Video of the Day: Wimbledon vs Portsmouth, January 1987

by | Apr 26, 2016

Wimbledon play Portsmouth this evening at Kingsmeadow in a League Two match between the two teams most likely to make up the last two play-off places in a couple of weeks time. Indeed, the winners of this match will be home and dry, in that respect. Portsmouth had started this season as the favourites to get promoted back and have under-achieved, a little. Meanwhile Wimbledon, for whom life in the Football League had become rather a humdrum existence, have blossomed in the second half of this season, catapulting themselves upwards in a display that has justified their faith in manager Neal Ardley.

A little over twenty-nine years ago, these two clubs were meeting in the FA Cup Fourth Round at Plough Lane. At kick-off, Wimbledon were in eleventh place in the the First Division and Portsmouth were five points clear at the top of the Second. An away win here may not have been a seismic shock. But the extent of the home win told a parable about the two clubs’ respective performances in subsequent years. Portsmouth would get promoted come the end of the 1986/87 season, but their stay in the top flight would be a brief one, just the one season before relegation back. Their moments of truest glory would come much more recently than this, but it would come be understood as a castle built on sand.

Wimbledon’s stay in the top flight was considerably longer, and they fell further – as far as a group of individuals can in terms of levels of football – but their return had a more redemptive feel to it than Portsmouth’s circumstances, which sometimes felt like a steady decline into madness. This evening, though, these two clubs, who spent that season together in the First Division in 1987/88, will meet each other almost as equals again, and they could yet meet once more in the play-offs, come the end of the season. Commentary comes from John Motson.