Paul Cook: Pompey won’t forget pain of play-off defeat

Christian Burgess trudges off as Plymouth fans celebrate play-off semi-final success at Home Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

Christian Burgess trudges off as Plymouth fans celebrate play-off semi-final success at Home Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

Kal Naismith was gaffer for a day Phil Whyte's man of the match against Cambridge United. Photo by Joe Pepler

Pompey 2 Cambridge United 1: Gaffer for a day

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A NEW season, new hope and renewed optimism.

But Paul Cook is refusing to forget the pain of Plymouth.

The feelings of play-off heartache at Home Park are still raw – and the Pompey boss admitted they will be a driving force in the new campaign.

Cook was too upset to give a press briefing after the late, late semi-final loss in May.

That has been put behind him as we enter a new campaign – but the memories are not lost.

‘I’m in a better place now than I was then,’ said Cook, as he looked back at the start of the new season.

‘But those feelings should never go away.

‘They are the feelings which drive you on to be better.

‘I always feel in football, if you could bottle any type of feeling you could sell it well.

‘That’s the feeling if you gave it to people they’d always do something about it the next game.

‘The problem is time can make people forget.

‘It doesn’t make me forget much – that feeling of coming off the pitch at Plymouth. But this is now a new season and we must embrace it.

‘We must embrace being the favourites again and the team everyone wants to beat.

‘Every time I hear a manager speak already it’s about Portsmouth. It’s seems common place.

‘We’ve got to have focus. We have got to have that focus and concentrate on ourselves and not everyone else speaking about us.

‘I don’t think our fire needs fuelling. I think we’re alright with fires and fuel.

‘I don’t think we’ll struggle about that.’

Cook has experienced the highs and lows of chasing promotion in recent seasons.

There was the glory of winning the League Two title with Chesterfield in 2013-14.

He then guided the Spireites into the play-offs at the next level as they punched above their weight.

Preston proved too strong for them on that occasion and then came the heartache of defeat in May.

So the Pompey boss is well attuned to the volatility of what can arrive at the end of the campaign.

The ambition is to ensure Pompey are onlookers when the play-offs start next May – with promotion already in the bag.

Cook said: ‘You don’t want to be in those positions.

‘For me, that’s two years on the spin.

‘In my last three years I’ve won a league – so I know what that’s about.

‘But I’ve suffered defeats in the play-offs twice.

‘I look back on that as having three successful seasons as a manager.

‘Some managers would love to have the pain of that play-off defeat, I don’t care what anyone says.

‘Our fans were thinking about Wembley. At least we thought about it.

‘We never got there but we thought about it more than some other clubs.

‘The reality of it is we’d like to go to Wembley next year – and watch other teams play knowing we’re already there.

‘That’s the challenge for us – and it’s a challenge we meet head on.’

Cook is confident Pompey enter the season better equipped to deal with the challenges they face than they were 12 months ago.

But he feels that is the case for the club in all areas as they continue to progress in the third year of community ownership.

Cook said: ‘The club’s come on so much in 12 months.

‘Not just in terms of the squad being in a better place this time around.

‘The training facilities are fantastic and money’s being spent on the club’s infrastructure and stadium.

‘Season-ticket sales are at a record high.

‘Look at Burton Albion. My year with Chesterfield they lost to Fleetwood in the final.

‘That’s two years ago. They’re in the Championship now. That’s how quickly it can happen for us all. That’s football.

‘We need to keep building the club stronger and stronger.

‘I feel we’re getting there on that front.’

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