The driver who ensured that the Portsmouth team coach dodged a high-speed motorway pile-up on the way to the derby defeat at Southampton on Tuesday shrugged off the accolades thrust in his direction and insisted: "I was just doing my job."
The Pompey bus, with the squad and the manager, Harry Redknapp, on board, was on the M27 destined for St Mary's when the 14-vehicle accident unfurled ahead of them. Mick Pullen, 59, was behind the wheel when one of the cars spun between Portsmouth's police escort and the coach. He jerked the vehicle sideways and shot down the hard shoulder ahead of the accident, ensuring that the players and staff escaped without injury.
Redknapp, who was seriously injured in a car crash in Italy in 1990 which killed his best friend, told how Mr Pullen's "miracle" driving avoided the smash - in which eight people suffered minor injuries. But the driver, who works for the Southampton-based Coliseum Coaches, insisted his quick reactions were all in a day's work.
Mr Pullen declined media interviews yesterday but spoke to Redknapp and his players and told them: "I'm no hero, I was just doing my job."
The Coliseum managing director, Kerry Pitter, said that Pullen, a Pompey fan who has been driving the team around the country for two years, had earned the thanks of the club. "All the Portsmouth players are very grateful to Mick as the skill of his driving saved the day," Pitter said. "He's a very shy guy and not interested in being the hero but he told me what happened last night.
"Several cars in the middle and fast lanes collided and sent debris flying everywhere. One car ricocheted from the centre lane straight between the coach and the police car. So Mick took immediate evasive action and somehow swerved on to the hard shoulder."
The accident was just one drama on an eventful evening on the south coast as Southampton and Portsmouth squared up for the first time in eight years. Saints won the Carling Cup fourth-round tie 2-0, thanks to two James Beattie strikes - a 32nd-minute tap-in and a stoppage-time penalty after a foul by Arjan De Zeeuw, who was sent off.
The Southampton police said a steward was seriously injured in a "crowd surge". The steward fell down a flight of stairs and it was first thought he had broken his leg. But a Saints spokesman said: "He was taken to hospital but he didn't break his leg. It's just badly sprained and he's now out of hospital."
Pompey fans angered their Saints counterparts by chanting during the pre-match minute's silence for the late Southampton president Ted Bates, who died last week aged 85. Redknapp said: "I've never met a nicer man than Ted Bates. I feared the worst about the minute's silence and I wish Southampton hadn't had it before our game."
Police arrested a dozen Pompey fans and four Saints supporters in and around St Mary's. Nine fans were charged with offences including being drunk and disorderly and another five were released on bail pending further inquiries into assault offences.Reuse content