Stone: Visitors hated Fratton Park, but I loved Pompey’s fans

Former Pompey midfielder Steve Stone

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.

Continuing this week’s series of extracts is Steve Stone, who made 80 appearances and scored 10 goals for the club.

It was March 1994 when I first came across Fratton Park as a 22-year-old in Frank Clark’s Forest side which lost 2-1, Gerry Creaney and Paul Hall the home scorers in the Division One encounter.

I remembered it being such a long way from Nottingham.

Away teams really didn’t want to play there because of the distance and the stadium itself.

The changing rooms are horrendous, absolutely horrendous, and let’s not forget the mindset of the professional footballer is everywhere they go they are kings, whether on buses, private jets, it’s travelling first class. Then you go to Pompey.

Stood in that Fratton Park tunnel you saw the opposition thinking ‘What’s going on here?’

I was once one of those players, I knew exactly how they felt.

The whole place is set up for the home team, if you have a half-decent side you can exploit it extremely well – and I loved playing in that environment.

I like smaller cities, I like football clubs I feel part of, I like being in a team structure, and the teams I did well at, such as Forest and Pompey, had those positive elements.

With the Blues, I had a routine after half-time which involved running towards the North Stand to try to get them going. It was a method I’d previously seen work at the City Ground.

Before the match started, the Forest fans would chant ‘Psycho, Psycho’ to Stuart Peace and he would respond by passionately pumping his fist.

Watching that unfold made me laugh, yet I decided to adopt it at the beginning of the second half with a ‘Come on’ to the Forest fans. It created a rapport – and I repeated the routine at Pompey, where it worked even better!

At Forest the middle section would respond, yet at Fratton Park the whole stand erupted from the first moment I introduced it.

I believe fans want to see a player demonstrating passion and connecting with them, it’s something football has largely lost. There is no way you can get close to a top-flight footballer these days.

I would say to some of our lads ‘watch this’ and as I made my way over to the North Stand you could see the supporters standing up in anticipation. It got them going and I loved our relationship.

When I go to watch a concert, I hate seeing a guy just singing. I want them chatting between songs and telling their story, I want them connecting with the crowd to get everyone on their feet.

At the beginning of the second half there is a funny lull because both sets of players are a bit lethargic following the interval, the crowd are returning to their seats having gone for a pie and it’s all a bit wishy washy.

It needs livening up. At the game’s start, everyone is ready, they don’t require to be geed up.

n 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.

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