Craddock relishing his Fratton faithful reunion

Summer signing Tom Craddock has made Fratton Park his new home after signing a two-year deal with the Blues
Summer signing Tom Craddock has made Fratton Park his new home after signing a two-year deal with the Blues

Tom Craddock still remembers the occasion – September 2008.

His first and, to date, only visit to Fratton Park on a match day, the memories are indelible.

Back then he was a 21-year-old on Middlesbrough’s bench, desperate to catch a moment of first-team action.

Yet, while waiting for a precious opportunity to feature against Harry Redknapp’s side, he sat back in his substitute seat, listened and admired.

The Fratton end at their delectable best, loud and proud roaring their team on to a 2-1 victory, with Jermain Defoe grabbing both Blues goals.

Just five weeks later Craddock joined Luton, initially on loan, never to play for Boro again and never to set foot back at Fratton Park.

Until now, that is.

And having signed a two-year deal, the 26-year-old is savouring the prospect of hearing that Fratton roar on many more occasions.

He said: ‘I was at Middlesbrough as a young lad and sat on the bench here in the Premier League days.

‘I’ll always remember, I sat next to one of my pals and in the far stand they were singing ‘Play up Pompey’. The atmosphere was unbelievable. It was really, really impressive.

‘It was a Saturday afternoon game, taking place at 3pm.

‘Middlesbrough and Portsmouth is not a derby.

‘But the atmosphere was fantastic and that is what stuck with me.

‘I always remembered that. It was unbelievable, and although it was not a meaningless game, it wasn’t a derby so I definitely wasn’t expecting that.

‘The atmosphere was better than I’ve ever heard – and I was a season-ticket holder at Newcastle for quite a long time!

‘I have to say, the Pompey fans sing a lot more than the Geordies!’

Craddock would make five appearances for the Riverside Stadium club he joined as a schoolboy, before carving out a career in the lower leagues.

At one stage he dropped out of the Football League entirely with Luton, before firing them back into League Two.

During the same period, Pompey themselves began the decline and, as a result, are preparing for the season in the bottom division.

Now Craddock has joined forces with the Blues as they seek to bounce back from relegation at the first attempt.

And the striker’s presence has delighted one particular member of his family.

He added: ‘Ray is a relation on my mother’s side, he’s her uncle.

‘He has lived up in the north east for a long time but always used to tell me about Pompey.

‘He’s a big Pompey fan, still has the accent and everything and been up north for a number of years. It’s strange how things have worked out.

‘When I started playing football full-time, he would start talking to me about Pompey.

‘I think my mam mentioned about me joining just before I did and he was excited. He’s coming to my wedding in a week so no doubt will be over the moon.

‘I am not sure what family Ray has got in the Pompey area, but I know for definite there are still some.

‘If you mention him in the paper he will be pleased with that!’