It’s time the county side returned to this city

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Portsmouth is a football city; there’s no doubt about that. From the large crowds that have stuck with Pompey even in League Two, down to the thriving parks and youth soccer scene, we know where the heart of this city lies.

But just because football is the pre-eminent sport doesn’t mean that there is no interest in anything else. Take a closer look and you’ll see City of Portsmouth Athletics, Heart of Portsmouth Boxing, Portsmouth Northsea Swimming and plenty of other clubs with excellent reputations, all of which are testament to a thirst for sport and competition.

And that is why we are firmly in favour of county cricket returning to Portsmouth after an almost two-decade absence.

We’re not saying, of course, that we expect Hampshire to be based in Portsmouth, nor even to play its higher-profile games here. The Ageas Bowl is one of the country’s top cricketing arenas, and will stay that way.

But why not start to arrange exhibition matches, and then, if they go well, look at the odd county tie? Many other county sides tour their respective counties, and for years Hampshire was no different.

We know there is a hunger for cricket in the area, as local clubs such as Hilsea are growing. Hosting the county side would only help that growth – and surely that should be part of Hampshire’s broader remit?

And in terms of the excitement it could bring, you only have to look at the response from our readers when we dropped the idea on to Facebook yesterday afternoon.

There were plenty of reminiscences of Gordon Greenidge, Ian Botham, Viv Richards and other household names... and what a coup it would be if we could begin to give today’s youngsters similar enduring memories.

Yes, there’s plenty to be done before it happens, and we don’t want preferential treatment; games should only be staged here if the pitch and the facilities pass muster. But let’s hope the cricket club does its best to make this happen.