Pompey winger relishes chance to allay fitness fears
Ricky Holmes believes he is burying the fitness concerns which threatened to scupper his Pompey switch.
The recurrence of a foot injury curtailed his Barnet season in February.
It was a problem which required surgery and later held up his long-anticipated switch to Fratton Park this summer.
At one stage it looked like the move would be scrapped – before the two parties finally got it over the line.
Regardless, the winger has been an ever-present in pre-season training and – along with the majority of his team-mates – has featured for two halves in friendlies.
Tonight he will once again line up for the Blues, this time in the trip to Braintree (7.45pm) – hot on the heels of his star role against Bognor on Saturday.
It represents a third friendly for Guy Whittingham’s men this summer – and another important step for Holmes in his ongoing bid to prove his injury is behind him.
He said: ‘I have not played any football since February, which is basically no competitive games until a week ago.
‘So it is just nice to get across the line and get back over it in one piece, showing what I can do in games.
‘I think Saturday (Bognor) proved that by getting a couple of assists and a goal.
‘Hopefully I can get back to my best and show everyone what I have got.
‘Day by day the fitness is coming back, as is the sharpness.
‘I rely on a lot of sharpness being a winger and getting past my man, so the sharper I get, the better I get.
‘Where I’ve had the injury you want to hold back and make sure you get back from that – it’s pre-season, you don’t want to go gung-ho straight away.
‘The friendlies, relatively speaking, don’t mean much.
‘It’s just a fitness thing, so I wanted to gradually get myself through it.
‘The Hawks game was a tester, it was about getting through that, and Bognor was another which upped the level.
‘Then we have four games to get up to match fitness.
‘So by the time we play Rayo Vallecano at Fratton Park (Sunday, July 28), I should be 100-per-cent ready to go into the Football League.
‘But first I am looking forward to Braintree, which is another important step for me.’
Once again there will be no triallists on show tonight, with Ryan Bird again missing because of his holiday.
Whittingham will also not introduce a different XI at half-time, instead looking to give those who start just over 60 minutes.
It is designed to gradually build up the players’ match fitness and for Holmes it is the perfect preparation for the campaign ahead.
‘Next step is going up to 60 or 70 minutes – that’s when we are going to know if we are fit enough and whereabouts we are,’ he added.
‘You could probably do 45 minutes straight after a summer off being naturally fit from the season before.
‘Then it’s about building it up from there.
‘I am just happy to get through two games after my injury and prove I am fit again.’