Long way from Chelsea but Pompey rebuild has to start somewhere

How times change: Lassana Diarra comes up against Frank Lampard during Pompey's season opener at Chelsea in 2008
How times change: Lassana Diarra comes up against Frank Lampard during Pompey's season opener at Chelsea in 2008
Former Pompey manager Alan Ball

On this day: Tributes pour in for former Pompey boss Ball

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Just four years ago, Pompey started the Premier League season with an opening-day trip to Chelsea.

Harry Redknapp partnered his new big-money summer signing Peter Crouch alongside Jermain Defoe the week after they appeared in the Community Shield at Wembley as FA Cup holders and lost to Manchester United on penalties.

Fair enough, things didn’t end too well that day at Stamford Bridge. Pompey were humbled 4-0 as Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka and Deco did the damage.

But on Saturday, August 18, 2012, the Blues will host Bournemouth at Fratton Park as they begin life in League One after the new fixtures were released.

It’s been a well-documented, dramatic fall from grace for Pompey and the league trip to the most northerly outpost of Carlisle’s Brunton Park on August 25 will perhaps be the time when the reality really bites.

There are trips to Tranmere (December 8), Hartlepool (December 22) and a Boxing Day home clash with Crawley Town, before the curtain comes down on the season on April 27 at Shrewsbury.

None of these games are expected to be moved for the TV schedules. But let’s face it, it could be worse. After all, at least Pompey have been included in the League One plans.

Many were predicting the Blues being effectively wiped from the Football League fixture map after their latest financial meltdown.

Some were bracing themselves for non-league football or even no football at all if the worst had happened.

There are plenty of unanswered questions on Pompey’s future but, at the very least, they know they will be playing football in the new season.

Of course, you will get those former supporters who will turn their back and simply won’t want to watch the club in their first season in third tier football since 1982-83. But there are many more out there who are genuinely relishing the season ahead.

There are new grounds to visit, new pubs to drink at and a chance for the old Pompey – the club that slapped around in the lower league back in the 1970s and 1980s – to rediscover its soul.

As long as Pompey can get a side out – even if it’s a team made up of unproven teenagers and has-beens – the fans with that kind of unconditional loyalty will be there to back them.

It’s 30 years since Pompey last found themselves at this level of English football, where they kicked off the campaign in style with a 4-1 win over Sheffield United

Alan Biley, Ernie Howe, Neil Webb and Mick Tait were on the scoresheet that day and the Blues went on to seal promotion as champions under Bobby Campbell.

Nobody in their right mind is predicting a repeat of that just yet, with so much uncertainty still surrounding the club’s ownership.

But we have a square one at least – a first building block to start a long process all over again.

Yes, it’s Bournemouth at home, but it’s a start.