The 2016/17 opener against Carlisle United is fast approaching. Colin Farmery continues our series of pre-season blogs.
Ah. The start of a new football season. This one will be my 46th and the anticipation is as sharp as ever.
After all, if you can’t be optimistic now, when can you be?
The league table might show Pompey in 21st place, but it is merely a quirk of the alphabet and no cause for alarm.
But on Saturday the action starts for real when Carlisle United come to town. A good first test, as the Cumbrians are likely to be in the mix for at least the play-offs.
Expectation among supporters is higher than ever after last season’s near miss. Season ticket sales have, amazingly, increased for the fourth summer in a row.
So. The question every fan wants answering. Will this be the year Pompey finally win promotion from League 2?
Forgive me if I pass on that one, but suffice to say, were I able to bet on football I might just have 50p each-way on Paul Cook’s squad.
What I can say though, is that from top to bottom in my three years’ experience of working for the club I have supported all those years, Pompey is a club that has been slowly but steadily rebuilding.
Those 12000+ season ticket holders – off the back of three disappointing (in very different ways each one) seasons – hasn’t happened by accident.
Football fans are notoriously fickle. Pompey’s have bucked the trend, I believe, because wherever you look throughout the club you see progress.
When the community bid for the club was successful more than three years ago, I think it is fair to say many of us possibly under-estimated just how much work was needed to start turning the club around.
I know I did.
Experience has taught me just what a competitive and disregarder of reputations League Two is.
Slowly but surely though, the club has steadily rebuilt itself from the ground up.
When the club as taken over, Fratton Park was granted a licence for just 18100 fans – and some might argue it was lucky to be able to hold that many – a toxic legacy of chronic under-funding going back years.
The toilets, the pitch, the floodlights, refreshment kiosks all hanging in there largely by luck rather than judgment.
If you are fortunate enough to have ticket for Saturday’s big match, just take a minute to take in the transformation in many areas. I’d argue the old girl has never looked much better, from Championship standard lighting to a billiard-green playing surface which will look as good in April as it does now.
Of course there is more work to do. For example, with my head of inclusion hat on there remains significant strides still to make to ensure Fratton Park makes a decent offer to our wheelchair user fans. The long-term strategy for a 25-30,000 capacity stadium remains a priority.
But on a long journey it sometimes is worthwhile taking stock of just how far you’ve come.
The safe stewardship of the club’s finances – no more is Pompey a by-word for profligacy, rather prudence – has been another game-changer which has allowed the club to increasingly punch its weight, serving up five star fare, while ensuring the family silver service isn’t plundered to pay for it.
Which nicely brings me to the club’s training facilities, with more than £1m invested in two years. Having been able to work for Pompey has been a huge privilege, but never the more so when I can look back on my small part in having made it a reality.
In the coming season it is another of my priorities to give fans the chance to look round the facility at Copnor. With the two Tifosy pitches you, the fans, paid for due on stream during the course of the season, it is without doubt the single thing I’m most proud of that our community club has achieved.
They say if you keep doing the right things often enough eventually success will come. At the training ground Paul Cook and his staff have the tools to do the job they need to do.
As a colleague, day to day, I see the dedication and determination to get things right on the pitch.
Across the board Pompey are doing the right things and plenty of them.
Will that mean we beat Carlisle? There are no guarantees. Football is a game of chance and even the champions only win around half their matches.
However, over 46 games, given the right environment, the cream will rise to the top.
The start of the season is all about hope. This year though it is rightly tinged with anticipation. If you can scrape together ten bob in small change from down the sofa, there’s worse value you’d get from it than sticking it on the Blues…
Play up Pompey!
Colin Farmery is head of safeguarding and inclusion at Portsmouth FC and has been a fan of the club since 1970.
Get in touch on Twitter @PompeyNewsNow or via email email@example.com if you would like to share your blog or fancy covering a game this season.
Photo: Joe Pepler/Official PFC