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Published on October 8th, 2012 | by mark

Portsmouth: What the fuck is going on?

The following was originally posted on our tumblr site in August 2012.

The moment that train rolled around the corner at Fareham Railway Station was the moment that I knew I couldn’t go back. Saturday 14 May 1983; Portsmouth were on their way to Home Park, Plymouth. 15 000 or so Pompey fans made their way to Devon that day to watch their team secure the old Division 3 Championship. We saw our team win 1-0 and celebrated with several pitch invasions. It would be the last match my football club has played at that level for nearly three decades.

Since then we’ve had our ups and downs, with too many of the latter in recent years. On Saturday 18th August we welcome Bournemouth to Fratton Park for our first Division 3 League match in 29 years. Sod League 1, we are playing Division 3 football again. Excited? Well I am? Hartlepool away, four days before Xmas! Yes please!

Quite who’ll be making up the numbers for Pompey when we make the trek to County Durham has yet to be answered. Michael Appleton’s first training session this summer saw him greet a mixture of players whose wages we can’t afford to pay and untried teenagers yet to make their League bow. If he hadn’t accepted Pompey’s offer to become manager last November, Appleton could quite plausibly have been Roy Hodgson’s England No. 2 at Euro 2012. It would be fair to say most Fratton Park regulars have nothing but respect for him given his exemplary conduct and no nonsense approach since taking over. His vow to ‘fight on until the end’ might seem like bullshit if it had come from any other Pompey manager of the modern era but Appleton does what he says, something that bodes well given his intent to give the club a new youthful approach.

Four years ago Pompey’s multi-million pound squad left Hong Kong as Asia Cup champions before embarking on UEFA Cup trips to Germany and Portugal. The clubs pre season tour this summer saw a handful of trialists, free agents and youth team players meet up for the first time at Gatwick Airport ahead of a short trip to Spain that had to be funded by sponsors and the players themselves. Those boarding the flight included former Barnsley midfielder Brian Howard, and Izale McLeod, who has exactly the sort of lower league experience Pompey will need next season. Both fixtures ended in heavy defeats. However they provided Appleton with the most important 180 minutes of his season. What he saw will surely shape Pompey’s season?

The forthcoming campaign will see Pompey at the bottom of the Division for the first three games at least. The Football League’s decision to deduct the club 10 points for remaining in administration was accepted with a knowing dismay by fans. Trevor Birch, the administrator currently in charge of the club, vowed to fight the punishment but most aren’t expecting his words or actions to succeed. It remains to be seen whether the club can avoid a third relegation in four years following a point’s deduction.

The fans certainly haven’t deserted the club with season ticket sales up on last year’s sales following a sensible pricing policy from the club. A reduction in prices has seen adults charged £300 for the privilege of watching their team face Bury and Walsall next season at Fratton Park. A quarter of that amount will secure a kid’s season ticket, something my 14-year-old thought was too good an opportunity to let pass. Hopefully by the time he’s reached adulthood he’ll also own part of the club. The Pompey Supporters Trust’s attempts to buy the club remain ongoing with former owner Balram Chanrai still hoping to get back what was once his. It would take me several lifetimes to explain the complexities and opposition both face in their battle ahead. Whether either succeeds with their ambitions remains unclear.

Generally an air of optimism and excitement hangs over Fratton Park ahead of the new season despite the financial uncertainty. Few if any supporters under 45 have ever seen Pompey play at Yeovil, Carlisle, Stevenage or Shrewsbury. The chance to do so has seen most fans I know adopt an enthusiastic approach to attending away games over the next nine months. Most aren’t expecting to make Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s much next season. Whatever happens won’t matter much anyway; no one ever supported Portsmouth for the glitz and glamour. Its all about watching your beloved team getting beaten on a wet and windy Tuesday night half way up the country knowing you not only have a five hour trip home but also work the next day. Thank god Hartlepool away is on a Saturday!

Dan Almond

@PompeyRabbi

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