The labours of Pompey’s latest community initiative are tantalisingly almost at fruition.
The News were yesterday granted the first behind-the-scenes look at the £1.1m project earmarked for a mid-November opening.
The development at Roko is the impressive culmination of a partnership between all facets of the club in a bid to create a footballing legacy in the city.
Club presidents – in particular Ian Silvester – have joined forces with the Pompey Supporters’ Trust and the highly-successful Tifosy scheme to fund the construction of a Blues training ground.
Phase one, involving changing facilities and the pitches, is already in place.
Work is continuing on phase two consisting of the construction of offices to house staff, a gym and treatment areas.
And chief executive Mark Catlin has hailed the team-work which has taken the club to the verge of a proud unveiling.
He said: ‘It has been a team effort.
‘I am proud to be CEO and under my watch it has happened. But the credit really needs to go to everyone else because it has been a massive team effort.
‘Mike Saunders is a great example of that. He is a member of the Trust board and, as a qualified architect, has offered his services at Roko absolutely free.
‘All the drawings, brands and planning applications have been done by Mike at no cost to the club.
‘Ian Silvester is one of our presidents who has been our task master and driven this project from start to finish with a lot of support from the Trust board, the advisory board (presidents) and the main board.
‘They have done nothing but support this project. Sometimes when you are dealing with different boards and personalities things can get delayed for so long, people have different views and opinions.
‘But, thankfully, everyone knows what they want as a finished article and are prepared to bend and work together to get there.’
Earlier this month Saunders retained his place on the Trust board following elections.
And the architect continues to oversee the training ground development.
Saunders said: ‘The main planning application was approved back in July, which is all the work currently going on.
‘With the fact we have raised more money and moved into phase two, a second application went in for the office building, which is currently in planning at the moment – and we are expecting a decision on October 15.
‘Although the original plan was for a similar size, we have actually changed the interior dimensions, which means we have had to go back.
‘The building has come from a school in Kent and, with a bit of TLC, will be a good facility once kitted out and placed in a different area of the site.
‘Some fans have a kind of hang-up with the them and us – the presidents and the Trust. The reality is we are all Pompey fans in it for the right reason, just different levels of individual investment.
‘When we had money before it never got off the drawing board, which goes to show it is not necessarily about the money itself but the will to do it.’