As usual it’s quite a busy summer at Portsmouth, but this time, it’s not because we have been trying to save it from the brink….
With the new Pompey era in full swing things at the club had to be fixed with lightning speed in order to be ready for the new season. Players, a new kit deal, and new sponsorships were all high on the agenda. The new kit deal was one that had to be thrashed out; Pompey chose Sondico for the new kits with great promises to the fans – “the cheapest kits in English football” and the question that they might build up to 20 youth development centres for Portsmouth results in a great deal. After the deal, the home shirt was released not long after, resulting in a fantastic new design for the new era, and since then the away shirt has been released too with only the third shirt left to be released. It seems a thousand years since the last time Pompey had shirts on sale during the summer and not coming out in late October. Additionally, they may not be at the club shop yet,as its not officially open, but they are also on sale in many high street sporting stores!
The players arriving was Guy Whittingham’s main task, and to do it before pre-season too. Every player who has arrived has arrived on a free transfer. These players are: John Sullivan, Danny East, Sonny Bradley, Joe Devera, Andy Barcham, Ricky Holmes, Romain Padovani, Ryan Bird, Tom Craddock and as of yesterday Simon Ferry. The club also managed to retain Phil Smith, Yassin Moutaouakil and the incredibly important signings that were Patrick Agyemang, David Connolly and Captain Fantastic, Johnny Ertl. Guy Whittingham also already had Dan Butler, Ashley Harris and Adam Webster contracted while Jed Wallace had his option for another year taken up so he will stay at Fratton Park. The starlet has admitted contract talks will start within the next couple of weeks. In short, the only question mark remains whether Ricardo Rocha will rejoin, but there are strong rumours that he will sign by the end of the week.
The coup’s of the season stand at Devera, Ferry and Padovani. Swindon fans who have been commentating on Ferry and Devera say it is clear they are better than this level who are not even here on an extravagant wage Pompey’s budget stands at around mid-table in League Two and CEO Mark Catlin made it clear a while back that Pompey won’t break the wage structure for anyone. Ferry seems to be easily good enough for a top half League One side according to Swindon fans, and the same with Devera, while Romain Padovani was a free who no-one really knew when he arrived from Monaco without even a Wikipedia page. Since then he has shown class in pre-season, showing despite his tall frame he has great touch and skill. It’s the first time in years and years that there’s a selection dilemma at Portsmouth with Whittingham having to decide who he puts in midfield out of Ferry, Barcham, Ertl, Wallace, Holmes and Padovani. Ryan Bird was another player who’s arrived who nobody knew much about, but after a few quick bits of research we realised he’s clearly got something about him, 45 goals last season for Burnham, albeit not a great level, but if you’re scoring more goals than games at any level you’ve clearly got something. He has also impressed in pre-season when he’s started, although his pre-season was interrupted by his holiday….
With that squad it is sure that Pompey can challenge for promotion this year, with a lot of the players able to play at a higher level. Most bookies actually have Pompey installed as the favourite to win the league. While its clear that the squad is extremely talented it needs to be remembered that they have all just linked up. It’s predominantly a new team, so not finishing top wouldn’t be a disappointment, although we should be expecting the play-offs at least with this squad. There were also changes in playing staff, as last season’s number 2 Andy Awford decided not to take up the role permanently and go back to being the academy manager. This means Pompey needed a number 2 and Guy Whittingham didn’t have to look far, promoting Steve Allen to the role while he maintains his duties as head physio. Whittingham also recruited club legend and Ireland legend Alan McLoughlin, or ‘Macca’ as he’s well known, to the first team coach role after he has recovered from kidney cancer.
The club has also secured sponsorship deals again; Jobsite have continued as shirt sponsors while Convers have made an appearance as back of shirt sponsors. Pompey’s 12th man also recently held fans day at Fratton Park before the friendly with Charlton, all to raise money to do various things for the club. The signing of the season so far though, will be the fans, Pompey have sold over 10,000 season tickets for the upcoming season, which is simply incredible support. I am very proud to say I am among them. With the season ticket sales which will probably end up between 11,000 and 12,000 will mean over half of the ground is season ticket holders. On top of that the Fratton End, the loudest stand at Fratton Park has almost sold out entirely with season ticket holders, only around 100 seats remain in the stand where the noise of Pompey usually originates. Credit goes to every last person who works in the ticket office who has worked incredibly hard to sell as many as we have and the CEO Mark Catlin and Engagement manager Micah Hall. A magnificent credit to the club. Huge credit also goes to Guy Whittingham, Steve Allen and the rest who managed to assemble such a good squad in such little time.
We can now finally forget the heart ache of previous years, the frauds, the Sulaiman Al-Fahim and the Faraj era, Gaydamak, Joseph Cala and all the rest are now a distant memory. The fans won and for the first season in a long, long time, Pompey can enjoy football again. Play up Pompey!
Written by Lawrence Hall, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
Lawrence tweets at @LawrencePFCHall