Northstand Nostalgia: How Fozzie’s antics hit me in the pocket

Steve Foster, right
Steve Foster, right
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I had been looking forward to it for what seemed like an eternity.

On May 25, 1978, I finally walked out of school for the final time.

I left behind few happy memories, even fewer friends and a gaggle of relieved teachers who had all tried – but according to my exam results, failed – to instil a decent education into me.

But I did not care one iota. I was free, free to do whatever I wanted.

And what I wanted to do more than anything was to follow Pompey over land and sea.

Considering the Blues had just been relegated to division four and the Anglo-Italian Cup had been defunct since 1973, it seemed unlikely I would need a passport!

I had secured a job in the naval base, although this was not due to commence until September.

In the summer, I earned some pocket money working part-time as a car-park attendant at the Mr Pickwick pub and restaurant in Milton – a favourite haunt for Pompey players.

But while those few pounds came in handy, I still had insufficient funds to travel to the first two away games of the new season – at York and Hartlepool.

I pencilled in our next trip – to Rochdale – for my division four away debut, although it was still debateable as to whether I would be able to afford it.

My first dockyard wage of £23 had been severely depleted by my mother’s decision to start charging me a fee to stay in my previously free and gratis bedroom.

A few days before the Rochdale game, Pompey players Steve Foster and Jimmy McIlwraith visited Pickwick’s.

I had known Fozzie for a few years. He was a former pupil at my old school, so I followed his Pompey progress with interest.

He promised me some complimentary tickets for the Rochdale game, which would make the equation much easier.

A few shandies later, my two Pompey heroes left.

I don’t know if it was the sea air, or whether the Pompey pair were influenced by the recently released Grease movie, but it appeared Mac and Fozzie were trying to re-enact the Greased Lightning scene in the car park.

Jimmy was driving, while Fozzie was sat precariously on the bonnet, with a pub parasol in hand.

Word of these high jinks reached Pompey manager Jimmy Dickinson, who promptly banned the duo for two matches – starting with Rochdale away, which ensured I didn’t receive my free tickets.

I still made it to Spotland to witness our first away victory of the campaign.

And I continued to monitor Fozzie’s career – from Pompey to Brighton, Villa, Luton, Oxford and finally back to Brighton.

He captained the Seagulls against Manchester United in the 1983 FA Cup final and he also won three full England caps.

Recently, he generously contributed to the Pepe fund – sending a personal message and signed photo.

Fozzie, big heart in a headband and old Johannian (1969-74).

• A regular contributor to the Football Mail’s letters page many moons ago, the Northstand Critic has got back in touch and now writes a column in the Sports Mail every Sunday.