Ex-Wolves and Birmingham winger Darren Anderton: I loved it at Tottenham, but Daniel Levy not letting me return to Portsmouth is big career regret

Darren Anderton has revealed a major career regret – never returning to Pompey.

Thursday, 16th December 2021, 9:17 am
Updated Thursday, 16th December 2021, 11:16 am
Darren Anderton celebrates his FA Cup semi-final strike at Highbury against Liverpool in April 1992. Picture: Shaun  Botterill/Allsport
Darren Anderton celebrates his FA Cup semi-final strike at Highbury against Liverpool in April 1992. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

The former England international spent a decade at Tottenham Hotspur, making 358 appearances and earning induction into their Hall of Fame.

However, an emotional return to the club which gave him his break frustratingly eluded him.

In the 2020 book Played Up Pompey Three, Anderton admitted there were three separate occasions when he held talks over a Fratton Park reunion.

And failure to come to an agreement haunts the Pompey youth-team graduate to this day.

‘I wouldn't want to change the fact I featured for Spurs for 12 years, not at all, but would have loved to come back to Fratton.

‘I was desperate for it to happen, but it didn’t on several occasions. I phoned Harry Redknapp, I pushed for it.

Darren Anderton was back at Fratton Park in December 2018 - and introduced to appeciative fans at half-time. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘There was a chance of a return in the summer of 2003 ahead of Pompey’s maiden Premier League season. I didn't want to play in Division One, but when they came up I thought ‘I’ll have some of that’.

‘There were 12 months remaining on my White Hart Lane deal and things weren’t great at the club. Harry was interested, Teddy Sheringham had already arrived at Fratton Park, while another former Spurs team-mate, Tim Sherwood, was still there after being part of their Division One promotion side. It would have been great for me.

‘Spurs chief executive Daniel Levy, however, wouldn’t reach a settlement to cancel the time remaining on my contract and release me on a free transfer.

‘Spurs should really have done it, but it dragged on a bit. Mandaric got involved and eventually didn’t want to do it, so I ended up staying.

‘Following my White Hart Lane release in the summer of 2004, Pompey, Glasgow Rangers and Birmingham City were interested in signing me on a free transfer.

‘My decision was Pompey, but Steve Bruce initiated a late change of heart. It proved to be the right decision as Harry never phoned me back about completing the move anyway!

‘So I signed at St Andrew’s in August 2004 and Bruce was good to me, to be fair. Yet I wish I had returned to Pompey, I was desperate to come back and it was such a shame.

‘I love London – and, funnily enough, really enjoyed it at Birmingham – but the south coast is home.

‘In the summer of 2005, Glenn Hoddle enquired about taking me to Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers – with Harry also knocking once more. The only difference on this occasion was Harry was now Southampton manager.

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‘They had just been relegated from the Premier League and he kept phoning and phoning, but it just didn’t come off. Chairman Rupert Lowe wouldn’t allow it, so I ended up signing for Wolves instead.

‘I didn’t enjoy it at Wolves and, following a year there, was keen to come back down south, particularly with my dad ill.

‘I again spoke to Harry, who had now rejoined Pompey and wanted me to come on trial, training with his team to get it past the chairman, but I wasn’t doing that.

‘At that moment, I didn’t really know if I had the Premier League still in me. I’m sure I would have been fine, but after 14 years in the top flight I wasn’t prepared to trial. I told Harry he had to decide whether he wanted to sign me or not - and in September 2006 joined Bournemouth, which was a different class.’

Anderton never again played at Fratton Park in a competitive club match following his final Blues outing in April 1992 against Watford.

There was an England under-21 outing there, a couple of pre-season friendlies and Alan Knight’s testimonial in May 1994 – but nothing domestically.

Anderton added: ‘Even though I took loads of stick at Southampton, it’s not an intimidating place to play, but when Pompey get going it’s worth a goal.

‘Part of being a professional is handling performing in front of crowds and how you deal with it. Lots of top players who trained out of this world couldn’t translate it to the pressure of playing in big games.

‘Elland Road could be hostile, they made it difficult. Fratton Park was the same, they were able to batter the opposition – and I loved witnessing that.’

Darren Anderton made 77 appearances and scored 13 times for Pompey from July 1988 until May 1992.

Played Up Pompey Three is available from Waterstone’s, Pompey’s club shop and Amazon.

Played Up Pompey (paperback) and Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart are also on sale from the above.

Alternatively, contact [email protected] for copies autographed by those featured in the books, including the signatures of Michael Doyle, Benjani, Alan Knight, Guy Whittingham, Martin Kuhl, Sammy Igoe, Dave Munks, Sean Raggett and Lee Brown.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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