Only way is Essex for Blues again

The Pompey players will return to Five Lakes in Essex as part of Andy Awford's pre-season plans
The Pompey players will return to Five Lakes in Essex as part of Andy Awford's pre-season plans
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Andy Awford hopes to have added to his Pompey ranks by the time they head off for a pre-season training camp to Essex.

The Blues boss has confirmed that he will take his squad to Five Lakes in Essex – the same venue Guy Whittingham used last summer – for a five-day intensive training schedule as part of pre-season plans that were announced yesterday.

Pompey will start their preparations for next season with a traditional curtain-raiser against neighbours Hawks at Westleigh Park on Saturday, July 12.

They will then travel to Bognor the following Saturday – for a 1pm kick-off, before facing Pompey old boy Mark Stimson’s Thurrock on Tuesday, July 22 (7.45pm), and Ebbsfleet on Saturday, July 26.

Awford’s men will then host Bournemouth on Tuesday, July 29, and Charlton at Fratton Park on Saturday, August 2, before the new League Two campaign kicks off on August 9.

‘We will go to Five Lakes on Monday, July 21, play Thurrock and then stop off and play at Ebbsfleet on the way back,’ said Awford.

‘I put it in place to go there last summer and we are pleased with the facilities there.

‘Louis Langdown, our fitness coach, was impressed with it.

‘The pitches are excellent and we can get some work done at the times we want – that’s important.

‘It’s also good to have a few days away during pre-season.

‘If we can have a few people in place by then, that would be nice to get them bedded into the group.

‘We have a nucleus but, ideally, you want any new faces in by the time we go away.

‘But if they are not, they’re not and we will add to it when we can.’

Awford revealed he had to turn down requests for friendlies from some of the local non-league clubs to ensure he got the schedule he wanted.

He said: ‘We are pleased to play a couple of local fixtures and get ourselves off the ground to get up and running.

‘The early fixtures will be about fitness, as is always the case, and getting minutes into the legs of the players.

‘But the longer it goes on, the more we will look to start working on a pattern of play with Plan A, Plan B and Plan C to get more into the tactical side of things.

‘It was exactly the number of games I wanted.

‘I spoke to the staff and we highlighted the days and dates we wanted games and that’s what we’ve got.

‘If I wanted two games, I would have had two games, and if I wanted 12 games, I would have had that.

‘But we didn’t want too many and we had to say no to a few people, which has been difficult because they are good clubs and good people.

‘Some stuff was in place before I got into the chair so it was a case of adding to what was already arranged.

‘But I’m comfortable with it and pleased with the schedule. It should give us a good base to work from.’

‘We have got some good games in there,’ added Awford.

‘Of course, we all know that you can never replicate the real thing in a friendly.

‘But we will approach every game in the right way and get what we want out of them.’