Sunday, 6 March 2016

Opponents No.3 - Portdean

Portdean Duncan McKay 1975/76The longest running of Melchester Rovers' opponents, Portdean first appeared in 1956/57, finishing third, one place above Rovers, before bettering that position by one, as runners up in 1959/60.

Up to the mid-70s Portdean wore striking yellow and blue shirts, before transforming their look to the powerful white and blue combination that football fans now recognise.

Permanent challengers at the top of Division 1, 'Dean would secure their first title in 1969/70.
Legendary defender Duncan McKay was the star, but his sale to Rovers early in the 1975/76 significantly weakened side and the 70s would be a quiet decade, with a peak performance in 1976/77 of second behind the all powerful Melchester side. However, things would change dramatically in the early 80s!

Portdean 1978Another second place behind Melchester in 1979/80 led to a change of luck. Under the passionate captaincy of Richie Gunn, Portdean established their greatest ever side. Bruce "Pancho" Miller the dynamic Scot partnered one-time Rovers target Terry Martin and Paul Rawson in midfield, with England international striker Danny Farrel banging in the goals up front. And with long-term spoilers Melchester Rovers relegated and out of the picture, Portdean finally got their hands on another League Championship.

That 1981/82 season went right to the wire, Portdean battling with UEFA Cup holders Kingsbay. This time it was the dynamic duo of Sammy Williams and Johnny Baron providing the vital goals. Williams could be a devastating player, but suffered with indiscipline. On his day he was one of the most dangerous strikers in the country, but it wasn't just his shooting that could cause damage, his elbows and rough style often rubbed defenders up the wrong way. 'Dean eventually secured first place thanks to a final day victory over Kingsbay and the title heading to Dean Park.

To boost their European Cup challenge, top West German forward Rudi Gruber was signed and Portdean now possessed Europe's most deadly finisher. Gruber's goals had fired the Germans to the World Cup Final in Italy and he was expected to take Portdean to another level. However it was a big money gamble that ultimately failed.
Portdean Rudi Gruber 1982/83

Portdean's success didn't go unnoticed; Gruber soon returned home and Pancho Miller left for Serie A. Roy Race passed on the chance to sign Paul Rawson, who joined German giants Stroberg. The championship winning side was dismantled and title challenges became a thing of the past.

In 1988 Richie Gunn was named manager, the club rebranding in white and green stripes with a focus on developing their own young talent. Winger Ryan Cook was a regular for England, Dave Rogers a tidy finisher and captain Ted Rosier, a tough and uncompromising defender. Gunn had built solid foundations and if the youth system could produce one or two gems Portdean would be in a strong position to again challenge for the title.

And what a gem they did find; Richie's own son, Gary, a supremely talented yet volatile forward. However Portdean would not benefit from Gary Gunn's talent. After a pre-season tournament in Greece, where Richie had set up an academy, Roy Race made his move, poaching (although with his
Portdean Cope 1989/90
father's blessing) the final piece in Richie Gunn's title winning jigsaw.

By 1991/92 Richie Gunn had reestablished Portdean as one of the top teams in England. Having returned to their lucky white and blue colours, 'Dean finished third, pushing a Melchester Rovers side featuring Gary Gunn and Tynecaster United all the way. Portdean were back! The England international forward pairing of Brian Venner and Mike Watson tucked away chances created by Welsh midfielder Ivor Hughes.

In the '90s trophies didn't come, but Portdean continued to battle away with the best of the Premier League. New foreign star Ricaro helping his team push Tynecaster all the way in 2000/01. Did they do it and win their third league title?
Portdean 2000/01 Ricaro

Notable players:
Duncan McKay, Richie Gunn, Bruce "Pancho" Miller, Rudi Gruber, Terry Martin, Danny Farrel, Ryan Cook, Ted Rosier, Bill Evans, Dave Rogers, Brian Venner, Mike Watson, Ivor Hughes, Brian Carey, Paul Rawson, Derek Hobson, Rex Stewart, Chris Vallard

League Champions: 1969/70, 1981/82
Runners-up: 1976/77, 1979/80

The green/white colours of the late 80s appear to be a confusion between Burndean and Portdean.

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