FA Cup Final: Portsmouth and Cardiff Buck the Trend

Andrew BarrySenior Analyst IMay 13, 2008

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 the 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.


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 new owner Russian Alexandre Gaydamak, Portsmouth has finished eighth and ninth in the past two Premier League seasons.

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.


Like Cardiff, Pompey is also searching for a new stadium to fit its 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 nowhere 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.