Thank you for attending this evening’s rearranged Sky Bet League One fixture with Rotherham United and a warm welcome to everyone who has made the trip down from South Yorkshire.
This game was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 2, but the Millers’ involvement in the final of the Papa John’s Trophy the following day necessitated the change of date. All of us would like to offer our congratulations to Paul Warne, his backroom team and players for their victory, in thrilling circumstances, against Sutton at Wembley.
That postponement, coupled with the previous week’s international break, meant we were forced into a temporary period of match inactivity from March 19 to April 5, when we travelled to the University of Bolton Stadium. It was a strong and encouraging performance and one where we felt extremely unfortunate not to take all three points. The opportunity to build on that made last Saturday’s defeat at Cheltenham even more difficult to take and the disappointment expressed by some supporters at Whaddon Road, who once again travelled in such good numbers, was totally understandable. It is important now that we all see a hardworking and positive finish to the season, starting tonight. We also have Wigan, another automatic promotion contender, still to visit Fratton Park and a trip to play-off contenders Sheffield Wednesday. Prior to those contests, we travel to Morecambe and face Gillingham at home – two teams who will be fighting hard to maintain League One status for the 2022/23 campaign. That means almost every fixture we play looks certain to have something riding on it, which once again demonstrates exactly why the EFL is such a compelling competition.
There have been two fantastic recent successes, with Pompey Women clinching the Hampshire Cup at Eastleigh by defeating Bournemouth 3-0. It was a privilege to be able to support the team, who then came to Fratton Park the following Sunday for a league fixture with MK Dons in front of a good crowd. It is going to be a big summer for the women’s game, with the European Championship hosted in England – something which will provide the perfect springboard for further growth of both the women’s game and girls’ football.
We were also thrilled to learn that Pompey in the Community were awarded the freedom of the city. This is another fantastic achievement for a team who do so much to inspire, motivate and support so many from different backgrounds across the city and the wider region. The bestowing of the award recognised the charity’s fantastic work throughout the Covid pandemic, supporting local residents who were isolating or shielding. It is a deserving tribute to many of the staff, who although furloughed themselves, volunteered their time to prepare and deliver food and other essential goods to vulnerable people in the city. We are really proud to be associated with PitC and offer our wholehearted congratulations to them. A plaque has been placed on the wall outside their offices in Anson Road and is well worth a look when you return for any of our remaining home fixtures between now and the end of the season.
Elsewhere, I am pleased to confirm that the next part of our programme to further improve supporter consultation and creative input is in place, with an invitation for applications from fans to join our matchday experience working group. I am determined that we continue to develop full engagement, with meaningful involvement in decisions that affect supporters the most. We already have in place several channels to do this and I would like to go a stage further from the Q&A sessions by creating forums where fans can spend time to help shape policy, with proper and longer time dedicated to generate ideas with the executive team to together take the cub forward.
We had some real success in this respect with the North Stand Lower working group earlier in the season and are already working closely with a similar group of fans from the South Stand. The matchday experience working group will examine all aspects of supporter contact with the club, from buying tickets and travelling to the game, to the experience in the stadium and interaction with club staff. It will aim to find ways to improve each element of the experience and ultimately make matchdays more enjoyable and more attractive for everyone. I am grateful to the Pompey Supporters’ Trust for helping to facilitate the working group. You do not have to be a PST member to apply and we all want to create as diverse a group as possible. The group will generally meet at Fratton Park in the evenings between 6pm and 8pm. If you are interested in taking part, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of who you are, your age, details about how often you watch Pompey and from which part of the ground you typically sit.
Our next home game comes around very quickly, with a 3pm kick-off this Good Friday against Lincoln. Before then, we very much hope you will see an exciting game tonight and, most importantly, a determined and positive performance from your team.
Thank you for your support tonight and enjoy the game. PUP!