How Portsmouth restoration of its famous 97-year-old South Stand will resurrect Archibald Leitch’s glorious work – as seen at Rangers, Everton and Preston

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The 97-year-old stand was designed by the famed Scottish architect, whose prolific work includes Anfield, Celtic Park, Craven Cottage, Old Trafford, Goodison Park, Highbury and Villa Park.

However, in recent times, the distinctive blue and white truss spanning the centre of the South Stand has been obscured by advertising hoardings and corporate hospitality.

Now, upon the insistence of chairman Eisner, the structure built in 1925 is revisiting its distinguished past.

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And as part of on-going £11.5m Fratton Park renovations, the truss is being restored.

Steve Cripps, managing director of PMC Construction and Development Services, told The News: ‘Back in its day, the lattice was that existing criss-cross pattern, with white timber infill behind.

‘We have removed all the sponsor signs and the hanging baskets (corporate) which obscured that and replicated the original white boards of the truss.

‘The owners have always made it abundantly clear that they want the stand to come back and for us to replicate as near as possible what it was at the start of its life.

The restored South Stand truss can be glimpsed on the right of the middle section as work continues ahead of the new season. Picture: Michael Woods/Solent Sky Services

‘I think we’ve pretty much nailed that, with the exception of cutting through the truss where we’ve had to bring stairways down.

‘Michael Eisner and his family have spent a lot of money on the historic elements, they’ve put a lot of input into this and been very focused on making sure all these areas are implemented to what it was in its previous life.

‘There are very few stands like this left nowadays. There’s Rangers, Preston, Everton and, of course, Pompey but I’m not aware of many more with this Archibald Leitch truss.

‘When the stadium is empty, probably 50-60 per cent of the truss will remain visible. When it’s full, obviously people’s bodies are against it, but you’re always going to get flashes of the white element of how it used to be.

A closer look at the Archibald Leitch truss, which is being gradually restored as part of South Stand work. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘It really is a great feature.’

The revitalised South Stand is scheduled to be used for the first time on July 23, when Coventry visit for Pompey’s final pre-season friendly.

And with new seating and revamped dug-outs also in place, it will look very different to the previous outing on April 26 against Wigan.

Cripps added: ‘When the South Stand is complete, its capacity will have been reduced by 200.

‘We didn’t go for numbers, we went for prime view, and that drop has been compensated in other areas of the ground, with 600 more in the North Stand.

‘The reason for the reduction is safety. The gangways either side of the staircase access routes are 1,200 wide, whereas before they were 600. Now every area is compliant with the Green Guide.

‘While we have lost 200 seats, effectively we have gained probably 500 seats. That’s because previously only 80 per cent of the seats could be used.

‘So it’s a net gain, but a seat loss.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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