'We were kicking a ball around in a street and Harry Redknapp gave us £100': Marlon Pack reflects on journey from Portsmouth season-ticket holder to first-team player

Carisbrooke Road supplied the football pitch, with wooden gates at the directors’ entrance serving as the goal.

Thursday, 28th July 2022, 11:30 am

Marlon Pack played at Fratton Park long before treading that sacred turf.

As a South Stand Block D season-ticket holder, at the final whistle he’d continue Blues games with friends outside the stadium while his dad enjoyed a post-match pint.

With interest established before those Premier League glory years, the Buckland youngster would accompany Pompey along their remarkable journey.

For Pack was in attendance at those iconic moments in the club’s modern history.

From beating Barnsley 3-0 at Fratton Park to avoid relegation on the final day of the 2000-01 season to Robert Prosinecki’s hat-trick ‘for nothing’ against Barnsley in February 2002.

Then there was the half-time comeback at Selhurst Park in August 2002, invading the Fratton pitch following promotion to the Premier League against Burnley, and the season finale 5-0 thumping at Bradford.

Not forgetting the Demolition Derby of April 2005, the Pedro Mendes-inspired victory over Manchester City and completing the Great Escape at Wigan.

Portsmouth midfielder Marlon Pack is back at Fratton Park after an 11-year absence. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

And, of course, the 2008 FA Cup final and the pulsating 2-2 draw against AC Milan at Fratton Park.

Marlon Pack was there.

‘It wasn’t just during the good times when I supported Pompey,’ the 31-year-old told The Sports Mail.

‘I was lucky to see the Prosinecki days and when we beat Barnsley 3-0 to stay up on the last day, with Kevin Harper among the scorers.

The University of Portsmouth sponsored the final edition of the Sports Mail

‘I even remember going on the pitch in midweek after gaining promotion against Burnley in April 2003. We had season tickets in the D section of the South Stand, it was quite rowdy, there were some proper Pompey boys in there!

‘Growing up, depending on what was open, I’d go with dad to The Barn and the Milton Arms before the game. My dad would stay there right before kick-off and I’d go early into the ground.

‘After matches it was usually Mr Pickwick’s, the Shepherds Crook or The White House when that was still there.

‘Straight after the final whistle, though, my dad and his mates would go to the bar underneath the KJC Stand, while I would go to my mate’s, who lived in Frogmore Road, five doors down from the ground.

‘We’d get a ball out, meet other lads, and have a kickabout, playing crossing and headers, using these big panelled wooden gates on the directors’ car park entrance as the goal.

‘On one occasion, the stewards opened the gate and Harry Redknapp came out in his car. There were about 10 of us there – and he handed over £100 to share between us!

‘It might have been the year when we won the league to reach the Premier League (2002-03), so I would have been 11 or 12.

‘That season we went to Bradford for the final match and won 5-0, there were loads of Pompey there. Toddy scored a hat-trick and the players were wearing white A-Line boots which was Gianluca Festa’s company.

‘On the way home my dad rang a phone-in which had Tony Male on. I used to play with his boys so I know Tony really well, although I can’t remember the radio station.’

In terms of his five favourite Pompey matches attended, Pack doesn’t require much thinking time.

There’s the Great Escape at Wigan in April 2006 and, as previously mentioned, the hammering of Bradford in May 2003.

Pack was present at Fratton Park for the November 2008 encounter with AC Milan in the Uefa Cup, albeit on that occasion as an apprentice helping out behind the scenes.

Another making the list is Lomana Lualua’s star turn as Pompey trounced Redknapp’s Southampton 4-1 at Fratton Park.

But there can only be one winner.

He added: ‘I was at Wigan for the Great Escape with my dad and some of his friends, while I can recall being at Selhurst Park when we were 2-0 down at half-time and won 3-2 under Harry Redknapp.

‘I’ve been to some bad ones as well, such as Walsall away on a Tuesday night in September 2001 when we drew 0-0.

‘My favourite Pompey game, though, has to be the 2008 FA Cup final.

‘As a player, I’ve been lucky enough to win League One and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with Bristol City, yet never come close to the FA Cup.

‘As a fan, to watch Pompey go through tough times and then get promoted to the Premier League was fantastic. To then go on to win the FA Cup was unbelievable.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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