Date: 9th September 2007 at 8:37am
Written by:

Some of you may know Pompey have been testing their floodlights recently and that got me thinking.

We all know there is nothing better than watching a game under floodlights. The occasion and the atmosphere seem unique. But it has not always been that way back in the days of terraces and cloth caps mid week games had to be played in the afternoons which did a lot for local absenteeism.

The first ever league game under floodlights took place at Fratton Park in 1956 between Pompey and Newcastle United. The floodlights were fixed to the roofs of the North and South stands and the patches to the roofs could be seen up until Jim Gregory reclad both stands in the late 1980’s.

The first experiments with playing football games with artificial lighting began in October 1878 at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. The lamps were mounted on timber gantries and powered by dynamo machines powered by batteries or steam engines. The ball had to be whitewashed at regular intervals to aid the players and spectators. Over the next few years several floodlit friendly games took place but the technology was very unreliable and sometimes the match had to be abandoned.

The first Football League competition took place in 1888-89. As it was considered important that all league games should be completed successfully, it was decided to ban the playing of floodlit games.

During the 1930s, Herbert Chapman, the manager of Arsenal, tried to persuade the Football Association and the Football League to sanction floodlit football. The FA refused and it was not until after the Second World War that the issue was raised again. In the early 1950s clubs like Wolves played friendlies under lights against some of Europe’s leading teams. These games attracted large crowds and the authorities eventually withdrew their objections allowing Pompey to claim another slice of history.

The current floodlights were opened in October 1963 with a friendly against Burnley, which I believe ended 1-1. I was not there but I do remember two great floodlit nights in the 60’s, both coming in FA Cup replays.

The first came in January 1967 Pompey were drawn away to Hull City in the third round hardly a very attractive draw but the game ended 1-1 and a replay at Fratton on the Tuesday. Monday lunchtime arrived and gathered round the transistor radios at school we heard that the winners would be away the mighty Spurs. That stirred the imagination of the city and over 20,000 were expected for the replay. As it was a crowd of 33,107 packed into the Park to see a classic. With the game approaching the final minute Pompey were leading 1-0 when the Tigers equalised taking the game into extra time. Hull kicked off towards the Fratton end and scored almost straight from the kick off and the crowd began to believe that the glamour trip to White Hart Lane was slipping away. Pompey piled forward in an attempt to earn a second replay but also seemed lost until with a minute left full back Roy Pack broke down the right and it a cross into a packed penalty area everyone missed the ball and it ended up in the net – probably sucked in by the Fratton end crowd. Pandemonium all round the ground the roar I remember the News reported could be heard in the Guildhall Square.

Pompey won the second replay at Coventry’s Highfield Road 3-1 and we all went to White Hart Lane – about 25,000 in total – but the mighty Spurs, Greaves and Gilzean, won 3-1 and went on to win the Cup at Wembley.

The next Pompey were flying high in the Second Division when after a third round win at Peterborough, Fulham away was the next task. A huge following travelled up the A3 to see a drab 0-0 draw. The replay on the Tuesday was something else. The famous old ground was besieged by fans with thousands locked out and 44,010 inside as an early Mike Trebilcock goal settled the game. Many fans complained about the clubs organisation as they were unable to see and demanded their money back – nothing changes eh!

The fifth round game at home to West Brom was better organised with crowd packers employed and the packed crowd of 43,867 saw a thriller which West Brom edged to 2-1 and went on to win the Cup at Wembley.

Two of my early memories of great nights under the lights at FP. What is you favourite night at the bottom of Frogmore Road?

Written by eastneydave.

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56 Replies to “Pompey under floodlights”

  • tbh as i moved away from pompey as a kid – still living away from the area, having not seen them before my move, this distance has not really give me much chance to watch anywhere near as many matches at fratton as i would have liked, even tho i have been a season ticket holder in the past, so i have not really seen many midweek games at fratton… one that stands out in my mind was a testimonial game against west ham for our old kitman, this saw the late les sealey play in goal for west ham and his antics were brilliant. without more thought the only other midweek game at fratton that i can think off of the top of my head was seeing us lose to birmingham 1-0 having drew with sunderland 1-1 – taking the lead though sammy igoe – the saturday before…

  • well you heard it people, get those ‘challenge dave’ requests into me via email and we will see if the master can answer you questions etc on pompey years gone by – i will warn you his knowledge is pretty damn good!

  • i love floodlight matches, we seem to play better as well, in recent times 4-0 bolton, 6-1 leeds, man u1-1

  • As a lad, mid-late 70s, saw quite a few. Wimbledon on xmas eve, I think, Div 3 game. Drew 3-3. Stretching my memory here. The FA cup 3rd with Mboro. Drew 1-1. They said 36,000 max but it was closer to 40,000.

  • Matt remember those two very well the long walk home after the Xmas eve game (7 miles) and the late Jeff Hemmerman disallowed goal against top flight Boro that was never offside!!

  • My first game back in ’79 was under floodlights, chucking it down, I was sat on the redgra running track and headed a ball back as my hands were frozen in my pockets, I’ll never forget the chants of “sign him on”

  • drawing with boro at home last season under floodlights (i think) – that was a big dissopointment, although looking at the form of s and them, it was probably a good result…

  • your claim to fame paultsmouth 🙂 my old mans claim to fame is heading a cross from george best! this was not during my old mans playing days, but from being in the crowd when besty put a ball into the crowd…

  • October 74 – Man Utd – Dave and I have chatted about this game before and although a 0-0 draw (I think) There was a lot of talent on show that night from Man U – The season before saw the ‘not so mighty reds’ get relegated and although their return was pretty swift (they won the league at first attempt) It did mean, for once that I sae some of the players from my ‘sticker book’ play at Fratton Park. I remember (as much as I can being 10 at the time) that the atmoshere was brilliant, crowd of 25,000 which was at that stage in my life I biigest I had witnessed I think. Both sets of supporters sang all the way through the game …. strange can imagine Man U fans like that now

  • Also didn’t we get our first win on the returm to the (old) first division under floodlights… Beat West Ham I think (Dillion twice… Pens ???) the week sfter we had played scum and drawn 2-2 ??

  • Cant rmember what my first game was, but i’ve said on here before my Dad used to take me and we sttod on the ‘boiler makers hump’ in the milton end. Can remember a game, sure it was a cup game against Oxford, Pompey something like 2-0 down with 10 mins to go, then, refresh my memory eastneyd, I think Alan Biley scored a hatrick, after the first my Dad dragged us away stating it was a consolation goal, then i heard two more massive cheers before making it back to the car parked by the prison. A bit sketchy, Eastneyd, do you know the game i mean?? Can you fill me in with the correct facts and dates please? Would be a nice memory for me. Is this pompeys greatest come back of all time?

  • ……. Just mentioning Scummers has made me think of another occassion, but this one I think Id rather forget …didn’t we lose 7-0 to them in a testimonial under floodlights… was it Alan Knights ?

  • Lets take those questions in order – Chix Spot on – 15 October 74 Man U 0-0 25,608. Shows the draw of United we had 12,000 on the previous Saturday for the visit of Fulham and 9,000 for the next home game!! I did check those facts.

  • Chix 2 You are right we did get our first win back in Div One with a 2-1 win over West Ham on August Bank Holiday – it was an evening kick off started in daylight and finished under lights. Dillon scored both one a penalty after the Hammers took and early lead. We had of course famously lost 6-0 at Arsenal on the Saturday.

  • Chix 3 – Yes we did lose a testimonial 7-0 at home to the Scum in May 1972 – wrong goalkeeper though it was John ‘Brylcream Boy’ Milkins. We got revenge at the Skip a couple of years later winning 4-2 in a testimonial game I was there but can find no record of it the record books!!

  • Pompey4me – I think the game you mention is the famous Santa Claus game. December 22 1984 – Oxford United at home. Both teams in the running for promotion. Crowd over 22,000 afternoon kick off finished under light. Oxford were leading 1-0 in the last 5 minutes when a fan dressed as Santa ran onto the pitch from the North Terrace. He was chased by police and eventually caught. Referee Martin Bodenham was forced to add on an extra two minutes to allow for the interruption and during that time Alan Biley buried two headers into the Fratton End net . Delirium broke out – you must have heard it. That was the season on comebacks only 10 days later Fulham we infamously trailing 4-0 at half time and came back to draw 4-4. The points dropped that day cost us promotion!!

  • Remember playing Lincoln and fog was coming in and Alan Biley had scored a hat trick, when he and Billy Rafferty terrorised back fours in the old division 3.
    However the fog held off and we won 4-1, great memories, and also when Steve Davey tackled Howard Goddard of Newport and Broke his leg, and the Police Officer allegedly stated he could have charged him with assault for it.
    Great memories, but i hope we never go back to the bad old days of being in the lower leagues.

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