Heartache has to be the fuel to fire Portsmouth to Championship

Pompey's Tom Naylor. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Pompey's Tom Naylor. Picture: Habibur Rahman
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It was the longest season, one which ended in heartache.

Now, as the scars from wounds of a Championship near-miss heal, Pompey have to be stronger for the pain of failure.

That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger is the mantra for midfielder Tom Naylor as he and his side prepare for what is likely to be another gruelling assault at reaching English football’s second tier.

Failure to seal an automatic berth and ultimately a disappointing and lacklustre play-off exit at the hands of Sunderland left Kenny Jackett’s side wounded.

The pain at such an outcome was palpable for all those involved, but as the days turn into weeks and months Naylor feels the challenge is to grow from the experience of the 2018-19 campaign.

It’s a season in which the 28-year-old chalked up a 53-game return - a number unsurpassed in his career to date.

The fact he was one of five players to clock up north of 50 appearances says much about the physical mountain Pompey climbed.

And the mental challenges arrived as the Blues hit a new year wall where they went eight games and two months without a win.

Naylor feels those experiences have to be used to allow Jackett’s men to grow, become stronger and succeed as they face the same terrain once again.

‘It was a long season, probably the longest season I've had.’ Naylor said on his reflected on his maiden campaign at Fratton Park.

‘I've never been in a play-off battle and playing more than 50 games takes its toll. I had three weeks rest before I started getting at it again.

‘It was heartbreaking because we worked so hard all season and our aim was to get promotion which we didn’t quite succeed in.

‘Obviously, automatics would be brilliant next season and then everyone can have a fantastic summer next year.

‘It was hard because over the summer we were frustrated and upset.

‘When that final whistle went against Sunderland, it was heartbreaking - the season was done.

‘Obviously, the aim is promotion this season and no-one wants that again.

‘Things like the January period when it was a bad patch, we have more experience now. 

‘Even if we have a tough spell, we need to still get a couple of wins and hopefully we don’t get that bad patch again.

‘We can learn from it. There were games when we were winning and should have seen games out.

‘We've got a lot of experience in the team now and should be doing so, but that’s football at the end of the day and we’re always trying our best to get three points.’

Naylor has been a passing observer as Pompey’s rivals go about their summer recruitment business.

The former Burton Albion man has been more interested in the recruitment work his club have been doing - and how they can leave Pompey better prepared for what they face next term.

Naylor added: ‘I always flick through to see what sides have signed but I'm not really that bothered.

‘As long as we've got the right group and bring the right players into this team - which we have and they've settled in brilliantly - I'm sure they can't wait for the first game like everyone else. 

‘Once we have a few games, I'm sure we'll see what the new lads are like and what their strengths are. We'll play to their strengths and see how they do.’