Old Trafford, St James’ Park, Anfield – none can beat that electrifying Fratton Park evening against AC Milan.
That’s the verdict of Glen Little, who credits the Fratton Faithful for inspiring the greatest atmosphere of his playing career.
It was 10 years today when Carlo Ancelotti’s all-stars ventured to the south coast for a Uefa Cup fixture against Tony Adams’ side.
What unfolded would enter Fratton folklore as the teams shared a pulsating 2-2 draw on a wet Thursday night.
With six minutes remaining, Pompey led the Italian giants thanks to second-half goals from Younes Kaboul and Kanu – only for Ronaldinho and Filippo Inzaghi to snatch a draw at the death.
Little started that November 2008 fixture against the Rossoneri in a playing career which also saw Premier League service with Reading and Bolton.
And those 20,403 present at Fratton Park a decade ago generated the finest atmosphere he ever performed in.
He said: ‘I’ve been at Old Trafford, St James’ Park, Anfield, all the big clubs – but even though 20,000 were there that night, it was the best atmosphere I ever played in.
‘It was just a constant noise. Even when you play at the big grounds, the ball goes out for a throw-in or a goal kick and it settles down and goes all quiet.
‘Not that night. Even in the warm-up the atmosphere was incredible, the noise non-stop, what a great game to play in.
‘When you think about it, if we had won it probably would have been the best result in the club’s history, that's how close we came.
‘Regardless of the final score, we still received a standing ovation coming off at the final whistle. It was a fantastic game of football, but to be 2-0 up with six minutes remaining you expect to win, no matter who you play.
‘That probably summed up Tony Adams’ time as manager. There were so many games we should have won but drew, and should have drawn but lost, he had a roller coaster time.
‘There was Fulham, Wigan, Hull, Liverpool, so many unlucky games, but that was the biggest of the lot. If we had won those games I’m sure he would have survived until the end of the season and who knows what his managerial career would have been.
‘I can’t believe it has been 10 years, I remember so much from it, I have a good memory and that’s one you just never forget.
‘I was fortunate and privileged to play out there, especially as I didn’t play many games for Pompey, but if you were going to pick one – that was it.’
Indeed, Little was handed only his fourth Pompey start as Adams fielded a midfield devastated by injury.
FA Cup winners Lassana Diarra, Niko Kranjcar and John Utaka were all absent, elsewhere Sol Campbell and Jermain Defoe also sidelined.
The Blues’ revamped midfield consisted of Richard Hughes partnering Papa Bouba Diop in the centre, with Little wide on the right and QPR loanee Armand Traore on the opposite flank.
Facing them were the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Emerson, Kaka and Mathieu Flamini.
Little, a free transfer recruit from Reading, featured only four more times for the Blues, before departing in the summer of 2009 during an injury-hampered spell.
And even he admits he was shocked at the level of his AC Milan participation.
He added: ‘I was surprised to play really. I’d recently returned from a hamstring injury in a stop-start season and expected to be on the bench.
‘Under Tony Adams, we worked on the team in training the day before, concentrating on a bit of shape and a few set-plays. As we walked onto the training pitch – he handed me the bib! I couldn’t believe it.
‘I was an experienced player, I had lined-up against all the big clubs in this country, but was still excited driving home.
‘I had not been like that for a long time, I’m always a pretty laid-back person anyway, I never really got nervous because I was an experienced player, but I remember the excitement beforehand.
‘Mind you, I got stuck in traffic down the Eastern Road on the way to the game – and I used to leave early! Glen Johnson turned up 10 minutes before kick-off and had the game of his life!
‘We finished our warm-up and were heading back to the dressing room when he came running onto the pitch with the physio for a quick five-minute warm-up. What a game he had – and that probably sums up Jono.
‘I had not been a big international like a lot of our players, but when I was at clubs outside the Premier League you were always hoping for the chance of promotion to play against the big teams, or drawing them in the FA Cup.
‘But I had never, ever thought about playing AC Milan. Not once in my career did it occur to me that would happen, so it was unexpected. I count myself lucky to be part of that.’
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