Can Cotterill Be Judged Yet?

Some Pompey fans made me laugh at the start of the season with such statements like "that Cotterill is useless!" and "We need a better manager to stop us being relegated again!"

I'd bet that those same Pompey fans now believe Steve to be the best manager since sliced bread (not that such an invention would be any good at motivating football players or making tactical judgements.) But despite this amazing run of form, is it right to judge Cotterill yet?

A manager is judged on many things. He's judged on the players he signs, the tactics he employs both before and during a match, the way he motivates his players and the way he spends whatever money the chairman gives to him.

So, if we use the above criteria, what have we learnt about Pompey's latest manager so far?

Since arriving at Fratton Park, a fair few players have arrived into the club. Discounting those who have re-signed since last year (so that's Mokoena, Rocha, Hreidarsson and Kanu) a total of six new players have been signed for the club.

Darryl Flahavan can't be judged as he is yet to play for Pompey and Greg Halford has only played three games since his arrival last month, although he has looked solid and versatile.

Ibrahima Sonko is an interesting one as he is beginning to turn things around after being labelled with the "boo boy" tag following a catalogue of errors in his first few games for the club. In the last three games he has been dominant in the air and looks like a very competent defender at this level now he has settled in.

However, I'm still unsure about his fellow Stoke loanee. Carl Dickinson isn't the greatest footballer and he is often caught out of position. On the other hand he is good at tackling and generally getting his body in the way of crosses. I'm still unconvinced though, and I think he will be replaced by Hermann Hreidarsson when the Iceman is fully fit.

It's not difficult to say what a massive impact the other two arrivals from the Potters have done for the side as both have been instrumental in Pompey's rise up the table. Dave Kitson is a good target man who possesses plenty of skill but is also willing to defend from the front whilst Liam Lawrence, simply put, is one of the best players in the Championship.

Overall, in terms of signings you'd have to say that Steve has done well although further judgements shall be made in January when he might have some money to spend, though it's doubtful given that £8 million of parachute payments has had to be advanced just to keep Portsmouth FC running.

What has impressed me is Cotterill's motivational skills. Every player in a blue shirt has been prepared to give 100% effort to the Pompey cause this season.

You'd expect the likes of Nugent and Mokoena to put in a shift but John Utaka? The same man who was booed off at Coventry on the opening day for being lazy and useless?

You could argue that the Nigerian is simply playing well so he can move in January but he has plenty of other opportunities to do this and even if he wanted to, he could have stuck to his forward thinking approach without bothering to track back.

To see him make blocks and help the team defend set-pieces has proved to me that the manager has transformed the £8 million player into more than just an inconsistent forward who often goes missing in games.

So the signings are good and he knows how to get the best out of his players, but what about Cotterill's tactical awareness?

The games that we lost at the start of the campaign can't be attributed to the manager's tactics simply because he barely had a squad and so had to play players out of position and couldn't bring on any players to change the game.

In recent matches, the manager has made decision which seem to have paid off. He switched Nugent and Utaka at the start of the second half on Saturday that led to a period of Pompey dominance in which time the winning goal was scored.

At Hull he brought on defensive players towards the end of the game and succeeded in holding the narrow lead. In previous matches before that he has also brought on substitutes to turn the game in Pompey's favour, Kanu in particular, and it has worked.

My only criticism of the manager is that we were told by fans of Burnley and Notts County that Cotterill has a reputation for making teams hard to score against. You couldn't say that about Pompey, could you?

Too often has our defence conceded sloppy goals through poor marking and organisation so it's a good thing that this Portsmouth team has plenty of firepower up front.

In summary then, it's difficult to accurately assess Steve Cotterill yet as it'll be interesting to see how he responds when this great run of form comes to an end and how he deals with the transfer window in January when players can be sold.

It's safe to say that the signs are promising, though.