The Macclesfield lad who entered Portsmouth folklore  '“ and became a Blue

The state of Gareth Evans' sobriety is a source of deliberation.

Friday, 9th November 2018, 10:21 pm
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 8:51 pm
Gareth Evans takes on an impromptu singing role at Pompey's League Two title-winning celebrations. Picture: Joe Pepler

By his own admission, The Kings of Leon's '˜Use Somebody' normally represents the trusted tune accompanying the midfielder's microphone-wielding karaoke turns.

When challenged to perform the customary initiation song upon his Pompey arrival, the choice was obvious.

Yet a very different song would bolster a presence in Fratton folklore which has continued to be enhanced.

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Gareth Evans enjoys himself at Southsea Common celebrations following Pompey's League Two title success. Picture: Joe Pepler

Should Evans today feature in the FA Cup first-round clash at Maidenhead United, he will register a 150th Pompey outing.

To emphasise the magnitude of that imminent feat, no Blues player has tallied as many appearances during the last 12 years.

The former Fleetwood man had pitched up at Pompey in July 2015 for a two-day trial, seeking to convince manager Paul Cook of his fitness.

The Fratton faithful have subsequently taken to their hearts a goalscoring midfielder and versatile performer who could yet claim two promotions in four seasons with the club.

As that May 2017 moment on Southsea Common testifies, it's a bond reciprocated by a footballer who comprehends the strength of supporter feelings towards those of Southampton persuasion.

Before taking to the stage for the League Two title celebrations, it is said a merry Evans approached team-mates enquiring who would have the gall to produce a rendition of that Fratton Park favourite urging hands to be clapped.

With no takers, the former Manchester United apprentice staggered forward to deliver in his own inimitable style.

And so was born a chant and new-found admiration for a player who has settled admirably on the south coast.

As the travelling faithful at Valley Parade repeatedly stated '“ Gareth Evans is a Blue.

It is not without amusement that the 30-year-old continues to dispute the suggestion that alcohol fuelled his vocal address to a packed Southsea Common crowd.

However, being a former Winchester resident, such animosity towards Southampton followers appears to be entirely genuine.

Certainly there was plenty of drink rightly consumed the previous evening following that memorable 6-1 title-clinching victory over Cheltenham.

Evans had scored a penalty in that encounter, just as he did at Meadow Lane three weeks earlier in a fixture which clinched promotion to League One.

In the glorious aftermath of that emotional Fratton Park victory, the players headed home to change before congregating at Tiger Tiger with their other halves, housed in a sealed-off area.

The following day, many of the squad joined Paul Cook and his staff at the Royal Beach Hotel for more toasting of their triumph during the hours building up to their Southsea Common celebrations.

High spirits among the players were clearly evident, the remnants of overexuberance obviously sloshing around many.

A merry Michael Smith, in particular, sporting a cast on his foot, took to playing the drums on stage. Ironically, he was never a hit with Pompey fans.

Then there was Evans, striding onto the stage with pre-determined purpose as he grabbed the microphone off '˜Touchline' Tony Male before launching into his '˜If you all hate' chorus.

As Hermann Hreidarsson's boisterous antics had characterised the 2008 FA Cup-winning celebrations, Evans' contribution was just as deliciously iconic.

The truth is, having lived in Winchester for his opening two years in Hampshire, the 30-year-old's comprehension of the rivalry is not a convenient stunt to appease Blues fans.

It is said, journeys to the local Tesco Express following a match was often met with recognition of the Pompey tracksuit he sported, earning frequent stick from Southampton supporters. Neighbours could similarly goad on sight.

It soon became tiresome, nonetheless helped Evans appreciate the extent of the conflict between both clubs from first-hand experience. Few players to have passed through Fratton Park in recent times can possess such an empathy.

Still, weeks after capturing the League Two title, he bid farewell to his Southampton detractors and moved to Knowle, an area with a considerably bluer tint.

Yet while the Macclesfield-born footballer's vocal arrangements have endeared him to the Fratton faithful, his subsequent on-pitch displays also continue to delight.

Following the June 2017 arrival of Kenny Jackett to replace Cook, Evans endured a brief spell out of the squad, having served a one-match suspension for his sending off at Wigan.

Upon his return, he was allocated a constant presence on Pompey's bench before, along with Danny Rose and Kal Naismith, he was granted a breakthrough in the Checkatrade Trophy at Charlton.

The trio, pivotal figures from the League Two promotion-winning side, had previously been sidelined by the new era. A 1-0 triumph in that November 2017 fixture subsequently saw them handed regular starting spots, albeit when fitness permitted.

Today only Evans remains in Jackett's plans, Naismith having departed for Wigan and the unfortunate Rose unable to reclaim his place despite recovering from a broken leg.

What's more, the attacking midfielder has reinvented himself as a number 10, earning the Pompey captaincy in the process during Brett Pitman's sidelining to the bench.

Jackett has pinpointed Evans' versatility as a priceless commodity, opening up a number of options when contemplating his first-team make-up.

From right winger to right-back to central midfielder to the number 10 role, the 30-year-old continues to evolve during the ongoing fight for a starting XI presence.

With 24 goals from his 149 appearances, his ability to find the net must also be applauded, presently finding himself second-top scorer for the League One leaders, with all arriving from open play.

In terms of Pompey history, Kanu was the last player to reach 150 appearances '“ a figure reached on March 8, 2011, in a 2-1 defeat at Bristol City.

Before him were David James (158), Richard Hughes (165), Matt Taylor (203) and Gary O'Neil (193), truly exulted company.

However, since October 28, 2006, Kanu and Evans have jointly amassed 149 outings '“ more than any Blues player during the subsequent 12 years and 14 days.

Today, in the setting of Maidenhead's York Road, Evans can gallop ahead.

The triallist who scored on his Pompey debut, who netted in both promotion and title-winning matches, who fought back from the cold under Jackett, who was crowned skipper.

A man who catapulted himself into Fratton folklore by orchestrating a song deriding the club's fierce rivals.

Gareth Evans is a Blue.