New Pompey midfielder Therry Racon has spoken of the positive influence that football superstar Didier Drogba had on his early footballing career.
Racon came through the Marseille youth ranks to make one first-team appearance for the French giants back in May 2004 before moving on.
But at the time he was making his way in the game and trying to get into the first-team squad at Stade Velodrome, former Chelsea striker Drogba was happy to pass on his knowledge to the younger players.
And the Ivory Coast’s all-time leading goalscorer was not the only star name in the ranks to learn from, as Fabien Barthez and a host of other top internationals were also on the playing staff.
Racon said: ‘I was at Marseille’s Academy and signed professionally there.
‘Then I went to L’Orient first and Guincamp and then to Charlton.
‘I played only one game for Marseille and I was on the bench a couple of times, but I was really young and it was a great experience for me.
‘I learnt a lot from some of the best players you can train with.
‘Didier Drogba was there when I was there and Fabien Barthez as well. There were a lot of great players.
‘It was really good for me because I was very young and you could learn from them and see what made them better.
‘Drogba is very good technically but he was also strong and fast. I think that’s why he did so well in England.
‘But he’s a good lad as well. When you see him on TV, you think he’s different and that he’s arrogant or always complaining, but he’s not like that at all.
‘He’s really open and was always talking with the young lads like me.’
Now settled in England since 2007, 28-year-old Racon looked set to test himself at a higher level with Championship side Millwall after a successful four-year stint with Charlton.
But a mysterious ankle injury scuppered his hopes of establishing himself at The Den, after missing almost the whole of last season.
‘I had a problem with my ankle and the staff didn’t really know what it was,’ said Racon.
‘I had to go back to France to see a specialist to find out what the problem was.
‘It was a ligament problem but I didn’t need an operation.
‘The thing was that it meant I didn’t play any games last season with it.
‘It was very depressing and hard for me but thankfully it’s clear now.’
The on-loan midfielder, who has impressed more with each appearance, believes the Blues will see the benefit of a week’s training, with no midweek fixture scheduled before the trip to Oldham on Saturday.
He said: ‘We have no midweek game so we will be able to work on a few things and get to know the players a little bit better.’