Cotterill refuses to rest on his laurels

Saturday, 5 March 2011'Npower Championship'Portsmouth v Sheff Utd, 15:00
Saturday, 5 March 2011'Npower Championship'Portsmouth v Sheff Utd, 15:00
Plymouth Argyle's Remi Matthews. Picture: PA Images

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Steve Cotterill regards it as the ‘biggest achievement in the Championship’ this season.

But the man who has masterminded Pompey’s progress has no intention of standing back in admiration and applauding his side’s remarkable play-off push.

After all, he is not yet satisfied.

Sitting 13th in the Championship table, the Blues find themselves six points off the play-offs with eight games of the season remaining.

It’s a promising position heading into the home straight, with several of Pompey’s promotion rivals left to face and Cotterill’s men arguably the form team in the league at present.

A haul of 22 points from a possible 27, with eight clean sheets in the process, has seen Pompey emerge as a genuine outside promotion bet.

No longer a battle against relegation – sunnier climes await.

For Cotterill, the club has been steadied on the field of play, and fans have every reason to be optimistic.

Not that he is ready to start the celebrations and back-slapping just yet.

He said: ‘If you look deeply into it, probably us being where we are could arguably be the biggest achievement in the Championship.

‘Don’t forget, we nearly didn’t have a club.

‘In October we were playing Hull City and didn’t know whether we would still be around.

‘That is how bad the situation has been.

‘So really, I suppose when you step away from it, in the cold light of day, yes, it has been a big achievement.

‘Some of the things we have had to go through this season are unbelievable, they really have been.

‘Having said that, personally, I don’t like celebrating anything like this because we haven’t won anything.

‘You celebrate stuff when you’ve got a cup in your hand or have been promoted.

‘It has been a big achievement – I would never have thought that with all that has gone on this season.

‘But there will be no celebrations just yet.’

It seems an age ago when Pompey were spending their fourth week on the bottom of the Championship.

That was back in August and September – a position only rectified by the 6-1 thumping of Leicester.

In addition, at the turn of the year they had slipped to 20th following a run of 10 matches without a win in all competitions.

Those two spells had stoked up fears of successive relegations in the face of continued off-the-field turmoil.

But Cotterill and his troops have rallied impressively.

A run of seven wins and a draw from their past nine matches has lifted them into 13th spot – a sequence of results underpinned by a post-war record of 636 minutes without conceding a league goal.

Next up, Pompey have a tough trip to play-off rivals Reading on Saturday.

Other tricky fixtures on the horizon include Cardiff (a), Swansea (h), Burnley (a) and Norwich (h).

Regardless of the outcome of their play-off push, it has still been a season to be satisfied with.

In footballing terms, anyway.

There has been no relegation, while the manager has impressed with his team building and approach.

And Cotterill has made no secret of how difficult he has found the task at times.

He added: ‘When I joined I didn’t quite know the depths.

‘Our troubles were deeper than I ever thought when I first took over.

‘But we have managed to get through that period and are mid-table, above a lot of teams that haven’t had any of these problems.

‘We have been trying to get a good, solid football club back together again.

‘I think this year will go a long way towards doing that, even though it has been very, very painful at times. Probably for all of us.

‘But we have got there.’