A Pompey gift to be treasured, they don’t come along often

Brett Pitman has reached 20 goals for the season. Picture: Joe Pepler
Brett Pitman has reached 20 goals for the season. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey are supporters of safe standing proposals. Picture: Joe Pepler

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As the ball threatened to depart for a goal kick, Chris Burns hooked back a cross from the left.

It was met with a delectable volley delivered with ferocious instinct, whistling into the far corner as the airborne keeper grasped air.

A second goal for Svetoslav Todorov and touch of class at Wicor Rec upon the occasion of last Sunday’s Lee Rigby Memorial Cup encounter.

For a second consecutive year, Toddy had ventured from Bulgaria to support the event which pitches a Pompey XI against their Rangers counterparts in the name of charity.

Having ditched dairy and cranked up running distances in his fitness regime, the 39-year-old cut a figure admirably unaffected by time’s ravages during those 90 minutes at AFC Portchester.

A crowd of approximately 1,700 witnessed a hat-trick from the Fratton Park Hall of Famer in the Blues’ 5-0 success, many resurrecting that familiar ‘Oh Toddy, Toddy’ soundtrack beyond the final whistle.

It was the 2002-03 campaign which saw Todorov register 26 goals, a memorable season yielding the Division One title and promotion to the Premier League.

Within 24 hours of that glorious bout of Wicor Rec reminiscing, Brett Pitman became the first Pompey player to hit the 20-goal mark since the ever-popular Bulgarian.

Fitting timing, with Toddy only too aware of the impending achievement having learnt of it while visiting The News’ website.

Football fans bandy around the recruitment of fabled 20-goal-a-season strikers as the instant solution to arresting declines and enforcing success.

The truth is, outside those Premier League clubs with infinite spending capabilities, such talents are rare, often skipping supporter generations.

It has taken 15 years for Pompey to embrace such prolific goal-scoring ability, along the way plenty of notable names failing to repeat Todorov’s achievement.

Yakubu, Peter Crouch, Teddy Sheringham, Jermain Defoe, Kanu, Benjani Mwaruwari, each falling short despite immense striking calibre.

Not so a 30-year-old from St Helier who arrived from Ipswich last summer for an undisclosed fee.

Stepping down a division, he has now reached the 20-goal barrier for the second time of a prolific career which has also taken in Bournemouth (twice) and Bristol City.

And to emphasise the rarity of such an accomplishment in Pompey colours, Pitman is only the 12th different player to reach the figure in the last 73 years.

Clearly unearthing those prized 20-goal-a-season strikers is an onerous task, particularly in the context of Fratton Park.

Taking into account seasons during the post-war era, on 24 occasions the 20-goal mark has been reached, albeit achieved by a dozen different players.

Peter Harris and Ron Saunders each managed the feat a staggering five times. The case of local lad Harris even more outstanding considering he served as an outside-right.

The club’s record scorer first achieved the figure during Pompey’s 1948-49 Division One title triumph, emerging with 22 goals. He later repeated it in four-successive seasons from 1952-53 to 1955-56.

The former Eastney schoolboy finished his Blues career with 208 goals from 518 appearances.

Centre-forward Saunders arrived from Gillingham in September 1958, scoring 24 goals during that campaign despite Pompey finishing bottom of Division One.

There was also relegation in 1960-61, this time from Division Two. Regardless, Saunders netted 23 times in 36 appearances.

The Scouser also reached 20 goals in each of the following three campaigns, culminating in 34 in Division Two in 1963-64, representing his final full season for the Blues before moving to Watford in August 1964.

Of course, Guy Whittingham remains the club’s leading scorer in a season, with a surely unassailable 47 during 1992-93 under Jim Smith.

Corporal Punishment had also broken the 20-goal barrier twice previously – in 1989-90 and 1990-91. His Pompey career involved 115 goals in 226 matches.

Duggie Reid served the club for 30 years, initially as a goal-scoring inside-forward, later as a centre-half and then Fratton Park’s groundsman.

During a playing career which consisted of two Division One titles, he twice hit the 20-goal mark, arriving in 1946-47 (29 goals) and 1950-51 (21 goals).

Meanwhile centre-forward Ike Clarke, a team-mate of Reid’s, struck 20 goals during the 1949-50 Division One title-winning campaign.

After Saunders, Pompey supporters had to wait 14 years before drinking to Dave Kemp’s 21 goals in 1977-78. Remarkably, that tally was generated despite controversially leaving for Carlisle in March of that season.

Alan Biley bagged 26 in the 1982-83 Division Three title success under Bobby Campbell, with strike partner Bill Rafferty weighing in with 19.

The following year, Mark Hateley appeared on the scene with 25 goals in 44 appearances, earning England recognition and a summer switch to AC Milan.

Mick Quinn finished as the Blues’ top scorer in all three of his full seasons. In the process, he bagged 28 in the 1986-87 promotion campaign under Alan Ball and 21 in 1988-89, before departing for Newcastle.

The 1990s were not merely dominated by Whittingham in terms of scoring stakes, Gerry Creaney struck 22 times in 1994-95, undoubtedly a career high for the Scot.

Now Pompey possess Pitman – the image of the 20-goal-a-season striker fans across the country covet.

Make the most of him while you can, however. At Fratton Park, on average, they come along every six years.