The changing traits of the modern-day Pompey fan

Pompey striker Michael Smith    Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey striker Michael Smith Picture: Joe Pepler
Brett Huxtable. Picture: Joe Pepler

Walsall v Pompey: referee watch

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The Sports Mail’s letters page was temporarily ditched in 2003.

The reason why? We weren’t getting any letters – and that tends to be something of an issue with a letters page.

At the time, Pompey were storming to the Division One title in record-breaking fashion.

That was done on a wave of some of the most irresistible football supporters had witnessed in their lifetimes with a string of household names donning royal blue.

It was all going to so well. But where were the missives lauding the inexorable march to the top flight for the first time in 16 years?

Where were the eulogies to the free-flowing efforts of Merse, Yak, Toddy, Matty Taylor & Co? Very conspicuous by their absence.

Those reader’s views, or lack of, sprang to mind again in recent days in the wake of the past few Pompey performances.

Paul Cook’s assertion the result at Morecambe would afford early-season context was the pre-cursor to disappointment at the Globe Arena.

And that was vented in no-holds-barred fashion on the pages of portsmouth.co.uk the following day.

‘Excuses, we want 4-4-2’ ranted one angry post. ‘Cook out!’ screamed another. And then that familiar messageboard refrain seen so often down the years – ‘the manager’s tactically inept!’.

At the last count, there were 118 comments on the lead story after the Morecambe loss. The vast, vast majority ventingtheir anger.

That gave an indicator of the rising temperatures going into the Colchester clash.

So, surely an outpouring of relief then at the two late goals which alleviated the pressure?

Well, more a trickling really, as the comments totalled 35 on Cook’s post-match reaction.

But early-season back-to-back successes arriving at Exeter would change all that, of course.

Erm, not quite. A total of 13 posts were placed on Leam Richardson’s comments after Saturday’s success.

And what of Pompey striker Michael Smith’s triumphant return to form?

The much-maligned hitman has been the subject of early-season flak, but responded in the best-possible way with his Yeovil hat-trick.

By lunch-time yesterday his story had registered a mighty three comments.

Interestingly, such patterns are not restricted to the written medium.

The football phone-in is a modern phenomenon where the average supporter’s afforded an audience generating excitement beyond the banalities of everyday life.

That can lead, however, to those who make the most noise being given that platform.

We’ve all cringed at the illogical ramblings of a fan given airtime after a Stella too many on a Saturday night. Then cringed even more at Robbie Savage or Stan Collymore playing agitator.

Still, it’s harder to be full of vitriol and bombast after victory, so that led to Express FM’s post-match phone-in being canned on Saturday due to a lack of callers.

Yes, the world in which we live is a smaller one these days, where we can all be heard. And that’s certainly the case for the modern football fan, too.

And there’s little doubt the noise reverberates around Fratton Park and Pompey’s Roko training base.

Footballers have always traditionally pleaded ignorance to what appears in newspapers, while religiously pouring over their ratings after each game.

Others at the top at Fratton are well known to keep tabs on the views being forwarded on messageboards and the reaction of fans online.

It’s interesting they do so to judge opinion, especially when the suspicion is the percentages represent a very low total of those who pay their money to watch Pompey regularly.

Cook himself is less inclined to look online, while, at the same time, happy to quip with the press ‘big brother is watching’.

It’s a stretch, however, to parade the likely use of two strikers against Crawley as the personal triumph some of the online community are for their own campaigns.

Among the many witty, well-informed and eloquent posters online come those who crave to be heard. Even through notoriety or infamy.

Worse still, though, must be those who seem to derive satisfaction from the signs of storm clouds darkening – or schadenfreude from Pompey’s struggles.

‘People want to have an opinion - and say I told you he’s rubbish’ said Cook. ‘I don’t grasp it me. It’s where the game’s at. There’s no sanity in it.’

The supporter who doesn’t support. The football watcher who wants to be heard rather than observe.

Are these really the growing signifiers of the modern-day fan?