Fratton Park: 49 fascinating facts you might not know about Portsmouth's historic stadium

Which team has travelled the furthest to play at Fratton Park? And did you know Pompey's historic home once hosted an international baseball game?

Friday, 7th September 2018, 2:29 pm
Updated Friday, 7th September 2018, 2:37 pm
Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

In 2012 Pompey fan Kevin Smith published an e-book called The (Secret) History of Fratton Park, featuring some fascinating anecdotes about the ground.

A proportion of the money taken from sales was given to the Pompey Supporters' Trust as it bid to save Pompey by taking over the club.

Here are some of those curious facts '“ how many did you know?

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Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

1 On July 26, 1948 Fratton Park played host to an Olympic qualifying game between Ireland and Holland as it was considered a first-class stadium. Holland won 3-1.

2 In March 1953 Portsmouth held their first floodlit night game on a foggy evening against rivals Saints.

3 In December 1924 Fratton Park saw Hampshire rugby union team beaten by the mighty All Blacks of New Zealand, the 26th out of all 26 games the side won on their tour of England that year.

4 In September 1930 aviation pioneer Amy Johnson kicked off a match for the Portsmouth Supporters' Club Schools Cup and attracted an audience of 10,000 to the ground.

5 In June 1918 an international baseball game was played at Fratton Park between the American Army and a Canadian side.

6 In March 1903 centre-half Albert Houlker made his England debut on his home ground of Fratton Park when they played Wales.

7 On August 15, 1899 more than 1,000 people, including some of the first Pompey players, turned up to see how a former potato field had been transformed into a football ground. The first actual match, a 2-0 win against Southampton, was played there on September 5.

8 On March 28, 1916 a 75-yard long piece of roof from the South Stand was ripped off and hit baker William Saunders' house during a spell of extreme weather.

9 The stadium played host to Millwall v Bristol Rovers in April 1978, as Millwall were forced to play home games away as punishment for crowd trouble. There were 12 arrests and 140 police officers on duty.

10 In November 1973 Arsenal came with five full internationals and two under-23 caps in their side, but Pompey still won 2-1.

11 In August 1939 Pompey beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1 with nearly 25,000 spectators turning up '“ but eight days later the game was forgotten as the Second World War began.

12 In April 1953 England legend Sir Bobby Charlton received his first international cap, scoring twice in an 8-0 win over the Republic Of Ireland in a schoolboy match at Fratton Park.

13 In November 1918, Pompey played the Canadian national team. Just two weeks after the end of the First World War, the game was designed to plug gaps between the sparse number of competitive fixtures.

14 Pompey played Italian side Cesena in November 1992. It was the club's first competitive outing against a European side and they won 2-0.

15 In January 1946 the FA Cup was returned to the Football Association after spending a record 2,468 days at Fratton Park during the Second World War. The club had won it in 1939.

16 Pompey played Celtic in May 1976 in their earliest pre-season opener '“ they were beaten 6-1 by the Scottish club.

17 In December 1950 Pompey played Chelsea at the Park and the referee's decisions proved so controversial that he was replaced during the match.

18 In February 2002 England played Portugal in a women's international match in front of 8,821 fans at Fratton Park, then a record crowd for women's football.

19 In February 1927 Pompey played a home match against the Corinthians, the famous amateur football club.

20 In March 1933 players wore numbered shirts for the first time in an England v The Rest trial match at Fratton Park. One reporter believed the experiment would never catch on.

21 In April 1960 England played East Germany in a youth international. Four Pompey players were included in the England squad for the first international game at Fratton Park in 12 years.

22 In March 1953 Pompey played Dundee and the away team's manager, George Anderson, used substitutes during the friendly. But replacements were not permitted in competitive fixtures until 1965/66.

23 In October 1969 Pompey played American team Dallas Tornado, with former Pompey player Ron Newman returning as coach of the side. Pompey won 5-2.

24 In April 1955 Portsmouth played Duisberg, the first overseas side to visit Portsmouth in over 20 years. Teenagers travelled from Portsmouth's twin town in Germany to help build bridges after the Second World War.

25 In January 1933 Pompey played Sheffield United. Amateur goalkeeper Jesse Weekes was asked by Pompey's manager Jack Tinn to play by telegram that morning.

26 In November 1974 Pompey played a behind-closed-doors friendly against Guernsey as Malcolm Manley finally returned to the pitch after nine months out injured.

27 In September 1926 Pompey played former Scottish champions Hearts. The Edinburgh side were the first team from beyond Hadrian's Wall to play at Fratton Park.

28 In October 1976 Fratton Park played host to the first Portsmouth Beer Exhibition, with fans downing 3,600 pints of 35 brews from 25 specialist breweries.

29 In May 1947 and March 2003 boxing tournaments were held at the Park. In 2003 world light heavyweight champion Tony Oakey was among those at the first night of boxing there in almost 60 years.

30 In December 1973 Pompey played Manchester United, with a blackout threatening to dim the only appearance of football legend George Best at Fratton Park. There was a national energy crisis and the club had to hire a generator to power the floodlights.

31 In November 1984 Pompey played the New Zealand national team, still the side who have travelled the farthest to play at Fratton Park.

32 In March 1903 and March 1904 Pompey played Oxford University. On the students' first visit they won 4-2, but the following year Pompey beat them 4-0.

33 In March 1953 Pompey's reserve team played Reading in the first competitive floodlit game at Fratton Park in the Football Combination Cup.

34 In September 1899 the Pompey v Ryde game featured the first football special train operated to Fratton Park by the South Western Railway company.

35 In May 2005 Pompey goalkeeper Alan Knight played his last game for the club at Fratton Park. He made 801 first team league and cup appearances, a record no other keeper in professional football in Britain could match.

36 In November 1956 Pompey played MTK and legendary Hungarian footballer Nandor Hidegkuti graced the Fratton Park turf for the only time.

37 In February 1967 Pompey played Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was the first time Match Of The Day cameras were at Fratton Park, three years after the TV programme was launched.

38 In October 1949 Pompey played Wolverhampton Wanderers, and over 50,000 spectators turned up to watch the game '“ the biggest gate in Fratton Park's history.

39 In April 1931 Pompey and Saints were brought together by the sudden death of player Bobby Kearney. They played as '˜Portshampton' against a select side from London teams to raise money for his family.

40 In April 1929 Pompey Reserves A played a Portsmouth FA side and Marconiphone Super loudspeakers were installed around Fratton Park so spectators could listen to the FA Cup Final at Wembley while watching.

41 A six-hour music festival was held at Fratton Park on July 19, 1975, with Georgie Fame and dancers Pan's People among those entertaining the crowds.

42 In April 2004, Portsmouth Schoolboys beat Bishop Auckland Schoolboys to win the FA Schools Trophy at Fratton Park.

43 In July 1953 the Queen's Coronation was celebrated on the pitch with more than 200 bandsmen playing and a large naval guard of honour.

44 In March 1946 the Royal Marines played RN Air Command. Wartime international Reg Flewin had been capped twice for England by the time he joined the Royal Marines side for the match.

45 In February 1930 the Royal Navy played an FA Amateur XI at Fratton Park. George Peploe was a well-known amateur footballer in the inter-war period and helped the FA Amateur XI to a 5-2 victory.

46 Saints played Pompey at their ground in January 1996 and 2,300 Pompey fans watched on a 20 x 30ft screen at Fratton Park.

47 On April 20, 1901 Ryde played Southampton Reserves in the Hampshire Senior Cup Final. A Saints player called French was given an ovation at Fratton Park '“ just two weeks after Saints had beaten Pompey in a Southern League game.

48 In March 1982 Southampton played Middlesborough in the women's FA Cup semi-final and Fratton Park became the venue for the first women's competitive football game on a Football League ground on a Sunday.

49 The Festival of Britain took place in May 1951 and Portsmouth Ladies' Physical Culture Club was among those performing at an event at Fratton Park in front of 12,000 spectators.