In awe of Pompey road warriors

Pompey fans cheer their team to victory at Wycombe on Tuesday. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey fans cheer their team to victory at Wycombe on Tuesday. Picture: Joe Pepler

There were 846 at Morecambe on Saturday for the 700-mile round trip to the freezing Lancashire coast.

Just 72 hours later, a further 1,112 travelled to Wycombe for their fourth away trip following their team in 2014.

And Pompey’s road warriors are now eyeing trips to the football hotbeds that are Fleetwood, Rochdale, Newport County and Dagenham & Redbridge over the remainder of the campaign.

Why do they do it? Why would you go to great expense, often shelling out hundreds of pounds to cover the cost of taking families along, to travel the country and watch a football match?

Gluttons for punishment? Slaves to their passions? Or just a little bit demented?

Probably a bit of all three are needed when it comes to following their football club, if the truth be known.

Let’s face it, it hasn’t be pretty watching Pompey away this season.

Followers were rewarded on Tuesday with Pompey’s second away league win this season.

The anticipation of a promotion-chasing first season on the pitch as the United Kingdom’s biggest fan-owned club has long since passed.

Ambitions now equate to seeing their team in League Two mid-table obscurity – hardly huge motivation to hit the motorways and rail network every other weekend.

It hasn’t put Eddie Crispin off, though. Eddie has been following Pompey since 1975 and was up first thing on Saturday to join those migrating north to stand on a bleak Globe Arena terrace and get buffeted by the wind and rain.

It was the 128th English ground he’d been to and he will hit 132 by the time the campaign finishes.

That will cover the 92 Football League clubs – all in the name of watching Pompey.

Eddie missed out on watching his team at some grounds, as he famously boycotted viewing matches on Harry Redknapp’s return in 2005.

He still made pretty much every away trip, though...

The incredible thing is this isn’t an isolated example of unrelenting loyalty. Fellow Blues follower Del Pulley clocked up his 122nd ground at the weekend. Fans’ liaison officer Johnny Moore tallied up his English total at 135.

Those folk know all the other familiar faces on the road.

Eddie Wilson, Chris Gibbs, Paul Banks, John Westwood and the rest. The list goes on and on.

In sub-zero temperatures at Middlesbrough and Stoke in the 80s, or the 90-per-cent humidity of Hong Kong watching the Barclays Asia Trophy.

Nipping down the road for a pre-season trip to Hawks or flying to Canada to see their team win a plastic trophy in Edmonton. They will be there.

It’s a loyalty which often veers into the world of masochism, that perverse sense of pride at being there in the darkest moments. Yeh, but where were you at Barnsley in ’99? Didn’t see you at Stockport in ’78?

And then there is the chance to visit new grounds and enjoy new experiences. No doubt there are plenty of those being collected this season.

The fundamental issue for most, however, is Pompey and following their football club plays a central part in their life.

These are the people left with that empty feeling on summer weekends, who have a void they can’t fill when a match falls foul to the weather.

A national journalist recently asked a Pompey supporter, why do they continue to suffer watching through the pain of recent years?

They were given an incredulous response. ‘Well, it’s my club isn’t it? That’s what we do.’

It’s a telling retort when it comes to the motivating forces of those who follow the outfit they love on the road.