Leam Richardson has warned Pompey’s players: The hard work starts now.
The Blues’ assistant boss was present at Ballys Gym on Saturday, alongside manager Paul Cook, as the players were put through their paces by professional trainer Michael Ballingall.
And for the former Chesterfield duo, it was just what the doctor ordered following the team’s ‘fantastic’ week-long bonding trip to the Algarve.
At first glance, boxing appeared to represent an unusual shift in direction in the club’s pre-season preparations.
But as Richardson explained, it is a tried-and-tested method he and Cook previously employed to good effect at the Spireites.
He said: ‘We did it (boxing training) quite a lot up at Chesterfield and the lads adapted to it quite well.
It is fair to say that we are going to step up the fitness now. In no uncertain terms, the lads know that.Pompey assistant manager Leam Richardson
‘It is just a different type of fitness.
‘It can sometimes be a bit of a slog in pre-season but I think if you keep it vibrant and buoyant the lads appreciate that.
‘And I think we saw that at the weekend.
‘It is fair to say that we are going to step up the fitness now, though.
‘In no uncertain terms, the lads know that.
‘The training schedule is already in place to hit the ground running.’
Richardson also paid tribute to Pompey’s team-bonding trip, with the new-look squad given time to get to know each other in Portugal last week.
And Cook’s right-hand man made no apologies for using their time at Chesterfield together as inspiration for the Blues’ summer schedule.
He said: ‘Portugal was different class, fantastic and everyone enjoyed it.
‘It was received really well by all of the players and the staff alike.
‘Already you can see a certain few lads have made a bit more of a bond than before they went so it’s done for a reason and hopefully it’s a good reason.
‘Again, we have done it before and seen positive results.
‘If you do get positive results from something then you do tend to stick at it and that was certainly what Portugal was about.
‘It’s certainly what the boxing was about as well and the lads seem to be responding quite well.’
Ballingall, meanwhile, was impressed by the fitness levels shown by Pompey’s players and has offered the squad an open invite to return to his Fratton gym,
He said: ‘We pushed them as hard as we could on the manager’s request.
‘Their fitness levels were good but they certainly all felt it come the end!
‘It was great to have them in – they know where we are.’