'Drink with the big boys, run with the big boys' - Barnsley's Conor Chaplin reveals crazy Portsmouth pre-season which made champions

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Conor Chaplin has told the story of the booze carnage which led to him learning a harsh lesson on the crazy pre-season tour which created Pompey champions.

The former Blues striker and huge fans’ favourite has lifted the lid on the antics which unfolded as Paul Cook’s side went to Ireland to prepare for the 2016-17 season.

As part of the camp players were given down time to enjoy themselves at their Dublin base in between training and playing games.

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And that that led to a teenage Chaplin ending up in a pickle after a drink too many on a night.

‘I went out with a few of the lads and I was young so a couple of the lads took me under their wing,’ explained Chaplin a Pompey Talk special you can listen to HERE.

‘It was a few of the big dogs in the group - Kyle Bennett, Enda Stevens and Gart Roberts.

‘It was me with them three and I was being ‘looked after’ by those three. They got me into all sorts of bother!

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Conor Chaplin celebrates winning League Two with Pompey. Picture: Joe PeplerConor Chaplin celebrates winning League Two with Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin celebrates winning League Two with Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘That night was a such a good night but I was under the impression all of the lads were going out, but it was only us four because we had a flight the next morning and we had to be in for breakfast at 6.30am or something silly for an early flight.

‘Enda got me in a taxi about 2am and was talking to the driver, but he sent me to the wrong hotel!

‘You can probably guess the state I was in, so I went to the reception and said I needed a key to my room.

‘I was rooming with Closey (Ben Close) and I told them my room number and they said they didn’t have a room with that number in the hotel!

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‘I said “what?”. I told them my name and everything and it turned out it was the wrong hotel!

‘Anyway, I got back to the right hotel and I couldn’t tell you how.

‘I remember strolling up the hotel and Kev the Kitman was loading his van at about 4am and it was just getting light.

‘He was loading his van and I could hear him laughing at me from about 50 yards away!

‘The closer I got the more he was laughing!’

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The events of that night after Pompey had played Irish side Bohemians at the end of the week-long stay, would come back to haunt Chaplin on his return to England – thanks to Paul Cook’s eagle eye.

‘When I got back to the hotel I went to bed for about two hours,’ he continued. ‘Then I was up for breakfast and I felt terrible on the flight.

‘But we had two days off after that before we were the back in training at Roko.

‘That’s when Cookie let me know in his own way that he knew I was out.

‘We were doing a running session which was 4x4 minutes.

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‘If I was to do it now I’d be absolutely fine but at the time I was a bad runner and I wasn’t that fit.

‘I was young and not that fit and athletic at all.

‘I was with Michael Doyle, who’s one of the best runners I’ve ever seen at 36, Gaz Evans who’s one of the fittest people I’ve ever seen, Gary Roberts who’s very, very fit, Carl Baker who’s very fit and Enda Stevens.

‘I was in that group and when the gaffer read the team out I was thinking “oh my god. I actually can’t run with these people. It’s going to be embarrassing”.

‘I think the gaffer was looking at me taking it in when he was reading the groups out.

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‘He just looked at me and said “if you want to drink with the big boys, you need to be able to run with the big boys!”.

‘It wasn’t the best 16 minutes of running from me but I got through it which was the main thing!’

It may not have been a pre-season the fitness experts would have approved of, but Chaplin told how the Ireland experience would be the glue which helped keep the team together and make for a very special League Two title-winning season.

‘It was probably the closest dressing room I’ve been in,’ Chaplin insisted.

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‘There was a lot of different ages. A few young players, few in their prime and few lads like Robbo (Gary Roberts), Doyler (Michael Doyle), David Forde and Carl Baker who were a lot older and the senior heads.

‘There was lads like Enda, Benno (Kyle Bennett), Gaz Evans, Kal Naismith, Burgey (Christian Burgess) and people like that in their mid 20s.

‘There was an age gap but there was definitely a realisation something could be achieve quite early on.

‘That was a big thing in why everyone was so close because everyone had that common goal and drive.

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‘If someone wasn’t pulling their weight they’d be called out because there was that end goal.

‘At other clubs and squads at Pompey we didn’t have that.

‘It was expected of us and we took that pressure and everyone brought into it.

‘Lads would get called out and there was some fights, but it was so good for the team.

‘We were all so close if anything happened it was brushed under the carpet and we went on to the next game. We were all fighting for each other.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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