Northstand Nostalgia: Marty’s trains really were special

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After years of organising coach travel for the Pompey hordes to destinations far and wide, the charismatic and enterprising Martin Fooks decided in the early part of 1979 to up the ante and change his favoured mode of travel from road to rail.

Always keen on improving the lot of the Pompey fan, Fooksy chartered a special train to take the Blue Army to Wigan that February.

Although running football specials to games in those days was not uncommon, they were usually organised by the travel departments of larger, more grandiose clubs – not by a division four fan and a few of his mates.

Any potential losses would have fallen at the feet of one person and could not be offset against the sale of club scarves and keyrings.

Undaunted, Fooksy pressed on with his plan of giving his passengers a unique experience.

Tickets were sold through Marty’s unofficial agency (his close pals, who doubled up as on-board stewards).

Although the trains were not luxurious, the comfort and legroom far surpassed the earlier St Trinians-style coach.

On boarding the train, each fan was issued with a magazine which included the day’s schedule, a quiz, future ventures, Pompey news and a rundown of all the facilities on board.

Fans were also given ticker tape to confetti the teams arrival on to the pitch.

In the guards van stood a free bar football table, that had been ‘borrowed’ from a local pub.

Alcohol was available and entertainment for many was found at the impromptu card schools.

Also on board was a member of the British Transport Police, who on occasions was found sampling the two aforementioned vices.

On the outward journey, it was possible to place an order for your supper, which you would receive on the return leg.

Arranging 350 meals to arrive warm, in the customers’ lap, via a back-of-beyond, railway platform was a miraculous feat.

Further down the line, a consignment of Football Mails was ushered on board, enabling each fan to read about the day’s game before they arrived home.

Fooksy’s first venture proved an outstanding success and he continued to run many more football specials, eventually in co-operation with the club, who recognised the personable skills of the Sheep-skinned special one.

In October 1980, they arranged three over-subscribed trains to lead the armada of fans to Liverpool for a League Cup tie that is part of Pompey folklore.

The ticker tape welcome to the team that night is still remembered fondly at Anfield.

During those long train journeys, new friendships between the various strands of our Pompey clan were forged into a true blue unified army.

These memories are eternal.

However, the most memorable trip for me, was one that never even took place.

Marty hatched an audacious plan to hire the Gosport ferry and take the lads on a booze cruise to an away game in Bournemouth in September 1979.

But once the authorities became aware of this proposed embarkation, it was quickly vetoed by the council, the police, the coastguard and the MOD!

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.