Lower Life: It’s strange to see Pompey and Gosport’s worlds colliding

Gosport in action at Privett Park - where the hosts are closing the gap on Pompey rather quickly  Picture by Ian Hargreaves
Gosport in action at Privett Park - where the hosts are closing the gap on Pompey rather quickly Picture by Ian Hargreaves

Just like some people talk of having been able to run before they could walk, or sing before they could talk, I went to Privett Park before I went to Fratton Park, writes Steve Bone.

Okay, I grant you, it’s not quite as poetic as the other two examples. Nevertheless, it could have been just as life-changing.

Gosport’s where I was born and is still my home 43 years later, so of course I have always had a soft spot for Borough.

I’d like to be able to say I get along to see them when I can – in fact, it would be more truthful to say I get along to see them when I think of it. Which is not very often.

My last two appearances at Privett Park have been to see the final half-four of their play-off semi-final win last April and the second half of their epic FA Cup victory over Bath City in October – it was 0-1 when I got there and I was sat just behind Steve Claridge as the boys in yellow and blue roared back to win 3-1.

In the old days, I was more of a regular. I think I must have seen 10 games a season in the early 80s when the likes of Tony Stares, Tony Mahoney, John Hawes, Ritchie Coulbert, Ally Unitt and Richie Moran were gracing the Privett turf.

I later got to know Stares and Moran through different circumstances and still see them both around town these days.

I can vividly remember sitting in the stand (it used to be their only one but has now been joined by the one named after club stalwart Harry Mizen, who I also knew) for many a game.

There was a time when the local youths who knew the surroundings could get into the ground through a hole in the fence, and therefore had no qualms in handing over the ‘extra’ pound required to get into the stand – which, by the way, has remained refreshingly unchanged in 30 years. Gosport had some great days in the Southern League – the Beazer Homes League to those of us of a certain age – but as players, money and fans all reduced in quality, amount and number, Borough slid down the non-league pyramid – and at one time, it looked like they’d be lucky to survive.

But the dedication of their most fervent backers, a bit of good old Gosport community spirit, and no little investment carried them through and they now find themselves having a very good go at getting into Conference South.

The whole town is willing them to make it.

A run of 23 games unbeaten mirrors exactly the run that Pompey went on this season without a win, and it’s fitting the the two teams’ fortunes should contrast so sharply this term.

In April 2007, Pompey were in the Premier League pushing to get into Europe while Gosport were in the Wessex League (albeit winning it). They were eight leagues apart.

If, as is quite possible, Pompey go down this season and Gosport win promotion, they will be two divisions apart six years on.

If you want proof that Pompey and Borough’s worlds are gradually colliding, it comes in the form of stories linking ‘players like Justin Bennett’ with Pompey and David James with Borough. Funny old game, ain’t it?

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