Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 17:13 UK

Pompey buck unfashionable trend

By Kieran Fox
BBC News, Portsmouth

Mandaric and Gaydamak
Past and present: Milan Mandaric and new owner Alexandre Gaydamak

There is a little known fact about Portsmouth Football Club. This year's FA Cup finalists have only won the competition once, but they held the trophy for longer than any other team in its history.

Such was the fate of the 1939 cup winners, who triumphed 4-1 over Wolves.

Portsmouth's only FA Cup glory, under legendary manager Jack Tinn, saw them become custodians of football's most famous trophy for the next six years while World War II was fought.

Back-to-back football league titles followed in 1949 and 1950 but since then times, as they say, have been tough.

When Cardiff City reached this year's cup final, they probably expected to meet a team whose pedigree far outweighed their own, a team with Premier League trophies in the cabinet or European dates to distract them.

Not so. Portsmouth's relegation in 1959 meant 44 years of relative obscurity, which saw their league status dip as low as the old fourth division, at which time the glamour of an FA Cup final would have seemed a long way away.

Portsmouth skyline, with the Spinnaker Tower in the centre
Population: 200,000
Home of the Royal Navy and Lord Nelson's flagship HMS Victory
UK's only island city and most densely populated outside London
Famous faces:
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel, engineer

  • Charles Dickens, novelist

  • James Callaghan, former Prime Minister

  • Peter Sellers, actor and comedian

  • Roger Black, Olympic runner
  • But winning the Championship title and promotion back to the top-flight in 2003 has seen this once unfashionable club begin to prosper.

    Under the guidance of Harry Redknapp and bankrolled by wealthy chairman Milan Mandaric and now new owner Russian Alexandre Gaydamak, Portsmouth have finished eighth and ninth in the past two Premier League seasons respectively.

    They can boast England internationals Jermain Defoe, David James, David Nugent, Glen Johnson and Sol Campbell among their numbers.

    Whisper it cautiously, but this south coast club - steeped in history and a no-nonsense love of football, rather than the glory it may bring - is becoming fashionable again.

    So fashionable in fact that they have done the de-rigueur thing for modern FA Cup finalists - not bother with recording a cup song.

    So BBC Radio Solent stepped in with punk band Sham 69 to re-record a version of Hurry up Harry in tribute to boss Harry Redknapp.

    Since then many fans have followed with their own tunes - most little heard outside southern England though (it is likely the better known "Play Up Pompey" chimes will not be trumped).

    Portsmouth's success has been mirrored by a renewed sense of optimism within the city.

    Fratton Park
    Portsmouth are looking to leave their Fratton Park home of 100 years

    Like Cardiff Bay, Portsmouth's own waterfront has enjoyed redevelopment with the establishment of Gunwharf Quays on much of the historic naval barracks.

    Like Cardiff, Pompey are also searching for a new stadium to fit their aspirations for consistent top 10 Premier League status.

    But plans to replace the compact Fratton Park - with talk of a site adjacent to the M27 outside the city centre - are no where near as advanced as Cardiff's move to Leckwith.

    The club's route to Wembley has been unusually eventful - beating Manchester United in their own back yard, only conceding one goal and a last minute own goal at Preston ensuring their passage.

    Perhaps Pompey wouldn't have it any other way these days.

    They used to prefer to slip under the radar - so much so that it could be argued they have let their near neighbours - non-league Havant and Waterlooville - steal the story of this year's FA Cup competition with a heroic 4-2 fourth round defeat at Liverpool.

    Both Cardiff and Portsmouth will carry the weight of a recent trophy-less history on their shoulders when they run out at Wembley.

    But these are changing times for the south coast city.

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    05 Apr 08 |  FA Cup
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    26 Oct 07 |  Portsmouth
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