By Jordan Draper
Although we’ve probably got bigger things to worry about over the next two weeks and so on, Pompey’s two losses during the pre-season tour of Spain is slightly worrying.
Pompey’s Spanish pre-season tour started and ended in similar fashion with a disappointing 4-0 defeat to the Gibraltar national side followed by a 5-1 drubbing by South-Coast neighbours, Brighton & Hove Albion.
However, I for one wont be reading too much into the score lines and prefer to remain hopeful that Appleton’s makeshift team are beginning to form some sort of an understanding between each other.
The two teams Appleton has opted to field against the two opponents did not feature a single senior professional who played for the team last year and instead consisted of 14 trialists and seven Pompey youngsters; two of which only made their debuts for the club last year. Alarm bells would ring out for any football manager but not Michael Appleton, this man prefers to stay cool, calm and collected; another of his admirable managerial characteristics and why there is still something to be proud of at Portsmouth FC.
Honestly, I’d expected a better result against Gibraltar, especially against a side whose players are nowhere near as fit as the professionals in Portsmouth’s squad. However, after reading Appleton’s post-match opinions, hearing the state of the pitch and having considered the fact that the team has only been playing for a matter of days, the result became somewhat irrelevant.
Appleton told The News: “I have got to admit, I wouldn’t have liked to have played on that surface myself.
“The ball bobbled a mile and it was almost like playing on a dirt track, but they had to play on the same pitch as well.”
The pitch was 3G, something plenty of the players had never experienced before and the Gibraltan side had been used to but regardless of the plenty excuses, at the end of the day pre-season’s aren’t won and played in Leagues and most definitely do not reflect what lies ahead in the domestic campaign…we hope.
The latest of games to be played was against touring South-Coast neighbours Brighton, although this game I’d approached with more pessimism and rightly so. A 5-1 score-line could be described as a drubbing, although peeking at the articles and match reports The News & Portsmouth FC produced, it sounded a bit harsh on the team that sounded relatively impressive. (Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to fly out on the Pompey Pages’ budget)
On a positive note, I was delighted for trialist Liam Walker who made his debut in the Pompey side and I was happy to hear Appleton’s decision to extend his trial and take him back to Fratton Park, meaning his dream of playing professional football remains very much intact. Furthermore, it was encouraging to see Dan Thompson grab a goal; hopefully he’ll be another young player hoping to break into the first team next season and grab a couple of poachers goals.
Appleton said to The News: “I feel sorry for our lads, the score line flatters Brighton a little bit. I actually felt we passed the ball quite well at times.
“Although, the game did get a little bit disjointed in the last 25-minutes or so because everyone made so many changes. I think they are getting an understanding of what I am about and what we want from them and it is a big learning curve.”
As proved thus far, Appleton seems to know what he’s doing, so I’m confident in his ability to string together a relatively competitive side for next season. Pre-season is the time for fitness and togetherness not looking at the strength of the opponents and after all, it should be easy playing against the likes of Shrewsbury Town and Bury next season, right?