Appy: Trip is vital

Gibraltar in training
Gibraltar in training

They are 10 days Michael Appleton is adamant could mould Pompey’s season.

A mid-July Spanish training camp is to form the bulk of the club’s pre-season preparations ahead of the new campaign in League One.

It is a stay which will feature two friendlies, one of which is against Gibraltar. The second is still to be announced.

Admittedly, it is no Hong Kong, no Charleston, no Guimaraes, no Edmonton and no Ventura, routes previously travelled in recent times.

Nonetheless, for the Blues boss that July 16-26 trip represents the most important period of the summer.

Eager to bring as many as 18 players to Fratton Park during the close season, Appleton values the importance of such a camp for building team spirit.

Conceivably, a group of strangers will be thrown together for a season of consolidation, as the club seeks to rebuild under new ownership.

That squad will include existing young players such as Ashley Harris, Sam Magri and Adam Webster in addition to the anticipated newcomers.

In Appleton’s view, the chance for those players to bond and get to know each other for 10 days in southern Spain is a precious opportunity. And he is convinced the trip can help lay the foundations for the campaign ahead.

He said: ‘I went over to Gibraltar quite a few years back and the Victoria Stadium offers a 3G surface.

‘Basically it is not just Astroturf, it is a high-quality playing surface.

‘Your more experienced players may moan about it because it is not grass.

‘But the young ones who would have played on that with various academies will be fine.

‘What is crucial is that if I am bringing 18 players together I need them to bond.

‘That is 18 new faces, there or thereabouts, who need to get to know each other.

‘As the manager you have to see those players live in each other’s pockets for 10 days, observe how they cope.

‘I would say it is the single most important preparation for next season by an absolute mile.

‘It’s about the dynamics of certain players and personalities, helping them mix, finding that common ground and joining as a squad and a team.

‘People are going to get on with other people in the team and this is an opportunity to help that move along.

‘I just think it is a vital 10 days which can lay the foundations for what lies in the season ahead.’

One of the matches will be a clash with the Gibraltar national team on Friday, July 20.

The second, which is still to be revealed, is expected to take place in southern Spain.

They will form two of the six pre-season friendlies currently lined-up for Pompey this summer.

The trip to Spain is to be largely funded by a couple of local businesses who have stepped forward to help out the Blues.

It is a gesture appreciated by Appleton as the club awaits the ownership matter to be settled.

He said: ‘We have got investors who are funding the trip, which is testament to the people of Pompey.

‘A couple of local businesses have sponsored it.

‘The club will chip in as well, although I know money is a bit scarce.

‘This will also give the supporters the opportunity to come and watch pre-season and take in a possible holiday.

‘In the past couple of years the team have travelled a long way.

‘And, of course, this is the chance to do some good training with the players in excellent facilities.

‘The climate allows you to do some different training.

‘You don’t have to think about getting cold or the weather – and that can help.’