Fixtures leave Cotterill baffled

Pompey endured a miserable start to last season away to Coventry
Pompey endured a miserable start to last season away to Coventry
Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Steve Cotterill admitted he can’t fathom Pompey’s road-warrior status.

The Blues boss believes his team have been dealt a tough hand following the release of their fixtures for the 2011-12 Championship term yesterday.

But he backed them to respond to a testing start to the new season.

Pompey will continue a bizarre record of beginning and ending their campaigns on the road after being given their new schedule.

The stats make amazing reading, with Cotterill’s men now starting four of their past five campaigns away from home.

A home start against Fulham in 2009-10 punctuates trips to Derby (07-08), Chelsea (08-09), Coventry (10-11) and this season’s opening-day trip to Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.

Incredibly, the new fixtures have also given Pompey an away game to bring the curtain down on their campaign for the fourth time on the bounce.

They go to Nottingham Forest on the final day on Saturday, April 28, following on from trips to Wigan (08-09), Everton (09-10) and Scunthorpe (10-11) in previous years.

Cotterill was slightly perplexed by what the fixture-fixing computer had served up.

He said: ‘It’s a tough start but we have to play everyone.

‘The only disappointing thing for me is we were away last season for the first game and away the last game – and we have exactly the same again.

‘Apparently, it happens quite a lot the first game and the last.

‘I’m not quite sure what that’s about, really.

‘We don’t mind travelling on the opening day but normally it’s one at home and one away. That’s normally what happens.

‘I can’t understand why we start and end with away games.’

Cotterill has had time to digest his team’s schedule and knows it is going to be a testing opening.

It’s a difficult first seven games as the Blues follow up their longest trip of the season on the first day with clashes against Brighton (h), Reading (h), Bristol City (a), Cardiff (h), West Ham (a) and Hull (a).

The match everyone is looking out for arrives on Saturday, December 17 when Pompey renew acquaintances with their fierce rivals Southampton at Fratton Park. The return at St Mary’s is on Saturday, April 7.

The first derby is the pre-cursor to Christmas fixtures at Millwall on Boxing Day and Leicester on New Year’s Eve, before a home meeting with Watford on Monday, January 2.

Cotterill sees that as a difficult period over the festive season.

He said: ‘The Christmas period we’re away two games as well. That’s a strange one.

‘There’s a tough run of fixtures this year.

‘It could have been better but we’ll get on with it and get going.

‘We know what a tough league it’s going to be because that’s what the Championship is.’