Pompey were dwindling in the old second division, any game against a top flight side was an occasion, to get 3 on the bounce was something special indeed.
1985 and Pompey had had a storming start to their domestic campaign, Nicky Morgan was the man who had been banging the goals in early in the season, apparently giving notice to some highly unlikely interest from Italy!
Alan Ball was Pompey’s managerial messiah at the time, and the promised land of division 1 football seemed a real prospect after 26 years of abstinence.
On the 20th November 1985, Pompey pulled a rabbit out of the hat in drawing the then mighty Spurs in round 4 of the Milk Cup, White Hart Lane beckoned, and a road trip with Mum and Dad was arranged. My memories of this encounter are not that lucid, I remember going in a fish and chip shop and the Space Invader machine top scores all reading PFC, I remember the unbelievable Ticker-tape reception, I remember Mick Channon missing a decent chance and I remember we didn’t score, but neither did Spurs and a plum home tie was in the reckoning.
Pompey lost their next league match to Sheffield United 3-0 at home, bigger things were obviously to mind, and on Tuesday 26th November Spurs made their way to Fratton and 28,100 fervent fans awaited to see Pompey pull off a giant-killing.
Back in the 80’s things were a little different of course, you had one sub, and if you drew in the cup, you simply played again, and again until a winner came forth. Again my memories of this encounter are not filled with drama, just delight that Pompey’s defence kept out the like of Chris Waddle, Glen Hoddle and the rest of the star-studded Spurs squad.
So, to the match in question, 10 December 1985, six days before my 15th birthday and a cold winter night, Fratton Park was packed again, and Pompey had moved Mick Channon (who had won the cup with Norwich the season before) to the bench and loanee Tommy Christensen took his place up front.
Pompey at this time had the defence of Noel Blake, a man who John Fashanu named as the scariest defender he ever played against in a Sun article, Billy the Blade Gilbert, and a real winner in Kenny Swain at right-back and local lad (well, Basingstoke) Lee Sandford on the left, in goal was a man many will not remember, some bloke called Knight.
Pompey were being roared on by a vociferous crowd, the ground swirled with a snowstorm of ripped up paper once more to resemble a footballing maelstrom, and both teams clashed for a third time in 3 weeks, a big man was needed for the occasion, and a big man was to step forward.
Just over 300 minutes was broken by a booming header by big Noel Blake, if I remember correctly it was into the Milton End, but the roar that greeted it could of been heard in New Milton, Pompey were one up against Spurs!
Spurs came at Pompey now, but Tommy Christensen was having his best game in a Pompey shirt, O’Callaghan and Hilaire were running hard on the wings helping out an under pressure midfield, and Alan Knight stood firm when the defence was breached.
To anyone at that game, one defining moment stands out, time was ticking by, and Alan Knight received the ball to his feet, Chris Waddle was closing in fast, out of his area, what does Alan do? Simple, he drops a shoulder, shimmies round Waddle and clears upfield, the day was Pompey’s and Mighty Spurs were defeated in a true David/Goliath contest.
The footnote to this story was a trip to Manor road, the then home of Oxford United, who were also top flight, Pompey never reached the same heights and were comprehensively stuffed 3-1, Gary Stanley scored our consolation on the day, but the highlight was seeing Jeremy Charles get the blackest black eye in history from Noel Blake, that’s another story though, but 10th December 1985 was when you dared for the glory days to return.
To view the Pompeyrama stats of the game click here.