When Terry Fenwick became Pompey manager in 1995, he was after a marquee signing who could elevate his side into the first division play-off picture and, in turn, the lofty heights of the Premier League.
Winger Jimmy Carter was a man who fitted his criteria, having played in the top-flight for Millwall, Liverpool and Arsenal, before becoming a free agent when the latter decided not to extend a three-and-a-half year Highbury stay.
With his impressive pedigree, Carter was a sought-after commodity.
But ambitious Fenwick, who was new to football management, talked the talk to beat several other clubs to the 29-year-old’s summer signature.
Unfortunately, though, the 1995-96 season didn’t exactly begin as either Fenwick or Carter had hoped with the Blues instead fighting a relegation battle that went down to the wire.
Carter said: ‘There were a few clubs that came in for me in the summer of 1995.
‘To be fair, I went up to Birmingham and spoke to Barry Fry and a couple of other clubs as well but as soon as I sat down with Terry Fenwick, he made it clear he wanted me to be his first permanent signing.
‘Pompey were a sleeping giant in many ways and their amazing, passionate support, as well as the manager’s confidence attracted me to the club.
‘It was a no-brainer and looking at the players at the club I thought we could do some good things.’
Things didn’t quite turn out as expected for Carter and Co, though, with the winger quick to admit he had underestimated the difficulty of the division and, consequently, fallen below his own high standards on the pitch.
He said: ‘I thought it would be a walk in the park coming from bigger clubs but that proved to be a misconception.
‘A quarter of the way through the season I had to go back to the drawing board, rethink what I was doing and how I could lift my performances on the pitch.
‘I was left out of the team on a few occasions but when I came back, the manager put me into the centre of midfield – a position I’d never played in before.
‘He brought Martin Allen in to add a bit of steel in there, which he certainly did.
‘Martin would go and win the tackles and give me the ball and I would be given license to be creative.
‘We had some good games together but then went on a bit of downward spiral and ended up in the bottom three.’
Failure to beat Ipswich in the Blues’ last home game of the campaign set up an end-of-season do-or-die finale in which Fenwick’s strugglers had to win at Huddersfield and hope for results elsewhere to go their way.
A hard-fought 1-0 success with Carter’s headed assist coolly despatched by teenage marksman Deon Burton, proved enough to ensure the Blues’ survival on a memorable afternoon at the McAlpine Stadium.
Carter’s former employers Millwall were the team to go down.
He said: ‘It (Huddersfield) was probably one of the most memorable games I have ever played in.
‘The boys were right up for it – we knew what it meant for us to stay up and took loads of supporters up with us.
‘Deon got the goal with a great composed finish from my assist in the first half and probably could have got a couple more.
‘But in the last 10 minutes, our goal came under absolute siege.
‘When the final whistle went it was just unbelievable, like we had won the FA Cup.
‘All the players were getting held aloft – my shirt went straight away and to be fair I think I was left in just my boxer shorts!
‘I think Terry must have pre-empted our survival because when we got back in the changing room the champagne was flowing and there were loads of beers put on the coach, which became a party bus on the way home!
‘It was an up-and-down season but it turned out to be quite memorable in the end.’
Up and down is a phrase that could be used to define Carter’s three-year stay at the Blues.
The following season, Fenwick’s rejuvenated side missed out on a play-off place by just three points.
Carter, though, had fallen out of favour with the man who brought him to the club, before a memorable match-winning cameo against Grimsby towards the season’s end.
Injuries and suspensions allowed the frustrated 31-year-old in from the cold for a first start in 23 matches and he responded by scoring the game’s only goal before lifting his shirt to reveal a message for the Fratton faithful: ‘I’m back’.
Carter said: ‘Terry had left me out of the side for a while but I felt I was playing well enough to be in the side and was frustrated not to be involved.
‘When I was told I was going to play, I went out the day before on a Friday and got my t-shirt done because I knew my shirt was coming off if I scored.
‘They (Grimsby) set their stall out to keep it tight but in the second half, Paul Hall fed me and I went on a run into the box as players backed off me, before switching it onto my left foot and smashing it into the back of the net.
‘The shirt came off and I remember Mathias Svensson and the other boys coming up to me with a look of surprise.
‘I gave that particular top to one of the young kids coming off down the tunnel so I think a Pompey supporter has still got that somewhere!’
Having challenged at either end of the table in his first two seasons at the club, it was a case of third-time unlucky for Carter as injuries hampered his fight for selection under new boss Alan Ball.
Ball had replaced Fenwick midway through the campaign with the underachieving Blues fighting another relegation battle.
On the pitch, as in his maiden campaign at the club, Pompey required another memorable final-day win to preserve their second-tier status.
This time, though, Carter was unable to play his part and the London-based attacker accepted his eventful Blues spell was at an end, having failed to reclaim a starting place under Ball.
He said: ‘When Alan Ball came in I had a lot of injuries and wasn’t playing a great deal, so again it was a frustrating time for me at the club.
‘That season we were in trouble again and had to go to Bradford to win and stay up.
‘The boys did well to get the result (a 3-1 win) but I didn’t play in that game and knew my time was up.’
With old club Millwall able to offer the then 32-year-old an opportunity to see out his career close to his London base where he had been commuting to the south coast from, Carter made the decision to return to the Den – with a heavy heart.
He said: ‘I absolutely loved my time at Pompey, I have to say.
‘I was disappointed to leave the friends I had made at the club but my career had to carry on – at that time I was 32.
‘I had been commuting to Pompey from London anyway so going back to Millwall also meant a return close to home.’
Carter, who played 77 times for Pompey, scoring six goals, is now enjoying life as a property developer.
The 49-year-old is also involved with two of his former clubs – doing media work with Arsenal TV and also matchday hospitality for Millwall.
JIMMY CARTER ON...
Jimmy Carter showed glimpses of his top-flight quality in a four-year spell at Pompey in the old first division.
His finest moment in a Blues shirt, however, came at Wolves’ Molineux Stadium in a 2-2 draw in December 1996.
It was around Christmas time and there were hardly any other games on in the division but Wolves had the under-soil heating.
We were 2-0 down at half-time and getting battered by them.
The snow was coming down heavily and we were playing with the orange ball but I just smashed it from 35 yards and it went right into the top corner.
I think if they had had two keepers in there they wouldn’t have saved it!
Deon (Burton) then grabbed us a point.
...CURRYING FAVOUR WITH TEAM-MATES
My nickname at Pompey was ‘Bhuna’.
Simply put, I love a curry and the lads quickly picked up on that!
We had a great togetherness at the club.
If we got beat, sometimes we would all go out and have a beer and a curry and dig a few people out – all in the right spirit.
I think that honesty was healthy for us.
I have been fortunate to play with many good players in my career.
But at Pompey I played with one of the very best, although he was at the end of his career.
Paul Walsh gave everyone a huge lift when he returned to Pompey and by all accounts the three years he played before at the club with Guy Whittingham, he was even better.