When it comes to fans, you can’t beat the Blue Army

Pompey fans enjoy a conga at the Keepmoat Stadium   Picture: Steve Reid
Pompey fans enjoy a conga at the Keepmoat Stadium Picture: Steve Reid
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A bristling John Ryan made his way across the Keepmoat Stadium pitch.

One journalist, clearly recognisable to the Doncaster chairman, politely enquired whether he may have a word.

It was an offer never going to be spurned as Ryan quickly stepped up to take to the stage.

He turned his ire towards referee Mike Russell following that controversial display in Rovers’ 4-3 defeat to Pompey last weekend.

The chairman ranted, he raved, he demanded Russell be investigated, called for him to be retired.

It was the ‘worst refereeing display in 50 years of football’ and ‘victimisation’ of his club.

Then he stopped in mid-tirade.

‘I have to say,’ he uttered, ‘credit to those away fans, who I thought were superb’.

Ryan had just witnessed Doncaster’s relegation with the sense of injustice over the hammering of the final nail burning deep, deep inside.

Yet amid it all, he choose to pay tribute to that Pompey away following.

Even in his darkest hour as chairman, Ryan felt the need to congratulate more than 800 Blues fans present that day.

A football man to the core, such actions are testament to the high esteem those supporters continue to be held in by others.

Those who have mismanaged the club have shamed the good name of Pompey, but the perception of the fans, thankfully, remains untouched.

They had no part in their club’s demise. Instead, others entrusted to serve on their behalf let everybody down.

Pompey may be crumbling as a club in terms of reputation and existence.

The fans, however, continue to stand tall, singing proud and being a credit to the city they represent.

In their club’s time of need, they have risen majestically to back their team. They have come out fighting in the only way they know possible.

Regardless of the turmoil and long-term uncertainty, there have truly been some special away days this season post-CSI implosion.

In truth, some have even been more memorable than Fratton Park fixtures.

Peterborough, Blackpool, Chelsea, Reading, Barnsley, Coventry – the list goes on.

They were occasions when the away following have outsung the home supporters.

In the case of Peterborough, it was done with embarrassing ease, the Posh fans at their noisiest during a half-time penalty shoot-out.

What’s more, the originality of some songs have brought about many a smile.

Who can forget ‘Let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal’ at Reading or the creation of the ‘Super Pompey are staying up’ chant at Barnsley?

Or how about a certain ditty, which cannot be printed in a family paper, fired in the direction of a certain lady following the St Mary’s 2-2 draw?

Then there was Doncaster last weekend, when a dozen or so Smurfs embraced the Pompey spirit, even finding time to organise a conga.

Inevitably, they were emphatically backed by those other rowdy Blues supporters in attendance.

How fitting then that when Ryan spoke, his voice was barely audible above the noise they were producing well after the final whistle.

The Fratton faithful were encamped inside the ground and refusing to budge until Michael Appleton came out to see them.

Eventually, a steward rapped on the away dressing room door and pleaded with the Blues boss to address them.

Appleton obliged, even donning a red Papa Smurf hat hurled at him from the sizeable following.

Then they dispersed, happy in the knowledge they had once again done their club proud and seen a Pompey victory into the bargain.

As for Ryan, he wasn’t done with his praise.

Days later, Pompey administrator Trevor Birch received a letter from him, once again applauding the Blues’ support.

He wrote: ‘I was so impressed by the conduct of your fans and indeed the atmosphere that they created.

‘I am obviously upset at some of the decisions made by the match officials when I thought we were dominant, however recognise that this is not a fault of Portsmouth as a club or indeed the fans themselves and I do not blame them for taking full advantage of our misfortune.

‘I would go as far as to say that if any set of fans deserve to stay up and benefit from such decisions then it is the Portsmouth fans.

‘I would really appreciate it if you could thank your fans for creating such a good atmosphere and wish them luck for the rest of the season from myself.’

Genuine respect indeed.

Of course, the Fratton faithful have become used to patronising pats on the heads from people.

A procession of owners and their minions have landed on the south coast in recent times, all armed with glib comments praising the support.

Nothing more than slick and shameless PR words designed to win hearts and minds in the battle to convince.

Ryan, though, is a businessman who has spent the past 10 years ploughing his personal fortune into Doncaster.

He knows his football, he loves his football – what’s more, he exists.

That is unlike many who have stalked the Fratton corridors of power in recent times.

Compare and contrast the Pompey fans’ Keepmoat performance to that of Spurs at Wembley 24 hours later.

Granted, it must have been depressing viewing for the north London club, especially after the intervention of the goal that never was.

Witnessing Chelsea hitting goal after goal in an FA Cup semi-final must have been heartbreaking.

But would Pompey fans have staged a mass exodus more than 10 minutes before the end?

At one point, the television cameras scanned across the Spurs part of the ground and the amount of empty seats alarmingly outnumbered those in attendance.

The scoreline at the time was 4-1 to Chelsea.

Apt then that Blues fans have often sung ‘Is this a fire drill?’ in the direction of Spurs followers in recent times.

In particular, it became a monster hit during Avram Grant’s side’s 2-0 win over Harry Redknapp’s team at Wembley in April 2010.

Uncannily enough, Spurs fans also chose that day to desert in their droves long before the sounding of the final whistle.

Would Pompey fans have behaved in such a manner if placed in a similar situation?

John Ryan, the world of football and the city of Portsmouth know full well the answer to that one.