Ball’s Boys of ’87 reunite to swap tales of promotion party

The Pompey players celebrate their return to the top flight in 1987
The Pompey players celebrate their return to the top flight in 1987
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They drank hard and played harder.

And they will go down as one of the greatest teams in Pompey’s history.

Alan Ball’s Boys of ’87 were the side to take the Blues back to the promised land of England’s top flight after an absence of 28 years.

They did so on the back of gutsy determination, no little playing quality and a one-for-all fighting spirit engendered by their leader.

Now, on the 25th anniversary of their promotion, their success is set to be celebrated once again.

On Saturday, June 16, Faith and Football will stage a commemorative dinner to mark Ball’s battlers’ success in the 1986-87 season.

The Marriott Hotel is set to play host to the sold-out event which will see the old troops come together once again.

The Boys of ’87 made themselves heroes by not only earning promotion but also embracing the culture of the city they represented.

They played for Pompey and lived Pompey.

And then there was the infamous drinking culture which permeated the team.

In a different football era, barely a day went past when the team wouldn’t gather for a booze up.

It’s enough to make today’s sports scientists shudder – but it helped produce a team who fought to the end for each other.

Boys of ’87 dinner organiser Jake Payne said: ‘It was a team who played and partied together.

‘The drinking culture was unbelievable.

‘Every day they would drink together, whether it was at the Sportsman’s Rest on Copnor Bridge, Cowplain Social Club or the Bird in the Hand in Lovedean.

‘But that created the spirit in the team, which helped them to earn promotion.

‘They took no prisoners when they played.

‘There was a spread in one magazine which asked: does the first division need this team after they got promotion?

‘Paul Hardyman wasn’t a dirty player and got booked 10 times – even Alan Knight got booked three times!

‘It was a very small squad that season. Knightsy played every game and the likes of Billy Gilbert and Vince Hilaire played 38 games.

‘They got us there, though, for the first time since 1959.

‘We’d gone close two years running but then managed to get there, and the celebrations were brilliant.

‘Unfortunately, the chairman, John Deacon, wouldn’t throw money at the team.

‘He seemed more interested in the city’s basketball team at the time.

‘We didn’t make great signings and only stayed up for the season.

‘But it was a great period in the club’s history – one we’re looking forward to celebrating.’

The Faith and Football dinner will see a whole host of the squad come together and meet with supporters in a fundraising evening.

Billy Gilbert, Mick Tait, Kevin Dillon, Liam Daish, Lee Sandford, Vince Hilaire and Paul Wood will all be in attendance.

Hardman Mick Kennedy is flying in from Ireland and Micky Quinn is planning to attend if his radio scheduling commitments with talkSport permits.

Other familiar Pompey faces such as Alan Biley, Linvoy Primus, Mick Mellows, Lee Bradbury, Ray Crawford, Pat Neil and Paul Went will also be present.

One person who sadly won’t be, however, is the team’s architect and Pompey managerial hero Alan Ball, who died five years ago.

Ball’s family will be represented by his daughter Mandy, and there are sure to be a few emotional moments as his memory is honoured.

Payne said: ‘It’s going to be a night about reminiscing and remembering the good times, with all the rubbish which is going on now.

‘We are a club with a great history which should be celebrated.

‘It’s a chance for the fans and players to get together and look back at what was achieved.

‘We’re pleased with the amount of people from the squad we have got coming.

‘Mandy Ball will represent her family – and I’m sure we will all raise a glass to Bally.

‘It’s going to be a special night.’