Pompey's biggest fan celebrates a century

Sitting excitedly in her chair, she is watching the game, eagerly waiting for Pompey to score. With her blue and white scarf wrapped around her neck, great-great-grandmother Emma Smith's support for her football club is still as strong as ever, even at 100-years-old.

Monday, 13th August 2018, 6:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 3:22 am
Emma with her daughter, Sylvia Horton.

This unconditional love for football and Fratton Park was inevitable. At just 11-years-old, Emma's sister, Rosie, took her '¨to watch her first football game and she knew then it wouldn't '¨be her last.

Born on July 31, 1918, in Oxford Street, off Commercial Road, Emma was one of nine children in the Symonds family. Growing up, what Emma loved most was helping her father in Charlotte Street.

With two crabs in hand, Emma's father, Thomas Symonds, worked as a fishmonger, handling all types of sea creatures. So when Emma wasn't studying at St Agatha's School, on the site of the former Tricorn, she was at her father's side, either holding crabs or selling them.

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Emma with her daughter, Sylvia Horton.

At 14-years-old, Emma left school and went to work in a laundry for '˜tuppence halfpenny' each day. It was there she bumped into Stanley Smith, a dairyman from Ariel Road, and four years later the couple wed.

During their 39-years together, Emma loved working and put her hand to anything she could from a cleaner to a factory worker. After Stanley's death in 1976, Emma went back to work as she '˜just liked getting out of the house'.

But not every job she's had has sailed smoothly. At 73-years-old, Emma was dismissed as a voluntary worker at an animal charity shop on Marmion Road for selling things too cheaply.

'˜People would ask me to keep things back for them or want a lower price. I just said 'go on then',' laughed Emma.

Four generations of Emma's family, Isabelle, 9, Suzy Horton, Sylvia Horton and Emma.

The constant theme throughout Emma's life was, of course, her passion for Pompey. Since her first match in 1929, the devoted fan didn't miss a game for 10 years. However, her streak was broken for a good reason when she was heavily pregnant.

'˜Mum was gutted to miss the 1939 FA cup final but it was because she was due to give birth to me at any moment,' says Sylvia, 80, who's Emma's only daughter.

'˜But we made it to the 2008 FA Cup Final at Wembley.'

One vivid memory that remains with Emma to this day is the moment she accidentally headed a football.

Emma visited Portsmouth Football Club in 2008.

'˜At one match, I was hit in the head from a shot by Dougie Reid,' giggled Emma, '˜I remember that.'

To mark her incredible 100th birthday, Emma, who now lives in Southsea, was the centre of attention for weeks. From Bangkok to France, friends and family travelled thousands of miles to see her celebrate her very special birthday.

'˜We organised a garden party and 70 people. But it was a dreadful day outside so sadly the garden idea got rained off,' said Sylvia, '˜but we continued the celebrations inside.'

'˜People asked what they should get her for her birthday, but mum has everything she needs. Instead, we asked for contributions to Pompey in the Community and raised £1,000.'

Emma celebrating her 100th birthday with her family and friends at her home in Southsea.

'˜And I'm glad that it's going to help them,' Emma added, '˜you've always got to be kind to people, particularly those who are less fortunate than you.'

Known for her love for Pompey, Emma was invited along with 14 friends, to a lunch organised by National Citizen Service students.

'˜They baked mum a lovely football cake and all sang her Happy Birthday. She had a lovely day,' says Sylvia.

And the celebrations didn't stop there. Afterwards, Emma and Sylvia walked down to Fratton Park, where they put her picture up onto the big screen for her birthday, so she could mark her birthday in true football fashion.

So after countless football games, a couple of trips to Wembley and many Pompey scarves, Emma Smith still loves Pompey as much as she first did at 11-years-old. Still rushing home to hear the score, there seems to be no stopping this 100-year-old football fanatic.