Penalty hero Tom Price: I was close to retiring had we lost FA Vase shoot-out to Christchurch

Penalty hero Tom Price was close to hanging up his gloves had US Portsmouth’s FA Vase Wembley dream been shattered by Christchurch last weekend.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 11:33 am
Tom Price dives to save Billy Walker's penalty during US Portsmouth's shoot-out victory over Christchurch. Picture: Martyn White.

The 31-year-old goalkeeper not only saved one of Priory’s spot-kicks in the shoot-out, he also scored his side’s third in a 4-1 victory that booked a last 16 trip to Tavistock.

But he was conspicuously absent from the after-match celebrations, due to a long-standing back injury.

‘I was probably going to retire after that game (had US lost), I could well need a back operation,’ he revealed.

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‘It takes me about an hour to get out of bed every morning … my chiropractor has advised me to hang up my gloves.

‘It hurts to cough and sneeze, I’m actually scared when I sneeze.

‘I’ve had this problem for about 10 years, it’s a long time.

‘If you look at the pictures you’ll see I didn’t celebrate with the team afterwards - I physically couldn’t.

‘I would loved to have been in the celebrations but I couldn’t risk someone jumping on me and picking up an injury that would rule me out of next Saturday.’

The Christchurch tie was due to have been played on January 9, but was postponed for more than three months due to lockdown restrictions.

Had it gone ahead back then, the Victory Stadium pitch would no doubt have been soft with winter rain. Now, in spring, it’s a different story.

‘This time of year the pitches are hard. Every time you dive it’s a killer,’ said Price.

‘My chiropractor has told me that diving six feet to my left or right on hard ground is not helping me, but that’s what I’ve done all my life.

‘I pick the training sessions I can do, Glenn (Turnbull, manager) is always asking ‘what do you want to do, how do you feel?’

‘I get a lot of stick from the lads for that, but it’s just a case of managing it.

‘I managed it when I was at Horndean, then I played for Gosport in the Southern League - it probably didn’t help going there because we were leaking so many goals!

‘When I was at Portchy it was really bad there.’

Having won through five Vase rounds so far, US need to win three more games to book a dream Wembley appearance on May 22.

It would be one of the greatest stories in non-league history if they could, as seven of their eight wins would have been against higher division opponents.

‘Wembley would be lovely to retire on, but if it’s not meant to be it’s not meant to be,’ Price said.

‘I’m probably 80 per cent (going to retire after this season is over) unless something drastic happens and they can fix it, but they haven’t managed to do that in 10 years.

‘My mum wants me to continue, but others are saying your work is more important, your family is more important …’

Price believes part of the secret of USP’s history-making Vase run is their team spirit. No player gets paid - unlike the teams US have beaten en route to the last 16 - and the keeper admitted: ‘This is the best changing room I’ve ever been in.

‘The lads are brilliant, there’s so much banter.

‘Every changing room has its jokers, its pranksters, but it’s the togetherness of the whole squad.

‘Now it’s going to be splitting up - a few lads will be going to Moneyfields (when Turnbull takes over), others will be staying.

‘You’ll be very lucky to get this again.

‘We don’t get any money, we buy our own training gear.

‘It’s very different when you put money into a club, it changes the team.

‘But I would rather have a good changing room than a little bit of money.

‘It’s changing rooms that win games.’