Banter shows Pompey’s spirit is strong

Milan Lalkovic in pre-season action against the Hawks

Pompey winger set for return against Walsall

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Banter: The fabric which holds football teams together.

Some of it is good, plenty of it is bad but there is always a lot of it flying around.

Hang around in the game long enough and you’ll soon encounter, and probably fall victim to, the wind-ups, jokes and jibes which are its ingredients.

And it was most definitely alive and well as Pompey began their pre-season training camp in the Essex countryside yesterday.

The Five Lakes resort is again hosting the Blues as they ramp up their preparations for the new campaign.

Most of the players made the three-hour trip up by coach from the south coast yesterday, although the likes of Ricky Holmes opted for short hops from nearby family.

After a couple of positive warm-up games the focus will continue on building up fitness levels with the clash at Thurrock tonight.

Not before a couple of sessions on the plush pitch which Andy Awford’s men will work on this week.

‘Roko will be looking like this in a couple of weeks,’ smiled coach Paul Hardyman as conditioning coach Louis Langdown put the team through their warm-ups.

That proved a colourful affair, as Langdown called on players to improvise their own stretches to keep things interesting.

Ben Chorley’s had shades of Elvis Presley to it, Dan Butler a ballerina before Jack Maloney stepped up with a Liam Gallagher-style swagger.

Then came some bouts of keepball drills which whipped up the whoops of laughter, along with some ole football from Nigel Atangana, Nick Awford and Ryan Taylor.

To keep things light-hearted votes were then taken on the players guilty of giving the ball away.

Jack Whatmough was decent enough to own up to that status on one occasion, but the likes of Craig Westcarr, Adam Webster and Dan Butler needed more persuading.

That was all good banter which had even spilled over into Kev the Kitman’s mood.

Holmes risked his ire as a wayward ball crashed into his van, but Kev laughed that one off – until it came to sorting out some of the younger players to collect balls at the end of the session.

With Andy Awford taking a back seat, it was down to Hardyman and Alan McLoughlin to step things up with some intricate drills as the players went through the gears.

That saw the them broken into three groups, with two of the groups keeping the ball under pressure from the third for five passes. Once that was achieved a ball was sprayed 30 yards ala McLoughlin in his pomp.

Macca was actually called on to show the whippersnappers how it was done, with James Dunne sitting it out with a slight niggle.

And that was what he most certainly did – until one drop of his shoulder and shake of a replaced hip saw him end up on his backside.

That, of course, brought bantering howls of delight from all present.

The same can be said for the colourful attire of Express FM’s Dan Windle, which caught Awford’s eye.

‘Timmy Mallett supports Oxford, so what are you doing here?’ asked Awford, to the orange-clad radio presenter. And then he was off, dodging the 10-minute hike from the pitch to the hotel in Kev the Kitman’s van – with a lovely bit of banter.