Post-War Glory - and disappointment: From league title to relegation.

The Pompey squad of 1987/1988

The Pompey squad of 1987/1988

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Despite the war, Pompey made some footballing discoveries that would pay huge dividends when League football resumed again in 1946/47.

Players such as Jimmy Dickinson, pictured, Peter Harris and Jimmy Scoular would go on to play a huge role in the success Pompey would have in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The pinnacle of Pompey’s achievements was winning the league title in 1948/49. Their great day came on April 23, when goals from Peter Harris and Ike Clarke sealed the 2-1 title win against Bolton. The following season they successfully defended their title and remained league champions. Sadly Pompey never repeated the achievement. Towards the end of the 1950s Pompey’s form deserted them, leaving the Blues lingering near the bottom. Between 1956 and 1959 they finished no higher than 19th, and in the season of 1958/59 fans had to watch Pompey’s bad form hit rock bottom as they were relegated into division two.

Post-war legend Jimmy Dickinson

Post-war legend Jimmy Dickinson

The 1960s

The beginning of the 1960s saw Portsmouth playing in the second division and after a poor start they could only finish 20th. When dedicated fans thought that things could not get any worse, they did and the Blues were relegated to division three at the end of the 1960/61 season. After this wake-up call Portsmouth were soon back on track and their excellent form saw them capture the division three title in the 1961/62 season and earn promotion back into the second divison. During the early part of the 1960s, however, Pompey were beset by increasing financial worries - a problem that has plagued the club for many years. They decided the only remedy was a radical solution which included reducing the playing staff from the mid-30s to 16, scrapping the reserve A and youth team and operating with a single side league. This drastic measure saved the club £20,000 a year.

1964/65 was a very special time for one of the legends of Portsmouth, Jimmy Dickinson. Almost 20,000 crowded into Fratton Park to bid farewell to the loyal one-club man, who played 764 league games and was pivotal in the club’s double league win. As Pompey was walking a financial tightrope it meant they hadn’t the resources to buy too many new players, relying heavily on the existing staff. Even though the team fought gallantly the financial short comings were clear. For the rest of the 1960s the team finished in the bottom half of the table and had poor runs in the FA Cup, only reaching the fifth round on one occasion, in the 1967/68 season.

The 1970s

The 1970s was one of the worst decades in the club’s history, as they were once again in financial turmoil. The beginning of the decade saw a change in manager to Ron Tindall. His introduction marked a flurry of transfer activity. They experienced a good run in the FA Cup but the season drifted into anticlimax and with 17 league matches left they only scored twice leaving them in an unhealthy 16th position. The next few years saw mounting financial pressures and the club had a £70,000 overdraft. The mediocre performances on the pitch began to reflect in the turnstiles. The 1972/73 accounts showed that Pompey had lost nearly £93,000 on the year and bizarrely enough Tindall was allowed to continue adding to the squad. As the 75th anniversary of the club approached and despite them being heavily in debt, they went on the biggest shopping spree in their history. This caught the fans’ imagination but even with full crowds at Fratton Park for the first game of the season - it was short lived. They finished 15th - a poor return for the substantial money spent.

Under Ian St John, and with an enormous wage bill, the club had sunk to the bottom of the table. With the chairman funding between £1,000-£2,000 a week just to keep the club going, the overdraft was more than £300,000 and the overall loss for that year was in excess of £400,000. Not surprisingly, Pompey were relegated from division two at the end of the 1975/76 season. And with no money, they only finished in 20th position in division three. There was still worse to come, however, as the following season they were relegated into division four for the first time in their history.

The 1980s

By thebeginning of the 1980s they were back playing in division three. There was a significant change off the field as Portsmouth became a private limited company and came completely under the umbrella of John Deacon’s Superior Properties. Success came in 1982/83 season as they were crowned champions of division three. Their return to the second division relied heavily on the striking partnership of Biley and Rafferty. Biley finished with a total of 26 goals - 23 in the League matches - to become the first player since Ron Saunders to break the 20 barrier, while Rafferty scored 19. Pompey were guided by Alan Ball from 1984 and under his guidance and good form on the pitch meant they finished fourth for two consecutive seasons. Ball’s biggest achievements came in May 1987, when, after a 28-year exile from the top flight, they finished in second place to be promoted back to division one.

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