This is a recollection from pompeyrug on an example of where the result really did become secondary to the message the fans wanted to get across.
Getting a message across is something that the fans always want to do, but some games mean much more than others and the message that you want to get across means more than others – so much that the result almost becomes ‘irrelevant!’
An example of the more recent future was the visit to White Hart Lane when we came face to face with ‘him’ in January 2009, but for me such an occasion that meant more to me came in the late 90s, also in London, this time at Palace…
Palace, Venables, Fenwick and Ball should make it apparent from the very beginning exactly what I am going to be talking about?
But if you are still none the wiser it was the 7th November 1998 and the notorious ‘grudge match’ against the two Terry’s, very much in particular of the elder of the Terry’s and a chance to vent our distain against Venables – ptuh! That is me spitting the foul taste out of my mouth – a man who screwed us over and accelerated us on the road to near ruin!
As soon as the fixtures were announced for the 98/99 season Palace away was identified as a ‘must do’ at all costs, for many. As said the modern day equivalent was of course that said meeting with ‘Jamie’s Dad’, again ptuh! Another that I of course made my way to London for… We travelled in our thousands, as we always did, and this was never the case because ‘we were good’, we were not good, we were almost always struggling at the foot of the old Division One table and were once again up to our necks in the brown stuff on he pitch and financially, financially Venables (ptuh!) had helped us on our way…
There was always a band of us that would travel around the country in Ken’s mini bus, that season there must have been myself, Triv, Betsy, Rob, Kev and of course Ken that were the mainstays, but my sister was a frequent traveller as was Rob’s then missus and Kev’s other half. I am fairly certain that Triv, Betsy, Rob, Kev and Ken all went and as always we met at Exeter services, no doubt I met Triv at Newton Abbot train station – my cousin Paul and our mate Saunders had both arranged to go too so I organised our tickets, and we would sit as a 3 for the game.
To tell the truth I honestly cannot remember much about the journey from Devon – London, no doubt Triv and Betsy purchased an ‘adult art’ magazine apiece, this was a tradition for the pair back in the day, and we would have slagged the original ‘him’ off on the way up and mentioned the former Pompey contingent now pitched up at Palace. I was very, very, very quiet back in the day, I would travel but literally barely say a word – I would just listen and take it in as I was a late teen at that point and almost in awe of these experienced grown up travellers, I would jump in when I knew a ‘football related’ answer, I know a fair bit, or like to think I do… I do remember Nicky Rizzo, another of the Aussies that Palace had then recently signed, he came as a youngster from Liverpool I recall. He was supposed to go on to ‘great things!’ I think he went to some Italian team, then ended up with Wimbledon – pre MK Dons days – and teams like Grimsby and Chesterfield…
I had never been to Selhurst Park, and have not returned since, so when we finally got there I found my seat but seem to recall a bloody great pillar in the way, which annoyed me. Venables (ptuh!) was wearing some ‘Del Boy’ style sheepskin coat, a coat that you almost expected to have lined with knockoff watches and other bent gear that he would be trying to flog on his way to Selhurst!
The crowd was of course in good voice and the Terry’s were given the verbals. I am pretty sure that we slipped behind to an early goal, and if memory serves me it was Craig Moore that got in to head home – I think he had come to England on loan from Rangers and might have even been captaining the Palace side at the time? 1-0 down, did it matter… nope, we had bigger fish to fry. Things got worse before they got better as Fitzroy Simpson got sent off for decking someone out on the touchline around the 40 minute mark, obviously the moment got the better of him but a couple of minutes later and just before half time, or quite near to it John Aloisi, the only Aussie that was any good that ‘he’ brought over burst through to level for us.
I am sure it was 1-1 at half time?
We did go on to get mullered, we were spanked 4-1 in the end with a couple of goals coming within a few minutes of each other in the second half, around the hour mark, maybe an own goal from Andy Thomson and I think a teenage Hayden Mullins might have scored? I am almost certain that another of our former Aussies Craig Foster scored that final goal.
As said, the result was not important, making ‘Del Boy’ aware of what we thought of him was, and he would have known it – luckily for him Pompey fans were not in a hurry to leave so he was able to slip out a side door somewhere I guess and go count some cash somewhere… Did he not screw Palace over as well, or try to? I seem to recall he did…
So, we had been spanked 4-1, what did we do?
Usually you cannot wait to get away and back on your way home after a mauling – but nope, not the Pompey fans that day, the vast majority must have stayed for ages after, continuing to sing and chant and refused to leave. The Palace officials were asking us to leave so they could lock up the Palace, but we were having none of it – they just did not know what to do!
Eventually they came up with a plan, they went to the Pompey dressing room, which must have been rocking, and asked Alan Ball to ask us to leave.
Clearly, as he made his way across the turf to meet us, you could see Bally was moved.
The term ‘great man’ is used far too often in football, but ‘Sir’ Alan Ball was a truly great man – a man of the fans, who knew what it meant to be a football fan and knew how passionate the Pompey fans were and how much the club meant to us, and it meant a lot to him too!
Emotional, Bally obviously thanked us for a support and the like but him asking us to go made us do so, but even then it was not a mass exodus and singing did carry on and you could hear this from a long way from Selhurst Park.
We wanted to deliver a message to Venables (ptuh!) that day and we did, the man might not have a conscience, but I would be surprised if it did not get into his head, and would also be surprised if this message is not something that he thinks of every now and again and remembers, I certainly know that this was another of those afternoons – I will not say days as I do not remember large chunks of it – that will stay with me for the rest of my life…
Written by pompeyrug in March 2009.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Others written in this feature so far are as follows, click on them to check them out!
When Pompey were great – paultsmouth