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Youthful bosses take up an age-old battle

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Steve Wilson | 07:00 UK time, Friday, 16 December 2011

This Sunday I will be on the microphone for the big south-coast derby between Portsmouth and Southampton in the Championship.

It's a game between two sides who it's fair to say are never on each other's Christmas card lists. It promises to be a very feisty affair indeed.

Both clubs' managers make interesting character studies. Nigel Adkins at Southampton is an eloquent and a youthful looking 40-something, who exudes charm.

His approach is all about the team with no room for individuals -- I imagine his sock drawer is as tidy as his tactics -- but he is as good at giving out inspirational titbits as he is at talking technical, and boy can he talk technical.

Nigel Adkins

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins (insert) will be plotting how to beat rivals Portsmouth on Sunday. Photo: Getty  

As many people know, Adkins used to be a physio. So, he will quickly tell you, was Bob Paisley - and it didn't do him any harm.

Maybe it's all the studying he did for those physio exams, but Adkins talks a good game. Scrub that, Adkins talks a great game. In fact, if he wasn't a football manager he'd make a brilliant salesman.

Spend 15 minutes with him and you are eating out of his hand. Above all, he is unfailingly positive and Southampton have thrived under his care.

I actually remember watching Adkins play in goal for my local team Tranmere Rovers, and it turns out we were brought up within a few streets of each other.

As someone who finds it a bit depressing that not only the players but a good number of the managers are now younger than me, I am pleased to say that, as a kid, the Saints boss was more likely to have played against my older brother than me.

Michael Appleton at Portsmouth is a newcomer to management, but worked successfully under Roy Hodgson as first-team coach at West Bromwich Albion and seems to have made an immediate impact at Fratton Park, where few headlines ever seem to involve football.

He treated his first game at Watford as a watching brief and has taken two wins and a draw from the next three, including Pompey's first away win of the season.

With Portsmouth facing more financial uncertainty, Appleton may need all the thick skin he acquired during a long and eventually unsuccessful battle against injury, which ended his playing career when he should have been reaching his peak in his mid-20s.

Now in his mid-30s, he still looks exactly like the intimidating sharp-tackling midfielder who could also lace his game with some delightful touches.

When I met him last week, he was wet from a morning being blown around Pompey's featureless training ground in the rain. But was extremely welcoming, witty and warm nevertheless, while still exuding that sense that here is a guy you do not want to get on the wrong side of.

He has livened up an ageing squad with a couple of good loan signings from the Hawthorns in George Thorne and Joe Mattock, and while the off-the-field mayhem may continue at Portsmouth, he is firmly set on stopping the rot on the pitch. The early signs are good.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am 1. I'm from Pompey but I have no interest in the derby. Just a bunch of chavs wanting to cause trouble. They ain't fans, just thugs

  • Comment number 2.

    Saints fan here wanting to *shock horror* agree with #1 although I will be watching, hoping for no trouble, a good game and of course, the right result.

  • Comment number 3.

    Bit ironic that this article is meant to refer to youth then shows a picture of the supposed 40 year old youngster. He looks 50 plus. The grey/silver hair hardly shouts out youthful does it? Youthful is someone like Andres Villas Boas.

  • Comment number 4.

    Yeh there is always a bit of trouble but it's a small minority of each fanbase, and they aren't true fans either. I have a lot of mates who are Pompey fans and we have good banter. The game itself should be close, Saints's away form has not been great and Pompey have improved recently but I still think Saints have more quality so it the onus will be on Pompey to stop them playing.

  • Comment number 5.

    #4 totally agree, I was having a beer with a Pompey fan last night, talking about the game quite sensibly. Obviously I had to pay. Sorry, couldn't resist.

  • Comment number 6.

    Steve if you think Adkins "exudes charm" you need to get out more.

  • Comment number 7.

    You have opened up a can of worms posting this blog! Just wait..


  • Comment number 8.

    I don't quite understand the point of this blog. A blog too far! But if you want to know about the rivalry between the two clubs then it doesn't really go back all that far despite what you might read about 'scummers' referring to dockers from Southampton etc. Back in the 60's there was no real bad feeling and many people would support one club and wish the other well.
    Up until that point Portsmouth had always been the bigger of the two clubs. However, in the mid-sixties Southampton were promoted and for the next 40 years were the dominant club. Pompey fans weren't too impressed and thats when the real hatred and violence started.
    It will no doubt be a tough, uncompromising match. The atmosphere will be intimidating and Saints have a couple of times have been beaten before kicking a ball because of it.

    Despite the relative table positions, ironically its Pompey who are the form team so its a hard one to predict.

    Roll on Sunday.

  • Comment number 9.

    I hate to say this but this is a pointless blog. I was hoping it was going to discuss the influx of younger managers or at least the seemingly inexperianced managers who recently have been thrust into the limelight.

    Having lived in Southampton for 3 years, I have a soft spot for them so would like to see them win on Sunday. Altough Portsmouth does have a banging pirate themed Mini golf on the front. In all seriousness I hope the trouble that flaired up at FA cup game does not repeat its self this time.

  • Comment number 10.

    If Nigel does't exude charm then no one does. Saints fans love him and not just for what he has done on the pitch. Behind the enthusiastic exterior is a man whose attention to detail is unmatched. The chairman pinned him down to a five and a half year contract - almost unheard of for a manager - and I am certain he will be here for longer than that.

    Anyway, I am sure these comments will eventually descend into arguing about which side is better, but hopefully the game on Sunday will be remembered for the right reasons. As tajjuk says it is always the minority.

  • Comment number 11.

    Adkins has been absolutely brilliant for us. So positive, energetic and honest that it just inspires confidence. We have gone from a team who on countless occassions gave away leads to either draw or lose, to one that grinds out results and shows real team spirit. That is the impact Adkins mentality and approach has had on the club. Yeah, we've slipped up a bit recently but I'm sure he will have us back on track.

    As for the derby, I'm probably less confident going into it than a couple of weeks ago! Form tends to go out of the window in these games, anwyway. The rivalry between fans has become ugly, no need for it. It's great to have three south coast clubs in the same division this season.

    Up the Saints!

  • Comment number 12.

    It’s not easy being a Pompey fan right now. You look along the coast and you see what looks like the perfectly run football club. Good ground, great training facilities, academy setup, probably the brightest managers in the game and top of the table as well. Contrast that with our club and its quite painful ! Appleton looks like the best thing to happen to us in a while. He has a great attitude and like Adkins wants to play decent football. This game may have come a bit early for us and I would happily take a draw.

  • Comment number 13.

    I can't wait! I'm glad we've had a couple of good wins under our belt before this match though to get the confidence back up. It will be a very close one to call. The atmosphere will be rocking and if the players keep their heads then hopefully our experience can see us take it.

    On a side note, a saints mate and I have a bet on these two games...whoever loses on the overall aggregate score has to have a pic of them in the other teams shirt on their facebook profile pic until the start of next season. Come on pompey don't let me down here!!

    I predict a 2-1 pompey win and Ricky Lambert buckling under the Fratton End stick,ha.


  • Comment number 14.

    Saints fan here, never had a problem with portsmouth or their fans (vast majority), although we have some nuisances as well! However this changed when they invaded the pitch at West Brom to celebrate our relegation, I would imagine that Crystal palace hate them as well becuase by drawing that game they sent them down and saved west brom. I think that was the point for a lot of newer saints fans when the hurting started, that and watchin niemi waste away in front of our eyes in a certain 4-1 defeat :(

    So after that, and the attitude of certain fans when our club went under, I had a real hatred of portsmouth, but now i pitty them. Its basically gone full circle or about to, both in the way saints fans feel about them, and the positions of the 2 clubs (i hope ';.;').

    All I can say is that I hope they don't go under, that wouldn't be fair and it would leave both teams devoid of what is almost always a great fixture, its not like liverpool everton, always boring. It is always a cracker.

    As for the result, many of the saints team were involved in the last 4-1 defeat in the cup so will have a score to settle, and I'd like to see us win there again!!! especially 4-1 ';.;'

    However, realistically, I fear defeat, Portsmouth are on form, the enfusion of a new manager and the backing of their fans who always do them, proud at home combined with our away form :/ will be tough to call! so should be a good game!! and I can't wait.

    As for the mangers, I don't know a lot about the new chap along the M27. But adkins has done a great job so far. I do wonder about his tactical ability though, their is no plan B, and we can't win the league only winning at home. I support him fully and hope he is the next wenger in terms of legacy if not policy... but can he make the step up to the premier? COYR and hopefully a great game, with not violent but excessive banter between fans!!!! Lets show the jumped up clubs what a proper derby is!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    huge pompey fan here, must admit i missed the last derby game so i cannot wait for this sunday.

    saints are a good team i have to admit, you gotta give credit where credit is due, adkins is almost like a championship arsene wenger with his tactical approach.
    must say i didnt know who the hell michael appleton was, and i was sure he wouldnt make much difference, if pompey win this derby game his managerial career will be put on the map.

    and "astroman" you are so right that this derby beats merseyside and manchester derbys hands down.

    whoever wins, just hope it will be an absolute cracker of a game, without any repercussions on or off the pitch. This is the best time for pompey to play saints and i think it will be 3-2 to pompey with a Kanu winner!


  • Comment number 16.

    Biased blog I feel? Huge talk of Adkins as if he is lined up for the England job! Then a tiny slither of Appleton which is poorly researched, merely searching his name into Google. No picture of Appleton either?

  • Comment number 17.

    ^^^^^ Is he not the guy pictured on the football home page link to the blog?!

  • Comment number 18.

    I remember going to the Pompey games with my Grandmother who was a Saints Supporter to her dying breath and this game means more than any other in the fixture list. It is good that the Manager knows that, I seem to remember a certain ex Plymouth Manager that suggested the game wasn't important and very soon lost his job. COYS

  • Comment number 19.

    Have to agree that the more recent animosity between fans is unnecessary and distracting. My Dad used to be a season ticket holder at both teams and enjoyed the games. Consequently whilst I'm a die hard Saints fan, let's get some perspective.

    This is a football match, a game, a means of enjoyment, entertainment. It's not worth anybody getting hurt over!

    Adkins has been good for us. His test is upon him though. The early season momentum has stalled and we need to get back to playing incisive and penetrating football rather than go sideways across the pitch. Teams playing against us know that we have little pace up front and hold a high line which squeezes the space we like to pass it in. Hopefully in January we'll acquire a speedster and solve that.

    I think Pompey are more direct, posisbly because they don't have the sort of players who can hold the ball and partly because this league suits that style of play.

    Should be an exciting if not a good game.

    I can't bear to watch though and have arranged to take my parents out instead.


  • Comment number 20.

    Just a little note to astroman who worries about Adkins tactics. If you ever want to watch a game where by a good team is demolished by Adkins tactical genius, watch the saints boro game!! You will soon change your mind bout plan b. Because he had a plan c d and e!! Everytime Mowbery tried something different Adkins had the answer. He is without doubt the best manager we have had since 2005!! As for the Pompey I hope we smash em, but it's going to be a very tough game!! COYR

  • Comment number 21.

    Love d theme of this blog tho I agree it looks one sided.

    I'm a fan of neither clubs. As a Nigerian I find it interesting in a number of ways.

    Over here, its usually about d big premiership teams and a lot of excitement at thier matches. Its nice to know there's a passionate fan base other teams have.

    That said, hope Kanu and d lads win.

  • Comment number 22.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 23.

    It would be really nice to see Southampton in the PL again and it definitely looks like that could happen under their current manager. I am fairly certain that Southampton are going to win this one.

    P.S. I'm trying to recreate the old 606 at

  • Comment number 24.

    Beats merseyside and Manchester Derby????

    What planet are you living on its just another average championship game as I see it

  • Comment number 25.

    Dear Southampton football club,

    If we ask nicely, can we have our manager back?

    Pretty Please?

    Yours sincerely
    Scunthorpe fan.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think its sad to see a rivalry taken to the streets like this, it should be left to hard-nosed players on the pitch, of which there are and have been plenty. Looking forward to a feisty encounter, Play up Pompey!!

  • Comment number 27.

    Sure am sick of people writing "I hate this blog" "whats the point in this blog" Firstly you clicked on it to read it, so you were interested, secondly you are commenting on it and giving a load of opinions about it. So it worked didnt it? It provided you with interest! Stop having a go at all the blog writers it it very tiresome and it doesn't make sense when you then spout on about the topic, showing a blatent interest in the blog post.

  • Comment number 28.


    Have to agree with what you have written.

    I find some blogs more interesting than others, only natural but i've never found one that had no point or that could not be discussed by posters.

  • Comment number 29.

    Not the biggest derby in the world, but arguably the most passionate.

    I am looking forward to it.

  • Comment number 30.

    Can't see there being any trouble, the police are treating it like a war zone, all saints fans MUST travel by coach or no ticket and semi-permanent metal walls put up all the way around the ground to keep fans apart. Plus probably more police than in the riots.


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