Pompey's life and chimes through Dickinson to Venables

FANS EYE VIEW No 208: Portsmouth
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The Independent Online
There's something very relaxing about supporting a team which has meandered its way gently from disappointment to disappointment since leaving the First Division - what we still like to think of as our natural home - 38 years ago.

Of course, there has been the odd shock emanating from Fratton Park to disturb our equanimity. Not being relegated from the First last season was a bit of a shaker. Almost as exciting as winning promotion from the old Fourth Division in 1983 with a 2-2 draw at Northampton in the last match of the season. I reminisced about that with the manager of the day, Frank Burrows, in a Cardiff restaurant a few years ago.

But who needs excitement? As a friend who supports St Mirren encouragingly told me, the positive thing about supporting a side going nowhere is that you have few expectations. Lose or draw, it hardly matters. A win, and it's time for a chorus of the Pompey Chimes and a quick lie-down. That's why I've been suffering from PMT for so long - Post Match Torpor.

It did get a little exciting in 1992 when we reached the semis of the FA Cup against Liverpool only to lose on penalties. It was excruciating in 1993 when Jim Smith's brilliant young team failed to be promoted even though Guy Whittingham scored about 500 goals.

No, it's so much more comforting to reflect on the heady days of the Sixties, when such sterling characters as Phil Gunter, Harry Harris, Ron Saunders, Reg Cutler, a winger who seemed to specialise in own goals and the inestimable Jimmy Dickinson ushered the club on its headlong decline into mediocrity.

Then there were a spate of glamour signings such as Mike Trebilcock (flash and useless), Peter Marinello (flashier and just as useless) and Norman Piper (who?). I always had a soft spot for centre-forward Ray Hiron.

So these are demanding days for Pompey fans with long memories and a penchant for the quiet life, what with being unbeaten in nine games, inching towards the play-offs and heading for FA Cup glory at Wembley.

Not many people will remember this but we beat Chelsea - tomorrow's opponents in the quarter-finals - in the first year of the old League Cup in 1961. Portsmouth were maundering around in the bottom half of the old Second Division, hopeless, hapless, doomed. Their opponents, a glamorous First Division side, sported one J Greaves up front, a T Venables in the middle and P Bonetti in goal.

No contest. Bizarrely, Pompey won 1-0. As the Daily Express put it: "Fratton heroes shake slick Londoners.''

Even more bizarrely, the goalkeeper, Dick Beattie (from St Mirren, but no relation to my pundit friend) had blacked his eyes with coal dust to protect against the floodlights. He had read that wartime fighter pilots had done something similar to dull the glare of the enemy searchlights.

The crowd for the Chelsea game was 13,000. Tomorrow there will be a capacity 15,500 in what is now an old, tired ground. The Pompey Chimes will reverberate over the terraced streets of the city and the chairman, one T Venables, will be looking on this time as his young, fast, hard working team, Paul Hall, Fitzroy Simpson, Lee Bradbury and Alan Knight in goal give those city slickers a black eye Dick Beattie would have been proud of.

And that'll be quite enough excitement for one year, thank you very much.

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