Pompey: Paul Cook’s project is work in progress

Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler
Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler

THE HALFWAY point of the season is in sight.

But, for Paul Cook, Pompey are still very much a work in progress.

Paul Cook

The most important thing on football pitches are partnerships – it’s a massive thing.

The promise of the Blues manager’s first season in charge at Fratton Park has also been woven with inconsistencies.

That’s no surprise to Cook, however, after completely rebuilding the first-team squad in the summer.

The 48-year-old has made 18 signings since replacing Andy Awford as manager.

Inevitably, such a turnaround has meant a host of new partnerships being struck up all over the pitch for Pompey.

Cook knows the team are still searching for the right understanding in some areas.

That has, and will continue to see tweaks in the coming weeks, as Boxing Day’s trip to Leyton Orient marks the middle of the league campaign.

Cook would, no doubt, like to have seen some of his side’s 10 draws – the most in English football – turned into wins.

But just two league defeats to date – and sitting fifth in the table – is a satisfying return for a manager who believes his side will get stronger.

Cook said: ‘You are always trying to be better at what you are not good at.

‘We haven’t been good at scoring goals at home and winning at home. You can only work your way towards it.

‘I’ve been saying “we are just not right and we’re not firing” but we are a brand-new team.

‘The most important thing on football pitches are partnerships – it’s a massive thing.

‘Players must complement each other.

‘We now have a very good squad of players.

‘Our job is to make sure that the correct players play with each other in certain games.

‘We have tried one or two and, unfortunately, it hasn’t worked as well as we have wanted.

‘But it doesn’t make them one or two bad players.

‘We’ve got quality within the building now.

‘The second half against York, it was easy for everyone to say “well done” but I was very impressed with our first-half performance.

‘Against Carlisle, we went back to the team that played against Notts County.

‘Unless these lads play together, they are not going to build up any type of partnership.’

One of Pompey’s key – and developing – link-ups will have to take a back seat this weekend as Cook’s side take on Accrington Stanley in the FA Cup.

Caolan Lavery will miss out as part of the terms of his loan stay from Sheffield Wednesday, meaning there will not be more time to hone his understanding with Marc McNulty.

Cook said: ‘When it comes to McNulty and Lavery, you would have to have your eyes shut to think they haven’t got qualities to bring to a team.

‘The more game time we can get into them, the better.

‘The disappointing thing is Lavery will have to come out of the team against Accrington for the FA Cup.

‘Right away, we will have to look at that and will be putting players on the pitch who haven’t played together.’