The Day I Met Milan
8 O'clock= The Day I Met Milan
Having arrived at Pompey in late 1998, saving the club when it looked as though we could very well go out of existence all together I'll never forget the day I met Milan…
I have to be honest, as I'm the type of guy who would rather stand back and listen rather than be listened too the thought of meeting Milan appealed to me merely from the point of view of hearing what he had to say, I never had any intentions of asking him any questions at all, I thought I'll leave that to others.
On Saturday 20th February 1999 I, along with a many other Portsmouth Football Club South West Supporters Club members convened upon Swindon, meeting up in a hotel in Swindon, I forget the name, but it would be the hotel the players had stayed at so I would also get to see the guys strolling around, prior to the Old Division One clash with Swindon Town.
We hadn't gate crashed the hotel, it had been a previously arranged visit to enable us to meet Milan Mandaric, the Serb-American who had brought us out of administration to find out what his future plans were to be for our struggling Division One side finding it hard to move out of the murky waters it had been in for as long as I'd known.
I remember seeing the then Directors Terry Brady and the legend that is Fred "that's how for now" Dinenage sitting alongside Milan. I have to admit I was petrified, terrified that I would be picked on to ask a question, as I'd not have had a clue what to say, I think I would have frozen… I took in all of what Milan said whilst sitting there in a trance of disbelieve at what he was proposing!
As I look back on it now Milan has delivered almost everything (with the exception of a new ground, this project still to this day has eluded him and Portsmouth Football Club which is my saddest regret of his reign, that he couldn't have achieved one of his biggest aims) and more that he promised on the Saturday morning some seven and a half years ago. When he spoke of top flight football, as good as it sounded I didn't think it would happen, I'd almost resigned myself to the fact that just having a club at all would do me, and I'd settle for second tier football but that wouldn't do for him and boy am I glad.
After the meeting, following his grilling by the fans, to which he would have answers for everything, that would satisfy the expectant, if maybe slightly (like myself at the time) maybe sceptical onlookers he would take time to shake each and everyone's hand with a word for us all, of course Mr Dinenage would do so likewise, if only I'd had the brass monkeys to say "Mr Dinenage, that's how for now!"
We spoke of Milan and his thoughts as we took in a swift half, or two, OK then maybe three before we went on to watch Pompey in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Swindon. We took so many fans that we were given the ends behind each goal as there would be so few Swindon fans. What a game that was, had everything goals, a red card, injury to the late Aaron Flahavan seeing Russell Perrett come on to go in goal and a fantastic Pompey recovery from 3-1 down with an outfield player in goal to 3-3. Maybe one of the shortest journey's I've made to watch Pompey (from my Plymouth base) but certainly one of the best all-round days.
God bless you Milan, without you Pompey probably wouldn't be here at all, let alone in the Premiership, they certainly wouldn't currently be challenging for the Title, sure it won't last forever, not this season anyway...
Milan, there's only one Milan, there's only one Milan, there's only one Milan, Milan…