Salisbury FC’S big friendly against a likely full-strength Portsmouth on Tuesday night will carry extra spice for manager Steve Claridge.
Pompey-born Steve began his playing career at his home-town club as an apprentice but was released after breaking his ankle.
He was determined to return to Fratton Park one day and after a glittering career taking in a host of top clubs, including Leicester City, Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, Steve joined Pompey in 1998, playing for three seasons in what is now the Championship and scoring 36 goals in 114 appearances.
“Pompey was where it all started for me so they’re close to my heart,” said Steve, who arranged the friendly. “I like to think I gave good value to the Pompey fans when I came back.
“I probably would have been one of them, standing on the terraces, if I hadn’t had a career in the game and I’ll always have a love for the club.
“I’m really grateful to Paul Cook for bringing his side over. He rested a lot at Sutton on Saturday so I’m expecting a full-strength Portsmouth side at the Ray Mac.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be nice weather and with us fielding our strongest side as well and the lads looking to improve on the performance at Basingstoke, I’m hoping for a big crowd and expecting a competitive and enjoyable night.”
The match will offer Whites’ fans their first chance to see striker Tommy Wright in action since his signing on loan from Sutton United of the Vanarama National League.
His two goals and overall performance in the friendly at Basingstoke Town prompted Steve to contact Sutton manager Paul Doswell and agree the deal on Saturday night.
Writing in tomorrow night’s programme, Steve says of Tommy: “What I liked about him was his enthusiasm, which was infectious. He loves to play football and you can see that in the way he applies himself. His anticipation of where the ball might fall and his positioning make him a dangerous proposition around the penalty box.”
Steve, who still has a couple of spots in the squad to fill, also expects to be trialling three more players this week both against Pompey and at Downton on Thursday night.
Whites will, however, still be without injured trio Callum Hart, Calum Brockway and Kane O’Keefe while Sam Roberts is on holiday.