Cook: I leave Portsmouth with a heavy heart, but now my focus is Wigan

Paul Cook
Paul Cook

New Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook admits he left Portsmouth with a ‘heavy heart’, but insists the time was right to move on.

The former Latics player, who returned to the club today to take over from interim boss Graham Barrow, has come under criticism from Portsmouth fans for leaving the club he won promotion with earlier this month.

Now my priority in everything going forward is Wigan Athletic

Paul Cook

After winning the League Two title, Cook affirmed his desire to stay at Fratton Park. He said at the time: “I love the club, I love managing the club, it’s a fantastic club. For my future, I want to be here”

But less than a month after seeing Pompey beat Cheltenham Town 6-1 to seal the League Two title, his focus will be on The Blues’ League One rivals next term.

Cook spoke of struggles at Portsmouth since winning promotion when explaining his decision to move to the North West.

He said: “Wigan asked for permission to speak to me over the weekend and I’d had a really difficult couple of weeks at Portsmouth.

“After we got promoted I stated how I wanted to stay at the club for a long time, how much I loved the club and I didn’t want to leave.

“The big disappointment then was in the next couple of weeks.

“It was quite clear which direction the club wanted to go in with the new American owners coming in.

“With a heavy heart I decided now was the right time to move on. It wasn’t the Portsmouth that I had joined.”

But despite his exit from the club, after reports of an improved offer to stay sparked by Wigan’s interest, Cook insists there are no hard feelings on his part towards his former employers.

“Going forward I can only wish Portsmouth every success,” he said.

“They are a great club, the fans are amazing.

“I’m so proud to be able to say I managed the club and if someone said to me you have to leave, I couldn’t have left on a better day, beating Cheltenham 6-1 to win the league.

“I certainly wish the future manager every success.”

Cook won’t dwell on leaving the south coast though.

He moves to Wigan as the club’s third permanent manager in the space of 12 months, and will be tasked with bringing good times back for fans who have endured relegation back to League One immediately after winning the division in 2015/16.

Cook says he is happy with the squad he has, despite the loss of winger Gabriel Obertan, keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, full-back Andrew Taylor and captain Stephen Warnock.

But he has warned his players will have to work for their chances, and hasn’t ruled out making changes.

“Now my priority in everything going forward is Wigan Athletic,” he explained.

“We’ve got 26 players contracted. I think that’s quite a healthy squad for anyone.”

“I’m sure if I wanted to go to the chairman to do something he would help me. There’s no problem with that.

“The most important thing for me now is getting the lads in and making sure I give everyone a full and proper chance.

“Hopefully I can have an insight into making the players they’re a little bit better. But they have to work for that.

“I’ve had good chats with the chairman over the weekend.

“I just want to get into the building as such, sit down with the lads, and look forward to the season together.”