60 years since Pompey’s floodlit first

Pompey's matchday programme on the memorable night
Pompey's matchday programme on the memorable night
Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray. Picture: PA

Mowbray demands 'character' for trip to Pompey

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Pompey hosted the first-ever floodlit Football League fixture 60 years ago today.

And lifelong Blues fan Roy Alker remembers it vividly, although he didn’t realise the significance of the First Division game until many years later.

It is only afterwards, when it comes out in all the record books, you realise what a significant match it was

Roy Alker

The 71-year-old was aged just 11 at the time and was, instead, simply engrossed in the Fratton Park atmosphere for the visit of Newcastle United on February 22, 1956.

Goals from Bill Curry and Vic Keeble earned the Magpies a 2-0 triumph over Pompey in front of 15,831 fans.

‘My dad took me down for my first game in 1953,’ said Alker, who lives in Cowplain but was born and bred in the city.

‘We played Charlton Athletic and won 3-1. I got hooked on it then. And when you’re hooked on Pompey you can’t do anything about it!

‘We didn’t realise how important that game against Newcastle was. We didn’t have a clue. We were too engrossed in the game itself.

‘It is only afterwards, when it comes out in all the record books, you realise what a significant match it was.

‘And I’m proud to say I was there.

‘I remember the crowd being pretty sparse – people didn’t really know about it, I suppose.

‘It was a grey time, everything was grey and Portsmouth was a grey place.

‘But as soon as you walked through the turnstiles and on to the terrace it was green.

‘And then there was Pompey in red, white and blue. It was such a great spectacle in those days.’

The previous year, Sunderland had made a proposal that led to the formal introduction of floodlit fixtures into the Football League calendar.

The Black Cats suggested if two clubs agreed, they should be able to play postponed matches under lights.

And coincidentally, it was their fierce rivals Newcastle who made the most of that initiative.

However, the game very nearly didn’t go ahead after a power failure.

Technicians at Fratton Park had to work frantically to get the lights on in time for the 7pm kick-off.

Pompey’s side that night comprised of Norman Uprichard, Tom Magee, Jack Mansell, Reg Pickett, Phil Gunter, Jimmy Dickinson, Peter Harris, John Gordon, Jackie Henderson, Ronnie Rafferty and Gordon Dale.

Blues favourite Jimmy Scoular was a Newcastle player at the time, having made the move from the south coast to Tyneside in 1953.

He had returned to Fratton Park with the Magpies in 1955, amazing Alker with his skills in the process.

But despite making 32 appearances the following season, he missed the floodlit fixture – much to Alker’s disappointment.

‘Jimmy Scoular’s first game back at Fratton Park was the year before,’ he said.

‘He was a real favourite of mine. I wasn’t lucky enough to see him during his Pompey career but he was absolutely brilliant that night.

‘I could write a book on how good a player he was.’

The first competitive football match under floodlights was also played on February 22 – but 26 years earlier in 1930.

That night Ollerton Forest met Welbeck Athletic in the North Nottinghamshire Senior Cup final.

It wasn’t until the 1950s when the FA lifted it’s ban on the use of floodlights during competitive games that floodlit football really took off.

The first floodlit FA Cup matches were played in 1955.

Were you in the crowd for Pompey’s floodlit clash with Newcastle? What are your memories of that famous fixture?

We would love to hear from you. Simply email sport@thenews.co.uk or leave a comment below to tell us your tales of the football first.