Red mist forgotten as Pompey defender shines

26/1/2013 (SPORT)''Action from the match between Portsmouth FC v Hartlepool United at Fratton Park on Saturday afternoon.''Pictured is: Sam Sodje during training before the match.''Picture: Sarah Standing (13225-3831)
26/1/2013 (SPORT)''Action from the match between Portsmouth FC v Hartlepool United at Fratton Park on Saturday afternoon.''Pictured is: Sam Sodje during training before the match.''Picture: Sarah Standing (13225-3831)
From left to right: James Pollock, Mark Catlin, Kenny Jackett, Steve McLenaghan, Mark Kelly and Cllr Ken Ellcome. Picture: Steve Hill

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It was a Pompey career which stalled in a moment of madness.

But Sam Sodje’s energies are now being put to the best possible use as his 2012-13 campaign ends on a high.

The defender’s time with the Blues hit a wall in controversial style at Oldham in February.

A low blow aimed at Latics midfielder Jose Baxter led to an inevitable dismissal at Boundary Park, with a three-game ban ensuing.

Sodje paid the price for his actions with five weeks on the sidelines as Pompey’s fortunes improved.

Ricardo Rocha’s hamstring injury led to a return against Tranmere, however, and it’s been an opportunity the former Leeds man has seized.

Further starts against Brentford and Sheffield United followed, with the 32-year-old shining against the Blades on Saturday, in particular.

Sodje showcased his full extrovert repertoire of defending in front of a bumper Fratton Park crowd.

That meant scissor-kick clearances, full-length diving headers among flying boots and even a double Cruyff turn to leave striker Chris Porter in his wake.

It’s those kind of efforts which are certain to go down well with the Fratton faithful.

Sodje portrays a confident character on and off the pitch – and he had belief Pompey fans would see the best of him when he built momentum.

He said: ‘Everyone who knows me will know I just needed games.

‘I know I just needed the chance to play games.

‘Thankfully, Portsmouth gave me that opportunity.

‘I know myself and know my body well.

‘I don’t want the season to end now.

‘I live the life that you need to live as a footballer.

‘So now I’m looking forward to next season and seeing what happens.’

Pompey’s end-of-season form under Guy Whittingham has encouraged Sodje about what can be achieved in the future.

After nine defeats on the bounce, it’s been just three losses in the ensuing 14 fixtures going into the final game at Shrewsbury on Saturday.

Sodje knows there is a sound basis to build on when it comes to things on the pitch.

He said: ‘Now we can go to Shrewsbury and finish the season on a high.

‘I’m just happy we’ve got a club. That’s the main thing.

‘Portsmouth is a big club, regardless of what league they are in.

‘The manager has done a good job and kept the morale up.

‘Now if we can keep the team it could be a big push next season.’

It’s not just the make-up of the side which is encouraging Sodje.

Seeing the biggest gate of the season on Saturday – 18,433 – tells him much about Pompey’s potential.

‘You look at the attendances and that makes me confident we can do well in League Two,’ said Sodje.

‘There are so many turning up at the games every week.

‘It would be great to keep that up here next season.

‘If we can keep them coming here, this club can go forward.’