Rowan Vine: The Big Interview

Rowan Vine made 13 appearances for Pompey but only started three competitive games between 2000-05 ' failing to score a goal
Rowan Vine made 13 appearances for Pompey but only started three competitive games between 2000-05 ' failing to score a goal
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Rowan Vine left Peter Storrie’s office relaxed in the knowledge his Pompey future had been secured.

Reassuringly, three bids had been discarded, in addition there was the promise of a fresh deal for the 22-year-old.

The perfect scenario for the perennial loanee who had racked up 148 matches and 34 goals away from Fratton Park.

Within an hour, Vine received a phone call informing him the Blues had agreed a sale to Luton.

The fee – £250,000.

Just 18 months later and Birmingham City had splashed out £2.5m for the striker’s services.

That painful July 2005 day marked the end of a Pompey relationship which began at the age of 10.

There was an unhappy two-year sabbatical at Southampton sandwiched in there, yet Vine emerged from the centre of excellence set-up to make 13 first-team appearances.

A contemporary of Gary O’Neil, the Basingstoke youngster was given his debut aged 18 under Steve Claridge.

He later had fleeting appearances under Graham Rix and Harry Redknapp before making his name as a gun for hire at a host of lower division clubs.

Then came his departure.

He said: ‘Peter Storrie said there were offers from Hull, Luton and I cannot remember the other team. I told him to turn the bids down.

‘I’d had a massive relationship with Pompey since I was 10 years old, by that stage Alain Perrin was manager and I was thinking “I’ve got a chance here”.

‘Storrie was okay with that, he told me “You have done well and we will turn these bids down”. He also said we would talk about a new contract.

‘That was fine and what I wanted to do. He told me I wouldn’t be leaving. By the time I got home to Basingstoke they had sold me!

‘Luton’s manager, Mike Newell, rang me and said Pompey had accepted £250,000. Then came the realisation I had to go, in the end my hand was pretty much forced.

‘A year-and-a-half later, Luton sold me for £2.5m – they probably did the best out of it!

‘That was the way they worked at Pompey then and the ignorance at the time.

‘Storrie was probably surprised anyone was offering money for me.

‘I had just won League One with Luton and done well, so suddenly they are thinking “This is a kid we thought was going to leave for nothing, now we can get money”.

‘I bumped into Harry Redknapp six months later. I was flying for Luton and he said “You’re a million pound player, I would never have sold you for less than a million”.

‘The reality was Harry only started me for one game and that was Manchester City away at Maine Road, when we lost 3-1 and City won the league!’

Vine had been spotted by the Blues playing in the Hampshire Cup and was soon recruited for the Basingstoke school of excellence, headed by Shaun North.

Such was his eye-catching form, he was lured away from Fratton Park by neighbours Southampton at the age of 13.

Within two years the striker’s career path had diverted back to Pompey, although he later attempted to keep quiet his past.

He added: ‘Southampton were in the Premier League and sent Alan Ball to my mum’s house, which swung it a little bit!

‘But I didn’t have two great years, football-wise I’d made the wrong decision. I was lucky, Shaun said he wouldn’t hold it against me and I came back.

‘When I broke into the Pompey first-team not many people knew, I kept it under wraps, although a lot of Southampton fans knew! My time there came to a head at half-time of a match at Bristol Rovers.

‘Our manager Stewart Henderson was calling me names so that was it for me, I didn’t want to play anymore and walked out.

‘My mum rang Henderson to say I wasn’t ever coming back and he said “We don’t want him anyway!”.

‘To say I wasn’t good enough is fair but calling me a “gimp” and a “6ft pygmy” in front of a changing room because I can’t tackle is a bit naughty.

‘I would say I was in tears but boys don’t cry do they.

‘We beat Southampton the next year and Henderson tried to shake my hand – I gave him the old custard pie!’

After reigniting his Pompey career, Vine’s development gathered pace and in December 2000 appeared as an 83rd-minute substitute against Sheffield United at Fratton.

His second appearance arrived in April 2001 against Fulham, with Graham Rix now the manager.

All three of the striker’s starts came the following season, making his full debut in March 2002 against Crewe under Rix and then defeats to Watford and Man City with Redknapp in charge.

Vine said: ‘I liked Rixy, his assistant Jim Duffy was never my favourite person in the world, he was regimental.

‘In terms of being a manager, was Rix too soft and too laid back?

‘The answer is yes – but I had a lot of time for him, he was a proper football man.

‘At one point we had one win in 20 and there were crisis meetings, while Harry was looming at the training ground every day,

‘It wasn’t until his penultimate game he picked me against Crewe, we drew 1-1 and I set up Peter Crouch. The week after we had Sheffield Wednesday and I was an unused substitute, it ended goalless and Rix got the bullet.

‘I didn’t like Harry’s attitude towards young lads.

‘One summer he was in the press saying he couldn’t get these young lads out on loan, how they think they are the best in the world, they think they have made it. Basically hammering us.

‘I wasn’t having him talking about all the young lads like that, it has got to be about individuals, so I spoke to my agent. He told me I was going to be labelled that way unless I was a man and talked to Harry.

‘So I phoned him up and said “You’ve been having a go at the young lads, where do I stand?”.

‘He said “No, no I wasn’t talking about you, you have been terrific. Get your agent to call me, we are going to give you a new deal”.

‘Sweet. I got there in the summer, he didn’t talk to me and left me out of the pre-season tour to Woodbury Park for an 18-year-old Italian striker on trial.

‘I said to Jim Smith “What’s going on?” and he replied “Everyone seems to want you, everyone wants you in their team”.

‘My reply was “Apart from here” and he replied “Yes, you’re right!” – and I was off on loan to someone for the season!’

Vine was loaned to Brentford, Colchester and Luton on season-long moves before joining the Hatters in the summer of 2005.

Come January 2007, Steve Bruce had taken the striker to Birmingham in a £2.5m deal after he scored 14 goals in 30 games.

A year later he went to QPR in a £1m transfer and later played for Hull, MK Dons, Exeter, Gillingham, St Johnstone, Hibernian, Morton and now Conference side Welling.

These days aged 32, his fond Pompey memories remain.

He added: ‘I trained with Robert Prosinecki. He was brilliant, such a character.

‘He was quite lazy and quite unfit but I loved watching him thinking “This is genius”, whereas Nigel Quashie wouldn’t have liked him too much because he had to do two peoples’ running!

‘On match days we had to wear suits and ties and meet at the Portsmouth Marriott for pre-match meetings. Robbie would be wearing boots, jeans, T-shirt and a cardigan.

‘Duffy would say to him every week “Robbie, suit” and he was “Yeah, yeah, Jim” and never did!

‘It was before the smoking ban and for those team meetings he would sit at the bar with double espressos, smoking Marlboro Reds.

‘He didn’t talk English, didn’t listen, had come over because he was mates with Milan and was thinking “Hold on a minute, I have come here to do a favour, I am not having these people”.

‘There was no way he was ever going to learn English, it was “Give me the ball”. He was unbelievable.’


...£2.5m switch to Birmingham

I was a panic buy by Steve Bruce. He didn’t even know me, didn’t know who I was, hadn’t seen me play.

I scored for Luton at St Andrew’s and 12 days later they were coming in to buy me.

I once had it out with him and said ‘You wouldn’t have even known who I was last year when you were in the Prem with Birmingham’.

He replied ‘On your day you are like Cameron Jerome’. I said ‘I have never played like Cameron Jerome in my life!’

Eric Black, his assistant, said they looked at the goal-scoring chart and I was at the top – there you are £2.5m.

I signed in the January, got promoted, was out on loan to QPR in October and then joined them in January.


I broke my leg two months after permanently joining QPR and it put the buffers on me really.

I was out for 16 months and had three operations, it was bad. The injury was worse than they thought and then got infected, so they had to break my leg again after six months of healing.

...Yoshi Kawaguchi

Yoshi was very enthusiastic but couldn’t understand anything and used to go mental in training when he let in any goals.

Me and him had a little bit of argy bargy one day, I slid in on him and he went absolutely crazy. Proper off the wall.

He was small, he was never going to play, you can’t have a goalkeeper who was 5ft 3in.