Lock all the doors and bolt the gates, Cotterill is the man who’s got to stay

Steve Cotterill
Steve Cotterill

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Just 16 days to go. Not that anyone is counting, you understand.

Still, the fact remains, 16 days are left before the transfer window closes.

Or slams shut, which seems to forever be the appropriate phraseology.

It represents a make-or-break period for joint-owners Balram Chainrai and Levi Kushnir in the eyes of many supporters.

It will be a true indication of their attitude towards a football club they don’t want.

Unquestionably, the squad needs strengthening.

On the other side of the coin, there is also the fear playing numbers may be pruned a little more to remove the big-wage earners.

No wonder the next 16 days fills many Pompey fans with great trepidation.

But such developments should not distract anyone from the main plot – Steve Cotterill.

Granted, the possible departure of John Utaka would be a blow, especially in the context of further weakening an already threadbare squad.

Other team-mates must also be retained at all costs.

Yet the priority at this moment in time should be ensuring Cotterill does not walk away from this football club.

Pure and simple, he is the one member of the club who has to remain. No matter what it takes.

Understandably, the possibility of the Blues boss’ exit has already crossed many people’s minds when surveying goings on in recent weeks.

Not that Cotterill has given any indication he is ready to quit Fratton Park.

But let’s face it – who could blame him?

There are certainly enough jobs cropping up at present. There are bound to be plenty more over the next few weeks.

The prospect of stable environments, transparent owners, satisfactory infrastructures, a squad of players and, of course, ambitions could be oh so tempting.

He sure isn’t getting any of that at Portsmouth Football Club at present.

What’s more, it doesn’t appear likely to change in the future.

Definitely not under the regime of Chainrai and Kushnir.

A disastrous transfer window and it could well be a fond farewell to Pompey’s best manager since Harry Redknapp.

Clearly there are problems rumbling behind the scenes at present. Judging from that Brighton showing, it has now seeped into the dressing room.

The frustration, the body language and the display were all indicative of a group of players disillusioned with matters off the pitch.

Amid it all, the squad is diminishing with little hope of adding to that extensively.

Oh, and the small matter of two of the more popular members of the playing staff no longer allowed to feature to prevent clauses kicking in.

Rightly or wrongly regarding that situation, such deals were signed in good faith by Richard Hughes, below left, and Michael Brown more than 18 months ago.

Now the goalposts have been moved to leave the duo in limbo, and the majority of their playing peers do not like that outcome one bit.

For Cotterill, they are yet more problems he has to deal with as he attempts to steer his side into what would be an outstanding top-10 finish.

From the wretched pre-season to the smallest squad in the Football League.

From the registration embargo to attempts to sell off four of his players on the last transfer deadline day.

In seven months, he has experienced it all.

Now here’s January – a month for him to use his remaining loans and ‘little’ transfer kitty to bolster his creaking squad.

At the same time he has to hope the family silver isn’t sold from under him as the club looks to recoup money and bring down the wage bill further.

Talk about in one hand and out the other.

It’s enough to drive anyone’s patience to breaking point, let alone somebody whose stock has clearly risen during his short spell at Fratton Park so far.

Cotterill has worked wonders amid the chaos to drag his side free from the relegation zone.

Why, they even managed to reach as high as 10th back in October following victory over today’s opposition Nottingham Forest.

Only over the past month has his good work been undermined by the pathetic squad size and one of his key performers being unable to play over contractual issues.

Before today’s result, Cotterill’s troops had out-performed promotion favourites Middlesbrough and Ipswich, whose managers have both paid that price.

Crystal Palace, a club who also came out of administration – although in a far healthier state and with the backing of interested owners – have been entrenched in the relegation zone.

It cost George Burley his job, yet Pompey are still well ahead in the league table stakes.

In fact, considering Pompey failed to win any of their opening seven matches and didn’t pick up a first league win until September 24, it is a minor miracle they find themselves where they are now.

Especially considering the endless distractions off the field of play which have now reduced them to just four available substitutes on a match day during the busiest part of the year.

Regardless, Cotterill still has detractors out there.

Some people feel Pompey should be in the promotion spots with the strong first XI they possess.

That is a credible argument, except much of what dictates the direction of this club is not actually football.

Just imagine the Blues’ league position if David Nugent had answered his phone or if Michael Brown hadn’t refused to leave on that fateful transfer deadline day along with several other players.

It doesn’t bear thinking about.

So here we are, transfer window time again.

It’s a time when Cotterill requires help from the owners to allow him to maintain his excellent start.

We all harbour doubts whether this will actually happen.

And if it doesn’t, who could really blame Cotterill being distracted by bright lights elsewhere?

Everyone has their boundaries, everyone has their breaking point.

Let’s all hope the manager of this football club doesn’t reach his during the next 16 days.

It would

be an absolute disaster

if he

did.