Thank you for being with us tonight for our Sky Bet League One fixture with Ipswich Town.
We very much hope that supporters from both teams have had an enjoyable Christmas and are looking forward to the rest of the holiday break. The sides have already met twice at Portman Road this season, with Ipswich coming out on top by the odd goal in five in an entertaining league game in October before our 2-0 victory in the second round of the Papa Johns Trophy the following month.
Town come here on the back of a resounding home win over Oxford on Boxing Day, while we took a point in Devon at Exeter. It was a match that saw a number of our players affected by a virus that swept through the training ground last week. Despite those circumstances and with some on the pitch still feeling the effects, we saw a committed and hardworking performance and felt unlucky that we were not able to take all three points, due in part to an inspired performance from Grecians goalkeeper Jamal Blackman.
While any point on the road is welcome, we all remain disappointed and share the frustration of many supporters with the recent run of results, which followed such a positive nine-game unbeaten league start to the season, following on the back of what many saw as a positive summer transfer window. The collective goal, from board to players, is that we should at the very least be competing for a play-off place this season, within our overriding ambition to deliver a sustainable and inclusive football club capable of playing at the highest level.
This vision is precisely why a good number of us have been attracted to Pompey in the past two years. Promotion is our immediate goal, but we want to achieve success beyond that through everyone, wherever they work in the club, creating the conditions for sustained success. We recognise that we do hold games in hand and have every confidence in this talented group of players, many with vast experience. We share their belief that we can quickly get back on track and challenge for the play-off positions, where we all expect to be. There is still more than half the season to play – with eight games between now and the end of January – and while this evening’s test is a tough one, a determined and passionate performance will do much towards restoring belief amongst everyone watching, both inside the stadium and on iFollow.
Christmas, of course, does not pause for football. The team trained at Fratton Park in the afternoon of Christmas Day before setting off on the three-hour-plus trip to Exeter. I am grateful to several members of staff from our security team, ground staff and kit team who made themselves available, both prior to and after the training session. Nothing can be achieved without a strong collective spirit of togetherness and we have that in abundance among our backroom and support staff at Portsmouth Football Club.
That togetherness is a trait that also extended to the 1,143 of you who interrupted the festivities to make the 260-mile round trip to Devon on Boxing Day, delivering support and encouragement throughout the entire afternoon. We are extremely grateful to all who made the journey, especially given the additional expense that 8,880 fans have committed in purchasing tickets for next week’s FA Cup tie at Tottenham at what is an expensive time of year. Thank you to you all.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to be filmed answering questions from supporters on a variety of subjects, both on and off the pitch. I was also interviewed by Neil Allen from The Portsmouth News on a number of similar topics. I hope that those who managed to see and read it found everything helpful.
One of the matters that created a deal of interest was our aspiration to continue to explore potential sites that might become available to enhance our training facilities at Hilsea, both for the first team and academy. In addition to our training ground, the academy currently use a further six sites for training and the games programme, which is far from ideal. My personal recommendation is that any site under consideration or that might become available to purchase should not only reflect fair value in price, but also any investment must be future proofed against anything we might want to do in the future.
While some potential sites could ameliorate our current requirements, should the club at some point wish to upgrade the academy to category two or higher, then under the currently revised 2022 Youth Development Rules, it is a requirement for a category one or two academy’s ‘principal venue’ to house an artificial pitch, indoor pitch and several other facilities, including offices. Exceptions on 3G and indoor pitches are made for existing category two clubs until they are ready to develop a new facility. Then the rules state that such a development should be at the principal venue. The club and the board continue to appraise any opportunity against these criteria, all within our overall capital investment programme to improve and take the club forward.
We are back at Fratton Park on New Year’s Day for another high-profile fixture against Charlton. We hope to see you many of you back here and we are all determined to reward your passion and commitment by starting 2023 in the best possible way.
Thank you once again for your attendance today. Enjoy the game and PUP!