Steve Cotterill feels he has unfinished business at Pompey ahead of the League Two clash between two of his former clubs.
The 49-year-old led tomorrow’s opponents Cheltenham Town to three promotions, remarkably taking them from the second tier of non-league to League One in just five seasons.
But his time at Pompey was considerably more turbulent as he took the reins with the club in administration after relegation from the Premier League in 2010.
After steering the rebuilt Blues to Championship safety in his first season and steadying the ship amid a protracted takeover, Cotterill then left for Nottingham Forest early in his second term.
His exit came just weeks before the club’s Russian owners Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI) went into administration, taking Pompey to the brink of financial oblivion again.
But Cotterill is delighted to have seen the rebirth of Pompey under fan ownership and admits he is a touch envious of his friend Guy Whittingham at his chance to rebuild the club.
Cotterill said: ‘Yes, there is a sense of unfinished business at Pompey.
‘It would be fantastic to go back there one day. I loved my time there – I thought the fans were magnificent.
‘They are probably the noisiest supporters of all of the clubs I’ve managed and most of them understood the hard work we put in.
‘I wanted to give them a winning team and I would have wanted to take them to the Premier League.
‘But I was delighted when the Supporters’ Trust took over and the owners there now are Pompey through and through.
‘These people are not looking to sell the club. Supporters have put their own money in to be a part of it. It’s fantastic.
‘Iain McInnes and the rest of the people there on the board, who have put in so much money and time, deserve a lot of credit for what they have achieved.
‘I only wish that sort of stability had been there when I was at the club.’
Cotterill left a coaching position at QPR at the end of last season and is now looking for his next challenge.
But he recalls the difficulties of the Pompey job after originally being told they would be out of administration within six weeks of his arrival.
And he also believes he would have kept the club in the Championship if he had stayed for that second season, despite entering administration once again.
He said: ‘Achievements are different in different ways. For me, keeping Portsmouth going was one of mine.
‘When I went in there, I was hoping to get them back to the Premier League but I didn’t get a chance to do that.
‘But if I’d have stayed, I 100-per-cent think we would have stayed in the Championship that season – even with a 10-point deduction.
‘When Forest came in for me, I felt something major was going to happen at Pompey. I just felt something – I didn’t quite know what it was.
‘I’d had administration for six months, then we had Balram Chainrai and then we had CSI.
‘But I wanted a bit of stability. I wanted to stay at a club and build it from top to bottom, so that’s why I left.
‘It was sad to leave. I was genuinely upset.’
Cotterill also looks back fondly on his time at Whaddon Road and Blues fans will see a very different venue to the one that confronted him when he first took charge.
He said: ‘I’ve had good times wherever I have been.
‘Taking Cheltenham into the Football League was one of my favourites.
‘Obviously, I had some great times there and with it being my home town made it that bit more special.
‘It was an important part of my managerial career.
‘Cheltenham’s ground is really nice there but when I took over, we only had one stand and a couple of the sides were tin huts with wooden poles supporting them.
‘It’s a bit different now. I remember we had 400 people there for my first game and then we had 4,000 to 5,000 on a regular basis and took 26,000 to Cardiff when we won the play-off final.’
Cotterill, however, believes Pompey have the better chance of mounting a promotion challenge this term.
He said: ‘I would think they will be up there this season.
‘I’ve looked at that squad and it is good enough to get promoted.
‘Some people might say Guy has got a lot to learn – well, we all have.
‘You learn every day as a manager. Guy is a great lad, we’ve known each since we were 15 and he’s got Steve Allen in there with him.
‘A lot of the old gang are are still there and I hope they have a great season.’