He was the bedrock of the best season in Pompey's recent history.
But Sylvain Distin nearly wrecked his chances of ever making it as a top-flight footballer.
Distin has revealed a tearaway streak as a teenager threatened his chances of making it as a pro.
The defender, who had a magnificent debut campaign at Fratton Park, has told how he was thrown out of French side Paris St Germain's Academy as his behaviour got out of control.
He was then cast into the football wilderness where he earned a crust doing chores while playing for his amateur club.
It looked as if his chance to ever play at the top level had been destroyed by wreckless behaviour.
After a period scratching around as an amateur, Distin started his return from the brink after joining French second division outfit Gueugnon.
It was while there he experienced his first against-the-odds cup victory – which was to resurrect his career.
And it just so happened to be former side PSG who were embarrassed as he won the French Cup.
It was a win which earned him a return to the Parc de Princes, and got the 30-year-old back on track.
Distin said: 'I did get kicked out of the Paris St Germain Academy when I was younger.
'I was living the life of a teenager.
'I joined Joue-les-Tour in the French Amateur Championship.
'Then I moved on to FC Tour before ending up in Ligue 2 with Gueugnon.
'I was a young employee and I worked with the youth-team players at the club.
'I helped out the training of the youth team and I also helped out in the office.
'I was on the minimum wage and I supplemented my pay with my match fees.
'That made me a basic-wage-and-a-half earner.
'At Tours I was then earning twice the minimum wage.
'Then, when I moved to Gueugnon, it must have been 3,000 euros per month plus match fees.
'Therefore, when PSG came after me again I behaved myself.'
Distin's time at PSG helped pave the way for a lucrative move to Newcastle and eventually an even more financially- rewarding deal at Fratton Park.
According to a recent French report, Distin ear-ned 3m in his first year on the south coast.
But the player has spoken of some regret at not having a longer stay in his native country before moving to St James' Park in 2001.
Distin said: 'I would have liked to have stayed at Paris St Germain.
'I played there for one season in 2000-01, but I knew they no longer needed me.
'They wouldn't let me join a club higher up the table.
'Paris would have liked me to join Bolton, but I wanted a club with more ambition.
'They ended up accepting a loan offer from Newcastle.
'After a season I was ready to return to PSG but they didn't want me.
'My only regret was to leave France so soon.'