Big Interview: Nigel Quashie

Nigel Quashie
Nigel Quashie
Pompey fans after the Blues' League Two promotion at Notts County

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He went from a genuine fans’ favourite to the villain in the blink of an eye.

His crime was to make the short trip ‘down the road’ to join Southampton and link up with Harry Redknapp.

At the time, the inside gossip was that midfielder Nigel Quashie no longer had the desire to play for Pompey after Redknapp’s shock departure.

But the real story couldn’t be further from the truth.

In his five years at Fratton Park, he made 163 appearances, scored 14 goals and played a huge part in the club’s division one title success of 2002-03.

Energetic, hard-working and with a bullet of a long shot – when the radar was working – he then survived the evolution of the team from division one to the Premier League as Pompey established themselves in the top flight.

A new contract was on the table to extend his stay – then the rug was pulled from under his feet.

Asked if there was any truth in the rumour he had refused to play after Redknapp’s departure, Quashie said: ‘I can guarantee that is 100-per-cent wrong.

‘The honest truth is I did not want to leave Portsmouth.

‘A couple of weeks before I left, I thought I was signing a new contract.

‘It was all agreed and then Harry left and a new manager had come in.

‘But I was still happy to stay and had been there for so long.

‘All of a sudden, Peter Storrie told me it would be better for us to part ways.

‘There had been an offer from Southampton and my agent told me Glasgow Rangers were waiting to see what the situation was as I was in the Scotland team at the time.

‘Why would I want to be at a club where I’d had a fantastic five years and then want to go down the road? I didn’t. I knew it would cause a major problem for me.

‘I didn’t want to leave but if I had to go, then I made it very clear I wanted to go to Glasgow Rangers but it never happened.

‘I remember I wasn’t involved in one game because Velimir Zajec left me out after the club had agreed a fee with Southampton.

‘I told him I still wanted to play but he left me out and I was sitting in the stand as the fans were calling me all the names under the sun.

‘We all know what they were calling me! Then I was getting abuse getting into my car afterwards.

‘I was told the bid had been accepted and I wasn’t going to play again under Zajec.

‘So I was left with no choice.

‘I had a fantastic relationship with Milan Mandaric and everybody at the club.

‘Then, all of a sudden, I was leaving. I didn’t understand it.

‘They always say when a player wants to leave, he doesn’t show any loyalty.

‘But when a club wants a player to leave, where is the loyalty then?’

It’s fair to suggest Quashie was not a popular figure as the news emerged of his supposed defection.

But instead of going public and putting his side of the story, he decided it was better to stay quiet.

He said: ‘The fans had already made up their minds so it wouldn’t have mattered if I had come out and said what was really going on.

‘A few things had gone in the press and basically, I was hung out to dry.

‘Would people have changed their minds against their own club if I had come out and had my say?

‘These are passionate people about their club. So I just had to get on with it.

‘In a funny way, at least it shows appreciation for me that they were so angry that I did go to Southampton.

‘If I had left for Rangers or another club, I’m sure a few would have had a different opinion of me. A few probably still haven’t forgiven me!

‘But it doesn’t change my opinion. I’ve still got the utmost respect for the Pompey fans and I always will.

‘It was a fantastic time for me and they gave me amazing support every time I played for them.

‘I played with some great players, we won the division one title and we established ourselves as a Premier League team.

‘Things like that you don’t forget.’

After joining in the summer of 2000 for £600,000 from Nottingham Forest, Quashie needed a fresh start and revealed his debt of gratitude to Tony Pulis.

He said: ‘Some people didn’t know the circumstances at the time but my son had just died and 
I needed to rebuild my life.That would never have happened without Tony Pulis.

‘I would not have been able to go on and play football again if it wasn’t for that man.

‘He kept me on the level as a human being, let alone a footballer. That will never be forgotten.

‘I remember he called me and didn’t speak about football at all.

‘He asked me to go and talk to someone about my situation at that time to help me deal with a few things.

‘To go to that club was a great time for me.

‘It’s a working class city, the people are great and they are so passionate about their club.

‘Playing with people like Robert Prosinecki, Paul Merson, Yakubu, Arjan De Zeeuw and Linvoy Primus was a privilege. I could go on and on.

‘I think all of us understood what was required from the fans.

‘The work ethic had to be at the highest level.

‘Everyone has their opinions and they are entitled to them.

‘But I would hope nobody could ever say I gave less than 100 per cent. I always gave everything every time I played.’

After two seasons of struggle, Redknapp rebuilt the team with Quashie, Linvoy Primus and Kevin Harper the only surivors from the previous era.

And with Merson as the catalyst, Quashie knew his role in that midfield and it worked perfectly.

He said: ‘Merse was just a fantastic footballer.

‘He might not have tracked back too much but he could do incredible things going forward.

‘Everyone has their different qualities in a team.

‘My job was about breaking up play, getting my foot in and giving it to the other guys.

‘I had no problem with that. It was always about the team for me.’

After a second stint at QPR ended in 2010, a playing spell and coaching in Iceland with IR in Reykjavik and BI Bolungarvik,has now set the former Scotland international on the coaching road with a new venture.

Aimed at seven-to-16-year-olds, IPDA (Improving Players Development Academy) is based in the midlands and the 37-year-old is eager to pass on his knowledge.

He said: ‘It starts next month and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s about getting kids of all ages and abilities to enjoy it.

‘I went out to Iceland and they wanted me to play but I was more interested in getting young guys into the first team so they got me involved in the youth system.

‘I wanted to take some slow progress into my coaching and developing young players.

‘To see those guys coming through gave me great pleasure.

‘I get huge satisfaction out of seeing young players improve.’

Visit ipda-quashie.co.uk for more details.

QUASHIE ON...THE OLD TRAFFORD MISS

It was the FA Cup game in the promotion season and we were up against Manchester United, who were the best team in the country.

We were 2-0 down but had pulled one back through Steve Stone and we were looking like we could get back into it.

Then I went clean through thinking I was going to score and I don’t know what it was – it must have bobbled!

I had a blind spot thinking the defender was coming across me and then it bobbled –yes, it definitely bobbled!

That is one I regret.

When they came down to Fratton Park the next season, we beat them.

And then we beat them a few times so it made up for it.

...LONG-RANGE SHOOTING

I remember scoring a few decent ones from distance early on in my Pompey career.

I can’t even remember who they were against though.

I got told Pompey fans still chant my name when a shot goes high and wide.

It’s all part of the banter!

...RETURN TO FRATTON

It wasn’t nice at all coming back with Southampton and getting beaten 4-1.

But I have never shied away from my footballing responsibilities.

I always tried to do the best I could, no matter who I played for.

It was a relegation decider that day and the game was over by half-time.