Portsmouth fans providing grounds for optimism


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The Independent Online

This is a fan's tale. In September 1970, Colin Farmery's Uncle Roger and his Auntie Jen took him to Fratton Park, pictured, for the first time. He was seven. It was a night game and he looked up in awe at the size of the floodlights.

"My uncle thought I should support the local team," he says. "I can still remember that game. I still sit in the North Stand. Whenever I go to a night game I look up at the size of the pylons and I remember my first game. "

Thus, love affairs start, the kind that can handle four relegations in eight seasons (during his formative years as a supporter), the kind that mean you can ride through the angst of being the only Portsmouth fan in the area where you live.

Those who sat near Colin told him of the glory days of the late 1940s and early 1950s, when Portsmouth were champions of England twice. "It was the late Seventies when I was in my mid-teens and I started to get involved in the club," he adds. "I was involved in the young supporters' club. In that time, I lived in a village not far from Portsmouth. It's quite rare for Pompey fans to live in that village. We were going through the divisions and bottomed out in the bottom league. It was about failure after failure but I stuck with it.

"I ended up writing for the programme. I also worked in the club shop. In the Eighties Pompey were on a very upward curve, first Bobby Campbell and then Alan Ball. By 1987 we were back in the old First Division. In eight years I had seen them play in four leagues but I'm not one of those fans that thinks you have to have the notches on your belt to be a true fan. If a Pompey fan becomes a fan yesterday that is still one to me. On the other hand, you can certainly say in the 1980s following football, particularly away, was not a pleasant thing to do. "

It was a different feeling driving away from Old Trafford on 6 March, 2008. Portsmouth had just beaten Manchester United to reach the FA Cup semi-final. "That was the best day for me," he adds. "After that day Barnsley beat Chelsea, and the realisation struck me that Pompey were favourites for the FA Cup. That was when we thought we had arrived. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin. We're in a bad situation and, indirectly, the spending in 2006, 2007 and 2008 is responsible for that."

Five years on, Portsmouth are fighting for their life, not an FA Cup final. Next week the Pompey Supporters' Trust will find out if it has been successful in its bid to take control from Balram Chainrai, below. If successful, they will still have to deal with Chainrai, who is also bidding against them to take the club out of administration. He has held firm in his desire to regain the £17m that was owed to him when he took over the club.

The Pompey Supporters' Trust came together in 2009-10. Ashley Brown, Mick Williams, Mark Trapani and Iain Mcinnes have driven it; Farmery has become spokesman. "It's all hands to the pumps, not just the man hours, but the emotional intensity of it," he says. "Football clubs are dream factories. There has been a hell of a lot of work done and we believe it is a credible bid. We raised £2m through fan pledges and another £1m through individual investors who have put in six-figure sums. We are looking at alternative ways of financing the deal, finding a strategic property partner."