Holmes investigates more of Pompey’s rich history

Pompey legend Alan Knight
Pompey legend Alan Knight
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Jimmy Dickinson’s widow penned a letter of congratulations, while the wife of the late Jack Froggatt phoned to convey gushing praise.

The outstanding achievements of their legendary husbands embodied in print for future generations of Pompey supporters to pore over.

It has now been 15 years since the launch of Roger Holmes’ highly-regarded Pompey Players 1920-2001.

The hardback book, with its striking white cover, remains an essential reference to the glorious past and is a familiar resident in the homes of many of the Fratton faithful.

Holmes’ own Pompey story began in October 1965, when taken by his dad and two grandfathers to what would be the club’s first-ever encounter with Carlisle.

These days the South Stand season-ticket holder sits on the club’s Hall of Fame panel and serves as a committee member of the Pompey Former Players’ Association.

His interest in the Blues’ history remains undiminished and this month has signalled his latest valuable addition to the club’s archives.

The 56-year-old has painstakingly compiled results, line-ups and abridged match reports for every Pompey game since their August 1920 arrival into the Football League.

With individual booklets focusing on each campaign, it’s a collection which spans to the culmination of last season under Paul Cook.

For Holmes, the labour of love now sits proudly alongside his other Pompey publications.

He said: ‘I owe a lot to my grandfather, Gordon. He really sowed the seed and I think would be quite pleased if he saw these, especially the reproduction of those matches in the 1920s and 30s he would often tell me about.

‘He was known as Sigger, knew more about football than anyone I have ever met and was really steeped in the club. It is down to him why I have always been interested in Pompey’s history.

‘He bought me my first season ticket in 1968, it cost £10 and I wondered where he got the money from!

‘Still, from an early age I knew all about the club, I couldn’t do anything about it with him around.

‘I knew Montgomery was Pompey’s president before I knew he was something to do with the Second World War and had been told how someone in the crowd once had a go at Billy Haines so he gave the ball to them and said “come on here, you go and show us”.

‘My gran would say to my granddad “don’t fill his head with all that rubbish”!

‘And whenever he saw an old player in the stands he used to take me over to speak to him, so I met a lot of them.

‘I remember him speaking to this old man stood in a bus queue after a game. We then sat with him during the journey to the Hard. It was Jimmy Easson, one of only eight players to have scored more than 100 league goals for us.

‘Even after my granddad died, when I was 12, I remember recognising Billy Haines in the stands having been pointed out to me several times before. “I am an old man now, son” he told me when I went over for a chat.

‘Yet from an early age I wondered why there wasn’t a Pompey book about all these players? So I decided to start work on one, although after a while stopped when it struck me “who is going to read this?”

‘But by 2001 it was written and in the shops, doing very well, with a print run of 5,000 all sold. Jack Froggatt’s widow phoned to say she couldn’t put it down. Mrs Dickinson also wrote a letter and I thought “I can’t do much better than this”.

‘So I had written one book on the players – now I have produced one on the matches.’

Holmes’ exhaustive research consisted of delving into a vast personal collection of The News and Sports Mail.

Such is their number, stretching back to pre-Second World War, a room at his Ventnor home has been taken over with editions of the paper.

The facts really have been at his fingertips.

Holmes added: ‘I haven’t had to leave the house to carry out my research, everything is in a room I can just about get into!

‘I have practically every Football Mail since the war. I am probably about 60 missing, which sounds a lot but that is fewer than one a season.

‘I also have photocopies of the reports from pre-war editions, obtained through visiting the British Library in London.

‘In addition, since the age of 11 I have cut out everything to do with Pompey from The News and Sports Mail and put them into scrapbooks.

‘There is a little bit missing in the mid-90s, but from 1971 until the present day I have nearly everything ever written.

‘Although, these days I don’t keep them as scrapbooks. Instead, I slip the pages into A5 binders, with each binder covering six months, which saves time.’

Holmes lists Linvoy Primus, Steve Davey, Alan Knight and Paul Walsh among his favourite Pompey players.

And, inevitably, all feature prominently in the latest work he has pulled together.

He added: ‘The last 18 months I have really put a spurt on and didn’t really think about much else in my spare time until it was finished. It has been exhausting.

‘As I understand it, no-one has done this for any club across the country, not quite like this.

‘You couldn’t possibly put all this in one book, though, it would be too thick and cost a lot to produce.

‘It is priced at £2 per season, £100 for the set, £70 for post-war and £30 pre-war.

‘I am already finding people want copies because it is the season their father started going or the year he was born.’

Holmes’ match-by-match reports are available from New To You Books, High Street, Cosham, or pompeymatchreports.co.uk