THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Steve Morgan on the ups and downs of being a Portsmouth fan

Verdict so far on the Milan Mandaric regime?
Mandaric has put his money where his mouth is. On paper, this is the strongest squad we’ve had in years – the signing of Robert Prosinecki could be a masterstroke if he loses some weight. Mandaric talks a good game too. He criticised the club for having been run along “mom and pop” lines – a spot-on analysis of the last 30 years. However, he seems a trifle impatient: rejuvenation is likely to take between five and ten years. The much-vaunted move to the goods yard adjacent to Fratton Park is no nearer fruition, although planning permission has been granted and there seem to be even more roadworks than usual at the proposed access road for it.

What were the best and worst Portsmouth teams in your lifetime?
Supporting Pompey is a tale of near misses. Jim Smith’s 1992-93 side, with Guy Whittingham and Paul Walsh rampant, remains the most exciting I’ve seen in 25 years. They failed to gain promotion to the inaugural Premiership by one goal and, with Darren Anderton’s star rising, had reached the FA Cup semi-final the previous year. Only one top- half finish since suggests that the club has never recovered.
Terry Fenwick’s two-and-a-half year stint as boss remains the chief exhibit in a well-stocked chamber of horrors. The 1997-98 season was a particularly shambolic effort, memorable for a host of faceless Aussies brought in during Terry Ven­ables’s brief stint as chairman, gates dipping below 7,000 and a slide into administration.

How big is the club’s catchment area and might they lose some floating fans to Southampton now they have a bigger stadium?
All sleeping giants bang on about the size of their catchment area, so why should we be any different? A city of 250,000 could easily sustain top-flight football. Southampton aside, the nearest Premiership team is probably Fulham. Not many local kids would support Southampton even if they built the biggest stadium in the world. It just doesn’t happen.

What has been the best and worst strip?
Good strips are normally associated with happy memories. As there have been precious few of those lately, no kit could really be described as vin­tage. The most radical in recent times, the 75th an­niverary kit introduced in 1973-74 after consult- ation with fans, was a white shirt with go-faster vertical blue stripes. It looked fairly glamorous ac­companied by the de rigueur feather cuts and helped us to the dizzy heights of 15th in the Second Division, followed by relegation to the Third two years later.

Fondly remembered
Alan Knight ~ Aaron Flahavan’s untimely death on the eve of this season will guarantee him folklore status, which is even more tragic given that his predecessor Alan Knight served the club for so long. Come rain or shine, Knight was a consistent fixture for 23 years and is now goalkeeping coach to our promising newcomer, Dave Beasant

Best forgotten
Martin Gregory ~ Erstwhile chairman who took the club to brink of extinction in 1997-98 and mortgaged his stake in the club to keep his Blue Star Garages business afloat. As the debts spiralled, players were sold for whatever we could get. We managed to sell John Aloisi, but youd have struggled to get rid of the others at a car boot sale, frankly. Dark times.

Milestones and millstones
1988 Frank Brettellis appointed manager of a team rising from the ashes of the Royal Artillery Club, an army side that had become one of the leading southern amateur outfits. The sum of £4,950 secures five acres of land to be known as Fratton Park.
1927 Willie “Farmer’s Boy” Haines scores the final goal in a 5-1 victory over Preston that secures promotion to the First Division. Pompey become the first club south of London to achieve the feat.
1929-39 Pompey go down 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers in their first FA Cup final.They lose at Wembley again five years later. In 1939, they win the Cup by beating Wolves 4-1. Both teams are injected with supposedly performance-enhancing monkey glands. 
1949-50 Pompey win their first title and a record crowd of 51,385 squeezes in for an FA Cup quarter-final clash with Derby County. The club celebrate the title by giving each player a £10 shopping voucher, and so hungry are they to shop the players retain the title the following season.
1956 Pompey trip over the light fantastic, losing 2-0 against Newcastle at Fratton Park in the first match played under floodlights.
1973-88 Financially strapped, the club is relegated to the Third Division in 1976, going down again two years later. The long road back ends with Alan Ball’s men winning promotion to the top flight in 1987.  Six-nil and 5-0 defeats away at Arsenal and Nottingham Forest are not among highlights of a relegation season. 
1990-1998 Mediocrity is leavened briefly by manager Jim Smith. After failing to win promotion the club sinks into self-pity, not helped by the DoE who drive holes though plans for a new ground at a public enquiry in 1994. After Terry Venables’s chairmanship ends in 1998, things are so desperate, Alan Ball is sent for to avoid relegation.

From WSC 176 October 2001. What was happening this month

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