Have boots, won’t travel for Cook’s new-look Pompey

Michael Doyle in training at Ballys boxing gym. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Michael Doyle in training at Ballys boxing gym. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

Paul Cook’s travel ban has already cost him players.

He expects to continue suffering the consequences in future – but the line has been drawn.

If we can get everyone living in and around the area they will feel what a big club we are and what it means to the people of Portsmouth to be promoted this year

Paul Cook

The Blues boss’ preference for his squad living locally is not a polite request, more a deal-breaker.

It is a rock-solid stipulation, from which Cook refuses to back down.

After all, he believes players can only truly connect with a club if they are living in close by and mixing with the supporters.

Transfer negotiations with several targets have been scrapped once such demands were tabled.

In addition, James Dunne’s commute from his Bromley home in Kent has not been well received.

His future remains in doubt amid bulging numbers in the centre of midfield.

Pompey’s boss himself is in the process of moving out of his Holiday Inn residence to relocate locally with his family of four.

And he is adamant it is a necessity players and staff must adhere to if they are to be part of his Pompey vision.

Cook said: ‘I think travelling can hinder your professionalism for the club – and that is not being disrespectful to any lad who travels.

‘If you are on the road for 90 minutes to two-and-a-half hours one way and then the other way it is a lot of time spent in the a car and I feel it could be time spent trying to become a better footballer.

‘If they don’t live locally then they don’t sign, it’s as simple as that.

‘And if you do know anyone that is travelling let me know and we will get rid of them!

‘It is something I always used to speak about at Chesterfield because some days the players don’t feel what the people were going through.

‘I believe when you do feel it, it can lift your performance levels.

‘If we can get everyone living in and around the area they will feel what a big club we are and what it means to the people of Portsmouth to be promoted this year.

‘It is something I tried to introduce at Chesterfield, although sometimes the signing became more important.

‘But where we are at today we can make ground rules which can stand the test of time.

‘We are a League Two team at the moment, going forward we want to progress so I think it’s important that when you start it has to be done right.

‘For any manager year-on-year you want to finish better than where you were last year, of course you do.

‘We are in the bottom division, there is no use getting away from that fact, it is no use feeling we are bigger and better than the rest of them because we are not.

‘So we will work on the lads daily to know and feel the pride of playing for this team because we have got to get promoted.

‘If we don’t get promoted and the club don’t see signs of progress then someone else will be having a go at it because one thing is for sure, this club will go forward some day.

‘This area is a lovely place, we have met a lot of supporters already and the passion for the club is there for all to see, it shines through, and the level of optimism I feel around the place is good.

‘We have got to make sure we carry that flag now properly for the people of Portsmouth – and I also want the players to feel that.

‘I think it is a great place to live.’

In recent times, Pompey’s tumble down the divisions has naturally produced a change in preference for living locally.

The result has been more players staying in Southsea, especially.

Yet there was a time when the likes Glen Johnson would commute from Surrey every day, while Sean Davis, Tal Ben Haim, Kanu and Hayden Mullins also travelled from London.

Hermann Hreidarsson, Pedro Mendes and Sylvain Distin all lived in the Sandbanks area, with Benjani having a house in Ringwood.

In addition, when Ricardo Rocha first moved to Pompey he lived in Southampton’s Ocean Village, as did Younes Kaboul and Prince Boateng.

The popular Portuguese defender later settled in Fareham.

Under Guy Whittingham’s reign, a number of his recruits lived in Southsea, such as Joe Devera, Tom Craddock, Ricky Holmes, Sonny Bradley and Simon Ferry.

In addition, there is the club house in Port Solent which has accommodated plenty of players in recent years, such as Gabor Gyepes, Mustapha Dumbuya, Ryan Bird, Simon Eastwood, Patrick Agyemang and Lubomir Michalik.

Now Cook is at the Fratton Park helm – and he is also abiding by the rules he has laid down for others.

Assistant manager Leam Richardson and first-team coach Ian Foster are in the process of moving to the area with their respective families.

For Foster it involves leaving his home in the Midlands, while Richardson has previously resided even further up north during periods at Chesterfield and Accrington Stanley.

As for Cook, his partner and two youngest children are joining him on the south coast.

Similarly, new signing Michael Doyle – who will today finally be unveiled by the Blues – is looking at places to stay having signed a one-year deal.

The experienced midfielder trained with Pompey over the weekend after becoming the eighth recruit of Cook’s busy summer rebuilding process.

He joins Gary Roberts, Christian Burgess, Enda Stevens, Adam McGurk, Adam Barton, Kyle Bennett and Kal Naismith.

Meanwhile, Cook is not merely content with living in the area – he’s also putting his son into the club’s Academy.

He added: ‘We’ve been living in the Holiday Inn since the season ended and now I have organised a house, so my partner and two children are also moving down.

‘My son, Connor, is going to play for the Academy under-10s.

‘The under-10 coach has no idea yet but he is going to be captain and take the penalties and everything else!

‘Seriously, it will just be a chance for Connor to integrate with a few young kids.

‘There is no pressure on him to play for the club, it’s about meeting some lads and having a game of footy, it will be a help for himself.

‘My family have always followed me throughout my career, two of my older kids didn’t miss games when I was at Chesterfield.

‘When I talked to Portsmouth, the deal almost broke down late on over my complimentary tickets. Tony Brown wasn’t having it!

‘But it is important everyone immerse themselves in the club and I think if you get that feeling for something you want to do so well for it. If the manager can create that environment I believe it can have a good effect on everyone.’