Pompey's past finally has a future

Peterborough United manager Grant McCann. Picture: Joe Dent/JMP

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They were the stars of yesteryear who had no place in Pompey's present or future. Now the endeavours of the ex-professionals have finally been recognised in the form of the Club 1898.

For chief campaigner Alan Knight, it's a victory as sweet as any he chalked up in his 801 Blues appearances.

The record-breaking keeper had long been incensed at the former regime's treatment of those players who represented the football club in the past.

He claims yesterday's heroes were not treated with respect and were made to feel unwelcome at the club by those who have since left the Fratton Park hierarchy.

It prompted him to join forces with his fellow former Blues Linvoy Primus and Pat Neil, as well as club staff Jack Payne and Tony Male in an attempt to force change.

Their pleas have now been heard by chief executive David Lampitt and commercial director Lucius Peart, who have been eager to help.

The result will see the launch of the Club 1898 on Saturday before Pompey's clash with Scunthorpe, where more than 40 former players will be in attendance.

The club have also pledged to donate 20 tickets to old Blues and use of the Jimmy Dickinson Lounge for every home match.

It is a gesture deeply appreciated by Knight and the many former Pompey professionals.

And Knight believes it has been a long time coming.

He said: 'Other clubs look after their ex-pros, whereas at Pompey we have been pushed to the side.

'All we have ever wanted is a little bit more respect than the club has managed in the past. They just didn't want to embrace ex-players.

'Paul Walsh talks about how hospitable Liverpool are, Paul Wood talks about how wonderful Sheffield United are.

'Players are still not keen to be involved in Portsmouth, though, which is such a shame because they had great times here.

'There was a certain character at the club who didn't look after us very well. I will not mention any names.

'If we wanted to come to games, we had to get tickets under the table.

'There were people at the club who put their jobs on the line to help us out. It's ridiculous they had to duck and dive like that.

'I remember seeing Joe Laidlaw hanging around on a match day once hoping that someone might be able to get a ticket for him.

'This was the captain of the side which won promotion from the fourth division.

'Then there was Billy Gilbert, who lives locally as well, and another I once saw waiting around because he wanted to take his son.

'He was part of the side which won promotion to the first division – but no-one was interested.

'I feel that was pretty poor. They have not moaned, this is my observation, I didn't think it was right.

'We were not welcome, it's just a little bit of respect needed.

'It never needed to be like that and, thankfully, the current regime has tried to change this.'

Club 1898 has brought together the Hall Of Fame, the Ex-PFC Professionals Reunion Club and the Legends charity team under one umbrella. The move is designed to make one cohesive unit, with a link-up on Pompey's website planned, while charity football matches will now take place at Fratton Park.

Aside from ex-footballers, the group will also consist of former Pompey employees, while there are also intentions to raise money for charities.

The likes of Gilbert, Nicky Jennings, Jimmy Stephen, Peter Marinello, Dave Waterman, Ray Crawford and Albie McCann will all be present for Saturday's official launch.

And Knight is hoping they will be the first of many to be embraced by the club.

He added: 'It doesn't matter how many games you've played, it's about old players being allowed to come back.

'A lot of us old players have an affinity with the supporters. Most of us live in the area and mixed with the fans when we were players.

'This is about rebuilding bridges after everything that has gone one.

'It's tremendous the new regime are trying to do something about this. I know 90-95 per cent of ex-players would be very keen to come back.

'We have had a very good response so far and, hopefully, that will continue.'