A golden date for our Pompey heroes

Ex-Portsmouth Championship & Professionals team in 1964
Ex-Portsmouth Championship & Professionals team in 1964

It’s important the parade continues – but safely

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They are Pompey heroes and legends to a man.

Jimmy Dickinson, Duggie Reid, Jack Froggatt, Jimmy Scoular, Albie McCann, Len Phillips, Johnny Gordon, Ray Hiron and Steve Claridge.

It’s a who’s who from the pantheon of Fratton greats. Stars who have left fans of all eras with precious memories to cherish.

But the football club they represented in such distinguished fashion are not the only Pompey outfit they’ve turned out for.

All of the men have also worn the star and crescent of the Ex-Portsmouth Football Club Professionals’ Reunion Club.

And this week the band of brothers, formed at the suggestion of the one and only Peter Harris, celebrate their 50th birthday.

It was a trip to north London in 1963 for a charity match which laid the foundations for the creation of the group.

The Ex-Portsmouth Championship & Professionals XI was then officially registered, and the rest, as they say, is Pompey history.

Charities have been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the group’s existence.

From the mini-bus given to St James’ Hospital League of Friends in the late ’60s to the families and children in Chernobyl and Belarus who had their lives hugely improved by donations, the warmth and generosity of the club has been far-reaching.

Pompey’s cause has, of course, always been to the fore, too.

With the Blues on life support in the ’70s, donations were made to the SOS Pompey fund.

In fact, conservative estimates put the figure raised at £120,000 by the time the team hung up their boots in the ’90s.

Our friends along the M27 also received sterling backing in 1988, as a phenomenal £97,000 was raised for leukaemia research at the Steve Mills’ All-Stars match.

Well-known Pompey face Roger Higgins had the dubious honour of turning out for Southampton that day.

But when well placed to score the winning goal, Higgins preferred to turn around and lump the ball out of play than hit the back of the net against his team.

Of course, seeing the Pompey greats in action provided fans ample opportunity for a trip down memory lane at games across the city and beyond over the years.

And you could imagine the anecdotes and stories recounted at the regular dinner dances across the decades.

Not that it was all about the men. A ladies’ section, formed in 1964, has been key to the funds raised.

Bingo nights, discos and darts matches were all regular fixtures on the club’s social calendar.

Jumble sales also proved useful moneyspinners but our England international Phillips wasn’t too pleased about the day his wife, Joan, cheaply sold his new brace and bit after he left it on a table he’d built.

Local folk with Pompey in their heart have always made the club tick.

From the inaugural chairman, Len Curtis, to renowned referee Lyn Powell, honorary member Jake Payne and former Pompey and England schoolboy international Pat Neil.

These are the people at the heart of the outfit, alongside those men who will gather at the Marriott on Friday night for the golden anniversary dinner.

It’s not just the ex-pros club they are at the fulcrum of either. These people are the soul of Pompey.

Like the Pompey Hall of Fame, which they are very closely aligned with, this is where you should go to when looking for Portsmouth Football Club’s identity.

You won’t see Jermain Defoe, Lassana Diarra or Glen Johnson at a Pompey ex-pros’ reunion.

What you will come across are people who understand what it means to wear the royal blue shirt, people who felt that pride as keenly as those on the terraces and in the stands.

It’s a sentiment which resonates through the club’s motto: There is a destiny that binds us, no one lives by themselves alone. The happiness that we put in the lives of others comes back into our own.