Northstand Nostalgia: A football giant and a lesser ‘Monster’

Milan Mandaric signs autographs
Milan Mandaric signs autographs
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A regular contributor to the Football Mail’s letters page many moons ago, the Northstand Critic has got back in touch...

During our 2002-03 promotion season, I was experiencing a rather drawn out and tiresome re-mortgage procedure with a renowned lender.

Despite my best efforts to hasten the process I felt my lender was not necessarily on my side and I thought I may have been better served had I spoken to a ‘listening’ bank.

During a conversation with the society’s after-sales team, I was offered hospitality tickets for Pompey’s forthcoming game at Leicester in recompense for their under performance.

I eagerly accepted their kind offer.

My father and I keenly counted down the days to our corporate debut at the Walkers Stadium.

My dad was in his 70s but we were both akin to a couple of exited schoolboys in our unaccustomed surroundings.

When we were introduced to Milan Mandaric before the game, my dad beamed.

Milan was so friendly and generous with his time.

He left us both with a formidable impression.

Drinking coffee and reading our programme before the game, we were joined at our table by three late arrivals.

Pompey’s new signing Tim Sherwood, Tim’s agent Eric ‘Monster’ Hall and Eric’s burly minder each pulled up a chair and joined in with our pre-match footy chat.

It was not long, however, before our belated arrival Eric, turned the talk around to himself.

The showbiz impresario seemed to have very little interest in football but lots in Eric Hall.

He was very candid about the vast sums of money he had accumulated from the beautiful game, supplementing his already monstrous wealth.

I could see the disdain on my father’s face, with regard to Eric’s boasting.

I asked about the possibility of a small donation to a Portsmouth charity.

For one moment, there was silence.

Then the entertainment really began.

Eric had hardly ingratiated himself into our company or to the people of Leicester for that matter.

The previous year he had been the chief creditor responsible for bringing Leicester City into administration and current chairman Jon Holmes was aghast at his presence at the club that evening.

The chairman then sent a deputation of heavies over to our table asking Mr Hall for his preferred means of exit from the stadium. Assisted of unassisted?

After a brief chat with his minder, who was visibly carrying out a risk assessment, Mr Hall chose the latter.

His departure was greeted with huge applause from all present, my dad’s grin broadened.

Fast forward to 2006 and both Pompey and my father were ensconced in two entirely different battles.

Pompey were trying to stave off Premiership relegation, while my dad was recovering from a stroke.

Directly after securing our safety at Wigan in our penultimate game, I rang him to share our collective joy.

During this call, Mr Mandaric walked past me, at pitch-side.

I explained to Milan about my father’s stroke, which had terminated his Pompey-watching days.

Milan then snatched the phone from my hand and bellowed to my dad: ‘We did this for you!’

This is a tale of a true football giant and one of a much lesser man!