Mark Catlin: A chance to represent Portsmouth at the home of football deserves the utmost respect

Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin took time out of his busy schedule to talk to The News ahead of tomorrow’s Papa John’s Trophy final against Salford City.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 5:00 pm

Here’s what he had to say about another Blues trip to Wembley ..

We're looking forward to representing Portsmouth Football Club at the home of football once again.

It’s going to a poorer occasion playing in the final without you, the fans, there's no doubt about that.

But I still believe that any tournament you go into and it ends up at Wembley is deserving of the utmost respect.

The last time we were there we gave it our full respect backed by 45,000 fans in a crowd of 85,000. That made for a fantastic occasion against Sunderland.

Unfortunately, that will not be the case this time, but this is still a trophy to be won which can be a mark on our honours board recorded in the annals of football history.

People won’t talk about the circumstances of the game in years to come, it will be seen as another addition to our already quite sizeable trophy cabinet!

Mark Catlin and the board celebrate with the players at Wembley two years ago

Two years on from the Sunderland game and the memories are still vivid. They are unbelievable memories really.

After years of struggle, coming out of administration, sorting the club out and then promotion, to have a day out at Wembley was a special occasion.

I know Wembley is special to all fans, but it certainly has a special place in the hearts of Pompey fans.

In terms of special days, I can recount much of what happened at Notts County, I can recount a lot of the final-day win at Cheltenham to win the league but then it’s probably the final at Wembley and lifting the trophy.

Pompey's chief executive Mark Catlin at Wembley

When I see the picture of us celebrating in the Royal Box, it’s something I’ll forever cherish.

The Pompey fans staying behind and celebrating with us on the pitch will live on with us and a whole new generation of fans.

We spoke to the players about different options and the final possibly not being at Wembley.

But a lot of players go through their whole careers and never get the chance to play there.

To have the chance to play at the true Mecca of football is a something to savour.

I’m not sure how it will be without fans, but I’m a bit of a stadium buff and even when I go there for meetings I will often just go and stand outside for 20 minutes to take it in.

I just love the look and feel of stadiums and Wembley is an iconic stadium – and just a very memorable place to go in any capacity.

I know the date change was mooted but it would’ve thrown us into the play-off territory, and I don’t think we want this anywhere near the play-offs if that’s where we end up.

We would want to concentrate fully on those games and wouldn’t want a distraction. At the moment, we’ve put Peterborough back but we’ve still got the flow into the end of the season.

It wouldn’t have been great, for example, if we’d had to play this game in the middle of the two play-off semi-finals or between the semi and final. It just wouldn’t have worked for us – and I think other clubs felt the same.

There will be a demand from our Pompey fans to go out and win it, but we don’t want this occasion to add to our pressures – we want the game to take away from the pressures of the league season.

Salford are a very good team and this is going to be a big day for them. I’m sure they’ll be doing all they can to stop us.

As much as we want to win it, it’s got to be a day in the scheme of our season which is a day off for our players.

I don’t mean that in the playing sense but in terms of the mental toughness of going through a league season.

This is going to be day they can just go out and enjoy – and that, to me, is a key point.

Salford have amazing owners who have a desire and aim for the club – and are willing to fund that. Fair play to them.

Since we’ve come out of administration, I’ve said it’s about size of budget and structure.

I don’t think anyone should be fooled by the name Salford.

Look at the great players they’ve got, the management they’ve got and the ownership they’ve got.

The name of the club is irrelevant – it’s a very well run, well funded and ambitious club.

We shouldn’t underestimate them at all – and I’m sure we won’t.

They’ve recruited well and they are on a good run in the league.

As we all know, they’ve got well-educated football people running the club who know what they’re doing.

They’ve invested a lot of money into them – and good luck to them.

But don’t get fooled by the name, it’s an irrelevance really.

The stature of a club when you go up against them is judged by the management and the players on the pitch. They are very strong in both aspects.

Across the spectrum and across the leagues, however, you want to be the best you can at that particular level.

I know the Trophy has been ridiculed, but it is another trophy and if we can set another record along the way by retaining it then so be it.

It’s going to be a tough game against a very tough, well-drilled and capable Salford side – but this is an opportunity we want to grasp with both hands.