Northstand Nostalgia: Trust in the Pompey pendulum

Bobby Stokes celebrates his 1976 FA Cup-winning goal for Pompey's rivals Southampton
Bobby Stokes celebrates his 1976 FA Cup-winning goal for Pompey's rivals Southampton
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When I was young, I constantly pestered my father with a question, for which I was never fully satisfied with his answer.

My Saturday afternoons in the early 70s were spent against the backdrop of meagre crowds, watching a mediocre Pompey struggling in the mid to lower reaches of a mediocre second division.

It took relegation to division three in 1976 to break this groundhog habit.

Saturday evenings were spent in front of the telly watching Who, Forsyth, Yarwood, Hutchinson and Starsky, all of whom were warm-up acts for everybody’s favourite finale ‘Match of the Day’.

Big matches, big crowds, big players and a million miles away from Fratton Park!

My father’s interrogation would always begin with: ‘When are Pompey ever going to be on TV and will we ever be any good?’

For I knew, we used to be! Dad had schooled me on FA Cup and Championship success but it felt like these achievements were from the previous century.

I wanted Pompey to be great again and I wanted it now!

Dad explained football is like a pendulum, swinging from good times to bad.

We just had to wait for it to swing back in Pompey’s favour!

In 1976, Southampton’s pendulum swung in the opposite direction, as they won the FA Cup thanks to a Pompey boy – Bobby Stokes – scoring the winner against Manchester United in the final.

By the late 70s, the red and blue pendulums had swung even further apart, as Saints returned to division one and Pompey fell into the basement.

Having hit rock bottom, the Blues then began an ascent that would lead to division one parity for the 1987-88 season.

But their immediate relegation ensured a return to my pendulum-watching duties.

It was not until Harry Redknapp came on the scene that Hampshire’s pendulums started to reverse in direction.

A quick recap, he got us up, he kept us up, he left us, he went to them, took them down, left them, came back to us, kept us up again, left us again, turned up at White Hart Lane the very next day and took Spurs to Wembley, where they were supposed to crush us.

The only thing was, Uncle Avram never read the script and he held back that pendulum, to give all Pompey fans an afternoon they would never forget.

Sure, we are now back in the fourth division and Southampton are in the Premier League and have a cup final of their own this afternoon.

But just as my dad’s prophecy rang true before, it will do so again.

Fate has decreed I now find myself working in Southampton and I genuinely hope my Saints supporting colleagues have a good day today, if not necessarily a great one.

And I am hoping against hope James Ward-Prowse does not recreate another groundhog moment.

• 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.