Obituary: Wilson's versatility at left-back, midfield and the bar at Pompey
The late Billy Wilson demonstrated remarkable versatility during seven-and-a-half seasons at Fratton Park, serving at left-back, in midfield '“ and behind the bar.
For that reason, the Pompey Hall-of-Famer, who made 216 appearances and scored six goals, occupies a unique place in club history.
In January 1978, wife Heather became licensee of The Pompey pub – and for the next 18 months Wilson combined playing duties with working in the Frogmore Road premises.
The pair had already earned experience helping out at The Fox & Hounds in Stakes Hill Road, Waterlooville, yet The Pompey represented their maiden full-time tenancy.
For Saturday home matches, Wilson’s routine involved cleaning the pub’s pipes before reporting for the game at 2pm, with old licensing hours dictating The Pompey was shut from 2.30-6pm.
After playing for the Blues, he would be back in the pub ready to open for evening hours.
In 2015, he told Played Up Pompey: ‘I remember us playing Grimsby Town at Fratton Park in February 1979 in what was our first Match of the Day appearance in eight years.
‘We lost 3-1 and I was responsible for two goals. I gave them away, the first of which I was trying to be clever and it didn’t come off. I made two cock-ups basically.
‘So after the game I had a shower, a quick pint of beer upstairs in the Victory Lounge and then went to The Pompey to open up for 6pm.
‘They all came in chanting “There’s only one Billy Wilson” and it was packed, lager after lager after lager were served until the chap ordering the round asked “How much is that?”
‘For argument’s sake, let’s say it came to £20, so he counted it out in front of me before handing it over.
‘“There’s far too much there”, I said. He replied “The rest is for you, we want you to buy a length of rope and hang yourself!”
‘It wasn’t done nastily, it was all a joke. You would talk football all night and I didn’t mind that at all. I would talk shop all day, me.’
The couple left The Pompey in May 1979, coinciding with Wilson announcing his retirement from football to concentrate working as a publican.
He would remain in the trade until 2006, serving as landlord at the likes of The Wyvern in Lee-on-Solent and The Three Tuns in Gosport among others.
As a footballer, Wilson arrived at Fratton Park from Blackburn Rovers in a £15,000 transfer in January 1972.
Signed by Ron Tindall, he also served under John Mortimore, Ian St John, Jimmy Dickinson and Frank Burrows.
In 2015 was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.
Wilson died on Thursday at the age on 71. His funeral will be held on March 22 at Portchester Crematorium at 3.30pm.