Crazy Gang spirit lives on at Pompey

A teenage Michael Appleton, centre, takes on Bursaspor during a loan spell at Wimbledon
A teenage Michael Appleton, centre, takes on Bursaspor during a loan spell at Wimbledon
Milan Lalkovic in pre-season action against the Hawks

Pompey winger set for return against Walsall

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The fighting spirit of the Crazy Gang will prove key in Pompey’s battle for survival.

Blues physio Steve Allen knows all about what can be achieved with that indomitable attitude – after spending 17 years with the famous Wimbledon side who shook up the English game in the 80s and 90s.

Allen believes the same never-say-die belief courses through his current club that Vinnie Jones, John Fashanu & Co used to such memorable effect.

The Dons shocked the football world with their against-all-odds success story built on togetherness and unity.

Now, Allen wants to see Pompey use the same grit and all-for-one philosophy they possess with the club once again battling for their lives.

He said: ‘This is a fantastic club. I’d like to think I’m a fit person to judge that after being at a number of clubs.

‘This club compares so much to the spirit at Wimbledon for me.

‘The unity is what drives it forward and that can take you anywhere. It really can.

‘Wimbledon had nothing. There was no stadium or assets but they stayed at the top for so long.

‘There had to be something special there. There’s similarities between the people there and here.

‘The people at Wimbledon loved the club and would do anything for it. It’s the same here.

‘When I see the passion of the fans against Southampton, it’s unbelievable.

‘That game was incredible. I haven’t experienced anything like that in 25 years of professional football.

‘There’s that passion and the community spirit around the club.

‘That’s something we have to hold on to.

‘They are important values and can carry this club a long way.’

Allen is now a year-and-a-half into his role as Pompey’s head of sports performance – the latest stop off in a career which has taken him from the Dons to Crystal Palace, Cardiff, West Ham and Charlton before Fratton Park.

It has taken him little time to build an affinity with the Blues – one which has kept him at the club in the face of Premier League and, more recently, Championship interest for his services.

Allen has stayed put, however, and believes – despite the current dark days – Pompey can ride out the storm.

He said: ‘The people here showed their loyalty to me and now I want to show that loyalty back.

‘It’s easy to run away when the club is going through difficult times.

‘Whoever buys this club will be in a fortunate position because this is a wonderful club with something special about it.

‘The people who are a part of the club and attached to it, care so much about it.

‘That came to light at a staff meeting before Christmas, when we all got together after the bad news about the club and the previous owners had come out.

‘I was humbled listening to these people and how passionate they were.

‘I came away thinking about how much these people care. It did a lot for me.

‘The people are special here. Guy Whittingham, Kev the Kitman, Barry Harris, Chris Neville, Colin Clement and the people in the office.

‘They are the soul and heartbeat of the club. They support the club and have a passion for it.

‘It’s a special, special club. There’s something there to drive the club forward.

‘David Lampitt and John Redgate have steered the club through a lot of choppy water. They understand the workings of the club and are trying to do the right thing. They are decent people.

‘There are rounds pegs being put in round holes. There’s everything there to kick on. There needs to be stability now to enable the club to move forward.

‘If there is that and some finance in place in the team, too, we can do it.

‘With the right investment and nurturing we can go on.’

Allen believes Pompey have the right man at the helm in Michael Appleton to carry the club forward in tough times.

And he is capable of engendering the Wimbledon spirit Allen knows all about.

Appleton’s football education owes much to Manchester United’s culture club, after learning his trade at Old Trafford.

But the Blues manager also tasted life with the Crazy Gang in a loan spell early in his career – where the pair’s paths crossed.

‘There’s a funny link actually with the manager and me,’ said Allen, as he remembered meeting Appleton.

‘We did well one season at Wimbledon and the next season were entered into the Intertoto Cup.

‘We decided not to enter our big boys for that, though. We largely had a reserve team going into those four games.

‘So we went and got four players on loan. Three of them came from Manchester United and one was Michael Appleton.

‘He came to Wimbledon as an 18-year-old and played in Belgium, Slovakia and at home at Brighton’s Goldstone Ground to a Turkish and a Czech side.

‘I remembered him as a young player and he remembered me as a physio.

‘He was high energy, he worked hard, got around the pitch, was good with the ball and kept the ball.

‘I could see the makings of him now, what he wants and what he expects in the way he played the game.

‘I think he’s taken those playing traits into his management and will do well for Pompey with them.’