Thank you for attending this afternoon’s Sky Bet League One fixture with Fleetwood Town and a special welcome to everyone who is making the 600-mile round-trip from Lancashire.
The Cod Army arrive here on the back of a midweek win at Burton and with only two league defeats from 11 games this season, we are all set up for both a competitive and compelling afternoon of football.
Our own unbeaten record finally came to an end in front of a packed crowd at Portman Road last Saturday. In a game that once again brilliantly showcased the very best of this division, there was tangible disappointment that we were unable to at least take a point, having twice come back to equalise.
Confidence remains high, though, and we were able to recover momentum with an excellent midweek performance and a convincing 5-0 victory over Aston Villa U21s in the Papa Johns Trophy. The match created special moments for academy scholars Harvey Laidlaw and Brian Quarm, who both made their senior bows, as well as for goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi, who made his first home appearance. Harvey – at 16 years, eight months and 12 days – became the joint fourth youngest post-war Pompey debutant and follows in the Fratton Park footsteps of his late grandfather Joe Laidlaw, who skippered the club to promotion in the 1979/80 season. It will have been a special and proud moment for all the debutants and their families, many of whom were in attendance.
There will be an opportunity to see more of our academy talent in action on Tuesday evening, when a young Pompey side will take on Southampton B here at Fratton Park in the second round of the Hampshire Senior Cup. Kick-off is at the earlier time of 7.30pm and tickets can be purchased online or from the ticket office.
Since our last home league match, we were able to announce the appointment of our first sporting director, Richard Hughes, who will join us later this month. Richard has a fine successful track record, identifying and recruiting young emerging talent who have gone to have good professional careers, but he also possesses expertise in a number of other areas of football operations. The role will be crucial towards driving our long-term football strategy, while helping us to align all the different aspects of our football operations, supporting Danny Cowley, Greg Miller, myself and, indeed, all the first team and academy staff, as we continually seek to create the conditions to deliver long-term success for the club. I do believe this particular piece of recruitment is a significant and progressive move for the club and we are hugely looking forward to Richard coming on board.
Off the pitch, we continue to look at the many different ways we can improve everything for our supporters. On Wednesday we will host the next meeting of the matchday experience working group, which will provide an opportunity to review the changes made since the start of the season, especially in the refurbished North Lower and South Stands, as well as the new fanzone outside the Victory Bar.
We met with representatives from some of our supporter groups last Wednesday to review the away ticketing scheme which has been in place for a few years now. We have, in recent weeks, been made aware of some issues that have occurred this season, most notably with regard to the allocation of loyalty points and then the transfer of tickets between supporters, particularly for fixtures where our allocations have been limited. We want to have a system in place that all fans can believe is both transparent and fair, giving priority status to those who regularly travel away with the club. The feedback and ideas that have been discussed with a broad range of travelling supporters will be hugely helpful towards improving the scheme and establishing confidence that a fair system operates for everyone when it comes to distributing limited ticket allocations.
Our next league opponents will be Charlton in a fixture which takes place at The Valley, in front of the Sky Sports cameras, on Monday, October 17. We then travel again the following Saturday to Forest Green for what will be a new ground and experience for many of our supporters.
Thank you very much for your support today and we look forward to seeing you back here for two successive home fixtures on Tuesday, October 25 against Oxford and then on Saturday, October 29 against Shrewsbury.
Enjoy the game and PUP!