‘Everything was about playing golf!’: Former Liverpool and Aston Villa star on bizarre Premier League pre-season which paved way for memorable Portsmouth top-flight campaign

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Patrik Berger has revealed the unlikely circumstances behind the build-up to Pompey’s memorable maiden Premier League campaign.

The Blues hero has told how playing golf and a trip to an athletics club, provided the unorthodox foundation for Harry Redknapp’s side to establish themselves in the top-flight of English football.

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Berger arrived from Liverpool ahead of the 2003-04 campaign, after Redknapp had memorably guided his side to the Division One title in record-breaking fashion.

The former Aston Villa man was one of a number of high-profile additions, along with the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Dejan Stefanovic and Amdy Faye.

But the Czech Republic international was given a shock when he arrived for pre-season training, only to be dispatched to Southampton AC with the club’s Eastleigh training ground out of use.

That was followed with a break at Nigel Mansell’s Woodbury Park in Devon, where it was golf and not football which dominated the timetable.

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The unconventional approach reaped dividends, however, with Berger on the scoresheet against Villa in the opening day win at Fratton Park.

And Redknapp’s men then went on to take the scalp of reigning champions Manchester United along with the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and of course rivals Southampton, as his team finished an impressive 13th in the table.

Berger, who was speaking to BoyleSports about the latest EFL odds, said: ‘Harry is still a legend, a great man and a great human being. He's very old school and he gave me two great years at Portsmouth. They got promoted and they signed myself, Teddy Sheringham and some other great players as well.

‘When I first signed, every single Premier League club was flying out to somewhere in Europe for pre-season and we had to go to Southampton Athletic Club because we didn't have a training ground. After that, we then went to Nigel Mansell's place which also conveniently had a golf course as well.

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‘The day before we left, all of the lads asked me if I was playing golf and if I would be bringing my clubs. I thought it was a joke for a pre-season training camp, usually you train twice a day and then you rest when you can. I thought they were taking the mickey!

‘But I put the clubs in my car and then I wanted to see if the other lads were bringing their clubs as well. Lo and behold, the next morning all of the boys brought their clubs into the makeshift training ground and put them onto the bus headed for the golf club.

‘We got to the hotel and asked for the programme for the week, when Harry said, “I have to go to the clubhouse first, and decide lads. If we can get a tee time in the morning, we train in the afternoon!”.

‘Everything was all about the golf and the only rule was that we had to go round the course on carts so we didn't do too much walking to tire us out. I couldn't believe it; at Dortmund and Liverpool we would never have been allowed to play golf during pre-season!

‘Harry was a very rewarding manager, he would give us days off if we played well because he wanted his best players to be fit for the weekend.’

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