No Pompey for now – but World Cup legacy lives on

Jimmy Dickinson
Jimmy Dickinson
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Alex Wilson and Jackie Henderson earned Scotland selection for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.

Sadly they never managed to leave Portsmouth.

Pompey's Scottish international Alex Wilson

Pompey's Scottish international Alex Wilson

Financial issues forced manager Andy Beattie to leave behind nine members of his 22-man squad as the Scots limbered up for a maiden World Cup finals appearance.

They included Pompey pair Wilson and Henderson, eager to join Fratton Park team-mate and England left half-back Jimmy Dickinson in Switzerland.

As it turned out, the travelling Scotland squad was decimated to 13, including two goalkeepers, with an exasperated Beattie subsequently resigning following an opening group defeat to Austria.

A selection committee was pressed into taking charge of team affairs, only to oversee a 7-0 hammering at the hands of Uruguay and elimination.

Jackie Henderson cartoon

Jackie Henderson cartoon

Throughout the miserable experience, Wilson and Henderson had been instructed to remain at home on reserve.

Now the 2018 World Cup in Russia has kicked off, lacking any Pompey representation.

Tenuously, perhaps Aliou Cisse can be claimed, although the Senegal coach featured for an undistinguished 28 matches with the Blues.

There were previous tournaments, however, when Pompey present and past could be glimpsed on the world stage, generating local interest in some unlikely countries.

Reggae Boys Deon Burton, Paul Hall and Fitzroy Simpson

Reggae Boys Deon Burton, Paul Hall and Fitzroy Simpson

In 2010, David James, Aaron Mokoena, Nadir Belhadj, Prince Boateng, John Utaka and Kanu appeared while serving Blues players, with loanee Hassan Yebda also featuring.

Pompey’s World Cup presence had actually been trailblazed by Jimmy Dickinson in 1950, lining-up for England in their first finals participation.

He started all three matches in Brazil, including a fixture with the United States which yielded one of the tournament’s greatest shocks to this day.

Striker Joe Gaetjens grabbed the decisive goal on 38 minutes to hand the American part-timers a shock 1-0 triumph.

England’s opposition had lost their previous seven matches, including an 11-0 defeat to Norway and 7-1 loss to Italy, while their side consisted of a school teacher, a hearse driver, a dishwasher and a postman.

Still, Dickinson returned in 1954 to seal a World Cup finals tally of six appearances.

Although he registered an own goal in a 4-4 draw with Belgium, the Three Lions securing a point through Nat Lofthouse’s 91st-minute equaliser.

Moving onto Sweden in 1958, Northern Ireland named three Pompey players – Norman Uprichard, Derek Dougan and Sammy Chapman.

Chapman did not play, while centre-forward Dougan’s only outing was a start in the 1-0 victory over Czechoslovakia.

Manchester United’s Harry Gregg was preferred in goal for four of Ireland’s fixtures, although Uprichard did line up in a 2-1 win in a second clash with Czechoslovakia.

It would be 32 years later when Alan McLoughlin fired the Republic of Ireland to USA 1994.

Jack Charlton’s side went on to reach the final 16, but Macca was not used.

Jamaica arrived at the 1998 World Cup finals with two current Pompey players – and two former.

Paul Hall and Fitzroy Simpson started all three of the Reggae Boys’ fixtures in France – and there was a 2-1 victory over a Japan side containing Yoshi Kawaguchi.

Also part of Jamaica’s squad were Deon Burton and Darryl Powell, who had both been sold by the Blues to Derby County.

Kawaguchi later endured a disappointing time at Fratton Park and was also a member of Japan’s 2002 World Cup squad. However, a poor maiden campaign on the south-coast saw him surrender his place to Seigo Narazaki. Japan reached the final 16, but Yoshi never left the bench.

It represented his sole World Cup under the Pompey banner during a career which would yield squad presences at four tournaments – including Germany 2006 when he was an ever-present.

Incidentally, that 2002 tournament in Japan and Korea would mark the final World Cup for Robert Prosinecki, who had left Pompey two months earlier.

The cultured midfielder started the opening game against Mexico, only to be benched for the remaining two matches.

Meanwhile, Mladen Rudonja – who would leave Pompey for Olimpija Ljubljana during that 2002 World Cup – featured three times for Slovenia.

Yet never have Pompey boasted as many players at a World Cup finals than in 2010 in South Africa.

Mokoena played three times for the host nation, while Belhadj and ex-loanee Yebda represented Algeria.

Boateng was a member of the Ghana side which reached the quarter-finals, with Utaka and Kanu making Nigeria’s squad.

As for England, Rob Green started the tournament as the preferred keeper, only to produce a costly gaffe against the USA in a 1-1 draw.

That opened the door for David James to play the final three fixtures, culminating in a 4-1 defeat to Germany.

Still, Pompey’s current squad will be watching the World Cup from afar.

Just like Wilson and Henderson in 1954.