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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