford succeeded Barker as Portsmouth manager as, yet again, Pompey appointed a club legend with no experience of being a senior boss. The result was all too predictable.
Finally, though, Portsmouth looks like it has got the right man for what is the biggest job in English League Two. Cook was a thinking man’s player and he has built a reputation as a thinking man’s manager. Cook did not make the best start to his coaching career but he learned from his Southport experience and his subsequent spells in charge of Sligo, Accrington and particularly Chesterfield have been good.
It will be interesting to see how Cook handles Portsmouth striker Craig Westcarr – the manager released the player at Chesterfield – but Cook would not have accepted the Pompey job without having a strategy for that. Westcarr has been an underachiever for most of his career but one thinks that, on his day, he is as good as any English League Two forward.
No player scored more English League Two goals during this regular season than Matt Tubbs and he is on Portsmouth’s book for next term. In Tubbs and Westcarr, Portsmouth has the makings of the best forward line in English League Two and Cook will have funds to strengthen other lines as well. Cook would not have Chesterfield, which made the English League One play-offs, if he did not think that he could awaken the sleeping giant that is Portsmouth. And it has been reported that Portsmouth paid $150,000 to Chesterfield for the Spireites to release Cook from his contract.
SkyBet has gone up with an early English League Two title market and Portsmouth is trading as its favourite at odds of 9/1 10.00 +900 9.00 9.00 -0.11 . One thinks that Portsmouth will be single-digits odds by the time that English League Two campaign kicks off so it is worth betting on Pompey playing up at this juncture.
Portsmouth to win League Two title
Odds: 9/1 10.00 +900 9.00 9.00 -0.11
Where to Bet: SkyBet