Fratton Park atmosphere debate – a guest blog from Claire Perry

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.

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7 Responses to Fratton Park atmosphere debate – a guest blog from Claire Perry

  1. Jonathan Hartley says:

    Excellent piece Claire. My only criticism is that you weren’t hard enough on the Westwood group. It’s almost like a cult with an inner group, hangers-on and wannabes. The drumming dominates and can silence or prevent others initiating singing. I was never sure whether giving them their own section in the Milton End was to promote or isolate them. Either way it didn’t work. Perhaps now’s the time to end this small group’s dominance of the Fratton End and to tell them they are welcome but their drum isn’t.

  2. Tommy P says:

    Spot on. Nearly every song these days is abusive and it’s the lack of positively that winds me up rather than the lack of noise. The the cry of “WHO??”, which greet a subs introduction we don’t recognise annoys me the most, especially when most of us haven’t heard of any of our players before either!

  3. Albie says:

    Well said Claire, never could see the point of singing anti Southampton songs & always have my own gueesing games as to how long it takes for the first one to start, obviously the outcome depends on what time the drunken Crusty decides to make his enterance. Once timed it at 4 minutes, how that is supposed to galvanise the team into raising their game I don’t know. Another I can’t see the point of is the Kemp song, he left probably before a lot of the singers were born, do the Kop sing about Tommy Smith or the Stretford End about Georgie Best? The vain attempts of Animal thrashing his drum to get the song from Sister Act makes me laugh when others sing the Chimes or Blue Army (surely it should be Blue Navy being a naval city). Unfortunately we need to get rid of the arrogance of thinking we are a bigger club than the rest of the division & get back to basics.

  4. Brian Oliver says:

    Very enjoyable read. I don’t go to every game and didn’t realise there was a problem – the atmosphere against Exeter this season was brilliant (as was the game) but against Scunthorpe it was flat (like the performance). It varies. I agree about the Southampton songs – couldn’t care less – and the drunken loony. And you’re right about the past. It wasn’t very noisy when we used to get 4,000-7,000 in the mid to late late 1970s. As for John Utaka… I could tell you a story about him but better not.

  5. Sue P says:

    Well said Claire – as you know I’m a recent recruit to the Fratton End, just a few years under me belt so far. I’m up and singing with the rest, shouting and cheering as appropriate – but I won’t join in with hate-filled songs, homophobic chants etc, and I find the harping back to the glory days (the ones that finished us financially) just a tad embarrassing to be honest.
    Good, loud, positive, supportive songs I will give hearty voice to, as much as the next (wo)man. We just don’t seem to have very many of them.

  6. Barry Cain says:

    Great writing Claire. You must be proud of your Dad (he told me to say that). I started following Pompey in 1948 and the neighbour would would take me on his bike with me sitting on a small saddle on his cross bar. Often I would be lifted over turnstile to avoid the outlandish entry fee of ninepence and since the ground was always packed in those days often the adults would just lift the kids up in the air and pass them down to the front so they could see the game close up.

    Over the years I graduated to walking to the game then riding my own bike and then on the infamous Lambretta.

    Singing was pretty much constrained to the Pompey Chimes and I do not remember much abuse of Southampton as they were always in the lower divisions but there was always friendly banter with visiting team supporters and they were not confined to there own corner in those days.

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