The name of Portadown has become synonymous with unity and the power of communication in recent weeks following the release of a Google documentary on teenager Alberto Balde.
Millions around the world now hear ‘Portadown’ and think of the heart-warming story of Alberto’s integration thanks to a combination of a Google Translate app and support from his football club’s coaching team, players and parents.
The values of communication and unity proved in short supply, however, at Shamrock Park on Saturday during Portadown Football Club’s game with Crusaders.
A release the previous day by the Board of Directors offering long-serving manager Ronnie McFall “backing until the end of the season” sparked anger in some sections as opposition to the officials’ statement.
It felt like the ugly culmination of a growing divide between the fanbase and club.
Saturday’s toxic atmosphere has sparked extreme views but also exposed one of the greatest problems currently weighing down efforts at growth - the lack of communication.
It would be both arrogant and ignorant to dismiss those calling for a change simply as a thug element. However, respect must also remain for those working so hard to protect and progress the club within Shamrock Park.
Falling attendances confirm a silent group, many dating back across decades of support, who have opted to express frustration by staying away. The core fanbase concerned only with supporting the club, irrespective of the individuals, must also not be forgotten.
Ultimately, Saturday served up evidence of a disconnect which must be addressed by reason on all sides. The simple act of a statement offering increased clarity on the Board of Directors’ plans will offer a crucial step forward in bridging the gap.
Following days of black-and-white views, the only colour associated with PFC should be red.
Colin Robinson’s comments this week as he closed the doors of Dolce & Gelato in West Street for the final time will resonate with many town centre traders in Portadown, past and present.
When it opened six and a half years ago, the business, owned by Mr Robinson and his wife Barbara, thrived. Customers liked the mix of ice cream and home-made cooked food, freshly made soups and sandwiches and it became a flagship business for the town centre.
However, things have changed over recent years and Mr Robinson is right to identify the decline of so many businesses in Portadown with the burgeoning growth of nearby Rushmere.
Planning officers are there ostensibly to limit out of town development at the expense of town centres, but instead Rushmere continues to expand at the expense of local traders.
As footfall decreases in town centres so life becomes much more difficult for hard-working people like the Robinson’s.
Portadown will be a poorer place without them and we wish them well in the future, particularly with their successful business at the Scarva Tea Rooms.