'˜The day I held back the Wizard of Dribble'
As we all know, standards of fair play in today's world of professional football have a lot to answer for.
When defenders are beaten they have no compunction about holding the player who has gone past them and a booking is looked upon as a bit of bad luck.
It was not always like that, of course.
The great Pompey and Scotland international Jimmy Stephen regretted to the end of his playing career the day he held the legendary England winger Stanley Matthews – the Wizard of the Dribble.
So much so that when he wrote a letter to his pal Neville Shaw in 2009, not long before he died, Jimmy was still in apologetic mood over the incident.
He wrote: ‘The photo I am never pleased to see is where I am holding on to Stan’s arm. Sheer desperation caused me to lower my standards of fair play. The occasion was my first game for Scotland, February 1944, at Wembley – a long time ago.’
Can you see a modern player writing such a thing?
Neville told me of another occasion when Jimmy was playing his first game for Pompey against Sunderland and his former team-mate at Bradford Park Avenue, the great Len Shackleton, was in the opposing team.
He and Jimmy went for a 50/50 ball but Len called out ‘your ball Jimmy’ and Len allowed Jimmy to take the ball.
Today that might be looked upon as stupid, but these were different days and different ways.
Jimmy came to Pompey from Bradford Park Avenue for a then record fee for a full back of £15,000 with a £10 signing-on fee for Jimmy.
He played 103 games for Pompey over six years before moving on to the west country, playing for Yeovil and becoming player/manager for Bridgwater Town. He later turned out for Newport IoW and Waterlooville.