The Cross Word: Familiar feeling this is our time returns

Can Pompey boss Paul Cook recreate Micky Mellon's instant success at Shrewsbury?
Can Pompey boss Paul Cook recreate Micky Mellon's instant success at Shrewsbury?

The bookies have confirmed what we already knew.

Pompey are the clear favourites to win League Two next season.

The stats offer unequivocal evidence of where we belong. But the past also shows we have no divine right to be there.

It means little, of course.

All the 4/1 price placed on the heads of Paul Cook’s team does is confirm their status as the division’s heavy hitters.

In terms, of size, stature, potential, support and budget no one else comes close.

That was also the same last season and the campaign before that.

We now know all too well the fact Pompey should be going up and actually going up are two acutely different issues.

The knowledge the club’s status is recognised throughout football is a nice ego massage for supporters and those associated with the club.

Blues fans don’t deserve to be slapping around football’s backwaters, but it’s a challenge they have emphatically embraced.

Trips to places like Accrington for a lunchtime kick-off and Dagenham and Redbridge, to virtually outnumber the home fans, are badges of loyalty collected over the past two seasons.

A fellow reporter covering a sizeable club who’d fallen into the lower tiers of the game, explained visiting the game’s outposts felt like an adventure in the first season.

The second campaign, he admitted, was torture.

So what’s the third going to feel like, for those following Cook’s bid to kickstart the journey back?

Last season, Andy Awford followed a well-trodden managerial path and played down promotion expectations, following the likes of Harry Redknapp in his approach.

The club’s standing in a place they so glaringly don’t belong made those efforts jar with supporters, however.

So Cook’s straight talking and no-nonsense statements promotion is very much the aim have been received as a refreshing antidote to the policy of keeping a lid on ambitions.

Kal Naismith today ramps it up a notch by insisting it’s the League Two title, not a route out of the basement league, he’s looking for.

That has helped perpetuate the traditional closed-season optimism which is only likely to build as signings are made across the summer.

In the forums, on social media and in the boozers, offices and factory floors of the city supporters can’t help but feel it.

‘This is our year,’ is the cry as hope springs eternal in Pompey’s breast. Maybe, we will renew that season ticket after all.

We saw the same happen under both Guy Whittingham and Awford.

Piecing a new team together in each of the past two seasons, came with glowing scouting reports from journalists as the additions were made.

Putting the parts together into a consistent whole proved a more sizeable task, however. That’s not to say it can’t be achieved, though.

League Two is a transient environment with a constant player turnover.

But Shrewsbury’s Micky Mellon had just three players to call upon last summer, and delivered promotion from that starting position.

Bradford offer the most vivid of cautionary tales for assuming status equates to achievement, though.

The Bantams, like Pompey, 
tumbled down the leagues, finding themselves in the fourth tier five years after playing in the Premier League.

They went on to spend six seasons in the division, before scrambling out through the play-offs.

Of Pompey’s 88 seasons in league football, 73 have been spent in the top two divisions.

The stats offer unequivocal evidence of where we belong.

But the past also shows we have no divine right to be there.