Fratton sign of the times for Pompey boss

The repositioned Fortress Fratton sign. Picture: Joe Pepler
The repositioned Fortress Fratton sign. Picture: Joe Pepler

Fortress Fratton is no more for opposition players – a sign of the times under Andy Awford.

It seems the summer clear-out has not been restricted to the playing squad but also deep within the famous old ground.

Gone are portraits depicting the 2008 FA Cup final triumph and Asia Trophy success which stretched along the length of the corridor outside the dressing rooms.

Meanwhile, the away changing area – halved in size last year – has been given a new coat of paint. Grey.

Then there is the ‘Fortress Fratton’ sign strategically positioned outside the visiting dressing room for them to glimpse along the journey through the tunnel and onto the Fratton Park turf.

Well, it is now located in front of the home changing area.

The revamp represents Awford’s drive to ease the psychological pressure on his own players – and make life far more uncomfortable for opposition teams.

A case of every little gain can benefit Pompey in the campaign ahead.

Awford said: ‘The corridor from the home team dressing room to the tunnel was full of memorabilia of the glory days of winning the FA Cup.

‘It’s brilliant, it’s our history but I just felt that could psychologically be a hindrance to our own players.

‘We are not a Premier League or Championship club, we are where we are and I felt it was a bit much for our players to see every day.

‘And let’s not forget they are there every day to change for training and then on a match day.

‘So I had them all taken down with the wall instead painted blue and white.

‘There was also a particular sign when you came out of the away dressing room which said ‘Fortress Fratton’ – if that doesn’t get away teams going then nothing will.

‘So I have moved that. It’s just a blank white wall now when you come out of that away dressing room.

‘A couple of opposition teams when they beat us last year etched their names into it as if to say “so much for Fortress Fratton, we have beat you”.

‘If it helps to remove it then do it. Hopefully that will be of benefit to us.

‘Clubs were coming down here to Pompey, their big day out, 18,000 people, big changing room, it was lovely.

‘Then they see the sign and then they go out and there’s the roar. They are going to be revved up.

‘No wonder they were up for it a bit more than they should have been.

‘So we have tried to play it down and make it a normal day for the away teams rather than it being a great, big event.’

Pompey’s season kicks off at Exeter on Saturday.

That is followed by three successive home fixtures, starting with the visit of Peterborough in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night.

An opportunity then for opposition teams to experience the new-look Fratton Park decor for the very first time.

Awford added: ‘I take a huge amount of interest on the psychological bit.

‘The psychological effect of being a professional footballer is huge and you have to pay attention to that.

‘Anything I can do to help our players psychologically I will do and the one thing I learnt off Harry Redknapp was players have got to be 10ft tall when they walk onto that pitch.

‘It is a confidence one. If they aren’t confident when they go out there, you won’t win.

‘You could have the 11 best players in the world but you won’t win if they aren’t confident. You have got to be right mentally.

‘And if we win the league we’ll put all the pictures of us up!’