The key to Pompey rising again

Pompey's Fratton faithful. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey's Fratton faithful. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke has found himself back in familiar surroundings in the centre of defence in recent weeks  Picture: Joe Pepler

Back home – but Pompey defender would switch back

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He’ll wake up at 4am to set off on his 1,200 mile round-trip.

It’s a route he knows well. Elgin in Moray to Fratton Park, PO4.

That’s because Forrest Watson is a Pompey season-ticket holder.

And the 21-year-old is the epitome of the commitment which will set his club back on the path to where they belong.

Watson is desperate for that moment to arrive over the next 12 months. Like we all are.

Like John Crossley, the Pompey president, who makes a 12,000-mile round-trip from Taiwan when he attends games.

The airline pilot’s financial pledge was only matched by his jaw-dropping efforts to watch the team he loves.

But that’s not to underestimate those who have made their own commitments to Pompey’s cause. Not by a long stretch.

In fact, these men are the embodiment of the loyalty which is, once again, seeing the Fratton faithful excel themselves.

The latest figures have season-ticket sales breaking through the 5,000 figure for the new campaign.

And that’s just two weeks after they went on sale.

Chief executive, Mark Catlin, reported ‘incredible’ first-day figures at the start of the month.

Around 1,000 season-tickets went within the first eight hours of them being made available to the public.

They, of course, were released at frozen prices as Pompey do their bit to encourage punters to return.

There undoubtedly would have been some trepidation from the club’s hierarchy whether that would have been the case in the same numbers.

Maybe there were one or two who thought there would surely be a breaking point to the Fratton faithful’s loyalty.

Their support, at League Two level anyway, would be finite.

What we have seen suggests otherwise.

In Pompey’s first full season as a community outfit, a total of 10,660 season tickets were shifted off the back of the wave of euphoria at owning our own club.

That went up to 11,047 in 2014-15, after Andy Awford ensured his side remained in the Football League with five wins and two draws in a dramatic finale to the previous campaign.

The start of the Paul Cook era saw the number top 11,000 again last term with optimism remaining high.

And news the rate they were sold at is being outstripped this season shows hope really does spring eternal in Pompey’s breast.

It certainly does for Watson, who again will be making his regular pilgrimage next term.

Watson’s commitment may go well beyond the call of duty but he is certain many of those he stands alongside in the Fratton end would do the same in similar circumstances.

‘When I first got a season ticket I lived in England but moved back to Scotland and just kept it going,’ Watson explained.

‘I live just north of Inverness – four hours north of Glasgow.

‘For a game I’ll wake up at 4am, go to Inverness for 7am and then get to Gatwick for 8.30am.

‘Some games have been tough, especially under Barker when you’d go all that way and see a rubbish performance.

‘It’s a big effort but I bet there’s a few others out there like me who travel to games.

‘I’ve been doing it for so long now it’s the norm. I couldn’t imagine not doing it.’

Breaks in the sun are out if you want to travel to Fratton Park from north of the border every other week.

Watson needs every bit of holiday, plus the extra he buys from the computer company where he works, to get to games.

‘To support Portsmouth in Scotland I have to use my holiday to get down,’ he said.

‘I’d hate the thought of using it go abroad and then not being able to make games, so I haven’t been abroad in ages.’

The existence of Clan Pompey shows Watson is not alone in being a Blues fan north of the border.

And there are plenty of others who make huge match-day commitments in a similar vein to Watson.

The late Ken Malley, chairman of Pompey Supporters’ Trust, would travel up from north Devon for games, for example.

The Blues, of course, don’t have exclusivity over such loyalty.

But it’s the circumstances of fans returning in numbers through six seasons of declining results which juxtaposes so impressively.

And to do that at an increasing rate is something to be applauded – and certainly not taken for granted.

‘It’s crazy,’ said Watson, ironically, when asked about the season-ticket figures.

‘But Paul Cook is definitely the right man in my opinion. It’s the best football I’ve seen in years. I think we’ll definitely go up next season.’

There’s hope but optimism or expectation is not the reason Watson is renewing the season ticket he’s held since 2009. It’s because that’s what he does. It’s what you all do.

And that is the single biggest factor which will ensure, whether it’s next season or not, Pompey will rise again.