'˜This day belongs to us, the Pompey fans...'
IT HAS been the moment Pompey fans the world over have waited years for.
And yesterday the dream finally came true as The Blues secured promotion into League One with a thrilling 3-1 victory over Notts County.
For years, the side had been languishing in the basement of Britain’s football league after a dramatic fall from the top flight in 2010.
But almost seven years to the day since the 2008 FA Cup winners were booted from the Premiership, starting a slide down the league, Pompey are finally on the up – much to the delight of fans in the city.
Bob Beech, 50, of Milton, watched his first Pompey game in 1974 as an eight-year-old and has been part of the Fratton faithful ever since.
He praised the efforts of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust for helping to save the club from financial oblivion.
‘I’ve seen Pompey through so many promotions but this one is the sweetest of them all,’ Mr Beech said.
‘It’s the sweetest because we did this. We were within a few minutes of nonexistence and it was a concerted effort by so many people who pulled it out of the bag.
‘We, the fans, did this. This day, this promotion – it belongs to us. No matter what the coming weeks bring we have proven that football fan ownership works.
‘We have proven that fans can make a difference. Today belongs to us, the fans. This is a huge achievement.’
As the full-time whistle echoed out at the home of Notts County, jubilant Pompey fans rushed on the pitch to celebrate the historic moment.
Thousands chanted, cheered and hugged one another as players took to the stands to mark the victory.
Barry Dewing is part of the Pompey Independent Supporters’ Association and was among those celebrating the victory in Nottingham.
He praised the support of all the fans who have kept spirits and morale high at the club for so many years.
‘This win is legendary for us as a club. It’s been so important,’ he said.
‘We had been on the downward spiral from the Premiership and through the divisions. Today is the start of something new.
‘It would have been easy for the fans to give up. But unity makes people stronger.
‘Notts County got back in the game but we never gave up. This win makes all the bad times worth it.’
He added the role the trust and fans had in salvaging Pompey from the brink could not be forgotten.
‘Fans out there don’t realise how close we were to getting liquidated. Now we’re at a crossroads, with a takeover and our promotion, and there’s a lot of questions to be asked over the next few weeks. But that is not for today – today is about us celebrating coming back from the brink.’
The win has delighted civic leaders across the city who said it would bring a boost not only to Fratton Park but to Portsmouth as a whole.
Portsmouth City Council boss, Councillor Donna Jones said the island was in line for a big payout, with more football fans coming to watch future games and the potential of lucrative sponsorship deals and TV rights bolstering Fratton Park also on the horizon.
She added she was eager to meet billionaire Michael Eisner to discuss his plans to buy the club.
Cllr Jones said: ‘Portsmouth Football Club is the beating heart of the city – it has been and always will be.
‘I couldn’t be prouder of the supporters’ trust, directors and club’s players for this absolutely brilliant season that Pompey have has this year.
‘The future is looking very bright for Portsmouth Football Club and I look forward to see what the 2017/18 season holds for us.’
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, punched the air when the result was announced on Twitter.
She said: ‘This is a fantastic achievement for any club, but when you consider the events of the last few years it’s truly amazing.
‘Congratulations to everyone at Pompey and all its faithful supporters: League One and the community club.
‘Today is another great day in Pompey’s history and a reminder that our best days still lie ahead.’
Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond added: ‘It is testament to the fans and the wider Portsmouth community that the club is still in existence.
‘Hopefully, this promotion is the start of the good times coming back to Fratton Park.’
Pompey now have three games left to play. The first is against Cambridge United at Fratton Park, on Saturday.
They play Mansfield away on a week later and Cheltenham on May 6 at Fratton Park.