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Summertime Blues: Thanks, Mark

Johnny Moore bids farewell to Pompey’s outgoing CEO in his latest column

13 June 2021

Mark Catlin
Photo: Joe Pepler/PinPep
Club News

Summertime Blues: Thanks, Mark

Johnny Moore bids farewell to Pompey’s outgoing CEO in his latest column

13 June 2021

There were days when it was difficult to imagine Mark Catlin as the chief executive of Portsmouth Football Club.

It was usually the time when he burst out of his office to ask if anyone fancied the short walk across to Kentucky Fried Chicken or a lunch of fish and chips that he would generously pay for.

He was probably unique among his profession in football, even sharing a monthly pint with a long-term fan who had originally written in to complain about the volume of Fratton Park’s public address system.

Some might view the position as an aloof one, sat above staff and supporters, but Mark provided the human touch.

And, before you think life at Pompey is one big jolly, there was so much more to his tenure than food orders and drinks.

Promotion from League Two as champions, the clearing of debts of £8 million, consistent profits, play-off contests, two trips to Wembley and overseeing a change of ownership.

The latter was particularly key, with the club determined not to return to the dark days when its very existence was called into question.

A recent fan engagement poll also placed the Blues joint second out of 91 clubs for their dialogue with supporters.

Most will never see the endless series of meetings and consultations with the Fratton faithful, but Mark – as well as others at Fratton Park – was only too happy to attend.

If you count Les Parris – who you might not remember was in charge for less than a week back in 1998 prior to the first administration – and Ken Brown – who was put in place by Trevor Birch during the third – I have worked under 10 chief executives.

I can honestly say, with hand on heart, that it has never been so much of a pleasure than in the past decade.

Prior to Catlin’s arrival, Birch played a key role in rescuing the club from the latest in a series of financial embarrassments.

And he was also in place during the departure of the CEO who I had to work under during my lowest ebb.

I probably shouldn’t elaborate on the personal misery that saw me a whisker away from walking out, so I’ll just park that particular bus for another day.

Thankfully, calmer waters arrived. Birch passed the baton to fan ownership and Mark was installed as chief executive. The rest, as they say, is history.

Some will point to negatives, as is their right. They might mention the unsuccessful Richie Barker stint or the length of time Kenny Jackett remained in situ.

But this does not recognise the fact that there has, in the main, been annual progression and the last manager was always involved in a promotion challenge.

Meanwhile, the appearance of a new stadium has defeated every regime – whether the plans were to build on the old airport site or even planting a ground in the sea!

Of course, nobody is perfect. But I can remember the words of previous owner Milan Mandaric, who often used to say: “Show me a person who never made mistakes and I will show you someone who never got up in the morning.”

There was a time when it looked as though newly installed boss Andy Awford might need snookers to prevent Pompey dropping out of the Football League.

Sensing he was questioning his own future, I told Mark that we needed to trust that this path was meant to be and despite the cracks in the paving, it would be alright in the end.

If you look at where the club is now compared to back then, then it is difficult to know what else one could have expected.

Thankfully, those days were as grim as it got and progressing – though not as fast has some would like – continued right up to last Christmas, when we sat at the League One summit.

Failing to go on and secure promotion again is undoubtedly disappointing, but we have to store that away as another season appears on the horizon.

Without the magnificent effort from all those who ensured Portsmouth Football Club would not become extinct, all this would be irrelevant.

But when Mark was chosen as the man to steer the good ship Pompey, his vessel resembled the Titanic, with a few icebergs still lurking in the distance.

Having steered us into calmer seas, he has every reason to now step ashore from this much more respectable liner, with more than a hint of satisfaction as it continues full steam ahead on to the next journey.

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