Pompey boss still regrets poor start to season

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Sol Campbell on his return to Fratton Park in December. Picture: Joe Pepler

Former Pompey skipper: I have one of football’s greatest minds

They were 43 days which could yet decide Pompey's destiny - no wonder the Blues' below-par start to the season still grates with Steve Cotterill.

When Greg Halford stroked home his penalty at Carrow Road on Saturday, it sealed successive away triumphs for Pompey at Swansea and Norwich and helped fire them into 12th spot in the Championship.

Pompey now find themselves five points off the play-offs with a game in hand approaching the halfway point.

Yet, for Cotterill, that disappointing early-season form still irritates.

The Blues collected two points from their opening seven matches to keep them at the foot of the table.

That all changed with a dramatic 6-1 thumping of Leicester at a vibrant Fratton Park in late September.

Since then, the charge has continued in impressive fashion to dismiss fears they would be relegation certs.

But despite the upturn in form, Cotterill admits he still harbours annoyances at that disappointing start to the season.

He said: 'We've done okay so far.

'You take the first seven games out and we've then picked up 26 points from the other 13 games. We wouldn't be far off top with that form over the season. That's nearly two points a game and that is promotion form.

'If we had the same team we started the season with, we'd probably be on seven or eight points now.

'There's nothing I can do about it now and it grates with me.

'I turned up for seven games and we couldn't win. We had nothing to win with.

'We aren't always going to win now with the lads we've got but we'll try. Once we've got a settled team and bedded down then players get to know other players' deficiencies.

'Some will not run backwards quick enough and some will run forward a lot quicker than others.

'So then the people they are in conjunction with start to get a bond with them.'

For all the encouraging signs on the field of play, problems continue to hinder progress off of it.

Legacy issues on contracts have meant Michael Brown and Richard Hughes face being sidelined for the rest of the campaign.

It remains to be seen whether deals they penned while in the Premier League can be renegotiated sufficiently to remain part of the first team in the future.

Elsewhere, Cotterill is waiting to discover the owners' spending plans and if he will be able to strengthen during the January window.

Considering the size of his threadbare squad – which remains the smallest in the division – recruiting is a necessity.

But the former Burnley boss just gets on with it and retains a positive outlook amid the many fires he is required to fight.

He added: 'It's been a right tough old job to get where we are. For everyone.

'But we'll be a lot stronger for going through the rubbish.

'Our story would be a great book. It's not a chapter now, it's a great book already.

'It will be a best seller, that's for sure. I'm going to call it The Closet!

'It's great, though. This is a great club and I work with some great lads – and they are also a great set of fans.'