Northstand Nostalgia: How I got frozen out of Pompey utopia

Stockport's Edgeley Park
Stockport's Edgeley Park
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This week I am casting my mind back to January 1980 and a particularly woeful away trip to Stockport County.

Up until that game I had managed to maintain a 100-per-cent presence all season and was on course to complete a personal Pompey nirvana.

In a Fratton pub, on the eve of the game – and in the company of my brother and friend (BC), we thought it a good idea that instead of getting a good night’s sleep and a full English, it would make much more sense to forgo that dual pleasure and leave immediately.

Although our tickets were all dated for travel the following day, we gambled on there being minimal interest among British rail staff to quibble over our premature departure.

This was to be our only good fortune on this trip to the frozen north.

As we traversed the tube from Waterloo to Euston our spirits were high, buoyed by a successful first leg of the journey.

The second leg from Euston to Manchester legitimised due to its midnight departure.

Four hours later, hungry, cold, bored and exhausted, we arrived at a desolate Manchester Piccadilly.

The brains trust were now beginning to see some flaws in their plan of arriving in the locality some 11 hours before kick-off.

Walking through the station concourse in search of sustenance, we bumped into a couple of ‘Manc’ revellers and an odorous vagrant.

We didn’t keep their company for long, as we could neither understand the incoherent tall tales of the former, or tolerate the stench of the latter.

A railman did direct us towards an all-night café a short walk from the station.

However, on descending a darkened stairwell into an even darker alleyway, we were filled with such foreboding, we headed straight back to the safety of the illuminated station.

Gripped by pangs of hunger and lowering temperatures, we decided to jump back on a train and head 30 miles south to seek remedy at Crewe’s 24-hour station buffet.

Sat in the surrounds of our warm, comfortable haven and eating an earlier and more northerly breakfast than usual, the immediate threat of hypothermia was averted.

We were later joined by two more Pompey fans who informed us the match was now in doubt, due to an overnight frost.

Heading straight off to Stockport for more information, we arrived at Edgeley Park mid-morning just in time to see the match referee, Mr Ron Bridges (Deeside) exiting the ground.

He had just called the match off because of the state of the pitch.

I asked the official if there was any chance of a later inspection to give the pitch more time to thaw.

Mr Bridges quipped he would only consider a re-inspection if he had information on either team signing John Curry or Robin Cousins (British Olympic ice skating champions).

Not in any mood to share in the joviality of our risible referee, we headed off on our long journey home.

When the game was eventually played, two months later, I was unable to attend due to illness.

It was the only game I missed all season and the closest I ever came to my 100-per-cent utopia!

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 weekly column in the Sports Mail.