City of Portsmouth chairman Phil Budd believes the club are more than capable of competing in the top tier of men’s athletics.
The Mountbatten Centre-based outfit are preparing for a historic day tomorrow when they host their first-ever match in the National League.
We’ve been strong regionally and now we’ve got a chance to make a mark nationallyPhil Budd
The men will be in British Athletics League national division four this season after promotion last term.
They are joined in the competition by new boys Chelmsford, Exeter Harriers, Havering Mayesbrook, Newquay & Par and Reading.
It is an exciting opportunity for the club to pit themselves against elite clubs around the country.
Budd said: ‘We’ve never competed at this level, it’s the first time in the club’s history.
‘This is about as high as we’ve got.
‘Like in any sport, you want to be competing at the highest level.
‘For the athletes, it’s the strongest test they can have at club level, it’s as good as it can get.
‘We’re looking for this level of competition to be the natural home for our athletes.
‘We’ve been strong regionally and now we’ve got a chance to make a mark nationally.’
The Mountbatten Centre will be the focus for the opening round of fixtures, with the action getting under way at 1pm.
It is unusual for the opening match to be held at a newly-promoted club.
But given Portsmouth’s track record of hosting previous events of this stature, it won’t be a problem.
There are quite a few logistical hurdles for the club to overcome – not least finding enough officials – but Budd is confident they can pull it off.
‘Normally, a newly-promoted team wouldn’t be asked to host an opening match because they need to get to know the league,’ added Budd.
‘I hope we can put on a good show.
‘A lot of people have been working hard behind the scenes.
‘The standard will be similar to a top-notch Southern Athletics League match so we won’t be out of our depth.
‘I think we will do reasonably well, I don’t see us struggling.
‘Fairly obviously, we want to comfortably maintain our position in the league. We don’t want to be scrabbling around.’
A handful of athletes have competed at this level before for other British Athletic clubs, including Alex Teuten and Adam Akehurst.
But it will be the first taste of top-level competition for young sprinters Harry Pocock and Charlie Craddock.
The pair will compete alongside senior sprinter Jamie Gabbidon.
‘We’ve got some youngsters who are absolutely flying at the moment,’ added the chairman.
‘Barring any last-team injuries, we’re very happy with the team we’re putting out this weekend.’
Under-20 athletes Matt Gordon and Leslie Parkes, from Havant, will also take part.
Budd also stressed how the multi-event athletes will be key to the club’s success across the course of the season.
‘Undoubtedly, it will be the multi-eventers, like Adam Akehurst and Stevey Davey who will be important,’ he said.
‘They are essential to any club and will be the main points scorers.’