Portsmouth Football Club

Portsmouth Football ClubIntroductionThe Early Year

A Football Report
Portsmouth Football Club

Portsmouth Football Club


Founded back in 1898 – Portsmouth Football Club has had more than its fair share of high and lows. From winning the League in back-to-back seasons to being close to extinction – fans of the club have been on one hell of a roller coaster ride throughout their time supporting the club.

The Early Years

Football had been played in the city of Portsmouth since the 1850s but it was in 1898 that a local brewery owner named John Brickwood would found the club. A common myth that Sherlock Holmes writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the clubs first goalkeeper but this is false. He played for Portsmouth Athletic Football Club before the professional club was founded.

It all started with a 1-0 home win against Chatham Town on the 2nd September 1899 and the club would go on to win 20 of the first 28 league games that they played – ensuring a runners-up spot in the Southern League in their first season.

Over the course of the early years the club consistently performed well in the Southern League – winning the league in the 1901/02 season. In the 1906/07 season the clubs fortunes were highlighted by a draw against the glamorous Manchester United in the FA Cup. A 2-2 tie up in Manchester led to a replay at Fratton Park, which saw a then record 24,329 crowd pack in and cheer the home side on to a 2-1 victory.

Portsmouth would continue to climb the league table despite a brief return to the Southern League and would reach the top flight in time for the 1927/28 season.

The Glory Years

The club would struggle in its first couple of seasons in the top tier of English football but would ultimately survive the drop. They made the FA Cup Final for the first time in 1928 but would come out as loser to Bolton Wanderers. In 1934 they would again reach Wembley with the likes of Manchester United, Bolton Wanderers, Leicester and Birmingham City all trailing in their wake but against they would fall short as they lost to Manchester City.

They would consistently perform well in the league but it was in 1939 that they finally broke their major trophy duck. A 4-1 defeat of Wolves in the FA Cup Final would lead to Portsmouth holding on to the trophy for seven years due to the intervening war.

After the war the league resumed and Portsmouth were heavily tipped to become the first team in the modern era to accomplish the league and cup double in the 1948/49 season. However the club would bow out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage but would go on to win the league, a feat they would repeat again the next season.

The great team that Portsmouth has assembled was starting to get on in years and the replacements coming through were not of the same calibre and the club started to drift. Relegation ensued in 1959 that would lead to long and slow meander throughout the lower league culminating in relegation to the old fourth division in 1978.

The Struggle to Survive

Before going down to the old fourth division the club had to stave off bankruptcy. In November 1976 with help from local newspaper The News £25,000 was raised to keep the club afloat. It wouldn’t be the last time that the club would flirt with the end.

During this era problems off the field weren’t confined to money, the club had one of the most notorious firms out there. The 6:57 crew, named after the train that they would take out of Fratton station for London games, would ensure that the club would only be second to Millwall in banning orders from away grounds.

Rising from the Flames

Like a Phoenix – Portsmouth FC made it’s way from the brink of oblivion and slowly rose back up the league. In 1987, the late and great Alan Ball, would lead Portsmouth back into the top division, where they would beat arch-rivals Southampton away from home. This would prove to be the pinnacle of the season as relegation followed after the chairman decided to sell off the clubs best players.

Several managers came and went before the lovable Jim Smith took over and led Portsmouth to the brink of promotion to the Premier League and more famously to the FA Cup semi-final in 1992. Pompey had beaten Exeter City, Leyton Orient, Middlesbrough and Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest on its way to an epic encounter with Liverpool.

Jim Smith’s young club took on the giants of the English game and would take the lead deep in extra time through future England international Darren Anderton. However Robbie Whelan would score in the 117th minute to force the game to a replay. That game would be another tight encounter and again it would go the full ninety minutes plus another thirty more. This time however there was no possibility of a replay and penalties would decide the match. Liverpool would go on to win after Martin Kuhl had blazed wide, Warren Neill had seen his effort saved and John Beresford would follow Kuhl in pulling his spot kick wide and ending one of the most dramatic semi-finals the competition has ever seen.

The next year the club would get within one goal of promotion to the Premier League. A 4-1 defeat on the penultimate weekend at Roker Park, Sunderland, with just nine men would hurt the club drastically. The play-offs saw a defeat against Leicester City and it wasn’t to be.

A 1-0 win at Huddersfield on the final day of the 1995/96 season ensured survival. Terry Venables came on board as chairman but things didn’t work out well and in January 1998, the club were seven points adrift of 23rd place and the former England manager had sold his stake back to Martin Gregory, son of former chairman Jim. Gregory made one of the most important calls in the clubs history, to former manager Alan Ball to ask if he’d come back and try to save the club.

The club were on the brink but a dramatic 3-1 win at Bradford on the final day of the season saw Stoke and Manchester City get relegated and saw Pompey survive. The next season saw another deep financial crisis hit the club and they were put in administration. Tom Burton would be a name that most would forget but his place in Portsmouth history would be enshrined in it.

He was the man appointed as administrator and somehow he and manager Alan Ball would work together to keep Portsmouth from going out of business. Averting a near rebellion when he refused to sanction the purchase of 32 new jock straps, Burton would keep a tight lid on things until he sold the club to a Serbian-American known as Milan Mandaric.

The Modern Day Club

Mandaric took over and would initially pump in money. However success wasn’t immediate and managers would come and go in the form of Alan Ball, Tony Pulis, Steve Claridge and Graham Rix. Under Rix the club yet again had to win on the final day of the season to survive, this time however they needed help from the clubs around them as well. It was Huddersfield who would oblige by losing at home to Birmingham City combined with a resounding 3-0 win over Barnsley saw safety for the south coast club.

The next season saw Portsmouth look like promotion contenders early doors with a glittering array of attacking talent including the former Barcelona and Real Madrid star Robert Prosinecki. However the team couldn’t keep up their early-season form and former West Ham United manager Harry Redknapp would step into the manager’s shoes from his perch up in the Directors Box where he currently sat as Director of Football and it would be fourth time lucky for Mandaric.

Redknapp would bring in a mass of talent thanks to Mandaric’s chequebook and the collapse of ITV Digital. The likes of Paul Merson, Svetoslav Todorov, Matthew Taylor, Arjen De Zeeuw, Tim Sherwood, Steve Stone, Shaka Hislop, Yakubu and Juventus’ youngster Vincent Pericard would come in and power the team to League One glory and promotion to the Premiership. Redknapp would bring in long-time friend and former Portsmouth manager Jim Smith to be his assistant in an extremely popular move that would make them the most famous management duo in English football.

The next year saw the club survive in the Premiership with the astute signings of the likes of Dejan Stefanovic, Patrik Berger, Eyal Berkovic and former England star Teddy Sheringham helping them along the way. The following season though all wasn’t rosy and manager Redknapp dramatically quit and took over Portsmouth’s arch-rivals Southampton over the chairman’s decision to bring in a Director of Football.

Portsmouth would go through two more managers that season, Velimir Zajec would come down from his spot as Director of Football to oversee first team affairs for a bit before Frenchman Alain Perrin finally got his shot in England football. He masterminded a 4-1 win over Redknapp’s Southampton in an eagerly awaited match. Southampton would go down on the final day of the season and Pompey would yet again stay in the Premier League.

The next year saw Perrin’s team start of extremely sluggishly and he was dismissed. Considering what had gone on between Pompey chairman Mandaric and Redknapp, no-one thought that there was a chance of reconciliation but Portsmouth approached Southampton for permission to speak to Redknapp after Neil Warnock had turned the job down and after a bitter battle between the clubs, Redknapp was once again installed as manager of Portsmouth Football Club.

The Gaydamak Era

On January 2 2006 Milan Mandaric announced that he was selling half the club to French businessman Alexandré Gaydamak for £15million. This enabled the club to make some significant moves in the January transfer window bringing in Pedro Mendes, Noé Paramot and Sean Davis is a £7.5million triple swoop from Spurs as well as loan deals for Dean Kiely, Wayne Routledge and Argentine playmaker Andres D’Allesandro. The club seemed destined for the drop until a last minute goal with ten seconds left of injury time against Manchester City by Mendes changed the clubs fortunes.

Wins at West Ham United and Fulham followed and survival was assured at the JJB Stadium, Wigan, on the penultimate weekend of the season sparking wild celebration by the 5,000+ travelling support.

The next season saw Gaydamak buy-out Mandaric’s stake to take complete control of the club. Redknapp brought in seasoned veterans such as David James, Sol Campbell, Kanu and Andrew Cole. The club had a sensational start to the season but the winter months took their toll and they were to miss out on a UEFA Cup spot on the final day of the season.

During this season, the club unveiled ambitious plans to build a new stadium in Portsmouth Harbour. With world famous architects Herzog & de Meuron designing the scheme – confidence is high that it will be open in time for the 2011 football season.

In the summer of 2007 – Portsmouth would underline their ambitious outlook by splashing the cash of Ghanian international Sulley Muntari, Senegalise international Papa Boupa Diop, Nigerian wide-man John Utaka and English young hot-shot David Nugent. They would be the 15th biggest spenders in Europe and would start the year well with BBC Pundit Alan Shearer tipping them to be the most likely to break into the so-called ‘big four’ by the time the season was all said and done.

Club Honours

  • Football League Champions: 1949, 1950
  • FA Cup Winners: 1939
  • FA Cup Runners-Up: 1929. 1934
  • League Division One Champions: 2003
  • League Division Two Runners-Up: 1927, 1987
  • League Division Three Champions: 1926, 1983
  • Football League Division Three South Champions: 1924
  • Southern League Champions: 1904, 1920
  • FA Charity Shield Shared: 1949
  • Wartime Cup Runners-Up: 1942
  • Barclays Asia Trophy Winners: 2007

Club Records

  • Record Attendance: 51,385 v Derby County, FA Cup, 26 February 1949
  • Record Victory: 9-1 v Notts County, Division 2, 9 April 1927
  • Record Defeat: 0-10 v Leicester City, Division 1, 20 October 1928
  • Highest Scoring Game: 7-4 v Reading, Premier League, 29 September 2007 (Also a League Record)
  • Most Appearances for club: 834 Jimmy Dickinson, 1946-1965
  • Most League Goals for club: 194 Peter Harris, 1946-60
  • Most League Goals in a season: 42 Guy Whittingham, 1992/93
  • Most Goals for club: 208 Peter Harris, 1946-60
  • Most International Caps whilst at club: 48 Jimmy Dickinson, 1949-1956
  • Transfer Record (Received): £7.5 m from Middlesbrough for Yakubu, July 2005
  • Transfer Record (Paid): £7 m to Udinese for Sulley Ali Muntari, May 2007