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Johnny's Stay At Home Diary: Part Six

Tales from three former Pompey folk

5 May 2020

Paul Hart

The thing about never being too far away from soccer folk is you inevitably pick up a good line to dine out on for years to come.

Paul Hart was not hugely popular during his time in charge of Pompey, but had some great stories about Brian Clough – his former boss at Nottingham Forest.

One of my favourites concerned a daily ritual for the manager, who would phone down to the apprentice room with a tea order for whoever picked up the receiver.

Naturally – and without question – the willing youngster would dutifully comply and make a brew before delivering it down to Clough’s office.

That was until one day when the usual request came in: “Young man, bring me a strong cup of tea with two sugars please.”

“Sorry,” came the reply. “I’m busy.” “Busy!” Clough retorted. “Do you know who this?”

“Yes. Do you know who this is?” was the answer. When the manager admitted he did not, the youngster added: “Well, make your own bloody tea.” He then hung up and ran off.

Some members of the local media pack will tell you that it could be hard work to get along with Hart, but I seemed to be an exception.

I saw the other side of him when he was in charge of the youth set-up and we spent a week in Denmark during an academy tour.

"Some members of the local media pack will tell you that it could be hard work to get along with Hart, but I seemed to be an exception."

Johnny Moore

There where also a few Friday nights shared in the bar at the team hotel when he was manager and loved to hold court into the early hours.

And yet his public persona came to the fore the last time I spotted him at the far end of the Pompey tunnel when he was working with Luton.

Considering we had not clapped eyes on each other for several years, I was fully expecting my cheery cry of ‘Harty’ to be reciprocated.

But as he advanced towards me, he muttered in deadpan style: “Are you still here?” He then carried on walking. That was the Paul Hart that most knew!

Former Blues favourite Alan McLoughlin is a serious man, but a lovely one too – and someone I am honoured to call a friend.

Following a 3-0 defeat at Stoke in the League Cup in 2014, the team bus arrived back at Fratton Park in the early hours.

Macca was presumably desperate to back home to bed, but first he joined other members of the coaching staff in dropping the kit off in the dressing room.

The obvious route to take was through the gate in the corner of the Fratton End and then down the side of the pitch.

But he was met by a security guard who said: “Sorry, it’s not safe. We’re catching foxes in there.”

An unimpressed – and exhausted – Macca replied: “Do I look like a bloody fox?” He then left the speechless man rooted to the spot as he continued on his quest.

It has since become a bit of an in-joke between us, although most people know that Macca didn’t suffer fools gladly.

"Having previously played under the World Cup winner at both Pompey and Exeter, Hilaire could not contain his excitement when the call came."

Johnny Moore

Then there is former Blues winger Vince Hilaire, who is a bubbly character with enough stories to fill a library.

Coming to the end of his playing career, he sensed one final pay-day at a big club when Alan Ball took over as Manchester City manager.

Having previously played under the World Cup winner at both Pompey and Exeter, Hilaire could not contain his excitement when the call came.

Imitating the distinctive voice perfectly, he recalled to me what the footballing legend said: “Hi wee man, you’ll have heard I’m at City and I thought you’d be the perfect man to help me.

“It’s not bad money and with you coming to the end of your career, it will be a nice little position and you won’t have to do too much.”

Hilaire was lapping all this up and had already mentally started to pack his case for a swansong in Manchester.

Then, however, he was cruelly stopped in his tracks by what followed: “I was due to do a month coaching at a soccer school at Butlins in Bognor, so thought it would suit you down to the ground.”

Vince being Vince, he eventually saw the funny side of this and duly filed the story away to be told another day.

The majority of Portsmouth FC staff have been furloughed as part of the government’s Job Retention Scheme. This column was written before those measures were implemented.


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