Cook tips Pompey midfielder for ‘massive’ influence

Gary Roberts Picture: Joe Pepler
Gary Roberts Picture: Joe Pepler
New Pompey keeper Luke McGee Picture: Joe Pepler

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Paul Cook has backed Gary Roberts to provide a ‘massive’ influence on Pompey’s promotion finale.

But the Blues boss believes age ensures the 33-year-old must now adapt his game.

You are not dropped, you’re not left out, these aren’t bad players overnight, we can’t play everyone, and there is a process you must go through when you want a group of players to have success together

Paul Cook

Roberts’ belligerence won the penalty for Gareth Evans’ opener in last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Yeovil.

Having been recalled to the side following Noel Hunt’s injury, it was another telling contribution from the nine-goal midfielder.

The former Chesterfield man is pushing to retain his place for today’s visit of second-placed Plymouth.

And the manager insisted Roberts can still be a crucial presence during the final five fixtures.

Cook said: ‘Gary is a good player, he is always going to have a massive part to play for me – and he’s got a massive part to play in the run-in, for sure.

‘Every season he gets 10-plus goals, his goalscoring record has always been strong, with more than 100 in his career.

‘Unfortunately for Gary, he is 33 now. That’s the nature of the game, there has to be an acceptance from him about going forward in terms of getting older, it’s life.

‘He’s a fantastic player and the disappointment for our fans is, if you look at his Carlisle and Barnet goals, I would have expected him to score 10 of those.

‘Not with his head, mind! We’re going to do a video on his headers this season, have you seen them!

‘We are pleased with Gary, though, he’s such a great lad and important to our side in what we are trying to achieve.’

Roberts’ start against the Glovers last Saturday represented his first since the home defeat to Crewe.

Since then he has largely been utilised off the bench, while injury ruled him out of the visit of Newport County.

Yet he remains the Blues’ second-top scorer, with nine goals from 37 appearances this season.

During the second half of the campaign, Danny Rose and Kal Naismith have returned to the side to produce inspired spells.

And Cook is hopeful Roberts can repeat the trick.

He added: ‘It can do them good to be out of the team.

‘Look at Danny Rose at the minute, all of a sudden Kal Naismith is flavour of the month, but in October and November he wasn’t and someone else was.

‘You are not dropped, you’re not left out, these aren’t bad players overnight, we can’t play everyone, and there is a process you must go through when you want a group of players to have success together.

‘They have all needed managing in their own way. But the one thing we haven’t done, though, is change the defence.

‘There was a clamour for Gareth Evans to come out at right-back and I think our back seven (including Rose and Michael Doyle) in general are dead solid.

‘I’ve said it for a bit, we’ve got a good group of players.’