Linvoy. A tribute.

Linvoy Stephen Primus, born 14 September 1973, joined Portsmouth in the summer of 2000, leaving former club Reading on a free transfer. After impressing then-chairman Milan Mandaric during pre-season, Mandaric insisted that he’d be signed.

The news hardly stirred Pompey fans. He was a player who hadn’t achieved much in his career and was already considered backup upon arrival. However, that ‘backup’ player stayed on at the club for an impressive ten seasons, picking up trophies, accolades, and the personal title of ‘Mr. Portsmouth’.  

He was and is simply a legend.

All smiles.

As a young footballer, Primus featured for clubs such as Charlton Athletic, Barnet and Reading. It was at this point the 36-year-old realised ‘football could be a hard and heartless industry’. He felt he was being treated harshly by the clubs he was, or in this case, wasn’t playing for. He came to hate football and all it stood for.

It was upon meeting Darren Moore at his next club, Portsmouth, who helped him discover his faith. Moore, who was already a Christian, refreshed Primus’ mindset. To use the cliché, he was a born-again Christian. His confidence grew, and in his words, he began to ‘play without fear’.

His Blues career did not start off too brightly, scoring an own goal on his Portsmouth debut away to Sheffield United. Injury kept him out for much of the campaign that season, while the appointment of Graham Rix as manager never worked in his favour.

Although Harry Redknapp has a reputation for casting out Linvoy, it was upon his arrival in March, 2002, that gave the English defender a new lease of life. He went on to score two goals in very important games against Bradford and Barnsley.

Primus and former Pompey favourite Darren Moore started Faith & Football in 2002. They decided, as Christians, they wanted to give to their local communities by helping young people and their families. With the help of Mick Mellows, the Charity director, the two footballers wanted to be positive role models and help make a difference.

Faith & Football has since become one of Linvoy’s proudest achievements. The organisation now provides a range of community, education and overseas programmes using football as a basis for learning. There are four full-time staff members and over 150 Christian Faith & Football volunteers working around the country.

Since Linvoy became a Christian, he believes his newfound relationship with God has provided him with a sense of hope that nothing ever else has before.

He said: ‘However, since I became a Christian and a personal relationship with God I have found that He is an unchanging rock in my life…His promise of peace in my heart and mind give me a certainty of hope nothing else in life has ever done!’

In Redknapp’s first full season in charge, Primus was directly told that he wasn’t of a ‘Division One’ standard. With his newfound faith, Primus went on to prove his manager wrong, taking advantage of Eddie Howe’s unfortunate first-day injury. He established a regular-starting-spot in the side that went on to win the First Division title. He also picked up personal honours, winning the Portsmouth fans’ player of the season and the PFA accolade for Division One.

Pompey had arrived into the Premiership. Redknapp spent money on defenders Boris Zivkovic and Dejan Stefanovic in the summer transfer window, suggesting Linvoy would have to make do bench-warming. Yet again, Linvoy would fight back, making an appearance for the derby game with Southampton. Despite losing 3-0, Primus had again established his place in the side.

Primus became a regular member of the team the following season, under Redknapp, Velimir Zajec and then Alain Perrin. He scored his first Premier League goal against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day. Boxing Day became a regular cause for celebration, as Primus scored a brace the following year on the same day, this time against West Ham United.

His first Premier League goal.

Primus fell out of favour with manager Perrin the following season, until the return of Harry Redknapp reinstated him to the starting line-up. He became one of the ‘Great Escape’ heroes as he helped Pompey survive that season in unlikely circumstances. In the 2006/2007 season, the big-time Charlies arrived, including defensive stalwart Sol Campbell. Primus would go on to form a magnificent partnership with the former England international, often outshining him, particularly when facing Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.   

A longstanding knee injury kept him out the following season. The extent of the injury was so bad that he had to be treated by the infamous Dr. Richard Steadman, a doctor known for saving the careers of many Premier League footballers. However, Steadman couldn’t save Linvoy’s, however much he tried.

However, it wouldn’t be like Linvoy to step back from a challenge. He had one last appearance in him, making a long-awaited comeback to the Portsmouth first-team against Sunderland, the last home game of the 2009/2010 season. He came on as a late substitute and received possibly one of the loudest cheers ever directed at a player. Every touch he made was golden, while the smile on his face said it all. It was one of my highlights of the season.

Unsurprisingly, Primus signed a one-year extension to his Portsmouth contract. He agreed to take on an ambassadorial role and advisory role to help Portsmouth’s youth team. More importantly, the contract extension took Linvoy into his tenth year at the club, the magic number for a testimonial game.

And I’m sure that testimonial game would be packed with support – the man deserves it. According to Neil Allen, of The News, Arjan De Zeeuw has stated he would travel back from Holland to play with Linvoy one last time, showing how much Linvoy meant to people.

His retirement was an eventuality that was all too predictable, yet it still remains a shame. The man has the time for anyone, whether it is for a quick picture or a shirt-signing. He is an example of what modern-day footballers should be.

I realise the tone of this article almost represents an obituary – it shouldn’t. It should reflect and celebrate the achievements Linvoy has achieved so far in life. All I can say is long may it continue.

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