Thank you for attending today’s Sky Bet League One fixture against Forest Green Rovers.
A very warm welcome to everyone who has travelled from Gloucestershire for Rovers’ first visit to Fratton Park. They will arrive heartened on the back of a well-deserved win against promotion hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.
We also welcome back Joe Morrell and Dane Scarlett from international duty after they were both absent from last week’s 2-2 draw with Port Vale. Joe started both games for Wales, contributing significantly to his nation’s impressive results away in Croatia and then at home to Latvia. Meanwhile, Dane featured in all three England U20 games against Germany, USA and France. Congratulations also to Alfie Bridgman, currently on loan at Bognor, who returned from a Malta U19 camp, where he played two games and scored in a 2-1 win over Albania.
Last week we announced Zesh Rehman’s appointment as first team development coach and we were then delighted to confirm that his previous position as lead professional development phase coach had been filled by Sam Hudson. Having joined us in the summer from Aston Villa to be Zesh’s assistant, Sam has impressed us all. We are excited and delighted for him, as well as being proud for our academy, who have seen yet another talented individual promoted from within their ranks.
Today marks the start of the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations and we are thrilled to welcome many former players back to the club. Several have agreed to join supporters in the Fanzone, others will be interviewed in the Victory Bar and we look forward to introducing them all to you at half-time.
We also have relatives of the great Jimmy Dickinson with us and one member of the family will carry the matchball to the centre circle prior to kick-off. This provides a perfect opportunity to promote the last lap of fundraising for Jimmy’s statue, which will be unveiled at Fratton Park in the autumn. The final hurdle is always the hardest with any fundraising project and a donation of any size will make a significant difference to finding the remaining sums needed to complete the work. To help you with this, there is a QR code banner outside the corner of the Fratton End and North Stand, the proposed site of the statue. This will take you directly to the fundraising website and it will also be featured on the big screen before the game. Alternatively, you can click here to make a donation.
Elsewhere, we will be unveiling a new Champions of England picture montage wall in the North Stand west mezzanine concourse, celebrating a memorable period of the club’s history. The Pompey store are also launching the initial items from a 125th anniversary range that has been developed and more merchandise, including special collectables, will be added over the coming weeks and months.
The aim over the next 12 months is to dedicate as many fixtures as possible to celebrating different aspects of the club’s proud history. For the match against Morecambe on Easter Monday, we will be joined by relatives of those who founded the club back in 1898. The following home game with Accrington will then see us recognise those who saved the club 10 years ago, as we commemorate community ownership day.
We are extremely grateful to the Pompey History Society and the Pompey Supporters’ Trust, who have worked many long hours together with the 125 anniversary committee to prepare an engaging programme of events and initiatives over the next year, with more news to follow in the coming weeks.
As we look forward to all these events over the next year, it is fitting to remember that football is not just about dreams – it is also about memories. We are lucky to have so many custodians who care so deeply about the traditions of your football club and who are determined to make sure that we not only all celebrate, but also use this anniversary to leave a fine and fitting legacy for generations to come.
After today, we have a Good Friday contest away at MK Dons. I know several thousand of you are travelling up for what we hope will be a memorable away day. We then return to Fratton Park on Easter Monday for our founders’ day fixture with Morecambe.
There is still everything to play for and thank you so much for your support this afternoon. Enjoy the game and PUP!