Comment: Perfect storm precipitates Cook’s Pompey exit

In-demand Pompey manager Paul Cook Picture: Joe Pepler
In-demand Pompey manager Paul Cook Picture: Joe Pepler
Nathan Thompson. Picture: Sarah Standing

Pompey looking for history to repeat in cup

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The dark clouds gathering over Fratton Park were a result of the late-night storm developing on Friday evening.

Just not of the nimbus and lightning kind which hammered the city in the early hours.

The story of Paul Cook’s proposed move to Wigan accelerated through the day into the small hours of Saturday morning.

And finally it reached a deafening crescendo as it reverberated around the city in the witching hour.

That now has developed into the reality the Pompey boss is on his way 24 days after securing League Two glory.

The news has precipitated an entirely understandable howling response.

Like most of these events, though, it’s embedded not in black or white, but the same shade of grey as the lead sheet sky which hung over PO4.

The Blues were presented with the kind of problem which is all-too familiar in the wake of success.

And Pompey’s hierarchy felt they did all they could reasonably be expected in the aftermath of the Latics luring him to the DW Stadium.

Cook’s contract entitled him to improvements and bonuses in the wake of promotion success. On top of that, a promise of an extension was delivered to the Scouser.

The suggestion was that offer would be a more than competitive one for managers in League One.

But Wigan’s arrival on the scene introduced a whole new dynamic to proceedings.

And the interpretation of how their approach for Cook has played out is critical to this narrative.

For Cook’s part, the first thing to make clear is he adamantly says he wanted to stay.

It’s known he was disappointed at a perceived lack of progress in discussions moving into something tangible, from the existing or prospective board.

The Blues boss believes any improvements asked for were reasonable.

Cook has also been left uncertain about what lies ahead for him when Michael Eisner completes his takeover.

You can speculate over how the American billionaire has assessed developments, too, days after tweeting his congrats to Cook for his manager-of-the-year recognition.

The 50-year-old may have become a hero in the wake of winning the league, but there’s been plenty of fractious moments with supporters along the way.

Those issues – and a very generous offer from his new employers-in-waiting – led to a listening ear to Wigan’s advances.

And so to the Pompey angle.

As indicated, improved terms were tabled as per contract – along with an extension.

That was then stepped up again in the light of the Latics’ pursuit of Cook. The Blues went as far as they felt they could.

It evidently wasn’t comparable to what was on offer after meeting with Latics chairman David Sharpe in Spain at the weekend.

There’s disappointment at how the scenario has developed, but that is being replaced by increasing pragmatism over what is now an inevitable outcome to the saga.

The playing budget presents a significant thread to the narrative, too.

Pompey are strictly sticking to the £3m earmarked for building a squad to compete in League One, the argument being there is zero tolerance to threatening the club’s financial position in the event of the takeover not being finalised.

That falls into the bottom half of the third-tier pecking order, with Cook already missing out on potential targets he hoped to bring in as a result.

With no transition budget occurring, there will be hopes of movement on that when the Eisner era begins. But with early July the touted completion day, it’s very late in the day when it comes to assembling a squad.

It all adds up to a perfect Pompey storm which will see Cook travel up the M6 to a club within a few miles of his Liverpool roots.

Expect all of his staff to follow, too, and, no doubt, there will be a return to harvest from the squad he’s assembled.

There are obvious concerns about the state of flux the club will be left in, with a transitional spell in the offing when the hope was the Blues could build on the momentum created on and off the pitch over recent weeks.

So, the outlook now is for an unsettled and quite possibly turbulent period ahead.

But whatever the forecast, the reality is all storms pass. And, whatever the damage, Pompey will still be standing at the end of it.