After the heady first afternoon of the season, when Fratton Park officially had a shade under 18,000 in the ground against Bournemouth, the attendances against Oldham (circa 13,000) and Walsall (circa 12,000) have been disappointing to say the least.
However, they underline the fickle nature of Pompey's support. This is not a new thing. Older fans will recall the 1960s and 1970s when for a 'big' game Pompey could pull in 30,000 plus. That was somewhat at odds with the general average in the old Division Two, which was sub-10,000 in the 1972-73 season.
If PST becomes the new majority shareholder in Portsmouth Football Club in the next few weeks there will almost certainly be a bounce in attendance as those fans pledged not to return to Fratton Park until the ownership situation is resolved come back to the fold. The problem is that those returners could well be offset by those who see 'supporting' Pompey as a 'value for money' leisure choice. In short, if the team ain't winning, they won't go.
Which brings us to the current team and, in particular, manager Michael Appleton.
It was Napoleon who stated he would rather a lucky General than a good one. In Appleton we have the makings of a good manager, but luck is something his embryonic managerial career has been short of.
He arrived at Fratton Park in November. After just one match saw whatever ground he had beneath his feet cut from him as Pompey's immediate future was put into grave doubt as club owner CSI were put into administration. From that moment he has been running to stand still. Some fans felt he 'should have done better' with the squad he inherited from Steve Cotterill. The stats suggest for a couple of months he did about as well as his predecessor, in infinitely more trying circumstances.
By the end of February, many of Cotterill's squad had been scattered on loan to save cash, ten points had been docked as Pompey went into inevitable administration and Appleton was forced to fight a relegation battle with a selection of loans and short-term contracts. He made a reasonable fist of a bad job, with some memorable results, (Birmingham, Southampton and Doncaster for instance) offset by some woeful collapses (Burnley springs immediately to mind).
So what of Appleton's summer? The ongoing financial uncertainty meant he has been unable to sign a permanent squad. Preferred targets have been signed by other clubs. That Appleton has persuaded the players he has to stick with Pompey so far is a testament to his persuasive powers. The team which faced Bournemouth largely put pen to paper less than 48 hours before the big kick off and remain on month-to-month deals. Injuries, suspensions and even international call ups have robbed him of the chance to create a settled team as he juggles the Football League's loan regulations to hold together a shoestring 20-man squad. Bare bones, indeed.
So one might imagine that every Pompey fan worth his salt might have cut Appleton and his squad a degree of slack. In results terms, it has been a disappointing start. The first half performance at Carlisle and the second halves against Oldham and Walsall have been very poor. That said, we played well at Colchester and Crawley throughout the game and killed off the latter ruthlessly when reduced to nine men.
The worrying thing is the narrative of the players at Appleton's disposal seems to have become fixed, none more so than in the case of Izale McLeod. Here Pompey have a striker with three goals in six games to his credit, two of them, against Crawley and Walsall, excellent finishes. And yet for a significant proportion of fans he is already dismissed as, technical term, crap. The ironic cheers in the second half when McLeod won a header during the game against Walsall were as shocking as they were unwarranted.
Portsmouth Football Club is in intensive care and on life support at the moment. Our sporting objective this season is to stay up, especially if the Football League ten point deduction kicks in as expected. If he achieves that, Appleton should be in contention for Manager of the Year.
So Mr-message-board-I-won't-waste-my-money-on-Pompey this is a slap round the chops back. What will cure Pompey in the long-term is you, and thousands like you, spending your hard-earned cash on PFC when it needs it most. Instant gratification it won't be. It is unquestionably the definition of a true Pompey fan, however.
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