Dropped in on the book signing for Roger Holmes’ new book ‘On this Day’ during the week and met up with a few legends from the past. Ray Crawford, Keith Blackburn, Cliff Portwood and my recently recruited contributor Pat Neil
As I arrived the assembled were flicking through the book and I heard the date 25th February 1967 mentioned. I immediately retorted that that was the day that Cliff scored the only goals by a Pompey player on Match of the Day in the 1960’s. Cliff was mildly surprised but carried on selling his CDs to adoring fans. For the uninitiated Cliff is better known world wide for his singing than his football and yes Cliff is back in the UK after spending most of the last thirty years in Australia and Florida.
My son used to deal with Ray through his business but had not seen him for some time. Ray told be that the day Alan Ball died (25 April 2007) he went home and wrote out his notice and retired immediately. It was not worth the money he added.
14th December 1923 Ron Humpston – Derby born goalkeeper was back up to Ernie Butler during the championship years but did not get a game due to Ernie`s consistency and fitness. Did play nine first team games however before moving to Huddersfield Town in 1951.
He played just five games there before moving to Headington United – who of course became Oxford United. Not much trace of Ron after that except I believe he may have managed Northfleet in 1960.
Andy Rollings 54 – Andy was a legend at the Goldstone Ground signed from Swindon in 1981 and played 29 times scoring one goal – at Brentford in February 1982. Big centre back shared the number six spot with Peter Ellis for two seasons.
15th December Aaron Flahavan Born 1975 died 6 August 2001. Aaron suffered from narcolepsy – or Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and twice blacked out during games. Aaron played 105 times for Pompey keeping thirty clean sheets before his death in a car accident in Bournemouth.
Aaron joined Pompey in 1992 after playing as a schoolboy with Southampton and was to become the final understudy to the legend, Alan Knight. Flavs debut came in a memorable game. It was in January 1995 and Leicester City were the visitors to the Park in the FA Cup fourth round. Jon Gittens was sent off for a professional foul and Roberts had put City ahead on the stroke of half time. On a very wet pitch Knight slides for the ball and carries it out of the area. Referee Dermot Gallagher shows no mercy and his Red Card. Aaron was off the bench and between the posts. Jim Smith was sacked on the Monday and replaced by Terry Fenwick.
Aaron`s final Pompey game turned out to be the 3-0 win over Barnsley in May 2001 when Pompey secured their place in the First Division after flirting with relegation all season.
16th December Mark Blake 38 – apart from Mark`s stay at Pompey his career was a tour of Midland clubs including Wolves, Walsall, Leicester City, Mansfield and Kidderminster Harriers. Mark signed from Aston Villa in 1993 and played just fifteen times in Pompey`s midfield.
Sebastian Olszar 27 – Polish youngster had two trial spells at Pompey in 2004 never made the first team.
17th December Courtney Pitt 27 – popular left sided player came from Chelsea in 2001 and played thirty nine times for Pompey scoring three goals. After loan spells at Luton and Coventry he moved to Oxford in 2003. He is now playing on the other side of the Oxbridge divide with Cambridge United.
18th December Kevin Dillon 49 – made 215 league appearances for Pompey after joining from Birmingham City in 1983. Kevin was signed by manager Bobby Campbell for two reasons – the first was to bolster the creative midfield in the promotion push from Division Three and the most important was to sign a player who could score from the penalty spot.
From memory six players had missed penalties that season and Pompey were in danger of missing out on promotion because of it. Two weeks before his signing a spell of eight consecutive wins had ended when Colin Sullivan missed from twelve yards against Wigan at Fratton Park. Things changed with Kevin in the side and in the last eleven games of the season Pompey lost just once and Dillon managed five goals, two of them penalties.
In a Full Members Cup match with Millwall in November 1986 Kevin scored a hat-trick of penalties at the time a unique feat. Jan Molby of Liverpool equalled the achievement two week later against Coventry in a League Cup replay at Anfield – that was the first game a six year old Steven Gerrard attended as a Reds fan!!
Kevin was that a regular in the side for five seasons and helped Pompey back to the first division. It was there that his flair from the spot let him down missing against both Spurs and Arsenal in 0-0 draws at home.
Justin Edinburgh 39 – was the subject of one of Chix`s excellent articles on the ‘He played for them too’ read it here. Need I say more!!
Tommy Bernsten 35 – defender signed from Norwegian side Lillestrom on a months loan in November 1999. Made his debut is a 4-2 defeat at Manchester City as a substitute for Andy Awford. That game was the first of a run of fifteen games without a win lasting for three months. After one more game Tommy returned home and is still playing in Norway for Lyn Oslo.
19th December Peter Harris (Born 1925) died on 3 January 2003. We certainly have had some great players birthdays recently with Len Phillips, Reg Flewin and now another local boy Peter Harris.
Peter came straight into contention for a first team place after the war and by 1947 he had become a regular. The team that won back to back championships had one great strength – forwards that could score goals; Peter was one of them. In the two campaigns Ike Clarke, Duggie Reid, Jack Froggatt and Harris all scored between fourteen and seventeen goals in each season. Incredible consistency and showed the magnificent organisation of the side as they did not rely on one superstar striker. The only forward who did not score goals in that number was the playmaker Len Phillips but he still managed sixteen over the two years.
Peter`s strengths were his pace, trickery, balance and crossing ability combined of course with tremendous loyalty. What else would he need? Pat Neil tells me that Peter was his schoolboy hero and he based his wing play on watching him fly down the touchlines. Strangely it was an injury to Peter that allowed Pat to become Pompey`s youngest player in 1955. Peter apparently named his hero as the great Arsenal schemer Alex James.
Some facts about Peter –
-he wore the number seven shirt in all but four of his 479 games
-he was the first winger to score five times in a game in the top division
-he won only two caps and they were both disastrous games for England. The first against Eire at Goodison ended in the first defeat on English soil (0-2). The second Hungary away in 1954 in Budapest lost 7-1.
Peter was a one club man but he developed Tuberculosis and this forced his retirement in 1959. He recovered in a sanatorium and after rejecting offers to return to the game settled on Hayling Island managing and Entertainments business.
After his death the press produced some very complimentary obituaries but the effort in the Times was ruined by the inclusion of a photograph of Jimmy Dickinson! Pat Neil was asked by the Harris family to speak at the funeral. Pat read an excellent eulogy which he himself prepared. I have a copy of the original should any member like one.
David Hillier 39 – ex Arsenal midfield man played 67 games and scored four goals between 1996 and 1999
When asked by the Guardian about his time on the South Coast David replied ‘Pompey was wicked: there was nothing wrong with it apart from it didn’t last long enough. If I’d have been there when Harry Redknapp came in I might have been his sort of player, but I still had a great time there. I love the fans, the place, the club’. He must have enjoyed himself then!! David is now a fireman in Bristol.
Memories of 2008
Toast is planning to end the year with a series of your memories of what has probably been the greatest year in the history of Portsmouth Football Club.
I have no doubt that Rug will run his review of the year month by month but what I want Toasters is your own thoughts. It can be your favourite moment, a funny story whatever you like. If you send them to me, I will publish them. Remember this is your column and we all want to hear your favourite recollections.
We will stop mentioning the Milan game soon but my attention was drawn to a post in the forum from a new user named Herbert Kilpin. It is as follows –
‘Hi people, I’m an AC Milan supporter, was at Fratton Park last November and really enjoyed the atmosphere, I felt like there was so much passion for the Pompeys! And loved the stadium, very traditional, very British… It’s been a really entertaining game, nice one Portsmouth, congratulation and good luck for the Premier! ‘
Toast says simply ‘Thank you’. Forza Pompey!! Oh and we love our stadium too.
Toast reached number 50 next week – so we are planning a special edition.
Sunday Toast Season 2 # 19 Peter Harris