Trial games in the past
Posted on 31st May 2023 by David Taylor
This article was initially published in the matchday programme of 26 December 2020.
Each week the Pompey History Society takes a delve into the club’s archive and pulls out a document or artefact and tells the story behind it. This week, using a single-sheet programme, we pick up on a theme we covered earlier in the season about reserve teams playing first teams…
Was that about the trial match in the 1920s?
It was. You’ll recall we showed a programme from a Blues or ‘probables’ team against a Reds or ‘possibles’ team from 1928. Effectively that was Pompey’s first team against the reserves, played as a pre-season friendly, and the reserves got a creditable 3-3 draw. Today have a variation, featuring the Pompey first team from the early 1980s...
The early 1980s? We were quite good then?
We were. Promoted in 1980 from the fourth division and again, as champions, from the third division in 1983. However, we can regard the autumn of 1981 as, well, a bump in the road shall we say?
What was going on then?
Frank Burrows was the manager and the start to the 1981-82 season had been slow to say the least. On November 14 Pompey lost at home to Carlisle, leaving the team in 19th place in Division Three, just above the relegation zone. The manager’s response was to put much of the team that played in that game into the home reserve fixture scheduled against Exeter City in the Midweek League on the Tuesday, ahead of the following Saturday’s FA Cup first round tie with Millwall.
Not the sort of thing you’d see happen these days! So, a morale-boosting win?
Not exactly. ‘First team flops’ was The News headline. To be fair, Exeter’s second string had a few ‘names’ in it. Phil Roberts at centre half had played for Pompey in the 1970s, Len Bond was an experienced keeper and Martyn Rogers and Peter Hatch experienced defenders. The rest were apprentices though, so a 0-0 draw was somewhat underwhelming. A 1-1 draw in the cup on the Saturday, followed by a 3-2 replay defeat, suggested whatever Burrows’ desired effect, it hadn’t been achieved.
What about the Pompey team?
Peter Ellis, Keith Viney, David Gregory and Alan Rogers were actually spared the ignominy of starting, replaced by John McLaughlin, Steve Bryant, Billy Rafferty and David Crown respectively, but it was still a strong team. Aldershot-born Alex Cropley was a Scotland international. However, only four of them - Alan Knight, Bobby Doyle, Steve Aizlewood and Billy
Rafferty - would be regulars in the team which won promotion the following season, albeit with Bobby Campbell in charge by then. He replaced Burrows in March 1982, but many would argue the beginning of Frank’s end can be traced back to a midweek reserve game four months before…