Cotterill salutes his Pompey unsung hero

Hayden Mullins, far right, is congratulated for his goal against Bristol City in September
Hayden Mullins, far right, is congratulated for his goal against Bristol City in September
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Hayden Mullins may attract nothing more than a fleeting glance when it comes to the awards stakes.

After all, in terms of Pompey’s player of the year, others with a more headline-stealing tendency will inevitably clamber over him.

Yet Steve Cotterill considers his ever-present midfielder every inch an unsung hero.

And he insists the former West Ham man has been one of the stars of a campaign which could yet lead to play-off qualification.

Mullins represents the only outfield player to have appeared in every match for Pompey this season.

Along with Jamie Ashdown, so far the duo have each racked up 43 appearances.

Mullins has proven to be a steadying influence in the Blues’ midfield with his fight, determination and unflagging energy levels.

The 32-year-old has even managed to weigh-in with his first-ever Pompey goals this term, including a stunning 30-yarder against Watford. Mullins will once again line up in the heart of midfield for Saturday’s visit of Preston as he closes in on his 50th appearance of the campaign.

And Cotterill is full of praise for his consistent performer.

He said: ‘I think Hayden’s been fantastic this season.

‘He’s pretty easy going, but can be as combative as anyone on the training pitch. He certainly would be somebody I would like to keep here. Definitely.

‘Hayden is something of an unsung hero. He has been a different class for us – wherever he’s played.

‘He’s a team player, you see. It’s not about Hayden Mullins, it’s about what Hayden Mullins can do for a team.

‘That is why when he scores a goal everyone will jump on him because they are genuinely delighted for him.

‘He doesn’t score as many goals as he could or should – but that’s because it’s the sacrifice he makes for the team.

‘We are very lucky to be blessed with a lot of good guys, some very good footballers that produce some good quality.

‘He is another one. When your good players happen to be top lads that is an added bonus for us. He is a real top lad, Hayden.

‘Hayden is really good in the dressing room, has great experience, been around, seen a lot, done a lot. He doesn’t shout the odds and is just a top lad.

‘He’s one of those in the dressing room I wouldn’t say is particularly friendly with just one or two people. He’s got that personality where people would gravitate towards him.

‘He’s just a top man and a proper player.’

Since the issues over the contracts of Michael Brown and Richard Hughes came to prominence, Mullins has had to search for a new midfield partner-in-crime.

That has arrived in the form of Jonathan Hogg, on loan from Aston Villa.

The pair have lined up alongside each other for 12 matches now.

The fact that period has also seen the Blues pick up 22 points from a possible 30 is no coincidence.

They have been the fulcrum of the 4-5-1 system Cotterill has operated with of late.

And the Blues boss believes the defensive midfielders have blossomed playing next to each other.

He added: ‘I think Hayden has quite enjoyed Hogg coming along.

‘Hoggy is another one who is a team player. He’s not flash, there are no airs and graces with him.

‘He does a job for the team and sometimes you need those players in your side.

‘It has been refreshing having Hogg in midfield. I know Hogg has enjoyed playing with Hayden.

‘I’m really pleased with those two. They are two top lads.’