Payback Time

Last updated : 20 March 2011 By Jim Bonner

Neville Dalton is a journalist and a Portsmouth fan of more than 40 years.

Editor's Note: I was originally going to write a piece today on the ticket pricing fiasco but I virtually agree with everything Neville says here, the paying Pompey fans have been alienated once again, especially those who buy tickets on matchday.

I was hoping to use this column to pay tribute to the tremendous record-breaking run that the lads have just been on, masterminded by either an extremely astute or rather lucky Steve Cotterill.

It's no coincidence that the day Ricardo Rocha got back in the side was the day Pompey ended their dismal defeat-laden, goal-haemorrhaging run and broke the club's post-war record for the longest spell without conceding a league goal.

Oh, and win six matches in a row without conceding a single goal.

Jamie Ashdown has understandably won a lot of praise for being the record-breaking goalkeeper, although personally I believe he has saved many of his best performances for days when the defence has been less impressive and he's stood between us and a real pasting.

Hermann Hreidarsson's return has also been a big influence, as has the arrival of Ritchie De Laet, for which Cotterill can certainly take more of the credit.

But it's Ricky Rocha who has been the main difference, bringing to the defence a calm assurance and a terrific footballing brain that hadn't been seen since - well - since he last played regularly after joining the defence in the dying days of its Premiership life.

And how much of that is down to Mr Cotterill I'm not sure. He steadfastly refused to let Rocha back in the side, despite evidence to us laymen that he was our best defender by a mile and no longer hampered by the injury that had kept him out of the team initially.

Finally, the absence of others thrust the Portuguese back in the spotlight, and we've hardly looked back since.

In the course of the defensive reshuffle, we seem to have found a suitable slot for Greg Halford, too. He had singularly failed to impress me at full-back, and his casual air still give me the collywobbles.

But he has grown into the job of partnering Rocha and has played a full part in Pompey's defensive resurgence.

How much of that change in position was down to necessity and how much to Cotterill's inspiration we'll probably never know.

But the combination - together with a more secure feel to the midfield, with Mullins, Ward and especially Hogg bustling around - has certainly lifted our season.

Well done to all.

But no, I'm not going to talk too much about that now.

Season of hell

For once again, just as things are looking up at Fratton Park, Pompey have shot themselves in the foot.

After sensibly keeping the lid on season-ticket prices after putting fans through a season of hell, culminating in relegation from the Premier League and the near-extinction of the club, Portsmouth FC has revealed its true colours.

Up go season-ticket prices, not by a few quid but a hefty 12.5% for most early-bird purchasers and almost twice as much for adults in the Family section.

Oh - and you've only got a couple of weeks to get them before the so-called special offer ends and you have to fork out another £50 or so.

And by the way, you can't eke it out for a little bit longer by paying by credit card - that's not an option until after the Early Bird offer is up.

And even if you do wait and swallow the extra £50 hike, they'll charge you an extra tenner administration fee for paying by credit card and a fiver for debit-card payments.

A wonderful way to repay those loyal fans whom both Cotterill and his players have praised for their loyalty, support and contribution to improved performances in recent times.

To be fair to the club - and at this very moment I'm finding that pretty difficult - you can pay by cheque. But that means the money will leave our recession-hit bank accounts even faster.

And not everyone likes paying that way, especially those of us who no longer live close enough to the club to be able to pop in to hand over our hard-earned money and instead have to entrust our cheques to the postal service.

And in any case, with cheques being phased out, where would that leave most of us if this had happened a couple of years further down the line?

They are offering short-term interest-free credit arrangements. But not all of us like to trust such organisations with our money. Some may not even be able to enjoy credit facilities.

So, massive price hike - only a fraction of which can be attributed to the 2.5 percentage-points rise in VAT; less time to take advantage of the discount on offer; no credit-card option and massive extra charges even when they do come into play.

Not to mention the £2 admin fee being imposed on those who choose to pay on the day. And an even higher charge for games against the more popular teams.

Whichever way you look at it, there's not much for us fans to cheer about - and precious little in the way of a thank-you to those of us who have stood by the club through its laughably inept - not to mention dodgy - days and continued to do so in this continually challenging season among football's lesser lights.

Still, the club thinks we should be grateful. "The club feels that this is the minimum increase that they can offer fans for next season," it says on the official website.

Yes, the club froze prices for this season, when admittedly we play more games than last year, but among generally less revered company and certainly with many less-talented players (although the commitment has been admirable and some of the results in such difficult circumstances likewise).

But these measures smack of something unpleasant. Maybe the cash flow really is as bad as some of us fear and Portsmouth Football Club (2010) Ltd is suffering some of the financial problems its beleaguered predecessor did.

Maybe the club has looked at the incredible response from supporters this season and feels confident it can now take advantage of their loyalty.

Maybe they're all so tied up with the complications of trying to work out how to run a football club with at least one hand tied behind their backs that they've failed to realise the devastating moral - as well as practical - impact on fans already weary of being taken for granted.

Whatever the reason, the behaviour is shameful and will undoubtedly lead many to reconsider their blind faith.

For some it will mean a bit of soul-searching before attempting to justify the outlay to their hard-up families; for some it will mean a match-by-match appraisal of which ones to fork out to attend.

And for some it will mean turning their backs on Pompey in their latest hour of need.

I can't help thinking this latest episode in the unpalatable drama will backfire on Pompey.

And it could be a long time before the club wins back some of those alienated fans who want nothing more than to cheer on their one and only team once again.