Brothers-in-arms and partners-in-crime, Paul Cook’s backroom staff have followed in every step towards League One.
And Pompey’s promotion-winning boss has hailed their crucial contribution in achieving the club’s goal.
Managers take the credit but you’ve got to have good people around you and I am very, very fortunate to have this group of staff with mePaul Cook
Upon his May 2015 appointment, one of Cook’s first acts was to recruit his Chesterfield right-hand man Leam Richardson.
Following defeat in the play-off semi-final to Plymouth at the end of last season, the Blues boss was then given the go-ahead to overhaul a backroom largely inherited.
That saw John Keeley return to Fratton Park as goalkeeping coach, joined by physio Nick Meace from Liverpool’s Academy and head of physiotherapy and sports science Andy Proctor.
Cook was rocked by the departure of first-team coach Ian Foster for an England role in February, although Robbie Blake has stepped up.
And Pompey’s manager has paid tribute to the staff which have stood by his side in a memorable campaign.
He said: ‘I am very lucky with my immediate backroom, I really am.
‘Obviously there is Leam, who has been with me right through, just as he was at Chesterfield.
‘He is not just a friend but a very knowledgeable lad about the game and very, very articulate. For me, he could manage if he wanted to.
‘Around that we have Robbie Blake, who has been absolutely terrific, a different type of character and a bit of a buffer between ourselves and the lads. He’s the one who can make you smile.
‘Nick Meace and Andy Proctor have been unbelievable, while John Keeley has come back to the club, so I feel really lucky.
‘Managers take the credit but you’ve got to have good people around you and I am very, very fortunate to have this group of staff with me.
‘I have been backed by the club. At the end of the day, if I was to leave the club at any given point I would do with no regrets, I wouldn’t be a manager who will blame others, that’s not my style.
‘It should be a tight unit and it is. If you are not tight you lose.’
Cook favours a relaxed atmosphere around Pompey’s training ground, irrespective of results on the pitch. Fans are allowed in to watch training and chat to the manager if the visit is pre-booked, while others are able to peer through grilled fences at the Roko venue without fear of being turned away.
And Cook revels in the atmosphere he has created.
He added: ‘I feel everyone is more comfortable in the club now, the staff are very approachable, we don’t try to create that atmosphere where you are walking on eggshells.
‘Before the Plymouth game the other week, the Sky cameraman said to me “Blimey, your lads are so relaxed aren’t they!”.
‘That’s how it should be for me.
‘You’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to do all the right stuff, and we don’t leave any stones unturned.
‘We work hard at our job to try to bring in success and, come the end of it, you have to enjoy it.’