Paul previews Portsmouth visit on Saturday
Grecians manager Paul Tisdale is looking forward to hosting Portsmouth at St James Park on Saturday, and feels the pull of the former Premier League side will be an attractive one for the St James Park faithful.
Pompey are the only side in League 2 to have played top-tier football during the Premier League era – indeed, they had eight unbroken seasons at the highest level between 2002 and 2010 – as well as having represented England in the UEFA Cup, following an FA Cup final win in 2008.
Off-field uncertainty contributed towards a downfall since then and precipitated three relegations in four seasons, meaning that Portsmouth fans have had little to cheer in the most recent seasons. However Portsmouth joined Exeter City amongst the ranks of supporters-owned clubs over the summer with the takeover of Pompey Supporters Trust, and the Fratton Park faithful have remained as vociferous as during their top-flight days.
The Grecians were close to completing a comeback in Hampshire earlier this season as it ended 3-2 to Pompey – but the overriding memory of that day was the buoyant, intense atmosphere created by home and away fans alike. Tis is hopeful that the City fans will turn out in force to recreate that special occasion – and for the Exeter side to channel that energy.
“Portsmouth are one of the more attractive teams in the league, if you look at the history of their league positions over the past ten years, and that they have won the FA Cup recently and have had lots of very good players that have played there,” he explained.
“They are a particularly vibrant football club with a big support. Not only are we playing a team that have recently won the FA Cup, we’re playing against a team that bring a large travelling support. They will be a larger draw for supporters than your average League 2 team.
“Most footballers respond to atmosphere and energy inside the ground. I believe they are bringing a good level of support and I don’t think that can harm our prospects whatsoever. The more noise inside St James Park, the better, no matter who it comes from.
“I’m expecting a large crowd, a large following from Portsmouth and a good response from my players.”
Question marks have been raised over the viability of the game taking place owing to the bad weather – but the Grecians ground staff are more than confident of keeping the pitch in good nick, and in particular after borrowing ‘the Blotter’ from Somerset CCC on Thursday.
However Tis revealed that the team have had to be creative with their training methods, owing to difficult conditions at the Cat & Fiddle.
“In terms of training, it has made it as hard as it can be,” continued Tis. “We haven’t had grass pitches to use, so we’re onto all-weather surfaces, running, and other things to try to keep the players as close to match-sharp as possible.
“It’s not easy – but it happens every year. It’s not the only time we’ve had these issues, it has happened every winter since I’ve been at the club. The Cat & Fiddle is a sticky, muddy place on the best of winters, but this winter it is particularly so.”
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