Cotterill: Versatile Mokoena is crucial to the fortunes of Pompey

Aaron Mokoena
Aaron Mokoena
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He has fought his way back to re-establish himself in Pompey’s first team.

And Steve Cotterill believes Aaron Mokoena’s versatility has been crucial.

The South African international slipped out of the starting XI at the end of last season.

The emergence of the Greg Halford/Ricardo Rocha central defensive partnership restricted him to just five starts in the last 17 matches.

So far this term, Mokoena has been an ever-present.

His ability to operate in a number of positions has seen him selected in the centre of midfield, at centre half and at right-back.

Ashton Gate on Saturday represented his fifth start of the season.

And Cotterill has been pleased with how the former Blackburn man has performed so far.

He said: ‘Aaron has come back and done all right wherever he has been.

‘He’s played okay at right-back when we’ve put him there and played okay at centre-back.

‘To be fair to him, even when he’s gone back into midfield he has done well.

‘I am pleased with how he has done so far this year.

‘Fair play to the crowd as well because they have recognised that and he has not had too many moans or groans, touch wood.

‘The good thing about our fans, they are not stupid, they do understand what is going on, they love their football and they do understand it.

‘Don’t forget, there was a little bit of a kick in the teeth for Aaron as well when I took the captaincy away.

‘But there has been no sulking, he has gone in there and got on with it.

‘He has tried to put things right. He has trained hard and he is working hard.

‘And wherever he has played he has done all right this season.’

Mokoena penned a new contract in October, tying him to Fratton Park until 2012.

He has now made 75 appearances since arriving in the summer of 2009 from Blackburn.

The former South African skipper was the first signing of Paul Hart.