Relegation is usually greeted with despair and anger. It can mean a loss in income, potentially a smaller budget and smaller crowds.
For Portsmouth, their relegation from League One and continued fall from grace is slightly different. Next year’s quest in League Two cannot come quick enough for the Pompey fans. The takeover by the Pompey Supporters’ Trust has brought back the long forgotten feeling of hope.
Finally, the remnants of past eras are being dismantled, and while the journey will be littered with dangers – not least whether or not fan ownership can succeed in the short and long term and be financially sound – the first shoots of recovery are slowly emerging.
In the aftermath of the PST’s triumphant moment, the 3-0 victory over Sheffield United was of the finest days in the club’s recent history. True to say, in the last three years there haven’t been many to choose from, but the spread of joy across Fratton Park that day made the suffering of two administrations and relegations ever so slightly less devastating.
Now the plans are being laid for a new era, one where responsibility and sensibility are coupled with ambition. Manager Guy Whittingham is hugely popular with the Fratton faithful and – given that his budget will not be astronomical – he will continue to focus on youth.
Jed Wallace, Dan Butler, Adam Webster, Ashley Harris and Nick Awford have all broken into the first-team and Whittingham has regularly championed their impact.
Last month he said that investing in the academy could help repair Pompey’s reputation.
“There is talent in the Academy and that goes down through the age groups,” he said speaking to The News, Pompey’s local paper. “That is where we are going to be for the next five or six years. I doubt very much if we are going to be able to buy players. Until we’ve paid our debts, I don’t think we should have to.”
As with all clubs, a progressive youth policy has found favour with the fans who want to see players wearing the shirt for reasons other than those written in their contracts. Pompey will not punch above their weight.
The majority of the fans are not anticipating instant promotion. If reaching such a target meant paying more in wages and increasing the budget, then it’s doubtful they would support it.
They have been given a chance to start again. Repeating the process that go them into the mess has to be avoided. First and foremost, a competitive squad has to be built, but there’s the free transfer and loan market for that.
Patrick Agyeman’s new two-year contract is a huge step forward. His influence and partnership with David Connolly was integral to the turnaround towards the end of the season.
The departures of Gabor Gyepes and Therry Racon, although disappointing on a playing front, show that the club won’t be moved from a new, stricter player budget which is about £1.2million. Chief executive Mark Catlin has called that a “competitive League Two budget” that means Pompey won’t be one of the big spenders.
He added: “We need to manage expectations and you have to be truthful and tell the fans that we have not got a big budget for the league. We really haven’t. And it would not be right if we did – we have got to self-fund.”
And even though there will be numerous players walking in and out of the Fratton Park door, the decisions will be made because of necessity not greed. Finally some sense has returned to Pompey. League Two will be difficult, but this is a community club once more. For that reason, the new season cannot come quick enough.
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