Portsmouth back on top after more than 35 years

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It has been almost 35-and-a-half years – but Pompey are back on top of the Football League’s third division.

Victory at Peterborough on Saturday saw Kenny Jackett’s side leapfrog the hosts into League One’s top spot.

Bobby Campbell was boss the last time Pompey topped League One/Division Three

Bobby Campbell was boss the last time Pompey topped League One/Division Three

The last time the Blues occupied such a position at this level was May 14, 1983, when Bobby Campbell’s men lifted the crown.

Then referred to as Division Three, Alan Biley and Billy Rafferty were the deadly double act who fired the club to the title by a five-point advantage.

Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe are now the scoring stars who have elevated Kenny Jackett’s team into first place – albeit after only eight matches.

Still, it represents early optimism for the Fratton faithful as Pompey seek a return to the Championship following seven seasons away.

Back in the 1982-83 campaign, Campbell’s side dominated Division Three’s top spot from February onwards, clinching promotion with two matches remaining.

A post-Christmas run of seven-straight league victories formed the backbone behind such glory.

Although a dip in form, consisting of one win in eight fixtures, nudged the Blues down to third place as nerves began to grow.

However, Campbell’s men finished the campaign in style, sealing promotion at Fratton Park with a 2-0 win over Southend.

The title was then clinched at Plymouth two matches later, The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season, Biley, claiming goal number 26 of his campaign.

Meanwhile, strike partner Rafferty totalled 19, yet that memorable Home Park afternoon proved to be his final appearance for Pompey.

Since then, the club has largely spent its existence in Division One/Championship and above.

However, it returned to what is now labelled League One for 2012-13 – and didn’t finish above 12th.

In fact, that campaign ended in relegation, following a 10-point deduction for a failed CVA and a club-record 23 matches without victory.

The Blues found themselves back at that level in 2017-18 following the League Two title, although its architect, Paul Cook, had subsequently left for Wigan.

Under new boss Jackett, the Blues reached a high of sixth in December 2017, albeit it spanning just two weeks.

They finished the campaign in a credible eighth, five point shorts of the play-offs.

Now the Blues are back at League One’s summit – and will be hoping to remain there.

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