“Linvoy is Mr Portsmouth and we’re sad that he will not be donning a blue shirt again. He has been a great servant to the club and is loved by everyone here and in the city.” These were the words of Peter Storrie on Tuesday afternoon as Portsmouth fans were left in mourning, as their treasured servant of over nine years was finally beaten by his long standing knee injury.
If there’s ever a role model for young, aspiring footballers, Linvoy Primus is that. His broad smile, endearing manner and unnerving loyalty has left a real mark on the Fratton faithful and he will forever go down in Pompey folklore. His last appearance in the blue of Portsmouth proves just how loved he is on the south coast. A cameo appearance against Sunderland in their last home game of last season saw Primus’ name chanted for a large proportion of the second half, and his late introduction saw his every touch merrily cheered. The affection of the Fratton crowd that day was extraordinary but perhaps even surpassing that was on that famous day at Wembley, where Primus, who had been sidelined for the entire campaign, received the most rapturous cheers as he held aloft the FA Cup, grinning broadly.
Now Primus was never the most talented footballer ever to grace the Fratton turf, but his loyalty, work ethic and genuine kindness was what endeared him so much. Here is a man who continuously defied his critics, and was forever forcing his way back into a team where it seemed he had no place. Indeed his breakthrough season at Pompey – the 2002/03 promotion campaign – which saw Primus named Player of the Year, only came about due to an injury to a fellow defender, but Primus made sure he didn’t relinquish the jersey. His Premier League offerings were also sparse at first, but yet again the devout Christian forced his way back into the team and became a mainstay in the side.
But it wasn’t just his superb attitude on the pitch that was so endearing. His off-field work with his charity, Faith and Football has been a major success, with Primus spending his summers off raising money for the less-fortunate, climbing Mount Sinia being just one of his schemes. The former Reading man’s attitude and selflessness is a pure inspiration. In the football world where over-inflated egos and pampered millionaires seem to rule, Primus was like a breath of fresh air and his time at the club will never be forgotten. Indeed, the names of Robert Prosinecki and Jimmy Dickinson are still at large on the Fratton terraces, and although Primus remains firmly behind both in terms of talent, he will be far ahead in terms of status.
However, while Pompey fans paid tribute to a hero, the club continued to pour out deflating news as the club’s finances again came to the fore. After last week’s debacle of unpaid wages, Portsmouth has found itself at the centre of many tabloid rumours, most of which point towards administration. But for once, the Pompey board were quick to calm fears instead claiming: “The owner and board of Portsmouth Football Club are disappointed at recent inaccurate media speculation regarding the club’s finances and the threat of administration.” The statement went on to say the club were in the process of paying off numerous debts and how the club owner – Ali al-Faraj – and his associates “have already invested substantial funds to keep the club operating and will continue to do so.”
Quite how much substance there is to this is anyone’s guess. The fact the club came up short when paying last month’s wages can only mean Pompey are struggling – big time. The statement also claimed it would “provide Avram Grant with the tools he needed to keep the club in the Premier League”, but believing there is transfer money available at this time is altogether implausible. There is also the case of the transfer embargo that is still to be lifted and it is clear Pompey still owe to numerous clubs.
But as there seems no end to the financial troubles, the players and coaching staff have spent the week talking up their prospects on Saturday, when they visit Sunderland. The fact it is a meeting between a side with a superb home record against a side low on confidence and with a miserable away record must be as far away from Grant’s thoughts as possible, but Pompey fans will make the long trip more in hope than expectation.