All four divisions holds no fear for Rocha

Pompey defender Ricardo Rocha
Pompey defender Ricardo Rocha

For many footballers who have played alongside Luis Figo at international level, strutted their stuff against Barcelona in the Champions League or enjoyed their finest hour for Pompey with a memorable performance at Wembley, a trip to Fleetwood Town next season might not float the boat.

He’s a shy, unassuming bloke who prefers a low profile and doesn’t like doing interviews after a bad experience with a national newspaper during his time at Spurs.

But Ricardo Rocha has agreed to a rare chat with The News and there is an unmistakable glint in his eye.

Barring a miracle, most have accepted that Pompey are heading for League Two next season.

But the popular Portuguese defender – who is now the one remaining link in the squad to the club’s Premier League days – is ready for what may come.

In fact, he looks like he would relish the chance to play his part in helping to rebuild Pompey.

Rocha, like everyone else connected to the club, is waiting for some confirmation on exactly where the club will be next season.

But the unique prospect of playing in all four divisions within five seasons doesn’t worry a laid-back bloke who sees worrying or panic as a pointless exercise and plays with a similar calm authority when he’s on the pitch.

He can’t say he is staying next term. But you sense he would jump at the chance to help lead the fightback.

Rocha smiled: ‘Life puts you in situations that you have to deal with.

‘I look at my career and sometimes a few of the lads ask me about playing against amazing players, playing at amazing stadiums or in the Champions League.

‘Everything is an experience in life.

‘But it doesn’t scare me about playing in League Two. I wouldn’t mind it at all.

‘Nobody knows what will happen yet so we all have to wait and see. I can’t say I am definitely staying. Nobody knows.

‘But sometimes you have to take one or two steps back to go forward again.

‘Maybe that’s what’s happening with this club.

‘We will have taken steps back to League Two but then we will go again.

‘To me, it’s not about playing in all four divisions. The club itself and the fans attract me. I love to be here and my family loves it as well.

‘This club and the people here have been so amazing to me.’

He is modest about it, but Rocha was flooded with offers after his departure from Pompey at the end of last season.

Nothing quite ticked all of the boxes for the 34-year-old, even though he was close to joining the ex-Blues contingent at Leeds. But it was family which came first.

‘I went to Leeds to do a trial and they wanted me to stay,’ said Rocha.

‘There were a few things that happened so I didn’t sign. But I rejected quite a lot of offers away from England and all over.

‘I was doing nothing back in Portugal but I was actually thinking of coming back here anyway.

‘My kids wanted to come back to England and come back to their school and their friends.

‘My wife and I put them into an international school in Portugal but they didn’t like it there and we thought “we need to go back”.

‘The way it happened was perfect timing, though. I just sent Guy a message to congratulate him on becoming manager and to wish him all the best.

‘He thanked me and then asked what I was doing. I told him I wasn’t doing anything so he told me to stop my holiday and asked me to come and help.

‘Some people don’t understand and say: “What? Portugal or Portsmouth?” But we love it.

‘Even with all of the problems at the club, I never think I made a mistake. We wanted to come back.

‘We feel at home here. We are settled here and I think we will stay here in the future.’

While Rocha’s commitment to the cause has never been in question, the same cannot be said for all of the players who have stopped off at Pompey this season.

He won’t name names on those who he felt should have given more but he was quick to defend some who did come in for criticism.

Rocha said: ‘Sometimes in life when you have difficulties, some people walk away and some people stay and deal with it. It was a little bit like that here.

‘Some people didn’t want to deal with it and left.

‘They thought it was enough and wanted to have another chance somewhere else.

‘Monthly contracts are never easy to anyone and a lot of players were here without their families.

‘But even if it’s just a month, you can still give everything for that month.

‘You need to have passion to win and you have to be disappointed or angry when you lose.

‘Even though I have a contract until March 16, if for some reason they say “we can’t renew your contract” I will still give my best until March 16.

‘I know people were disappointed with Brian Howard but he was playing when he was injured.

‘He knew that there weren’t a lot of players who could play instead of him and he was trying to do the best for the club in a difficult situation for himself.

‘I felt a little bit sorry for him. But sometimes people don’t know all of the details.’

While it’s been yet another turbulent season at Fratton Park, Rocha remains optimistic on the future.

He still has no imminent plans to retire.

He said: ‘I still enjoy it as much as I always did. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t play.

‘I’m still fit enough to play. I think I have a few years left in me yet.

‘One of the reasons I came here – and not just Guy or the other nice people here – was to prove to myself I can still do it.

‘I think I can.’