Booed before he'd kicked a ball for Portsmouth - 20 years on from the arrival of ex-West Ham and Charlton man who'd become a legend

His place in the Pompey Hall of Fame is assured, his standing as one of the club’s most predatory finishers revered.

By Jordan Cross
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 4:30 pm

But it wasn’t always like that for Svetoslav Todorov at Fratton Park.

In fact, yesterday marked 20 years to the day when the legendary Bulgarian made his Blues bow - and was booed before he’d kicked a ball for the club.

Sheffield Wednesday were the opponents in the final match of Graham Rix’s tenure as manager, with Todorov’s capture from West Ham completed for £750,000 four days earlier.

You didn’t need to be a genius to realise the former Litex Lovech forward wasn’t arriving as Rix’s man, with then director of football Redknapp doing the deal.

‘He is a very good player, a goalscorer with good technique and a good touch,’ Redknapp said of the signing at the time.

‘He's a very intelligent footballer and will bring good competition in the striker department with people like Crouch, Burchill and Bradbury etc next season.

‘He is a Premiership player in my opinion and should do well in the First Division. He will complement Crouch well - he holds the ball up well, with good touches and is a good finisher.

Svetoslav Todorov: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

‘You don't play for your country as often as he has if you are not a good player. He is still a young player and great value for the money.’

With the fee a sizeable one back then, there was also the small matter of Todorov looking to take the place of fans’ favourite Mark Burchill - who was nearing his recovery from a knee injury.

The sum total was a less than hospitable welcome as his name was announced before kick-off on his debut.

There was little sign of what was to follow, as a 0-0 draw led to Rix’s sacking the following Monday with Pompey foundering in 15th in Division One.

Harry Rednapp celebrates winning the Division One title with Svetoslav Todorov. PICTURE:STEVE REID(032070-117)

It was to get worse before it was to get better for Todorov, as he was sent off the following weekend at Preston - with a 2-0 loss marking Redknapp’s first game in charge.

It was the 2002-03 season, of course, which really marked lift-off for the man affectionately known as ‘Toddy’ and his Fratton career.

A 3-0 home win over Watford saw the arch-finisher grab the first of what was to be 26 league goals which fired Pompey to the Premier League promised land.

The full-length dive into the Fratton End is etched in folklore against Burnley as promotion was sealed, with Todorov, of course, grabbing a further two strikes to ensure the prestigious silverware was collected against Rotherham 12 days later.

The all-time Pompey great then completed a memorable personal achievement by winning the golden boot after a final-day hat-trick at Bradford in the 5-0 romp - his place in the pantheon of Blues greats guaranteed.

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