Svetoslav Todorov: I spent two seasons injured at Portsmouth - but those fantastic fans pulled me through

Svetoslav Todorov fired Pompey into the Premier League with 26 goals during their promotion campaign.

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st May 2020, 10:23 am
Svetoslav Todorov scored 26 goals in Pompey's promotion season - then suffered a serious knee injury for two years. Picture: Matt Scott-Joynt
Svetoslav Todorov scored 26 goals in Pompey's promotion season - then suffered a serious knee injury for two years. Picture: Matt Scott-Joynt

However, on the eve of the top-flight season kicking off against Aston Villa, he suffered cruciate ligament damage to his left knee in training.

The problem would effectively sideline him for two seasons, ultimately requiring knee reconstruction.

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Svetoslav Todorov made an emotional return to Fratton Park to see the fans in December 2017. Picture: Joe Pepler

And he later returned to fitness to feature for the Blues, as well as Wigan, Charlton and Litex Lovech.

‘Inevitably there was great excitement at Fratton Park ahead of the 2003-04 campaign, which represented the club’s first at Premier League level,’ he told Played Up Pompey Too.

‘Aston Villa were visiting Fratton Park for the opener and I believed I was going to be in the starting line up, getting the nod ahead of Yakubu to partner summer recruit Teddy Sheringham in attack. Only the manager will truly know of his team intentions, but I was ready to play.

‘Then, two days before the big kick-off, we were playing a game at the end of training at the Wellington Sports Ground, with the score at 2-2.

‘I’d missed a couple of chances and was angry with myself, but Jim Smith shouted “Okay, let’s play another two minutes, if somebody scores a winner we’ll stop”.

‘The ball came to me, I turned and my studs remained in the ground. Nobody was near me - and I’d damaged cruciate ligaments in my left knee. That’s football.

‘I wasn’t really upset over that injury, I am not that kind of person. When something bad happens I try to be positive and focus on the fight moving forwards. You cannot do anything about the past.

‘It was important not to think about what I may have lost, my energy had to be spent recovering quicker.

‘I remember years later injuring my right knee while playing for Charlton Athletic and my wife, Severina, was struggling to come to terms with the situation. My response was “Don’t worry, after six months I will be okay”.

‘It was hard for her because she was looking after me, after every injury she was always present in my recovery. I count myself very fortunate to have her constantly there.

‘I was operated on by the renowned Dr Richard Steadman at his clinic in Colorado, who decided to save my torn meniscus by stitching it back onto the knee.

‘He did what he thought was right and, as a result, my return from injury was quicker, but I later discovered the knee was not stable.

‘Still, I was back in Pompey training in January 2004 and, following three reserve appearances and two goals, was an unused substitute in a 1-0 defeat at Everton.

‘The following match saw me start at Liverpool - seven months after rupturing my knee ligaments - for my first Premier League game for Pompey, but I was taken off at half-time for Matt Taylor in a tactical move as we lost 3-0.

‘I continued playing for the reserves, but my body wasn’t right. There was no pain, yet the knee did not feel stable and, as a result, I didn’t feel confident on the pitch.

‘The setback was confirmed during a visit to a specialist in Germany, who advised knee reconstruction was required. In May, I again underwent surgery and was ruled out of the 2004-05 season.

‘The Bulgarian coach, Plamen Markov, called enquiring about my availability for the 2004 European Championship, which was being held in Portugal, but I had to announce I would not be there.

‘During those difficult days, I battled my injury with the help of the fans. There’s a point in your rehabilitation when you are hurting and then visit Fratton Park to watch a game from the stands and supporters are sending their best wishes.

‘Suddenly, you forget about everything.

‘I had no problem with my left knee after that, it was about managing it correctly and I was able to continue playing football. It never needed another operation.

‘The situation made me stronger, I was a fighter and learnt a lot about injuries and recovery. I understood how to look after myself better so it became a massive positive in my career.’

Svetoslav Todorov made 83 Pompey appearances and scored 33 goals from March 2002 until July 2007.

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