'Portsmouth - It's my club': The emotional Fratton Park homecoming for the Ipswich striker who will forever remain 'One Of Our Own'
At his Worthing school, he was widely referred to as ‘Conor who plays for Pompey’.
The Fratton Park association stretches back almost two decades and remains in the heart, despite not born and raised in the local vicinity.
Blues followers would regard him as ‘One of our own’, an acceptance voiced in song which accompanied more than a century of appearances.
Conor Chaplin himself considers Pompey as ‘my club’ – and continues unafraid to acknowledge such emotional attachment.
And on Tuesday night, the 24-year-old returns to Fratton Park in opposition colours for a third time in his career, on this occasion with Ipswich.
As a six-year-old, Chaplin was spotted playing in a Worthing Dynamos open day in Durrington, West Sussex, earning an invitation to the Blues’ Chichester development centre.
Then a left winger, he joined the under-nines once age permitted, with the occasion of his signing marked by first-team midfielder Gary O’Neil in attendance and posing for photos.
Some 15 years later, Chaplin departed Pompey for Coventry, initially on loan, desiring an existence beyond the substitutes’ bench.
The popular striker had totalled 122 appearances and scored 25 goals for the Blues, with 86 of those outings from the bench, until that August 2018 exit.
He also featured in the 2016-17 League Two title-winning team.
‘I still look at videos of when we won the League Two title, those times were the happiest of my life,’ Chaplin told Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart in 2020 while at Barnsley.
‘I worry I won’t be able to experience that again in my whole career. That was my home, I had won promotion with my club, and I just worry I’m never going to top that feeling, which is quite scary.
‘I’d like to think I’ve got many years left of my career, but, should I get promoted elsewhere, I don’t know whether it will be as special.
‘It was being at my club, with that fantastic bunch of players, and finally ending 10 years of rubbish. That meant a hell of a lot to me – and I was part of a group which started the rise.
‘When Pompey are in the Championship after however many years, I know for a fact I contributed towards that. Even though I am no longer there, I played my part.
‘Do you know what? That makes me proud and it makes me so incredibly happy.
‘It is my club, I have always been there. At school I was “Conor who plays for Pompey”, it’s the club where I spent 80 per cent of my life, which is frightening when you think about it.
‘The worst thing in the world was leaving, but it was a decision I had to make and don’t regret it.
‘Pompey is an unbelievable club, an absolutely unbelievable club. I would rather have continued there, but that wasn’t to be. There are no regrets about leaving, it has turned out to be the right decision.’
Chaplin would net eight times in 32 appearances for Coventry during a stay which spanned the 2018-19 campaign.
That consisted of a 16-minute substitute outing at Fratton Park in April 2019, which Kenny Jackett’s side won 2-1.
He then moved to Championship Barnsley in July 2019 for an undisclosed fee, where he amassed 17 goals in 86 appearances.
In January 2020, the Tykes were drawn to face Pompey in the fourth round of the FA Cup, with Pompey claiming an upset by pulling off a 4-2 triumph.
Chaplin, who featured for the full 90 minutes, was, at times, greeted by Fratton End renditions of ‘He’s one of our own’ and also ‘He should have stayed here’, using the same tune.
When he pounced to net a last-gasp consolation for the visitors after Alex Bass had initially saved well from Jacob Brown, the striker refused to celebrate.
Tomorrow night represents another homecoming for the 24-year-old, who has netted three times in eight matches since bought by Ipswich in the summer.
The Worthing lad who became a Pompey fan.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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