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Great read in the Times over the weekend that you may have missed:

It was all about the colours. The blue and white of Brighton. The red of Pompey’s away strip. But most of all the vivid, luminous green of the Goldstone Ground pitch ignited in the retina by the towering floodlights.

Football in 1969 was a strictly black and white experience. A seven-year-old like me could be infatuated with the game, but it was devoured in monochrome morsels that came my way through Sam Leitch’s football preview on Grandstand, an occasional Saturday night treat watching Match of the Day, and the grubby, grey newsprint of the daily papers. Shoot! magazine had only just made it on to the news stands.

All that changed on the night of August 13. We lived in Seaford, 15 miles east along the coast from Brighton. A neighbour had begun taking my older brothers to games at the Goldstone, and I remember the extra ripple of excitement when the Albion, then in the third division, drew Pompey, of the second division, in the League Cup.

Pompey were — and still are — my mum’s team. She grew up just outside the city and was a regular at Fratton Park during the club’s golden period, winning back-to-back league titles in 1949 and 1950 inspired by — and possibly even intimidated by — the president, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.

Sitting in the South Stand with Mum, Dad and my sister, I might have been more conscious of her emotional investment in the result had I not been so dazzled by the colour, the noise and the spectacle of a potential giant-killing.

Suddenly the gods of football were made flesh. Alex Dawson, the Brighton centre forward, had played for the actual Manchester United. And in FA Cup finals for United and Preston North End respectively. This at a time when the Cup final was, to me, the most significant day of the year because you got to see a whole match on the (black and white) telly.

Sure enough, right in front of us in the second half, Dawson headed the only goal of the game. The expectant hush as the cross came in; the thump of ball on forehead; the detonation of cacophony. Every box ticked. Every hook inserted.

Fast forward a year and Mum took us to Fratton Park for a pre-season friendly against West Ham. No floodlights this time, just a perch on the perimeter wall that afforded a remarkable close-up of the glistening thighs of Pompey’s bowlegged winger Albie McCann. Oh and Geoff Hurst, trotting around seemingly oblivious to his bit-part role in inflicting my greatest childhood trauma a few weeks earlier when England imploded against West Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Scurrying around for autographs afterwards I noticed my mum and her sister in deep conversation with a gnarled, flat-capped man by The Pompey pub. Twenty years earlier, they had watched him terrorise defenders throughout the land, in a way that would make Duncan Ferguson blush, as part of that double title-winning team. But now Duggie Reid was the club groundsman and happy to walk as far down memory lane as his taciturn Scottishness would allow him.

Fast forward another 17 years and I’m a feature writer on The News, the local paper in Portsmouth. Pompey mattered. The club were as much a part of the fabric of the city as the Dockyard and coverage of Pompey was the lifeblood of the paper. In that summer of ’86, after another promotion near-miss in the second division, we decided on a nostalgia series featuring the greatest matches in the club’s history.

This was how I found myself face-to-still-fearsome-face with a now 69-year-old Reid. As tough to interview as he was to play against on the pitch, the memories were eventually chiselled out — the “Thunderboots” nickname, the day he burst the net with a penalty, and the final day hat-trick against Aston Villa that earned a successive league title on goal average.

History was coming to life in front of me, and the fact that my mum had a role to play in it, however small, made it so much more graphic and poignant. I was in this thing for life now.

Following Pompey is never straightforward though, even in the best of times. A year later, promotion to the First Division was confirmed when Oldham dropped points on a Tuesday night. On the Friday morning, my wife — born and bred in the city and blue through and through — produced our first child in the maternity hospital next to the ground, meaning I could, with a clear conscience, skip visiting the next afternoon and nip over for the promotion party against Sheffield United. Which they lost, of course. And the top-flight experience lasted one season.

Even the club’s greatest triumph of the modern era — the FA Cup win of 2008 — wasn’t quite what it should have been. By then I was sports editor of The Times, which meant — among other things — that people invited you to places. Like Wembley for the Cup final, with your wife and one of your daughters. Of course it was a fantastic day but there was no getting away from it being an awful game and the overwhelming feeling after the 1-0 win being relief that, as a Premier League team, they hadn’t cocked it up against a distinctly average Championship side such as Cardiff City.

Nagging away was the knowledge that the economics of the club, and in particular their Russian owner, didn’t add up. Before the inevitable collapse, there was to be one more floodlit wonder.

The Cup win meant Europa League qualification, which brought AC Milan to Fratton Park (and another kind invitation to the sports editor) on a freezing night in November. When Kanu put Pompey 2-0 up with 17 minutes to go, it genuinely felt as though the roof would come off the Fratton End. There was still time, though, for Ronaldinho (Ronaldinho! In our postcode!) to come on and caress home a free kick before Filippo Inzaghi equalised in injury time. Quintessential Pompey.

By 2013, the Russians were long gone and the club had been ransacked and ridiculed by a succession of other rapacious foreign owners. Oblivion beckoned until the Pompey Supporters’ Trust mobilised the fanbase and bought the club on behalf of those who cared most about it. I was one of 2,300 fans who each stumped up £1,000 to help the Trust seal the deal, but when asked which name should go on the share certificate (now framed) I knew that it had to say “The Hallissey Family” to ensure that the connections forged over more than 60 years were properly embedded in the history of the club.

Supporting Pompey has never been easy. And career-wise, living in the city and commuting to London for 24 years has been no joyride either. But the joy of being part of the Pompey family is like the joy of running the sports desk of The Times — historic, deeply meaningful and never dull.

Now that I’m retiring, The Times is about to become part of my past — like the Goldstone Ground, although that is just another faceless retail park now. But the spark that sprang to life there on a warm summer night almost exactly 50 years ago is burning as bright as ever. And so, thankfully, is my old mum.
Fantastic read many thanks again SB.

It is amazing how many people, like us, have been bitten by the "Pompey Bug". I am working on my youngest Grandson, who has been brainwashed by his Spurs supporting Father (my Son-in-Law). My Daughter was bitten by the "Bug" as well at a very young age. The three of us (Daughter, Grandson & Me)went to Wembley in march and I am taking the Grandson for his first Fratton Park experience against Coventry next week.
BlueinPLtwenty wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 8:05 am
Fantastic read many thanks again SB.

It is amazing how many people, like us, have been bitten by the "Pompey Bug". I am working on my youngest Grandson, who has been brainwashed by his Spurs supporting Father (my Son-in-Law). My Daughter was bitten by the "Bug" as well at a very young age. The three of us (Daughter, Grandson & Me)went to Wembley in march and I am taking the Grandson for his first Fratton Park experience against Coventry next week.
I have three sons, now all grown up. We/they have never lived in the Portsmouth area, but on the outskirts of London, so none of their school mates supported Pompey. The eldest, now 25, started off supporting Liverpool, and the middle son, now 21, supported Chelsea. However, the minute I started taking them to live games at Fratton Park they were bitten by the bug. The youngest as a consequence of his brothers has always supported Pompey. :thumb
Keep working on your grandson!!
Thanks SB.

I was born and educated in Portsmouth but left after finishing my schooling and have never lived or worked in Hampshire since. I went to my first match at Fratton Park approaching 60 years ago with my Father & Grandfather when I was ten years old. My Father encouraged me to go whenever I wished after that first excursion and I rarely missed a match for the next eight years. I caught the "Bug" early and after I left Portsmouth I have visited many grounds in this country, Scotland and France when Pompey have not been the opposition. Nothing compares, some have come close, others I cannot understand how the atmosphere is so bad. The Eisners have absorbed how good is our support. Many youngsters ally themselves to a Football Club early in their formative years. They tend to retain that allegiance throughout their lifetime. However the uniqueness of the Pompey experience has meant a surprising number of football fans change their allegiance after a vibrant Pompey Match Atmosphere. I am working very hard on my Grandson. I persuaded him to be a Mascot for Pompey down here in Plymouth a couple of years ago. On tuesday he is going to get the full volume at FP and I will see what other things I can do to increase the experience.
Good work BlueinPLtwenty!

I was born in Andover and raised in Alton but my Dad was born in Portsmouth and so he and my Grandad were Pompey fans. Took me to my first game aged 5 in January 1981 against Fulham and I've never been the same since!

I've lived in Suffolk for over 20 years, so I thought I'd leave my son to choose his team (happy with either Norwich or Ipswich, definitely not allowed Southampton or Man Utd). He flirted with Liverpool for a while but after I took him to Cambridge away (when we won 5-1 and Jed Wallace ran the show) he was hooked on Pompey and our fantastic support (particularly at away games). Happy days!
Some fine things have come from Alton (apart from you Pakefield) a certain J Dickinson Esq. :thumb
My own bug bitten experience came on a fine Saturday afternoon against The Gunners, along with my best friend his big brother took us. I think it was one of those occasions that the Marine Band from Eastney played not the usual Corporation Band. The markers were in place to show where the aisles should be, cos you couldn’t see them, a proper big crowd! I reckon it was 1954/5 which means I was 7 and we won no trouble :D
I was aware of the atmosphere and crowds before that though, my Grandad lived on the west side of Apsley Rd and as a nipper outside in his back yard the oohs and aahhs and roars were so thunderous I could feel them. Seeing my uncle swept past the house by the crowd after one match because he didn’t make the gateway is still a fond memory.
Such rubbish that fills our hearts and makes us happy. Ho hum

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