Legend’s south coast derby regret

Pompey legend Alan Knight
Pompey legend Alan Knight

The imminent arrival of the south coast derby has fans from both sides of the football divide smacking their lips in rich anticipation.

For Alan Knight, though, the occasion represents one of his greatest footballing regrets.

The Pompey legend racked up 801 appearances during his 22-year stay at Fratton Park.

But, incredibly, the former keeper featured in just four clashes with the Blues’ fiercest rivals.

Such was the difference in league fortunes between Pompey and Southampton that from April 1976 until December 2003 there would be a mere four meetings between the two.

Even then, two of those clashes came in the FA Cup.

Knight appeared in all of them, tasting victory once – in addition to two defeats and one draw.

It’s a lack of opportunity to regularly sample the unique derby occasion that he rues to this day.

Knight would later serve as the Blues’ goalkeeping coach, witnessing the infamous Konstantinos Chalkias derby display of 2005 – as well as Lomana Lualua’s spectacular cameo in the same season.

But how he would love to be donning the Pompey shirt in Sunday’s Fratton encounter.

He said: ‘They are great games to play in and that’s one of my own few regrets playing-wise.

‘All the years I was a player at the club, which was quite a long time, I only played in four (derby) games.

‘That was all there was. They always played in a higher league than us.

‘It’s a real shame I never played them more often, they really were fantastic occasions with an atmosphere second to none.

‘It’s funny, I can’t remember every match I played for Portsmouth, but I remember all of those four games.

‘In fact, the 3-0 FA Cup defeat at The Dell in January 1996 was the worst I have felt after any match in my career.

‘We got battered. Terry Fenwick was manager and he got the tactics wrong. In fact, he got everything wrong.

‘Afterwards, that’s the worst I’ve felt. I didn’t want to go out.

‘I went straight home and stayed there for a couple of days. People will tell you that’s not like me!

‘I was embarrassed about letting the supporters down, that’s the truth. It hit me very, very hard.

‘I don’t actually think Fen was that bad a manager. I just don’t think he understood the rivalry. He didn’t know what it was about.

‘He let Matt Le Tissier rip us apart that day – it was a very, very frustrating game.’

Knight’s first south coast derby would be a 1-0 Fratton Park defeat in January 1984.

Steve Moran snatched a 90th-minute winner in the FA Cup fourth-round encounter.

In the 1987-88 campaign, the rivals found themselves in the old first division.

They shared a 2-2 Fratton draw in August 1987 – Vince Hilaire and Clive Whitehead netting for the hosts and Colin Clarke (2) scoring for Southampton.

In the return fixture, Barry Horne and Terry Connor secured a 2-0 triumph.

Then in January 1996, Jim Magilton (2) and Neil Shipperley gave Southampton a 3-0 FA Cup victory at The Dell.

But since December 2003 – long after Knight hung up his gloves – the rivals have locked horns seven times in all competitions.

Although, he was Pompey’s goalkeeping coach in January 2005 when a certain Chalkias made his debut.

And those memories of that 2-1 FA Cup defeat make Knight wince even now.

He added: ‘That was a strange signing – then he was thrown in at the deep end. It was a big mistake.

‘In fact, that was a career-ending performance.

‘Chalkias turned up on the Thursday or Friday morning for training and I didn’t know anything about him.

‘I thought I was on Candid Camera. Here was a keeper who could not use his feet and could not catch the ball. It was a bit surreal.

‘If it was not such an important game I would probably have laughed about it.

‘Sure, you can joke now, but at the time but it was not very funny.

‘He was chucked in and had a mare. It finished him, really, he didn’t have a chance.

‘I was sat next to Shaka (Hislop) on the bench during the game and could not believe what was going on.

‘Velimir Zajec was brought in and hailed as one of the best coaches in Europe. Then he signed Chalkias.’