Portslade Athletic Football Club played their first competitive game of football in the summer of 1949, 70 years ago to this year. Before joining the Worthing Football League in 1951 and moving to long term home, Victoria Recreational Ground, the club was locally known as St Nicholas Old Boys F.C. up until 1964, where the club changed its name Portslade Athletic, to which they're known to this day.
As is the case with any football club with a rich history, there has been a number of highs and lows, however the change in name almost immediately resulted in success winning the league in 1970/71 season, and finishing runners up in the regions top division the following season. Arguably the club's greatest league finish.
At one point in it's history the club boasted three teams, demonstrating one of the strongest periods of the clubs history. As was the trend in park football over the years, three teams quickly became two, but not before the club was able to enjoy more success. The first team were able to secure a league/cup double in 2008-09 before moving from the Brighton and District League to Mid-Sussex in 2012.
It didn't take long for the club to make it's mark on Mid-Sussex by winning the Championship in emphatic fashion, with the reserve team securing back to back promotions too. A first team oozing with talent almost feeling like our very own galactico era, not only going on to win the league but to win undefeated conceding only 11 goals in 18 games. The club was given the opportunity to cap the season with a league/cup double, only to come a little short against Premiership runners up Smallfield in the final.
At 70 years, the club boasts a warm history which many grass roots clubs could only dream of, but such a thing would not be possible without some remarkable people associated along the way. No less than the clubs record appearance maker, Terry Colburn, who racked up over 800 appearances and is still a loyal supporter to this day. Ex-president John Aylward who has so far spent 50 years associated with the club, also picked up 500 appearances. Cliff Emberlin and Duncan Brooker who climbed the ranks as important players before paving the way for the club through recent years as chairman and secretary, some would say operating as the heart beat of the club over the last 15 years.
It is then perfectly fitting that the club celebrates this momentous occasion of reaching 70 by hosting an exhibition match between the 2014/15 unbeaten side, pitting its whits against the current team.
Portslade legends lined up with Paul Westgate in goal, player of the season pairing in Tom Ryan and Neil 'Bison' Shelley at the heart of defence with Matt Collins taking up his usual right back spot, with now first team manager Jack Larkham, taking up the left back slot. Club captain Sean 'Petal' Trend was partnered in the middle of the park by the evergreen Matt Hornsby. The ever-present Liam Reyland took up the right wing position, with tricky Jacob Everett on the left wing. It was a real pleasure to see one of the more prolific 'Slade number 9s in Karl Boffey, who was well supported by John 'JB' Boddy. Jon Stubbs and Rich Smith were primed and ready from the subs benched.
Portslade [current] lined up with 16-year old George Shelley in goal, with a back three of Gabi Alvaro, Kevin Bradburn and Mark Sanders. Opting for a wing back system, manager Larkham started with Sol Coghlan on the right and Charlie Brown on the left. The three midfielders tasked with keeping a Legends midfield under wraps were Constantinos Ioannou, 17-year old Zari Librack and another Portslade ever-present in Dave Funnell. After an injury hit season last year, Andre Neto returned to the frontline with Steve Mould in support. Jose Diaz, 16-year old Aidan Stafford and Chairman Rob Ingham made up the bench.
On a glorious day in Lancing it would be 2019/20 Portslade Athletic that were enjoying early possession, but the familiar look of a Legends side who knew exactly what to do without the ball made for comfortable viewing. When the Legends did get on the ball though, the quality started to shine through and a early brace from Karl Boffey reminded us all too quickly about the gulf in quality between the two sides. Boffey maybe a yard slower than a few years back, but none of the positioning and timing had left him, and two very deft finishes from inside the box were a sight to behold. The current Slade outfit were certainly not without plenty of effort and concerted running in key areas, and having the overall fitter side making good use of space, but clinical finishing in the final third nowhere to be seen. A particularly special moment to see Paul Norris pull on the yellow jersey again, replacing the injured Larkham in the closing stages of the half.
Coghlan and Mould stepped out for Stafford and Diaz for the start of the second half, with Westgate swapping the gloves in a bid to get himself among the goals. The introduction of Ingham around the hour mark brought an immediate response, as a straight foot race between the substitute and Westgate gave enough space to pull a cross back to another sub in Diaz, who was able to sneak the shot through the legs of Smith after the first effort was blocked. The reprieve was not to last long though as a Legends attack broke down, but instead of clearing the danger under no pressure, Ingham demonstrated his footballing prowess by 50p heading the ball to the free Boffey, who was more than pleased to complete a fine hatrick.
Despite all the endeavours of the side in blue, it would be two more touches of class which would complete the Legends scoring, namely from Hornsby and Everett. Hornsby demonstrating that the midfield movement which has brought him so many goals through the years has far from desserted him, as he latched onto the well timed through ball, and expertly finished past the young stopper. If this goal was good though, Everett's effort has already put a marker on goal of the season on the first match of pre-season. A classic Bison daisy cutter was either expertly or fortuitously controlled around the young wing back, and then expertly half volleyed into the far corner. A touch embarrassing how good that goal was.
The game finished 5-1 to the Legends, and a real testament the quality this club was so lucky to enjoy for short period in its 70 year history. The likes of Tom Ryan and Sean Trend in particularly quietly going about their business in excellent style. The current side will by no means walk away too disheartened, as we are very much in the infancy of our own preparations, and have a handful of games to get a new system honed for the start of the new season. In the end, I personally think it was a fitting way to pay homage to another decade in the Portslade Athletic history books and thank everyone for making a special effort to make the day that it was.
Slade's pre-season cranks up as we move into August, with a double header against Lewes based Ridgewood. The club is still looking to recruit players, so please feel free to encourage new players to pre-season training, which is taking place at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy at 18:30 every Tuesday. For any further details, please speak to Jack Larkham or Rob Ingham.
Here's to the next 70 years!