Goodbye to heartbeat of Pompey's fight for survival

Pam Wilkins has always been on the front line of the Pompey Supporters' Trust struggle.

Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 8:00 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:46 am
Pam Wilkins, left, pictured alongside great ally Ken Malley in Braga in 2008. Picture: Steve Reid

As the last remaining figure from the original steering committee, the 69-year-old has been at the heart of the Trust’s existence from the outset.

And as the face of the ‘Trust bus’ on a matchday, the PST board member has not only become a Fratton fixture but underlined her position at the coalface for a journey etched in folklore.

Well, for Wilkins that memorable voyage is now at a close.

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Pam Wilkins earlier this month. Picture: Simon Hill/Portsmouth FC

From the humble setting of the Rifle Club on Goldsmith Avenue for the first open meeting to the decision to sell to Michael Eisner last year, Wilkins has been there as the Trust’s heartbeat.

That voyage has taken in stop-offs at the High Court and at her second home to see the Fratton End proclaim the club ‘OURS’ in 2013.

And it’s seen the transformation of the Trust from an outfit whose credibility was sneered at in so many quarters, to the savours of Portsmouth Football Club.

There have been many other memorable highs and lows for the former vice-chairwoman to reflect on, as she signs off from the PST and a place on the club’s heritage and advisory board.

Pam Wilkins at a Trust meeting in 2014

‘It’s been quite a journey,’ said Wilkins as she reflected on the PST’s achievements.

‘In those early days we knew the club was struggling and were trying to get some kind of representation at club level. That was our major aim.

‘Then Mark (Trapani), Ashley (Brown) and Mick (Williams) decided we were going to have the share issue and try to buy the club!

‘I remember when it was announced at a board meeting and it was like “you what?!”. It all snowballed from there really. It was a pretty special thing to have done.

And signing The News' giant flag at Fratton Park in 2010. Picture: Allan Hutchings

‘We were the biggest fan-owned club in the country and I’m very proud of that.’

There’s still some regret on Wilkins’ part the club was sold without any role for the Trust at board level.

But the former Portsmouth High School pupil from Southsea is adamant there’s a relevance for the PST moving forward.

And holding the hierarchy to account if the need arises is central to their ongoing existence.

‘I’m a little sad the shareholders opted to sell,’ Wilkins admitted.

‘But it was a democratic vote of all the people who had shares.

‘It would’ve been good if we could have retained some say in the club.

‘The current owners are thoroughly decent people but there’s no control, down the line, who they sell to eventually.

‘I was at a Supporters Direct meeting this week and we spoke about how trusts are all about the governance of clubs, and making sure they are run properly and communicate with fans.

‘There may come a time where we want to ask “why are you doing this?”. We have to carry out that role.

‘There are the people on the heritage and advisory board, so there’s input into the club here.

‘We’re also working on a community project with Pompey in the Community. I think that’s great.

‘The share money left is helping towards that. So there is definitely a future for the Trust.’

It was Trevor Birch and administrators BDO who gave the Trust preferred bidders’ status in October 2012 – a key moment in their eventual purchase.

When Birch himself harboured reservations over whether they could fund a bid, it goes down as a landmark date.

Vying with that occasion for Wilkins was February 7, 2013, when the Football League announced the Trust’s bid was the only one in town – scuppering the late, late emergence of Keith Harris’ consortium and their effort to buy the club, And of course there was that seminal April 10, 2013 date at the Royal Courts of Justice.

‘There were several landmark events,’ said Wilkins, proudly.

‘Trevor Birch giving us preferred-bidder status was one of the big ones.

‘He was telling he was going to have to fold the club at the same time as the Football League’s statement.

‘It was at that point the presidents put the money in to keep the club going. They were paying the bills to keep us going.

‘With hindsight, the big day at the court was the easy bit!

‘There were people saying they had money but didn’t seem to have.

‘The fact it was Trevor Birch appointed administrator and not (Andrew) Andronikou again was important. Trevor’s company had dealt with other administrations and knew what they were doing.

‘Then there was the ‘OURS’ match and the Sheffield United game.

‘We didn’t do too badly. It’s something for my grandchildren to look at!’

Nearly three years on from the death of her great ally, former Trust chairman Ken Malley, the time feels right for Wilkins to leave her role.

She will go down as one of the Trust’s great driving forces but Wilkins believes her legacy is shared by the people she represented.

‘Ken was 70 when he died,’ Wilkins stated with emotion.

‘He had been in ill health which I’m not, touch wood, but it feels the right time to go back to being a fan.

‘I will still be involved in other things like the history society.

‘And I’ve renewed my season ticket in the Fratton End with my brother and his daughter and grandson.

‘There are so many people who contributed in various ways.

‘It was a pretty big achievement to raise all that money and buy our club out of administration.

‘The legacy is there are 11 blokes in Pompey shirts running around at Fratton Park. That’s what we all wanted.

‘You can’t ever rewrite it. It happened and we did it.’