Get set for the south coast derby again

Alan McLoughlin in derby action in 1996
Alan McLoughlin in derby action in 1996
Pompey midfielder Danny Rose. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Alan McLoughlin still remembers the day he made his Pompey debut and was jeered by his own supporters.

His crime? Moving from Southampton.

The Pompey fans who booed him forgave him pretty quickly, with his quality performances in midfield and his long and illustrious service at Fratton Park recently seeing him inducted into the Pompey Hall of Fame.

But he knows all there is to know about the rivalry that builds to fever pitch in those 17 miles which separate the two cities.

Some Pompey fans were glad to see the back of Saints when they were relegated to League One at the end of the 2008-09 season.

They hoped they would never see them again – and you can bet that feeling was mutual in certain quarters.

But – even if it’s secretly – the majority of fans quite fancy a south coast tear-up all over again, with Saints back in the Championship following promotion.

McLoughlin said: ‘It’s always going to be the case that some die-hard Pompey fans would want Southampton out of the Football League and playing in the Conference.

‘And I’m sure the die-hard Southampton fans would want Pompey to fail spectactularly as well.

‘That’s par for the course – that’s the rivalry that exists between the two clubs. It’s always going to be there.

‘But for the good of the area, the competitive rivalry and the chance to get the bragging rights, now that Southampton are up, I think most people will be massively looking forward to those two games.

‘You can bet it will be the first game people look for when the fixtures come out – and I think it’s great that they are now in the same division.

‘There is nothing like a south-coast derby.’

Just a year ago, the two clubs were separated by two divisions and the only prospect of a neighbourly dust-up came in the form of cup competitions.

Pompey destroyed Saints 4-1 at St Mary’s in the FA Cup the last time the sides met in the 2009-10 campaign, having enjoyed a victory by the same scoreline at Fratton Park in the last league encounter back in 2005.

But next season we’ll have two mouthwatering Championship derbies on the fixture list.

And McLoughlin insists players and staff at both clubs will know how important those two games will be to the supporters.

He said: ‘The players and the staff know the importance of these games, don’t worry about that.

‘The only time I played against Southampton for Pompey we lost 3-0 at The Dell in the FA Cup.

‘That wasn’t a nice feeling and it was my only chance to play against them, so we had no way of putting it right.

‘I would have loved that opportunity to get revenge and to have played them at Fratton Park.

‘The build-up will be crazy and players get an idea of how important it is to the supporters even if they’re not from the area.’

And while the former Republic of Ireland midfielder dipped his toe in the water further west with a short spell at The Dell from 1990-92, his decade at Fratton Park ensures his allegiances are firmly set these days.

He said: ‘I just felt more at home at Pompey.

‘I had a better connection with the supporters, I enjoyed the atmosphere of the place.

‘I’m from Manchester and I felt the same kind of affinity with the city of Portsmouth as I did with Manchester.

‘Not being from the area originally, the whole rivalry surprised me when I first came down.

‘I signed for Southampton from Swindon but, after signing for Pompey, I got much more of a feeling of the intensity of the place and the feeling that exists between the two sets of supporters.

‘Some Pompey fans may not have wanted Southampton to get promoted.

‘But now they’re there, they will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of playing them again.’