So the second and last South Coast derby of the season came round this Saturday and unlike the previous incarnation the dubious yet clever title ‘El Clasicoast’ was far more fitting this time round.
Of course, both sets of fans completely out-sung each other again, neither hearing a peep out of the other “until they scored” but on the pitch a better example of a rip roaring rivals clash you will struggle to find.
Flying tackles and handbags were the order of the day for the first twenty minutes as both sides tried to impose themselves physically on the occasion, and it was soon clear that the form book and league table were going to be irrelevant to the final outcome.
It was Saints that drew first metaphorical blood (Schneiderlin was the first physical victim), when Billy Sharp smartly finished after Rickie Lambert (Was he even playing? Japed my Pompey chums after the game.) cushioned the ball down from a corner.
It didn’t take Pompey long to get back level though, Chris Maguire hitting a screamer to silence the already silent home fans.
Level at the break and neither side could have many complaints, Michael Appleton perhaps the happier boss, his tactical decisions working well to stifle the potent Saints attack.
After the break, it was Pompey that came out of the blocks quickest, but Saints rode the storm and took control for a decent period. Jamie Ashdown then kept the scores level with great saves from Lallana and Fonte respectively.
Lallana was then viciously taken down in the box by Ashdown when clean through as Saints pressed.
Eventually though it was another corner that undid the visitors, Billy Sharp again getting on the end of it. Then it was given offside. Then it wasn’t. I am reliably informed by fans of both sides that it was definitely on and offside.
“Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over….. It is n… Oh wait.”
Four minutes into stoppage time, how much of which was added on due to some of the over zealous celebrations only the ref will know, David Norris volleyed the scores level at 2-2 to seal the victory for Portsmouth and take all three points back along the M27.
Amongst the celebrations Ricardo Rocha intentionally tried to kill a fan by smashing the ball into the crowd and seemingly all memory of the game was lost. Of course, both teams deserved to win, both are crap and Saints certainly will/won’t get promoted and Pompey obviously will/won’t survive.
In a true show of neighbourly spirit though, the fans of Southampton lined the streets to wave off the 3,033 Pompey fans and one traumatised local journalist, shaking and tightly clutching his bag of sweets as they rode their victory bubble back to Fratton…..
To end this on a serious note, it was a fantastic game, a great spectacle and a fair result. It might be the last one for a long time. Let’s hope it isn’t the last one ever.
As Pompey got what was in my opinion, a fantastic result for them in the courtrooms of London yesterday, there was a certain case of mixed feelings from the fans on both sides of Hampshire.
Pompey could have left their administration hearing yesterday, either facing a winding up order on Monday or yet again in the hands of Balram Chanrai’s financial puppet Andrew Andronikou, but they didn’t. The judge’s decision to appoint an independent administrator can only be good news, and a spell in administration and a ten point deduction has to have been the best possible outcome.
The reaction from fans was as expected. The sensible skates knew they had come out bruised but breathing, others were still bemoaning the points deduction (which fans of Leeds, Bournemouth and Luton may be thinking was actually very lenient).
On the red side of Hampshire it was a mixture of mockery and in my opinion misplaced disappointment.
I am a Saints fan, and by default I want Pompey as a football club to suffer in every way imaginable, but to want them to die is incomprehensible to me. A true sadist wants to see the infliction of pain not death. In an ideal world, this bout of administration will see them slide into League One and footballing obscurity. But to disappear completely? No thanks.
In my relatively short time as a fan of Saints, I am on the cusp of seeing a full 360 circle in fortunes of my two “local” professional clubs. Isn’t that the beauty of rivalry? I have taken as much stick as I have given out. I have seen us within touching distance of the top and at rock bottom, likewise I have seen both of these situations for our poor relations down the road, and often when one is experiencing the ultimate highs, the other is having their major lows. I have argued passionately with Pompey fans I consider friends and I have laughed and joked with them over a beer about the often ridiculous goings on at our respective loves.
Don’t get me wrong, it took me all of about 30 seconds after the administration announcement to text my skate mates “Now you have been in administration three times, do you get to keep it?”
In fact I was pretty proud of myself that I managed to avoid the ridiculously overused:- Sunny in [Insert Home Town], -10 in [Insert recently placed into admin Rival]
Where would we be without this?
No matter how much success either club has, no matter what trophies they win or how many times they are relegated. Two things will remain constant for both. The fans and each other. We will still hate them, and they will still hate us.
We may be a far cry from 1939 and the Pompey players parading the FA Cup at the Dell to rapturous applause, but I would like to think we haven’t reached such depths of hatred that either group of fans would hope to never see the other again. Besides there is a very thin line between hate and love.
Due to our recent ascendancy it is perhaps easy to forget that we have been in this position ourselves, and while it might not have been to the level of destruction that has happened at Fratton over the past couple of years, it also came down to the financial mis-dealings of dodgy owners.
The problem in these situation is, that the fans will always be the victims, for us it was at the hands of an upper class English hockey fan, while for Pompey it has come at the hands of a string of mysterious foreigners. Either way in no way were any of these people fans of the clubs themselves and the situation both clubs found themselves in could easily happen to anyone.
Saints and Pompey are enemies but they are enemies with a mutual interest, like a bickering married couple who were once in love but lost their way and now have irreconcilable differences, neither quite able to shake the other one off. Mainly because they don’t really want to. Each flirting with other women (Bournemouth, Brighton etc.) but never quite getting that same undeniable high you get in each others presence.
When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won’t grow,
And we’re changing our ways,
Taking different roads,
Love, Love will tear us apart. Again.
Come the summer we will be shortly and temporarily reunited in support of the Hampshire cricket team, and the England national team at Euro 2012, although the almost certain appointment of a mutual former manager may see us reconciled in our opinions even more fervently on that note!
Who is Sherlock Holmes without Professor Moriarty? Be careful what you wish for.
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.
“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
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.