He’s got to be the most decorated autograph hunter in football.
After all, how many internationals, golden-boot winners and champions of English football do you get trying to snaffle signatures at a game?
But Ray Crawford is a man on a mission – and now local charities are set to benefit from his 10-year labour of love.
The former Pompey and England man has recently reached the end of a decade-long assignment which has resulted in him assembling the ultimate piece of football memorabilia.
The tale of how this statto’s piece of footballing heaven came to be can be traced back to November 2007.
The release of Crawford’s autobiography, Curse of the Jungle Boy, provided the foundation for what would later develop thanks to the relentless fundraiser.
Crawford quickly decided all funds raised from sales of his book would be donated to good causes.
That has ensured the likes of the Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation, Gosport’s Harbour Cancer Support and the Motor Neurone Disease Association have benefitted to the tune of £7,000 to date.
At the age of 81, you would have thought the man whose whoops of delight at Pompey goals lit up commentaries on local radio for four years, would be looking to slow things down.
But ‘raising a few bob’ for those in need is still firmly on Crawford’s agenda and that means selling a special and unique collectors’ item to the highest bidder.
‘It’s been a real labour of love,’ said Crawford, as he reflected on his journey with his book.
‘I can’t believe it’s been 10 years collecting them. The time’s flown by.
‘I’ve raised around £7,000 so far, which I’m happy with.
‘A lot of local charities have benefitted and I want to get some more for them. It’d be good to raise a few bob for them.’
That should be more than achievable when you delve into the signatures which gild the pages of Crawford’s book.
In Pompey terms, the list reads like a who’s who of greats to wear the star and crescent.
A total of 14 of the FA Cup-winning squad are present along with a stream of Blues legends from down the years.
The same number of England’s greatest side also feature with the boys of ’66 there, too.
Some of the pictures in the book didn’t go down too well with one member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s men, though, with Jack Charlton noticing his presence in Leeds colours as Crawford and Colchester sprung one of the great FA Cup shocks back in 1971. A colourful response ensued from the defender in his own inimitable manner when they came to light...
Four England managers, including the late Bobby Robson, have emblazoned their signatures on a book which is now full to brimming.
Everyone from Arsene Wenger (‘he was like a prince’) to Norwich majority shareholder Delia Smith (who preceded her squiggle with ‘let’s be ’avin’ you!) are there.
The fact the legendary Len Phillips, along with Cliff Portwood, Johnny Phillips and Keith Blackburn are all present adds a poignancy to the collection, following the death of the Pompey quartet since Crawford added their signatures to his tome.
That cements the significance of a one-of-a-kind footballing collection.
‘I’ve got nice memories and I’ve had fun talking to a lot of well-known people as I’ve collected them,’ Crawford added.
‘There’s been a lot of joy and whatever we can raise by selling it off for charity will be great news for some really good causes.’
n If you’re interested in bidding for the unique piece of memorabilia, call 07981 102285 for more details.