The days when fans were seen, not heard - until Portsmouth supporters were allowed an opinion
Twenty-three years ago this weekend, I was watching Pompey at Sheffield United. Correction – I was watching Pompey lose at Sheffield United.
In those days, and in fact most days before or since, losing was what we tended to do at Bramall Lane.
My trip for the December 1996 game brought me extra duties, though, for it was the day The News launched a new feature – the inclusion of fans’ views in the paper.
These days, thanks to social media, supporters’ views are everywhere – a key part of the coverage all types of media give to the beautiful game.
That’s as it should be, although some managers and players might think they’d be happier if supporters were not given the platform they are today.
But back in the mid-90s, I can proudly say that we were among the trailblazers in allowing supporters to have their say.
My task, given to me by the then News sports editor, Colin Channon, was to speak to a handful of fans at the end of each Pompey game and compile them into a piece for the paper.
I seem to remember I also used to write a few of my own pearls of wisdom. They must have been desperate.
We didn’t really know back then if this new idea would catch on but it did, not just in The News but in any paper that tried something similar.
Almost 10 years later, during the Great Escape run-in in the spring of 2006, we extended the space given to those pesky fans to a whole page, which even then was quite a leap.
Now we live in the world of Twitter and Facebook plus radio coverage of football that at times spends longer hearing from fans than it does from commentators.
Before 1996, the Sports Mail letters page was about the only outlet for Pompey fans with a view to air.
Some say that was plenty.