The subject which has split conflicted Portsmouth down the middle

The response was as revealing as it was varied.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 11:28 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:36 pm
The prospect of Pompey fans returning to Wembley has generated strong debate. Picture: Steve Reid

A simple question sent into the royal blue Twittersphere underlined how the Checkatrade Trophy has divided Pompey fans, with the club now a single win away from a Wembley return.

The snap report from Tuesday’s quarter-final victory over Peterborough came with the poser: where do fans now stand on the competition?

Cue a raft of far-reaching replies of variable vehemence on the subject.

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Some were staying militantly to their ethical boycott of the competition, and wouldn’t give the Tinpot Trophy the time of day if their own flesh and blood were running out in its final wearing the star and crescent on their chests.

Others can scarcely comprehend the concept of not turning out and backing their beloved Pompey, no matter the circumstance.

Then came those who could find their resolve on staying clear wilting in the face of a trip to the home of football becoming tangible.

That was portrayed in humorous contradictions in the space of a few Twitter characters. It’s a two-bob competition, but sod that it’s a day out at Wembley being the kind of vibe.

What’s immediately clear, despite some of the unnecessary bickering on the subject, is whatever your viewpoint is there’s no right or wrong position to assume.

There’s no moral high ground to be taken on where you stand, no preaching and justifiably undermining the contrary position of a fellow fan.

Even those within the Pompey hierarchy are divided on the issue. Chief executive Mark Catlin has been one of the most vocal critics of the Trophy, even speaking out on the dark spectre of B team involvement in any form at the Football League’s AGM in 2014.

Kenny Jackett, ever the football man, can only see benefits from young top-flight academy players being exposed to competitive football against league players, while offering second and third tier sides a realistic chance of a trip to the home of football.

You certainly can’t begrudge the players’ position. They were epitomised by the pre-match talk of Wembley nearing at the club’s Roko base, while Ben Close summed up the view from the dressing room after the game.

‘For the likes of us who haven’t played there - including myself - it would be a massive achievement to get to Wembley, no matter what the competition,’ he said.

But among some of the club’s staff themselves there’s been, at best, an indifference to being involved. 

Certainly, too, personal circumstance will have a significant impact on your position.

It would be easier, say, to maintain a militant stance if you’re coming off the back of five Wembley visits to watch Pompey between 2008 and 2010.

Likewise, would you be more likely to relent if you’ve got a young child who hasn’t - and may not again for a long, long time - had a chance to see the Blues under the arch?

And let's not disregard those who haven't given a hoot all the way through and wouldn't mind the day out if it happened. Twitter isn't the ultimate barometer of Pompey fans' emotions, after all.

Whatever your thoughts, there’s little doubt hearing the home crowd sing of going to Wembley as Que Sera Sera rang across the freezing Fratton night with the ground at a sixth of its capacity on Tuesday night, was a curious sight.

Personally, the Checkatrade experience this term has been almost unprecedented in term of the in-game feelings generated.

Going into Tuesday’s Posh meeting a general indifference to the competition endured.

Almost never before in personal or professional circumstances has there been a contentment at seeing the opponent score against Pompey.

Yet, as Ivan Toney took aim amid the frenzied scene in the Blues box with nine minutes remaining, a conceded goal as the end result didn’t seem the worst thing in the world.

The only previous time I can recall anything remotely approaching that emotion was as hypothermia set in and extra-time loomed at Coventry in the FA Cup in 2010. Oh, and then there was the final day at West Brom in 2005, of course...

Similarly, though, once David Wheeler had done the business there was only hope the team would see out the result (although maybe that was to avoid a late rewrite of the match report).

So what do we garner from that? There’s nothing quite like the Checkatrade Trophy to confuse the hell out of you, perhaps.

There is certainly a tinge of regret at the anticipated outcome if Pompey do reach the final.

Some may feel a clash with Sunderland will see the masses travelling up Olympic Way on March 31.

The polarised views, however, lead you to the conclusion there will be neither a show of force nor blanket boycott of the occasion. Both, in their own ways, would be impressive.

There’s little doubt, however, there has been few subjects in recent years which have split the club right down the middle. It's a conflicted Pompey.

Whatever happens, we can say promotion now really is a must - just so the Blues can put their Checkatrade identity crisis to bed.