Boss relishing big kick-off after training return

Andy Awford oversaw the return of his Pompey troops and insisted: I can’t wait for the campaign to kick off.

It was back to work yesterday as the new-look Blues turned up for the start of pre-season training.

The University of Portsmouth’s Langstone Campus was the venue for the present squad of 26 to be put through their paces.

They contained new recruits Paul Jones, Craig Westcarr, Nigel Atangana, James Dunne, Michael Poke and Danny Hollands.

Also returning was David Connolly, following his loan spell at Oxford at the season’s end, although the injured Tom Craddock is still in rehabilitation.

Youngsters Jack Maloney, Bradley Tarbuck, Ben Close and Nick Awford were others put through their paces by the coaching staff.

And a bubbling Awford is relishing seeing his team in action, starting with the friendly against the Hawks on July 12.

He said: ‘It has been great getting everybody back and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.

‘All the lads contracted to the club were there, there are six new faces and it was a case of getting everybody to mix in.

‘In the first two days they will do some work – obviously they are not going to come and do a jolly up – but it is as much about the social aspect and integration for the new players.

‘It is important they find where this new place is, find out where they go for breakfast – and the lads here from last season have a chat because they haven’t seen each other for a few weeks, so that is also important.

‘We had them in for pre-season a little bit earlier than normal and I think it’s the right thing to do at this time.

‘Yesterday they had a warm-up, a run, got a feel of the ball – which is important for their psychology – and then we did some work after.

‘Next week it goes to double sessions, there is no day off, and it will also be Monday to Friday with no day off the following week.

‘The approach to pre-season will be to get them ready for August 9 and we will make sure they are.

‘They may not be fit and ready to go on July 19 at Bognor, or at Five Lakes during our training camp, but they will be on August 9, that is the aim.’

With Paul Hardyman and Alan McLoughlin assisting Awford, it inevitably brought back memories of their Pompey yesteryears.

And it brought a smile to the Blues boss’ face.

He added: ‘Me and Paul Hardyman were talking in the office beforehand and saying “Bring back HMS Mercury!”.

‘It has changed an awful lot, it is better now, it is more scientific, there is better research gone into it.

‘There is no point employing people to do the fitness side of it if you don’t listen, they are experts in their field so let them get on with it.’