Keeper recalls a memorable south coast derby
Cast your mind back to a gloriously sunny afternoon on April 24 2005.
Back then a sensational 27-minute spell saw a Lomana LuaLua-inspired Pompey run south coast rivals Southampton ragged.
Harry Redknapp – who had departed Fratton Park a few months earlier – watched on glumly from the opposition dug-out as his new side plummeted closer to Premier League relegation.
Among a jubilant home crowd that memorable day was a teenage John Sullivan, who watched with awe from the Fratton End.
It was the same year that the Sussex-born keeper began his professional football career with Brighton.
But eight years later Sullivan is back at Fratton Park, having joined Pompey after leaving Charlton earlier this month.
And he is hopeful that he and his new team-mates can create more joyous memories for the fans.
“I was just down the south coast in Worthing, so I went with a friend who had a couple of tickets for the game,” Sullivan recalled. “I saw Fratton Park – and the Fratton End – at its very best.
“At the time I was living in digs with a young player who was a Southampton fan and I think it’s fair to say I gave him a bit of stick when I got home – and for some time after.
“That day I got first-hand experience of the supporters and now I’m so excited to return and be part of this new project.
“There has been a big transformation since the last time I was here, but Pompey fans are no different to anyone else – they want to see a winning team, no matter what league they are in.
“If we are doing our bit on the field then the fans will come in large number. That will be phenomenal for League Two and will galvanise the city.
“With the ownership issue settled and the fans taking control, I firmly believe that August could be the start of something really special.
“Most clubs want to be in the Premier League or Championship these days, but sometimes you have to take a couple of steps back in order to go forward.
“Because of the size of the club and the crowd factor, everyone has to be prepared for opposing clubs to come here, sit back and play for a draw – it’s up to us to deal with that. But I still believe that this could be a great season for the club.”
Sullivan is now keen to cultivate a close relationship with fellow stopper Phil Smith and goalkeeping coach Alan Knight.
He said: “A good friend of mine was recently on the same coaching course as ‘Knightsie’ and I heard a lot of good things about him. Obviously, I’m also aware of his long association with Pompey.
“It’s important for me to have a special relationship with fellow keepers at my club, as well as the coach.
“It’s a bit like a marriage because you spend a lot of time together, perhaps arriving earlier and leaving later than everyone else to work on the specialist side of keeping.”
Sullivan was involved in an exciting fight against relegation while on loan at AFC Wimbledon last season.
The Dons beat Fleetwood Town on the final day to stay in League Two and ensure they will play Pompey next term.
Sullivan said: “Wimbledon will always be the first result I look out for as I have so many friends there. They’re a great club with fanatical fans.
“They’ve had a lot to put with over the last few years. In that respect they’re a lot like Pompey, who also have the fans taking ownership.
“I treated the final game like any other, but when we took the lead, got pegged back and then scored a penalty, it felt touch-and-go.
“It was a memorable day and I hope there will be equally memorable moments at Fratton Park – just at the other end of the table!"