Exceeding expectations – but Portsmouth chief confident club ready for potential Championship arrival

Andy Redman (far left) and Michael Eisner (centre) returned to Fratton Park last weekend, buoyed by playing progress exceeding their expectations. Picture: Joe Pepler
Andy Redman (far left) and Michael Eisner (centre) returned to Fratton Park last weekend, buoyed by playing progress exceeding their expectations. Picture: Joe Pepler
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When granted the electoral platform to win hearts and minds, the manifesto unveiled was absent of glittering promises and boastful aspiration.

Progression, Tornante enthused, was to be accomplished through steady growth amid sustainable means. Certainly no cash-injected short-cut to success.

Issued upon the Portsmouth Guildhall stage in May 2017, such pledges nonetheless persuaded 81.40 per cent of Pompey’s shareholders to rubberstamp the £5.67m sale.

Yet expectations have been raised, hopes exceeded.

Certainly the timeframe for a Championship return has accelerated following a blistering start to the campaign.

Kenny Jackett has overseen a sprint to League One’s summit, presently presiding over their rivals by four clear points after 15 matches.

The season remains lodged in October, yet there is enough compelling evidence to tantalisingly suggest there may be a favourable outcome.

By his own admission, the current scenario has defied Andy Redman’s forecast.

Tornante’s president and Pompey board member acknowledges work is still required off the field of play, particularly centring on Fratton Park’s future.

Regardless, he believes the Blues are ready for the Championship – should it be their early fate.

Redman said: ‘Over the long-term I think it is fair to say that we certainly expect to progress, so sure we are looking up, but it’s just too early for us to set expectations that way.

‘I hope everybody in Portsmouth is enjoying this as much as we are, it’s rare you’re top of the table by four points so early in the season. We should enjoy it while we’re on this terrific run.

‘We've been putting building blocks in place. Do I think we need many, many more to progress over the long-term? I would say yes. The Championship is not far out of our reach, aside from the fact the players are proving it and Kenny and his team are proving it.

‘I think when you look at how many sponsors we have, how we deal with season-ticket sales and things like that, there will be more improvements needed in what is equivalent to the underlying infrastructure of the club – and similarly the stadium.

‘Is the club ready for the Championship? We are ready, of course, but if the team progresses faster than anyone expects there will be more things put in place a little bit later than we would have wanted.

‘The timing of infrastructure changes take a while, such as the things happening around Fratton Park. Even though there will be changes next year as there were this summer, would someone say we are finished with Fratton Park next summer? No.

‘Should you be finished with your stadium if you are a Championship club? Sure. But I believe we are putting one foot in front of the other in the right way.

‘If we end up having more success that’s great, no-one wants it more than we do.’

Michael Eisner and his wife had been present at Kingsmeadow to witness a 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon.

They were last weekend joined in Fratton Park’s directors’ box by son Eric and Redman for the visit of Fleetwood.

Tornante’s presence was scheduled to be short, the next day returning to America having witnessed the Blues extend their advantage at the top of League One.

It was a whistle-stop stay which also contained meetings with London-based architects centring on the future of Fratton Park, while the board attended a Heritage & Advisory board gathering on the day of the Fleetwood fixture.

A summer-strengthening programme involving 10 recruits, of which six arrived on permanent deals, has positioned Pompey into a strong position at this reasonably early stage.

Ambition focused on building upon last season’s eighth placing after returning to League One.

An honest Redman, however, didn’t anticipate that drive for progress would earn top billing heading into November.

He added: ‘It’s nearly impossible to imagine a better start to the season, 15 games in and things are spectacular.

‘But it’s also a long campaign, we have no illusions that this is just the beginning and hopefully we’ll end the season right where we are, but there are 31 games to play.

‘We believed the squad improved over the summer, we believed Kenny and his whole team have certainly improved the players we had previously.

‘Sure, on a number of elements we were expecting to improve year on year. However, I don’t think we would have been expecting to do as well as we are.

‘All credit to Kenny, the team of managers and frankly to the players. What happens on the pitch is more theirs than anyone’s and it’s great to see how much they have gelled and find a way to win, week in, week out.

‘Our approach (recruitment) is led by Kenny, but collectively we all felt we needed to plan very, very far in advance and have been doing that and been doing it successfully. It did take us a while to get on the same page.

‘I know other people may have been more frustrated in the January transfer window, but it took us a while.

‘So our approach is to strengthen the places that Kenny felt were the weakest and, when you look at the squad, he really did that.’