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Summertime Blues: Great Expectations

Johnny Moore discusses the demands of football fan-bases

5 July 2021

Pompey fans

It was described as Manchester City’s ‘darkest hour’ in some quarters when they were pipped to the Champions League trophy by Chelsea in May.

That might be a surprise to those who remember what happened 23 years earlier, when Pompey’s final day win at Bradford condemned the men from Maine Road to third tier football.

I’m sure that ‘darkest hour’ description would have been similarly bandied about then – only with far more justification.

City’s recent disappointment came shortly after they had coasted to yet another Premier League title.

The fact is that, despite their lofty position these days, Pompey won five meetings between the sides at Fratton Park between 2001 and 2010.

Now, however, with untold riches, a squad full of superstars and a bulging trophy cabinet, reaching the final of Europe’s premier competition for the first time should be viewed as an advance rather than a retreat.

Similarly, yet on a more modest level, I read some accounts that Pompey are ‘going backwards’ and on a ‘downward trajectory’ – a quick glance on social media would show you that there are less pleasant versions of that message.

Lest we all forget that it was not so long ago that we were consumed with despair over whether the club would ever emerge from that ‘awful hoofball division’ better known as League Two.

I read that the side who finally escaped the fourth tier were much better than the bunch we had last season – both individually and collectively.

That is despite those same players being roundly booed from the pitch following a home defeat to Crewe just a couple of months before the silverware was claimed in dramatic fashion.

These days the despair has simply transferred up a division, so one wonders where the demands and expectations end.

What happens when we eventually do reach the Championship? Many claim it to be our natural habitat, so will they be content to graze in those pastures indefinitely?

Or will there even be a short period of grace before the cries commence that Pompey need to continue their upwardly mobile progress? Then, how long before we should establish ourselves as a top-flight force?

It is, of course, an entirely natural impulse. Why climb a mountain and give up halfway through when the summit awaits?

Living in the past also has its limitations. You cannot stay on your knees forever, worshipping the hammer of a High Court judge who allowed the community takeover that ensured our survival.

They were times when the familiar cry from the Fratton faithful was of a burning desire to debate football once more – to moan about managers, players, tactics and results.

All that had gone out of the window, with the biggest battles now fought in courtrooms. Meanwhile, like a large rock, the Blues sunk from football’s top table to the basement without so much as a whimper.

The only concern was about having a club to support at all. Now they truly were days when we were hurtling backwards.

There was another familiar call at the time – the one about Pompey never having to go through the wringer like that again. An assured future was all that mattered.

Thanks to the club presidents, Pompey Supporters’ Trust and passionate fans, who then passed the baton on to the Eisner family, those dark days are thankfully a thing of the past.

The ‘brick by brick’ approach might not be everyone’s cup of tea and finishing eighth in League One perhaps feels like a disaster, but it sure trumps some shady figure seeking a short-term thrill on the road to oblivion. Been there, done that.

We cannot live our lives in the past, but when judging the present, it certainly does not hurt to remember what has gone before.


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