Matt Fry looks ahead to the 2017/18 campaign.
After last seasons final day triumph it’s difficult not to be optimistic for the upcoming campaign. I think everyone’s overriding emotion is relief to be rid of League Two and away from glamour ties such as, Morecambe and Forest Green away.
But what a season, ups and downs throughout – and the greatest last day of the season since the 3-1 win at Bradford in 1998 which secured our Division 1 status.
The emotion when Jamal Lowe scored those goals at Notts County will live with me forever, and to then relive all those feelings again at Fratton Park really capsulated a fantastic season for us.
After all, that’s what football is about, memories with your mates and unwavering support against all odds, whether those odds be winning the league when we were so far adrift, or coming back from 2-0 away at Newport to win 3-2.
It’s about being there, whatever the weather, whatever the form, whether you think we’ll win or lose, you have a bond with the group of fans you stand shoulder to shoulder with, regardless if you’ve never spoken to them before, we all have a sole purpose and passion that is relatable.
Take Grimsby away as an example when Naismith bent that free-kick in on the 85th minute – I think I may have hugged and grabbed everyone within arms length as we all flooded to the front of the stand to celebrate. It’s what makes football not just a game, it brings people together and we will need even more togetherness this season.
There’s a lot to be positive about; season ticket sales have surpassed 13k, we have a proven manager at the helm for this level and with time left to spare before the start of the season I’m confident Kenny Jackett will sign players more than capable to compete, and hopefully excel at this level.
Let’s not kid ourselves though, this is a step up, the standard is going to be raised and we will need to be ready to take our wins, draws and loses on the chin, remembering the loses we sustained last season and where we ended up if we can remain positive we can achieve.
The players want our support, they need to feel they can express themselves without reprisal and we are the key enabler for that to happen. Especially as it seems this year youth may be given more of a chance then previous seasons, it’s vital we give them the freedom to learn, they may learn by making mistakes, but ultimately we need to let them make the mistakes and support them through it.
I think Jackett will sign players who can support the current framework of players we have, but most importantly improve the squad to support what is going to be another long season.
46 league games with 3 (albeit the Checkatrade shouldn’t even be considered as a viable competition) cup competitions will take its toll and currently we do need strengthening in multiple positions, but I’m confident everything is in hand.
So, I better make a prediction as to what I think the season will bring otherwise it’s not really a preview at all! Looking at the relative success of Oxford (8th) and Bristol Rovers (10th) I can see us adapting quickly, away teams at Fratton will see us as a scalp and it will be that way until we reach the Championship, but we have quality and optimism, and to a certain extent players with points to prove.
I think we will finish top 10, but there are definitely some obstacles to overcome first, the main one being a 20+ goal a season striker could push up to the play-offs but they’re easier to be asked for than found.
Personally, I would like a cup run of sorts, minimum 3rd round of the FA Cup, but that is more a nice to have than a necessity, and the league should always be our main priority which I think it will be.
So until then let’s keep crossing the days off the calendar all the way until the 5th of August when we play Rochdale at Fratton and make it an atmosphere to announce our return and start our second step in the right direction to where we all want to be.
Play Up Pompey!
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Photo: Johnny Moore