Pompey’s biggest loss of the season still stings

Mick Williams Picture: Joe Pepler
Mick Williams Picture: Joe Pepler
Fratton Park

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As the mobile phone beeped for a second time, Mr Justice Peter Smith fixed his eyes on the culprit sat opposite fumbling nervously with the offending object.

‘You just used your get out of jail free card,’ he uttered in deadpan style, yet reassuringly with a hint of a smile.

Almost two years on, the moment still raises a chuckle from Mick Williams.

The delivery of the glorious news Pompey had been saved from liquidation – and one of its driving forces was tottering on the brink of contempt of court.

Williams spent that night celebrating the High Court triumph with fellow supporters in the Shepherds Crook.

Instead, he could have been in the cells, obviously minus that errant iPhone.

They are fond memories for one of the key figures in the club’s continued existence, whose recent decision to walk away from the Pompey Supporters’ Trust on a ‘matter of principle’ took the Fratton faithful by surprise.

The precise details behind that stance continue to be debated, an endless tangle of claim and counterclaim among feuding supporters who once stood shoulder-to-shoulder as allies in the great Pompey war.

Nonetheless, once the smoke disperses the true extent of the mess will become clear to all – namely an empty seat where a good man once resided.

Of course, there are many whose unstinting efforts are largely unrecognised, those who seek neither attention or gratification for their tireless commitment to the club they adore.

Yet Williams has long stood at the forefront, whether it be in Rifle Club meetings, High Court fights or Fratton boardroom discussions.

And the manner of the 66-year-old’s exit should not be allowed to distract from his immense contribution.

The Fareham businessman had occupied a place on the Trust board since September 2011, while in April 2013 he joined the club board along with Trust colleagues Mark Trapani and Ashley Brown.

During three-and-a-half years, the man short in stature, yet big in spirit, established himself as a popular and widely-respected figure at the club, who was highly approachable and a doer.

Recognisable by his furrowed brow and puffing on a cigarette, during his involvement Williams often appeared to be wearing the weight of Pompey’s problems on his shoulders, yet is as straight and upright as they come.

Certainly for supporters it has never been particularly taxing to locate him for a chat – and how he likes to talk. To anyone!

A Blues director willing to communicate face-to-face with fans on a match day – many believed those days were long gone.

The Fratton faithful don’t need reminding of those members of hierarchy’s past who possessed absolutely no interest in mixing with the people who make the club.

In addition, as ‘Old Spice’, Williams can be regularly found on several supporter message boards attempting to clarify and enlighten on various issues among posters.

It is a presence which long preceded his arrival as board member with both the Trust and the club, and one he has refused to dilute upon taking on greater responsibilities.

Inevitably, such a continued involvement has been queried by fans and Pompey board members alike, yet corresponding with supporters has remained crucial to Williams, no matter how difficult the questions.

Not that Williams has shuffled off this mortal coil, leaving supporters wiping away tears while laying wreaths outside Fratton Park beneath gathered storm clouds.

The Trust will continue in his absence, remaining strong, vibrant and crucial in the progress of the current ownership model.

He is not a loose thread which has been tugged, prompting the unravelling of everything so painstakingly built over several years by so many people.

Chairman Ken Malley and his board will continue to steer the Trust through choppy waters such as this. Life indeed does go on.

As it will for Williams who, on Tuesday night against Cheltenham, sat with wife Ann in their South stand C section season-ticket seats.

Quite whether he followed through his pledge to abuse the referee and criticise team selection during the subsequent 2-2 draw remains to be established.

He also remains a president at the club, having handed over more than £50,000 of his own money to sign up.

This week he has taken up a role on the board of directors of Pompey Ladies, following discussions over a number of months.

The progress of the FA Premier League southern division side has become something of a labour of love since Williams provided a four-figure donation in January to fund a new set of training kit.

Having had a firm hand on Pompey’s finances since coming out of administration, the man to jokingly earn the nickname ‘Mr Budgets’ has built up experience in contributing to the running of a club.

Tellingly, upon his departure, Guy Whittingham, Alan McLoughlin, former head of operations Derek Stone and Andy Awford were among those to get in touch sending their warmest regards.

What’s more, while conducting his most recent interview with The News following the 2-0 win over Luton, the conversation was twice broken by Paul Hardyman and then groundsman Steve Baker calling over to send him their best wishes.

Not quite texts interrupting a court case at the Rolls Building, nonetheless the message is just as clear.

A man like Mick Williams will be missed by everybody connected with Fratton Park.

And don’t take my word for it, ask all who have had the privilege of making his acquaintance.