Ex-Portsmouth, Oxford and West Brom striker John Durnin: Fiorentina's players were attacking me, so I grabbed a big knife from the hotel kitchen and gave chase

John Durnin has revealed how he grabbed a hotel kitchen knife for protection after a post-match bust-up with Fiorentina players turned violent.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 1:00 pm

The 56-year-old remains one of Pompey’s most enduringly popular players in recognition of six-and-a-half seasons at Fratton Park.

Initially a tunnel and dressing room spat following a Pompey defeat, it would later that evening spill over into the Portsmouth Marriott Hotel.

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And Durnin admits he had to take drastic measures to fend off his attackers from the then-Serie B side.

‘We hosted Fiorentina in the Anglo-Italian Cup and were eliminated courtesy of a stoppage-time winner, yet the action didn’t stop there,’ he told Played Up Pompey Three.

‘I had been introduced as a half-time substitute for Mark Chamberlain and, at the end of the game, had a right go at one of their fellas in the tunnel, which had to be broken up.

‘Afterwards, I was in the shower but that confrontation was still bothering me, so I decided I’d go back for round two. Wearing a towel, I charged into Fiorentina’s dressing room swinging for him, with our kitman, Gordon Neave, trying to drag me out.

John Durnin made 211 appearances for Pompey and scored 34 times from July 1993 until February 2000

‘That night I returned to the Marriott Hotel, where I would stay on occasions during that first season, and sat at the bar with team-mate Benny Kristensen for a pint, having calmed down.

‘Then four or five of the Italian club’s players walked in and, upon spotting me, ran through reception to confront me, with one delivering a punch. It was a free for all, with Benny, the quietest man in the world, just standing back.

‘Having stayed at the hotel for a while, I was familiar with its layout, so I sprinted through the bar and into the kitchen, where I grabbed a big knife.

‘Now armed, I returned, with their players scattering as I gave chase. Admittedly, I had lost it, but four or five of them had given me a good crack – and I wasn’t taking that.

John Durnin celebrates the first of his two Pompey goals in a 2-2 draw at West Brom in April 1999. Picture: Pete Langdown

‘In the end, a security guard calmed things down, but even after returning to my bedroom I contemplated going back down to see if one or two of them were still around. I decided against it and fell asleep.

‘The next morning I needed to head to Fratton Park for treatment on my troublesome Achilles, so entered the lift.

‘When it stopped on floor three during its journey down, the doors opened to reveal my favourite Italian. You couldn’t make it up, it was the guy I had the initial confrontation with, carrying a bag in each hand.

‘He looked at me – and I headbutted him before he could get in, with the lift carrying on its merry way.

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‘Upon arriving in reception, I noticed two or three of Fiorentina’s coaching staff hanging around, so I got outside, legged it to my car and drove away.

‘When I returned to the Marriott around 4pm, they had gone. Apparently, they were meant to leave at 9.30am, but delayed their departure to wait for my return, pacing up and down and getting very angry!’

It wasn’t the first time Durnin’s temper got the better of him, earning a red card the following month – January 1994 – against Manchester United.

Jim Smith’s side travelled to Old Trafford in the fifth round of the Coca-Cola Cup, with Paul Walsh scoring twice in a 2-2 draw against a Red Devils side containing the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson, Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs.

Then, two weeks later, the sides met at Fratton Park for a replay in front of a crowd of 24,950.

Durnin added: ‘For the replay, Brian McClair was the match winner, heading home a Giggs corner in the first half to secure Manchester United a 1-0 win.

‘However, referee Keith Cooper sent me off on the hour following two yellow cards. Paul Ince had called me something and then spat in my direction.

‘I shouted: “Really, are you not above that?” - before informing him he wouldn’t see the next tackle coming.

‘I kept my word, it was a two-footed challenge from behind! I just wanted to hurt him, I’d lost my head, and it was captured live on TV.’

John Durnin made 211 appearances for Pompey and scored 34 times from July 1993 until February 2000.

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 and Benjani.

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