Primus: Pompey life with Prosinecki

Robert Prosinecki celebrates a goal for Pompey
Robert Prosinecki celebrates a goal for Pompey
Pompey's Jamal Lowe cuts a frustrated figure after Bradford's smash-and-grab raid. Picture: Joe Pepler

What Pompey need to do to become a top-six side

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This Christmas sees Played Up Pompey Too hit the shelves.

Written by The News’ chief sports writer, Neil Allen, the book contains fresh interviews with 23 of the Fratton faithful’s favourite players.

Linvoy Primus celebrates his first Pompey goal before disaster struck against Barnsley

Linvoy Primus celebrates his first Pompey goal before disaster struck against Barnsley

Continuing a series of extracts is LINVOY PRIMUS, who made 219 appearances and scored six goals for the club.

When you saw him around day in, day out, you thought ‘Is that really him, is that really Robert Prosinecki?’.

A few years earlier in the 1998 World Cup finals in France he was an unbelievable part of a Croatia side which finished third, so among the Pompey players there was an air of ‘Oh my word, that’s the king’.

He was humble, though. Not a great talker, mind, his English was poor, although he knew he had the respect of the dressing room and could do whatever he wanted.

Robert Prosinecki salutes the North Stand after netting an injury-time winner against Gillingham at Fratton Park

Robert Prosinecki salutes the North Stand after netting an injury-time winner against Gillingham at Fratton Park

You had this amazing gem among us, yet one person couldn’t lift everyone, it was impossible.

Prosinecki was a good pro – although liked the cigarettes!

He would smoke with our kitman Kev McCormack before training, often staying behind afterwards to practise free-kicks.

In a match, if he was on the ball enough he won it for you. Probably his legs were a bit old by that stage, while he was not able to outrun anybody but he could dictate a game.

When we had pre-match team meetings – sometimes at the Portsmouth Marriott Hotel, on other occasions in Fratton Park’s Chimes Bar – he would smoke away at the bar and have a coffee, but that was him. You weren’t going to change this European Cup winner. How can you tell him what not to do?

Prosinecki’s finest match was against Barnsley in February 2002, in which he scored the only hat-trick of his career.

I also netted my first Fratton Park goal but was sent off in the 84th minute as we let slip a two-goal lead to draw 4-4.

I was fuming, absolutely fuming at the decision, because I never did anything wrong.

However, referee Phil Prosser claimed I threw a punch at Chris Morgan during a corner, so brandished a straight red card and awarded Barnsley a penalty.

Martin Ebbage was the linesman and later told me he didn’t see anything, yet the referee claimed I pushed Morgan. I couldn’t have, I had my back to him and would have had to turn round to get him.

There was no video footage to allow an appeal, so the card stood. Anyhow, Chris Lumsdon scored the subsequent penalty and Mike Sheron netted a stoppage-time equaliser.

If I had stayed on the pitch we would have won because there wouldn’t have been a penalty. The way we dominated the game we would have seen it out, definitely.

As for Prosinecki, he wasn’t happy that day. Not that I hung around after that game, I just got my stuff and left!

He was very good against Barnsley, it was like watching a big lad playing against little kids, like a Year 10 pupil up against Year 5 pupils. They knew exactly what he was going to do, but allowed him to do it again and again.

• Played Up Pompey Too is priced at £17.99 and available from Waterstones in Portsmouth, Fareham and Petersfield and local newsagents. It can also be ordered from Amazon.