Grounded at Dublin, but Cook creates happy Pompey camp
As ever with a modern-day Pompey overseas trip, there had to be complications.
Maintaining tradition, it was instigated by tardy planes and excuse-blathering airlines.
Nonetheless, Paul Cook’s troops have arrived back from their Irish sojourn fitter and more prepared for the challenges ahead.
Perhaps, most crucial of all, the week created a prodigiously tighter bond between a new-look group.
Certainly in Cook’s eyes, a highly-successful pre-season tour.
It remains to be seen whether such grounding will ensure Pompey can finally end their four-season League Two spell.
Yet the time spent at the Johnstown House Hotel in Enfield, County Meath, at this stage represents a wise investment.
And that is irrespective of the Dublin airport delay which involved Sunday’s flight held-up by one hour 45 minutes – before spending a further hour on the runway.
Several players were, of course, reminded by travel-weary veterans there have been worse flying scenarios.
The end of the 2011 tour in Charleston, South Carolina, was extended by two days after a catering truck had damaged the plane.
As for the summer of 2010 in the United States, that involved 100 hours of travelling time, eight flights, six hotels and airports, four different time zones, two delays and two cancellations.
Still, the Dublin hold-up failed to put a dampener on the outcome of the preceding six days.
The Blues’ time on the Emerald Isle involved six training sessions, two matches and one day off as Cook worked his squad hard.
There were 23 players present, including six summer recruits and four triallists.
A number of unfamiliar faces among the backroom were also in attendance, their identities to be revealed by the club once contracts have been formalised.
It signified a much-altered Pompey set-up both on and off the pitch – highlighting the need for a week’s gelling.
An ex-Pompey manager once asked photos of smiling players not to be used in The News in case it gave fans the wrong impression.
Yet in Cook’s camp such expressions of enjoyment are uninhibited, where the bubbling characters of Kyle Bennett, Conor Chaplin and Gary Roberts can thrive.
The Johnstown House Hotel witnessed a happy Blues environment, engineered by the exuberant Cook, ever the willing social conductor.
A squad and backroom tighter in their relationship – Ireland was indeed a profitable pre-season tour.
– NEIL ALLEN