Cook earning favour as he entertains us

Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler
Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Do managers have an obligation to entertain?

Paul Cook certainly thinks so – and hasn’t been shy about airing his views about on the subject lately.

Supporters who remember the glory days of 1949 and 50 are clamouring to thank Cook for what they are witnessing.

‘I thought people come into grounds to watch a match,’ the Pompey boss says in The News today.

It’s an issue Cook has returned to on a number of occasions, with a clear philosophy paying fans deserve to watch a decent game being preached.

Ideologically, it’s a purist’s heaven. Playing the beautiful game in the manner it’s intended is a cause everyone is behind. As long as you’re winning.

Maybe there might have been one or two people having doubts about that, though, at 3.38pm on Saturday.

Cook is used to the concerns being raised when things aren’t going well. He’s heard it before.

This tippy-tappy football is all well and good but get it in the mixer. We’re too open at the back. Why aren’t we playing two up top?

They are all shouts levelled at the Scouser’s approach, and his jesting suggestion to the press they’re thinking that now implies there’s been some consternation over it in the past.

As it goes, the press are thinking anything but that. Not in this part of town anyway.

Cook was left flummoxed by the fact his team were encouraged off at the interval against Morecambe at the weekend. ‘Where else does that happen?’ he enquired after the game.

Pompey fell 3-0 down. It really could have been five or six. Morecambe literally looked like they were going to score on every attack.

The passing and pressing which has been the team’s hallmark stuttered. It was like Superman shorn of his powers and left exposed to Morecambe’s counter-attacking Kryptonite.

But Cook’s side were trying to make things happen. The Fratton faithful saw that and stuck by them.

A hallmark of the post-match fan reaction was they believed, even at 3-0, Pompey could find a way back into the game. Playing in a manner which creates that conviction is why there weren’t boos.

Last week, Crawley’s approach came under the spotlight as they parked the bus, the kit bag, boots and any spare staff who were knocking around the dressing room.

It was a topic discussed by my sports desk colleague, Steve Wilson, in the Sports Mail at the weekend, after an illuminating insight into Cook’s thinking ahead of the Morecambe game.

The Pompey boss is insistent he has never set up a team to eke out a result – and never will.

It’s easy to paint the picture as black and white in the light of the encouragement being felt this season – and previous disappointments.

Cook is the noble knight carrying the sword of attacking truth against the dark forces of anti-football.

It’s not like that. There will be times for pragmatism. Pompey won’t be gung-ho at Kenilworth Road if they are the odd goal to the good in stoppage time on Saturday.

But at the same time, what supporters are witnessing shows the philosophies being espoused aren’t empty rhetoric.

To see left-back Brandon Haunstrup get an earful from Cook against Reading for not being on the edge of the attacking third was insightful.

The ball was on the right side of the pitch at the time, but he wanted his other full-back ready to pounce.

The gaffer for the day on Tuesday night told of fans heading enthusiastically to buy season tickets off the back of what they saw.

Supporters who remember the glory days of 1949 and 50 are clamouring to thank Cook for what they are witnessing.

So, maybe managers don’t have an obligation to entertain. But, when it buys optimism, you wonder why more aren’t encouraged down that path.