Vince Hilaire: Micky Kennedy was the man you wanted next to you in Portsmouth battle

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Former Pompey players have been paying tribute to Mick Kennedy, following his death at the age of 57. Here flying winger and Blues favourite Vince Hilaire gives his memories of the great midfielder.    

I always remember Micky before he became my team-mate at Portsmouth. He was someone I intensely disliked!

Mick Kennedy, front row, second left, with the legendary 1986-87 Pompey promotion-winning team.

Mick Kennedy, front row, second left, with the legendary 1986-87 Pompey promotion-winning team.

I couldn’t stand him as an opposing player, because he just got under your skin.

It wasn’t until I played him that I realised it was great for the likes of myself and Kevin O’Callaghan - because for 90 minutes the opposition were just concerned about kicking Micky and didn’t worry about the rest of us!

We didn’t call them games - they were battles and our main rivals were Blackburn and Wimbledon.

There was never a dull moment in those games. All of their thoughts would be channelled on how they could get Micky at some point across the 90 minutes!

Pompey are mourning the death of Mick Kennedy

Pompey are mourning the death of Mick Kennedy

He revelled in that. He never shirked a challenge or a tackle and he was a great leader to play under.

I’m not exaggerating. People say ‘you have to go out there and roll your sleeves up’. Micky used to roll his sleeves up - but the kit was already short sleeves!

Bally loved him and we all loved him because he was someone you wanted to go into battle with.

The funny thing about Micky is that, for all the hard man stuff, he was one of the best two-footed players I played with. And I don’t mean two feet over the top of the ball!

I played with some top players but he was up there for using both feet and his range of passing - but his biggest attribute was he was leader.

We all loved Micky for his all-action style but it did cloud the judgement of his ability. He wouldn’t have played for all those clubs if he just went around kicking people.

He was a fun guy to be around, but what a competitor he was.

At the start of the season there was a push on returning the ball to the opposition, if they kicked it out for an injury.

There was one game at Fratton and I remember the ball being kicked out so a player could get treatment.

The referee said I should restart by throwing the ball back to the team.

I picked the ball up and all I could hear in front of a packed Fratton crowd was Micky threatening to kill me if I gave the ball back!

I was mild-mannered and liked everyone to love me but I threw the ball to one of our players.

The opposition were going mad but I said I’d rather them have a go at me than Mick! That summed up his will to win.

When I played football there were hard men out there.

There’s no doubt Graeme Souness was a hard man in a good team at Liverpool, and so was Jimmy Case.

But there was Micky Kennedy and an old friend I grew up with in east London in Terry Hurlock, who were ferocious.

I remember Hurlock v Kennedy in midfield. I stayed well clear! They were the epitome of hard men.

Micky took loads because he dished it out. He expected it and got on with it.

He never bleated to the ref when he got done. He just waited for his chance for revenge - and sometimes that would be the following season!

They were hard men who could all play.

Mick was our captain but he admitted he’d never shake hands with the opposing skipper before the game if he didn’t have to.

He was a football anorak. He loved football quizzes and talking to players who’d been through good careers.

It’s so sad but the people of Portsmouth should be proud they had someone with that much will to win wearing their team’s shirt.

There was a game at Blackburn which was a top-of-the-table clash and it’s on YouTube.

We went up there and won 1-0 with Micky Tait scoring the winner.

It’s on Match of the Day and afterwards Jimmy Hill talks about how Blackburn Rovers ‘declared war’ on Mick Kennedy and lost sight of the fact is was an important league game.

You can see Micky on the final whistle refusing to shake hands with the opposition.

Then you see five or six Blackburn players chasing him down the tunnel - quickly followed by five or six Pompey players!

In those days teams could get promoted on physicality and making their home ground a tough place to go.

One of those places was Wimbledon at the time of their Crazy Gang.

I have mates who were in that side and they admit a lot of what they took was from what we were doing at the time, and Micky was the leader of that.

He led us on and off the field - and we called him the lead Gremlin.

Micky carried Bally’s spirit and will to win on to the pitch for him.

It’s great to have players with ability, but you need men on the field to get that ability out of you. Micky was that man.

I know he felt his happiest time was at Pompey because he was surrounded with like-minded people who shared his desire.

He hated to lose, loved to win and loved to celebrate winning.

Dillon: Kennedy was the leader of Bally’s great Pompey side