Ricky Holmes departed Fratton Park after told he had no future at the club.
Tomorrow he returns with a League Two title medal, a spot in the PFA divisional team of the year, and second-place in a poll among managers on the division’s best players.
Under Andy Awford we were not getting the results so you have to change something – and unfortunately he decided to change me.Ricky Holmes
Pompey’s loss has definitely been Northampton’s outstanding gain.
Yet Holmes remains adamant he never wanted to depart Fratton Park in January 2015.
A falling out with then-manager Andy Awford ensured a Blues career consisting of two goals in 62 appearances was brought to an end.
The Cobblers subsequently snapped up the winger permanently without the requirement of a fee following a successful initial one-month loan.
Now, 16 months later, the 28-year-old is back at Fratton for the first time since his departure.
And he still retains a deep affection for the club where he was crowned The News/Sports Mail Player of the Season for 2013-14.
He said: ‘I really enjoyed my time there, the fans were always brilliant.
‘It’s a shame I never got chance to work under Paul Cook, I think he would have got the best out of me with the system and the way he lets you play.
‘That is exactly what has happened to me under Chris Wilder, who has been fantastic for me.
‘Under Andy Awford we were not getting the results so you have to change something – and unfortunately he decided to change me.
‘To be fair, falling outs happen in football, it happens at any level, it’s about how the manager or player gets over it and Andy just didn’t seem to get over it.
‘A change in formation to the 3-5-2 didn’t help me either. I wouldn’t really fit into that system unless playing behind the strikers, but Jed Wallace was there and he is better than me!
‘I wanted to be playing football. I am not happy sitting on the bench and then it ended up with me sitting in the crowd.
‘I was told I wasn’t wanted at the start of December and held out for a month. I thought “I’m going to try, I don’t want to leave, I love it here”. It is the biggest club in League Two, everyone knows that.
‘It turned out to be the right decision to leave in the end, though.
‘I wasn’t wanted by the then manager when I was there – and you can’t stay where you are not wanted in any job.’
Holmes had been recruited by Guy Whittingham in the summer of 2013 from Barnet.
And he regrets how Pompey failed to escape League Two during his time at Fratton Park.
He added: ‘Me and Jed still talk about it now.
‘If we had been doing well it would have been the best city to live in.
‘Yet we only had success at the back end of my first season when we went on that great run under Andy.
‘You could tell if this club really kicked on it would be a great place to live, but it never really happened for the squads I played in. It’s a shame really.
‘I have spoken to Paul Cook a few times, he is a great manager and a great guy and I hope Pompey go up. I really wish them and the fans well in the play-offs.’