‘The Gremlins’ remembered in style

Pompey Boys of '87, from left: Lee Sandford, Kevin Dillon, Gordon Gauntlett - a Pompey director at the time - Billy Gilbert, Vince Hilaire, Paul Wood, Mick Tait. Picture: Rob Haines
Pompey Boys of '87, from left: Lee Sandford, Kevin Dillon, Gordon Gauntlett - a Pompey director at the time - Billy Gilbert, Vince Hilaire, Paul Wood, Mick Tait. Picture: Rob Haines
Former Pompey defender Jason Pearce

Pearce: My Pompey return is a big one

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They were the team who represented the soul of Portsmouth better than any other.

And on Saturday night Alan Ball’s Boys of ’87 were honoured in fitting style.

Faith & Football’s 10th anniversary dinner was chosen to mark the 25th anniversary of Ball’s heroes sending Pompey back to English football’s big time – after an absence of 28 years.

On a night full of dyed-in-the-wool star and crescent folk those gritty warriors were honoured.

The likes of Kevin Dillon, Billy Gilbert, Vince Hilaire, Mick Tait, Lee Sandford and Paul Wood were present from the legendary squad.

And there was a special award for lifelong Pompey man Barry Harris, as his service to the club was acknowledged.

Harris even delivered his trademark clench-fisted salute seen after every win for his side.

That was one of many laughs as the crazy antics of Ball’s boy were remembered.

There were more than a few emotional moments, too, as those who delivered for the city reminisced on that golden 1986-87 season.

A toast was raised to absent friends as the memory of Bally and his fellow staff members Gordon Neave and Graham Paddon were honoured.

Ball’s family was represented by daughter Mandy, who delivered a speech which brought a rousing ovation from the sell-out event.

She said: ‘My dad had a fantastic time at Pompey and, as a family, we have great memories of Portsmouth Football Club. I looked through my dad’s book to see what he had to say about the 86-87 team.

‘He said: “They were very much a one-for-all-and-all-for-one team.

“The players called themselves the Gremlins because they were plucked from all over the place.

“But I put my faith in them – and they appreciated that.

“They pulled together because we had the same mettle.

“There was a togetherness that was always there to hold us together – even if we were a bunch of ruffians and vagabonds!

“They fought for me and won matches. If you ever knew my dad you would know he was a fighter – and they represented everything he stood for”.’

The dinner event again saw plenty of footage from the archives as those present took a walk down memory lane.

The rugged fashion and no-holds-barred approach of the team was seen in a string of clips of crunching tackles.

But so was the quality evident throughout the squad which saw them secure a top-flight berth. The chaotic promotion scenes as thousands flooded Guildhall Square were relayed at the Marriott Hotel.

That followed a video message from Pompey’s record appearance holder Alan Knight, who couldn’t be present.

Kevin Ball then brought the house down with an epic message which told the story of what it was like to be part of that special side as a youngster.

There was still time for the memories, including a laugh-a-minute effort delivered in typically dry fashion from Dillon. His team-mate Tait delivered an emotional verdict of that halcyon period in Pompey’s history.

Tait said: ‘It was a fantastic time.

‘I was at the club seven years and things just got better and better.

‘Togetherness was what made the team. The fans are so similar to where I come from in Newcastle

‘That’s why I was so happy here and settled for so long.

‘Everyone asks me what the best club I played for was. I say Portsmouth.

‘Everyone asks me what the best place I lived was. I say Portsmouth.’