“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.
“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.
22nd April 2005, approximately 21:58. Fifteen year old Edward Upson hits the ball first time from twenty five yards. Andrew McNeill is helpless in the Southampton net. Goal Ipswich Town.
A heartbreaking end to a memorable season for the Saints youngsters, losing the FA Youth Cup final with just two minutes of extra time left to be played.
The first leg had been played at St. Mary’s four days earlier, Saints leading through David McGoldrick before being pegged back by a double from Irishman Cathal Lordan, Leon Best netting the equaliser that kept the tie on a knife edge. The second leg had remained goalless despite Saints dominance, Ipswich thankful to keeper Shane Supple that it got to extra time. Seemingly heading for penalties, substitute Upson was the youngest player on the pitch when he stole the headlines, and the silverware for the Suffolk side.
For young lads with the world at their feet, it must have been difficult to take. For some it was to be their career highlight, for others, just the beginning. Football is a cruel world, and as is commonplace, despite being the cream of the crop as young players not all would be destined for the top.
Actually in this instance it was the losers who have fared better, the Saints squad boast four current Premier League players, the Ipswich squad none. While the Saints players have commanded massive transfer fees between them and gained many international caps, the Ipswich team have not. Having said that, not all of the Saints squad has achieved all of their footballing aims.
I decided to find out where they are now, and how different the careers of these players now hitting their peak age of 24/25 have fared.
Andrew McNeil – The Scottish keeper left Saints in January 2006, returning to his native Edinburgh with SPL side Hibernian, he forced his way into the first team at Easter Road, including playing in the 2007 League Cup final win. He was later replaced in the side and released in 2009. He spent a season in the third division with Montrose before signing for First Division Raith Rovers in 2010. He was released by Raith this summer and signed for Livingston where he is currently first choice.
Craig Richards – Local lad Richards was released by Saints in the summer of 2006. He was picked up by Conference side Salisbury City in 2007. Spells at Eastleigh, Bognor Regis Town and Winchester City followed. He now plays for Whitehawk FC in the Ryman League Division One South.
Sebastian Wallis-Tayler – The frenchman left Saints the summer after the Cup Final and signed for Havant & Waterlooville before playing for Bognor Regis Town and Lewes. He is now back in his native France playing for non-league outfit CA Lisieux.
Sean Rudd – After being released by Saints, Rudd had an unsuccessful trial with former club Oxford United before sadly retiring through injury. Now works for a Sports Shoe company.
Martin Cranie – Had already played first team football on loan at Bournemouth and Premier League football for Saints at the time of the Youth Cup final. He played in the Premier League under Harry Redknapp, before finding chances limited under George Burley in the Championship. Cranie had two spells on loan at Yeovil Town before reuniting with Redknapp at Portsmouth for the 2007 season. Spent time at QPR and Charlton on loan before joining Coventry City in 2009 where he is still a regular for the Championship outfit. Has gained caps for England at U21 level.
Lloyd James – The Welsh utility man earned a professional contract with Saints in 2006, and made over seventy first team appearances in the Championship and League One before his somewhat surprise release (having been a regular in the team) in 2010. He soon signed for Colchester United and is now an established member of the U’s first team. A Welsh U21 international.
Tim Sparv – Finnish midfielder Sparv left Saints in 2007 to sign for Swedish club Halmstads BK, he is now playing in the Dutch first division with FC Groningen via a loan spell in his home country. He has been capped fifteen times by Finland.
Nathan Dyer – The tiny winger made his first team debut for Saints at the start of the season following the final. He was loaned to Burnley before coming back and getting more regular gametime at St. Mary’s. He went on loan again to Sheffield United in 2008, before really flourishing at Swansea City, firstly on loan before joining permanently in 2009 and he is now a regular in their Premier League side.
Theo Walcott – Made his first team debut at sixteen and was soon turning heads at a higher level. Chelsea had already shown an interest in him, but it was Arsenal who paid £5 million with a potential outcome of £12 million (although that is seemingly no longer the case) for him in 2006. He has now played over one hundred times for the Gunners. He became the youngest ever full England international in 2006 and was the surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Erikssons’s World Cup Squad of 2006. He has now played eighteen times for his country.
Leon Best – The Irish striker had already played in the Premier League for Saints by the time of the final, and also spent a period on loan with QPR. Further loans with Sheffield Wednesday, Bournemouth and Yeovil Town followed before he rejected a new contract with Saints in 2007 and joined Coventry City, the tribunal setting the fee at £650k. His performances for the Sky Blues were enough to persuade Newcastle United to move for him and is now a first team player with the Toon in the Premier League. He has represented Ireland at senior level.
David McGoldrick – McGoldrick was handed a first team debut in the September following the match at Portman Road, but it would take him another three years and loan spells at Notts County, Bournemouth and Port Vale before he would be considered a regular. He was an ever present in the Saints team that dropped out of the Championship, scoring twelve goals and left for Nottingham Forest for £1 million the following summer.
Kyle Critchell – Defender Critchell was hampered by a serious injury in 2005 and was eventually loaned out to Torquay United in 2006. He was released the following summer and joined Chesterfield. He joined Weymouth in June 2007 before signing for Wrexham the following season, injuries again stunted his progression and he was loaned to York City before rejoining the Terras. He currently plays for hometown club Dorchester Town in the Blue Square South division who he signed for in 2009.
Ashlee Jones – Sub keeper Jones was released in the summer of 2005 and signed for Rushden & Diamonds, he has played for an array of clubs since and eventually made his football league debut for Darlington in 2009, he now plays for Braintree Town in the Blue Square Premier division.
Adam Lallana – The only member of the squad still at St. Mary’s, the creative midfielder is now a lynchpin in Nigel Adkins side and has made one hundred and thirty appearances for the club, now catching the eye of Premier League suitors he has been capped at U21 level by England.
Feliciano Condesso – Portuguese midfielder Condesso left Saints in 2007 without playing for the first team, somewhat surprisingly he joined La Liga side Villarreal but couldn’t break into the first team setup there either. He played for their ‘B’ side in the Spanish third tier before joining UD Logrones and now plays for Ontinyent CF.
Gareth Bale – The youngest member of the Saints squad, aged fifteen, Bale made his first team debut in 2006 and played forty times that season as Saints made it to the Championship play offs. Hot property, the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United were said to be interested, but it was Spurs who signed the Welshman for an initial fee of £5 million that rose to £7 million and Tommy Forescast. Bale struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane to start with, but is now considered one of the best players in the world. A notable hat trick in the Champions League against Inter at the San Siro propelling him to super stardom. He has played thirty times for Wales.
Josh Dutton-Black – Winger Dutton-Black left Saints in 2007 and signed for AFC Totton. He has since had spells at Salisbury, Kidderminster, Eastleigh, Bognor Regis Town and Didcot Town. He now plays for North Leigh in the Southern League Division One South & West.
Shane Supple – Retired. Now a Gaelic Football player.
Michael Synott – Released by League of Ireland side Dundalk in the summer of 2010.
James Krause – Now playing for Cambridge City in the Southern League Premier division.
Chris Casement – Now playing for Linfield in the IFA Premiership. Capped by Northern Ireland.
Aidan Collins – Now playing for the University of London FC.
Sammy Moore – Now playing for AFC Wimbledon in League Two.
Cathal Lordan – Now playing for Cork City in the League of Ireland First division.
Liam Trotter – Now playing for Millwall in the Championship.
Owen Garvan – Now playing for Crystal Palace in the Championship. Eire U21 international.
Liam Craig – Now playing for St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League.
Daryl Knights – Now playing for Newport County in the Blue Square Premier League.
Danny Haynes – Now playing for Barnsley in the Championship.
Blair Hammond – Now playing for Ipswich Wanderers in the Eastern Counties League division one.
Charlie Sheringham – Now playing for Dartford in the Blue Square South.
Ed Upson – Now playing for Yeovil Town in League One.
Andy Reynolds – Now playing for Lowestoft Town in the Ryman Premier divsion.
Stuart Ainsley – Now playing for Lowestoft Town in the Ryman Premier divsion.
It is clear to see that the losing Saints squad have, on the whole fared better than their Ipswich counterparts. Although it is staggering to see that of the thirty four players involved, fifteen of them are now playing at non-league level.
This isn’t a fate exclusive to these young finalists either, of the 2007 Liverpool winning side, only two players have since played for the first team, and only one (Jay Spearing) is still on the fringe. Their defeated opponents that day Manchester United fielded Danny Welbeck who has now become a first team player, the rest of the names are less familiar. In fact if you were to go through the lineups of all the previous finals, you would find only a handful of players plying their trade at the top of the footballing tree. Another case of foreigners ruining the English game? Hardly. These days half the youth teams are foreign players as clubs look to invest abroad as early as possible, all hoping to discover the next Lionel Messi. The fact is the standard required gets higher every season and more are likely to fall by the wayside with every intake. Also, I always wonder how much difference in ability there is between some players playing non-league and those in the lower echelons of the professional game. Not that much I would wager, and in reality we could probably fill another four divisions of professional clubs if it were possible.
Either way, the differing fortunes of some of these young players is a harsh reminder that the career of a footballer is a privilege to be treasured.
What can we expect from your club this season:- Your guess is as good as mine! Paul Jewell has brought in some excellent signings for this level, but it is all about ensuring they gel quickly and play as a unit. I’m confident we have much to look forward to under Jewell, but it may take time to build a winning mentality after a number of years accepting mid-table obscurity.
Who is your most important player? I think it’s safe to suggest Michael Chopra will be our talisman this season. If he can approach anywhere near the 25-goal mark we will be having a decent campaign. ‘Chops’ has had a very good pre-season so we’re all hoping he will hit the ground running at Ashton Gate.
Your predicted finishing position? 6th. Possibly letting my heart rule my head but I think we can just about sneak into the playoff mix this season.
Who might win the Championship? I don’t think you can look much beyond West Ham and Leicester. Both sides have chucked around considerable sums of money and have top flight experience that will prove crucial in the bigger games.
Who definitely won’t? Peterborough are operating on the smallest budget in the division and don’t seem to have learnt about fielding a side lacking in Championship experience.
Most anticipated fixture? For personal reasons I am looking forward to our duels with Peterborough, although some revenge at Upton Park for our semi-final playoff defeats in the Joe Royle era would be nice!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Tough one – I guess it will be interesting to see how many fans make it onto the pitch this time between Millwall and West Ham!
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Jimmy Bullard. An enigmatic figure in our side whilst on loan last season and pre-season performances suggest we are desperately missing his creativity in the final third.
You find yourself stuck in Carrow Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Find the nearest exit and run for the hills! (And shower to cleanse my sins)
What can we expect from your club this season? It’s difficult to say at the moment. Sections of the White Army would have you believe that we’ll be tumbling back into League One come the end of April but I think somewhere around the middle is likely with the current squad (27th May). Signings, or the lack thereof, have done little to lift the mood of missing out on the Play-offs last year with a dreadful run of form in the final month.
Who is your most important player? You’d have to say it’s a toss up between Luciano Becchio and Max Gradel. The pair scored a combined 38 goals last season. I’ll go with Max as his 18 goals came from midfield and with Becchio set to miss the start of the season, we’ll need him more than ever.
Your predicted finishing position? Again, difficult to say at this stage. I don’t think we over-achieved last year, so you’d have to say anything less than Play-offs is a disappointment. But to answer the question – 9th.
Who might win the Championship? You’d have to say Leicester, given all the cash they’re throwing about. Although they’ll soon realise that Kasper Schmiechel isn’t quite as good as the name suggests… West Ham seem the other obvious shout I suppose.
Who definitely won’t? Any team that finished in the bottom half last season, the likes of Derby, Doncaster, Crystal Palace etc. Ipswich might be a dark horse though…
Most anticipated fixture? Erm… We don’t have many local derbys now the Sheffield clubs have fallen into oblivion, and Huddersfield Town bottled the Play-off Final. My favourite place to go is Turf Moor because we usually win, and it’s local to me, so I’ll go for that – Burnley v Leeds United. (A repeat of last season’s comeback from 2-0 down would be great!).
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? West Ham v Millwall, just for the comedy factor of watching Burberry clad, Danny Dyer wannabes go to war. “Pwopa Nawty!”
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? SHANE LONG – I think he’d be a perfect compliment to Luciano Becchio. We’ll probably sign him in about 8 years time when he is knocking about on a free, but we’ll still haggle on the wages!
You find yourself stuck in Old Trafford. How do you escape unnoticed? Sit silently in my seat, staring glumly at the pitch. Occasionally grumble when a pass goes astray but at no point would I break into song. If Manchester United are losing I could safely file out of the ground after 65 minutes with the rest of the idiots. 75 minutes if they’re playing well. I’d keep a prawn sandwich about my person as an alibi, just in case I’m rumbled.
What can we expect from your club this season? Going by the noises coming from Sven and the owners, a push for the automatic promotion places and nothing less.
Who is your most important player? Matt Mills has the responsibility of marshalling a new defence which should concede far fewer than the 71 goals it managed last season.
Your predicted finishing position? 2nd.
Who might win the Championship? Hardly original, but West Ham should be strong enough to take the title.
Who definitely won’t? Coventry City, perhaps the best they can hope for is a positive goal difference for the first time in eight seasons.
Most anticipated fixture? Forest away in August should be a cracker with two promotion contenders and two former England managers going head-to-head, but the idea of a promotion party at Leeds..oh my!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton against Portsmouth should be pretty tasty. The rematch of the 2010 Playoff Final between Cardiff and Blackpool will be one for the purists, that would be my choice if you’re going to force me to pick just one.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? I’d love to have Shane Long, but it looks like that boat has sailed.
You find yourself stuck in the City Ground. How do you escape unnoticed? Perhaps by having a rant about how the club aren’t investing and making envious remarks about certain neighbours ‘buying the league’. Not so effective if wear a replica shirt, mind.
What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking passing football from a team of youth academy players.
Who is your most important player? Kevin Thompson if fit but we have a handful of injury prone midfielders who are just as good. Rhys Williams has premier league admirers and captain Matty Bates is our Stevie G. The physio is the most important man for our chances.
Your predicted finishing position? Anywhere from 2nd to 7th the difference between them might only be 3 points.
Who might win the Championship? Leicester. Good manager with money to burn! Everyone has got a big chance of winning it. it’s all about the start and finish!
Who definitely won’t? Watford, all of the players who made a difference in games last year have left and so too has the manager who gave the team belief. Palace will flirt with danger again.
Most anticipated fixture? Our closest game to a local derby is Leeds.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Millwall v West Ham or Southampton v Portsmouth, big derbies with fireworks on and off the pitch.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Shane Long goal machine with a massive work rate he’d fit into our team perfectly or Lee camp, Jason Steele has a big future but we need clean sheets ASAP camps experience and commanding presence at the back
You find yourself stuck in Elland Road. How do you escape unnoticed? To get out any championship ground you simply say: “The manager needs more money!” “If we put a run together we could get promoted” “We can beat these today”.
What can we expect from your club this season? Despite losing Steve Morison in the offseason, Millwall should benefit from a season under their belts in the Championship. Morison’s departure was the only player loss of any significance (not counting the sentimental departure of Neil Harris. Chopper!) They have become a stronger team in each of Kenny Jackett’s three seasons at the helm and should improve again this year. A playoff spot, at minimum, is well within reach.
Who is your most important player? James Henry’s north to south attacking ability from midfield, ability to find the open man with pin point crosses, and excellent dead ball skills make him our most important player this season. Millwall’s ability to score more will be key for them – defensively they are solid.
Your predicted finishing position? 6th or better at a minimum would be a successful season and show continued improvement.
Who might win the Championship? If not The Lions, then my picks would be either Leicester or Forest, although Forest have shown an ability to play below their ability the past couple of seasons.
Who definitely won’t? Barnsley, Doncaster, and Crystal Palace.
Most anticipated fixture? Ha! West Ham home, West Ham away. Leeds games are always fun too.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I’ve heard the south coast derby between Southampton and Portsmouth can get quite feisty, so that would be a fun one.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton.
You find yourself stuck in Upton Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I’d point to the other end of the stands and yell “There’s Avram Grant!” Then just walk out while the bubble blowers are looking about.
What can we expect from your club this season? Impossible to predict! I expect playoffs at least, but have been underwhelmed so far with transfers (in terms of quantity – happy with the players we have signed) so maybe mid table.
Who is your most important player? I think it will prove to be Jonathan Greening.
Your predicted finishing position? 4th.
Who might win the Championship? West Ham.
Who definitely won’t? Derby
Most anticipated fixture? Gotta be when those Derby Rams come to town for an annual beating.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? To be honest, I’m too Forest-centred to really care unless of course the outcome has a benefit to us.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Lots of good players to choose from this year, would love to see Nicky Maynard in garibaldi red.
You find yourself stuck in Pride Park. How do you escape unnoticed? Fortunately the Nottingham and Derby accents are pretty close, so you cut out any words more than two syllables, affix a blank expression and make like a sheep and follow the person in front of you until you get outside!
Part Four featuring Peterborough, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton, Watford and West Ham coming soon…
The Southampton Football Club Blog that doesn't like to take itself too seriously!