Pompey’s long-suffering fans roared out a defiant ‘We Will Never Die’ battle-cry in a night of pride at Fratton Park.
Supporters demonstrated their love for the troubled club, with many staying to sing and chant long after the end of a 1-0 defeat against Ipswich Town.
It might have been a cold Valentine’s evening, but 14,330 Pompey fans were in full voice at Fratton Park as they proudly showed the world why their football club must never die.
It’s been a tough couple of years for supporters of Pompey. Owners have come and gone but the fans have remained committed, through the good and the bad and now they join another fight to stay alive.
At a 1-0 defeat to Ipswich Town, there was a disappointingly low crowd. But those who were there proved that Portsmouth Football Club is still alive and kicking with some inspirational singing and chanting.
As the players emerged from the tunnel, The News’ ‘Pompey ’Til I Die’ flag was passed over the heads of the 4,500 fans in the West Stand.
Although there was a lull in the first half, in the second half, the atmosphere stepped up a gear and chants of ‘We will never die’ echoed around the ground.
Around 2,000 fans stayed behind for up to an hour after the final whistle to show their support for the club, singing ‘We’re not going home’ and ‘Get out of our club’ – a protest against the owners who have been involved in the club but have let the fans down.
For the second time in just two years, Portsmouth Football Club looks set to enter administration which it is hoped will delay a winding-up order issued by HMRC – but will bring with it a 10-point deduction.
The News backed the Pack the Park campaign by the Pompey Supporters Trust to encourage fans to turn out for the team in a time of crisis.
Martin Bailey, 30, from Stamshaw, was one of the last fans to leave the ground and said he was delighted with the way the fans responded.
‘It’s absolutely fantastic,’ he said. ‘It’s about all of us standing up together and showing that this is what it’s all about.
‘This is our team and our club. We will never die.’
Some of the players returned to the pitch to applaud the fans who had refused to leave the ground and after supporters called for manager Michael Appleton, he also appeared to show his gratitude to the dedicated and passionate supporters.
Police were eventually called in to encourage supporters to move on and one man was arrested.
Scott Mclachlan, Pompey Supporters’ Trust spokesman, said: ‘Once the chanting of “we will never die” got started the support from fans was fantastic. People were on their feet for 15 minutes keeping the chant going.
‘It’s a shame the team didn’t perform as well on the pitch. We had key injuries and I think the team was tired from the weekend. But it’s wonderful to see the passion and pride of the club and sends out a strong message.
‘Whatever happens in the courts and administrators, the beating of the heart of the club will always be with the fans.’
As fans filed out of Fratton Park, their commitment to Pompey was loud and clear.
Dave Dobbin, 70, of Bembridge Crescent in Southsea, said: ‘It’s fantastic. It always has been.’
‘This club is a big part of the city. It’s the life and blood of the city.’
Mark Eveleigh, 51, travelled from Reading and is originally from Portsmouth.
‘It was probably the loudest I have heard it in a long time,’ he said.
‘This club is part of the fabric and the history in Portsmouth. If you take the club away you are taking away part of the city.’
Son John, 20, from Southsea, added: ‘It’s good to see during the club’s difficult times, we have got a massive show of support.’
February 14, 2012, will remain memorable for a different reason for one couple.
Lifelong fans Hayley Samuel and Daniel Whitcher drove down from their home in Devon.
And 33-year-old Hayley got a big shock when Daniel got down on one knee on the pitch in front of 14,000 people at half time to ask for her hand in marriage.
‘I was expecting a pint of beer at half time,’ she said. ‘I’m so emotional. We’ve come here tonight just to support our team. Tonight was an important night so we came to support our team. We don’t know what’s going to happen so we came to show our support.’
Fiance Daniel, 36, added: ‘She’s been a Portsmouth fan all her life. I love her to bits. She said to do it properly, so I did.’
It’s not clear what will happen in the future and how the upcoming court appearances will affect the club. Last night’s game might not have seen the result that the fans wanted, but they made their feelings loud and clear: We will never die.
Meanwhile, Pompey Supporters’ Trust members will have more time to construct a stronger Plan B package if the club is granted administration on Friday.
Trust representatives have been working hard to put together a ‘worst-case scenario’ model to form another club if Pompey are liquidated.
Pompey were set for a winding-up petition hearing over unpaid tax at the High Court on Monday, but a successful administration application would see that thrown out.
Scott Mclachlan, spokesman for the supporters’ trust, said, if administration is granted on Friday, members will have more time to research facts if the worst happens and the club is wound-up.
He said: ‘Plan B is being worked on.
‘What administration means is that we have more time to source things than we would have if the club would have gone bust on Monday.
‘Now it looks as if the club could be saved until the end of the season.
‘It is being worked on and will be ready if the time comes.’