Progress is great - but promotion’s Pompey target

Pompey boss Paul Cook   Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey boss Paul Cook Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey midfielder Carl Baker Picture: Joe Pepler

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Mark Catlin believes promotion has to be the target next season.

Catlin feels the aim has to be to get Pompey out of League Two at the fourth attempt.

Paul Cook has stated he is looking for improvement on the 78-point return achieved by the Blues last term.

Chief executive Catlin can understand that stance and denied stating the aim was to go up was putting additional pressure on Cook.

But he feels the ambition simply comes with a club like Pompey being in the fourth tier of the English game.

Catlin said: ‘If you’re Portsmouth in League Two your target is promotion. Your target has to be promotion.

‘Now ultimately we didn’t achieve that target, however, there was a massive improvement on previous seasons.

‘Everyone has a target. We have a commercial target. We have season-ticket sales target.

‘You don’t always hit them but you can end up at a figure you are content and happy with. It’s no different on the pitch.

‘We make no bones about it. Everyone at the football club from the chairman to the board of directors, fans and staff, Cookie and players – the target was promotion.

‘We’re unified in that.

‘I’m not trying to put any extra pressure on the manager, but if you’re Portsmouth in League Two you have to start the season with the target as promotion.

‘Whether you get there or not is judged at the end of the season, but it has to be the target.’

Catlin took Cook’s point about making a points improvement next season should be a target for Pompey.

The Blues did stop the rot of six seasons falling backwards last term and made a big step in the right direction after the club’s lower-ever Football League finish the previous term.

But Catlin thinks no one should be hiding from the bigger picture.

He said: ‘What you’re looking for ultimately when all is said and done is improvement.

‘When you ask me, the target has to be promotion but as chief executive you are looking for improvement.

‘If we keep improving year on year, as I’m sure we will under Paul we’ll ultimately achieve that aim.

‘All I know is and Paul will say the same is we’re looking to continually improve as a club.

‘It has to be the goal.

‘Yes, you want to improve but the target has to be promotion. Everyone knows that.’

Although, it proved to be an ultimately disappointing season for Pompey after they failed in the play-offs, Catlin could reflect on what his manager achieved in the last campaign positively.

A strong start saw the Blues go nine games unbeaten culminating in going top of the table after the victory at Bristol Rovers in September.

Cook’s team held automatic or promotion berths throughout the campaign which Catlin sees as a testament to how competitive the team was,

That was tempered by an inability to put three league wins on the bounce together until April.

But with some strong cup runs and Cook impressing his passing philosophy on the team, Catlin felt there was a lot to savour.

‘What was fantastic was we were out of the top seven for one or two weeks all year,’ Catlin said.

‘So we were a strong, challenging, competitive team all season.

‘It wasn’t like we fluked it at the last minute. We were a good, solid top-six team all season.

‘That’s where we ended up.

‘We had some great cup runs and great moments.

‘Our style of play the fans seemed to like.

‘The seemed to like the philosophy Paul has brought with his passion to the club.’

There was never any doubt Cook would be tasked with taking Pompey forward next season and is seen as the man to deliver success to the club.

That was clear when chairman Iain McInnes came out and backed his manager moments after the gut-wrenching last-ditch loss at Plymouth last month.

Catlin believes there is a common thread with the teams who enjoyed League Two success.

And that was they’ve kept with a settled formula and then reaped the dividends of that stability.

‘Paul came in, cleared the decks and started afresh. That’s always difficult to do.

‘If you look at the teams who got promoted the thing they had in common was the stability of managers who’d been there longer than two seasons.

‘One of them off the back of a relegation with Darrell (Clarke). They stuck with him even though they got relegated.

‘They’ve had that benefit and hopefully Paul will have that benefit this year.

‘He’ll have that pre-season with the core base of his side and players.

‘On the field now we have the foundations. I’ve banged on for ages about having the foundations off the pitch, but now we have it on it as well.’