Steve Cotterill: I loved Kanu at Portsmouth - I once ran his laps in training when he was tired

Steve Cotterill regards Kanu as the most gifted footballer he has ever managed.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 5:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 12:15 pm
Steve Cotterill admits he loved managing Kanu at Pompey. Picture: Steve Reid

And the former Pompey boss has revealed how he once stood in when the striker was struggling to complete a running session.

Cotterill arrived at Fratton Park in June 2010, inheriting a squad which included Kanu, the 2008 FA Cup final matchwinner.

The Nigerian international continued to regularly represent the Blues during that period, featuring 34 times in 2010-11.

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According to Cotterill, Kanu barely missed training, despite being in the twilight of his career.

And he picked a novel way to ensure he handled with care the man known as King.

He said: ‘Kanu is a great man.

‘I remember one day in pre-season, it was absolutely roasting and we were out on the training ground doing some laps of the pitch.

‘We split them up into groups and Chris Neville set up a routine involving six laps.

‘Well, I looked at Kanu on his first lap and thought “I’m not sure he’s going to want to do six. I doubt whether I can get that out of him”.

‘Nearby was a little tree on the bank, with a bit of shade, so I said to him “You sit there now” – and ran the second lap instead.

‘From that point we took it in turns with the laps, so overall I did half of them. He wasn’t 21 any more, if he had been he’d have done them all, but I knew I needed to look after him differently.

‘As a younger manager, you always think you’ll treat everybody the same. As you get older, though, you learn that cannot be done.

‘I would definitely have been different with King, although he didn’t used to miss training. Every now and then he would sometimes have a bit of a bad back, but that was it.

‘He was an absolute gentleman for me and what a humble man. I loved managing Kanu.’

For Cotterill, one particular match stands out when reflecting on his time managing the Nigerian international.

The occasion arrived in February 2011, when Pompey hosted Barnsley in the Championship.

And it’s a moment he treasures.

Cotterill added: ‘He gave me my most humbling moment in football.

‘We were playing Barnsley at home. It was goalless with 20 minutes to go and King was wrapped up on the bench, all nice and warm.

‘He had this thing where he would look straight ahead while sat on the bench, but knew you were looking around at him, so you had to get his attention.

‘Well, on that occasion, I turned around and finally caught his eye, moving my head to one side ushering him over.

‘He stood by me at the side of the pitch with his coat on and I said to him “You okay?” and he replied “Yeah, good”.

‘I looked up to him, he’s a big lad, and responded “I think I’m going to need a little bit of magic today. Can you do that for me? Can you produce a little bit of magic for me today?”.

‘He arched his back as he looked down to me and said: “For you, of course”.

‘Kanu scored the winner in the 84th minute. What a legend of a player.’

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