Russell: We can play without fear

Darel Russell returned to the Pompey first team against Bury
Darel Russell returned to the Pompey first team against Bury

Pompey’s players cannot hide behind a lack of confidence, according to Darel Russell.

The Blues midfielder has been hugely impressed by the club’s fans and their unwavering support for the team since he arrived at Fratton Park, despite the ongoing problems on and off the field.

Five straight defeats and four matches where they have failed to even score a goal has left Pompey in a downward spiral which caretaker boss Guy Whittingham must arrest as quickly as possible.

But with the overwhelming majority of paying punters showing they are fully behind the players – especially with their remarkable backing in the 2-0 defeat at Gigg Lane on Saturday – Russell insists the Blues have no reason to fear their own fans ahead of this weekend’s home clash with Doncaster Rovers.

And having been on the receiving end of the boo boys at previous clubs, he is well aware of the difference the home supporters can make.

Russell said: ‘If you prepare right, what people consider to be confidence should take care of itself.

‘The other side of the game doesn’t require confidence, which is hard work, passion, endeavour.

‘I think we need to up our levels on that side of things and we need to have the same drive our fans have shown time and time again.

‘People talk about pressure but I have played for teams where you get booed every time you touch the ball and our fans have been brilliant to us.

‘We shouldn’t be feeling that pressure.

‘But sometimes it affects people in different ways. Hopefully we can correct that situation quickly.’

It’s testament to the club’s loyal supporters that they took 806 fans to one of the less-glamorous outposts of the season in Bury and made all the noise, even though their team were clearly second best.

The total attendance of 3,280 at Gigg Lane on Saturday is the lowest crowd Pompey have played in front of in any competition this season.

And Russell, who made his return to the first team at Bury after injury, appreciates the sacrifices made by those who continue to follow the team home and away.

He said: ‘It’s a long trip for fans and wasn’t so long ago that the club was in the Premier League playing at big grounds.

‘I’ve always been a combative person and just want to get stuck in wherever I play – especially for what you would consider as an ugly away trip at Bury.

‘But everyone has their own agenda and, as much as it’s a team game, you play for different reasons.

‘Right now, I personally believe we are a little bit too nice as a team.

‘We need to get that nice tag away from us and do the ugly side of the game a bit better than what we are now.

‘As players, we don’t need to be brutes. People can be five-foot tall and have passion and fight.

‘It’s about how you work, how you focus your energies on the field and that moves you forward.

‘I think people will accept that we will have games where you don’t pass the ball as well as you can.

‘But that’s when you have to do the ugly side of the game and get out there and bully teams.’