I must start by paying tribute to John Alder and Liam Sweeney the two Newcastle United fans who were killed when flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine on Thursday.
They were two fans travelling to New Zealand to watch their side play pre-season games when like the other 290 on board their lives were cut short by an act of needless terrorism. They were doing nothing more than going to a football match!!
I did not know either of the two but I have no doubt that would have visited Fratton Park and I know that all football fans would join me in sending condolences to their family and friends. I have just noticed that a group of Sunderland fans have set up a fund to provide a floral and other tributes in the name of the two fans. To date it has raised £5,000.
Pompey Shareholders Meeting
As promised I rushed back from holiday to attend the Supporters Trust Shareholders meeting in a stifling Victory Lounge last Friday evening. It was an occasion however that I personally enjoyed and I know that the fans I spoke also had similar feelings.
The all ticket event attracted over four hundred fans who have helped save their club and the Trust put on a programme which gave them the chance to meet the new squad and pose for photos and a chance to question, manager, players and board members on any subject that they fancied.
The meeting was admirably hosted by BBC Radio Solent`s Andy Moon and the audience of mostly grey tops lapped it up. Not that the entire crowd were old men, there was a fair sprinkling of other groups in evidence.
Ashley Brown Trust Chairman and PCFC board member opened the meeting y introducing fellow board members and thanking them for their efforts over the past year – just for note the election of a new board is imminent. Ash felt that the Trust membership was disappointing with only 3,500 of which 2,300 were shareholders. Remember you do not have to be a shareholder to be a Trust member.
Other news released by Brown was that the club have not passed last year`s season ticket sales and have now reached 10,750 with 11,000 the next target.
Two dates for the diary are
17 August – Fan`s day at Fratton Park, before and after the first home game with Cambridge United.
29 September – The Trust AGM.
Introducing the Squad
The highlight of the evening was the session where Andy Awford took the microphone and introduced the squad he has accumulated to take on the season ahead. He did this without any notes and entertained the assembled fans with his humour and knowledge.
If you did not think that Andy loves Pompey then you should have been there. He had anecdotes or jokes for each player as they were paraded in squad number order; but most of all he had compliments and words of encouragement for them all. The only two not there were Wes Fogden who is undergoing treatment on his knee ligaments and a certain number 35.
It was an impressive show from the players but it was noticeable that some enjoyed the experience more than others. What has to be remembered is of course they are only footballers and not necessarily used to the glare that such events bring.
Some were only too pleased to chat with fans and have photos taken others less so. But I think one message was got through to the accumulated squad the club is part of the community and we are all in it together.
Mark Catlin made one thing clear to all fans ‘If you sent an email to any member of the staff and did not receive a reply I want to know about it`
A number of fans around me nodded in approval at that statement saying that they has experienced this first hand and it was working. ‘You are our lifeblood and we must ensure you are as happy as we can make you.`
Mark talked about the problems the club had had since coming out of Administration and explained that that was partly the reason for the disappointing 2013/14 season.
‘You have to start planning for a season in January to allow yourself time to discuss player`s contracts and decide on transfer targets and budgets etc. We did not have that luxury and the club had to build a squad from scratch with a limited budget.`
‘This year despite the change of manager we have had that opportunity and I believe it will show next season.`
He also told the meeting that the new Training Ground would be open soon but added that when he was told about the Tifosy bid to raise £250,000 for Academy pitches telling those involved ‘you cannot expect the fans to find even more money`. He admitted that he was wrong and astounded by the progress of that fund – which has now almost reached £140,000!
Financial Outlook bright
Finance Director Tony Brown while not have the polished performance of a Mark Catlin nevertheless brought applause from the fans when he announced that the club could be debt free in twelve months approximately six months earlier than planned.
The full year accounts for the year were not yet available but the figures for eleven months showed a deficit of just £91k against a projected annual loss of £700k as reported to the Football League in the business plan. The League, in fact, have commended the club on their financial performance!! Now who thought they would ever hear that?
Tony did say that one of the biggest draws on the club resources was he cost of maintain the stadium as nothing had been spent for years despite the clubs elevated position in the league structure.
There were a number of questions for the floor in the final session most of which were frivolous but some worthy of mention.
– A new goal keeping coach should be unveiled next week after a long search.
– The club will hold a open day training session at Fratton Park on August 4
– To make visiting sides less than welcome at Fratton Park the away dressing room has been reduced in size and painted grey! Awfs declined to comment on whether the showers would be cold!!
– Some of the pictures of famous Pompey players from the recent past have been removed from the tunnel area.
I have attended fans meeting now for many years as the club has gone from one disaster to another. I was at the early meetings when Tony Goodall and others wanted to set up a Trust with the aim on owning the club and I have written a great deal on this site supporting that ideal often to the wrath of you the VP members.
Friday though it seemed as though the job is ALMOST done and the club is now back on an even keel and in safer hands than it has been for many years and maybe we can at last look forward. Of course, we the fans must ensure that we elect the right people to run OUR club in future and as Catlin said the intention is not to build a club and then sell it as a profit.
Gone is the moaning in the ‘ranks` at these sessions and all seems happy in the Pompey camp with fans, players and management all working together. That feel good factor could carry the club forward on the crest of a wave. Let`s hope so eh.