The city which has become home to the footballer again

Simon Ferry is one of a host of Pompey players who have made their home in the city. Picture: Robin Jones
Simon Ferry is one of a host of Pompey players who have made their home in the city. Picture: Robin Jones

It was more a polite request than legally-binding stipulation written in the contract thrust in their direction.

Apparently it would be looked upon favourably by the Fratton hierarchy if newcomers relocated within the boundaries of the club they represent.

What could possibly be more unifying for the self-styled community club than to possess footballers who also embraced the concept to the extent of living in local surrounds.

Entirely of their own free will, you understand.

So what say you to getting accommodation within a 30-mile radius of Fratton Park once you sign on the dotted line? Please.

Well it happened, the wishes of Mark Catlin and Guy Whittingham were granted.

Pompey now find themselves equipped with a revamped squad consisting almost entirely of players who reside in the area – and seemingly quite happy to do so.

A novel concept after more than a decade of the overwhelming majority of Blues footballers giving the chance to inhabit this side of the south coast a wide berth.

Sandbanks, Ringwood, Reigate, Winchester, unquestionably lovely parts of the country and delectable for millionaires and international sportsmen.

Yet they were halcyon days which bred heroes with barely an affinity with the city whose football club they so impressively represented on the field of play and whose training ground was closer to Southampton.

May 18, 2008, was not so much an open-topped bus parade for them, more a grand guided tour around the main streets of Portsmouth never before encountered.

To think more than five years later that same route is being taken by Simon Ferry, bolting around on his new blue and white racing bike.

The Scotsman has settled into Southsea and found a very different mode of transport to get him to training and for sightseeing.

As part of those memorable FA Cup celebrations, Southsea Common provided the stage for 200,000 Pompey fans according to folklore.

Nearly two weeks ago that same setting saw five of the current crop of Pompey players enjoy a BBQ on a Wednesday off, basking in the glorious south-coast sunshine.

With Johnny Ertl taking cooking duties, Ferry, Joe Devera, Ricky Holmes and Danny East completed the group, which must have been a curious sight for any passer-by.

Last Sunday, Ertl’s fiance Selma Adzem performed at the Victorious Festival held in the historic dockyard amid crowds which totalled more than 50,000 over the two days.

Among those present were many of Ertl’s Pompey team-mates, including John Sullivan, Ferry and Holmes, happily mixing with crowds and posing for photographs.

Word also has it fans can nowadays expect to bump into some familiar Fratton Park faces at Tiger Tiger and other Gunwharf establishments post-Saturday home match.

And should there be boxing on the television, big fans East and Sonny Bradley have been known to visit The Festing in Albert Road.

Of course, footballers living within the city is rather trivial in many respects, nonetheless it is indicative of the community spirit attempted to be engendered inside the club – and obviously how far also it has tumbled.

When Pompey were toasting their greatest campaign for more than half a century, barely any lived locally.

Kanu and Sean Davis to name but a few had their own drivers ferrying them from London way during the daily commute to training at the Wellington Sports Ground.

Glen Johnson resided in Oxshott, Surrey, next door to Ashley Cole, the pair regularly meeting up for some quad-bike action across the sprawling fields their houses looked out upon.

Hermann Hreidarsson, Pedro Mendes, Sylvain Distin and Sulley Muntari lived in the Sandbanks and Poole areas, while Richard Hughes was from Bournemouth.

Freddie Piquionne, he who netted in that 2-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Spurs in 2010, actually lived in Southampton, while Benjani had a home in Ringwood.

Michael Brown would spend most of the week getting flights from Eastleigh airport to his Manchester family home and David James would drive his rapeseed oil-powered car from the Exeter area.

Finally Sol Campbell and Tom Kilbey stayed in Winchester, while Jermain Defoe resided in Reigate.

There were, of course, exceptions with Aaron Mokoena living in Southsea, Jamie Ashdown at Knowle among others, Ricardo Rocha in Fareham and Younes Kaboul and Nadir Belhadj at Gunwharf.

Port Solent would also prove to be popular for the likes of Niko Kranjcar, Papa Bouba Diop, Lomana Lualua and David Nugent.

Fast forward to the present and it is Patrick Agyemang, Ryan Bird, Bondz N’Gala, Yassin Moutaouakil and Romain Padovani who stay in a four-storey club house in those parts.

Although most of the Pompey squad have elected to live in Southsea, firmly within the boundaries of the city.

A city which suddenly has become home to the footballer again.