‘It’d mean the world’: Portsmouth close in on Championship return

With John Mousinho in charge, the whole city is ready to celebrate after 12 years out of the top two divisions

When Portsmouth celebrated promotion to the Premier League in 2003 and lifting the FA Cup in 2008 which, it later emerged, came at a crippling cost, Southsea Common played host to the party. Fans also gathered there to toast winning League Two in 2017, though at that point they did not anticipate spending quite so long in League One. At the seventh attempt, a return to the second tier after 12 years away is in full view, John Mousinho having quietly revived a club that had been stuck in a malaise. Victory at Bolton on Saturday would not only guarantee promotion but crown Pompey champions. As the kit man “Big” Kev McCormack, part of the furniture after 25 years of service, says, the feelgood factor is back.

Among the thousands of supporters present for the open-top bus parades of yesteryear was Marlon Pack, the boy who grew up on the Buckland estate proud to say he is now the Portsmouth captain. “I was at the front waving a flag,” says the 33-year-old. Pack rejoined his boyhood club two years ago having been allowed to leave for Cheltenham as a teenager, initially on loan. Part of the deal for his return home included an unusual stipulation: a raft of season tickets for long-time Pompey-supporting family and friends. “That was one of my contract clauses when I signed, otherwise I would be losing money every week,” he says, smiling. “I think I did the club a favour because I was a little bit safe in my negotiations … I could have done with three-figures’ worth.”

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