In Praise Of Mediocrity – A Video Special: Portsmouth FC, 1989/90

5 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   June 20, 2011  |     5

We could, if we lived in a vacuum in which we only communicated with the mass media, be forgiven for thinking that football is all about the winning, the glory and the silverware at the end of the season. For a good many football supporters, however, whole seasons can pass by without a hint of anything exciting happening whatsoever. So it was, then, that Portsmouth spent the 1989/90 season in the Second Division, barely troubling the top or the bottom of the table. Indeed, their end of season record hinted at an entire campaign of mists and mellow fruitlessness, although their supporters could be forgiven for being quietly pleased for an improvement on the previous season, when they finished just two places – albeit with a comfortable nine point cushion – above the relegation places and for the fact that they had overcome the worst of financial difficulties which had, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, threatened the existence of the club.

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Where, you may well be wondering, is this going? Well, sometimes, footballing tropes collide with such force that we cannot help but enjoy the moment. The season of very little happening – and you can usually spot the supporters of such clubs at the end of the season, exuding a zen-like calm coupled with absolute bafflement as to why so many other people start getting so hot-headed at about the end of AprilĀ  – has been rendered that much less common by play-offs. Another end of season tradition, though, that of the end of season video, lives on. There are still clubs that throw together a compilation of highlights, record it onto a DVD, give it an optimistic name and hope that there will be people who want to relive the season’s successes.

This practice has been going on since video recording technology has been cheap enough for non-professionals to buy, and the Club Video has become part of the staple of the mildly obsessive football fan ever since. We are, therefore, indebted beyond belief to the individual that took the time to upload “The Official Portsmouth End Of Season Video 1989/90″ (to give it its full, catchy title) for the viewing delectation of the internet. Somewhere within this video – which runs to forty-five minutes – gets close to the essence of what football, when most of the glitz and glamour is stripped away, is all about. Sit back, enjoy it, and remember that we may never enjoy such innocence again.

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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • June 21, 2011 at 9:31 am

    SJ Maskell

    If only we could have another season like that!!!!

    Enough with drama already.

  • June 21, 2011 at 7:54 pm


    Firstly – I uploaded that to YouTube (so you can be “indebted” to me!). Bought the VHS back in the day and decided last year to get all my olf VHS stuff on to YouTube (loads more of this on my ‘pompeytheriddle’ YouTube channel. I wouldn’t say that season was mediocre. We were looking like going down (under the terrible John Gregory) most of the year until a rise in fortunes at the end of the season (under Frank Burrows) saw us win our last 6 home games, making ourselves safe v Bristol Rovers at home a few weeks from the end of the season. The following season was almost the same, suffering this time under Burrows, Tony Barton came in to steady things, but we were saved from another groundhog season in 91/92 when Barton was ousted for Jim Smith and a great couple of seasons lay ahead. Proper football – if only it could be like that again.

  • June 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm


    Indeed, the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs usually ends up being more traumatic than those seasons during which very little happens. One day, I will write something about the whole season that I spent watching St Albans City, every match home and away, which ended with the team 14th in the table and precisely nothing having happened. I think that the highlight may have been an away win at the team that ended the season in sixth place.

    Also, as an addendum (and because, in my rush get this post up before I got some much-needed shut eye last night, I forgot to put this in the original post), I should – as I normally do – take a moment to thank the original uploader, in the slim chance that they see this message. True dedication to the cause.

  • June 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm


    Ah, excellent. Hopefully you saw my message before posting yourself (sorry for the delay in posting your message, by the way – have been doing something else all evening). Had I had more time, I would have thrown in that, presumably, that 1990 contained the seeds of the team that made the 1992 FA Cup semi-final (although there’s an element of guesswork on my part). Anyway, thanks again for doing that. I know from bitter experience what a pain in the back-side uploading anything to YouTube can be!

  • June 21, 2011 at 9:35 pm


    I used to do all the home games during this period, but also did all the home reserve games. The 89/90/91 era saw us in the post Alan Ball era where Jim Gregory had bought the club and spent money but we’d gone for old pro’s like Warren Neil, Steve Wigley, Gary Stevens etc. Many seemed to lose their way, happy to pick up a good wage (Pompey have always paid OTT – even back then) and so we plodded along. In the reserves we had Anderton, Awford, Symons, Powell as well as a few players who had fallen out with the managers such as Whittingham, Knight and Gavin Maguire. The reserve team was full of goals and would win 6-1 and 7-0 at home. When Jim Smith took over in the summer of 1991 he pretty much made the reserves the 1st team, throwing in all tbe kids. At home they were fantastic, but we struggled away. Over time Smith reintroduced the likes of Warren Neil, who seemed spurred on with the fresh challenge. The mix of the good pro’s we had and the kids saw us get to the cup semi (and had we got to the final you’d have fancied us to win it v a very average Sunderland) and then amass 88 points the next season and still not go up (most season’s you’d not only go up, but do so as champions with 88pts). A great time to be a Pompey fan, and times we had to cling to for ten years until 2002/03 as we lurched through the rest of the 90’s towards our ‘first’ administration.

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