IT’LL BE friends reunited at Fratton Park tomororw.
And for Leam Richardson, it will stir memories of some of the happiest days of his career.
We thought we were Real Madrid! We believed we were better than everyone when we walked out on the pitch.Leam Richardson
Accrington Stanley is the club the Pompey assistant manager is in extricably linked with.
Eight memorable years as a player, caretaker manager and permanent boss at the Crown Ground has ensured that’s the case.
And being part of a team who believed they were the Conference equivalent of ‘Real Madrid’ left a lasting impression on the 35-year-old.
Accy stormed to success in emphatic fashion in his first season at the club – winning the title by 11 points.
That success didn’t stop him spending the campaign playing for the club without a contract, however.
Richardson said: ‘There are some good memories.
‘We came up in my first season.
‘It was an experience in every sense of the word. I don’t use it lightly!
‘I originally went there to keep fit for a week and ended up staying there for eight years!
‘I was playing on a non contract. I didn’t sign a contract for the first 12 months!
‘I knew the chairman’s son. Eric Whalley was the chairman at the time and the gaffer John Coleman.
‘We built a relationship with this young group of lads who were dead hungry.
‘They’ve all gone on and progressed. If you listened to a few of them speak in the dressing room you’d have thought they’d won a few leagues.
‘We thought we were Real Madrid! We believed we were better than everyone when we walked out on the pitch.
‘That’s why we turned everybody over week in, week out.
‘Gary Roberts was one of them, Anthony Barry who went to Yeovil, players like Paul Mullin who have played hundreds of games. Andy Proctor, Rob Elliot at Newcastle. It was a good group.
‘It’s no surprise a few moved on sharpish because they were good players.’
The influence of Accy boss John Coleman, who served the club from 1999 to 2012 before returning last year, has been fundamental to Richardson.
He knows all about the club’s hand-to-mouth existence after his time in the hot-seat – and is full of admiration for the job he continues to do.
Richardson is looking forward to catching up with Coleman and some other familiar faces tomorrow.
He said: ‘I have close friends there still.
‘I got close to the chairman (Peter Marsden) who is a very nice fella.
‘He helped my time there and my profession. I thought highly of him.
‘When I moved on he couldn’t have been any more accommodating.
‘I’ve played under the manager for a long time. It’ll be nice to see him. I’ve got a lot of respect for John.
‘These clubs lose their best players year after year and keep going.
‘It’s a frustrating thing even for John now. To keep pulling rabbits out of the hat is difficult.
‘The philosophy is the right one and they produce results. I know how hard that job is. To progress like they do every year is great.’