Meet Pompey’s most valuable asset

Tony Male will take on his 25th successive Great South Run in October. Picture: Allan Hutchings (143044-379)
Tony Male will take on his 25th successive Great South Run in October. Picture: Allan Hutchings (143044-379)
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The sparkle in the eyes of Tony Male is unmistakable, the treasured anecdote poised for another re-run.

‘I did a one-two with Darren Anderton and then fed Teddy Sheringham, who knocked it and said “Go again, Tony,” he proudly reminisced.

‘The ball bobbled but I hit it from the edge of the box and it went into the bottom corner.

‘To then turn around after scoring and see Teddy, a Champions League winner and England international, running towards you with his hands up to give you a high five is a surreal moment.

‘It’s one that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.’

A Boy’s Own moment the Milton roofer continues to savour, a rare reward having devoted a quarter of a century striving to ensure other people’s dreams come true.

‘Touchline Tony’ is an instantly recognisable figure at Fratton Park, a man of many roles accomplishing duties without self-glorification.

Accompanied by microphone, the 56-year-old’s familiar voice can be heard pitchside during match-days, as well as let loose in corporate lounges.

For the past 12 years he has also served as joint-manager of the Pompey Legends, an appointment equipped with obvious perks, hence his Sheringham association.

That May 2012 cameo against Soccer AM at Westleigh Park remains untouched by the rigours of time.

Yet Male’s greatest goal is still to come, a target he has set his heart on striking come October 23.

That represents the date of his 25th successive Great South Run, having raised £400,000 for more than 20 charitable causes since first getting under starters orders.

To mark the occasion, he last year launched his 25k Challenge, seeking to collect £25,000 within 12 months, the Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation the beneficiary.

The charity was founded by ex-Blues defender Dave Waterman to provide respite accommodation for children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

Waterman and his wife, Lorraine, lost son Oakley at the age of six to a rare form of cancer in 2005.

And the tireless Male is determined to lend his assistance.

He said: ‘I was once travelling with ex-Pompey player Joe Laidlaw in a car on the way to Burnaby Road to play a Sunday League game for Sidlesham and we were held up by the Great South Run.

‘It was 1991 and the first time the event had been held in the city. I said “Next year I’m going to do that”. Well, 25 years on and I’m still running it, I love it.

‘Not long after I retired from football at the age of 32 with an injury to my right knee. It was giving me a sharp pain when twisting and turning, yet running in a straight line was okay so I kept it up.

‘I like to keep fit, running is the best way to do it, and I love the motivation of getting people together, helping others, who wouldn’t enjoy being part of that?

‘Next month I complete my 16th London Marathon, I’ve also taken part in two New York City Marathons and overall reckon I’ve raised around £400,000 for charity.

‘You’ve got to keep it going, though, you can’t take your foot off the pedal.’

Male’s determination to reach his £25,000 target will see him line up in next month’s London Marathon.

Money raised will be split between the Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation and Children With Cancer UK, while October’s Great South Run will focus solely on Waterman.

In addition, he has recruited former Pompey players to take part in a number of Q&A sessions with supporters at local pubs.

Such events have attracted the likes of Paul Walsh, Lee Bradbury, Andy Awford, Linvoy Primus, Alan Knight, Guy Butters, Stuart Doling and, of course, Waterman.

In visits to The Wicor Mill and The Phoenix alone, Male’s campaign has been boosted by £3,070.

Meanwhile, February’s Evening With Paul Cook at Waverley Bowls Club in Southsea raised £10,000.

It’s an indefatigable commitment which draws praise from Primus, himself granted an MBE for services to football and charity in the 2015 New Year Honours list.

He added: ‘I have tried to help Tony as much as I can over the years, he has helped me loads and loads in terms of Faith and Football.

‘His desire to help and continue to help is huge. He never stops, he keeps going and keeps going.

‘I am sure almost everyone will know Tony in some capacity, whether it is in fundraising, as a roofer, or as Touchline Tony at Pompey.

‘There are a lot of people who do good things, but to sustain it is very difficult. He has been able to keep it going for 25 years now.

‘Tony wants to give back. He cannot physically give money, but can put himself forward to raise it – and does it with a smile on his face. He lures me in every time!’

In the midst of his drive, Male has a number of Pompey Legends fixtures lined up to bolster funds further.

Perhaps involving another memorable turn from the man himself.

Male said: ‘Me and the players go to a pub on a Sunday afternoon and spend two hours talking football.

‘We talk to Walshie about his two spells at Fratton Park, with Knightsie and Awfs it is always the 1992 FA Cup semi-final and whose fault the Highbury goal was. They blame each other, so we have a bit of fun!

‘Then there is Bradders being bought out of the Army, Linvoy scoring his goals against the Hammers with his West Ham-supporting parents in the stand. There are always stories the fans want to hear.

‘Best of all, it raises money for a fantastic charity.

‘I can safely say we are now at the £20,000 mark – but it doesn’t stop.’

For more information on Male’s 25K Challenge, visit www.touchlinetony25kchallenge.org