10 February ~ I consider myself lucky enough to have seen Portsmouth play in all four divisions since my first match in the early 1970s. As much as I have enjoyed the wins that humiliated the big boys in the Premier League, I probably got more enjoyment seeing a 6-1 defeat of Scunthorpe Utd on a rain-lashed Saturday afternoon or a Peter Denyer half-volley from the edge of the area secure a hard fought 1-0 win against Hereford Utd. Rather belatedly the penny has dropped – it is about the club, not the competition.
The recent woes at Fratton Park have really put the focus on the tiny minority who actually benefit from a club doing well – the owners, the manager and the players – and, by comparison, the huge number of people that suffer when things go awry. The bulk of the staff, after all, are still employed on what amounts to little above the minimum wage. And while there might be an extra few quid spent in local shops on a matchday, Mick, the proprietor of Mick's Monster Burgers, would still have to go out and slaughter the same amount of cattle whether we played Bolton Wanderers or Burton Albion.
Therefore if our latest owner Balram Chainrai is serious about turning over Pompey to someone who "cares”, he could do worse than open discussions with the Supporters Trust with a view to a gradual handover to them. This may see the club slip down the divisions to begin with, but for the first time in decades it would give the club back to the supporters. It would make it our club again and Mr Chainrai would leave the city a hero, chaired to Fratton Station by the grateful masses as he departs.
How refreshing would it be to know that decisions at the club are being made by the supporters with ticket prices, kit design, programme content and type of pie available all determined by the people who actually pay to enter the ground. And it would be nice if talk about our league position wasn't immediately followed by how much that equates on the bank balance at the end of the season.
For every perceived negative there can be a positive. No huge investment but organic growth instead, and there wouldn't be those massive interest payments to be made regularly during the season. No big name players – which means we would be without those dedicated and loyal people who jump ship at the first opportunity. No high ticket prices, £15 a ticket maximum, based on a decent turnout, would still give a club like Pompey a fighting chance of playing and competing in the Championship.
But over and above the financial side of things it would mean that Pompey would be something that fans could nurture with boys, girls and disabled sides playing in the same shirt as the first team and the local ladies team brought into the fold. That will never happen with the current setup – the Premier League does not do supporter inclusion.
There is an opportunity now for Portsmouth to return to those who most deserve it. The question is whether the current "owner” and the supporters have the will to take up the challenge. Neil Oakshott