Claridge’s Pompey afternoon to savour

Steve Claridge salutes the Pompey fans. Picture: Colin Farmery
Steve Claridge salutes the Pompey fans. Picture: Colin Farmery
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett, right. Picture: Shaun Boggust

Pompey boss sees cause for attacking optimism

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Steve Claridge rolled back the years against the club where he resides in the Hall of Fame.

And the 51-year-old admitted he savoured every second of those 82 minutes.

With 10 Salisbury players out of Saturday’s Pompey encounter through either injury or holidays, their manager dragged himself out of retirement to act as a striking stand-in.

There were no goal-scoring opportunities, yet Claridge still displayed touches of class, while drew fouls out of Matt Clarke and Jez Bedford on occasions.

With daughters Grace, aged nine, and Molly, aged seven, watching their dad in action for the first time, it was an afternoon to treasure for the ex-Blues boss.

It may have ended in a 3-0 defeat through second-half goals from Milan Lalkovic, Tom Davies and Ben Close.

But Claridge was delighted with how he and his team fared against the club where he made 124 appearances and scored 37 times before leaving in July 2001.

He said: ‘I’m half-a-stone overweight and could have done with a bit more notice but the match was probably played at my pace!

‘Playing in that heat I was frazzled, burning alive.

‘I am not great in the sun, I don’t actually go in the sun, so that was a tough one.

‘But we had 10 players missing – big players for us.

‘I can still run and just didn’t want us to get embarrassed.

‘It’s a difficult role to play up there when you haven’t got the ball and I know positionally what to do.

‘I was really pleased with how we did.

‘The first-half team was the best we could have fielded under the circumstances and that was fine. I thought we did all right.

‘In the second half I didn’t expect anything, they were triallists, it was a case of seeing who’s who, while a couple of people were coming back.

‘It was the first time my daughters have ever been to a football game and the first time they have seen me play. I don’t think they like football!

‘That meant everything to me. It’s a lovely legacy for them to see me play. I don’t know whether they would have taken any notice, though!

‘The Pompey fans gave me a wonderful reception. It was an honour to play for the club and an honour to play in front of them on Saturday.’

So does retirement once more beckon for the striker almost 33 years older than Pompey’s Bedford?

He added: ‘The fact we were playing Pompey was purely coincidental, although I’d like to finish on that one.

‘Whether I do or not I don’t know. We are still one forward short so I’ll have to see if I still keep my hand in.’