Colchester beckons as Pompey pre-season takes a different route

Sulley Muntari on the ball for Pompey in Hong Kong back in 2007. Picture: Will Caddy
Sulley Muntari on the ball for Pompey in Hong Kong back in 2007. Picture: Will Caddy

In the past it was jetting off to the glorious climes of Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Edmonton, Guimaraes, South Carolina and Malaga.

Then there was Abuja in Nigeria, Gibraltar, Cape Town and even a safari trip to the Madikwe Game Reserve.

This year, Pompey’s pre-season tour will centre on Colchester.

A million miles away from previous destinations. Then again, Pompey as a club are a million miles away from those heady days.

With financial prudence taking precedence, Guy Whittingham has readjusted the sights in terms of training locations this summer.

There are no foreign trips to play exhibition games, largely funded by host clubs desperate for the prestige which accompanies such fixtures.

Pompey now inhabit the real world – and Essex beckons.

Whittingham’s men return for duty on June 27, with five pre-season matches so far arranged and a sixth pencilled in for Saturday, July 27.

Sandwiched in the middle of that will be six days spent at a hotel in Colchester from July 14-19.

That will also include a friendly at the home of Blue Square Bet Premier side Braintree, 17 miles away.

Fratton Park is a different environment these days.

Nothing reflects that more than this summer’s plans.

Whittingham said: ‘We are going away this summer but not abroad.

‘We are not going to swan abroad to a sunny climate.

‘It is imperative you have a trip because you have to get all the players together for bonding, but you don’t have to leave this country to achieve that.

‘We have a hotel down near Colchester which has got a football pitch, a pool, a gym.

‘It’s somewhere you can get your training done and have a bit of bonding.

‘As a club, we are where we are. This is how it is now.

‘We will go to Colchester after the Bognor match and come back a day before Charlton, so it will be almost a week.

‘Our pre-season actually begins on June 27 for a couple of days testing.

‘Then we start in earnest on July 1 – two days before the Havant game.

‘We are looking at six matches, which is probably about the right number.’

The pre-season line-up so far is the Hawks (July 9), Bognor (July 13), Braintree (July 16), Charlton (July 20), and Bournemouth (July 23).

In addition, Gosport (July 30) has now been added, although is expected to be more of a development group match.

Whittingham added: ‘Havant and Bognor are the ones where you look to get your players back into football and you look at 45 to 60-minute games.

‘Braintree is a step up because it is conference level, then you go to Charlton and Bournemouth who are Championship.

‘So it is building up a little bit as you go along.

‘Then it is obviously the one on the 27th we need to try to get a stiffer test.

‘There will be other games, too, where we’ll have the development group and one or two of those not getting much action.’