Portsmouth’s Russian star Alexei Smertin and his team mates have shown strong support for The News’s Last Chance for Justice campaign which demands a medal for the Arctic convoy veterans.
The Pompey midfielder was keen to back the campaign to recognise the heroes who helped supply his country during the Second World War, enabling them to fight off the Germans.
Smertin and many of his teammates including Teddy Sheringham, Arjan de Zeeuw, Eyal Berkovic and Linvoy Primus, along with Pompey heroes Jim Smith and Alan Knight and other members of the coaching staff, signed a petition which urges Prime Minister Tony Blair to honour the heroes with a medal.
Campaign leader Eddie Grenfell said: “We are very pleased with the response. The Government and Mr Blair has got to listen now that people are showing how much they agree with our claim.
“Since The News began the Last Chance for Justice campaign and gave me an office, I have been stopped by people wishing me luck and wanting to help every time I am out on the streets.
“It really is very encouraging to receive this sort of level of support and it makes me more confident of victory.”
Petition collector Bob Currie, a former merchant seaman who served with Arctic veterans, visited the players at their training ground.
He has now collected more than 1,200 signatures for the petition and helped bring the total number to more than 6,000.
Veterans of the campaign started their push for a medal in 1997, saying the Cold War was over and it was clear that Britain and Russia were no longer enemies.
Of the 20,000 naval heroes, an estimated 2,000 are still alive – many living in the Portsmouth area.
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