Football’s casual culture in the 1980s was at its peak, and Portsmouth’s supporters were often at the thick of it.
They had a style and swagger revered by rival clubs.
Lifelong fan Jake Payne, a member of Pompey’s infamous 6.57 Crew, put together a compilation of fellow supporters’ photos that reflect exactly what it was like following their home town club over a 25 year period spanning the 70s and 80s.
A collection of 32 photographs across 20 pages in a limited edition A5 Zine that focuses the culture of football casuals around Portsmouth FC during the 1980s.
It was all about the camaraderie for these fans who were particularly inventive on the road following their team, once taking bikes with them to Cambridge to masquerade as university students, and on another occasion going suited and booted as though off to a wedding, complete with printed out fake invites.
It was all part of the fun, part of the day. Even the name, 6.57 Crew, only came about when a Pompey fan chose to respond to an 80s magazine article about football trouble at the time, and thought rather than reply ‘The Pompey Crew” he decided to name them after the first train out of Portsmouth to London on a Saturday morning – the 06.57. And the name stuck.
Violence on the terraces was escalating, and sections of Pompey’s own fanatical fan base had their own reputation. But with it they sported a smart casual look that was being adopted by football fans up and down the county. A look that still influences men’s fashion to this day.
“I am not condoning what happened,” said Payne, “but football hooliganism has become a part of social history.”
The pictures Jake put together for his two books, he says, purely tell the story of that time, and came about when he appealed for anyone with photographs to meet in a local pub and they did… bringing old prints by the bag full.
“I knew a few blokes that used to take cameras to games. But I think to them, it was just like they were going away – “I’ll take a camera and get some pictures of the boys”,” said Payne. The fact that there was the occasional camera on show and hundreds of pictures of Pompey lads shared online subsequently earned them an alternative nickname among their rivals, that of The Kodak Crew.
Thirty years on, those pictures are again a talking point, from a period Payne remembers well.
“They’re moaning because there’s too many Pompey photos out there, but if it wasn’t for my mates who took the photos we wouldn’t have that social history to show.”
Payne talks openly about the violence and the rivalries, particularly with Southampton. But he has good friends there, sharing a camaraderie brought about by football that has even led to an unlikely long term tie up with Italian fans in Verona.
Jake was happy to share these pictures with Lower Block and answer a series of questions about exactly what it means to be from Portsmouth and to be a Pompey fan throughout the ever changing times of football and its culture.
LB: What does Portsmouth mean to you?
JP: I think it’s a pretty unique place. First of all, it’s the only island city. So we’re very insular. You’ve got Portsea Island, then you’ve got the rest of Portsmouth off in the north. I think people that are born and bred in Pompey, they realise this, and I think we’re proud of our city. Even at the Queen’s funeral, watching the sailors pulling the gun carriage, they’re all based in Pompey, all them lads. It’s the home of the Royal Navy, even though we used to beat them up back in the day.
LB: What was it like, growing up and living in a city like Portsmouth in the late 70s and early 80s?
JP: Great. I lived in a place called Stamshaw, on the west coast of Portsea Island, literally a couple of minutes from the docks. When you lived there, you didn’t look at it like that, you looked at it – that’s where I live, terrace streets, loads of kids – it was a young area, because it was all terrace streets and it was probably the first house someone could afford to buy.
So you had a lot of young families there. And you had your local pub, where there was probably about 40 blokes between the age of maybe 17 and 22-23. And we were all Pompey fans and played football together, had a pool team, and a bar team. And it was very close. A lot of them are still very good mates of mine. We still go to football 40 years after.
When I left school, I did apprenticeships for four years in a naval dockyard and a lot of my mates did the same. When qualified I was working on board guided missile destroyers and aircraft carriers. I think the first wage packet was £9.81. I don’t know why the 81p. I remember giving my Mum a fiver for the keep, and the rest of it – I was out all week on. It was 15p a pint. It sounds like Victorian times, but we’re talking late 70s – 76 – 77.
LB: What did the culture surrounding following Portsmouth football club mean to you during that time?
JP: Camaraderie. The clothes side of it – you try to outdo one another. We used to have a guy that would travel around the city in a van and he’d park outside your house – open the van up and the back was full of clothes. So on a Friday night this guy would turn up, and you get in the back of the van. “Yeah, I liked them trousers mate I’ll have them, how much is that shirt?” And you’d buy the stuff to wear out that night. You’re buying a pair of shoes, and it was all on tick (on credit). So you got 20 quids worth of clothes, you paid three quid and then rest he’d come round every Friday picking the money up!
I know it sounds ridiculous but that’s how it was. I wouldn’t say he sold labels, but he sold nice clothes. You knew if you went out you looked the business. But the casual look as such, probably didn’t really come in until 82 – 83, when people started wearing Ellesse tops and stuff like that. The late 70s – it was a bit weird, – I think you still had the 2 Tone thing with The Specials, Madness, The Selecter – and Fred Perry‘s and whatever. It’s always different parts of the country that said we started the causal look, the Scousers say they did, Londoners say they did.
LB: That camaraderie you talk about is evident in the pictures. Groups of young men, all smiling and laughing. They’re having a good time and enjoying life in that moment. A lot of it must have just been like that for you?
JP: Yeah, definitely. We had a little bash the other week, it was my mates 60th. And I DJ’d. And there must have been 30 blokes there that I used to see every Saturday for football. Just like old times, we still think we’re 21. And we still go away, we pick at least one game away a season where we go and do the corporate thing.
So for instance, we go to Milton Keynes and you book a meal, you get a box. So we’re all together, watch the game together. All go up in a mini bus, It’s like Dad’s Army!
We still have a good good drink and stop off at pubs on the way home and stuff. So, you know, we still try and keep this camaraderie together.
LB: Friends for life, through shared experiences?
JP: Yeah, I would say if you ask any bloke of that era, he would say the same. And that’s what it was about, the football was a major part of that. But I can’t believe that when I was 18, I would go out five nights a week. On a Thursday, I might decide I’ve got to stay in because I’ve got to get up at half 6 and go to work. Then I’d think, ah sod it, and I’d go down the pub. And you go to the pub, and there’d be 30 others in there that felt the same. I mean, who can afford to go out that much now? You just couldn’t.
LB: So what did a typical week or weekend look like for you? Because presumably, it wasn’t just the football, it was the pub, the clubs, the music...
JP: You worked hard and you played hard, you know. And I played football. I didn’t really like to play on a Saturday because I’d rather go and watch Pomp. But on a Sunday I played and bearing in mind, on a Sunday, the pubs were only open from midday until 2pm – that was it, there were only two hours and then they opened again at 7pm.
So even on a Sunday, we finished playing football, back in the pub, you probably have six pints in two hours, not a problem. And then you were stood outside the door on the same day, and all the lads would be ready so soon as the doors were open again we were in. We’d be out until half 10, have a good run around Stanshaw because there were loads of pubs where I lived and then get up for work in the morning. Friday and Saturday was Southsea, where all the main nightclubs were, and I was lucky because I went to school with most of the doormen so often I used to get in free.
LB: And in the midst of all that you still managed to fit in going to watch Pompey play, home and also away presumably?
JP: Yeah. The home games – you just wouldn’t go home. I mean you’re out for the night. I remember getting in at three in the morning after walking a girl home. When I got to the doorsteps she says -thanks for walking me home! Aren’t I coming in?! No chance. And then I’d have to walk over five miles home and get in at 3am… And then I’d still get out and play football the next morning.
Most of the mates you played with were p*ssed. Just turn up, kick the ball about or kicked each other. It was full on. I’ve got to say one thing about it, I didn’t know any of my mates that were doing drugs back in the late 70s. There might have been a bit of smoke about. But I didn’t know any of them that were doing drugs. All that came about later, you know, cocaine and whatever. I mean, during the rave scene, I was abroad for the start of that, the football violence sort of stopped – I want to say overnight, because everyone was banging E’s down them and no one bothered – too busy smiling and jumping around to fight anyone. And I think the government thought that was the best thing to ever happen because the football violence fizzled out.
LB: Fashion and style, and football could actually be seen as quite an unlikely match. Why do you think it was important to look good, as much as anything? Surely during the course of one weekend alone you could ruin some brand new gear that had cost you a bit?
JP: Yeah. It wasn’t just Pompey, though. It was all over the country. All the different firms wanted to look the part. When they got off the train and the opposition were waiting and whatever, and I know this sounds ridiculous, they looked at them and thought, they look smart. Like, the lads have made the effort.
It is weird. It’s quite a strange thing to get your head around why you actually wanted to look the part. I guess it even happens today a bit, with the Stone Island mob. Anyone over 30 wearing Stone Island looks stupid in my book.
LB: From what I understand there was always a bit of a mutual understanding and respect between a lot of young blokes during that era. Would anyone have ever payed a compliment to another group of blokes on how they look, how they turned up?
JP: Yeah, I think that was the case. But bearing in mind, this is all before social media and before mobile phones. I met a Sheffield United fan on holiday in Calgary, Canada, got talking, and he said that he went to Fratton Park, at the end of the 87 season with Sheffield United, when we got promoted.
He remembered how we all came on the pitch and tried to get over the fence. But the thing he remembered the most, he said, was that all our lads looked smart. They all looked the part and that. We’re talking (about) this 10 years on, but at the time, unless you actually spoke to someone, you wouldn’t get it out. There was no internet or whatever.
Pompey one Boxing Day went in the Millwall seats away, which there are pictures of. If you look at most of the lads, the first thing you notice is how young they look, they’re all about 17 – 18. Nowadays, the main men at football matches are probably in their 40s and 50s – they’re not 18 year old kids. That’s how it was then, not just with Pompey, but most firms.
You also see from the pictures that hardly anyone wore colours, no scarf or shirt. Never. You would never wear your team colours. First of all, because it stood out like a sore thumb. But it wasn’t cool.
If you’re wearing decent clothes, last thing you want is a scarf hanging off your wrist. You have to look the part as well.
With the camaraderie side of it as well, you knew blokes who would watch your back, people you could trust if something happened. You knew that your mates would look out for you as well. They wouldn’t just run off and leave you.
It sounds a bit like the bloody army doesn’t it? I know it’s a strange analogy but that’s how it was, if you were involved in a big punch up, you knew there was people around that would back you up.
LB: On top of that from some of the other things that you were telling me about, like when you all turned up away in wedding suits with printed out invites, and then riding bikes around Cambridge pretending to be students – you were having a laugh with each other at the same time?
JP: Definitely. You know, it was a release. if you worked hard all week, or you didn’t have a job, and you were on the dole. The weekend was the best part of your week. Most of the blokes used to bunk the train. It was packed so the guard wouldn’t even come in. You lived for the weekend. If you were signing on once a week, and you had nothing, you’d wait for the weekend. And if you had your dole money, you’d go to football, or go into a department store and try and feed the Pringle.
LB: What do you think has changed over the last 30 years both in terms of where we are now with the modern game but also with modern football fans?
JP: The money has changed it, obviously. I don’t even watch the Premier League, never watch Match of the Day, I can’t be bothered to. Maybe I’ll look at the phone and see the scores. But that’s about it. Even back in the 70s the Division One, the top top league, was still part of the Football League. And now since the Premier League’s happened, any team going up is going to have to struggle. That’s why they give them a parachute payment. You didn’t get that back in the 70s and 80s.
The trouble side of it is minimal. You get a three year banning order for anything these days. If you shout at an opposition fan or whatever, threatening behaviour or whatever, and you get a four year ban.
There was even a case when we played Southampton in a Cup game. A kid threw a paper cup into the middle of them and he got arrested and he got 18 months. Wasn’t really offensive, was it?
LB: Safe to say then that you were far happier being a 20 year old fan in the 70s early 80s than you would be now?
JP: Yeah. I remember at Oxford (in the 80s), after the game, it was kicking off a bit and Pompey fans were really playing up. And a big Sergeant came up, pushed me up against the wall smashed me in the ribs and told me to eff off. And that was it. He didn’t arrest me. He gave me a slap and told me to move. And that was it.
So yeah, it’s changed a hell of a lot. I mean, I’m so pleased that you can go to football now you don’t have to look over your shoulder. That’s a nice part of it.
But the kids today, they’re different from when I was 17 – 18 going to football. These kids are different. They seem to be a bit more gobby, and whatever. Maybe we were, but we didn’t realise it.
LB: Something I wanted to touch on quickly was you following Hellas Verona in Italy. How did that come about?
JP: My mate went out to Verona with about 14 mates for his 50th after reading A Season With Verona by Tim Parks. He went in the bar and some Italians came over to ask who they were and they just explained about the book and that they wanted to watch Hallas Verona play.
They just said will you come and drink with us and so it happened.
He told me about it and I said I’d like to go. So first time I went out there with him, his son and my son, a couple of others and they really looked after us. Then we invited them to the Pompey and they’ve probably been coming here for the last 10 years now.
LB: Would describe yourself as a Hallas Verona fan?
JP: Well, I’ve got the tattoos – I cracked. It’s one of those clubs that gets under your skin. A lot of people would never even have heard of them. They just think of Italy as just Juve and Milan you know, even lower clubs like Fiorentina and Lazio. Hallas Verona are a provincial side so they’re up in the north of Italy in between Milan and Venice.
But they they’ve won the league – they won the Scudetto back in 1985. So they’ve been champions of Italy. And have a very good fan base.
Even though they don’t get mega crowds, their fans are very loyal, and very vocal, perhaps a bit too right wing for me.
Verona is a lovely city. I’ve made so many friends there.
LB: You told me they have got a shop called The Firm and a pub called The Den. And Italians aren’t wearing Italian labels at football, they are all wearing British labels?
JP: Yes, the young kids just wear North Face. That’s all they wear black jackets. I asked one of their guys why they’re all dressed the same. And they said because the police can’t spot them. Because they’re all dressed in black. That’s the younger Ultras. The older lot, some of the ones are now they’re in their 50s – they dress in Peaceful Hooligan and CP Company.
LB: I have to ask a bit about the rivalry with Southampton. From what I understand, it seems like the big dispute between Southampton and Pompey is over which is the more working class city and each wants that as a badge of honour?
JP: Yeah. I think Southampton has got some really rough council estates. There’s no way it’s an affluent city – even though they even say the name of the city different to us, we call it Sarf-Ampton, They call it Suth-ampton.
There is a difference in the way they speak even though it’s only 17 miles away. We call them pig farmers and carrot crunchers. And they call us mockneys. They say, you all want to talk and act like you’re cockneys…
LB: Do you have any mates from Southampton?
JP: I worked there for six years as DJ. My mate who is from Southampton asked me if I would go over there and DJ at a pub he was at. And I did. And I’ve been on holiday with him. I’ve got some good friends over there.
LB: So you are mates with guys who support Southampton?
JP: Yes. It’s out of football. But there’s so many urban myths around. I remember a while back, Paul Weller was playing at Southampton Guild Hall. So a load of us went over. A guy that I know was doing the lighting for the show. And he said to me, Weller is going off and then before he comes on to do his encore, just look at the backdrop at the back of the stage.
So we’re all stood there. Well, they put a big Pompey badge up at the back. We were laughing our heads off. Just stupid stupid things like that just to get one over each other.
We’re a naval base even though we’ve got commercial docks, whereas Southampton docks are mainly for cruise ships. We’ve got the Royal Navy, and we say people go to war from Portsmouth, and people go to cruise around the Caribbean and back from Southampton!”
Jake Payne’s archive of pictures tell the story of what football, fashion and its culture looked like throughout the 70s and 80s. It is a visual documentation of social history, epitomising the importance of the role of photojournalism.
Without pictures like these the impact of living through that era would have been lost, recollections reduced to fading memories. His pictures ensure the mood, and the moment, remain perfectly preserved.
If you enjoyed that, check out the Lower Block zine, Pompey Casuals, a collection of 32 photographs across 20 pages in an A5 Zine that focuses the culture of football casuals around Portsmouth FC during the 1980s.