The day when 51,385 fans crowded into Fratton Park

Front page of The Evening News from February 26, 1949
Front page of The Evening News from February 26, 1949
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No matter how many fans pack Fratton Park tomorrow one thing’s certain, the gate will not come anywhere near the number who squeezed into the Blues’ home nearly 63 years ago.

Supporters have been urged to fill the ground for the Championship match against Hull City as the beleaguered club stumbles through their latest financial crisis.

Pompey goalkeeper Ernie Butler during the match in 1949

Pompey goalkeeper Ernie Butler during the match in 1949

But even if the 20,700 capacity is hit, it will still be more than 30,000 short of the record attendance on Saturday, February 26, 1949.

With football enjoying a post-war resurgence in popularity and Pompey bidding for their first championship title, 51,385 somehow crammed the terraces to see the club beat Derby County 2-1 in the sixth round of the FA Cup.

As the final edition of The Evening News that afternoon reported, the turnstiles had to be closed 80 minutes before kick-off when the 50,000 mark was passed for the first time in the club’s history.

A crowd figure of 50,700 was released to the press, but this was revised after the weekend to reveal the even larger attendance.

Disappointed fans who could not get in were treated to a running commentary by police sergeant Brian Morrissey.

It was the second time in a fortnight that Pompey’s attendance record had been smashed. Earlier that month 48,518 had packed the park trumping the previous record of 47,614 set in 1939.

The Evening News reporter wrote: ‘The atmosphere in the ground before the start was almost as ‘electric’ as a Wembley cup final.

‘The 5,000 Derby County supporters and the many thousands of Pompey fans, cheered, shouted and catcalled in support of their side, and everybody had the impression that it was going to be a close game between two sides who were going all out for the League championship and the FA Cup double.

‘Led by Portsmouth Fire Brigade band, the crowd sang the Pompey Chimes almost loud enough to set the stands and terraces rocking.’

But the cup run ended a month later when the Blues went down 3-1 to Leicester in the semi-final played at Highbury.

The gate that day – 62,000.