The Portsmouth legends, greats, heroes and cult figures who came from non-league football

The arrival of a non-league recruit has not impressed all of the Fratton faithful.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 12:30 pm
Jed Wallace would make 121 appearances and score 30 times for Pompey after plucked from non-league Lewes. Picture: Joe Pepler

Inevitably, there are more misses than hits when gambling on talent from the non-league game, particularly for Pompey.

Jamal Lowe is an obvious exception and needs little introduction after his January 2017 arrival from Hampton & Richmond.

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Yet there have been other successes through the years, Pompey performers who have adjusted superbly.

Take Chris Burns, for instance, who arrived from Cheltenham for a Pompey trial in March 1991.

By the end of the week he was a Blues player, while the manager who had signed him – Frank Burrows – had been sacked.

Having been on Bristol City’s books as a youngster, Burns would turn out in non-league for Brockworth, Sharpness and Cheltenham, before getting his Football League break.

The midfielder was aged 23 at the time and went on to make 116 Pompey appearances and score 12 goals.

He also featured for Swansea and Northampton before dropping back into non-league with Gloucester City and playing until his 50s.

In more recent times, Jed Wallace was with Ryman Premier side Lewes when offered a trial, including featuring in a behind-closed-doors match against Swindon.

Pompey signed the 17-year-old in August 2011, handing him a long-term deal, although he would initially be attached to the Academy as a second-year scholar.

Wallace would make 121 appearances and score 30 times for the Blues before sold to Wolves for £750,000 in May 2015.

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Following a two-year stay at Molineux, he permanently joined Millwall, where he has so far featured 221 times and netted 37 goals.

Now aged 27, he registered 11 times for the Championship side last season.

Strike pair Guy Whittingham and Lee Bradbury were actually signed by the Blues from the Army and would forge prolific careers.

However, both also turned out in non-league football while serving their country.

Bradbury featured for East Cowes Vics’ first-team as a 15-year-old, before representing Cowes Sports in the Wessex League while in the Army.

Terry Fenwick invited him on Pompey’s pre-season tour to Scotland in the summer of 1995, and, following three goals in four friendlies, he was offered a contract.

Financially, it was on par with his Army wage, and he was granted an honorary discharge to join the Blues, with no fee required.

During Fratton two spells, Bradbury totalled 167 games and 46 goals, while in August 1997 was sold to Manchester City for a club-record £3.5m fee.

As for Whittingham, he was given the number 24623795 after joining the Army as a 17-year-old.

While in the services, he turned out for Yeovil and Waterlooville before arriving for a Fratton Park trial in April 1989 having been spotted by Alan Ball.

Featuring in three reserves games, including scoring on his debut against Charlton, manager John Gregory snapped up the 24-year-old.

However, Whittingham was told compensation of £450 was needed to take him out of the Army, a figure he paid himself before later reimbursed by the Blues.

He left for Aston Villa in August 1993 in a deal valued at £1.2m, with Mark Blake coming in the other direction.

In total, Whittingham struck 115 goals in 225 appearances over two Pompey spells.

Finally, Ernie Butler was the only player to be ever-present in Pompey’s First Division title-winning seasons of 1948-49 and 1949-50.

Not bad for a goalkeeper recruited by Jack Tinn from non-league Bath in May 1938, for a fee of £100.

After serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, Butler resumed his Fratton Park career with distinction.

He totalled 240 appearances before retiring with a thumb injury in 1953, ensuring the Blues were his only Football League club.

Now Liam Vincent has made the step up – time will tell whether he can join some of his magnificent non-league predecessors.

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