Claridge poised to end retirement and play against Pompey
Steve Claridge is contemplating lining up against Pompey '“ at the age of 51.
The Salisbury boss has been left without a single striker ahead of Saturday’s friendly with the Blues.
That has prompted Claridge to consider coming out of retirement to face the club he managed more than 16 years ago.
The Pompey Hall-of-Famer has not played since scoring twice in a play-off fixture to steer Gosport into the Southern League premier division in May 2012.
Yet it’s a case of needs must, with forward trio Marvin Brooks, Mark Francis and Eddie Perrett absent for Saturday’s game through holiday commitments.
The Raymond McEnhill Stadium clash (3pm) represents the opening pre-season match for both sides.
And new Pompey boss Kenny Jackett could have a Fratton Park predecessor in opposition as a player.
Claridge said: ‘Normally we wouldn’t start our friendlies this early, but Paul Cook offered us this date and we were not going to turn it down.
‘I might even have to play myself because all three of our centre-forwards are away!
‘It is something I am contemplating, simply because these players are not full-time and people have to understand they have jobs and a finite amount of time to go on holiday.
‘Nobody thought we would be back this early when booking their holidays.
‘I am actually trying to think of anybody else that can play up there and I’m not sure there will be.
‘It might be a case of having a little stroll around! We literally haven’t got anybody else.
‘There’s Kane O’Keefe in midfield who may be able to play up there, but he’s injured anyway. So really it’s me – and I haven’t kicked a ball for five years.
‘I keep myself fit but that is not the same as playing. I am fit but not fit for football.
‘I’ve had a few aches and pains. When you stop playing you’re always picking up little injuries and then feel it when you wake up in the morning.
‘There’s my Achilles, sometimes you can’t move, your back hurts, I have got to that age unfortunately.
‘Probably, it would be ideal for both clubs to be meeting a week later, but I am fantastically thankful to Kenny for sticking to this fixture.’
Claridge scored 37 goals in 122 appearances for Pompey, after initially being released as an apprentice.
He spent 137 days as manager, before being dismissed by Milan Mandaric in February 2001.
‘At Salisbury we have a wonderful surface and people will be well looked after,’ added Claridge.
‘Salisbury is a good club, we have some really good players, but unfortunately you won’t see all of them because a few are injured and others are on holiday.
‘But you might see an old codger running around, you never know!’