Victory secured – now time for the Pompey alien to go home

Bob Beech, front centre, and fellow Pompey SOS members outside the Blues' former Eastleigh training ground
Bob Beech, front centre, and fellow Pompey SOS members outside the Blues' former Eastleigh training ground

Portrayed as an alien not belonging in the city he has spent a lifetime residing in – no wonder Bob Beech smirks.

It seems he is not stranded alone either, his SOS Pompey natives providing excellent company.

It was former Blues owner Balram Chainrai who branded Beech and his action group as ‘on their own planet’ and ‘not the fans of the city of Portsmouth’ following one February 2011 protest.

Fewer than 100 attended that Frogmore Road event held before kick-off against Derby. Nonetheless, crucially, they had struck a nerve with their common enemy.

With Beech at their head, SOS Pompey were a perpetual blight on those who led the club to the brink of liquidation – and, in particular, the Hong Kong-based former owner.

But no more.

The Milton taxi driver who once told a national newspaper ‘I’d rather have the Luftwaffe back in Portsmouth than Balram Chainrai’ has walked away from the group he formed five years ago.

For the rabble-rousing ringleader improbably now seeks a quieter life.

Beech said: ‘I am proud to be an alien but this is me done now, I just want to go to watch football.

‘It’s a bit like making sausages. If you enjoy sausages don’t watch how they are made, and I no longer want to be involved in organising stuff for the club.

‘I want to watch games without people saying: “What’s the latest?” Now I can reply: “I don’t know, it’s nothing to do with me any more”.

‘SOS Pompey did some wonderful things. We never broke any laws but tested them to breaking point on many occasions.

‘I was the ringleader, the agent provocateur. And while the Trust did the great job they were doing as the good cop, we were very much the bad cop – and revelled in that role.

‘We made ourselves known to the people involved in our club’s demise and it was a scream along the way.

‘Once, one of our members was doing business in Hong Kong so took a load of SOS Pompey T-shirts with him, rounded up colleagues over there and went to Chainrai’s offices.

‘He was banging on the door and someone came out and said Chainrai wasn’t there. The response was: “Well he is, he is stood behind you.” That is a true story!

‘We crashed the Football League’s e-mail and phone system when they were considering approving Chainrai the second time around.

‘During the middle of all that a guy from the Football League rang me and said: “Okay, we get it, can you call the dogs off now”.

‘So I went onto Twitter and wrote: “The Football League have asked me to ask you not to keep sending e-mails to the following address”.

‘We were a complete pain in the backside, frankly.’

Such was their powerful presence, SOS Pompey were the first-ever delegation of fans to be invited into the Premier League’s Gloucester Place headquarters.

It had been prompted when Beech, following a supporters’ march ahead of the visit of Birmingham to Fratton Park, was interviewed by Sky and on the spur of the moment claimed the next protest would be outside the Premier League.

Within hours his group had been asked by league chiefs to scrap such intentions in favour of dialogue.

On February 5, 2010, Richard Scudamore met Brendon Bone, Trevor Swan, Scott Mclachlan and Micah Hall, along with the Football Supporters’ Federation’s Ken Malley.

And the group would hand over ideas for an improved Fit and Proper Person’s Test – taken up by the Premier League a year later.

In the ensuing years, SOS Pompey continued to come face-to-face with many others involved in the complex Pompey situation.

Beech added: ‘The time about 50 of us stood outside the training ground was hilarious.

‘It had been arranged that one of the gates would be locked so the players had to stop before they could get in there – so we could get them!

‘Dave Kitson wouldn’t talk, went in, stood outside giving it Bertie Bigspuds and then Trevor Birch beckoned me and Carl (Paddon) in and his face was a picture. I think the street term is he melted.

‘He said he thought all these people in Pompey shirts were press!

‘Greg Halford was brilliant, he came out and had a chat with us and could see what we were trying to do.

‘Tal Ben Haim was exactly how you imagine him to be – arrogant and self-centred.

‘I met David Lampitt on many occasions. We tied him up in knots because he thought we were just a bunch of oiks who would go in and shout at him.

‘We are that – let’s not forget it – but we are also quite an eloquent bunch of oiks and when we want to have a conversation we can.

‘The best chant of the entire campaign about John Utaka selling himself was created by Vern Rickman and came about because Lampitt told us categorically in a meeting that no Pompey players would be leaving.

‘The team had already gone to Gran Canaria to do some warm weather training and we knew Utaka wasn’t there. He was in France for a move to Montpellier!

‘The following day when the news broke I rang Lampitt up and he told me the club knew nothing about it. So I said: “I assume you will report them to Uefa for an illegal approach then?” He hung up.’

Beech recently helped introduce the Pompey Pals memorial at Fratton Park and devised the World War One concept for the current home kit.

The 47-year-old still has aspirations of introducing a glass case containing the SOS Pompey emblem into the Fratton Park reception.

It would possess a plaque reading: Break glass in case of emergency.

Still, Beech can be found in the North stand lower – in a seat perfectly positioned to keep an eye on the directors’ box opposite.

He added: ‘I am retiring and hope never to be taken out of retirement.

‘But, unlike last time, I have Mark Catlin’s phone number, I have Iain McInnes’ phone number, I have Mick Williams’ phone number and I know where all of them live.

‘I’ve been to all of their houses so it will be that much more easier for us!’