Memories to put a smile on the face of Portsmouth fans amid the coronavirus gloom
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There has been little time to be upbeat amid not only the health worries but economic dangers being faced. So today, this column is dedicated to being a platform to offer Pompey fans a reason to crack a smile for a few minutes. So, cast your minds back to some modern days and nights which are guaranteed to give all Blues fans reason to be cheerful.
The afternoon Pompey rejoiced at the end of 14 hellish months of administration.
On the afternoon of Friday, April 19 2013 Portsmouth Community Football Club Limited became the largest community-owned outfit in the United Kingdom.
But it the Saturday when the party really started.
Promotion-chasing Sheffield United were put to the sword by Guy Whittingham’s side as the shone sun and Fratton roared after the club’s long winter of discontent.
Toddy diving into the Fratton End
The moment arrived mid-way through the second half at the end of a champagne 2002-03 season.
The man who would become Division One’s top scorer lifted the tension with a typically delicate finish - and then decided to celebrate by diving headlong into the Fratton End. The Premier League dream had been realised.
It was a season which was littered with memorable moments.
The comeback win at Crystal Palace, Paul Merson’s standing ovation in the romp at Millwall and of course the title win over Rotherham - but it was Toddy’s epic celebration which was the iconic moment which captured the season’s euphoria.
Sylvain Distin defying physics
No one who witnessed will ever know how Sylvain Distin kept the ball out.
But, with 20 minutes remaining at Old Trafford, one of the very finest defenders in the club’s history somehow contorted his body into a position to stop Michael Carrick rolling a ball into an unguarded net against English football’s champions.
It was a high water-mark of a defensive display which beggared belief against Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Co.
And after Sulley Muntari’s penalty it earned a first win at the home of the European giants since 1957 - and a first FA Cup return to the home of football since 1939.
Alan Ball’s blue and white army
Yes, the number officially totalled 8,622.
The quip which has now become cliche through being repeated ad nauseam is there’s at least 50,000 who claim to have been at Fratton Park on the night February 17, 1998 to roar on Alan Ball’s side to a 1-0 win over Stockport County.
Those who were present will confirm it was a line in the sand for the Bally’s men in their survival fight, and, perhaps the start of Fratton's renowned atmosphere in the modern era as the chant endlessly reverberated around the grand, old gal and Pompey fans sang, clapped and stomped their way to a win which was all about the Blues faithful’s indomitable will.
The one we didn’t expect
Pompey, we believe, will be undertaking their seventh trip to Wembley in just 12 years over the coming months for the EFL Trophy final with Salford City.
Given there’d been none for 64 years before the FA Cup semi-final against West Brom in 2008, that’s some going.
Winning the FA Cup that year against Cardiff and the Southsea Common celebrations can never be taken away, but nor can what happened two years later as a club on its knees stunned Spurs and Harry Redknapp - who’d left the Blues for a second time to join the Londoners.
Their fans came expecting a battering but left en-masse after being stunned by extra-time goals from Prince Boateng and Frederic Piquionne, to deliver a Wembley win many rate as their finest from the modern trips to the home of football.
The party in Praca de Santiago
The away day to end all away days.
Over 1,000 jubilant fans Pompey fans took over Praca de Santiago in the historical capital of Portugal for an afternoon which would go down in folklore ahead of the Uefa Cup clash with Vitoria Guimaraes.
It was there, fuelled by the locals’ favourite nectar Super Bock, fans celebrated their club’s barely-conceivable rise into a Premier League force - and finally European competitors.
The impact of the extent of those celebrations was underlined as fans fell asleep in the away end with the game going to extra-time and finishing after midnight.
Top for 34 minutes
They say it’s not where you begin, it’s where you end.
Paul Cook’s title-winners were that statement incarnate at an exultant Fratton Park as the League Two title was secured.
The party had already started after promotion was secured against Notts County and carried on long into the night at Fratton Park just under three weeks earlier.
Then came the 6-1 demolition of Cheltenham and the ensuing celebrations on Southsea common.
For the record, Pompey led the way in the table for 18 minutes after going 1-0 up before Doncaster 31st-minute goal against Hartlepool.
When Pool levelled with 16 minutes remaining Pompey returned to the top. Cue post-match pandemonium and a sleepless night.
The best atmosphere in the world of football
The night that Fratton rocked. Really, really rocked.
European giants AC Milan in town for the Uefa Cup match in 2008 - and rumour has it the Italian giants believed they were using a training pitch when they came to PO4 the night before the 2-2 draw.
The Rossoneri, seven-time Champions League titlists and 18-time Scudetto winners, sent out Shevchenko, Kaka, Inzaghi and, of course, Ronaldinho into action.
Pompey’s home creaked as the decibels seemingly reached a new crescendo as goals from Kanu and Younes Kabout raised the prospect of the most famous of victories, before stoppage-time heartbreak ensued.
But then came the respect and appreciation of the football world - and Ronaldino’s famous sentiment he’d never known an atmosphere like it.
Darren Anderton...it’s there!
Warren Neill’s ball over the top, Liverpool’s defence caught square and Pompe’s Will-’o’the-wisp young sensation was through on goal.
The rest is etched firmly in the Pompey annals as Anderton’s true hit beat Bruce Grobbelaar and sparked pandemonium among the Blues fans who showered Arsenal’s home in tickertape for the 1992 FA Cup semi-final.
A city could almost reach out and touch a trip to Wembley for five glorious minutes before Ronnie Whelan tapped into an empty net, after Alan Knight had tipped John Barnes’ free-kick on to the post.
It was agony for Jim Smith’s men after the ecstasy in a year when Pompey when victory would’ve surely seen the second-tier side go on to lift the Cup over Sunderland in the final.
Twenty seven minutes of bliss
Harry Redknapp had walked out on Pompey promising ‘never to go down the road’ - only to pitch up at arch rivals Southampton.
That led to an armed guard and one of the most ferocious Fratton atmospheres ever witnessed for the south coast derby.
What then ensued was a 27-minute Lomana Lualua inspired demolition job which the Blues’ fierce rivals never recovered from as they were relegated from the Premier League.
It was a feeling succinctly summed up as ‘27 minutes of bliss’ by Pompey writer Steve Bone in The News’ match report. Never truer words written.