Why Hull represents hope rather than the end

The mood has changed dramatically around Fratton Park since the last time Pompey travelled to Hull
The mood has changed dramatically around Fratton Park since the last time Pompey travelled to Hull
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Jamal Lowe. Picture: Mark Robinson

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October 23, 2010 – the day football almost died.

A city in mourning at the prospect of the untimely and downright cruel demise of its beloved Pompey.

Squabbling between owners old and new had dragged the club to death’s door.

Most emphatic of all, it was a fact publicly acknowledged by the hierarchy themselves via the Pompey website.

Apparently, the end genuinely was nigh.

Unless a financial agreement could be swiftly reached, the club would be liquidated.

It meant a trip to Hull potentially represented Portsmouth Football Club’s last-ever match.

After those 90 minutes, the future was bleak as the famous old club peered into the abyss.

Yet, on Saturday, Pompey head back to the KC Stadium.

This time it is a club reinvigorated and bearing a healthy glow.

New life has been breathed into the flagging patient since that last excursion to East Yorkshire.

It is a very different Blues which will be turning up.

For many, the significance of the Hull fixture will not be missed.

The wounds may have healed but those memories refuse to slip away.

The majority of the sizeable away following last year feared they wouldn’t be back. Thankfully, they are – along with a club which has clambered off its death bed.

A Greg Halford free-kick helped secure a 2-1 triumph in those darkest of hours.

He will be one of only a handful of returning heroes come Saturday, such has been the subsequent overhaul.

Of those who appeared 11 months ago, six have since departed Fratton Park.

Ibrahima Sonko, Michael Brown, John Utaka, David Nugent, Carl Dickinson and substitute Richard Hughes.

Gone, all gone.

Unused substitutes Darryl Flahavan and Nadir Ciftci are also no longer with us.

In their place are two million pound signings and the return of an ageless Fratton favourite.

They are three of nine new recruits captured this summer.

Of course, back then there was a registration embargo in place.

Most crucial of all, the club remained locked in administration.

How times really do change.

As for ownership, it was the transferring of the club from the hands of Sacha Gaydamak to Portpin which provided that scare on such a black weekend.

Both parties thrust accusing fingers in the direction of the other as they clashed over finer details of the sale.

What ensued was a public display of brinkmanship.

The distress caused to the loyal fans of the football club was merely collateral damage.

Still, no time for revenge or retribution, Pompey remains a club alive and very much kicking.

And that remains the crucial factor.

What’s more, the Convers Sports Initiatives era has delivered more than any owner since Gaydamak.

Let’s not forget, it was he whose funds helped capture the FA Cup in 2008.

The squad travelling to Hull this weekend will include the likes of David Norris, Luke Varney, Erik Huseklepp, Jason Pearce, Marko Futacs and Stephen Henderson.

That October 2010 matchwinner Halford is also now tied to the Blues permanently.

Not forgetting, of course, the warm embrace, with Fratton’s favourite son Benjani Mwaruwari.

In addition, the wage wrangles with Tal Ben Haim have been settled and he is now free to play again.

There will also be the luxury of being able to name a full compliment of players on the substitutes’ bench.

Certainly a rarity last season, – albeit when seven rather than today’s total of five were permitted.

Off the field, Pompey circa September 2011 has also changed dramatically.

There has been investment in the stadium, investment in the training ground and investment in the Academy.

The latter, in particular, has bore fruit from the overhaul which has seen Andy Awford replace former Academy boss Paul Smalley.

This season they have defeated Manchester United and boasted five representatives in the recent friendly at Real Betis.

The club has also been recognised for its work in the community by winning a News business award.

It is the strengthening of links within the city which continues to grow.

Back on October 23, 2010, a trip to Hull represented the end of Portsmouth Football Club.

Now a return to the KC Stadium represents the very beginning.