Tag Archives: Hampshire

Norris Wins The Derby And Other Tall Stories…

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.

Who got the final touch?

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.

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Leeds United

Top of the table Saints head to West Yorkshire on Saturday to take on Leeds United in front of the cameras, and not only will there likely be a former Saints player on the Elland Road’s sides bench, but also a Saints fan….

Maik Taylor

The German born, Northen Ireland international goalkeeper Taylor started his semi-professional footballing career while still serving in the British Army. Stationed in Hampshire he represented Petersfield and Basingstoke Town’s respectively before joining Farnborough Town where he was part of the team that won the Southern League Premier Division in 1994.

It was while playing for the now defunct club that he was spotted by League Two Barnet and was given his first professional contract. His performances at Underhill soon meant he was destined for greater things, and just a season and a half later he was heading back to Hampshire and the Premier League.

Graeme Souness was the man who took the gamble on the lower league keeper, signing him in the January of 1997 for a fee of £500k. He replaced the ageing Dave Beasant and soon had the fans on his side with some impressive shot stopping, representing the club he had supported as a child. Saints fans finally felt like they had their replacement for Tim Flowers, albeit somewhat late.

Maik Taylor in international action.

Sadly for Taylor, Souness was to leave in the summer, and despite Taylor’s proficient displays the Scotsman’s replacement Dave Jones bought his namesake and number one from Stockport County with him.

Paul Jones was immediately installed as first choice and Taylor had to make do with a place on the bench, a victim of a rare season in Saints history where they had two good stoppers in one season! Taylor headed for Kevin Keegan’s Fulham on 17th November 1997 for £800k, surprisingly dropping to the second division. After nearly 200 appearances for the Cottagers and two league titles he moved on to Birmingham City. He also established himself as the first choice goalkeeper for Northen Ireland gaining 88 caps between 1999 and 2011.

He signed for Leeds United in Novemeber 2011 and recently had his contract extended to the end of the season, now aged 40.

Chris

Saints & Pompey: A Fine Line Between Love & Hate

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.

Derby Day. Nothing quite like it.

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.

See you on the 7th April.

Chris

Saints To Call On Spirit Of 78?

The England Manager has walked out, Liverpool are heading to the League Cup Final, Portsmouth are facing the possibility of relegation after financial woes, Saints have been knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round but occupy a promotion spot, chasing Sam Allardyce’s side to the top flight as they face Burnley on a February Saturday….

Sound familiar? Well all that happened in the 1977/78 season, the last time Saints secured promotion to the top division.

Ok, some of them maybe rather tenuous coincidences, but in the eyes of the superstitious any parallels can and will be drawn!

New Striker Boyer formed a lethal partnership with Ted MacDougall to fire Saints to Division One.

Pulling the strings at the Dell in the late seventies was Alan Ball and once they had entered the promotion spots in early January they were never to leave them.

Goals from new boy Phil Boyer and strike partner Ted MacDougall were key as they eventually finished second to a Bolton side containing now West Ham manager Sam Allardyce. They almost nicked top spot, drawing their last two games to see them fall a point short, but Lawrie McMenemy’s men were good value for their promotion and it would bring top flight football to the Hampshire coast for twenty seven consecutive seasons.

Saints beat Burnley yesterday in an impressive showing and the fans will be hoping that the recent shaky home form has been put behind them. Perhaps now the 2011/12 side can emulate that of the boys of 78 and lose just one more game between the 12th of February and the end of the season…..

The 1977/78 Saints Promotion Season Remake

Directed by

Nicola Cortese

Starring

Nigel Adkins as Lawrie McMenemy

Rickie Lambert as Ted MacDougall

Adam Lallana as Alan Ball

Kelvin Davis as Peter Wells

Jos Hooiveld as Chris Nicholl

and introducing

Billy Sharp as Phil Boyer

Also Starring (in order of appearance)

St. Mary’s Stadium……………….The Dell

Bartosz Bialkowski……………Ian Turner

Frazer Richardson……………Manny Andruszewski

Danny Fox………………….David Peach

Jack Cork…………………Steve Williams

Jose Fonte………………..Mick Pickering

Jason Puncheon……………Austin Hayes

Dean Hammond…………….Nick Holmes

Aaron Martin………….Malcolm Waldron

Danny Butterfield…………….John Sharpe

Guly do Prado…………………Tony Funnell

Morgan Schneiderlin……………Trevor Hebbard

David Connolly……………….Steve Neville

Richard Chaplow……………Peter Osgood

Dan Harding…………………….Tim Coak

Dan Seaborne……………………Mel Blyth

Ben Reeves…………Forbes Phillipson-Masters

Tadanari Lee…………………..Tony Sealy

Andy Crosby……………………Don Taylor

Jason Dodd…………………John McGrath

Chris

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: 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

Keeping Up With The Daggers….

 “Well, if they can keep with us, maybe.” – Nigel Adkins 23rd November 2010, having been asked if Saints and Brighton would be battling it out for promotion come the end of the season.

Brighton were eight points clear of Saints at the time.

“They play the same kind of football as Dagenham and Redbridge. The only difference is they’ve got (Rickie) Lambert. If you gave Dagenham and Redbridge (Lee) Barnard and Lambert they would be in the top six.”  – Gus Poyet speaking on the 23rd April 2011 after Saints 2-1 victory at the Withdean ended Brighton’s undefeated home run.

Southampton were being praised from all corners of the media and opposition fans for their attractive flowing football under Adkins.

Poyet v Adkins. Mouths of the South?

Last season something funny happened between the respective prides of Hampshire and Sussex. Almost as a sub-plot to the season, a rivalry (many fans will insist that it wasn’t a rivalry , but it was) developed between two of League One’s South coast clubs. Saints fans had never really cared about Brighton (and vice-versa I am sure), in fact I’ve always kind of liked them, but the events of last season brought about a new outlook on each other, that was fuelled mainly by the quoted comments above.

The great thing about rivalries is that they are the added to spice to any season, and last season’s campaign saw both teams without games against their real rivals. In fact both had been starved of regular derby games for a few years, so when a side reasonably local becomes your main promotion challenger things are likely to hot up. Add to that a sprinkling of former Brighton players now turning out for Saints and there was already enough reasons to see some full blooded encounters between the two.

The fanning of the flames though, didn’t come from the terraces, but from the clubs respective managers.

Nigel Adkins comments, following the 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s were unwise to say the least. Perhaps said tongue in cheek, as we all know Adkins likes a little joke with interviewers, but when you are eight points behind, it was enough ammunition to make the Saints boss a figure of hate for the Seagulls faithful. The disdain from the Saints fans point of view came from events on the pitch in that game. I was never a fan of Poyet as a player, and what I saw that night was a team very much influenced by their manager. Time wasting, play acting and imaginary card waving seemed to be the order of the day from the team in blue and white and incensed the Saints fans.

So the scene was set for the rest of the season.

The build up to the return match at the Withdean was almost comical, mainly because despite the months of ‘banter’ between the two sets of fans, both claimed to not really care about the other. The banners made especially for Nigel Adkins by the Brighton fans and the wild celebrations of the Saints fan after Jose Fonte’s winner would suggest nothing could be further from the truth. Another incident surrounding this match, that was blown out of proportion was the non-guard of honour. A contentious issue no doubt, but one that was spoken about far more because of the bad blood that had already built up between the clubs. Brighton were deserved champions, and under any other circumstances I am sure that Saints would have obliged, but I backed Adkins decision then, and I do now. Guards of honour are usually provided by teams with nothing left to play for in a season, and when the game means nothing to either side. That certainly wasn’t the case for a Saints team still chasing automatic promotion and the game clearly did mean a lot to both teams, managers and fans.

Adkins gets a warm reception from the Withdean Crowd. Image courtesy of Russell Masters.

If Saints fans had cringed in November when Adkins had made his vocal faux pas, it was time for the Brighton fans to put their fingers in their ears, as a clearly disappointed Poyet came out with his uninformed and factually incorrect rant after the game. A man who had also claimed that the game wasn’t important to him, but had withdrew the ball boys with twenty minutes to go when 1-0 up, Poyet’s South American passion had clearly got the better of him.

The comments may have been fair had they been aimed at Saints under Alan Pardew, who did like to go the direct route often, but it was now a weapon that was used only rarely by Adkins, albeit effectively to seal a last minute winner at the Withdean. The most insulting thing about it though was the disrespect to the Saints squad, dismissed as pawns for Lambert by Poyet. Many Saints fans (myself included) have since take glee from the reports of opposition fans in Brighton’s last few games, which suggest that since the signing of Billy Paynter, Poyet himself has mixed it up a bit with some punts to the big man, style is one thing, adapting to situations is another…..

Fonte celebrates the Withdean winner. We didn't care though honest.

So where does it leave us this season? As Saints and Brighton prepare to face off for the first time in the new campaign, things have very much died down. Brighton have found the step up slightly tougher than Saints, but neither has looked out of their depth. We both have our ‘real’ rivals to worry about now.

Saturday will have some needle though, there is no doubt about that. Poyet won the war last year, but didn’t win any battles and that will hurt him. Nigel Adkins and the Saints players will be fuelled by the Dagenham and Redbridge comments, and both sides will be looking at a possible reverse of the unbeaten home record situation.

It will be a good game, of that I am sure, and a little bit of rivalry and friendly banter never hurt anybody. We will rib Gus, and the Seagulls fans will rib Nigel, but I expect it will all be done with an undertone of begrudging respect for the fantastic jobs both men have done.

Both teams play nice football, and there are some great players in both sides. The additions to Brighton’s squad this season, particularly Mackail-Smith and Vicente are impressive and this could be Saints toughest home game so far. Let’s hope that the talking points all come from the pitch though, and not the post match interviews.

I for one can say honestly, that I have enjoyed the online battle of wills with the Brighton fans, and found it to be humour filled and fun, and long may it continue. Can you keep up?

Spare a thought for poor old Dagenham & Redbridge though. Staring non-league football in the face, but  for a Rickie Lambert they would be on the brink of the Premier League….

Chris