DAVID Cotterill admitted last night that he is pained to see Sheffield United languishing in the Championship’s relegation zone.
The Wales international spent 21 months at Bramall Lane earlier in his career before returning to the principality with Swansea City, Yet, having recently joined Portsmouth on loan, the 23-year-old finds himself in the unenviable position of possibly edging them another step closer to League One when the two sides meet at Fratton Park tomorrow.
“I don’t like seeing Sheffield United where they are,” Cotterill told The Star. “Players like Morgs (Chris Morgan) and Monty (Nick Montgomery), who I still speak to, are such great, honest professionals that I take no pleasure from it at all.
“Hopefully they can get out of it but I’ll be professional and give everything for Portsmouth in this one because I know, if the boot was on the other foot, those lads would be looking to do the same to us. After this game, though, I really do hope they go on a winning run and get themselves out of trouble.”
Micky Adams, the United manager, is even more troubled by his team’s plight. Describing their obligations to the city’s working-class support following last weekend’s defeat by Derby County, he inadvertently put his finger on arguably their greatest
weakness. They are simply too blue collar for their own good.
United possess plenty of honest endeavour but are crying out for a player capable of spreading a veneer of bourgeois extravagance across their performances.
Bjorn Helge Riise, acquired on a temporary basis from Fulham, is one such talent. But with every setback, United’s chances of securing the Norway winger’s services permanently decrease.
Portsmouth, who secured a fifth straight win when they beat Scunthorpe on Tuesday, are expected to pose a stiff test of the visitors’
survival credentials. Despite being tipped to slide through the divisions after being relegated from the Premier League last term, Steve Cotterill’s side now have their sights set on making an immediate return via the play-offs.
“I think people overlooked how many good players – players with top-flight experience – are still here,” said Cotterill. “When I first turned up for training I thought to myself ‘Blimey, he’s still here and he’s still here’.
“The manager is really hungry too so it’s a good combination.”
Cotterill’s partnership with another United old boy – Ritchie de Laet – has reinvigorated Portsmouth’s fortunes. Swansea, who are second in the table, seem destined to clinch promotion. But his partnership with the Belgian has prompted Cotterill to consider extending his stay in Hampshire.
“Swansea play with over-lapping full-backs so I’m quite used to what we’re doing here,” he said. “Ritchie is a good player who likes to link up.”
Cotterill, like Portsmouth col
league Greg Halford, was a member of the United squad beaten in the 2009 Championship play-off final.
“There were a lot of changes after that match,” he said. “We knew there would be because of the financial implications. The parachute payments went but United are still a huge club. It must be difficult for the fans too so of course I do hope they don’t get relegated.”
PORTSMOUTH (possible): Ashdown, Halford, de Laet, Hreidarsson, Rocha, Mokoena, Hogg, Cotterill, Nugent, Kitson, Kanu (4-4-2).
UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Nosworthy, Collins, Ertl, Lowton, Doyle, Quinn, Williamson, Riise, Evans, Vokes (4-4-2).
Russell Booth: From Nottinghamshire, Booth took charge of the League Two fixture between Cheltenham Town and Stockport County in midweek. Booth has sent-off two players in Championship competition this season. His last encounter with Sheffield United came nearly a year ago when Scunthorpe triumphed 1-0 at Bramall Lane.
Tale of the tape
United beat Portsmouth 1-0 at Bramall Lane in September courtesy of Ched Evans’ second-half strike. That was their first win over the Hampshire club since 2003’s 2-1 victory at Fratton Park. United have not won a game since beating Swansea in December. Portsmouth are 12th in the table.