Ricky Holmes has recalled some of the highs and lows of his career at his hometown club ahead of his return to Southend United.
The Pompey winger – born less than three miles from Roots Hall –was released by the club as a 16-year-old and thought his hopes of a career as a professional footballer were over.
But after spells at Chelmsford City and Barnet, the 26-year-old scored the best goal of his career for the Bees at Southend last term in a 2-2 draw – a strike that was voted League Two goal of the season.
And he believes the New Year’s Day visit to his old stomping ground gives him added confidence and an extra incentive to turn in another big performance.
Recalling his strike last season, Holmes said: ‘I picked the ball up from the edge of my area, ran the length of the pitch and put it in the top corner.
‘I was buzzing. All my family and friends saw it and they will be there again.
‘I got the League Two goal of the season for it. It was probably the best goal I have ever scored so hopefully I can do that again.
‘If you have had a good game somewhere, football is funny like that.
‘Some people will eat the same thing when they have had a good game or do the same stuff or just feel more confident at a place where they have done well in the past.
‘I will go there thinking “I have always had a good game at Southend” so hopefully I can do the same.’
Holmes has been one of Pompey’s more consistent performers of late and has impressed supporters with his work ethic.
But after being shown the door by Southend as a teenager, he believes it eventually worked in his favour after earning qualifications to set him up for life after his football career is over.
He said: ‘It’s the team I used to watch as a kid and the team that released me as a kid so it does give me a bit of an incentive.
‘I was only 16 when I got released and you don’t really know where to look when that happens.
‘At the time, you think “I will fall away from football” but I think it worked out positively for me in the end.
‘I managed to get an education and went to college and university and then made it as a professional.
‘So now I have got something to fall back on when I finish playing.
‘At this level, it’s like a normal job because you don’t earn the money to retire and sit comfortably at the end of your career.
‘Everyone is looking to get a career after football so hopefully I have got mine sorted.
‘I did sport science coaching so I have got my badges and it means I can work that into PE teaching or things like that in the future.’
For the time being, though, Holmes is determined to help continue Pompey’s mini-revival.
He said: ‘I’m looking forward to Southend because it’s my home town.
‘But we’ve had two clean sheets and we can go there with a bit of confidence.’