TRIBUTES have been paid to a Falklands veteran and Pompey fan after he lost his courageous three-year battle against cancer.
Pompey-mad Craig Bryden became an internet sensation after he wore a pirate outfit to his first chemotherapy session at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.
The Copnor dad-of-two was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2016 but battled through treatment and even had the chance to lead out Pompey at Fratton Park with Blues fans screaming his name.
Family, friends and fellow football fans have described Craig, a former navy steward who survived the sinking of HMS Sheffield in the Falklands War and spent 20 years in the Senior Service, as ‘an inspiration’.
Bob Mullen, 59, of North End, served with Craig on Sheffield and knew him for almost 40 years.
He said: ‘Today the world is a smaller place; his wife has lost her husband, his children have lost a father and I have lost a friend.’
Mr Mullen said shipmates from Sheffield had been saddened by the news and added: ‘Craig never had a bad word to say about anyone – in the the 40 years, never a bad word.
‘You could ask anyone and they would say what a nice guy he was. He always did everything with a smile.’
Fellow naval veteran and Sheffield survivor, Chris Purcell also paid tribute to Craig, describing his death as a ‘massive loss’ for the city.
Mr Purcell, of Adames Road, Fratton, said: ‘He has been so brave – his courage has been inspirational. He is a true diamond.
'It's a massive loss. To go through what he has gone through and to have always kept his spirits so high is amazing.
'He might not have been killed on Sheffield but he battled and battled on all his life. His spirit never left him and he always encouraged people to live life.
'He was a laugh a minute. He always had a smile on his face and could make anyone laugh. To lose him is so hard for everyone.'
Pompey fans have expressed a desire to stage a standing ovation in honour of Craig at The Blues’s next home game against Fleetwood tomorrow afternoon.
Craig died on Wednesday.
He leaves behind his wife, Rae and two children, as well as his father, Bill, and older brother, Gordon.