The afternoon which was the pinnacle of my Portsmouth voyage

Pompey fans party in Praca de Santiago, Guimaraes. Picture: Steve Reid
Pompey fans party in Praca de Santiago, Guimaraes. Picture: Steve Reid

In the journey of any football fan there is a moment which stands apart.

Every follower of any team will have that instant, game, victory or success which soars all others.

It’s the day which rouses, stirs the spirits and sees emotions well when the memories are reflected on.

For Pompey fans there are no shortage of contenders for that most prized and cherished of occasions.

From Alan Biley and his Santa accomplice in 1984 to Svetoslav Todorov crowd-surfing into Fratton End amid title euphoria 19 years later.

To Sol gloriously going up to lift the FA Cup to the High Court steps for the victory of the people five years ago.

Demolition derbies, Great Escapes, promotion and title wins all provide a rich tapestry for generations of supporters to reminisce over in all their glory.

Arriving at a selection is a very personal process. It could be sharing an event with a loved one or the day you first saw the glory of Fratton Park before you as a wide-eyed youngster.

But my Pompey moment to cherish arrived on October 2, 2008 in Praca de Santiago, Guimaraes.

It was there 2,000 or so fans with the star and crescent imprinted on their soul congregated at the heart of Portugal’s ancient capital.

What ensued was the mother of all Pompey parties and a takeover of this beautiful little north-west corner of the country.

It was a sun-drenched and Super Bock lager-soaked celebration of everything which had gone before.

Pompey had reached the Premier League, won the FA Cup and seen the best side assembled, at least since the club reigned supreme over English football in the middle of the last century. And didn’t we rejoice in that fact.

The full repertoire of songs spanning the decades were endlessly belted out with gusto on a heady afternoon.

Slightly bemused locals embraced the good-natured antics of the Pompey masses, with wizened Portuguese pensioners inviting fans into their homes to hang flags over the balconies.

The purchase of a couple of footballs saw grown men regress to the playground across a few hours which has its place in Fratton legend assured.

From a personal view, it was being loosened from professional duties which made the occasion so special.

The game with Guimaraes itself will be remembered as much for the scenes in the stands as fans fell asleep as the night passed the witching hour and drifted into Friday morning via extra-time.

Then came the sight of fans flying past my head and ending four rows from where they started, amid the celebrations after Peter Crouch’s double assured victory.

What really set it apart, though, was also the understanding what was being embraced was not to be taken for granted.

Years later, a friend I encountered that afternoon reminded me of a conversation I’d long since forgotten.

The sentiment I’d relayed was to make the most of such a joyous occasion because Pompey were a club built on sand.

The Premier League years had seen no infrastructure put in place and without Sacha Gaydamak’s money the house of cards would come tumbling down.

And so it was to prove.

But no matter, the memories are firmly in place, the events of that never-to-be-forgotten afternoon indelible.

We all went on a European tour – but Praca de Santiago is the pinnacle of my lifetime Pompey voyage.