Teenage Kicks: Pompey expects and Cookie will deliver

Carl Baker. Picture: Joe Pepler
Carl Baker. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Hi fellow Pompey fans, my name is Ben Sturt.

I’m 17 years old and I’ve been a season-ticket holder in the Fratton end for as long as I can remember.

I am also the youngest member of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust’s Next Generations group, which tackles all issues that may concern younger Pompey fans.

I hope you enjoy my weekly column in the Sports Mail, describing the goings on at our club through the eyes of a younger supporter.

So here we go, a fourth year in League Two.

It must be promotion.

And in my opinion, it finally will be promotion.

I was looking back at my column from this time last year, where I addressed the giddy optimism felt before every campaign, no matter the circumstances.

I said: “The agonising creep towards kick-off allows people to get caught up in their own delusion – we all do it, we did it last year (2014-15) and 2013-14, and once again it was confirmed fruitless.

“The question is, is there reason for our optimism this time round?

“Of course, only time will tell, but there has been a series of fortunate events that daringly suggest success.”

Those words are as true today as they were back then.

And yes, there is reason for optimism ahead of the 2016-17 season.

Back then, I cited the fact we appointed Paul Cook, someone who has been promoted from League Two, along with the impressive recruitment drive.

I cite the exact same reasons for why I think we will get promoted automatically this season.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on Paul Cook and what he achieved last term.

We had the second best defensive record in League Two.

We scored more than 70 goals and netted a play-off place.

We reached the fourth round of the FA Cup and beat Derby County at Fratton Park in the Capital One Cup.

And it was the first time Pompey achieved an improved position in the league than the previous season for eight years.

And I’d say most of his signings have been a relative success.

Continuity and improvement will ensure a successful season.

Our squad has got stronger. Milan Lalkovic, Carl Baker, Danny Rose, Matt Clarke and Michael Smith are all top players for this division.

We knew that about Kyle Bennett, Gary Roberts and Christian Burgess this time last year.

In my opinion we were proved right – they are good players for this division.

And remember, they are still here and will only get better.

Then there is Conor Chaplin, who is set to get the chance he deserves this season and take centre stage.

The Pompey Academy product has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Jed Wallace and Adam Webster.

Be optimistic Pompey fans, improvement is the key and improvement on last season means promotion.

I’m going to stick my neck out and make a prediction. Going by previous predictions, this could go either way!

By my reckoning, Wycombe Wanderers will finally gain promotion to League One as champions and Pompey will have the season we all crave and comfortably finish second.

Cambridge United will sneak into the third automatic promotion spot, with Doncaster just missing out.

Luton Town, Notts County and Exeter City will complete the play-off places – in that order.

Plymouth Argyle, Leyton Orient, Carlisle United and Accrington Stanley will just miss out.

Meanwhile, Barnet and Morecambe will have neither the quality nor depth to go the distance and therefore get relegated from the Football League.

I hope this prediction doesn’t leave me with egg on my face come May.

What can be said, though, is last year – in the main – was a refreshingly positive season on the pitch, despite it ending in heartbreak.

So expect another exciting season and expect success.

Play Up Pompey!