Are Pompey a big hitter in English football anymore? Time to put the theory to the test

It’s a statement regularly forwarded in conversation and debate about this football club.

By Jordan Cross
Saturday, 26th March 2022, 4:30 pm
Updated Saturday, 26th March 2022, 5:27 pm

And it’s often a cause of consternation when angst has grown among the Fratton faithful in the darker moments of recent seasons.

Pompey are a big hitter in English football, a proud and historic outfit with a passionate and sizeable fanbase.

This is a club who can put their medals on the table, as the saying goes, one who certainly shouldn’t be foundering in League One.

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‘We’re not a third-tier side, we should be playing at a higher level,’ is the well-worn view on the topic.

Well, is that really the case anymore?

As the Blues’ play-off bid falters, another season in the third tier now beckons - a depressing sixth at this level.

It’s already a decade outside of the top two leagues, for a club who tumbled down the English pyramid as they fought for their existence.

Pompey won promotion to the top flight in 2003 - spending seven seasons there until 2010. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Of course judging the size of a club is a subjective process. What’s the criteria? Silverware, fanbase, infrastructure and current standing are all usually legitimately thrown into the discussion.

But one yardstick you can reasonably and definitely use to argue an outfit’s place in English football’s natural order, is to look at where they have spent their past.

And when doing so, Pompey still stand up as a side who belong in the top two tiers - even after being away for so long.

Since joining the Football League in 1920, Pompey have spent 94 seasons competing in the top four divisions of the game - with just the Nazis halting proceedings for seven years from 1939 to 1946.

Of those 94 - a total of 77 have been spent in top two divisions, compared to 21 in the lower tiers.

Pompey have spent most of their time at the current Championship level (40 seasons), with the current top flight their next favourite haunt (33 seasons).

After that, the Blues have played 15 terms at the level they currently occupy, with the four seasons spent in English football’s basement division until 2017 making it a total six there.

The longest unbroken spell at any one level comes in the 25 campaigns spent in the top flight from 1927 until 1959.

There was an extended period of 14 seasons in Division Two from 1962 until 1976, with 15 at the same level after Alan Ball’s side came down from the top flight in 1988 until Harry Redknapp’s side reached the Premier League 19 years ago.

That, of course, was the precursor for a memorable seven season stint at the English game’s top table.

So as you bemoan the prospect of another League One season by insisting Pompey shouldn’t be in this division, feel safe in the knowledge the statistics add convincing weight to that view.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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