Quartet ready to join pantheon of Pompey greats

Noel Blake, right, with Billy Gilbert
Noel Blake, right, with Billy Gilbert

FOUR PLAYERS. Four eras. Four greats.

On Friday night at Fratton Park, fans will gather to pay their tributes as the latest stars are inducted into the Pompey Hall of Fame.

Billy ‘Farmer’s Boy’ Haines, Dave Kemp, Noel Blake and Svetoslav Todorov are the quartet whose achievements in royal blue will be recognised.

That will take the number recognised in the pantheon of heroes to 40 since the event’s inception in 2009.

A committee of 10 have the testing privilege of choosing those who are to be honoured.

And there can be no doubt those who join the likes of Alan Knight, Jimmy Dickinson, David James and Peter Harris deserve their lofty recognition.

A focus falls on attacking talent this year, with Haines’ phenomenal goal record recognised as his grandson, John Waters, accepts the award on his behalf.

Hall of fame committee chairman, Jake Payne, said: ‘We’ve got a committee of 10 which is made up of former players, fans and people with a wealth of knowledge about the club’s history.

‘We spoke about different eras and we feel it’s important not to forget the first 50 years of the club.

‘Only John Weddle has been inducted up to now, so we felt it was right to do another posthumous award for someone who made an outstanding contribution.

‘Billy’s record was 179 appearances and 128 goals – it’s a huge contribution. His goals got us into the First Division.’

Joining Haines is a man who provided light in a largely dark period for the club.

Kemp’s strikes in Division Three arrived in a struggling side, with dark financial clouds shrouding the Blues.

Payne said: ‘The ’70s wasn’t a great time for the club. But Dave Kemp stood out above everyone at that time.

‘To play 76 games and score 38 goals is getting to that one-in-two rate which is the ultimate target for strikers.’

Blake was a player who reflected the identity of one of the greatest Pompey sides of the modern era.

The Jamaican-born defender served the club from 1984 until 1988, making 168 appearances and scoring 13 times.

His power helped forge a fearsome link-up with Billy Gilbert as Alan Ball’s side reached the top flight in 1987.

And the central defender was also a renowned threat from set-pieces.

‘Blakey was player of the year in 1985 and ’86,’ said Payne.

‘He epitomised the spirit of Alan Ball’s side big time. He was one of those players who just gave you 100 per cent. He was as hard as nails.

‘As a defensive partnership with Billy Gilbert, they have to be up there with the all-time best.’

Finally, Todorov’s predatory instincts will be recognised as he flies in from Bulgaria to be inducted.

The man who arrived from West Ham finished as Division One’s top scorer as Pompey reached the Premier League in 2003 – part of a record of 33 goals from 83 appearances.

Payne added: ‘Toddy was a goalscorer. A pure, natural goalscorer.

‘Those goals when we went up made all the difference.

‘But even in the Great Escape season his goals were crucial.’