Thank you for joining us here at Fratton Park for this afternoon’s Sky Bet League One fixture against Carlisle United. A very warm welcome to our visitors, who despite a 706-mile round-trip, will turn out in fantastic numbers. The supporter coaches set off from Cumbria at 5.30am and we wish everyone who has made the journey a safe trip home.
Our winning league run continued a fortnight ago with a 2-0 victory over Port Vale, which was then followed up by an excellent 5-1 success against Gillingham in the EFL Trophy. A strong start to the campaign has certainly put smiles on faces. However, all of us here are clear that it is just that – ‘a start’. We are only in October and there is such a long way to go with plenty to improve on, so it is vital that we all keep our feet firmly on the ground. There has been more than one occasion when we have conceded first, but you have been brilliant in responding by getting firmly behind the players, providing them with the belief and the confidence to take points from every match. Togetherness throughout the club will be critical throughout the season.
Our congratulations go to John Mousinho, who was awarded the League One Manager of the Month award and was naturally quick to acknowledge the part played by all his staff and players. Elsewhere, we were delighted for Regan Poole, who picked up his first senior cap for Wales in a 4-0 triumph over Gibraltar and to Terry Devlin, who added to his tally of Northern Ireland under-21 appearances.
All of this happened in a seven-day spell which also saw academy midfielder Mitch Aston make his first Pompey appearance against Gillingham. We are thrilled for both him and his family, as well as all those in the academy who can celebrate another debut this season after Koby Mottoh featured at Forest Green back in August.
The game against Port Vale saw the first gathering of the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference this season and the international break also presented the opportunity for me to answer a wide variety of supporter questions in a club video update. This content is still available on our YouTube page. Both forums enabled me to outline an indication of the next set of milestones towards the completion of the Milton End. Everyone can see the progress that has been made between matches on what has been the most complicated phase of the stadium redevelopment programme.
We are working towards the Milton End being able to accommodate 2,000 Charlton fans for the match here on November 11 and both entrances will be in operation. This will very much act as a trial event before we can start to further increase capacity. A new footpath linking the rear of the North Stand to the public footpath outside the club shop will be in place for that fixture.
We will then look to open the new safety control room for the Blackpool game and a small amount of home fans should – subject to approval from the safety authorities – be able to start using the Milton End from that date. The new lift to service accessible seats and wheelchair spaces in both the North Stand and Milton End will be installed in early November and we hope this will be fully operational by early December.
We then want to accommodate more home fans in the Milton End for the Bolton fixture in December. In January 2024, we would fully expect to see the stand used to its full potential. We are really grateful to PMC, our main stadium contractors, and everyone who has worked with them to deliver the complete stadium project on time and to budget.
I am sure so many of you here today will want to join us in sending condolences to the family of Pete Blackman. He was very involved with the club over many years and supported the 125th anniversary campaign, developing with others the curation of a photography exhibition. He was a much-loved member of the Pompey family and we are pleased to include some of Pete’s work in this afternoon’s programme.
Today also sees us promote the Rainbow Laces initiative, showing our support for LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport. It forms part of our backing of the EFL’s ‘Together’ campaign, which tackles all forms of discrimination in the game. We are committed towards ensuring that Fratton Park is a welcoming place for all members of our community.
After today we have four consecutive games on the road. First up we go to Cambridge United on Tuesday and then Reading next Saturday. We then enter FA Cup action, with a televised trip to Chesterfield on Sunday, November 5, while the following Tuesday sees us play our final EFL Trophy group match at Leyton Orient. I know we will be well backed at all four fixtures and am once again grateful for everyone’s support.
Finally, the thoughts of everyone at the club are with the innocent victims of the devastating attacks in Israel and Palestine, along with their families and friends, and all the communities that are affected by current events. The EFL are backing the British Red Cross appeal to support the international response efforts aiding those in urgent need across the region. Anyone wishing to donate can do so here.
Thank you very much for your attendance today and enjoy the game. PUP!