“Crisis? What Crisis?!!!!”
To partly paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, “If you can keep your head whilst others around you lose theirs, maybe you haven’t understood the problem”. Well I’d like to think that the PST SG always understood the problems it faced - if not always collectively managing to keep its head.
With the Club in the vice like grip of Balram Chainrai, owner somewhat by default, seen by a few as a Saviour but by most as a Sinner, membership of the PST soared.
Realisation that it offered the only way the Club could be rescued, membership peaked at around 2,400. Some argued it was disappointing bearing in mind the kind of demand for tickets during the PL days and visits to Wembley.
Conversely the figure was viewed as positive for the PST image and its establishment as prospective owner or at least a part shareholder. The number easily exceeded many other Clubs total home gates.
Whilst trying to get to grips with all that was going on with the legal onslaught being waged by HMRC & other creditors plus attempting to engage in dialogue with the Premier League and other Football Authorities about the dilemma the Club was in, PST now had its hands full trying to fend off other circulating problems. Some opposition from within fans groups developed.
Mistakenly viewing PST as a multi headed hydra intent on swallowing them all up to create as they saw it one representative voice - had begun to surface.
This was never the case but it took a lot of educating and sometimes not so gentle persuasion. Firefighting was becoming a major pastime for PST.
Likewise the frequently vitriolic, if physically obscure cyber warriors on message boards proved a major distraction, some of whom were believed to be on the payroll of the owner. The questioning was not just about PST’s objectives but also its long term role and capability as a viable proposition to take on the Club in view of the widely reported debts that by now had escalated to as high as £130 million perhaps higher or so some claimed.
On a more encouraging note in this very hectic period PST received encouraging support from within the Club most notably Lucius Peart and ex-players such as Ray Crawford and Alan Knight donated funds raised from book sales etc.
The Mayor of Portsmouth and the leader of the Council attended the 1st open meeting offering cross party backing Council as did local MP’s Mike Hancock and Penny Mordaunt. The News led by Neil Allen continued to give plenty of publicity and free advertising or future open meetings and road shows. Contact was made with the PCC planning department regarding finding ways to protect Fratton Park in the event of a worst case scenario of the Club being wound up with the ground then being an asset in any Liquidation.
Various highly publicised High Court hearings attended by PST SG’s and fans alike had attracted huge national interest.
Several SG members became accustomed to doing TV interviews thus exposing the virtues of the PST to a wider audience and the football world at large. Colin Farmery, Mike Hall among others became the faces of PST. The tense atmosphere in the courts on each hearing as the Clubs appointed Lawyers one of whom by a quirk of fate was from a family of Portsmouth fans successfully fought off the Winding Up Petition, thus buying time to try to alleviate the precarious financial position was a huge strain both mentally and physically on all concerned. Each time the Club survived the relief was acutely visible.
It was at one of these hearings as Chair of the SG I realised after talking to the Lawyers acting for Balram Chainrai, that here was a man hell bent on saving what he viewed as a valuable asset in order to rescue his original investment. What that figure was later became the subject of huge debate but for now much as I and most others involved with PST deeply distrusted him it was obvious the one positive feature and value to PST was that he would be prepared to spend thousands just to keep PFC afloat for a future sale to some other major investor. That I believed at the time suited PST given that existing available funds were nowhere near even £100,000.
The first half of 2010 was without question the most difficult and challenging period for the SG to get through in the PST’s formative period.
The Owner had proved himself intransigent to requests for meetings, the Premier League remained impassive to the plight of PFC concerned only with the Club completing its fixtures to avoid media embarrassment whilst the FA did a passable impression of Nero fiddling whilst Pompey financially burnt.
This personified the collective view they had of fans namely fit only to pay to watch the game on the pitch.
PST and by now a reformed SOS Pompey, the Militant Brigade of the Blue Army under the command of Bob Beech equally had a shared view of them:
They were not fit for purpose.