ANDY AWFORD revved up for Pompey’s big League Two home bow and told his men: Embrace it.
The Blues are readying themselves for a bumper crowd for tomorrow’s Fratton Park league opener against Cambridge.
Excitement is mounting ahead of the clash, with Awford anticipating a return of the wall of noise which roared his side to safety last season.
And the Pompey boss has backed his players to rise to the occasion of playing in a bearpit atmosphere.
Last season saw eight league defeats on home soil, as some players struggled to adjust to the Fratton factor.
But Awford is certain his men will be propelled by the following this season – and has told them to feed off the energy generated.
‘I’m excited, I must admit. I’m looking forward to it,’ said Awford.
‘I know what is coming and the players who have been here before know what is coming.
‘The new players got a flavour of it the other night.
‘We’re better equipped to deal with it now as a squad.
‘The nucleus from last season we retained know it now. They know what’s coming, and the majority of new players have come from the league above.
‘They wouldn’t have played in front of anything like this, but they would have played in front of decent crowds.
‘It’s fanatical, we know that, but they will embrace it rather than be afraid of it. That’s all I’ve ever said to them.
‘I’ve told them if they go out, embrace it and give everything the fans will forgive the odd stray pass.
‘It will be in my teamtalk before the game, for sure.
‘It’s important they know. I drop it in at regular occasions.
‘They have a massive part to play, the fans. They know that and I know that.
‘You run out of superlatives, but they will back us and keep going with us.’
Cambridge arrive at Fratton Park in confident mood after gaining promotion last season and picking up an opening-day win over Plymouth.
Awford will stress the importance of a fast start to get the home crowd rocking and slow the U’s down.
He said: ‘It’s going to be a great atmosphere. We can guarantee that.
‘I can’t guarantee the points, but I’m confident and hopeful we can win.
‘We can guarantee the atmosphere, though.
‘It’ll be a hot day, too.
‘I’ve never seen it pour down on an opening home game here in the league.
‘It’ll be baking hot and about 150 degrees!
‘I know it’ll be there and the wall of noise will be present.
‘It’s important the players start the game well to go with that.
‘We know it’s going to be rocking. Cambridge know that, too.
‘Their teamtalk will be about quietening it down and keeping the fans quiet.
‘We are determined they don’t and we get it going. I’m really looking forward it.’