|Spring awakening at United Services Portsmouth FC.|
The Landport Gate, one of the original entrances to Old Portsmouth, is right next to the big concrete stand at United Services Portsmouth. On September 14th 1805, Nelson passed through this gate on his way to HMS Victory to set sail for the Battle of Trafalgar. It was to be the day of his last walk on dry land before embarkation. At that time, the old city of Portsmouth would have been protected by moats and drawbridges, which, if the drawbridges hadn't been dismantled in the 1860s, would now be under the United Services football pitch (don't tell Time Team, or they'll be there digging a trench before you can whistle Jolly Jack Tar).
Modern history is represented by Portsmouth's first important football team, Royal Artillery FC, who played on what was known as The Men's Pitch at the tail end of the 19th century, reaching the final of the Amateur Cup in 1896. Without the army team, modern Pompey wouldn't have had their nickname or their most famous song - with some historians believing it may be the world's oldest surviving football chant.
|The Landport Gate at United Services Portsmouth.|
United Services Portsmouth FC 1 (1) v (4) 5 Tadley-Calleva FC
Saturday 6th April 2013
Sydenhams Wessex League Division One
Colours: All blue v Yellow / black / black
Club shop: No
National Grid reference: SZ6399
|Spectacular surroundings and a tractor to admire.|
The United Services Ground (now HMS Temeraire) is a few hundred yards distant from Portsmouth Guildhall. The original town hall was built in 1890. Its clock could be heard chiming from the football ground. It is said that RA's fans would mimic the chimes at 4 o'clock to remind the referee to blow the final whistle. According to the 1900/01 official handbook of Portsmouth FC, the chant went like this:
"Play up Pompey!
Just one more goal!
Make tracks! What ho!
The words have changed over the years, but the tune has remained the same. When RA were harshly forced to disband over claims of professionalism, many of their fans transferred their allegiance to the newly-formed Portsmouth FC, taking what were known as the Town Hall Chimes with them.
|Steeplechase water jump with the large concrete stand beyond.|
"Portsmouth RA, who are known in their own neighbourhood as Pompey, have undoubtedly a good record, and their name strikes terror to East Anglian teams, but what's in a name, as Shakespeare has it".
There are several explanations as to where the word "Pompey" originates. The three mentioned in the book Glory Gunners, by Kevin Smith (which is where I have sourced the information about Royal Artillery FC), are:
1. One year, the Royal Artillery were asked to line the route for the queen's birthday parade. They protested that a senior regiment should not be doing this - they should be proudly marching. Lining the route was a job for firemen in Paris for the Bastille Day parade. The next time the football club took to the field, they were teased with the cry of "Here come the Pompiers!"
2. The French warship Le Pompee was the guardship for Portsmouth Harbour when Britain and France were at war.
3. A group of sailors who climbed Pompey's Pillar in Egypt in 1781 became known as "Pompey's Boys".
I have seen other explanations - one had something to do with a talkative parrot. I suspect that no-one will ever know the word's origination with any degree of certainty.
|The view from daffodil knoll.|
From here, walk to the left, through the car park, up a short flight of steps, around the large building on your right, down another flight of steps and through an open gate to the athletics/football stadium.
At two minutes to three, United Services' manager, Bob Brady, wanders around the stadium collecting entrance money and handing out programmes to the attendees. Yes, that's right, the home team's manager does this as the match is kicking off! Not something that Guy Whittingham has to worry about! Bob also lets you know where to go for tea at half-time "although you'll have to make it yourself!"
|Floodlights taller than "The Lipstick" skyscraper!|
It was sink or swim time for Services after 15 minutes, as Tadders went 3-1 up with a torpedo from the edge of the box. But they couldn't turn the tide, as the marauding away team scored their fourth after 28 minutes, Grant Powell sidefooting home from six yards from a cross from the right, just where the old moat used to be.
4-1 to Tadley at half-time, an ocean of difference between the two sides. A rum do for Services, as they shipped goal after goal at a rate of knots during the half. The first half had to be written off as water under the bridge. It would be all hands on deck for the second period.
|A rare attack for United Services.|
Before 2012/13 started, the naval players in the squad would have hoped this season would be plain sailing; the army members would have been gunning for top spot; and the air force would be looking to be flying high in the table. It hasn't worked out that way, promotion chances wrecked early on, with the club long since adrift in mid-table.
As the ref blew his whistle for the start of the second half, I heard the four o'clock chimes ringing out from the Guildhall clock. I fancied I could hear the ghosts of the old Royal Artillery fans singing along with their original Town Hall Chimes, but the sound was soon drowned out by the heavy traffic. I listened out for the Pompey crowd, who can be very raucous indeed, but by all accounts, their 0-0 draw with Stevenage, taking place at the same time as this match, was rather uninspiring. The surrounding background noises from the thousands of vehicles streaming in to and out of the nearby shopping centre would have made it hard to hear the Pompey crowd, even if they'd just gone 4-1 up against Saints, virtually ensuring their rival's relegation (ah, those were the days...!).
Tadley-Calleva scored their fifth, and the final goal of the game halfway through the second half, a hat-trick goal for Daniel Vickers, with a chip over the keeper, as delicate as any of the spring flowers blooming around the ground in the warm sunshine. The Magnificent Callevans then partook of a post-match huddle most cordial in the shadow of the Landport Gate, before setting off on their trusty steeds back to their north Hampshire homes for a hearty meal of venison washed down with a flagon of mead or two (possibly).
|A train approaches Portsmouth Harbour Station during the second half.|
Two more grounds to visit this season!