The Cross Word: Few greats feel Pompey pride like Toddy

Svetoslav Todorov is to be inducted into the Pompey Hall of Fame in April    Picture: Mick Young
Svetoslav Todorov is to be inducted into the Pompey Hall of Fame in April Picture: Mick Young
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The Facebook profile picture shows him in typical pose, arms outstretched in celebration of yet another Pompey goal.

It had 558 likes at the last count, after it was posted on December 21 – the day it was announced he was to be inducted into the club’s hall of fame.

Svetoslav Todorov then followed it with heartfelt words of appreciation to the supporters who embraced this outsider in a halcyon period for their club.

‘Thank you Portsmouth Football Club and their amazing supporters,’ Toddy’s message began.

‘Thank you for giving me the most amazing memories and unforgettable moments. Thank you for being there when I needed you the most.’

In these days of spin, soundbytes and rhetoric trotted out to appease the masses in facile fashion, you can rest assured this was as sincere as it was genuine.

In my years of covering Pompey for The News, there has been few players I’ve got to know as well as Todorov.

To this day, you may have to focus as his languid and undulating English words mould into one.

But there’s no doubting their passion when the subject is Pompey and his five years spent at Fratton Park.

It’s easy to forget in the afterglow of those famous chapters he helped write in the history of Portsmouth Football Club, but his presence when arriving in 2002 was initially unwanted.

Graham Rix, who was aware his days were numbered as manager while Harry Redknapp marked time in the boardroom as director of football, knew little about Todorov’s signing as he was thrust upon him.

And there were boos for the 37-year-old on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday, followed by a red card at Preston in his second appearance.

It took until the fourth game of the Division One title-winning season for Todorov to really get on the goal trail against Watford.

From that moment, a natural-born goalscoring darling of the Fratton faithful was born.

The finishes flowed throughout the course of the campaign, culminating in the final-day hat-trick at Bradford which saw him take his total to 26 – and snare the division’s golden boot.

He may have been the chief beneficiary of Paul Merson’s visionary play, but to judge Toddy as an out-and-out goal merchant would do a disservice to his all-round play.

‘On top of the goals, I got 26 assists,’ Todorov proudly stated in an interview in the Sports Mail last summer. ‘We scored about 100 goals and I was involved in half of them!’

Of course, there was pain around the corner, as we saw the Bulgarian international stretchered from the Eastleigh training pitch on the eve of the following Premier League season.

The Pompey love affair was not over, however.

It took two seasons and a false start to ensure that was the case, though, as Todorov battled to recover from his cruciate knee injury.

Plenty doubted he’d ever remotely be the same player again. The man from Dobrich wasn’t one of them.

His friendly demeanour and slight frame believes a sturdiness and mental strength beyond most of his contemporaries.

But even Todorov would have found The Great Escape, and his role in it, a stretch after Redknapp’s return at the end of 2005. Goals against West Brom, West Ham, Blackburn and, particularly, Sunderland cemented survival – and Toddy’s place in Blues folklore.

So, we look ahead to April 1 as Todorov joins the list of Pompey immortals alongside Noel Blake, Dave Kemp and Billy ‘Farmer’s Boy’ Haines.

The 83 Pompey appearances he made may be a relatively low total for a hall of famer, but the 33 goals he scored make his contribution among the most seminal.

What is certain, is few of his peers continue to feel the pride of association with Pompey quite like Toddy.