Opinion: Silence speaks volumes as fans’ voices are heard

Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler
Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler
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APompey player was asked to speak to The News after Saturday’s defeat by Fleetwood. He refused.

When asked what his reason was for turning down the interview, his reply was a fascinating one.

He said: ‘I don’t want to be in the papers at the moment. It’s just an opportunity to get caned.’

It was a revealing response which told us much about the mindset among players and staff at Fratton at present.

The growing frustrations could be sensed among fans in the away section at Highbury Stadium, as the game drifted from their team.

Increasingly audible chants of ‘we want Barker out’ were nullified by Jed Wallace’s consolation and a late Pompey charge.

But that didn’t stop a quartet of fans making their feelings known to Barker as he attempted to conduct post-match press duties.

The player in question wasn’t referencing those incidents, however.

He was concerned about an online assault via The News messageboards and social media.

There are a number of things to deduce from that.

Firstly, the contributions of fans to the online debate are being very closely monitored by those at PO4.

Secondly, a certain amount of credence is being attributed to them.

And, thirdly, those thoughts are having an influence.

So the questions raised are is the weight afforded those thoughts justified? And what are the consequences of that sequence of events?

It’s undoubtedly saddening the views of a player are being silenced because of a feared reaction.

There’s little doubt, however, the current online community represent a growing, but still small, percentage of Pompey’s overall support.

Whether their views accurately represent the overall fanbase is harder to garner.

With there being no filter in the world of messageboards, forums and Twitter – anyone, anywhere can have their say – no matter how extreme their views or strong their allegiance.

A large, large number of the online following still offer a very loyal backing, care deeply about Pompey and contribute intelligently to the Fratton debate.

It is clear, though, those who post are being heard these days – no matter if their views are reasoned or so far left field they are tweeting with red and white stripes on.

There are more than a few computers at the end of the Frogmore Road these days which religiously glean online sentiment – understandable, perhaps, as a fan-owned operation.

It’s a intriguing fact, that when things aren’t going well for Pompey the volume of messages on our forum increases.

There were 172 posts replying to Richie Barker’s reaction to Saturday’s game and 118 to chief executive Mark Catlin’s call for unity on Tuesday. Weighty numbers.

Without wading through them, I can guess the tone of most.

It will be a more uniform response to what was heard for the first time among Blues fans, in that old fishing town in the north west on Saturday.

Drifting across the biting Lancashire wind were unmistakable anti-Barker chants from a couple of pockets. It will be brushed off by the man himself but would undoubtedly have registered elsewhere.

The fact Steve Coppell, a man renowned for being loath to speak to the press, broke his Pompey silence this week with some fascinating thoughts suggests that.

The pressure is now mounting ahead of the visit of an in-form York.

With just four points and now two spaces between Pompey and the bottom two, it’s the kind of occasion which could go either way.

The players have the ultimate say but division could contribute to an ugly occasion.

A show of unity, on all platforms, could release Barker’s men from shackles when it’s needed most.