Pompey players join greatest of all promotion parties

Pompey players, centre, from left, Enda Stevens, Gareth Evans and Christian Burgess, get into the party spirit at Fratton Park following the 3-1 victory at Notts County on Monday that clinched promotion to League One
Pompey players, centre, from left, Enda Stevens, Gareth Evans and Christian Burgess, get into the party spirit at Fratton Park following the 3-1 victory at Notts County on Monday that clinched promotion to League One
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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Fratton Park’s Victory Lounge reverberated as renditions of ‘We’re On Our Way’ swept breathlessly through.

Amid the collective chaos, a table collapsed under the weight of onlookers clambering for an improved view.

Glasses shattered, drink cascaded, bodies hurtled groundwards, yet the focus remained undiminished by such collateral damage.

The Fratton faithful were celebrating promotion to League One. The tears had dried up earlier, time to rejoice.

And at the very eye of the cyclone were the players who have now entered Fratton folklore.

Taking lead vocals in the Pompey choir, it was a remarkable demonstration of unity between footballers and fans.

Supporters had gathered at Fratton Park to deliver a hero’s welcome upon the playing squad’s return from clinching promotion at Meadow Lane.

What unfolded was those present drinking side-by-side and singing arm-by-arm into the early hours of the following day.

During an era in which accusatory fingers are often jabbed in the direction of footballers over their supposed disconnect with supporters, Monday evening bucked the trend.

For Frogmore Road’s 300-strong party was willingly swelled by the arrival of those who made such an accomplishment possible. No PR stunt, no contractual agreement, it was from the heart.

The Victory Lounge exploded with exuberance, orchestrated by Paul Cook’s merry band and their number three anthem in the League Two charts.

‘We’re On Our Way’ they cried – and a city danced.

Michael Doyle, the fearsome Pompey skipper, removed his shirt to swirl it around his head, while Christian Burgess was counted down as he attempted to swiftly consume one of several pints.

Kyle Bennett still sported the glasses pinched from Express FM’s Niall McCaughan back in Nottingham, before they later ended up perched on the nose of Gareth Evans.

Jack Whatmough, the Gosport lad so outstanding on his first-team return, sparked regular renditions of ‘Play Up Pompey’, and later banged on the bar’s shutters once time was called.

Then there was Conor Chaplin, hoisted aloft by his team-mates whenever ‘He’s One Of Our Own’ was delivered from the assembled throngs.

Yet the crowning glory belonged to Jamal Lowe and the supporters’ reworking of ‘Gold’, which will forever remain his soundtrack following that glorious 69th-minute entrance as a substitute.

Cook, the architect of promotion, opted to stand back, content to chat to supporters and receive their thankful handshakes upon each and every exit.

The party continued at Drift before elements found themselves in a casino.

Conceivably, the club will never again witness the level of talent which blessed the 2008 FA Cup-winning team. Similarly, many of that side possess no inclination to ever return to Fratton Park.

Yet the Class of 2017 have demonstrated they sport Pompey on the shirt and wear the star & crescent on the heart.

And for that very reason, Cook’s squad, to a man, are an eternal class act.