As Pete Sixsmith shows a worrying tendency towards part-timism by missing his second Sunderland match in a row (ok, he did report on the Reserves and Under-18s this week), his shoes are ably filled by Malcolm Dawson who enjoys his trip to an old-style ground, but not the reminders of the playground …
For nostalgia buffs such as myself, Portsmouth is a great place to go. You can locate the ground by driving randomly, spotting the floodlights towering above the tightly packed terraced housing and parking a couple of hundred yards away, only a five minute stroll from the turnstiles. The illusion continues inside the ground where the primeval urinals consisting of a concrete trough with no splash backs, necessitate a plodge through an inch or two of undefined liquid to dispose of the pre match Speckled Hen.
Although, like Villa Park and Anfield, ground regulations have meant that plastic seats have been bolted onto the old standing areas, I still half expected to see men in long white coats parading round the pitch with paper bags of monkey nuts and the smell of a hundred pipes full of Ready Rub wafting over the tightly packed hordes.
But the Ford Populars and Singer Vogues have been replaced by people carriers and four wheel drives, every third person seems to be talking into their mobile and the P.A. announcer reminds us that Fratton Park is a no smoking stadium.
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