Ireland proving perfect hosts for Pompey

Triallist goalkeeper Eric Grimes joins his Pompey tour team-mates on the spinning bikes     Picture: Neil Allen

Triallist goalkeeper Eric Grimes joins his Pompey tour team-mates on the spinning bikes Picture: Neil Allen

Christian Burgess. Picture: Joe Pepler

Defender’s Pompey League One promotion promise

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The Portuguese sunshine served its purpose, now the Emerald Isle is Pompey’s host.

And Paul Cook believes the Blues can reap the benefits from the change of summer destination.

It is more of a training camp now, socially the lads will be able to go out but there is a lot more emphasis on training rather than socialising

Paul Cook

The Johnstown House Hotel in County Meath is the training base for the current pre-season.

Last summer the schedule involved a week in the Algarve’s Vale de Lobo during a bonding session for Cook’s new-look side.

This time preparations involve a cranking up in training session-intensity plus two friendlies during an eight-day residence.

A 3-3 draw at Sligo on Wednesday night kicked off the pre-season in terms of matches, with a trip to Dublin-based Bohemians tomorrow.

There remains a social element as Cook seeks to gel a squad which has so far welcomed eight new additions ahead of the forthcoming campaign.

Yet the focus remains on training – and Pompey’s boss is delighted with how his troops are responding to the change of scenery.

He said: ‘The Johnstown House Hotel have given us fantastic training facilities and it has been a really good camp for the lads in terms of getting away and ticking every box.

‘Ahead of the first game at Sligo, the lads had five training days out of six – and were then given a relaxed day yesterday.

‘We are working them hard and the facilities at the hotel are first-class, ideal for a football team looking to train well.

‘Last year we had a trip which was purely bonding rather than training, although there was still a little bit of training.

‘It is more of a training camp now, socially the lads will be able to go out but there is a lot more emphasis on training rather than socialising.

‘In my opinion, lads get to know each other better over a beer. Every manager is different and I think there is a time for work and a time for play.

‘What we want is to have a really enjoyable Ireland trip, get back, get our head down and work really hard for the start of the season.’

Pompey’s 23-strong playing squad includes triallist quartet Eric Grimes, Michael Crowe, Chris Sessegnon and Elyse Boris Konsiembo.

Injured players such as Michael Smith, Gareth Evans, Paul Jones and Calvin Davies have remained at Fratton Park to continue their rehabilitation.

Also absent are the transfer-listed Matt Tubbs, Kal Naismith and Adam McGurk, who have no Blues future.

The trio have yet to train with the first-team since returning for pre-season, although still have access to the club’s facilities.

And Cook admitted more players have been recruited than initially anticipated.

He added: ‘This summer we didn’t feel there would be so much change.

‘But sometimes you forget the amount of loan players within your squad last season, meaning there have probably been more signings than any of us envisaged.

‘Hopefully, you never know, the signings might not stop.’

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