The boozy Pompey pre-season tour which made champions

Pompey celebrate winning the League Two title in 2017. Picture: Joe PeplerPompey celebrate winning the League Two title in 2017. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey celebrate winning the League Two title in 2017. Picture: Joe Pepler
Alcohol was banned for Pompey's recent Irish training camp.

It's fair to say that certainly wasn't the case for the Blues' previous stay across the Irish Sea in 2016.

To be a fly on the wall of the week-long stay at the Johnstown Estate Hotel and Spa would've have been an eye-opening dream for any Pompey fan.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Because to see what unfolded at the hotel on the outskirts of Dublin, would've been to witness an approach to the making of champions to make the sports scientists wince.

Former Pompey boss Paul CookFormer Pompey boss Paul Cook
Former Pompey boss Paul Cook

First of all, it should be made clear Paul Cook's squad were certainly put through their paces by the former Blues boss and his staff through the stay. Double training sessions were the norm.

But that effort on the pitch was matched by some memorable scenes and prodigious drinking off it, in a classic tale of work-hard, play-hard success.

With the squad grafting over the opening to the tour, it was left to the Pompey hierarchy to set the early pace with the boozing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was down to chairman Iain McInnes to lead the way on that front, with a lifetime of anecdotes put to fine use by the arch-raconteur at evenings spent in the hotel.

Of course, Cook was there to match his work with club staff (and it must be said The News as well) present on the reception sofas, as the tales spilled into the early hours.

But even those scenes were to be put in the shade on the evening of Wednesday, July 6, 2016.

A Sligo social club was to play host to a booze and karaoke session somewhere between a scene in Shameless and the Royle Family.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The organised travel for the two-and-a-half hour journey back to the Johnstown Estate Hotel that night left at 11.30pm - without most of the travelling party.

A few triallists, youngsters and staff members made the coach that evening, while the rest made the most of the Guinness-soaked Irish hospitality

'They're big boys,' croaked Cook that night. 'When I was going to games as fan and missed the last train, you still had to get home. We'll see how they do.'

A test of his troops then, to see who were had the minerals the Pompey boss was looking for.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The answer became apparent through the ensuing hours, as the stragglers bounced off the walls just in time to make breakfast the next morning.

A similar scenario was to develop three days later, as Cook did away with the coach travel after defeating Bohemians - leaving his squad stranded in the centre of Dublin.

So mixing with fans over a few more impromptu pints was the surreal conclusion to the trip, for those punters who'd travelled to support their team.

You can debate where such an approach belongs in the modern-day game, but a tight-knit group was formed amid the graft and alcohol-fuelled craft of that Irish camp.

And the season ended 10 months later with another booze-drenched celebration we'll never forget.