The sole major trophy of Harry Redknapp’s managerial career – yet the FA Cup would complete a hat-trick of treasured successes.
The glorious capture of the 2002-03 Division One title earned Pompey a Premier League presence, then the remarkable 2006 Great Escape kept them there.
Concluding the triple triumph was seizing the 2008 FA Cup – the 10-year anniversary of that Wembley victory over Cardiff marked today.
Each achievement is cherished by Redknapp, accomplishments unable to be separated in the eyes of the man who masterminded them for the Blues.
Proud entries on the CV of a boss whose only subsequent sniff of silverware was his Spurs side’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in the 2009 Carling Cup final.
Redknapp said: ‘Staying up that season was as good as winning the FA Cup – and getting promoted as well.
‘The three were all different, but three great achievements and I can’t separate them.
‘I had the greatest time of my life at Portsmouth, I loved every minute of it, absolutely loved it.
‘It was probably the happiest I have ever been in football.
‘You look at getting promoted in that first year, to win the league like that in the Championship is not easy and it’s not as if we went out and spent a fortune.
‘We took Paul Merson for a quarter of his wages, Matty Taylor was cheap from Luton and became a great left-back, Arjan De Zeeuw on a free from Wigan and what a leader he was, while Jim Smith would have to be my best signing. Milan used to hate that ‘Harry and Jim’ song. “Why are they singing that?”, he would ask.
‘He didn’t like Jim, he had this thing about Jim. We used to fall out more about Jim than anything else. He didn’t want Jim, but I had great times with Milan.
‘Then to stay up in 2006 was incredible. We were dead and buried, and how we came back so late in the season was just amazing. At the DW Stadium we were waiting for the result from Birmingham against Newcastle and I’m looking at Peter (Storrie) in the stand shouting: “What’s happening?”
‘He’s checking his phone saying: “They’re still playing”. Suddenly Dejan Stefanovic appeared shouting: “Come on, what’s the matter?” – then Peter cheered, it had finished as a draw. I shed a tear that day, I must be honest. On the pitch I was as emotional as I have ever been in football. Coming back from Southampton, if I hadn’t kept Portsmouth up that year I would have been in big, big trouble. It wasn’t easy. I remember going to Villa and getting beat and there was a banner about me, it was tough. My life was so good at Portsmouth – 45 minutes to training, I loved it there. It was fantastic for me.’
Along the road to Wembley there was a quarter-final stop off against Manchester United, yielding a shock 1-0 Pompey triumph.
During the length of the Cup run, five matches were won 1-0 away from home, while there was a 2-1 Fratton Park success over Plymouth.
Yet it was only after Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had been dispatched at Old Trafford that the Blues were suddenly regarded as genuine FA Cup contenders.
Redknapp added: ‘Once we won at Old Trafford, that night Chelsea lost to Barnsley and suddenly it opened up.
‘Everybody thought Chelsea and Manchester United would end up in the final, suddenly the two of them had gone out and we were the favourites.
‘When we drew Manchester United away I was choked really, I just wanted to go to Wembley. In the end we were backwards and forwards to Wembley, it became like a second home. Even now I get disappointed when people say we bought the FA Cup.
‘We beat Manchester United on the way and our team wouldn’t have cost anywhere near how much their’s did. Ahead of the final, I decided to choose Pedro Mendes ahead of Papa Bouba Diop, I just thought Pedro could get hold of the ball and control the game.
‘He gave us a bit more at Wembley, but it was difficult leaving big Papa out.
‘All the pressure was on us to go there and beat Cardiff – being the Premier League side it was expected of us.
‘Luckily enough we managed to do it, it was a great day.’