Pompey’s Boys of ‘93 debunk myth stars couldn’t play now

Mark Chamberlain, Paul Walsh and Guy Whittingham came within a whisker of securing Premier League football for Pompey
Mark Chamberlain, Paul Walsh and Guy Whittingham came within a whisker of securing Premier League football for Pompey

There’s a school of thought players from, yesteryear would never survive in today’s game.

Advances in sports science, fitness, preparation and tactical nous render their relevance obsolete in a modern-day footballing context.

It is, of course, a myth. Absolute unadulterated nonsense.

So thanks goes to chief sports writer, Neil Allen, for reminding us that was the case last week. It was his tweet showing the online review of Pompey’s memorable 1992-93 charge towards the top flight which brought the subject to the surface.

Here was also an impromptu opportunity to be immersed in 90 minutes of unexpected nostalgia. A chance to relive the memories of that never-to-be-forgotten season. Yes, please.

What was soon abundantly clear when reviewing the action was, 25 years on from the start of that campaign, good football doesn’t age.

Despite some grainy footage and ropey commentary at times (Gary Butters) the quality of play from Jim Smith’s men more than stands up to the test of time.

The raw facts of the 92-93 season are, of course, etched in the Fratton annals.

A total of 88 points from 46 games returned 80 league goals. That, infamously, was a single effort short of West Ham’s return, sending the Blues spinning into the play-offs where a (still, criminally offside) finish from Ian Ormondroyd meant Pompey lost out to a team who’d finished 12 points adrift of them.

Over half of those goals that season, as we all know, came from the boot, head, knee or backside of Guy Whittingham.

The record books remind us it was 42 in the league and 49 in all competitions as Billy ‘Farmer’ Haines’ 66-year best was smashed. It was a return which redefined prolific and remains the most clinical display of the artistry of six-yard box marksmanship most of us will ever see.

Paul Walsh was the man, however, many still place among the most talented to have ever wore the star and crescent on his chest. And it was his wizardry after arriving from Spurs in the summer of 92 which did so much to elevate the campaign to another level.

Watching it back is to be in thrall to the majesty of Walsh’s tight control, low centre of gravity and work ethic.

Those who worked with the England international spoke of how he lifted the level of professionalism on and off the pitch.

As a starry-eyed teenager it would have been blasphemy to suggest, but reviewing his work with a quarter of a century passing did leave this observer wondering how the striker would have fared in the continent’s top leagues. Culturally, Walsh looked made for La Liga or Serie A.

Pompey’s strike partnership gained many of the headlines and lasting memories from that season. This was a team with class throughout, though, as the review reminds us.

The drive of Alan McLoughlin in midfield, the hugely understated trickery of Mark Chamberlain on the wing and the scout-attracting defensive combination of Kit Symons and Andy Awford in front of the ever-present Alan Knight.

The quality of the attacking interplay and understanding is quite breathtaking at times.

It’s Walsh and Whittingham one-twoing their way through Bristol Rovers before Corporal Punishment applies the finish which is fondly recalled years later.

But that’s a disservice to the deftness of McLoughlin’s chip against Oxford at Fratton, and a quite incredible display of endeavour and skill which sees Whittingham run from his own half and leave Luton’s defence in his wake in March.

Sure, you might need to cover your eyes for the 5-5 at Oxford when the 5-2 lead was thrown away.

The killer 4-1 loss at Sunderland and play-off heartache can be forwarded, too.

But for every low there’s toppling champions Newcastle, winning 11 from 12 and a stack of highs to be fondly reminded of.

So, ‘Portsmouth FC 1992-93 official season review’ is the Google search to debunk the invention today’s game sits above all that’s gone before.

It will also provide a 90-minute meander down memory lane to warm the hearts of those with royal blue in their blood.