The exile is over - now many like Pulley are returning to Fratton

Pompey fans wave goodbye to Balram Chainrai at the Shrewsbury game. Picture: Sarah Standing (123431-164)
Pompey fans wave goodbye to Balram Chainrai at the Shrewsbury game. Picture: Sarah Standing (123431-164)

When a divorce petition was filed against Del Pulley 10 years ago, the grounds for the separation were precise and deliberate.

Portsmouth Football Club.

‘I wouldn’t mind,’ he said, ‘but she had seen Pompey play at 60-odd grounds, including Grimsby three times.

‘She had even gone to Manchester United with me that season to watch us play in the FA Cup.

‘When we started having kids, though, she expected me to stop going. Not a chance.’

Yet this season Pulley did stop.

A season-ticket holder for 30 years in, first, the north terrace and then the Fratton end, he opted against renewing. As did his dad, Ken.

After buying a ticket for the opening match of the campaign against Bournemouth he swore not to return.

His reason? Balram Chainrai.

For Pulley, who is secretary of Chichester Supporters’ Club, it was a ‘moral issue’.

The 46-year-old took the heart-breaking decision to stay away from Fratton Park for as long as Portpin had an interest in the football club he adores.

Instead his Saturday afternoons consisted of sitting at home listening to the commentary on the radio.

Of course, his self-imposed exile didn’t inhibit him from attending all the Blues’ away matches; trips to Carlisle, Crawley, Notts County, Yeovil and MK Dons were lovingly embraced.

Then late on the afternoon of Thursday, October 18, administrators PKF publicly announced the Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust as their preferred bidder, thereby putting them in the box seat for the ownership of Pompey.

The following day, right up until kick-off 36 hours later, 2,644 tickets were sold for the Fratton Park fixture against Shrewsbury.

The Shrews themselves contributed 608 fans to the attendance of 13,051.

An impressive late boost in demand which ensured the encounter yielded the Blues’ second-highest home crowd of the season so far. That was bigger than five Fratton Championship attendances last year.

This season’s top attendance currently stands at 17,703 for the League One opener against Bournemouth.

Coincidentally, just days before that match, Portpin announced they had pulled out of the running to take the club for a third time.

Four days after that 1-1 draw they were back in the hunt.

Still, Pulley and his dad were among the thousands who returned for the Shrewsbury encounter on the back of that PKF statement.

Having bought their tickets on the Friday, they sat in the North Stand upper. By all accounts, next to a group of 70 school children from Alton.

During the 3-1 home victory, on occasions sections of fans from the Fratton end sung about buying their own club.

Come the final whistle they made their way home, the theme tune accompanying them down Frogmore Road.

Whether you agree with it or not, there are those like Pulley who have returned on the basis the supporters will be taking over Pompey.

He said: ‘It hurts staying away. It’s agony, it’s numbing.

‘You don’t realise how much you miss it until the day happens.

‘I would die for that football club, I really would.

‘I am obsessed with it. It has been such a big part of my life. It even had a role in my divorce.

‘For me, though, it came down to a moral issue and I didn’t want any of my money going towards Chainrai.

‘Some of us have dug a lot deeper than others and all that man is after is money following a terrible investment.

‘I know the sort of person we are dealing with and at some point something has got to give.

‘There are quite a few who have stopped going over Chichester way, around 30 that I know of – but they are ready to come back now.’

Of course, Pulley is no more of a Pompey fan than anyone else.

He is no less a fan than anyone else, either.

He is merely a fan who wants to focus on supporting his football club.

In that respect, he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with every Pompey follower.

His is just one cautionary tale, yet there are those who can empathise with his feelings towards Portpin.

As a result, they have also been staying away in the hope that, after three years of Chainrai & Co being tangled with Pompey, they can be removed.

As long as the Trust blueprint can come to fruition, Pulley plans to buy a half-season ticket.

Having missed seven home games during the current campaign, he craves a permanent return.

He wants to reunite with his half-a-dozen friends on a Saturday afternoon for a pre-match drink in the Brewers Arms.

He wants to sing those Pompey chimes at Fratton loud and proud again.

He wants to cheer on Chichester’s favourite son Adam Webster.

With the greatest of respect, Pulley doesn’t want to listen to the radio any longer.

Del Pulley has had one divorce in his life.

He is desperate not to endure another.