It’s been thirty years since I last wrote in the Sports Mail under the name of “The Scout” when I covered the men’s Portsmouth and District Saturday League.
At this time there was a Premier and Senior Division plus Junior 1 to Junior 5. Also in competition at this time was the North End League which had 3 Divisions. That was a whole lot of local players playing football on a Saturday afternoon.
I look now and there is no North End League and the Portsmouth and District League is just two divisions. What’s caused this decline? Where is everybody? Is it apathy? Are more people working Saturday afternoon’s or are they all now going to Fratton Park?
The advent of 5-a-side league on a lovely all weather surface after work is probably a factor, along with the cost of hiring pitches and buying kits, trying to field a squad of players on a regular basis and all the last minute postponements due to our inclement weather are additional problems. Also bookings and sending offs are very costly to the players along with the fines and suspensions, although these were around thirty years ago.
During my time writing the Saturday match day report and the column for the following week, I can remember times being at Alexandra Park with it pouring down with rain and having to run back to the pavilion to phone through my half time report, the notes I had written all soggy and difficult to read, my pockets would be full of 10p pieces and I would be praying the telephone wasn’t out of order or had been vandalised. I then had to sprint back out for the second half in the hope I hadn’t missed any goals. We were mile away from smartphones and the internet back then!
Over the years I came across many good players who went on to play at a higher standard, great characters not just players but managers and club secretaries too, these also doubled up as bucket and sponge man, collected subs, booked pitches and in other words were the heart and soul of the club.
With open all day Public Houses not with us then, it was only the Civil Service Club in Copnor Road (where Roko and Pompey’s training complex now stands) which was open from 4.30pm, so teams who played that day at nearby Rugby Camp and at various locations across the town would all come back there for a a pint or two. This was where I was able to gather all my copy for the next Saturday report and catch up on all the local teams comings and goings.
This was also followed up by clubs who phoned me at home over the weekend with all their match day snippets which were invaluable, for without these clubs taking time out to phone I would have been unable to give these clubs coverage.
Next time I would like to write more about the clubs and players who provided so much enjoyment over the years, along with the local rivalries and recall some memorable match highlights plus team photos from this period.