North Stand Critic: The day Portsmouth striker Ray Hiron breathed a sigh of relief!

Former Pompey striker Ray Hiron scores for Pompey
Former Pompey striker Ray Hiron scores for Pompey
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Saturday’s home game against Blackpool nudged a ‘golden memory’ from the deep recesses of my ever-fading back-catalogue of footballing past!

Pompey’s home fixture against the Tangerines on the 7th April 1973 will forever be etched in my mind.

The clarity of events from that day came flooding back to me, as they have done so often over this past near half-century!

The game itself was fairly non-descript (just like Saturday).

A 1-0 win was secured by Ray Hiron’s early second-half strike, against high-flying Pool.

Those two points eased Pompey’s perennial relegation plight, which seemed de rigueur throughout the 1970s!

Watching Pompey back then was just about the most exciting thing any 11-year-old Fratton boy could possibly do!

Usually during matches, my attention would be fully focused upon the action!

But during this particular game my concentration levels had waned and I felt myself entering into some kind of semi-conscious dream-like state.

The reason why I was approaching this personal nirvana?

Well, prior to kick off that day, on Dougie Reid’s most hallowed green baize, I fulfilled a life-long (11 years) ambition of actually playing at Fratton Park – in the Portsmouth primary schools six-a-side competition.

As soon as I learned that our school had been selected to compete in this tournament, giving me an opportunity to play on my own field of dreams, there was very little chance of anything else happening in the whole world capable of over shadowing this forthcoming event!

As the days counted down to match day, my excitement grew.

As team captain and centre-forward, I was sure that my performance would be noted by the Pompey hierarchy, and it would only be a matter of time before I would be invited to sign for the club of my dreams!

It was a lovely sunny day on that April afternoon.

Our school team arrived at the Pompey gymnasium, situated in the north-west corner of the ground, to change into our match kits.

Actually, I already had my kit on, as I had prepared myself some hours earlier.

I had, in truth, been ready for weeks!

I clearly remember how bright the orange jerseys of the visiting Blackpool team shone, as their players warmed up, prior to facing Pompey.

Unbelievably, this match now held no interest at all for me as I was here to play, and to impress, and to possibly replace Ray Hiron!

It was a good hour before Pompey were due to kick off when our team stepped out onto that famous Fratton Park pitch!

I can still recall how lush the grass felt underneath my Woolco boots, and how completely unsoiled the pitch was from the usual elements we encountered on Southsea Common most Saturday mornings.

There was probably only about 1,000 or so fans scattered around the ground, but it felt more like 100,000.

Fratton Park was now Wembley Stadium, and this was my Cup final. Let battle commence!

Forty-six years on now and my congratulations are offered to the under-eleven teams of Medina, Somers Road and Arundel Court schools.

All three teams trounced us 4-0, thus eliminating us from the tournament!

Although my dream had ended, these memories have never faded and any immediate threat to Ray Hiron’s number nine shirt had quickly passed!

- NORTH STAND CRITIC