Fans’ hearts, minds and wallets up for grabs

Blues fans watch the Cheltenham game at Fratton. Picture: Joe Pepler
Blues fans watch the Cheltenham game at Fratton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey are fighting for their place in League Two – but it’s more than that they are battling for over the remainder of the season.

The Blues, quite simply, are vying for the continuing support of thousands of supporters.

And it’s a contest which will be key to Richie Barker’s future vision at Fratton Park.

Ten points and the same amount of games separate Barker from where he wants to be by May 3.

The man from Sheffield will make absolutely no apology for eking his way to safety with a team who he has made it clear he feels is patently not good enough.

Barker stresses that approach is not his way and it’s a needs-must policy, but by doing so he could be turning away fans from returning in the new campaign.

The past two outings have produced just two shots on target – with both of those games arriving in front of increasingly frustrated home support.

The fact 17,254 fans turned out for one of those games against Cheltenham represents a huge opportunity missed.

Consequences of a lack of entertainment could be seen 76 hours later against Burton Albion.

A crowd of 12,780 was recorded for the meeting with the high-flying Brewers.

The reality is there were significantly less who fancied it after the weekend.

That attendance represents the number of tickets sold for the game – not the number who turned up.

Last summer, season ticket sales reflected the optimism (and prices) which arrived with Pompey becoming the biggest fan-owned club in the United Kingdom.

A total of 10,670 were sold as impressive loyalty represented equally eye-catching business to boost the club’s coffers.

All of that figure would have been factored into Tuesday’s attendance.

A long way from all of those holders would have been present.

One poster on The News’ message board underlined that fact, as he explained only one of the five season tickets in his family was under the floodlights at PO4.

Season ticket sales, frankly, aren’t the Pompey manager’s lookout, though. He is in the business of results.

But those who are holding the purse strings in the corridors of power at the end of Frogmore Road will be looking nervously ahead when it comes to summer renewals.

Much of the weekend optimism was fuelled by an impressive display at Chesterfield, with those watching boosted by Sky cameras.

Pompey carved out 10 shots on goal at the Proact Stadium – double that of the league leaders. It’s amazing what a bit of hope and sunshine can do to a fanbase who want to believe, as was seen a few days later.

That sentiment is a volatile friend to sales, however, and a buoyant pal can soon become an apathetic foe with the wrong kind of fuel.

Much is made of the loyalty of Pompey fans and if ever a campaign proved its presence it’s this one.

But it’s worth remembering the figure of 8-10,000 has long been bandied around as the club’s hardcore support.

The ‘wall of noise’ game against Stockport in 1998 is the one held up as the Blues hardcore’s finest hour.

Despite the tens of thousands who claim their presence the attendance that night was 8,622.

At the moment, fans are witnessing a Pompey side with an identity crisis.

Their manager isn’t hiding his view it’s a team in a state of flux.

But if the product of that transition is a brand of football which is hard to digest, the consequences will then be seen in the club’s profit and loss account.

Hearts and minds are up for grabs – and that will have serious repercussions for Barker’s rebuilding process.