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Johnny's Stay At Home Diary: Part Seven

What links white shoes, Malcolm Shotton and a trip to Highbury?

12 May 2020

Highbury

It was the summer of 1987 when I bought a pair of pristine white loafers with tassels attached to the front.

They were my pride and joy, so I stored them away in the wardrobe through fear of getting them marked, despite the complimentary white polish I also received.

Their public debut finally arrived on August 29 when Pompey – who were back in the top-flight after a 28-year absence – travelled to Arsenal.

The footwear naturally attracted a fair bit of attention and not a small amount of stick – it would be called ‘banter’ these days – as we waited for the train up to Waterloo.

Never one to be fashion conscious, my accompanying ensemble of black jumper and trousers meant I resembled an upside-down pint of Guinness.

The most notable thing I can attach to the christening of my brogues is that on the same day, Malcolm Shotton made his Blues debut.

I am not sure that the defender provides a ringing endorsement, however, given that we were on the end of an embarrassing 6-0 hiding at Highbury. It suggested, quite rightly, that our Division One existence would be brief.

"The most notable thing I can attach to the christening of my brogues is that on the same day, Malcolm Shotton made his Blues debut."

Johnny Moore

And yet, even with our form that season, those days still felt freer and easier – perhaps it was just that we were younger.

In an era of nationalisation, trains were prompter, more comfortable and had their own buffet car, where you prop up the bar or sit down and enjoy a full English with proper cutlery.

It was always the 8.04am train out of Havant and then a tube stop at the other end within the vicinity of the opposition.

In this instance it was Islington – my suggestion, I believe, on the basis that Grange Hill was filmed there.

The game itself was very much the middle part of the sandwich, although given our 4-0 half-time deficit, this resembled two slices of stale bread bereft of any filling.

Back in the days of stricter licensing regulations, London pubs – including those bars back at Waterloo – seemed to be open into the early hours.

And, in another plug for nationalisation, so were the trains. If all else failed, there was the paper/milk train back home at around 4am.

The cardinal sin on these London trips was to fall asleep – and you so did at your own peril, with those in the land of nod having their shoelaces tied together.

When the train had arrived at your stop and was about to depart again, the window would be knocked to alert the victim.

"The cardinal sin on these London trips was to fall asleep – and you so did at your own peril, with those in the land of nod having their shoelaces tied together."

Johnny Moore

By the time they had regained their senses and untied their laces, they were already speeding on to an unwanted destination.

This incurred a choice of three penalties – an expensive taxi ride, a 10-mile walk home or a three hour wait for the next train.

But what about those white shoes? I had been painstakingly attempting to keep them in pristine condition, only to accidentally wade through a muddy puddle in Islington.

From that point, I tried to desperately to put it out of my mind and insist they weren’t as bad as I imagined.

I glanced down a few hours later to discover that indeed they were and one shoe was now missing its tassels.

The final straw came the following morning, when the use of my white polish merely spread the unsightly marks over a greater area.

Back in the wardrobe they went – soiled, tassel-less and never to be seen again.

Even Malcolm Shotton lasted a few months.

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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