Portugal is perfect spot for Pompey team bonding

Milan Lalkovic in pre-season action against the Hawks

Pompey winger set for return against Walsall

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The morning began with teams of players several times plunging into the Atlantic Ocean to grasp water markers having raced down hills and steps.

By 12.30pm, a second session had been completed, this time involving ball work with grass not sand beneath the feet.

Paul Robinson, Gary Roberts, Christian Burgess and Conor Chaplin in Portugal. Picture: Neil Allen

Paul Robinson, Gary Roberts, Christian Burgess and Conor Chaplin in Portugal. Picture: Neil Allen

Come the afternoon, play time consisted of golf and relaxing around the Dona Filipa Hotel’s pool.

Welcome to Pompey’s pre-season in Portugal.

A total of six days in the glorious Algarve sunshine with no matches to play but fitness to hone and bonding to create for this much-changed Blues set-up.

It was Paul Cook’s fourth pre-season in a row spent at the five-star hotel set within the plush resort of Vale do Lobo.

With the remit on bonding together a squad containing seven new players and almost a completely overhauled backroom staff, the venue provided the perfect getaway

Neil Allen

Earlier in the day, Sam Allardyce and former Arsenal keeper Bob Wilson had been spotted in its grounds, brought together by a common love of golf and a nearby tournament.

In May the previous year, England set up camp in the surrounding area in preparation for the World Cup in Brazil.

Not that the great and the good who frequently inhabit this part of the Algarve provided any persuasion for Cook to return once again.

With the remit on bonding together a squad containing seven new players and almost a completely overhauled backroom staff, the venue provided the perfect getaway.

Whisper it, but no doubt conveniently also allowing the new training ground turf in Copnor Road an extra week to bed in.

Still, Cook’s decision to alter the pre-season schedule handed him by previous staff and tinkering it in favour of an earlier return has brought the club to this point.

The extra few days created has allowed the trip to Portugal before really knuckling down to preparation next week ahead of the Saturday, July 11 opener at the Hawks.

There were some notable faces yesterday missing among the squad, absentees their team-mates had grown accustomed to considering they flew out on Friday from Southampton Airport.

James Dunne, Andy Barcham and Johnny Ertl were left behind – and don’t anticipate them playing for the Blues again.

Their futures lie elsewhere, with Dunne and Ertl casualties of a congested midfield area in desperate need of culling if Cook is to continue his strengthening plans.

Unquestionably Dunne will be the biggest surprise among many. Admittedly, he also had good reason not to be present with his partner heavily pregnant.

But there are other issues and it appears he will be leaving Fratton Park.

Meanwhile, Tom Craddock represented the only triallist on the trip as he attempts to prove his worth and convince that perhaps, just perhaps, he has a Pompey future after all.

Jack Whatmough was also present, working diligently away from the rest of the squad with physio Sean Duggan as he continues his comeback from a cruciate knee ligament injury.

There is another two days of this routine for Cook’s squad before flying back to England on Thursday as the pre-season grind becomes even tougher.

For the time being, though, the climate is suiting the team bonding rather well.