Michael Doyle can see the difference, he can smell the change.
Pompey’s skipper is loath to draw comparisons of quality between the current side and last year’s crop.
Against Wycombe we won 4-2 – that would have been 1-1 last seasonMichael Doyle
Nonetheless, there has been an early-season elevation which is hard to ignore.
Sitting in second place, the Blues are one spot higher than this time last year following four successive victories.
Yet, crucially, the improvement runs much deeper – and has caught the ever-scrutinising eye of Doyle.
Last weekend’s 4-2 triumph over Wycombe is a fixture the midfielder believes last term would have ended in a draw.
However, Cook’s side have grown from their experiences, they have matured in footballing knowhow.
And Doyle has observed the encouraging signs right in front of him.
He said: ‘It is still very early. I don’t want to get carried away but last year as players we were probably guilty of having a good start to the campaign, then had our problems and couldn’t get over it.
‘Whereas I think now we have learned a lot from last season.
‘It’s too hard to say whether we are a better side this time around, that is for others to judge, but I would like to think the early signs are a lot of players seem to have grown, some young players have grown stronger mentally.
‘Against Wycombe we won 4-2 – that would have been 1-1 last season.
‘Little things like that will help but we don’t want to be getting in that situation too many times either.
‘I really believe in what we’ve got. We had a good team last year and, for the side we had, fell short. This year we have a good team and need to go one better and get promoted.
‘Conceding early last year would have been a disappointment which would have carried all the way through to half-time and been really difficult for us to get back into it.
‘That is the one thing that came out of the game for me. It’s unlikely we would have got three goals before half-time.
‘We didn’t get any penalties last year, we weren’t scoring from corners – and then you look at what happened on Saturday when we did.’
It took until April for the Blues to win three successive League Two matches.
They have now chalked up four in a row – and it’s mid-September.
Next up are Accrington, the scene of Doyle’ stunning volley last term – and he is expecting a competitive occasion.
He added: ‘We go to Accrington now, it’s going to be a big game and there is a bit of needle there.
‘Our manager was at that club, that’s his friend in charge and a couple of players have come here from there, so there is a little bit of rivalry in that sense.
‘All we can concentrate on is ourselves and that is the one thing we are trying to do this year.
‘It’s important not to play catch-up, I think last year we gave ourselves way too much to do.
‘When you go into March and April trying to get promotion, you don’t want to have had dropped points at home at the start of the season.
‘It’s important to get as many points on the board as soon as possible.’