Cotts: Fight it out for starting spot

Pompey boss Steve Cotterill, right, and coach Stuart Gray now have more options at their disposal
Pompey boss Steve Cotterill, right, and coach Stuart Gray now have more options at their disposal
Brett Pitman had a great chance to hand Pompey the lead in the first half against Rotherham Picture: Joe Pepler

Knight: Pompey must improve higher up the pitch

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Steve Cotterill pinched himself as he weighed up his Pompey squad and smiled: We have competition for places at last.

And the Blues boss welcomed the prospect of his men battling it out for a place in his starting 11 over the rest of the campaign.

Cotterill admitted his delight that he is at last forming a competitive group of players to challenge in the Championship this season.

The arrival home of returning hero Benjani Mwaruwari last Saturday was followed by the capture this week of Norwegian star Erik Huseklepp.

The 26-year-old’s switch from Bari received international clearance yesterday, allowing him to complete a three-year deal and take his place in Pompey’s squad for today’s clash at Bristol City.

That takes Cotterill’s squad to 19 players, with the 47-year-old still looking for three further additions before the close of the transfer window.

Cotterill has had to fight all kinds of problems in his 14 months as Pompey manager.

But after making nine signings this summer, he now feels he is getting the kind of options he needs.

‘I like it when I hear about four or five forwards,’ said the Pompey boss.

‘The idea is to have something different. In the past we’ve had to make substitutions and ended putting a right-back on the right wing.

‘It’s nice to not have to do things like that. It’s called having a squad. It’s something we’ve not had here for 15 months.

‘Every other club has it. We haven’t had it. It’s actually the natural thing to do.

‘If a centre-forward comes off because he isn’t having it on that night, you can put another one on. It’s what you are meant to do. I think there’s a bit of quiet satisfaction at that. It’s nice to be able to look at your bench and think the system is fine.

‘But if an individual is not playing well on that night, you can then do what most managers do – take him off and put someone else on.

‘It’s nothing personal to the player. It’s nice to have.

‘We have to integrate the new ones properly but it might be starting to shape up – maybe.

‘It might shape up a bit more over the next couple of weeks, too.

‘It’s good to have the competition for places, though.’

The Football League’s decision to reduce the number of subs which can be named on a matchday from seven to five means four of Cotterill’s men will miss out at Bristol City today.

That follows on from Christian Dailly and Hermann Hreidarsson being left in the stands against Reading on Tuesday night.

Cotterill feels the rule change is a step backwards.

He said: It was a ridiculous decision to go from seven subs to five.

‘It’s tough on the other lads. I have to leave people out now and they feel like they are not involved.

‘They are left in their tracksuits and it’s hard to keep them involved. They are the rules, though. It’s ridiculous.’