Pompey conspiracy theory creates a united front

Steve Cotterill
Steve Cotterill
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Steve Cotterill is wondering if there is an anti-Pompey undercurrent in football.

In my experience, that has undoubtedly been the case as many in the game look upon the club with a sneering disdain for the way they’ve conducted their business in recent years.

In many ways that’s almost understandable for the manner in which the Blues descended into the football abyss during their meltdown.

That, however, has little to do with their disciplinary woes of late.

It can, though, be a useful tool for a manager to harness and create a ‘them and us’ situation with his team.

The Football Association are now making noises about hauling Pompey in front of their regulatory commission come the end of the campaign, with the prospect of a £50,000 fine to follow.

The latest incident saw Ricardo Rocha walk in Saturday’s defeat at Cardiff following his clash with Jay Bothroyd.

Cotterill leapt to the defence of the Portuguese in the game’s aftermath and was genuinely exasperated by the cards and refereeing calls going against his team.

In the final reckoning, however, Rocha had only himself to blame by getting up off the ground from the original challenge to go looking for Bothroyd again.

There was a case to ask why Bothroyd didn’t receive some kind of punishment for the role he played in the incident but Rocha got himself sent off. Pure and simple.

Now, Cotterill has been accused of whinging and whining off the back of his response to the incident.

He can hardly be blamed for standing up for his player, though.

Cotterill had not seen the incident replayed when he was asked to comment during post-match interviews after having an obscured view in real time.

All he had to go on was his knowledge of Rocha’s character, the fact the Portuguese defender was insistent he had done no wrong and the manner in which he left the pitch with blood streaming from his face.

Any boss worth their salt would back their player to the hilt in the same situation.

It is that determination to stand shoulder to shoulder with his men which has created a united dressing room at Pompey since his arrival at the club.

Cotterill has often developed a siege mentality among his players this season and it has gone a long way to ensuring his men are in the Championship come the 2011-12 campaign. There’s a fella called Fergie who has had a modicum of success employing the same tactics with his team down the years.

When things go harshly against the side, like Hayden Mullins’ red card against Coventry, it can be held up as proof the football world is against the Blues.

That is no doubt what Cotterill was stressing to his men as he kept them on the pitch last Tuesday at Fratton Park, to stop them making a furious bee-line for referee Mr Dean Whitestone.

The suggestion at that stage he would admonish his players in public, a la Phil Brown, drew a furious response from the Blues boss. It’s not his style.

Any reprimands from Cotterill are played out behind closed doors, as Rocha may be finding out this week with his season at a close.

To suggest there’s an anti-Pompey conspiracy may be stretching the case.

But if it helps create the united front that has served Pompey so well this season then that’s no bad thing.