Tough pre-season tests are seeing spirit formed

Andy Barcham is tackled by former Pompey player Richard Hughes during Tuesday's night's friendly defeat at the Goldsands
Andy Barcham is tackled by former Pompey player Richard Hughes during Tuesday's night's friendly defeat at the Goldsands

The pre-season fixtures have progressed from non-league opposition to high-calibre tests.

Hawks, Bognor and Braintree have become Charlton and Bournemouth – and soon to be Rayo Vallecano.

The results are meaningless but the wins and draws have been replaced by defeats.

And what is also significant is the amount of time Pompey have spent without the football.

Andy Barcham believes being tested by higher-league opponents is allowing the Blues to answer questions that weren’t being posed in their opening games.

Work on team shape and formations is being sharpened and relationships with team-mates are being honed.

Barcham feels that is allowing a sense of spirit and togetherness to form among Guy Whittingham’s new-look side.

He said: ‘We are going to have to work together this season.

‘So when you put in good performances and work hard it helps morale and team spirit.

‘The boys are getting around each other.

‘Everyone likes to do the pretty stuff and go forward where you get your goals and reward.

‘But it’s the gritty part of the game that can be difficult, especially against a team who can pass the ball. It’s important.

‘All over the pitch there are these little relationships we have to work on.

‘That will come the more we play together. We have a small squad here so we have to build those relationships up quite quickly.’

The homework on Sunday’s Spanish opponents has unearthed the inevitable information – Rayo pass the ball for fun.

A visit to Pompey’s training camp from Real Sociedad’s representatives saw Whittingham tap up the Spaniards for their knowledge.

The feedback was they are fearless in their determination to keep the ball – and pretty good at it, too, judging by their eighth-placed La Liga finish last season.

Barcham said: ‘Now we have the Spanish side, which is another one to look forward to. They are a fantastic side, we know that.

‘The way they play means we know they will have a lot of possession.

‘It’s going to be similar to Bournemouth in that sense.

‘I thought we held our own in there, though, against a good side.

‘Sunday is a game where we can work on our shape, though, and hopefully also impose a threat on them.’

Barcham got his first 90 minutes of pre-season under his belt against the Cherries on Tuesday night.

He feels he is closing in on where he needs to be come a week Saturday in the League Two opener against Oxford.

‘I have the base fitness but now need to work on that sharpness and match fitness,’ said Barcham.

‘No matter how much running you do, you can only get that from playing games.

‘When the 90 minutes are under our belt, that’s when we’ll start to really pick the sharpness up.

‘Pre-season is never nice. It’s about the hard graft – you have to put it in.

‘The season is creeping up fast and the weather is making it difficult.

‘But it could be that way come the start of the season so we have to be used to it.

‘It will be minutes under the belt on Sunday ahead of the season and we are playing a team who like to get on the ball.

‘These teams we are playing have been able to move the ball quickly.

‘They are huge tests but will only hold us in good stead for the season.’