What a year to be a Saints fan! Certainly one of the best in my time supporting the South Coast’s top club.
Here is my look at 2011 and the significant numbers…. Continue reading Saints’ 2011 In Numbers….
What a year to be a Saints fan! Certainly one of the best in my time supporting the South Coast’s top club.
Here is my look at 2011 and the significant numbers…. Continue reading Saints’ 2011 In Numbers….
Well that was that then.
After a long and highly anticipated wait the now ridiculously pre-titled “El Clasicoast” left much to be desired on the pitch.
But the atmosphere and for want of a better word “banter” off the pitch, coupled with a successful (I know it was frustrating for many) police operation made it still the most nerve wracking and tense game of the season without making the usual violent headlines.
It is of course sod’s law that having prided ourselves on the pretty and effective football we play all season, that with the country watching live on BBC1, we were 50% responsible for one of the scrappiest and least pretty games of football you will ever see. It isn’t uncommon for derby games to be lacking in quality, no one wants to lose these games, so often style is replaced by substance, and nothing could be truer about this game.
The atmosphere was as expected. Electric. Both sets of fans coming through loud and clear on the television coverage (I was, after failed attempts at getting press access on the edge of my living room seat). Pompey pride themselves on their support, and I would never argue that when they are in full flow they are very loud, but equally the travelling Saints support were making themselves heard.
It is difficult to describe the feelings that you go through watching such a match. No matter how confident you are that you are supporting the “better” team, as is so often the case, derbies pay little respect to either the league table or the formbook, and frankly after our last two derby experiences and the recent turn in form for both clubs I was more than a little apprehensive.
Michael Appleton, who I personally thought was a very intelligent appointment for Pompey at the time got his tactics spot on. Saints were reverted very early to playing a rushed and less precise game than they are used to. While the Pompey fans I know were disappointed to see only one up front, their packed midfield did a good job of stifling Saints creativity and George Thorne particularly impressed.
I think if he was honest, Appleton’s gameplan was to secure a point, with anything else a bonus. If you take the derby emotions out of it, it is a league game, and a point off of the league leaders and extending the unbeaten revival is nothing to scoff at.
When Saints did play some football though, the reasons for the gap in league position became clear. Lallana in particular showing his ability on the ball as he helped himself to a portion of roasted skate on the wing, but in reality both sides rarely looked like troubling the keepers.
As the cameras panned the Fratton End, I was briefly worried that the wife had sneakily flicked over to “Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” and as both sides resorted to sending the ball long at every given opportunity, the legend that was the South Coast derby was being created in the stands.
In the second half I felt we started to edge the game, unlocking the Pompey back four more often, though still not as often as we would like, and it was almost inevitable that the man with more goals than all the other forwards on the pitch put together would be the one to bring the game as a spectacle alive. Rickie Lambert’s header past the stationary Henderson from Fox’s perfectly weighted free kick was satisfying to say the least. Not only did it make this grown man jump around his own living room screaming and fist pumping, with only a bemused wife and petrified cat looking on, but perhaps even more pleasurable was the ensuing twenty one minutes of silence from the home crowd.
Did anybodies nerves settle when Lambert notched his second derby goal in as many games? No of course not, in fact part of me was sure it was setting us up for a fall, but the next period actually saw Saints as in control as anybody could be in such a game, in fact Guly should have sealed it, Henderson making up for his earlier static goalkeeping to deny him bravely.
This period of control meant that Pompey’s equaliser was even more of a sickener. Saints lacklustre defending at the eighty fourth minute corner meant that the ball dropped between a Brazilian forward and a local boy in front of the Fratton end. Desire won the moment and the spoils would be shared.
A draw was probably the fairest result. Neither team covered themselves in glory in terms of how they played, with some stand out performers being Lallana, Hooiveld and Lambert for Saints and Thorne, Mattock and Rocha for Pompey. Both teams will play much better than that and neither will play much worse, but most importantly the spirit of the derby was as fierce as ever without the need for violence. An honourable mention should go to Mark Halsey too, so often criticised it is a nice change to highlight a highly accomplished refereeing performance, on the other hand it also highlighted how bad some of the usual Football League officials are in comparison to this Premier League man.
I love the South Coast derby. I know I am biased but you don’t see the vitriol in any other derby in this country that you do in this one. For that ninety minutes the healthy rivalry of people from two nearby cities turns to unbridled hatred. I have friends who are Pompey fans, but during this game I don’t want to be in their presence. Before and after? Fine. I like to think I can take and dish out the required level of “banter” off the back of victory or defeat and come Monday I think no more or less of them than I did before. Nobody is perfect, some of them were even inflicted by support of Pompey from their parents, not choice. A sad tale in itself. It seems crazy that in our recent outings against Bournemouth and Brighton people had even dared suggest that they were derby games. Not even close.
Saints and Pompey. Scummers and Skates. Cats and Dogs. Tories and Labourites. Yin and Yang. Capulets and Montagues……
I leave you with two messages. Have a Happy Christmas, and please don’t die. We need this.
Roll on April…..
“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.
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.
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 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.
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
Saints host the Seasiders this Saturday and will be looking for a repeat of last season’s FA cup tie. While Saints home form has been the definition of consistency, the Tangerines have struggled on the road, with only a notable 0-5 victory over Leeds at Elland Road and an opening day defeat of Hull City in the win column.
With a few changes of personnel from their Premier League adventure last season, Blackpool will come to St. Mary’s with some familiar faces on board…
Scottish international Crainey had a brief and unspectacular spell at St. Mary’s in 2004. Signed from Celtic by countryman Gordon Strachan shortly before the manager departed, the full back struggled to adapt to the Premier League. The full back made just five first team appearances in his time at St. Mary’s and left for Leeds on loan the following August which soon became a permanent arrangement.
Sadly, the lasting memory of Crainey for Saints fans will be his surprise selection (after Michael Svensson was injured during the warm up) and subsequent poor performance at Fratton Park in the March 2004 defeat.
Crainey joined Blackpool in the summer of 2007 and has been a regular at Bloomfield Road ever since.
Evergreen striker Phillips’ association with Saints goes as far back as the early nineties when he was a youth player with the club and cleaned future England strike partner Alan Shearer’s boots!
Phillips didn’t make the grade at the Dell though and was released by the club where he had been used as a right back in 1992. Eleven years later, it cost Saints £3.5 million for Gordon Strachan to bring him back to the club after impressive goalscoring spells at Watford and Sunderland respectively.
Despite not quite hitting the same form as he did with his previous clubs Phillips still weighed in with an impressive amount of goals, especially considering the unrest at the club during a turbulent period in Southampton’s history. As Saints headed for the relegation trapdoor in 2004/05 Phillips still managed ten league goals, but never quite won the St. Mary’s fans over. Alleged comments in the media about the club and city following his departure to Aston Villa that summer make him an unpopular figure with the Saints crowd.
Phillips signed for Blackpool in July this year via West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City and now aged thirty eight already has five league goals this term.
“They’ve got Brett Ormerod, They’ve got Brett Ormerod…”
In stark contrast to fellow striker Phillips, Lancashire born Ormerod was never heavily amongst the goals in a Saints shirt, but was very much loved by the fans.
After an impressive goalscoring record in his first spell at Bloomfield Road, Gordon Strachan bought the energetic forward for £1.75 million in December 2001. After taking a little while to establish himself Ormerod started to form a lethal partnership with James Beattie, his tenacity and energy complimenting Beattie’s ability to be in the right place at the right time.
It was this partnership that was tantamount to the 2003 FA Cup run that saw Saints reach the final. Ormerod’s man of the match performance in the Semi Final against Watford was a memorable highlight for both player and fans.
The arrival of Phillips the following summer saw Ormerod’s chances with the first team limited and he ended up going to Leeds on loan in 2004, and seven months later had another loan spell, this time with Wigan Athletic. The club’s relegation to the Championship saw Ormerod back in favour, but with goals hard to come by he eventually left the club for Preston North End in January 2006.
The scruffy but uncomplicated striker names his time at Southampton as the best of his career and left the club with as many fond memories as he left the fans.
Ormerod returned to Bloomfield Road in 2009 and back to the Premier League with them last season.
“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….
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.
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.
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.
Saints head to the Keepmoat stadium this Saturday to face struggling Doncaster Rovers.
A likely starter for Rovers will be a former Saints midfielder…
Oxford born Gillett signed for Saints on a youth contract before turning pro in 2005, making his debut off the bench against Leicester in the FA Cup that season.
Gillett struggled to establish himself at St. Mary’s and went on a series of loan moves with Wallsall, Blackpool, Bournemouth and Yeovil Town, and was part of the Blackpool side that won the 2007 League One play off final.
Gillet started the 2009/10 season on loan at Doncaster Rovers before returning after two months. Despite rarely featuring for the first team he did make a substitute appearance in Saints 2010 Johnstones Paint Trophy final success at Wembley.
Gillett was released in the summer of 2010 and joined the South Yorkshire side permanently.
Not a player that ever won me over, lightweight and muscled off the ball too easily, Gillett struggled to impose himself on games, not something you want from a central midfielder.
Lewis Ward from Doncaster Rovers site Vikingsboggen gave us his thoughts on Gillett:-
“Rovers’ fans have had plenty of time to get used to Gillett, following his two month loan spell in 2009 and his signing in 2010. He has featured in the first team during most of his time here, slotting into O’Driscoll’s style of play perfectly. Last season he had a spell on the sidelines, along with many other players, and when he returned, fans realised how much of a difference his presence made.
He has scored 2 cracking goals so far this season, one of which came against Portsmouth, and has managed to keep his spot in the team despite Saunders’ new style of play.
Some fans think that Gillett is ‘lightweight’ and not good enough for the side but, despite making the odd mistake, I think he still does a job for the side and if he scores more goals like he has in the past, we will all be happy!”
“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.
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.”
After moving around a fair bit in South America, Viafara now plays for Deportivo Pereira.
“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.
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.”
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 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.
“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.
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.
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 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.
You may or may not have been following my coverage of Nivea For Men’s Great Football Experiment.
The experiment aims to see if you can take a regular Sunday League side (in this case Ivory Fc from the Brentwood League first division in Essex), give them the right coaching, nutrition, physio and facilities and turn them into a successful team. Coached by the likes of Terry Venables, Ray Wilkins and Ray Clemence the Ivory team have already had an impressive start to their league campaign, and the perennial strugglers currently lie top of the table.
This Sunday the Ivory lads get their biggest test though, when they face off against a team of England Legends!
Boasting over two hundred caps between them, the ex-pros will not want to be beaten by a ‘pub-side’ and will be going all out to ensure they don’t get egg on their faces.
Amongst the England legends will be ex-Saints legend Mark Wright, and GWC.com are proud to be his official backer for the match!
The no-nonsense but stylish defender made two hundred and twenty two appearances for Saints between April 1982 and May 1987 having signed from Oxford United and was part of the great Saints team that finished league runners up in the 1983/84 season. Lawrie McMenemy succesfully predicted at the time that he had just signed a future England player and got he his first cap within two years.
Wright would have been a shoe in for the 1986 World Cup squad but unfortunately broke his leg in Saints FA Cup Semi final against Liverpool. Having left Saints for Derby County, he did however make the 1990 squad, scoring his only international goal, a crucial winner against Egypt in the group stages.
Wright went on to play for Liverpool and gain forty five caps for his country before moving into management with Southport, Oxford United, Peterborough and Chester City.
Wright will lineup with his fellow ex-England pro’s at Dagenham & Redbridge’s Victoria Ground this Sunday for a 1400 kick off against the Ivory FC boys. His team mates consist of:- Ian Walker, Luther Blissett, Nigel Winterburn, Viv Anderson, Ray Parlour, Clive Allen, Rob Lee, Alvin Martin, Tony Woodcock and Rob Jones.
As Wrights official backers, Nivea For Men have given the readers of this site a chance to win bundle of their products! If Wright is selected as the England legends Man of the Match on Sunday, anyone who has retweeted this article, or commented on it below could be picked at random to win the prize!
Let’s hope we see some of Mark’s old school, classy defending and he catches the judges eye!
For previous articles on the Great Football Experiment check here.