Pompey’s new era is officially under way

Pompey players are put through their paces at St John's College playing fields, Farlington   Picture: Allan Hutchings
Pompey players are put through their paces at St John's College playing fields, Farlington Picture: Allan Hutchings
Smoke bombs were let off during Pompey's match against Charlton today. Picture: Joe Pepler

Steward treated after smoke bombs let off following Pompey defeat

Have your say

Alan McLoughlin unlocked the St John’s gates to allow through the procession of cars gathered outside.

And so it began.

The start of pre-season training, the new era at Pompey and the beginning of the charge out of League Two.

The much-changed squad had met allotted times for fitness testing on Thursday and Friday last week but largely not mixed with each other.

Yesterday they came together for the very first time, team-mates, colleagues and future friendships to be created in the challenges ahead.

Some familiar faces, some fresh faces and some youthful faces, 23 players were on display and put through their paces by strength and conditioning coach Louis Langdown.

Perhaps fittingly, it was McLoughlin who started it all off – both as stand-in gatesman and on the training pitch.

The Fratton legend works for the club these days – in the Pompey Academy – but yesterday took the early fitness work with the new-look first-team squad and triallists.

He headed the initial jog around the pitch and continued to have a central role during the training proceedings, while Whittingham – flanked by assistant Steve Allen – largely observed.

On the adjourning training pitch, Andy Awford and Paul Hardyman were looking after the club’s Academy youngsters on the St John’s College pitches.

Forever Pompey favourites, now an integral part of the club moving forward under fresh ownership and clearly a different vision to what has gone before.

For the squad themselves, it was a case of integrating in the Blues environment, with the 17 members of the first team meeting for the maiden occasion.

Joe Devera, with shaven head, was unrecognisable from the figure who posed for photos when he joined the club earlier this summer.

Others, such as Johnny Ertl, could not be mistaken – the Austrian cheerfully bounding on to the training pitch with his trademark smile and enthusiasm.

There were other new faces to familiarise with, too.

People like John Sullivan, the towering Sonny Bradley, Ricky Holmes, Tom Craddock and Danny East.

Then there was the mystery man, Romain Padovani – resplendent in luminous green boots and providing the first glimpse of a signing gamble which could pay dividends.

Joining them were the five development group lads, first-year professionals eager to make their mark in Whittingham’s set-up this season.

Liam Triggs, George Branford, Nick Awford, Josh Warren and Jack Maloney found themselves fully involved in all aspects of the training session which unfolded.

Elsewhere, Michael Bryan and Ryan Bird, the two triallists present, soon bonded – never too far away from each other as they seek to make an impact.

Of course, the St John’s College pitches represent Pompey’s temporary training home – flanked by a train track one end and the M27 far away at the other, the facilities shone in the glorious sunshine.

The only spectator on the side of the pitch was former Pompey physio Neil Sillett, nowadays a football agent and familiar with the likes of Whittingham and McLoughlin.

After just over an hour and a half, though, the session came to a close and the players climbed back into their cars a little less enthusiastically as when they arrived.

It was off to Fratton Park for a shower and change, day one complete, and with the opening friendly against the Hawks next Tuesday surely everyone’s opening goal.

The build-up to the 2012-13 campaign is officially under way, much to the players’, management’s and supporters’ delight after what has seemed an eternal summer wait.