A first for this blog, a guest piece. I’m delighted to host this contribution to the ongoing debate about the atmosphere at Fratton Park from Claire Perry, @princessclairin on Twitter.
Thank you to Stuart for letting me guest on this blog. There has long been an argument regarding the lack of noise in Fratton Park that it’s the ‘women and children whatdunnit’ (otherwise known as the ‘Westwood argument’). As a woman, and previously, a child, I’d like to challenge that and make a few points.
First, if you’ll indulge me, a little history. I didn’t go to Fratton Park as a child – because I was female. My granddad, dad, and brother went, my mum went shopping and I was left with grandma. Come 5pm, us ‘ladies’ would be gathered around the telly waiting to adjust our faces into the correct expression to what the teleprinter told us, before the men came through the door. It was the 70s, it was usually patient sympathy.
My breakthrough came with what was long a family secret –we only told my mum on my dad’s 70th. He had clearly been told to look after me, but Pompey had a home game to confirm their entry from div 4 to 3 in 1980. It was a night game, my dad had a season ticket in in the South Stand. He obviously had to stay home to watch me.
He took me to the game, sent me into the ‘old’ Fratton End and told me to meet him after in Frogmore Road. I was 11. I wandered into the Fratton End, somehow found some of my brother’s friends, and had one of the best nights I could ever remember. There was a pitch invasion, I lost a shoe, I remember a police woman telling me I was too young to be there but me telling her I had to find my shoe first (I did, it was in the sand by the dugout). I met my dad outside afterwards, and we exchanged ‘a look’ – don’t tell yer mother. I didn’t, til 2009 (sorry dad).
The only song I remember not joining in with was the one about going somewhere ‘with my willy hanging out’, cos I knew I didn’t have one.
From then on, my football depended on many things – at times I travelled hours for a game (and back); at others, football was not the most important thing. In the interim, I was a sports reporter, covering Wycombe Wanderers and (briefly) Watford. But in 1997, I moved back ‘home’ – and football was way up the list of the reasons why. I’ve been on the Fratton End ever since.
Fast forward to now, and I see many using the ‘women and children’ argument – many who I have a lot of time and respect for. There are more women in the Fratton End – the toilet queue at half time shows that – but every single one I know is vocal, supportive, and up and down off their seats throughout the game. If you ever hear someone screaming ‘SHORT CORNERS NEVER WORK’, that’ll be me. And our attempt to get ‘John Utaka Football Genius’ going, which failed, is a constant regret.
To me, there are two reasons why Fratton Park seems quieter – firstly, because it has always been so. The biggest accessory we appear to have is blue-tinted specs – if you honestly think we sang all the time, every time, at home, you are mistaken – we didn’t, we don’t. Why has the Stockport game gone down in history? Because we sang all the way through – when we don’t normally.
We go quiet when it’s tense, we go quiet when we are shit, but we would rather not boo. We honestly always have since the Fratton End was rebuilt. We ARE very good at boosting our team at times others don’t, but really, we do go quiet sometimes. Every game has nuances and I just want to watch and study what is going on.
Skip back 30 years and maybe we did sing more – there were fewer outlets to vent frustration in those days, no computer games etc. And yes, there were terraces and it was the game of the working classes. But if I had time on my hands, I’d love to trawl back through old Sports Mails – I bet there were letters then moaning about the atmosphere and how it wasn’t like that in the ‘50s/’60s etc.
Class was mentioned on Twitter and I would certainly agree that in the Premiership years, pricing took the game away from the poorly-paid/unemployed. The pricing policy this season to me has been fair and as a community club I know people will continue to push for, and get, better deals for the less well-off fan. Pricing and football is an argument others have covered well and is not the point here.
I mentioned two reasons and the second is this. Many on the Fratton End – of all genders and ages – simply aren’t prepared to sing the same old crap anymore. I don’t care about Southampton (except when we are playing them), I want to sing pro-Pompey songs. I’m not going to join in songs about Defoe and Redknapp – I couldn’t give a shit about them anymore – yesterday’s news (and possibly slanderous). On a personal level, I’m not going to join in on songs about sheepshaggers either, being half Welsh. When we played Brighton in the Cup a few years ago my brother got me a ticket in the home end. When the inevitable ‘holding hands’ songs started, people around me sighed saying ‘Blimey, 13 minutes, took them a bit longer than normal then?’ They hear it every game and that joke is old and tired. By all means you sing if you want, I won’t tell you what to do, but don’t moan when increasingly fewer people join in.
Maybe that’s the point? Our songs are old and tired, there’s too much drumming with no nuances and WAY too much ‘ner-ner-ner-ing’. Take the Liverpool Torres song we took the tune of – I know it as ‘the animals came in two by two’. Their version had lyrics:
“His armband proved he was a red -Torres, Torres
You’ll never walk alone it said -Torres, Torres
We bought the lad from sunny Spain
He gets the ball he scores again
Fer-nan-do Torres, Liverpool’s number nine.”
Ours doesn’t. Why shouldn’t it? I have to admit I found the idea of the song-writing evening a bit naff, but applauded the sentiment. Another reason could be that we haven’t held onto players long enough to give them a song and that IS changing (I particularly love Patrick Agyemang’s). Now all we need is for them to be good enough to DESERVE a song.
And that’s the real reason. Its not women, children, or class, there’s just only so much singing we can do and get no return. For five years we have hurtled down the leagues, we’ve seen far more losses at FP than wins, we ship goals like its Christmas every day. Frankly, there’s been nothing to sing about. We sing in true adversity – every relegation has been faced with songs and humour which have made me proud to be Pompey, and when the good times come again, so will the singing – every man, woman and child.