POMPEY’S players have been lauded for their fitness levels.
But the Blues squad have been warned there are no excuses for not maintaining the work they are putting in.
You shouldn’t be asked or questioned for your fitness or application.Leam Richardson
Paul Cook has seen his team start the season encouragingly off the back of an unbeaten league opening.
A hallmark of the first eight games of the campaign has been the manner in which Pompey have finished the stronger side.
That is reflected in the fact there has been late goals scored by them in three of their five league fixtures.
Gary Roberts struck in the 86th minute to ensure the win at Plymouth, Jayden Stockley earned a point in the 90th minute against Morecambe while Matt Tubbs sealed success at the death against Luton.
Blues assistant manager, Leam Richardson believes the players have stepped up so far.
But he knows the campaign will enter another phase though the autumn and winter months.
And that will be a telling period when it comes to the players and clubs who have put the hard graft in.
Richardson said: ‘When I first came into the job one of the first things a senior player told me was to ask yourself every game before you do the post-match stuff, ask yourself if any of those lads could have given you more.
‘Certainly, after most games this season, I’ve asked myself that question and not a lot of players could have done that.
‘That’s a good start. The fitness levels are a credit to our staff.
‘But that’s an ongoing process.
‘We’re fresh at the start of the season but it needs maintaining through the Christmas period.
‘That’s when the pitches get heavy and then you need to finish strong.
‘Touch wood, that’s how we will go. We’ll maintain our structure and keep going with it.’
Much was made of the varied and intense pre-season the Pompey players were put through. Double sessions were the order of the day as the they were put through a gruelling schedule.
A busy training plan has continued into the season with it now the norm for the squad to be called in on Sunday morning.
Richardson stated the response from the players has been positive.
He said: ‘They seemed to buy into it. If they enjoy it, it helps. The work ethic and application then becomes secondary.
‘As a footballer, especially nowadays, no one can stop you from being fit. Nobody will stop you working hard.
‘We have all the facilities here – they have everything.
‘So they can only let themselves down.
‘You shouldn’t be asked or questioned for your fitness or application.
‘Tactical and technically, yes, because that’s our job to give the players.
‘But you should be fit and you should be strong and your nutrition should be good.’
– JORDAN CROSS