Pride and passion at Pompey – Carl’s Travels with Town
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he spotlight’s Portsmouth’s Fratton Park, ahead of this weekend’s visit
Fratton Park is a proper football stadium - steeped in history, with four separate and very different stands surrounding the pitch, this has been the home of Portsmouth FC since the Hampshire club was born, towards the end of the 19th century.
There's always a cracking atmosphere here. The home fans are very vocal, almost snarling at the opposition, while the club as a whole is very traditional, as reflected in the distinctive Fratton Park Pavilion in the south-west corner of the ground, which resembles a Tudor (black-and-white timber facade) building, a bit like the one at Fulham's Craven Cottage.
The pavilion used to accommodate the players' dressing rooms, and also the club offices, while the press lounge, which is where I head for on any visit, is also situated in this corner of the ground.
I have been a fairly regular visitor, over the years, although my last visit with Town was more than nine years ago, in the autumn of 2010, for a goalless draw, quite a triumphant result when compared to a lot of what happened under manager Roy Keane.
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My first visit was not actually with Town, but with Colchester United, 18 years ago. I remember that well, a League Cup tie on a warm August night (in 2001) when the U's upset the odds to win 2-1.
A beanpole of a striker scored the Pompey goal that night, a certain Peter Crouch, who was all arms and legs and still very young, at the age of 20. he had been recruited from QPR for a cool £1.5m that summer.
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Although he scored that night, I didn't dream that this 6ft 7ins target man would go on to have such a stunning career.
I thought he would probably drop into non-league, after a couple of seasons, only to end up blazing a trail for the likes of Aston Villa, Liverpool, Tottenham, Stoke City and of course England.
Just shows what a hopeless judge I am!
- Club: Portsmouth FC
- Founded: April 5, 1898 (121 years ago)
- Ground: Fratton Park
- Town's first visit: 2-0 away win on September 26, 1959
- Town's last visit: 2-1 away defeat on January 19, 2016
- Town's overall record at Fratton Park: P21 W10 D7 L4
Fratton Park, the original home of Portsmouth FC, is actually the only stadium in English professional football not to be sited on the Great Britain mainland.
This is not obvious, to any away supporter travelling to the ground, but Fratton Park was built on Portsea Island, which is separated from the mainland by Portsbridge Creek. But it is not exactly cut off from the mainland - there are three major roads, including the A3, plus a small bridge used by pedestrians and cyclists.
There are also four railway stations on the island, including Fratton, which is about a mile from the football ground.
Fratton Park was constructed on the site on an old potato field, in the farming village of Milton, which later became a residential district of the city of Portsmouth.
Town, under Keane, were remarkably riding high in the top three when they paid a visit on September 11, 2010.
I remember the afternoon well. I ate two pies in the press lounge before kick-off, so felt slightly bloated, and I had the privilege of sitting next to Ray Crawford, the ex-Pompey and Town legend, in the press box.
On the pitch, Town were good value for their point in a goalless draw. I recall Gareth McAuley played a blinder in central defence, and got my vote as the man-of-the-match.
He was partnered by Tommy Smith, with Jaime Peters and Darrem O'Dea as the full-backs.
Pompey, despite their lowly position - they had taken just one point from their previous four games - played with the pride and passion that I have come to expect from all Portsmouth sides.
They remained at the foot of the Championship table, after Town's visit, with Leicester just above them on goal difference (yes, the Foxes used to be that bad!).
Town nearly won it. David Norris rattled the woodwork in the second half, while O'Dea missed a sitter from close-in.
But Town fans left feeling it was a good point, and they were also cheered by the return of Connor Wikcham after a two-month injury lay-off. Wickham's cameo as a substitute was the highlight.