Why Paul Jones blames Paul Cook for infamous goalkeeping crisis which devastated Portsmouth play-off dreams against Plymouth

A ‘mad, daft’ Paul Cook training session was responsible for plunging Pompey into a goalkeeping crisis ahead of their ill-fated 2016 play-off campaign.

By Neil Allen
Friday, 17th September 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 3:57 pm
Paul Cook with members of his Pompey first-team squad in June 2015. Michael Poke, Tom Craddock, James Dunne and Paul Jones. Picture: Colin Farmery
Paul Cook with members of his Pompey first-team squad in June 2015. Michael Poke, Tom Craddock, James Dunne and Paul Jones. Picture: Colin Farmery

Paul Jones, Brian Murphy and Alex Bass were sidelined for the two-legged League Two semi-final against Plymouth.

In their absence, Ryan Allsop was recruited on an emergency loan from Bournemouth – yet made crucial mistakes as the Blues were eliminated 2-1 on aggregate in May 2016.

Jones was present at the second leg at Home Park, sat among the Pompey fans having damaged his quad three weeks earlier at AFC Wimbledon.

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Paul Jones made 64 appearances for Pompey before departing for Norwich in August 2016. Picture: Joe Pepler

And Jones blames Cook for the issue which subsequently ruled him out of Pompey’s play-off bid – and, ultimately, two-and-a-half months.

He told The News: ‘I took a goal kick against Wimbledon and it was like someone had stuck a knife in my quad. I remember it so clearly.

‘It was at the top of the quad muscle, I had ruptured it quite severely. It was hanging on by little threads and they told me any more and I would have needed surgery.

Ryan Allsop is devastated after Plymouth's Peter Hartley's last-gasp winner in the League Two play-off semi-finals in May 2016, with Ben Davies and Marc McNulty also featuring. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘I was out for the season – and that was the manager’s fault. It was how he trained me.

‘The week leading up to that game, on the Thursday, Paul Cook had lost his head a little, he was angry following defeat at York and made us all do some mad, daft run at the training ground.

‘It involved doing a lap of the pitch, but in each corner you stop to do an exercise. So, for example, on your first lap you stop at the corner flag and do 10 burpees, then 10 press-ups in the next, 10 star jumps in the next and another exercise in the next.

‘For the following lap, you carry out nine exercises in each corner and so on, right until you reach zero. So it’s 10 laps of the pitch and all those exercises.

‘Now bear in mind I’m a goalkeeper and not used to that type of training. It’s completely foreign to me, I am using different muscles. I hadn’t run like that since pre-season. This was April.

‘I am old enough and experienced enough to know my body and I remember saying to the goalkeeping coach (Scott Bevan) “Surely you aren’t going to get us doing this?”.

‘He replied: “I’ve got no say in it. I don’t agree with you doing it, but you’ve got to do it”.

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‘The following day, I couldn’t walk down the stairs properly. My body was fatigued – and we had Wycombe the next day!

‘We beat Wycombe, then you are in on the Sunday, in on the Monday, then there was a Tuesday evening game at Wimbledon. It was too much and the injury I then suffered was 100 per cent down to that training session.

‘Work me as hard as you want doing goalkeeping stuff, but my job is to keep the ball out of the net. So why do goalkeepers need to be doing laps of a football pitch? I will never understand it.

‘I wear a heart-rate monitor in training and you can do goalkeeping drills equally as hard as running and other types of stuff. That’s how I train.

‘Running has its purpose, I still go for runs now. But for a goalkeeper to be running that close to the game was wrong.’

Such was the severity of that injury, it wasn’t until the end of July before Jones made his pre-season return.

In the meantime, Brian Murphy, who replaced Jones at half-time at Wimbledon, lined-up for the final two League Two matches.

Having finished sixth, the Blues qualified for the play-offs, yet with Murphy also then ruled out, there wasn’t a fit keeper on their books.

Jones added: ‘I was on the bench for the last league game against Northampton, despite being injured.

‘That was the gaffer’s decision, purely mind games, that’s all that was. He wanted a goalkeeper to be on the bench so, heading into the play-offs, it appeared there were no goalkeeping issues.

‘Ryan Allsop came in for the play-offs and I do have sympathy. Goalkeeping is a hard position anyway, let alone being thrown in.

‘He could have said “No” to a loan, he didn’t, fair play. You don’t know any of the lads, the style of play, anything. And instantly become an easy target for the opposition players.

‘On the flip side, it’s part and parcel of being a goalkeeper, it’s a pressure situation and he must go out there to perform. He will probably look back and say they weren’t his strongest games.

‘I wouldn’t pin losing in the play-offs all on him (Allsop). A lot happens at vital times, as a team you still have to be good enough over the two legs to progress.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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