How Pompey were formed 120 years today

A photograph of the minutes from the first meeting of Portsmouth Football Club on April 5, 1898
A photograph of the minutes from the first meeting of Portsmouth Football Club on April 5, 1898
Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder hungry to maintain unbroken run

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett has talked about chasing fifth and sixth place. Picture: Joe Pepler

Breaking down the six-game season to decide Pompey’s fate

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Portsmouth Football Club today marks its 120th anniversary.

It’s a journey which has seen the Blues claim titles in each of the Football League’s four divisions, in addition to the FA Cup and Southern League division one.

Yet foundations were laid by six businessmen at a meeting on the evening of April 5, 1898, at 12 High Street, Old Portsmouth.

According to the book ‘Pompey’ by Mike Neasom, Mick Cooper and Doug Robinson, the group formed a syndicate and bought almost five acres of agricultural land close to Goldsmith Avenue for £4,950.

Those involved were John Brickwood, head of Brickwood’s Brewery, Alfred H Bone, an architect and surveyor, and John Wyatt Peters, a local wine importer.

Completing the six were William Wiggington, a government contractor, George Lewin Oliver, a founder of a Portsmouth private school, and solicitor John Edward Pink.

Weeks later, FA representative W Pickford met with Oliver and was shown the land which would soon become Fratton Park.

Recruited as manager was Frank J Brettell, a secretary-player with St Domingo Club in Liverpool who helped ‘create the organisation which became Everton’.

Brettell also contributed towards Liverpool’s development, was Bolton’s secretary and managed Tottenham Hotspur.

Challenged to construct a team from scratch, his first signing was Irish goalkeeper Matt Reilly from the Royal Artillery, with full-back Harry Turner arriving from the same club.

Generally, he used his northern contacts to recruit the likes of Tom Wilkie (Hearts and Liverpool), Bob Blyth and Alex Brown (both Preston), Edward Turner, Harold Clarke and Harold Stringfellow (all Everton) and Liverpool’s Tommy Cleghorn and Bob Marshall.

Meanwhile, the new club gained admission to the Southern League’s division one for the 1899-1900 campaign, featuring in the Southern District Combination.

The first match took place on September 2, 1899, with a 1-0 victory at Chatham.

According to ‘Pompey’: ‘On their debut they finished second to Brettell’s old employers from White Hart Lane and, to the delight of everyone, six points better off than Southampton.

‘They were rarely to be out of the top group during their membership, although they once knew the bitter taste of relegation.’