By Brian Sears
14 May 2010
Portsmouth are not unique in having been the champions of England as well as inhabitants of the bottom division in English professional football during the period since WWII. Burnley and Wolves have also achieved that “feat”, and all three clubs came together in the same Premier League season in 2009-10.
But Pompey are the flavour of this weekend, taking on Chelsea in the FA Cup, so it is they we feature today. Their end-of-season positions for the 64 post-war seasons are plotted in our table below, and then illustrated graphically below that.
Near the left-hand side, note the back-to-back title-winning years of 1948-49 and 1949-50. Average gates of 37,000 packed Fratton Park back then.
Pompey’s team against Chelsea will no doubt feature players from near and far. But foreign professionals were banned from English football between 1931 and 1978; the only overseas players who could play in the league were those with Commonwealth ties, or naturalised immigrants who had lived in Britain for two years for reasons unrelated to football, or POWs, or amateurs.
Pompey’s foreign contingent around the time of their titles (and just after) was bigger than most, perhaps because it is a port club, and overseas players included Jamaica’s Lindy Delapenha, Sweden’s Dan Ekner (the first Swede to win the English title) and Belgium’s Marcel Gaillard.
As the FA’s ‘ Book for Boys’ of 1949 said in a feature called ‘That Pompey Style’, which looked back at the then olden days of the early 1900s: “Portsmouth fielded some great players in those days. The directors signed them on from all parts of the British Isles and from even beyond – at one time they had an amateur outside-left with the remarkable name of Miecznikowski!”
Portsmouth have those two league titles to their name, and two previous FA Cup wins, in 1939 – when they remained holders for years, because of the war – and 2008.