BEN DAVIES will today begin life with another League Two club.
Yet the veteran admits it is with a heavy heart he departs the ‘special place’ which has seen him revel in his happiest times in football.
For one season only Davies resided at Pompey, establishing himself as a popular figure among the Fratton faithful and a key performer on the pitch.
This summer, terms could not be agreed on a fresh Blues deal, prompting the 35-year-old’s departure.
Paul Cook has now recruited Drew Talbot from League One to serve as his first-choice right-back.
As for Davies, following talks with a Championship club and two from League One, he has also moved on.
I don’t think I have ever smiled as much playing football as I have done for Pompey and I am gutted to be leaving. It is time for a new challenge.Ben Davies
A 12-month deal with Grimsby has been sealed and today he will attend the start of pre-season training.
It brings an official end to his Fratton Park days – and Davies is adamant he exits with the fondest of memories.
He said: ‘I don’t think I have ever smiled as much playing football as I have done for Pompey and I am gutted to be leaving. Yet it is time for a new challenge.
‘I never asked for a straight two-year deal, a year was fair enough. As you get older you need to prove on a regular basis year in, year out that you are going to produce for the team.
‘There has been interest. At my age people look at how many games you can play – and with 51 last season it proved I can still perform at a good level.
‘When you are piling up the appearances and everything is going well for you, thankfully people more or less see you as a player rather than think about your age.
‘It has been a tough summer decision-wise and a hard one to call, but I have loved every minute at Pompey.
‘I would have loved to have stayed there, I didn’t want to leave. Yet for the wages couldn’t really move my family down, so it is a case of having to pack up and move again, unfortunately.
‘Pompey is brilliant, I cannot speak highly enough of it. I would have loved to have got promotion, but it wasn’t meant to be.
‘I knew I was coming to a good club because I had played there before, but didn’t anticipate the affect it would have on me.
‘I don’t think I have ever looked forward to playing games so much.
‘It’s that atmosphere, those supporters, it is one of those clubs which gets to you. When you walk in it’s a special place, what a fantastic club.
‘The lads there are lucky to be playing week in, week out – and I think they realise that.
‘I have been at Sheffield United and other really, really good clubs and loved playing wherever I had been, but there is something more about Pompey.
‘Those supporters get behind you 100 per cent.
‘There have been times at home where we haven’t had the result we wanted or had frustrating spells, but they have stuck with us and been absolutely brilliant.
‘From when I turned up for my trial in pre-season, everything seemed right for me. Personally it started off really well and went from strength-to-strength.
‘I have absolutely loved it.’
Davies made 51 appearances and scored once as the Blues reached the League Two play-offs under Cook.
Having been released by Sheffield United, the versatile midfielder had arrived on the south coast last summer seeking to win a deal.
He was handed a 12-month contract on the eve of the League Two campaign and succeeded in establishing himself at right-back, collecting no fewer than seven player-of-the-season awards.
In addition, only close friend Michael Doyle finished ahead in The News/Sports Mail vote.
Such was his popularity, supporters created a song for Davies, while also had special T-shirts printed.
Davies settled in the Hedge End area during his time at Fratton Park, yet admits the family situation was a consideration in declining a new deal.
He added: ‘I don’t know whether it is because I have done well at Pompey that I have enjoyed it more.
‘But there have actually been times off the pitch when it has been hard, even if a year of playing every other week at Fratton Park has been worthwhile.
‘My wife, Leasey, is a lawyer who has a good job and was travelling up and down from Nottingham with the kids,
‘That has meant the family haven’t been down here, although I suppose that is the nature of the game.
‘The lower down the league you go and the older you get, the length of contract determines that you cannot uproot your family.
‘There have been a lot of long, lonely nights for me, but luckily the Pompey lads have been class and looked after me.
‘I got on really well with the likes of Michael Doyle and Gary Roberts and will miss them – and I will also miss the supporters.
‘For me it has been a special 12 months and hopefully Pompey will get promoted this season. I’m just sorry I couldn’t be part of that achievement.’