Boss calls on Pompey to lay down marker

Guy Whittingham takes Pompey training yesterday   Picture: Robin Jones
Guy Whittingham takes Pompey training yesterday Picture: Robin Jones
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Guy Whittingham rallied his Pompey troops for the big kick-off and told them: Start as we mean to go on.

The Blues will tomorrow mark the first full season of their new era as the UK’s biggest community-owned club.

Oxford provide the opposition at a sell-out Fratton Park in the opening match of the League Two campaign.

The 18,200 crowd will be the biggest in League Two since it assumed its current guise nine years ago.

Plenty of expectant eyes will be on the game, with Whittingham’s men bookies’ favourites to take the title.

The Pompey boss is demanding his players handle that pressure and deliver the graft the Fratton faithful require from their team.

And he wants to see them produce a flying start to continue the momentum built from their League One finale.

Whittingham said: ‘We’ve got a way we want to play. We’re settled on what we want to do. But successful sides invariably start the season well and keep going.

‘We’ll shape up to win it. The best team will win on the day.

‘We’re quietly confident we’ve done pretty well recruiting the players we’ve got and the pre-season we’ve had.

‘But we know Oxford will be feeling the same as us.

‘We do our character assessments before they come here. That’s what we’ve done with all the ones we’ve signed.

‘There is a pressure, but the only pressure from the fans will be to give 100 per cent. If you do that they’ll back us.’

Whittingham believes the atmosphere tomorrow is certain to be electric, with anticipation building among fans and staff alike.

He feels that to be entering a new campaign with a fresh start is a cause for celebration in itself after all the troubles Pompey have faced in recent years.

The Pompey manager reckons that happiness at entering a new era could manifest itself into a carnival atmosphere.

But he wants to see his players harness that energy in a positive manner – in front of a landmark attendance.

‘It’s great that it’s a record crowd for League Two. I’m sure we’ll pick up some more records along the way like that,’ said Whittingham.

‘The fans have been great for God knows how many years, especially through the periods of administration we’ve had.

‘They were here week-in, week-out, didn’t shut up, travelled away and kept going. Nothing surprises me the way they back us.

‘It’s fantastic that after all we’ve been through that we are here on the first day of the season. That’s great for everyone.

‘People are saying we are favourites. It won’t be as simple as that, but pre-season has gone quite well.

‘Now we’re nervous and excited – but looking forward to it. We think it’s going to be a good day.’