The Arsenal, Aston Villa, Coventry City and Sheffield United favourites who etched themselves in Portsmouth folklore - and answer those questioning move for Millwall man
It’s the eve of the 2002-03 season and Pompey sign a midfielder few others want.
The announcement of Paul Merson’s arrival caused excitement among the Fratton faithful, but the reality is he arrived at PO4 because he was deemed a fringe player at Aston Villa and there was hardly a stampede of attractive suitors beating their way to his door.
Fast forward 13 years, and Paul Cook orders a pint of lager and sits down with a veteran free agent, told he was no longer required by a team who’d failed in the League One play-offs the previous season.
Michael Doyle is a Sheffield United cast-off, but one who’s informed his presence is required on the south coast as a cornerstone of a football club’s bid to finally rise from English football’s depths.
The impact of both men would prove seismic in their relative Pompey spheres. One as the undoubted catalyst for a never-to-be-forgotten rise to the Premier League, the other as the indomitable leader of champions very much in the image of the city they represented.
And both were aged 34 when they pulled on their royal blue shirts in competitive action for the first time.
Perhaps it’s worth reaffirming that fact, as Pompey get set to greet their latest summer arrival.
Shaun Williams is on the brink of being named as the latest addition to Danny Cowley’s overhaul, as he arrives after leaving Championship Millwall.
Yet, there’s been those who have been quick to offer the Republic of Ireland man’s age as cause to question the wisdom of the deal.
Those who take the time to search a little deeper in their due diligence over Williams will soon be reassured, however.
To see the esteem the midfielder is held in with the club he’s served for the past seven years is a fine starting point.
Williams has clocked up over 300 appearances in League One and the Championship in that time, and established himself as a respected figure in the Lion’s dressing room.
Capped by his country for the first time at the age of 31, the man from Portmarnock has reserved some of the best football of his career for recent years.
The standards he’s set in that time have been heralded as an example to his team-mates, with 29 appearances clocked up last term.
This is the type of character Pompey need in their camp.
In all honesty, Williams is the kind of figure this club has not had enough of in recent seasons, a standard bearer and someone who will keep the bar raised.
That may not be achieved through ranting and raving, but there’s a level of operating which some of those who will become the assured performer’s team-mates can, and need to aspire to.
No doubt, those qualities were noted as Cowley went into his data room, and made his decision over whether Williams is the right man for him.
The outcome is set to be the former Drogheda United man assuming a place in the all-important spine of Pompey’s side next season - and the aim of emulating those great wise, old stagers who served this club with such distinction in years gone by.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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