I remember it well. Back in depths of the 83-84 season when things were not going terrifically well there appeared some sticky labels at various places round Fratton Park proclaiming ‘Campbell in the soup’.
In a supposedly clever play on words and the Campbell’s Soup brand it was aimed at then Pompey manager Bobby Campbell. Given that the year before Campbell had produced one of the most entertaining Pompey sides of my memory, as they swaggered to the third division championship, it seemed a tad ungrateful from some with extremely short memories.
The tale is told as proof that football detractors were around long before social media was. They have just now become more easily heard in far greater numbers and have more sophisticated channels than sticky labels to make their feelings and displeasure known.
Similarly the terrace critics have been around since the year dot. I remember former Pompey coach and current Burnley Assistant manager Ian Woan telling me a story of the time he signed for Barnsley.
In his first game for the club the home side kicked off the match and a pretty awful ball was hoisted on to the wing in the direction of Woan who didn’t have a hope of stopping it sailing over the line. At which point a typical tyke roared “Come on Woan thy’s bloody useless”. And so an endearing relationship out on the Oakwell wing ensued. Regardless of whether the player did anything good or bad he could do no right in the eyes of this fellow and a few others.
I can always remember standing over on the South side of Fratton Park when in the pre-match warm up an old guy would regularly shout: “Come on Pethick” in a remonstration at the Pompey defender Robbie.
They were isolated incidents from one or two wags on the terrace and opinions on the game, managers and players in the main were expressed in the bar of the local on a Sunday lunchtime, which only being open for two hours in those days were not exactly long lasting and pretty private.
That’s not to say there was not crowd displeasure and players targeted but usually that was for average teams and under achieving performers not pulling their weight. And yes there has also been one or two scapegoats over the years who try as they might have not endeared themselves to pockets of support.
Which nicely brings me on to Pompey’s current season, the best they have had in total of points, goals scored, away wins garnered since Harry Redknapp’s Championship side. Whilst adverse comment and crowd displeasure is nothing new in the last few years, it definitely seems to have taken on a nastier tone from early days with some people appearing to want more. Perhaps the earth itself.
As someone that wrote a critical column in the Sports Mail some may say that I am somewhat hypocritical. But I would remind that my criticism was in the main directed at an inept board who were happy to preside over a mediocre football team and do as little as possible in the form of conversing with fans or upgrading Dickensian facilities for spectators.
Ok in respect of this season the more ambitious wanted automatic promotion and others cite too many draws as to why that hasn’t happened but overall surely everyone can at least see an upwardly mobile club for the first time since being submerged and then plucked from the embers and ashes of the last eight years.
When the dust settles Pompey shouldn’t be far shy of 80 points and one should remember that 84 won Paul Cook’s Chesterfield the League two title just two years ago. This from a team previously in disarray that had every possibility of dropping out of the league and last season ended with the lowest ever league position, and first ever FA Cup exit to a non-league club.
It took Chris Wilder two years to turn a similar situation round at Northampton and Michael Appleton also had the same time at Oxford. Yet the progress appears not enough for some as certain players have been booed this season and others have right up to recently been caught in verbal confrontation whilst playing which has left a somewhat bitter taste.
One player who has actually been among the better performers this season was booed when he was named by the sponsors as Pompey player of the match and was so disgruntled by the reaction he was reluctant to pick up the award.
Don’t forget though we all tend to look through rose colour glasses at the Pompey life and times of Jed Wallace he faced a barrage of abuse at times and was the recipient of some pretty nasty tweets.
I don’t actually have the answers to the question but are there seems some at all clubs these days that demand instant success on a seasonal basis?
For the majority of Pompey fans we know that simply isn’t true because the years in League 2 have been characterised by healthy gates. But there have been consistent stories of fans turning on each other and having to be separated which beggar’s belief in any age be it with social media or without.
Over my 50 years I can almost count the good times and seasons with the fingers of one hand and this has been one of them, whatever the play offs-do or don’t bring.
Pompey fans are actually going to matches once more expecting them to win games yet at times pockets of Fratton Park can appear as toxic as I can ever remember it. Perhaps expectancy being the key, so long has that been absent.
Conversely how do you explain the different atmosphere at Barnet for instance, in comparison to that at York City? Admittedly there were far more fans in North London in an atmosphere best described as volatile where again players were verbally abused in an aura of open hostility forcing other fans to say they wouldn’t travel away again.
York which was probably the more disappointing of the two defeats actually saw positive backing throughout and for some beyond the final whistle.
Even at Wimbledon recently there seemed almost a carnival atmosphere throughout with lots of love-even given the win. Which wasn’t always the case at Dagenham where Pompey also won-by a canter eventually.
My one overriding worry here is that players and even managers may become overburdened by the spasmodic over-expectation in what is already a somewhat burdensome existence. So it should be.
There should always be pressure to perform at maximum level for Pompey on and off the field.
But any team with the number of points and wins Pompey have amassed surely shouldn’t have been facing criticism throughout the campaign, either collectively or individually.
Expectation beyond reason may just be the biggest enemy within going forward.