Cotterill enjoying his optional extras

Steve Cotterill. Picture: Michael Jones
Steve Cotterill. Picture: Michael Jones
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The Ricoh Arena – forever the benchmark of Steve Cotterill’s era.

The opening match of the 2010-11 campaign, the first game of the Pompey boss’ reign.

It’s a Coventry City fixture which also represents the lowest point for the Blues’ playing squad in recent years.

Just 15 players were named for duty that day.

That included a four-man substitutes bench comprised entirely of teenagers.

Cotterill’s starting line-up included Hayden Mullins at right-back and Matt Ritchie at left-back, both unfamiliar roles.

It was a case of needs must for Pompey’s new boss as he stretched his meagre playing resources to breaking point.

Unsurprisingly, a 2-0 defeat ensued. It wasn’t the last time his numbers were so cruelly exposed, either.

But no more.

Almost 13 months on from that fateful day and finally Cotterill is blessed with options.

At present, his squad has reached the 19-player mark. High luxury indeed.

Expect that to expand further with Premier League teams finalising their squads and the emergency loan window opening in less than a week’s time.

An inactive transfer window deadline day does not reflect complete satisfaction with the squad, though. Irrespective, the Blues manager has options.

No need to ask your dependable midfielder and reigning player of the season to occupy the right-back berth any more.

Instead Joel Ward, Tal Ben Haim and Aaron Mokoena are all perfectly capable of fulfilling such duties when called upon.

It must be remembered, two of those are international defenders with approaching 200 caps between them.

In addition, Ward represents a highly-promising talent who is continuing to blossom.

Ritchie is no longer on the books at Fratton Park.

In his absence, though, Cotterill can ponder fielding Ben Haim, Hermann Hreidarsson Ricardo Rocha, Ward or Jason Pearce at left-back.

Unquestionably, both full-back positions still require strengthening.

Regardless, there remain genuine selection dilemmas for the manager at present.

What’s more, those headaches continue across the pitch.

The arrival of Erik Huseklepp has presented a player of great versatility.

Suddenly Liam Lawrence has a rival on the right flank. And Luke Varney has a competitor vying for the left flank.

The Norway international can even operate through the middle, as he did against Cardiff.

The striking pool is one which, in particular, has been heavily strengthened during the past month.

Huseklepp, Benjani Mwaruwari and Markos Futacs have all added to Cotterill’s options.

Add them to Dave Kitson and Kanu and the opportunity presents itself to field two strikers.

As if that wasn’t enough, Varney is also capable of switching from the left flank to a centre forward role.

It was a job he served during the second half against Cardiff.

Meanwhile, the rapid emergence of Ryan Williams should also be appreciated.

The Australian winger may be just 17 but he has hugely impressed Cotterill during the past few months.

His ability to operate on either flank also makes him an alternative to either Varney or Lawrence.

Elsewhere, the Blues have employed three different central defensive partnerships in their opening six matches.

The latest of which – Greg Halford and Pearce – has looked the most secure.

Cotterill, though, clearly has plenty of other options.

Rocha, Mokoena, Ben Haim and Hreidarsson can also serve there when required.

At present, however, it appears the current incumbents are going to take some shifting.

Finally, there is the central midfield area.

The consensus among supporters is this is the position which requires strengthening.

A player equipped with guile and vision to complement those already there is missing.

However, Cotterill still possesses plenty of options.

David Norris and Mullins are his favoured two, starting every match so far.

Mokoena and Ward can also operate effectively there.

Then there is Lawrence, who thrived in that role when at the peak of his powers last season.

For Cotterill, the recruitment drive is clearly not yet over.

But finally, after more than a year in the job, he has options.