Dave's Sunday Toast - #9 Paul Merson
This week's birthdays
19th Scott Wilson will be 31
20th Brian Bromley 62, Peter Ellis 52, Dave Beasant 49, Paul Merson 40,
22nd Carl Pettefer 27
There is little doubt that we have been three people to thank for the resurgence of Portsmouth Football Club in the twenty first century. Number one is Milan Mandaric who bought the club and saved it from extinction. Number two is Harry Redknapp, Milan's eventual choice as manager after trying a few options. Number three arguably would be Paul Merson.
Paul Merson was signed from Aston Villa by Redknapp to lead his team through the 2002/03 season. Harry wanted promotion and decided experience was the way to do it, Merson had done the job for Middlesbrough five years earlier and Harry wanted a repeat.
To aid Merson, Harry bought in Arjan De Zeeuw, Hayden Foxe and Gianluca Festa to give the side a tough defence along with a young left back, Matthew Taylor, from Luton Town. The season got off to a great start with eight wins and a draw in the first nine games before the first defeat.
The run kept going all season and Pompey were never out of the top two. Harry added to his squad during the season with more experienced players such as Steve Stone and Tim Sherwood but Merson continued to lead the way. There was the odd flutter but promotion was eventually won with a 1-0 win over Burnley on 15 April 2003. Merson played all but one game (the win at Nottingham Forest) and scored twelve goals.
There are many great stories in football but one Harry loves telling was how Merse told him he was having problems and needed to visit Tony Adams' clinic for a few days to get himself sorted out. Harry agreed and thought nothing more of it until a few days later he had a phone call from a friend in Jamaica saying he had seen Merson in a bar. Harry chose to ignore it and Merse returned on the Friday, suntanned and ready for the Saturday game in which he was instrumental in another Pompey win. As Harry says, all players have to be treated differently.
Paul can still be seen on Sky Sports as a match reporter and despite his continuing personal problems is great fun to listen to.
This weeks question is where was that first defeat of the 2002/03 season?
Never did it - Play at Wembley
As we all know the last time Pompey played at Wembley was the London War Cup Final on 30 May, 1942. We lost to Brentford 0-2 in front of 72,000. That was an amazing 24,000 days ago and it meant that some of Pompey's greats never played there for their club.
These names include Jimmy Dickinson, Peter Harris, Duggie Reid and many more. I am glad to report that Duggie's granddaughter is planning to be there in the best seat she can afford. Pity the club does not look after relations of such legends.
Last week Paultsmouth asked the Toast team to look at records broken by Pompey this season by winning on various Premier League grounds. Well, Paul only glad to be of service.
It all started at St James' Park where Pompey won their first league game since 20th August 1949 demolishing the Toon 4-1. That was followed up when Pompey went to Villa Park and triumphed 3-1 - we had not won there since 17th January 1970.
In case you have forgotten, Pompey won at Old Trafford last Saturday with a Sulley Muntari penalty. We had not triumphed over Manchester United there since 19th October 1957, with the late Derek Dougan among the scorers. However this was of course a cup game so the run without a league win at the 'Theatre of Dreams' goes on.
So we have laid a few bogies this season but which ones still bug us? Well the longest run is at Liverpool where we have not registered a win since August 1951. That is closely followed by two in the same season and in fact strangely the same month. On 3rd September 1955 we won at Chelsea and two weeks later we repeated the feat at Arsenal. Over 52 years later we have yet to repeat either achievement.
The win at Chelsea and the record there since is worth a quick look. Chelsea won their first Championship in 1954/55. So when Pompey visited Stamford Bridge in September 1955, Chelsea were champions!! The result was one of Pompey's finest as they won by 5-1 including a couple from Peter Harris. Since then Chelsea has not been a happy hunting ground, on two occasions we have conceded seven. One of those was at the end of the 1962/63, a season protracted by the very bad winter. Chelsea needed a win to clinch promotion to the old First Division and 55,000 packed the ground. Any Pompey fans there and I have spoken to a couple, would have been embarrassed as they slumped to a 7-0 defeat.
To make matters worse Pompey have not beaten Chelsea in a league game anywhere since Boxing Day 1957!!
The other long running bogey which can be still be laid this season, is the fact that we have not won at Manchester City since 24 August 1963. As a strange coincidence that was the next league game after the 7-0 at Chelsea!!
Remember it was Toast that told you we had never lost a cup game to Man U in March.
Good luck to you all with Semi Final tickets and see you next week.
Written by eastneydave.
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