Dons secretary saw testing times for Blues

Pompey fans are facing a test of faith as they continue to fly the flag for the club at home and away. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey fans are facing a test of faith as they continue to fly the flag for the club at home and away. Picture: Joe Pepler

It was a glorious summer’s evening in south London when the AFC Wimbledon secretary made the statement.

Michael Appleton’s Pompey had just played his side in a pre-season friendly and the manager was locked in a furious battle with Balram Chainrai over transfer budgets.

With the Blues in administration, Pompey Supporters’ Trust were looking to become preferred bidders to assume control of their club.

The Trust were still eight months, and a heck of lot of dramatic twists and turns, from ultimately saving Pompey with their campaign slowly gathering momentum.

So, as a fan-owned club, it was interesting to gain the Dons secretary’s thoughts into community ownership.

‘It’s great for the fans to own the club,’ he said in the fading light at Kingsmeadow.

‘But if they get Pompey, just wait until the problems start.

‘The thing about fan ownership is everyone thinks they should run the club.’

Fast-forward 18 months to a miserable winter’s afternoon in Exeter and those words were resonating loud and clear.

The euphoria of victory in the High court last April and the Sheffield United celebration as hope sprung eternal that spring afternoon, seemed a long time ago in the chill of St James Park.

The fans who celebrated a new era back then were, not for the first time, branding their manager tactically naive.

As anger at yet another stoppage-time goal mounted, there were those who felt their players’ post-match appreciation at their support warranted a torrent of abuse.

The same, apparently, for the board who took their share of stick as they looked on in frustration.

And, allegedly, there was one man who believed Sonny Bradley deserved a slap in a post-match flashpoint.

The national press have pointed out the average home Pompey attendances this season – as the club founder at the bottom of League Two – show where loyalty lies in Hampshire.

And former players still line up to wax lyrical about the Blues supporters being the best in the business – Asmir Begovic and Paul Merson being two of the most recent to do so.

But look a little closer and it’s clear the Fratton faithful are facing the biggest challenge to their standing as English football’s most fervent fans.

The understandably flat atmosphere for the Torquay loss made way for a increasingly fractious air at Exeter.

There are all manner of contributing reasons for supporters’ patience now becoming transparently thin.

The biggest factor, though? People are just sick of losing football matches.

It’s a feeling they’ve felt 111 times in 232 games since the start of the 2009-10 season.

Of course, the problems are more complex and manifold than that.

For example, the ministry of Pompey misinformation is still alive and kicking, as destabilising talk continues to be peddled.

Individuals plotting to earn controlling interests in the club 
and money earmarked to pay debts being used to finance everyday operations are a couple of the latest beauties.

Then there is an increasingly poisonous air to social media, which a cursory glance down Bradley’s Twitter timeline at the weekend sadly underlined.

Social media remains a fantastic tool but one open to abuse and one perhaps afforded too much significance in these days in the Fratton corridors of power.

For a hierarchy still feeling their way in football ownership, it will feel like they are in the eye of the storm.

But firm and steady leadership aren’t exclusive to the game – and, regardless of experience, that’s what is needed now.

That, and a fanbase, who need to show why so many think so much of them, to propel their club from increasingly perilous waters.