'On the pitch, he was an animal' - ex-winger on his Portsmouth stay and keeping in touch with Matt Clarke

Former winger Ben Tollitt admitted Michael Doyle turned into ‘an animal’ on the pitch for Pompey.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 4:30 pm
Ben Tollitt. Picture: Joe Pepler

And the Liverpudlian still reflects fondly on his ‘unbelievable experience’ of earning his Football League breakthrough at Fratton Park.

Tollitt was recruited as part of Paul Cook’s overhaul after taking the hot seat in the summer of 2015.

Signed from non-league Skelmersdale United, the ex-Everton youngster was handed his maiden contract in the professional game.

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In total, scored one goal in 12 appearances for Pompey before departing for Tranmere the following season.

Captain of Cook’s side was the experienced Doyle – who’d lift the League Two title aloft in 2017.

And while the Irishman was genial away from the pitch, he was a different character during games.

Tollitt, now playing for AFC Fylde, told nonleaguedaily.com: ‘At Portsmouth, there were players like Gary Roberts. Michael Doyle was a big one (character). On the pitch, he was an animal, but off the pitch, the nicest guy you’ll ever meet in your life.

‘Going to Portsmouth as well from where I’d been, that was a big experience, coming across people like that.

‘It’s probably one of the furthest places in England you can get to from where I’m from; go any more south and you’re in France, aren’t you? Yeah, it was scary.

‘I’d never lived away, was always around my mum, my dad, all I knew was Liverpool and around Anfield. My mum did my washing, my cooking, all that, so it was a steep learning curve when I had to move away.

‘Also, being in a city and knowing absolutely nobody, mixed with coming from where I had, playing for Widnes, to then signing for Portsmouth, who were the biggest club in League Two, potentially even in League One as well.

‘Not that I didn’t feel I deserved to be there, but coming from where I did, I thought ‘I need to prove to these guys why I am actually here’.

‘So combining that with living away, it was crazy, but an unbelievable experience – not many can say they had their first professional contract at a place like Portsmouth.'

Tollitt’s now back in the non-league season having represented Tranmere and Blackpool.

AFC Fylde play in the National League North – the sixth tier of English football.

In contrast, Matt Clarke – who Tollitt lived with at Pompey – is now at Premier League Brighton and is on a season-long loan at Derby in the Championship.

However, the pair still stay in touch.

Tollitt added: ‘One of the lads in the team, Matt Clarke, we got put living together; he’s on loan at Derby now (from Brighton). We lived together with a couple called Tom and Charlotte, and Tom worked at the football club at the time.

‘When I first went down, I was in a hotel, but then they looked after us. It was good coming back from training with Matt, and then we were in together in the house, we had a really good laugh.

‘Being so far away, I probably fell lucky with the people I was living with, and still keep in touch with them now.’