TUFC Programmes by Andy Charles – No.5: Portsmouth 1979

TT contributor Andy Charles is back discussing another TUFC programme from his collection:

Andy C

Andy Charles – @capitalgull

No.5: TORQUAY UNITED 2-1 PORTSMOUTH, DIVISION FOUR, 10TH OCTOBER 1979 – ATTENDANCE: 5,729 

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I’m taking a bit of a diversion from the usual format this week for a special edition of my programme series, because this one means a lot to me.

After months of trying, and failing, with some of the biggest programme collectors in the country, Paul Buck from ‘Five And In’ was finally able to answer my prayers and get hold of a copy from the very first game I saw, against Portsmouth, getting on for 40 years ago.

I had just celebrated my seventh birthday when, as a treat, my Dad managed to persuade my Mum to allow me to go to my first football match – and on a weeknight of all things. Thankfully there was no such thing as primary school homework back in the late 1970s, apart from the odd picture to colour in, so any roadblocks stopping me going were soon out of the way and I was able to take on the 200 yard or so stroll up the road to Plainmoor for the first time and start off what has turned out to be a tempestuous love affair with the team now known as The Yellow Army.

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Dad always used the stand in the back corner of the old Popular Side, towards the Ellacombe End, and he was almost always with the same group of people at every match – men he had known since his teenage days, long before he met and married mum.

Fintan, Jimmy, Kenny (sadly like Dad all no longer with us), Tony and a good half-dozen others who he would drink with at weekends and some of whom would join him on the terraces until falling out of love with the club when David Webb took over and tried to rebrand us as Crap Chelsea in the mid 1980s.

The camaraderie in those early years supporting Torquay United was something I always loved, plus being bought copious amounts of chocolate and bottles of pop (who remembers Panda Pops?), and it didn’t take long for me to become completely hooked.

It hasn’t always been the case, but the noise and excitement football provided back in the 1970s attracted me to want to go back again and again – the list of home games seen despite moving away from the Bay in 1993 is over 500 (including loads of Western League and reserve/youth team games I’ve never bothered to catalogue).

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My memories of this game are, to be frank, almost non-existent but just getting this programme in my hands provided a timely reminder of what attracted me.

A crowd of just under 6,000, including plenty from struggling “big club” Portsmouth saw goals from Les Lawrence and super sub Peter Coffill secure a 2-1 win for Torquay over a team that had won 10 of its first 11 games of the season and would just edge into the promotion spots at the end of the season.

But none of that mattered to me – it was the noise, the colour, the players I quickly saw as superstars and of course the chance to spend more quality time with my Dad before I ever took up golf and spent hours on end with him at Petitor.

Forty years on I still have those memories with me, even more cherished in the five years since he passed away, and they will always draw me back to Torquay United even through the dark spells when the club has barely been alive on or off the pitch. And it all started with this programme…one I had never owned until last week.

There’s not a whole lot in it to be honest, with eight pages taken up by the ‘On Target’ supplement – much like League Review if any of you own programmes from the 1960s and 1970s – which included features from other clubs around the country – this one on Terry Venables and the day’s European competitions.

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Elsewhere a couple of pages welcoming Portsmouth to Plainmoor – a team including a young goalkeeper Alan Knight, who would still be playing for the club in 2000 after more than 800 appearances. Ironically, his last home appearance for the club would also come against Torquay in 1999, and he went on to pass 800 games for Portsmouth before his final game in early 2000 – just into his fourth decade playing for Pompey.

The rest is adverts (plenty for smokers in there long before advertising laws changed!), a double page stats spread which showed us in good form in Division Four and the Western League, and a news desk which mentioned we were playing in a testimonial for Ben Street the following Monday, a game I also have the programme from. Then I turned to the inside back cover and got something of a shock.

All these years on, having met hundreds of new friends following Torquay United, and I find myself reading a column called Final Word, penned by none other than Alan “Merse” Merson who was, back in those days, part of the club’s commercial team. I’d say he doesn’t look a whole lot different now but I’ll let people who look at the images here judge that for themselves…just bear in mind it is 40 years ago and he can’t have long been out of school 😊 (that’s for you old friend!)

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And that brings it nicely into the present as I get myself ready for another season travelling around the grounds, following this lovely team of ours trying to get back into the Football League.

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I’ll be back looking at another slightly less old Torquay programme soon! Please feel free to make any comments or share any memories with me on Twitter – @capitalgull

TT MUG

torquaytalk.com – @TORQUAYTALK – Away Sponsor of Kyle Cameron


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