The ex-Pompey chairman seeking to inspire another rebirth

Former Pompey chairman Iain McInnes celebrates Pompey's League Two title success with a hug for Kyle Bennett Picture: Joe Pepler
Former Pompey chairman Iain McInnes celebrates Pompey's League Two title success with a hug for Kyle Bennett Picture: Joe Pepler

Jackett: Fourth place now open to Pompey

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Eddie Wakley’s challenge thudded into the legs of Jennison Myrie-Williams rather than the ball which had cheerfully passed him by.

Then referee Andy Bennett’s yellow card lit the incendiary.

Moments earlier, Gosport right-back Wakley had been the unfortunate victim, shoved into advertising hoardings for a head-on collision.

Hereford culprit, Myrie-Williams, escaped punishment – until thunderous revenge.

Nonetheless, Wakley’s booking sparked Gosport’s enraged chairman to clamber out of the directors’ box and march along the side of the pitch to remonstrate with the official.

The powder-keg eruptions of Iain McInnes no longer shake Fratton Park’s South Stand. These days Privett Park is his stamping ground.

His final act during four years as Pompey’s ebullient chairman was to appoint Kenny Jackett in a unanimous boardroom decision.

Within six months, McInnes had taken residence at Southern League premier division strugglers Gosport, having rescued them from oblivion.

The Pompey badge remains concreted to his left lapel – but that distinctive passion now explodes on match days in non-league circles.

The 67-year-old said: ‘I didn’t say anything to my wife, Jane. She went away on one of her holidays and found out while watching the BBC.

‘She phoned me and said: “You’ve bought a football club?” So here I am.

‘In business terms this club had gone, but because it’s football, even at this level, it gets an extra tank of oxygen when others asphyxiate.

‘There was nobody else. There were some speculators who wanted to close it down and turn it into a coach park, others wanted to double the rent to a football club who couldn’t afford the rent anyway. All the usual suspects.

‘Then you get a Joe Muggins like me who says “I’ll have a go”.

‘Pompey remains my first love. My daughter, Georgie, is going to live overseas and soon I will not see that much of her – but you have to learn to love from a distance.

‘I am committed to Gosport now, but my football club is Pompey. Pompey don’t need me any more, though. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but it has moved on and I don’t think I would have fitted very well into the current regime.

‘That’s not criticising them, but it is a very different kind of set-up with a very different kind of manager.

‘Me stopping going to Fratton Park was not a conscious decision. The first three times I went back I felt very different about the whole thing, even if I still jumped up and down when goals went for and against us.

‘Then Gosport came along and I thought “If it can’t be the same again for me at Pompey I should do something else”. I am still a passionate individual and it just felt right.

‘For me, Pompey just lost something, not my passion, not my loyalty, not the fact I will die in a blue and white scarf, but it kind of went.’

In December 2017, McInnes purchased Gosport from Mark Hook – investing infectious enthusiasm in the process.

That positive thinking is required, with Borough four points adrift at the table’s foot, scrapping with Dunstable to avoid successive relegations.

Admittedly, McInnes’ decision to return Alex Pike to the helm following a dismissal earlier in the campaign has caused controversy.

Pike had previously masterminded the club to a Wembley FA Trophy final against Cambridge United and promotion to the National League South.

Yet Gosport have subsequently failed to win any of his 14 matches in charge, with 13 defeats and a draw.

In Pike’s current spell, he has used 42 players, recruiting 26 of them – including debutants Rowan Vine and Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis in Tuesday’s 4-0 loss against leaders Hereford.

In total, 75 players have represented Gosport over 42 matches during a testing season totalling nine points.

Off the pitch, however, there has been the clearing of long-standing debts to Gosport Borough Council, football clubs and players, while the club’s academy is being revitalised.

The ever-determined McInnes acknowledges it is no short-term fix.

He added: ‘I don’t fear relegation, it wouldn’t have made much difference which division we were in after I had made up my mind to come.

‘It’s not like Pompey. I remember getting to 14th and thinking “We had better do something here” and I did! This is a rebuild and will take three or four years.

‘I’m not telling you how much I’ve put in, you’ll tell Jane! But it’s north of £50,000 at the minute. The club doesn’t yet wash its face because, although we have an active bar, the gate money is not that significant.

‘Alex is back, he needs his confidence rebuilt as much as the club, and I have stuck by him.

‘Hereford was our 13th defeat since his return and there aren’t many managers still in jobs after 13 defeats, but I learnt from my Pompey time that sometimes you have to stick rather than twist.

‘He is Gosport through and through and we will go with what we have until the season’s end at least. If we go down, we live to fight another day.

‘Alex is owed salary in back pay, which he has agreed to ring-fence until we can pay it and Mark Hook is also owed a big chunk of money, which he has agreed to ring-fence.

‘Alex is an interesting character. We have a stormy relationship, but I have huge respect for his track record. If he wasn’t right to be here then he wouldn’t be here – I think my track record says that is probably the case.’

The charismatic McInnes was instrumental in saving Pompey from liquidation – now he’s masterminding Gosport’s rebirth.

He added: ‘I’ll drop dead one day running up and down that touchline, that’s the way to go, isn’t it.

‘I am just me, what you see is what you get. I love football, I love people.

‘A message to Pompey fans – I love you to death and miss you. But come and see me, you are always welcome.’