Pompey feel the heat on pre-season tour

From left: Johnny Ertl, Dan Butler, David Connolly and Joe Devera catch a breath during training at Five Lakes Hotel
From left: Johnny Ertl, Dan Butler, David Connolly and Joe Devera catch a breath during training at Five Lakes Hotel
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Peterborough 2 Pompey 1: Fans' reactions

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Kev the Kitman was lucky when he slipped into the boggy ditch forming the perimeter of the pitches at Pompey’s Essex training camp while attempting to retrieve an errant shot.

Just two years ago he was fishing balls out of swamps filled with alligators during Pompey’s pre-season trip to Charleston, South Carolina.

One false move and there would have been blood everywhere – albeit from the foolhardy alligator who would dare dice with Big Kev.

Still, yesterday the Blues were based in Colchester at the Five Lakes Hotel for the start of a five-day tour.

The venue was a regular haunt during the Premier League years – a stop-off point for trips to Norwich and Ipswich under former boss Harry Redknapp.

It may not have been Hong Kong, Spain or America. Nonetheless, the heat was searing and stifling in this serene part of the country.

All 22 players currently registered to the club are present for the time away from Fratton Park, with not a triallist in sight.

That consisted of 17 first-teamers and the five first-year professionals all under boss Guy Whittingham’s tutelage.

Starting at 10am yesterday, the players embarked on their first training session – all 90 minutes of it under the fierce gaze of the overhead sun.

Utilising the Five Lakes’ own pitches, the surface was soft and comfortable having been watered only that morning in preparation – a step up from the St John’s facilities used so far this summer.

The session was largely devoted to a five and six-a-side matches, with teams mixed with age and experience to give no clue of favoured line-ups.

The games were short and sharp, competitive and fast, with regular stops for refreshments, before swapping keepers John Sullivan and Phil Smith over to another team.

The booming voice of Sullivan, in particular, dominated the air.

He was barking advice to his team-mates and displaying a self-confidence which bodes well in such a role.

Whittingham stood at the side of one of the pitches for the entire duration, deep in thought and unaccompanied as he mulled over the action unfolding in front of him.

Then there was Kev, scurrying behind the goal with stick in hand, collecting the balls which repeatedly landed in the surrounding foul-stench-emitting ditches overgrown with stinging nettles.

Unsurprisingly, his white trainers were soon in dire need of a wash after one stumble saw him fall foul.

After one-and-a-half hours, strength and conditioning coach Louis Langdown brought a halt to proceedings – and respite from the relentless sunshine.

But some still remained.

At one end, Dan Butler was practising crossing from the left, swinging the ball in for Jed Wallace to rifle home from around the six-yard box.

The youngsters were later joined by Alan McLoughlin, the first-team coach, who proceeded to run through one-twos with Butler before feeding Wallace to finish.

At the other end of the pitch, David Connolly and Ashley Harris were practising shooting at Smith, watched by Alan Knight.

Johnny Ertl occasionally appeared, only to be seen heading off into the bushes to collect the balls which so comfortably missed the target.

In fairness, not all were from the man who has still to open his Pompey goal-scoring account.

It would be another 30 minutes before they also headed for the shade to refresh ahead of the impending lunch time.

In the afternoon, a gym session followed to cap a busy opening day at Five Lakes for Whittingham’s revamped squad.

For Kev, it was a well-earned shower – plus the chance to repair the chair which broke when he sat on it earlier.