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Johnny's Stay At Home Diary: Part 11

What is the worst season in Pompey's history?

9 June 2020

Liam Lawrence

Whenever the club are perceived to be going through a rocky spell, it is not unusual to receive a deluge of correspondence from fans, either by email or post.

One common missive – not from a single person, I should add – that ends up on my desk or inbox starts: “I have been a Pompey supporter for 50 years and have never known a worse season or team.”

They have come at certain periods during the management of Kenny Jackett, Paul Cook, Andy Awford, Richie Barker and Guy Whittingham, and further back to the days of Graham Rix, Steve Claridge and Tony Pulis.

Now if the scribes are to be taken at face value, then it adds up to a multitude of ‘worst seasons’ – did we ever have any good things?

One thing I am almost certain of is that those who highlight their half-century allegiance have no idea their communication is heading to someone who has been a fan for 53 years.

"Now if the scribes are to be taken at face value, then it adds up to a multitude of ‘worst seasons’ – did we ever have any good things?"

Johnny Moore

If this message came from a person who has followed the Blues for, say, 20 or 30 years and not as clued up about the history of the club, then perhaps I could take their complaint at face value.

I can respectfully, but robustly, reply with a comprehensive account of why it most certainly isn’t the worst.

But if such authors had really been supporters for that long, then there are some seasons they have either totally forgotten, never witnessed or conveniently airbrushed from history.

I suppose the 2013/14 campaign could justifiably have come under the ‘worst’ heading, although you would think there would be some leeway, given it was the first under community ownership.

The ending was certainly positive, however, with a seven-match unbeaten run that included five successive victories.

But it can be all too easily forgotten in the mists of time that only a stoppage-time equaliser for AFC Wimbledon at Northampton in March prevented Pompey from dropping into the relegation places, with non-league football staring them in the face.

Another defence for those who believe this was the worst season is that the final position of 13th in the fourth tier was the lowest they had ended up since entering the Football League in 1920 – although this record was beaten 12 months later.

However, my personal choice remains the 1977/78 campaign. The Blues finished rock bottom of the old Division Three to be relegated to the basement for the first time.

"The final position of 13th in the fourth tier was the lowest they had ended up since entering the Football League in 1920."

Johnny Moore

There were just four league wins at home and seven in all, a 6-1 defeat at Shrewsbury and heavy Fratton losses to Tranmere (2-5) and Plymouth (1-5).

A period of 11 matches between January and March failed to yield a single victory, we were knocked out of the FA Cup by fourth tier Swansea and 21-goal top scorer Dave Kemp was sold in March to provide a final crushing blow.

The fact club legend Jimmy Dickinson was manager of this bunch made it even crueller, although it was a mess not of his making.

I am sure that many seasoned supporters – in the days before social media – put pen to paper to accuse them of being the worst side they had seen for 50 years.

And I believe they would have been perfectly justified in doing so, with little room for argument.

The majority of Portsmouth FC staff have been furloughed as part of the government’s Job Retention Scheme. This column was written before those measures were implemented.


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