A toast to returning Pompey hero Hermann – just don’t expect it to be a quiet occasion

Hermann Hreidarsson celebrates Pompey's FA Cup triumph in 2008 on Southsea Common
Hermann Hreidarsson celebrates Pompey's FA Cup triumph in 2008 on Southsea Common

Tell me the truth or I will punch you in the head.

The chilling warning delivered by Hermann Hreidarsson while sat on a bar stool in South Carolina.

That crooked smile tottering precariously on manic hinted it was a joke.

Certainly neither of his fists appeared to be clenched, although one gripped a bottle of beer.

Then again, with Hermann, you never could be quite sure.

It was July 2011 and his question centred on then-boss Steve Cotterill.

Earlier in the day on that Charleston pre-season tour, Cotterill had angrily confronted me about something in The News – partly overheard by Hermann.

It centred on my match report which carried reference to a clearly-embarrassing 2-2 draw against a Charleston Battery XI.

My description of the opposition that consisted of ‘college kids’ didn’t impress a fuming Cotterill, who had personally organised for myself and News colleague Steve Wilson to attend the trip.

I relayed the reason for Cotterill’s ire to Hermann and there was silence, then laughter – which was soon joined in by his giggling drinking buddy that night, Dave Kitson.

Thankfully, my answer was the right one.

‘Well we did, didn’t we?’, came the response, followed by that usual hearty slap on the back.

Hermann was never a fan of Cotterill.

There began a night to treasure in the company of one of Pompey’s most iconic players – a genuine character and somebody blessed with an unbreakable bond with the Blues fans.

His gesture of bringing over the Icelandic club he now manages on April 16 to play the Blues to bolster the Pompey Supporters’ Trust’s coffers is from the heart. What’s more, he is footing the accommodation bill for IBV from his own pocket.

Hermann may have been relegated with five different teams from the Premier League during a career which saw him serve for seven English football clubs.

There is one, though, he favours more than any other – Pompey.

That night at Sticky Fingers, the bar closest to the team’s Holiday Inn home for two weeks, an emotional Hermann publicly professed his love for the Blues – an affection which clearly hasn’t dimmed.

The drink flowed, as did the shots generously supplied by a dozen Pompey fans containing John Westwood, who had stumbled into the same drinking establishment as the Icelandic and Kitson.

Ever the exhibitionist, this was Hermann’s stage and how he embraced those supporters, chatting with ease and bouncing around with trademark unstable energy.

At one point he clambered on to a chair and leaned over the bar before unleashing a rendition of some strange Icelandic war cry, accompanied by bottle thrust aloft.

‘Stop it Hermannator,’ screamed the barmaid as she boldly attempted to bring this rowdy customer under control.

Not since Harry Redknapp on Southsea Common in May 2008 as he tried to throw Sacha Gaydamak off the stage had Hermann been challenged in such a manner.

As back then, slowly he retreated like a chided child, still sporting that mischievous grin.

Of course, the defender shouldn’t have even been there that night in America.

While the four media members accompanied the backroom staff to the baseball that evening (Charleston RiverDogs), the players went their separate ways, albeit under a strict Cotterill curfew.

Some watched live tennis, some milled around the hotel. Hermann and Kitson took in a round of golf.

They later told those gathered in the bar that at one point the latter had stood in a swamp attempting to play a shot when his partner started laughing.

‘Have you seen what’s behind you?’, Hermann chuckled. In terms of urgent warnings, it was rather understated.

As soon as the panicked Kitson saw the lurking alligator, he scrambled on to the green for safety.

Afterwards, they decided to go for a drink – certainly against Cotterill’s rules – and entered a bar containing Pompey fans.

Then, us gentlemen of the press arrived.

We were on friendly terms with Hermann, while two days earlier I had spent 90 minutes chatting to Kitson.

Looking back, it was a conversation which makes me suspect the ex-Stoke man is The Guardian’s Secret Footballer.

Still, Hermann was in fine form that night, including unveiling his impression of Cotterill – no doubt saved for special occasions.

Unfortunately, it left a lot to be desired and was more reminiscent of Marlon Brando as the Godfather than his Cheltenham-born boss.

And drinking? Yes he was drinking, in-between chomping on chewing tobacco, apparently a popular past-time in Iceland.

All good things, though, and at the night’s end everyone bid their farewells, with the two players hanging back a little just in case Cotterill was patrolling the hotel’s entrance.

Days later, after officially being allowed out the night before, Hermann was spotted with a chipped front tooth.

‘I did it taking the top off a bottle,’ came his reply to the inevitable question.

However, there were strong rumours he sustained the injury while attempting chin ups on an overhead fan in a bar.

So if you see him on April 16, when he comes back to Fratton Park, ask him.

Just don’t threaten to punch him in the head if he doesn’t tell the truth.