'I should have stayed... that's the brutal truth' - Cook on his Portsmouth return

Portsmouth manager Paul Cook celebrates after the final whistle during the Sky Bet League Two match

Paul Cook, pictured celebrating the League Two title victory at Fratton Park - Credit: PA

Paul Cook admitted he ‘should never have left’ Portsmouth as he prepares to return to his former club tomorrow. 

The new Town boss led the Fratton Park club to the League Two title in 2017, before departing for Wigan and winning the third-tier title in his first season in charge. 

Portsmouth’s league title was secured with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Cheltenham on the final day, the culmination of a run of seven wins and one draw from the remaining eight games to claim the trophy. 

But he departed soon after, amid contract discussions and Michael Eisner’s Portsmouth takeover, with Cook's exit still a contentious issue and the boss admitting he should have stayed at the south coast club. 

Portsmouth's Manager Paul Cook before the Sky Bet League Two match at Fratton Park, Portsmouth.

Paul Cook won the League Two title with Portsmouth - Credit: PA

“What sticks in my mind is the disappointment I didn’t stay to take the club forward,” Cook said ahead of his return. 

“I should have stayed, that’s the brutal truth. There should never have been an opportunity for me to leave. 

“We were going forward and the team was going forward. It was never the case that I courted to go to Wigan.

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“I had my reasons for why I left and it was due to other stuff, but other people will have a bearing on that.” 

“I loved my time at Portsmouth because it’s an absolutely amazing club,” he continued. “It’s a unique club in many ways because of its geographical situation and the island it’s set on, as well as the fanbase it has. 

“The proudest moment for Portsmouth Football Club is the fans taking over and taking them to where they are today. That was a great achievement.  

General view of Portsmouth fans on the pitch

Fans invade the pitch to celebrate Portsmouth's title victory - Credit: PA

“I’m glad there aren’t 18,000 in there because I’d have 17,999 screaming at me I think. I wish them well. I’m now starting up with my club Ipswich and it’s such a proud, historical club which I’m so glad to manage.” 

Asked if he was treating his return to Portsmouth ‘like any other game’, as the old cliché goes, Cook said: “It can’t be like that when you’ve managed Pompey. 

“You see so many old friends when you go back there, some are coming to the hotel tonight, and it always takes you back to when you were there. 

“The sadness of leaving will always take you back to the memories of beating Cheltenham 6-1 on that great day we had (to secure the League Two title).” 

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