Footballers become cult heroes for a variety of reasons: a cool celebration or a figure unsuited to the demands of top-flight football are two of the most popular. Another way of getting yourself a Facebook group with 350 likes is by being a bad boy, Paolo Di Canio and Faustino Asprilla being two famous examples.
Others choose a completely different path, attracting the attention of a select but dedicated group of people by being a good human being. Linvoy Stephen Primus is a, no pun intended, prime example of one of those amicable souls. It says a lot about the man, or perhaps about football, that one of the top search suggestions when typing in his name is ‘Linvoy Primus nice’.
@JayJarrahi he’s too nice for it to be his fault. Same with Pellegrini. Perhaps Linvoy Primus (nicest man in football) should be a manager?
— Dan Weston (@Tennisratings) February 25, 2017
It could be a little to do with the name too, of course. Let’s be honest, being called Linvoy Primus is a huge catalyst in becoming an icon. Especially when juxtaposed with the gloriously ordinary Stephen, squeezed between the brilliant first name and surname like a reverse bacon sandwich.
Remarkably – and to add to the mystique further – Primus has talked about not playing for a side as a very young kid, stating that when many children had already been playing for a couple of years, he was lining up against his teddy bears in his parents’ East London flat.
He soon got the hang of it though, and at 19 made his debut in Charlton Athletic’s first-team. There, he struggled to make an impression, taking a step down to Barnet where he was a revelation. From there he went to Reading, a switch that led to the move that would define his career.
Not that his Portsmouth career started very auspiciously; for a couple of seasons, Primus and the club itself struggled, in part due to managerial instability. It was only through an unlikely appointment that he finally developed into the player that stole the hearts of football nerds worldwide.
Harry Redknapp was initially unimpressed by his fellow Londoner, telling Primus that he wasn’t of Championship standard, let alone the Premier League where the club aspired to be. Some might say making Redknapp look stupid is not be difficult task, but Primus worked very hard in doing so. He was named PFA Fans’ Player of the Year that season, as Portsmouth was promoted. Needless to say, he remained with them as they ascended into England’s top tier.
The centre-back went on to play in the Premier League for several years, putting in some impressive performances during that time. He also formed a partnership with Sol Campbell, surely one of the most intimidating duos to ever play in the Premier League.
A brief loan spell at first club Charlton aside, Primus played for Portsmouth for the rest of his career. He became so attached to the club that he stayed in the area, and has done a great deal of charity work there since hanging up his boots. Speaking about the South Coast city, he said:
“Portsmouth reminds me of East London, working class; if you’re doing well everyone supports you, if you’re not doing well everyone supports you – community.”
That isn’t the extent of his charity work though; retirement has resulted in the 43-year-old pouring his heart and soul into the life of a philanthropist. One of his greatest achievements was raising £100,000 through walking the Great Wall of China. He also has a charity called Faith and Football, which is describe on its website as ‘a Christian Charity working in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Cambridge. As a charity we are passionate about meeting young people and their families where they are on life’s journey and helping them reach their full potential. We want to be making a difference and changing lives.’
In 2015, Primus was awarded an MBE for his charitable work; proving that even the Queen loves a cult hero. We’re just hoping to see Shaun Goater’s name on the next honours list.