The passing of the Manchester lad who let Pompey into his heart

Former Pompey player Tommy McGhee
Former Pompey player Tommy McGhee
Ben Close, left, and Jack Whatmough celebrate Pompey's win at oldham last season/ Picture: Joe Pepler

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Manchester lad Tommy McGhee was the Pompey Division One favourite who became a long-time Fratton Park season-ticket holder.

The Royal Navy right-back signed for the Blues professionally in May 1954 – and proceeded to live a stone’s throw from the club he grew to love until his passing on Saturday.

As a player, the England B international featured for five Pompey seasons, amassing 148 appearances.

A latecomer into the Football League at the age of 25 following the culmination of National Service, the Blues provided the former Wealdstone full-back with his finest moments in the game.

Originally living in Milton’s Alverstone Road, he walked to matches, whether as a player or supporter. That remained the case after switching to nearby Vernon Avenue.

McGhee possessed a season ticket in the North Stand, level with the centre circle, and, as recently as this season, attended with his grandsons.

The 89-year-old was present against Cheltenham when Paul Cook’s side won the League Two title so dramatically on the final day of the 2016-17 season.

He was also at Wembley for the 2008 FA Cup final triumph over Cardiff.

According to his family, he was talking about renewing his Fratton Park seat days before his death.

Irrespective of his age, McGhee’s recollections of his playing career were immaculately detailed when I interviewed him in January.

Spending one-and-a-half hours in the pensioner’s company at his Fratton home, he reeled off a wealth of vivid stories.

McGhee’s memory – and accuracy of his anecdotes – rank among the most outstanding delivered by any retired player I have interviewed.

His dislike for Freddie Cox, the manager he blamed for the ‘ruination’ of Pompey, was all too apparent.

Ultimately, a fall out with his Blues boss ensured McGhee’s final match was a 4-4 draw at Spurs in February 1959.

During his Fratton Park playing career, McGhee performed alongside the likes of Jimmy Dickinson, Peter Harris, Len Phillips, Johnny Gordon, Alex Wilson and Ron Saunders.

After retirement, he worked at the de Havilland aircraft company down Eastern Road, then Hawker Siddeley’s Hambledon base.

Up until a few years ago, McGhee was employed in a paper shop opposite the Milton Arms, a short walk from his home, and could often be glimpsed riding his bike.

Now Pompey and its city have lost a familiar presence.

– NEIL ALLEN