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Pompey's Boxing Day gifts - and nightmares
Saturday, 26th Dec 2020 08:27 by Steve Bone

Boxing Day football. A fine tradition that happily, in this strange and uncertain year, has survived for some – if not Covid-hit Pompey.

You can’t help but think ahead to Boxing Day 2021 and hope that, surely, things will be back to normal by then.

While future festive periods may occupy some thoughts, let’s for now put our minds in reverse. My Christmas question to fans this year was simple: What’s your favourite Pompey Boxing Day clash – and least favourite?

Worryingly, people were quicker to recount the games they rated as their worst festive fixtures, with one or two agreeing with my vote for the rain-soaked afternoon on the open terrace at Ashton Gate in 1990, when Pompey were hammered 4-1.

A Christmas nightmare to end them all was recalled by the Pompey History Society: ‘Did someone say a bad Pompey Christmas? How about this one? December 20, 1958: West Ham United 6 Pompey 0; December 26, 1958: Pompey 3 Wolves 5, December 27, 1958: Wolves 7 Pompey 0.’

Pompey80s, also on Twitter, recalled: ‘Christmas 80/81 – three 0-0s in a row if I am correct; Huddersfield (a), Reading (h), Millwall (a). In 81 Bristol R (h) 0-0 was a terrible one; the BBC had to scrape around to find 10 minutes of highlights for MOTD on TV as only six games were played that day.

'In 1982 Gary Mabbutt transferred from Bristol Rovers to Spurs. Football Focus did a feature on him using footage from the 26.12.81 game – and I think they showed more action for that than they had for the actual highlights!’

Those first two tales are deviating from the actual Boxing Day heading a little (the deviants will be dealt at the end of the school day, don’t worry) so on to those who stuck to the question, and we’d better bring in a few ‘best games’ too...

Ant Coombes said: ‘My worst by some distance, given my proximity to the place, was a 2-0 defeat at Gillingham in 2001. Tom Naylor may be a winter player, but Robert Prosinecki was not! My best was probably the one a couple of years later, with Patrik Berger’s double seeing off Spurs 2-0 at Fratton Park - closely followed by either of the games at Palace and West Ham (in 2004 and 2006) when Linvoy Primus scored the goals.’

A happy Blues Boxing Day memory comes from Andy Ford, who remembers well the December 26 visit to Plymouth in the promotion-winning 1986-87 season: ‘It was a real top of the table clash. We won 3-2 - it was an early kick-off and I remember stopping at Exeter Services, and it was like Pompey had taken over the whole place. It was a great match with us hanging on for the victory. Still in my top 10 all-time Pompey matches.’

This column is nothing if not editorially balanced, so I will end with a memory from the year after that Plymouth trip – which of course turned into a relegation season – from Jamie Parkinson.

He said: ‘My worst was definitely Charlton away in 1987. As the game kicked off I bent down to tie up my shoelace. When I got back up Charlton had scored after about 16 seconds. We ended up losing 2-1.’

I think the lesson there is... don’t bend down to tie up your shoelace if Pompey look within 20 seconds of being capable of conceding a goal, which some (not me) would say covers any point in a game.

Happy Boxing Day folks, and best wishes for a new year that brings a return to football, normality and maybe even the Championship...

Tweet @stevebone1 / email stevebonepfc@googlemail.com

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