Paul Cook paid tribute to Christian Burgess’ headline-grabbing selflessness and insisted: More players should be like him.
That’s after Pompey defender Burgess’ much-documented act of kindness became global news this week, with European football’s governing body Uefa tweeting a link to the story first reported by The News last weekend.
For those few who still unfamiliar, the 25-year-old took to social media to vent his frustration at the decision to postpone the Blues’ League Two trip to Crawley, following a 9am declaration of a frozen pitch.
When Pompey fan Will Chitty responded to Burgess’ post for ideas as to how to fill his unexpectedly-free Saturday, a tale of triumph from adversity emerged. Jokingly, Chitty suggested the defender could come and help him train Skilful Soccer Youth under-12s at Bransbury Park.
Burgess then stunned the star-struck youngsters by showing up to coach their session.
He also took part in an impromptu Q&A before posing for photos with members of the Portsmouth Youth Football League under-12 C division side.
For Cook, it was a throwback to times gone by when footballers would regularly integrate with their local community.
He said: ‘I just think, probably, it shows where the game is at now.
‘Something that used to be taken as a given now becomes news.
‘It just shows the sad state of the game in general and how we make players into something they actually aren’t.
‘Great credit to Christian and great credit to that team for tweeting his name to come back down.
‘Christian is a good lad and the majority of players should be like that now.
‘But for some reason in football their ego seems to get the better of them and they think they are above stuff like that.
‘It’s great credit to Christian.
‘And it’s great credit to us as a club, I suppose, for having the whole thing about us to do that.’
The demanding nature of the Fratton faithful has seen a number of Pompey’s players come in for stick during Cook’s tenure.
The Blues boss appreciates criticism is part and parcel of the modern game.
But he has called on the togetherness of the Pompey community – exemplified by Burgess’ off-field actions – to fuel the city’s push for promotion.
He added: ‘For me as manager, when one of the lads is getting criticised, I think there is a level of criticism that can always be offered.
‘But it has to be constructive.
‘If it doesn’t remain constructive then we will sort of alienate ourselves from each other.
‘That’s never healthy for any club.
‘Us being the community club we are, the relationship between supporters, players and management is huge.
‘And having that togetherness, for me, is very important.’