Farewell Pompey’s son who served with dignity and integrity

Chairman Iain McInnes at the centre of the Pompey celebrations after promotion from League Two was confirmed following victory against Notts County at Meadow Lane
Chairman Iain McInnes at the centre of the Pompey celebrations after promotion from League Two was confirmed following victory against Notts County at Meadow Lane
Dion Donohue. Picture: Colin Farmery

New boy’s bitter-sweet Pompey experience

19
Have your say

During the cascade of testimonies, one particular entry captured the attention.

‘Mad as a box of frogs…...but he’s our box of frogs, thank you,’ tweeted Vern Rickman.

Never one for convention, Iain McInnes blurted out his resignation intention on the Meadow Lane balcony.

Amid the beer droplets and smothering embraces during that memorable promotion aftermath, Pompey’s chairman declared his innings.

The Fratton Park hierarchy were stunned at a reveal they expected to be declared in public at the season’s end.

Paul Cook, the man with whom he possesses such a close bond, shook his head with disappointment at the timing.

Yet McInnes is a passionate character, his honesty unconstrained and emotion unruly.

Swept away with the promotion fervour, he delivered his announcement to The News after locking me in an embrace and planting several hirsute kisses on my cheek.

The manner of his departure may be criticised, yet was wonderfully fitting in perfect Iain McInnes fashion.

After little more than four years at the Fratton Park helm, today’s potentially League Two title-defining fixture represents the end of an era.

Irrespective of Michael Eisner’s takeover outcome, McInnes has opted to depart on a high, to disembark at the top.

And knowing the Paulsgrove lad come good, there will be tears, hugs and the insistence people drink with him until the early hours.

Upon his installation to the role in April 2013, following the High Court triumph, McInnes became Pompey’s first owner or chairman to speak to The News for seven years, three months and 14 days.

Sacha Gaydamak was the previous to kindly honour us with his words, albeit on the occasion of his January 2006 coronation.

For what they were worth, his utterances included repeated statements about his dad’s money not being employed to bankroll the club and that Arthur Conan Doyle once played in goal for the Blues.

With accuracy like that, perhaps, in fairness, he was better staying silent and remaining in the shadows.

Even when Jim Rosenthal hosted the launch of Pompey’s water boatman-skimming stadium fantasy at Gaydamak’s favourite London hotel in April 2007, the owner snubbed the media.

Still, this is McInnes’ show, and during his tenure he has not refused an opportunity to communicate with supporters through the press or in person.

What’s more, he has never told me a lie nor attempted an elaboration in pursuit of triumphing in political games.

As straight as they come, the electronics industry businessman represents an approach completely out of sync with the Blues’ boardroom predecessors.

Perhaps that is the finest tribute that can be levelled at McInnes – his raw honesty.

Granted, he can be outspoken. Admittedly, he relishes basking in the limelight. No doubt he can be clumsily inappropriate with his sentences.

There may well be tuts and disapproving glances when he leaps to his feet in the home directors’ box to conduct the Fratton faithful in a song rendition or urge a rising of volume levels.

But never can the integrity of a man involved in saving the football club he adores be questioned by those without agenda.

During an era when the club required strong leadership to nurture it back to ruddy-cheeked health, they possessed the perfect figurehead.

Charismatic, sociable, accessible and a Pompey fan – McInnes has fulfilled the criteria magnificently.

Certainly, there’s no escaping that larger-than-life presence in this city, irrespective of his football links.

My next-door neighbour went to school with him, while the man recently inhabiting the bed opposite my dad following hip surgery is married to McInnes’ cousin.

Most have a story to impart about a character instantly recognisable and lingeringly memorable.

For some, the abiding image of McInnes is holding court into the early hours at various team hotels during pre-season, comprehensively fulfilling the bar bill.

Others can recall with a smile the time he dismissed Andy Awford and then sat round a table with the local media before bluntly asking them in turn for a yes/no response on whether he was correct.

Then there was the admirable rallying cry outside Home Park following last season’s play-off defeat when all others were too choked to speak.

Typical McInnes, he began by joking about a nearby Plymouth fan bearing a resemblance to Max Wall – before demonstrating true leadership with his uplifting public address.

Yet there have also been tough times on the Blues frontline.

Such was his pivotal presence in the battle to save the club, he was perceived as the chief protagonist.

McInnes tells the tale of how his Warsash home was twice broken into during that period, once while asleep upstairs with his wife, the ever-patient Jane.

On each occasion nothing was taken, yet tell-tale signs of windows and doors left open provided a chilling narrative.

He also received an anonymous phone call with the perpetrator relaying he knew what university his daughter, Georgie, attended.

Such is his stubbornness, it is only now he is stepping away from the lofty position he volunteered for. And entirely on his terms.

As a man and chairman, McInnes has served this city with dignity and integrity.

And just like the iconic photograph, he truly is ‘Ours’.