Bognor coach: I didn't speak to my pal for two years after declining to join Wigan

Bognor coach Robbie Blake has revealed how his former Pompey boss Paul Cook refused to talk to him for almost two years after he declined to join Wigan.

Sunday, 31st May 2020, 9:00 am
Robbie Blake at Bognor - and he's happy to be on the south coast three years after turning down an offer to join Paul Cook at Wigan / Picture: Kate Shemilt

Today marks the third anniversary of Cook’s controversial decision to walk out on Pompey – just 26 days after winning the League Two title.

He took assistant manager Leam Richardson and first-team physios Nick Meace and Andy Procter with him to the DW Stadium in May 2017.

However, Blues coach Blake turned down an offer to follow them – to instead be appointed first-team coach at Fratton Park. And the decision left Cook furious.

Blake said: ‘I was having a weekend away in Whitby and didn’t fully know what was going on – then I had a phone call from Cookie. He asked if I could get across to Wigan the next morning and he’d meet me there.

‘Within two hours, I received another call, this time from Mark Catlin. He said: “Wigan have asked permission to let you go, but I want you to stay here. There’s a position for first-team coach.”

‘I had always wanted that extra step in coaching. So, while it was very difficult to let Paul down and not go with him, I couldn’t leave Pompey. He didn’t take too kindly to it and we didn’t speak for a long, long time over it. But I wanted to further my career and get a bit higher up the pecking order.

‘Even though Cookie had been great to me, I didn’t know whether he could offer me that at Wigan. It was a great opportunity – and I knew Kenny (Jackett) was coming in a week later. I love the area, I’m settled down here and wanted to stay. Although was disappointed that we stopped talking so abruptly over it.

‘Cookie was very annoyed and didn’t speak to me for almost two years. We’ve got through that now and are back on full speaking terms. He probably felt he introduced me to it all and I should have gone with him to Wigan. He was loyal and wanted the loyalty back – but probably couldn’t see I wasn't trying to be disloyal.

‘I just knew if I went with him to Wigan then I wouldn’t have had the title of first-team coach. Deep down, he knew it wasn’t a personal thing, it was strictly professional. I didn’t want to fall out with him, I would ring him up trying to speak, but he can be quite stubborn.

‘Then we played in a fundraising game for Lenny Johnrose, involving a Burnley XI against Swansea. We spoke afterwards and have been fine since. It's back to normal now, he still gives me stick! He probably felt he had lost his left arm – as I did.’

Blake would spend just a season at Fratton Park as first-team coach under Kenny Jackett. In May 2018, he moved to the Rocks, where he serves as first-team coach. And he remains settled on the south coast, living in the Hilsea area of the city.

He added: ‘I don’t regret staying. I never thought I would have been in opportunity to have Pompey first-team coach on my CV, and I’m loving it at Bognor. Hopefully one day I can get a crack at being a manager somewhere. I am settled down here, I’ve met new friends and am happy. It’s a lovely area.’