Category Archives: Crossing The Divide

A look at the players who have featured for both Hampshire Clubs.

Crossing The Divide: Bobby Stokes

“Whoever it was really shouldn’t have thrown that coin at Mark Dennis.”  – Steve Moran talking about his last gasp winner at Fratton Park in 1984. Time had been added on because of treatment to Dennis who had been hit by a coin from the Pompey crowd.

Bobby Stokes

30th January 1951, a hospital in Paulsgrove on the Portsmouth to Southampton Road, a boy is born who would have unwanted fame heaped upon him as the unlikely hero of a famous cup upset.

Robert William Thomas Stokes was a talent at school and county level in Hampshire (he scored fifty three goals in one season for Hillside Junior School and played seven times for England Youth) and it was fully expected that he would sign for his boyhood heroes at Fratton Park. Legend has it though that he failed a trial with Pompey and was forced to look elsewhere, others believe he chose Saints over Pompey because of their youth team (or lack thereof) at the time.

Either way, Stokes would start his career with the arch rivals of his hometown team. He had a modest start to his life at the Dell, but did score on his first team debut against Burnley in 1969. He wouldn’t become a regular until the 1971/72 season and was considered an important member of the team from then on. Despite never being a prolific goalscorer and being relegated with the club in 1974, he will always be regarded as a Southampton hero. @MiltonRoadEnd was a fan “Underrated, probably because he was playing alongside the likes of Davies, Channon, Paine & Osgood. Always gave 100%.”

When he struck gold for Saints in the eighty second minute of the 1976 FA Cup final,  it was to be both the highlight of his career and perhaps the beginning of the end of it. Famously a shy man, Stokes would never need buy a drink again, and the spotlight that he was suddenly in was not suited to him. The reward for scoring the first goal in the final was a car, and legend has it, that Bobby who couldn’t drive booked lessons for after the final just in case.

Stokes struggled for form in the subsequent season after cup success and made just eleven appearances for the first team, scoring just one goal.

Stokes and the Cup!

Upon leaving the Dell Stokes would find himself in familiar surroundings, back in his hometown. Stokes would make twenty nine appearances for Pompey and score three goals (though by now he was playing more in midfield) as the blues ended a shocking season bottom of Division Three.

Stokes Pompey career was over almost as soon as it started with the Fratton crowd not taking to the man who had left their town and performed heroics for “scum”. Pompeydiehard remembers “Bobby was a great shy lad ,we grew up together played in the same school side and at Hants level. He went to Saints instead of Pompey as they never had a youth policy in those distant days. I spoke to him when he joined Pompey in the seventies, he said Dickinson came in for him and his own club didn’t seem to want him to stay. Think he couldn’t really settle at the Park after being at yours for so long. Never really worked out for him here.”

Stokes the Blue.

Stokes left Fratton Park the following summer and joined a growing list of European players who headed to the United States and the evolving North American Soccer League. He signed for Washington Diplomats and became a team mate of Johan Cruyff’s. He played four seasons in Washington before heading back to Hampshire and signing for Waterlooville. He would further play for Cheltenham Town and Chichester City before calling it a day in 1981.

1980 Washington Diplomats

Stokes ran a pub in Portsmouth before working in the Harbour View cafe. He was often tracked down by journalists, usually around cup final time, and despite his modest earnings, never charged a penny for his time. A regular in the stands at both the Dell and Fratton Park he was granted a testimonial year with Saints in 1994, but after a lengthy battle with drink Stokes passed away in 1995 of bronchial pneumonia aged just 44.

“I don’t wear my medal around my neck but I’ll happily recall every detail of the match with anyone who has 90 minutes to spare. It was the best day of my life.” – Bobby Stokes February 1995.

R.I.P. Bobby Stokes
Pompey boy, Saints star.
1951 – 1995

Chris

Crossing The Divide: Colin Clarke

“The hype around the game was incredible, anyone who didn’t understand the rivalry certainly did afterwards. They’re very competitive and to say they don’t like each other is an understatement.” – Neil Shipperley speaking about the January 1996 South Coast Derby.

With now just twelve days left until the South Coast’s two top clubs renew hostilities at Fratton Park, the next installment in our feature looking at players who dared the wrath of both sets of supporters looks at a man who spent three years with both….

Colin Clarke

Born in Northern Ireland, Clarke made his name for himself as a regular goalscorer in the fourth division for both Peterborough United and Tranmere Rovers before heading to the third division at South Coast AFC Bournemouth. He continued to impress at the higher level, catching the eye of countryman Chris Nicholl, heading to Hampshire from Dorset in the summer of 1986.

Clarke was an instant hit at the Dell, helping himself to twenty league goals in his first season as a top flight player. The start of the 1987-88 season couldn’t have started any better for him either. In the first South Coast derby for three and a half years, Clarke netted twice for Saints at Fratton Park in a 2-2 draw, Clarke also featured in the 0-2 defeat at the Dell in the return game of January 1988.

Clarke finished that season with another sixteen first division goals, and seemingly the future was bright, but the following campaign saw the goals dry up, and Clarke was kept out of the side by new boy Paul Rideout. A loan spell back at Bournemouth was followed by Clarke’s permanent departure to first division rivals QPR.

Saints fans remember the striker fondly, “Fat, round, worth a million pounds.” said @mgbarrett. @JJHislop was also a fan “Always described as Saints’ ”bustling” centre forward. I liked him.”

Clarke the Saint.

It was only a short break from Hampshire for the forward though, as he struggled to hit form at Loftus Road. In the summer of 1990 Clarke was signed by then Pompey boss Frank Burrows for a fee of £500k. Clarke was obviously pleased to be back amongst the South Coast air, and had a fruitful opening season at Fratton Park. Scoring seventeen goals for the blues, impressive in a side that had struggled for form.

Unfortunately for Clarke and the Pompey fans, goals would be harder to come by the following season, but the Northern Irishman would play a part in the Pompey side that got to within a whisker of the 1992 FA Cup final, losing out to Liverpool only on penalties after a replay and extra time.

Clarke stayed at Fratton Park until the end of the 1992/93 season when he decided to hang up his boots aged just thirty one due to a recurring knee injury.

Clarke the Blue.

Since his retirement Clarke focused his energy on coaching, and has been in management in the USA since 1998. He recently relinquished his role as the manager of the Puerto Rican national team, a position he had held since 2007. He is currently the manager of the Puerto Rico Islanders.

Chris

Crossing The Divide: Jhon Viáfara

“For a small minority, it is pure hatred, even in friendlies, I remember one game at Havant’s ground when our goalkeeper Alan Blayney hung his towel through the back of his net only to turn round a few minutes later and find someone had set fire to it. The team coach had bricks thrown at it on the way home and that was just a reserve game.” – Matt Le Tissier

As we get closer to the first South Coast derby of the season, the next in our look at those that have headed to the wrong end of the M27 is a man who failed to set the Premier League alight in Pompey blue, but found himself somewhat of a cult hero in the Championship at St. Mary’s.

Jhon Viáfara

Colombian international Viafara was signed by then Pompey boss Alain Perrin in the summer of 2005 having recently helped his side Once Caldas to Copa Libertadores glory, scoring against Argentinian giants Boca Juniors in the final.

Initially the South American midfielder featured regularly for Perrin’s side, but Pompey’s poor form saw them send an S.O.S. call to former boss (and then Saints boss) Harry Redknapp in December that year. Viafara featured in just three more games for Pompey after the arrival of Redknapp and was even squarely blamed by his manager for a heavy defeat at Arsenal. With his career at Fratton Park already over Viafara went on loan to Spanish side Real Sociedad for the rest of the season.

Pompey fans were never impressed by Viafara, @MikeJSpeak remembers “He would do a job, but never really stood out, bit of a benchwarmer really.” while @MarwellDeZeeuw thought even less of him “Great name. Average to poor player.”.

On his return to Fratton after Sociedad declined the option to buy him (Viafara’s two sending offs in eleven appearances not helping), the Colombian made the move across Hampshire directly.

For a fee believed to be around £750k, George Burley took a chance on him in the hope that he would be suited to Championship football. He hoped right.

Viafara soon became a fan’s favourite at St. Mary’s with his energetic box to box displays in midfield as Saints headed to the Championship play offs. Having trailed the semi final 2-1 on aggregate after defeat to Derby at home, it was Viafara who gave Saints the chance to turn it round at Pride Park. Firstly, hitting a side footed first time effort over the stranded keeper from thirty yards, before smashing in a second and levelling the tie, famously revealing a t-shirt saying “I Sorry I Ruined The Party”. Sadly Saints would go on to lose the tie on penalties, but the away leg is still regarded as one of the best away trips ever by many Saints fans.

Viafara continued to be a regular for Saints in his second season, but as the Championship frontrunners soon became relegation battlers, and things weren’t quite as rosy at St. Mary’s. Amongst the wage cutting at the start of the next season Viafara was offloaded for no fee to his former club Once Caldas and the Saints midfield was not better for it.

He left St. Mary’s hopefully with as fond memories as the fans had of him. @SamDobson1 said “I Liked him. Good energy in midfield, strong both defensively and going forward.” while @alexgbourne appreciated his work ethic “strong and energetic, but lacking class and finesse – one of the better players to cross the divide and show a bit of passion.”

Viafara the Saint.

After moving around a fair bit in South America, Viafara now plays for Deportivo Pereira.

Chris

Crossing The Divide: Jon Gittens

“I didn’t realise quite the level of intensity and hatred there was there. It was the one derby I hadn’t done – because they hadn’t played for so long – and I didn’t realise it was going to be right up there with all the others. It’s palpable. You understand how much it means to both sets of fans to win the match.” – Referee Graham Poll after the 2nd December 2003 derby at St. Mary’s.

In the build up to the next South Coast Derby on December 18th, I decided to have a look at the players who crossed the divide and turned out in Pompey blue and Southampton Red & White.

The second in this series looks at a man who unites the fans in their opinions of his abilities as a player and who fittingly made his last appearance as a South Coast player in a derby.

Jon Gittens

A South Coast derby will be hostile occasion for the away side at the best of times, but on the 7th January 1996, it was a particularly nerve wracking experience for one of the visiting Pompey players to the Dell.

For Jon Gittens, it was a case of returning to his old stomping ground as well as a matter of local pride.

Midlands born Gittens was a trainee Tailor while playing for local non-league side Paget Rangers when he was snapped up by Saints in 1985. The twenty one year old central defender made his first team debut in April the following year and initially looked like he was going to become a regular in the first division sides lineup. Gittens found it difficult to get games ahead of the relied upon Mark Wright and Kevin Bond though and having already gained a reputation for being rough and ready Gittens was offloaded to Swindon Town by Chris Nicholl for a fee of £40k.

Nicholl would pay ten times that to bring Gittens back to the Dell just four seasons later. Gittens second spell proved to be as fruitless as the first, playing second fiddle to the likes of Neil Ruddock and Richard Hall in the Premier League, and he was soon loaned to first division Middlesbrough.

While Gittens will never be remembered as one of the clubs best players, Saints fans will always look upon Gittens as a trier and a tough player, but one that “Never looked like cutting it at Saints” according to @ThePhilReed. “Gittens was flipping hard!” was the verdict from Saints fan @alexgbourne “He was rock solid and gave his all.”

Gittens the Saint.

After helping Middlesbrough gain promotion to the Premier League, Gittens made his move to the North East permanent but found himself back on the South Coast and in the first division again with Portsmouth just a year later.

His first two seasons at Fratton saw Gittens establish himself as a regular under Jim Smith and then Terry Fenwick. Still renowned for his love of getting stuck in, Pompey fan @simmouae remembers him as a “booking a game man” as his no-nonsense approach made him a regular in front of the officials. Gittens had seemingly found his level in the First division, although Pompey were struggling, @Lord_Palmerston recalls “Gittens was strong but had the turning circle of an oil tanker. On his way downhill before he joined PFC but reasonable at our level”.

Gittens would find first team games more difficult to come by in the 1995/96 season and his trip back to the Dell in January 1996 in the FA Cup third round would prove to be his ninety ninth and last appearance for Portsmouth.

Gittens the Blue.

Gittens headed west to play for another set of rivals in Torquay United and Exeter City respectively before heading to non-league football.

After management spells with Fareham Town and Blackfield & Langley the UEFA A licensed coach is now training other coaches for the Football Association.

Chris

Crossing The Divide: Dave Beasant

“I was surprised how fierce the rivalry was when I first came down to Hampshire in the late 1970s. I’ve been involved in three other local rivalries – the Merseyside and north London derbies as a player and in Manchester as a manager – and the feeling is as high here as anywhere.” – Alan Ball 2004

With the next chapter in the South Coast saga just twenty four days away, I thought I would take a look at the men who have braved the wrath of the supporters of both clubs by crossing the Hampshire divide. Surprisingly, many have done it, and many have done it without becoming hate figures, notable twitching cockney managers apart.

Much will be made of the passion and sadly the hatred that encompasses the clash between Hampshire’s finest in the lead up to the Fratton Park fixture, but hopefully these profiles will stir nice memories for the supporters of both clubs.

First up is a man who captured the true spirit of what a rivalry is all about and managed to see the lighter side of it.

Dave Beasant

14th May 2002, Matthew Le Tissier’s Testimonial at St. Mary’s. Le Tissier’s former Saints teammate Dave Beasant is in goal for the England XI in the second half, having recently completed a season playing for Pompey.

The crowd at St. Mary’s are deep into a rendition of a Saints terrace classic “When I was just a little boy, I asked my mother, what should I be, Should I be Pompey, Should I be Saints, Here’s what she said to me, Wash your mouth out son, Go get your fathers gun, and shoot the Pompey scum and support the Saints…..”

Beasant turns to the crowd behind his goal, holds his heart like he has been shot and then dramatically falls to the ground and plays dead.

Lurch, as he is affectionately known has always been a character, and perhaps it takes that level of humour to play for both these fierce rivals, and Beasant had experienced the nastier side of the derby first hand. Beasant was Saints keeper in two derby games, firstly in May 1994 when Saints went to Fratton Park for Alan Knight’s testimonial and then in January 1996 at the Dell for an FA cup tie.

Beasant commented on the 1994 visit to Fratton afterwards ‘The intensity of the fans was something else. It just wasn’t like a testimonial. All sorts of things were going on outside. It was like a mini-riot.”

Beasant joined Saints in November 1993 after Tim Flowers had departed for high flying Blackburn Rovers. Coming armed with a calamitous reputation from his time at Chelsea, and a career very much on the decline after his 1988 FA Cup final high, which had peaked with two England caps in 1989 and travelling to the 1990 world cup to replace David Seaman.

His move to Saints proved to be a good one though, despite a shaky start Beasant became a reliable first team keeper for a Saints side that became rejuvenated under Alan Ball. Still liable to the odd concentration lapse, Beasant was soon forgiven due to his likeable nature and the odd camera save.

Beasant made eighty eight appearances for Saints before dropping down the pecking order behind Paul Jones and Maik Taylor. In the summer of 1997 the veteran keeper headed to Nottingham Forest on loan before making the move permanent.

Beasant the Saint

After four seasons with Forest it was under difficult circumstances that Beasant found himself Hampshire bound again.

Pompey had tragically lost keeper and former Saints youth player Aaron Flahavan in a car crash in the summer of 2001 and Beasant was brought in to take his place.

In a difficult season for the blues, Beasant was a steady and reliable performer under Graham Rix, but the Redknapp revolution was just around the corner and Beasant was surplus to requirements, oddly heading to Spurs and back to the Premier League aged 39.

Pompey fan @BileysMullet gave me his thoughts on Beasant’s time at Fratton:-

“Beasant was one of the few ex-scummers accepted,  as a result of some age defying performances and the fact he took the banter so well..”

Beasant the Blue.

Beasant would go on to further play for Wigan Athletic, Bradford City, Brighton and Fulham before retiring in 2004, he is now a senior coach at the Glenn Hoddle academy.

Chris