Whittingham calls for festive fixture change

Pompey's clash at Hartlepool is cancelled (December 22, 2012). Guy Whittingham, left
Pompey's clash at Hartlepool is cancelled (December 22, 2012). Guy Whittingham, left

Guy Whittingham spoke of his sympathy for football fans as he raised questions over those who draw up the Football League fixture list.

Pompey were scheduled to play Hartlepool on the last Saturday before Christmas – on what is always a busy day on the roads.

Two of the other south coast clubs also endured long and fruitless trips north on clogged motorways.

League One rivals Bournemouth travelled to Crewe and saw their game postponed late in the day, while Brighton & Hove Albion’s Championship clash at Blackburn Rovers also fell victim to the heavy rain.

It wasn’t just fans in games that were postponed who suffered either.

Sunderland made the trek to Southampton in the Premier League, while Plymouth had to make the trip to Accrington Stanley in League Two.

There is no way the miserable weather could be predicted when the fixtures were announced but Whittingham believes more care should be taken and some common sense applied to make a few alterations.

He said: ‘We were disappointed at the way the fixtures worked out. But I’m sure it wasn’t just us.

‘You just feel sorry for the fans who have started on their way, hours before, or even got up there the day beforehand.

‘And it’s not just our club, but the other clubs as well. There should be a bit more thought towards the supporters.

‘Bournemouth were at Crewe, Brighton were at Blackburn, Sunderland were at Southampton and you do wonder why you are travelling those distances on the last Saturday before Christmas.

‘Speaking from our point of view, it might have made more sense for us to play Bournemouth at this time of the year.’

The football authorities perhaps have enough on their plates, rather than making allowances for what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

But Whittingham believes there should be a modern method to avoid similar problems in future.

He said: ‘We were discussing it on the coach and I know it can’t be an easy job for whoever has to plan out the fixtures.

‘I understand why we can’t play at home when Southampton are at home and there are other teams in a similar situation like that.

‘But in this day and age with the technology that is available, you might have thought they could find a better solution.

‘It’s all chucked into the mix in a computer somewhere but surely they must then look at the fixture list to see if there are any potential problems and change things if they need to?

‘There is not much we can do about it now but you would hope it is at least looked at in future.

‘A lot of people made wasted journeys and sometimes you can’t help that.

‘But if they are only an hour or two away rather than five or six, it might make things a bit easier for everyone.

‘The supporters show a lot of loyalty and spend a lot of money following their teams around the country but they need to be thought about a bit more.’

Whittingham had already made allowances for the traffic by travelling up on the Thursday.

And he had been given positive information from Hartlepool staff.

He said: ‘We travelled up on the Thursday and made a phone call to see what they thought but they were quietly confident of the game being on.

‘They were cautious but had only had one game called off over the past three years and the pitch usually drains well but it was solid rain and everything was saturated.

‘I was travelling back and seeing everything flooded. The whole country has suffered.’