Birch reflects on football’s respect for the Fratton faithful

A young fan waves his flag long after the full-time whistle at Fratton Park on Saturday    Picture: Steve Reid
A young fan waves his flag long after the full-time whistle at Fratton Park on Saturday Picture: Steve Reid

The boos rang around the Ricoh Arena, the sobbing could be heard at Molineux.

At Fratton Park, the players were applauded off while fans sang of embarking on a League One tour.

Three relegations over one weekend – three very different supporter reactions.

And the response on the south coast is the reason why Trevor Birch believes Pompey fans can consider themselves the finest in the land.

It has been the worst season for a generation of Blues followers.

Yet their backing continues to put other clubs to shame as the Fratton faithful rally.

On Saturday, 17,770 fans turned up to witness their side suffer relegation to League One.

This was no morbid affair and certainly no funeral, though.

Pompey fans sang of going to Shrewsbury, chanted about what should happen to the fit and proper person’s test.

As ever, they proclaimed ‘We will never die’.

Thousands even remained behind 20 minutes after the final whistle to applaud the players on their lap of appreciation.

All on the day the club returned to the third tier of English football for the first time in 29 years.

It has become commonplace for Birch to hear compliments about the Pompey fanbase from those in football.

And the administrator was once again left in admiration following their latest display of unwavering support.

He said: ‘What a credit they are to themselves, the city and the club.

‘That alone gives me hope the club will survive in some shape or form. They can never die. That really is the case, they genuinely mean it.

‘Whenever I speak to anyone in the game, the first thing they talk about is how incredible the fans are.

‘Football people find the fan base amazing. They just cannot believe the atmosphere which keeps being created at Fratton Park, no matter what the club is put through.

‘That is the tremendous respect the supporters are held in.

‘I hope the players realise how lucky they are to have played in front of such a crowd because the atmosphere they create is unrivalled.

‘The only thing supporters can do is get behind their team and give them confidence – the Pompey fans do just that.

‘They are unbelievable.’

Last week, Doncaster chairman John Ryan sent a letter to Pompey praising the Blues fans.

The likes of Paul Merson, Brian McDermott and Chris Kamara have also recently spoken of the support in glowing terms.

The disappointing Championship campaign comes to a close with a trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

By yesterday afternoon, Pompey had already sold more than 2,000 tickets in the City Ground’s visitors’ section for Saturday.

The fans are lining up a true end-of-season celebration, regardless of the relegation they have suffered.

It promises to be another in a long line of special away days the Fratton faithful have created during the campaign.

Then it is on to the summer and a time to hope for the arrival of a new owner to secure the Blues’ future.

Birch added: ‘I always knew the Pompey support was like this.

‘When coming here with former clubs in the past, I could hear it and see it for myself.

‘Fratton Park always generates an outstanding atmosphere.

‘In the past when I have come to Fratton Park, I have often found myself wishing the support of my club at the time was as good as the Pompey fans.

‘I cannot praise them enough for the way they have got behind the team since I have been here.

‘They are not responsible for any of this mess but they continue to give their tremendous backing to the club.’