Pompey boss backs Gary Roberts' sparkle to return
Paul Cook has backed Gary Roberts to rediscover his Pompey form.
And the Blues boss is adamant the club’s leading scorer continues to possess his absolute faith.
The former Chesterfield midfielder’s commitment and industry have not wavered, yet the spark of creativity is presently missing.
Roberts hasn’t scored from open play since September 24, while on Saturday was again substituted following a disappointing showing.
However, the 32-year-old was outstanding at the start of the season and has scored seven goals so far.
Cook admits the talented attacker is enduring a lean spell but will not give up on his potentially mercurial ability.
He said: ‘With Gary, the crowd are just starting to get agitated and that is part of football, it’s the nature of the game.
‘None of us are stupid. Gary has been around the block long enough, I have, that’s what happens when you play or manage clubs like this, you get on with it, deal with it.
‘Gary is just not firing. It is not happening for Gary Roberts.
‘He is his own biggest critic and, as a manager, you must show them as much faith and loyalty as you can until that one bit of magic comes.
‘Gary is a quality player, you don’t just lose your quality, do you? Everyone goes through bits and pieces of patches.
‘He will come through that I am sure and be the force that we all want.
‘Against Hartlepool, you do not want to take him off because you know if one of those balls drops on his left foot then he puts it into the top corner.
‘That’s what we love Gary for.
‘The reality is you must show faith in all of your players and I try my best to do that.’
Roberts began the season in flying fashion, with six goals in his opening nine games.
Free from injury and with a full pre-season under his belt, the midfielder was revelling in the best form of his Pompey career.
Last term, his maiden Fratton Park season, had been frustrating, with a niggling ankle problem.
Yet he still managed 10 goals and was an integral figure in the side which reached the League Two play-offs.
The popular Scouser had targeted an injury-free pre-season to provide the backbone to improved performances – which is what he achieved.
However, a penalty in the 4-0 win over Mansfield is his only goal in the last 13 games.
Similarly, his creativity has dipped, albeit the work-rate cannot be questioned.
And Cook is hoping for a swift return to form.
He added: ‘Michael Smith has had big criticism from the fans here, he’s now playing really well.
‘That happens with players, they have to cope with it.
‘As a team we are just looking for that edge.’