Monday, 5 August 2013

FRATTON PARK - Owned by Pompey Fans

Fratton Park is now owned by us, the Pompey fans!
I don't really want to talk about this match. Too painful. However, if this is going to be a match report, I suppose I'd better say something...

The good bits:

On April 10th this year, Pompey severed all links with the various gun runners, conmen, fake sheiks and other scumbags that had ruined the club over the last few years. All gone. Forever. The club is now owned by the fans - over 2,000 individuals or groups of friends that had paid for £1,000 shares, plus a few "high net worth" fans. All fans. Forever. People we can trust, at last. People who you don't resent when handing over your entrance money, because you know your cash will be reinvested back into the club instead of it disappearing into somebody's dog's Cayman Islands bank account when it should have been paid to St John's Ambulance.

All those *&$%s. Out of our lives. Forever.

You can forgive us for celebrating on Saturday. You would have done too if it had been your club.

It says: "Ours".
Portsmouth FC (1) 1 v 4 (2) Oxford United FC
Saturday 3rd August 2013
Sky Bet League Two (aka the Fourth Division).
Attendance: 18,181
Admission: £20 (although I borrowed my dad's season ticket - thanks, dad!).
Programme: £3 (especially loved the pull-out poster of the 1939 FA Cup winning team).
Club shop: Kind's a marquee in the car park until they can find a more permanent space.
Colours: Blue / white / red v Yellow / black / black
National Grid reference: SU6500 / SU6600 / SZ6699 (I sat right on the line between the two 100km grid squares)

Some of the many notable achievements that now cover the Archibald Leitch trademark criss-cross pattern on the South Stand.
It started off well on Saturday. We were in fine fettle, singing with gusto like an oversized AC/DC tribute band. As the players came out of the South Stand tunnel, the Fratton End let the world know that Fratton Park is now "ours" in huge gold letters (soon to be made in to paper aeroplanes - see the psychedelic picture lower down - you can see the priceless collection of blue and gold planes behind the goal line).

We even had a goal to cheer after half an hour, when Patrick Agyemang headed in a left wing cross from six yards in front of the Oxford fans. A few seconds later, alleged "Secret Footballer" Dave Kitson (if he is the secret footballer, then he's well named, as he kept his football playing ability a closely guarded secret all the time he was at Pompey on twenty grand a week), spying someone in black shorts and socks, tried a cocky pass to his right...straight to the referee, much to the Pompey crowd's pleasure. Life was grand.

And then, the bad things:

Two minutes later, Oxford scored from only their second attempt on goal of the match. Then they scored again. Man, it's too painful. Let's change the subject...

Number 8, Kitson...erm, you've not seen him play yet, have you?
Let's hop on to a time machine and travel back to 1978. I was thirteen and at my football-obsessive peak, three bedroom walls covered in team pics cut out of Shoot! The fourth was my special "football wall" with football wallpaper, pennants, badges, spare Panini stickers and posters. I spent way too much time in my bedroom playing Subbuteo against myself (left hand v right hand - the latter usually coming out on top).

If I wasn't playing Subbuteo, I was playing with my LogActa dice. Hundreds and thousands of dice football matches with real teams and, later, four divisions of made-up teams from the fantasy land of Baralia, all lovingly noted down in the Handbook of Baralian Football (with much assistance from my schoolfriends Dave and Ed - hello to you both if you're reading this!).

In the real world, Pompey had just been relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time ever. They had been useless for my entire life, but they were my family's team, and therefore mine as well.

Archibald Leitch's South Stand, as seen from the Fratton End last season.
Following Pompey in the Fourth Division was fun. So many goals, so many on-pitch heroes for us young fans. There was Terry Brisley with the number four on the back of his Admiral kit, running up and down the pitch, gnarling away at opposition legs, scoring vital goals seemingly every match.

Another esteemed player was the moustachioed hardman, Joe Laidlaw, who, like Brisley, was a man's man who tackled like a tiger and scored a hatful of goals.

However, I think our favourite player of all was Jeff Hemmerman, a curly-haired antiques collector who lived near Petersfield. One Friday evening*, we (Dave and Ed were there too, probably discussing the latest happenings in the Baralian League on our way home from school) bumped into Jeff on the platform of Petersfield station. We knew who he was and probably gave him some fanboy chat. He mentioned that he was meeting up with the team on the next train, as they were heading for an overnight stay in Peterborough for the next day's match.

Obviously, there was only one thing for us to do, despite the train heading in the opposite direction to our destination and having no tickets. We followed him on to the train and met up with the Pompey team. I remember manager Frank Burrows asking me what I knew about logarithms (erm, not much). The whole squad gave us their autographs - mine on the back of a school exercise book - I don't know about Ed or Dave...

We had to get off the train at Guildford and make our way back to Havant, hoping that the ticket inspector didn't come along and throw us off. He didn't.

* Looking at the records, it must have been December 7th, 1979.

Inside the South Stand.
It wasn't unusual to see Fourth Division football clubs on trains in the late 1970s. I also remember seeing York City on their way to Fratton Park for a 5-2 thrashing that same season. Their kit was in a large tea chest in the guard's van, along with a bicycle or two.

Looking at my old promotion brochure from the 1979/80 season, it's interesting to contrast the players from then with those now. For starters, they were quite a short team - they all seem to be around the 5ft 8in mark. The only six-footers were the goalkeepers, Alan Knight and Peter Mellor, and centre-half Steve Aizlewood. However, I don't think that was unusual then. It might be interesting to take a hundred random footballers from an old Rothman's Yearbook of the time and compare their heights to current players - it wouldn't surprise me if the average player is now at least three inches taller now than thirty years ago. I'll get Row Z on the case...

My dad's-eye view of the pitch, psychedelically enhanced.
And what about the players' interests? There are several Focus On type questionnaires in the brochure. Inspecting these closely, I find that most of the players owned the same sorts of cars that the average earner at the time would also have owned - Ford Cortinas, Escorts, Capris, a Toyota Celica, a Colt Galant, a Vauxhall Viva, an Avenger! The only "sporty" car was Jeff Hemmerman's TR7. Jeff was also the only player married to an Eastern European model, with the rest betrothed to Janets and Jills.

Their musical tastes were mostly obvious (popular singers of the 70s like Rod Stewart and Elton John), but three of them were into the Boomtown Rats, and Leigh Barnard listened to Elvis Costello and Ian Dury. Jeff Hemmerman relaxed to Supertramp.

And who would they most like to meet? Plenty of Muhammad Alis and Peter Sellers, but Leigh Barnard wanted to meet American poet Allen Ginsberg, and Jeff Hemmerman would have liked to have discussed the affairs of the day with newsreader Reginald Bosanquet over a plate of cheese and oatcakes (his favourite food).

I'm rambling here, aren't I? Just trying to avoid writing about the rest of the Oxford match, if you must know...

Pompey's promotion brochure from 1980.
Anyway, I'd just like to say thanks to my dad for lending me his season ticket for the day whilst he was on holiday. It's always a pleasure to sit in the oldest stand in the county - the Archibald Leitch-designed South Stand. There aren't many of these vintage stands left - you can't fit executive boxes in them, you know.

Now, let's not talk of this match ever again.

EDIT: One of my heroes from the 1980 and 1983 promotion sides, Steve Aizlewood, died the day after I published this. He will forever be remembered by the fans that were at Fratton Park in those days, usually wrapped in bandages, playing on with yet another broken nose, blood streaming down his face. A brave player, a great centre-half, sadly missed. RIP Steve Aizlewood.


  1. Challenge accepted! As soon as I can get my hands on some old Rothmans yearbooks I'll start making some graphs.

  2. Excellent! I look forward to the results :-)