Last on MOTD: Ring my bell

JUST about everyone in Portsmouth knows who John Westwood is. He’s the man who loves Pompey so much that he changed his name by deed poll to John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood.

He’s also the chap who rings a bell at Portsmouth’s home games. Or at least, he does when he isn’t getting into arguments with the club over health and safety regulations.

Last August, Westwood walked out of Portsmouth’s first home game of the season, against Manchester United, after a disagreement with some stewards. He alleged that the stewards told him to stop ringing his bell because it was disturbing other fans. The club responded by stating that he was breaking health and safety rules by standing up during the game.

It all got a little bit messy after that. Westwood spent a large part of last season moving from one part of Fratton Park to another as fans complained about the racket he was making with his bell. It seems now that Westwood and Pompey have come to some kind of compromise. Either that, or it was someone else ringing a bell throughout yesterday’s home game with Everton, placed at the tail end of Match of the Day.

Last night’s final match: Portsmouth 0 Everton 1
Commentator: Tony Gubba

By day, Westwood runs a bookshop in Hampshire and is, by all accounts, a gentle, unassuming, intelligent character. But the Westwood that turns up on matchdays at Fratton Park is, well, somewhat eccentric, as he sports a hat, blue wig, custom-made waistcoat and chef’s trousers. He has somewhere between 50 and 60 Portsmouth-related tattoos – proof that the club really has got under his skin.

He was married once, and had two children, but Pompey kind of got in the way. His son, Marcus, once described him in an online interview as “a bit of a nutter”, but clearly meant it affectionately.

Pompey need their biggest fan right now. They have lost their opening seven league games with a squad that barely looks good enough to reach the Championship play-offs. Having gone behind to Louis Saha’s well-taken first-half goal, Pompey went close to equalising several times, and were applauded off by their supporters at the end.

But they look a long way from the side that held AC Milan to a draw last season – mainly because they are. Of the 18 players in the squad who faced Milan last November, eight remain at the club, five of whom figured in yesterday’s squad, with four of them getting on to the pitch.

There have been a lot of changes at Portsmouth over the summer, amid plenty of financial concerns, with Sulaiman Al Fahim taking over as chairman (and promising to put some cash in to stabilise the club) and a couple of shedfuls of players coming in and going out. Throughout all the change, Westwood is perhaps a crucial link with the club’s past. Then again, it’s easy for me to say that. I don’t have to sit next to him every week.

The bell could be heard throughout the MOTD highlights, stopping briefly when Saha scored, but continuing throughout the second half as Tal Ben Haim’s header bounced away off Everton keeper Tim Howard’s shoulder, as Aaron Mokoena hit the bar and Hassan Yebda’s late effort was cleared off the line by Leighton Baines.

“That’s Leighton Baines’ first Premier League win in 25 attempts,” said Gary Lineker afterwards, confusing the Everton full-back with Gareth Bale, who plays for Tottenham. I’m pretty sure it was a mistake, unless it was an elaborate joke that went over my head. It’s hard to tell on MOTD these days.

For instance, as Liverpool striker Fernando Torres showed off his match ball after scoring a hat-trick in their 6-1 win over Hull, he declared that it would have pride of place at home. Did Lineker really respond to that by saying “Hope it’s safe there”, or were my ears deceiving me? And if he did, was it really intended as a reference to the number of North West-based footballers who have had their homes burgled over the last three years?

I swear MOTD is getting stranger by the week – even without a bell ringer making his presence felt all over the highlights.

Gubbometer

1. Gubba: 2
(GD: 2. 2L: 1.)
2=. Portsmouth: 2
(GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
2=. West Ham: 2
(GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
4=. Wigan: 2
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
4=. Stoke: 2
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
6=. Blackburn: 1
(GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
6=. Everton: 1
(GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
8. Bolton: 1
(GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
9=. Birmingham: 1
(GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
9=. Fulham: 1
(GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
9=. Wolves: 1
(GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
12. Hull: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
13. Sunderland: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
14=. Arsenal: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
14=. Chelsea: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
16=. Aston Villa: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
16=. Burnley: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
16=. Liverpool: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
16=. Manchester City: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
16=. Manchester United: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
16=. Tottenham: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)

GD = Gubba difference
2L = On second last
(Last night’s penultimate match was: Fulham 0 Arsenal 1.)

(NB. Teams will receive one point for every time they appear last on MOTD. Appearances on MOTD2 are not included. Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference – the number of times a team is on last with Tony Gubba commentating. Teams still level will then be separated by the number of times they appear second last on MOTD.)

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One Response to Last on MOTD: Ring my bell

  1. Bad Andy says:

    That ‘hope it’s safe there’ was a bit of a gaff coming just a few days after poor Phil Jagielka got robbed at knifepoint in his own home.

    As for that bell – I’d never heard it before, only people complaining about it. But how distracting is it? If I had a seat next to Mr Portsmouth, I’d be moved to take action.

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