Quick start key in one of the toughest Championships ever

Pompey keeper Jamie Ashdown during Portsmouth fc training session ahead of their away game to Bristol City tomorrow in the nPower Championship.'Ashdown has equalled a post-war Pompey record by achieving his sixth consecutive league clean sheet in the Blues� narrow 1-0 victory over Sheffield United at Fratton Park.''Ashdown joins former Blues keeper Peter Mellor, who created the current record by keeping six clean league sheets in the winter of 1978.
Pompey keeper Jamie Ashdown during Portsmouth fc training session ahead of their away game to Bristol City tomorrow in the nPower Championship.'Ashdown has equalled a post-war Pompey record by achieving his sixth consecutive league clean sheet in the Blues� narrow 1-0 victory over Sheffield United at Fratton Park.''Ashdown joins former Blues keeper Peter Mellor, who created the current record by keeping six clean league sheets in the winter of 1978.
Pompey new boy Dion Donohue Picture: Colin Farmery

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It’s going to be one of the toughest Championships ever.

Big guns like West Ham are coming into the division with money to spend and big ambitions to match.

Birmingham don’t want to hang around in the second tier – and then there’s Blackpool who delighted the Premier League with their attacking verve.

Coming up into the division are Brighton at a new home with 18,000 season tickets sold and money to spend – plus that lot from down the road.

Don’t forget the contenders from last time around, either, like Reading, Cardiff and Nottingham Forest and many people’s favourites – moneybags Leicester.

Jamie Ashdown feels the rivals Pompey will face next season will make it one of the most challenging leagues in history. But the keeper is looking forward to locking horns with competitive rivals on a weekly basis.

Ashdown stressed, however, it is more critical than ever for his team to hit the ground running this time around.

Pompey have just nine players to call upon at present – with only seven due back in for the start of pre-season a week on Friday.

The 30-year-old Ashdown is desperate to avoid a repeat of last summer’s woes, as a nightmare warm-up paved the way for a seven-game winless opening.

That can’t be the case again.

Ashdown said: ‘There seems to be money around at other clubs this summer.

‘There’s no doubt it’s going to be a tough league next season.

‘Leicester look like they are going to spend big, definitely on wages and probably fees.

‘And there are strong teams coming down and going up into the league. There is a lot of competition there.

‘It’s going to be a healthy league. There are a lot of teams who are going to be pushing.

‘So it’s just a case of getting the right players in and hoping they gel right away.

‘We need to get a really good pre-season under their belts and then get going.’

Steve Cotterill is busy trying to assemble the bodies to allow him to go about his job properly for the new campaign.

David Norris’ arrival on a free transfer from Ipswich has been secured and there are plenty of other irons in the fire at the moment.

Owners Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI) have made it clear that Cotterill is the man they want at the helm moving forward.

Ashdown believes the man from Cheltenham now deserves the chance to build after guiding the team through the tough times – and that has to be backed.

Ashdown said: ‘For what the manager had to put up with last season he deserves a proper chance at it now. The job’s his.

‘I don’t think the owners are going to come in and change that.

‘We’re looking to build, not get rid of personnel.

‘There may well be new staff who have to come on board to get the right organisation at the club.

‘We may have to do some spending to get everything right.’

The cry has been for stability and continuity in the wake of CSI’s arrival at Pompey at the start of the month.

It may sound like a conservative demand to those who have not been around the club, but it’s a simple pleasure Ashdown knows has been missing in recent years.

Like all Pompey fans, he is ready to start believing in the club’s owners again – and wants to see reason to believe.

Ashdown said: ‘We can ask for more than stability. That’s not too much for ask for.

‘We’ve had bad experiences in the past.

‘But, hopefully, the new owners can take us in the right direction and it is a new start for us.

‘Hopefully it goes well, clicks and they instil belief in us.

‘The way it’s been has been unfortunate.

‘The situation is probably still ongoing.

‘Hopefully it is going to work out for the best now and we can kick on.’