Thanks for the memories, Hermann

Hermann Hreidarsson at Wembley in 2010
Hermann Hreidarsson at Wembley in 2010

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Picture the scene, if you will.

The night is soot black, rain cascades enthusiastically from the heavens.

A 10-seater mini-bus is negotiating tight lanes hemmed in by South Carolina swamp land infested with alligators.

And at the wheel is Hermann Hreidarsson.

Nervous looks are exchanged between Hayden Mullins and Liam Lawrence.

Jason Pearce grips for dear life to either side of his seat.

The last rites are tapped out on several Twitter accounts on mobile phones.

And myself and my News colleague Steve Wilson are sat at the back looking achingly for our hotel.

The setting is Charleston, the time is July 2011.

As ever, Hreidarsson has volunteered his services to man one of the two means of mini-bus transport during Pompey’s pre-season tour of America.

He also kindly stepped forward the previous year in Ventura, California.

An experienced head and responsible driver, this was a man who could be trusted.

Granted, the 37-year-old got us back to the Holiday Inn intact and without a scratch on the vehicle he was driving.

But it was a stomach-churning and bruise-inducing journey which was greeted with audible sighs of relief when it ended.

The man at the centre of it all was oblivious, caught up in some American rock music he had insisted remained on the radio.

While his passengers scraped themselves out of the minibus upon arrival and embraced terra firma, he casually strode away.

That fateful trip was typical Hermann.

And one of my abiding memories of a Pompey modern-day legend who has left for pastures new.

You see, with Hermann around something always happened.

Entirely instigated by himself, you understand, but things always occurred.

On the pitch he was a member of the greatest Pompey team in modern history.

They won the 2008 FA Cup, they recorded the club’s best top-flight finish in half a century and they entered European competition for the first-ever time.

What players, what a team; wonderful days and a golden era.

And a veteran Icelandic international with a habit of getting relegated was an integral part of it.

Off the pitch he patrolled the training ground corridors like an amiable Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Always playful, always boyishly enthusiastic, yet never quite had full comprehension of his own powerful strength.

Then again, perhaps he did and that was the whole point.

When Glen Little signed in the summer of 2008 on a free transfer from Reading he learned the hard way.

During a pre-season tour to Devon, one afternoon, Hreidarsson sprang from nowhere to push his new team-mate off his chair.

‘You talk too much,’ came Hermann’s damning judgement – and he had a point.

However, that moment injured Little’s toe, ruling him out of a friendly trip to Swindon.

An Elvis fanatic, Hreidarsson serenaded his team-mates on the eve of the 2008 FA Cup final.

While dining in an Italian restaurant with manager Harry Redknapp present, a karaoke machine caught his eye.

Inevitably he put himself forward for a turn.

Redknapp later joked he often found the defender in his local Sandbanks restaurant entertaining Icelandic friends.

Usually, the evening would end with Hermann providing noisy renditions of Abba songs.

For many Pompey fans, those antics during the Southsea victory parade are conjured up at the very mention of Hreidarsson.

Pompey’s FA Cup-winning squad, minus Sean Davis and Milan Baros, crammed on to an open-topped bus circumnavigating the city on May 18, 2008.

Exuberant as ever, the former Charlton man was certainly making the most of the occasion.

Equipped with can of beer, several times he nearly tumbled off the top deck and into the crowds below.

At one stage he attempted to pour his alcohol into a policeman’s mouth.

Except instead the beer went all over his helmet – and a lady standing right next to the officer.

Hreidarsson would later take centre stage on Southsea Common – literally.

In front of 80,000 fans, he chose the occasion to attempt to push his chairman off the raised platform and into the people below.

In fairness, Sacha Gaydamak put up a decent fight but it took Redknapp to intervene.

His manager barked at Hreidarsson to stop, breaking the spell as the defender beat a wise retreat.

To this day many Pompey fans wish he had succeeded in such tomfoolery.

That was Hreidarsson, though, a genuine football character.

He thought nothing of applying headlocks to visiting journalists on the training ground. Sometimes he would produce a rabbit punch to leave his victim reeling.

On one occasion he even dangled a club employee over a balcony at the Wellington Sports Ground.

Of course, all were accompanied with a manic smile and glint in his eye. That was his playful nature. Entirely fun, without malice.

The mind boggles what he could inflict if somebody had offended him in any way.

Although he once broke the collarbone of Iceland’s assistant manager after rugby tackling him in training.

But let’s not forget Hermann Hreidarsson as a footballer.

He was a fighter, a battler, a 100-per-center who the fans could empathise with.

Brimming with passion, desire and a willingness to sacrifice himself for his team, often in the form of outrageous bookings.

Here was a defender who epitomised everybody’s footballing dream.

He was one of us – and made 123 Pompey appearances over four-and-a-half years in the process.

In typical Hermann fashion, he fought back from a career-threatening Achilles injury.

The veteran sat in the White Hart Lane dressing room and cried after sustaining the injury in March 2010.

It cost him the opportunity to represent Pompey for a fourth time at Wembley, the latest occasion an FA Cup semi-final versus Spurs.

He was also ruled out of the final, when Avram Grant’s men lost 1-0 to Chelsea.

Hermann’s response? To have a few beers within hours of that injury and then hit the comeback trail.

He played another 31 matches for the club before leaving for Coventry City on Monday.

The emotional outpouring from Pompey fans since news of his departure emerged is both humbling and genuine.

For me, I shall always remember that mini-bus trip in a Charleston monsoon.

Goodbye, Hermann, it really has been a pleasure.