Wilson’s Wisdom: Players can bridge the M27 gap

Preston winger Lee Holmes, who has joined Pompey on loan, used to play for Southampton
Preston winger Lee Holmes, who has joined Pompey on loan, used to play for Southampton
Nathan Thompson played in midfield for last Saturdays visit of Scunthorpe

Thompson: Pompey players have ability to adapt

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Wilson’s Wisdom is the weekly Sports Mail column written by sports reporter Steve Wilson...

Just 19 miles separates Fratton Park and St Mary’s but it remains one of the most fierce football rivalries in the country.

When Lee Holmes signed for Pompey on loan earlier this week, there were a few murmurs about his four-year spell with Southampton.

He doesn’t seem too bothered about it all and ahead of his expected debut today, he insists he is ready to win the doubters over with his effort and performances.

But should he have to win anyone over? He’s done nothing wrong.

Does it really matter that in his previous job, his uniform happened to be a red and white striped shirt with a badge that had a football and a little halo on it?

Most fans enjoy the mickey-taking part of the rivalry between the clubs.

Many of us have friends of that persuasion – we’ve probably tried to put them back on the straight and narrow to no avail.

Some of us might even have the odd black sheep in the extended family who prefers stripes to the royal blue.

Mind you, he tends to be the one you avoid at weddings, until you’ve had a couple of beers and then start enjoying the memories of David Norris or Lomana LuaLua...

But of course, at both clubs, there is the lunatic element who would rather have a punch-up than a mischievous laugh about it.

When an intense sporting rivalry spills over and becomes a hatred, it’s gone way too far.

And it’s hard to pinpoint where either club was so badly wronged in the past that some of their fans feel the need for physical violence.

Okay, it might be pushing it to suggest that the two sets of fans should all meet up for a regular beer and a catch-up and then skip home holding hands.

It’s also unlikely that Southampton will help their old pals at Fratton Park by loaning out a couple of their players with a chirpy: ‘We’ve got a few quid at the moment so don’t worry about their wages. It’s on us.’

But professional footballers cannot allow themselves to think in the same way supporters do when it comes to choosing clubs.

If the right career opportunity came along, few of us would turn it down.

And that is the bottom line for players too.

Alan McLoughlin and Scott Hiley are perhaps two shining examples who proved with their performances and commitment that some initial negative opinions can change after they made the move directly from Southampton.

Others had clubs in between, which probably helped, but it was still remembered.

Some like Mick Channon, Peter Crouch and Alan Ball were forgiven.

Others, less so.

Ian Baird in the 1980s and Paul Gilchrist in the 1970s found it impossible to win supporters over.

Others like Ron Davies, Bobby Stokes, Ivan Golac, Colin Clarke, Matt Robinson, Jon Gittens, Dave Beasant, Eyal Berkovic, Harry Redknapp, David Connolly and Michael Poke will all have their own tales and had varying degrees of success.

But Holmes – a talented player – deserves to be given a chance.