Old boy throws down warning to Oxford

Tom Craddock. Picture: Robin Jones
Tom Craddock. Picture: Robin Jones

Tom Craddock prepared to face his old Oxford team-mates and told them: Get ready for the bearpit.

Craddock is gunning for a place in the Pompey starting XI against the U’s in the season curtain-raiser at Fratton Park tomorrow.

The 26-year-old arrived from the Kassam Stadium during the summer after falling out of favour at Oxford over the second half of the campaign.

That was after firing in 11 goals up to the turn of the year in an impressive first half to his season.

Craddock then lost his place under manager Chris Wilder, with talk of a loan move to Pompey emerging.

That never materialised, but the switch to Pompey became a reality when Guy Whittingham swooped early in the summer.

Fate then conspired to put Craddock up against his old side on the opening day in front of a sell-out crowd.

The former Middlesbrough trainee is vying for a forward place in the starting line-up with the likes of Patrick Agyemang and David Connolly.

He admitted seeing the fixture come out as his team’s opener in June naturally added a little extra edge to the occasion.

Now he’s looking for a taste of action, and he warned his old side they will face an intense atmosphere.

Oxford themselves are bringing 2,500 fans to the game, in what is certain to be a cauldron with the biggest attendance League Two has seen in its current guise.

Craddock said: ‘When the fixtures came out I was really pleased. I have a lot of friends at Oxford and finished on a bit of a dead end last season with my loan move here falling through.

‘I left on pretty decent terms, though.

‘You want to get a win every game, especially the first game of the season.

‘That makes it even more important, so hopefully we can get a good result.

‘They have got a lot of experienced players for the division but I don’t think they will realise what the atmosphere is going to be like at Fratton Park – so hopefully it will hit them hard.

‘Hopefully we can catch them off guard.

‘To be honest, I want to play every game. I would like to play 46-50 matches this season, but it doesn’t always work out like that.

‘I want to play the first game, whether it is Oxford or Accrington. It wouldn’t matter to me as long as I can get into the team.

‘I have no ill-feelings towards them or anything.

‘But the first game of every season you always want to play.’

Craddock’s goal record in his time at Luton and Oxford more than stands up to inspection.

Now he’s looking to maintain a return nearing a goal every other game as he starts his time at Pompey.

Craddock said: ‘I was there for three years. The second season I played for five games through injury (tendonitis) and the other two seasons I hit double figures.

‘I scored 26 goals in 64 league starts which is roughly one every two, and I didn’t really have a consistent run in the team after my first season there.

‘I had a decent record and hopefully I can have a better goals-to-game record here and get a run in the team.’