A Pompey week showing game's mechanics at work

The cogs of football never stop turning.

Wednesday, 17th May 2017, 7:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:39 pm
Paul Cook guided the Blues to promotion and the League Two title. Picture: Joe Pepler

But it’s at this time of year when the mechanics of the game really start whirring into gear.

Titles are facts. Promotions are bona fide truth – the game listens.

And there’s nothing like a bit of silverware at a previously struggling, relatively high-profile football club to get the jungle drums of football banging.

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The beautiful game has witnessed and applauded Pompey’s emergence from depravity to a more righteous dawn. And with that recognition comes the admiring glances of potential suitors.

Which leads us to a rather unexpected 11 days since the title was held aloft amid a cocktail of champagne, cheers and beers on Southsea Common.

Or, when you consider it, an entirely predictable period.

A captain departed, a prized asset on his way and manager being touted for a job elsewhere.

Crikey, have these ‘orrible hacks not got a little good news to give the punters?

Thankfully, Kyle Bennett gave us some respite on Tuesday night with his three-year commitment to life at a club he’s clearly embraced.

But, of course, it’s Paul Cook and Wigan which has really caught the eye over the past few days.

The whole story, on the surface, appeared in quite jolting manner a week-and-a-half after we heard the Blues’ boss’ last public words on his role. Stood with a Peroni in hand, Cook spoke openly on the subject. And it was intriguing to hear how he perceived the questions.

On the topic of whether he’d stay, Cook gave his response within the context of whether prospective owner Michael Eisner would want him to remain at Fratton Park.

‘If my future is not here then so be it, I only want Portsmouth to do well,’ he said.

Yet, the question was delivered in the sense a title winner may well be in demand. Once the penny dropped, the riposte was instant and emphatic.

‘If I was to get offers from any clubs higher than Pompey, that doesn’t matter to me.’ Cook added. ‘I would never leave this club.’

So the situation is clear. Well, not quite.

A big shift in managerial odds, which those in the betting world know can take only a succession of quick bets amounting to just a few hundred quid, soon made Cook bookies’ favourite for a move to the DW Stadium. Cue a weekend of story posts, forum shouts and boozer chats digesting the news.

All the while the main protagonist was throwing his sand wedge around the bunkers of The Algarve’s finest golf courses.

Let’s face it, Cook would have been thinking the whole Wigan link was no bad thing on the surface of matters.

It’s no surprise, that with a year left on his existing agreement, he would be looking for improved terms Likewise, with his stock high, now is the right time for him to push for a new deal.

Success in most businesses is rewarded, and the Blues boss would have received what his current deal entitles him in bonuses for delivering the title to PO4.

An extended contract to sign is what the 50-year-old is looking for, however, and few could begrudge him for angling for it.

Perhaps, though, it’s the appreciation of his paymasters the man from Kirby also craves.

As The News reported yesterday, talks started over a new contract before Cook headed off on holiday with his staff.

But it was the Pompey boss who was the catalyst for those discussions rather than the other way around.

Should it be the club making the moves to tie down one of their key assets? You could forgive the man in the middle for thinking so.

There is, of course, the small matter of a takeover hanging in the air. And with a change in owner will always come a degree of uncertainty.

Frankly, it would be ludicrous for American billionaire Michael Eisner to consider moving on a man who has just succeeded where three previous permanent appointments couldn’t. Stranger things have happened, though.

It’s a slight side issue, but the state of flux over Cook being able to go about his rebuilding work this summer is another consideration.

With talk an Eisner takeover may not be completed until August, there are obvious knock-on effects to the Pompey boss going about building a squad to challenge in League One, too

That we’ve seen in recent days with Marc McNulty, who was lined up for return, being swayed by a lucrative signing-on fee at Mansfield.

Michael Doyle and Enda Stevens’ departures are more due to circumstances beyond Pompey’s control, with Championship status and geography significant factors in the pair’s exits.

Although a tad misleading, the director of football story emerging could have been viewed by Cook as an example of how quickly things could change.

It’s never been talked about by chief executive Mark Catlin or the management team, but a leftfield decision by new owners wouldn’t be out of the equation.

The concept of the role in the Blues’ football hierarchy would be about as welcome as Velimir Zajec was when he arrived in 2004, prompting Harry Redknapp’s exit.

Cook is a member of the game’s old school and would demand absolute power over the decisions which define where his team are headed.

So these factors help to provide the context for recent events, and help shine a light on what could, on face value, seem a slightly curious string of stories.

What has proved startling – and infuriating – to Cook himself, though, is the notion he would welcome discussions over a return to the club he served from 1984 until 1988.

That could and has been perceived angrily by some sections of the Fratton faithful, who would be justified in having strong feelings towards a manager touting himself for that move. Not as furiously as the man himself, though, for being painted in such a manner by the story.

While Cook publicly keeps his own counsel over the speculation, it’s known he’s not actively looking for a move to a club he views as lacking the potential of his current employers.

So the whisperers of the game have been busying about their work.

Anyone looking for evidence of Cook staying put should look no further than Bennett’s deal being signed, however. A trusted lieutenant of the Pompey boss, there’s little doubt the attacking talent would’ve sought assurances over the chatter before putting pen to paper.

So, the past week may not have been the kind welcomed in the wake of a month of increasing euphoria since the promotion bandwagon got rolling at Meadow Lane. No one should be bewildered by events, however.

‘This is just the world of football,’ Blues legend Alan Knight opined this week – a succinct summation to those bemused by what’s unfolded.