The day Fratton Park frightened life out of Southampton and Portsmouth sent them somersaulting towards relegation

As far as reasons for defeat go, it’s a beauty.

Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 5:00 pm

And, as we reach the 15th anniversary of the landmark event on Friday, they are words which turn a Cockney accent not particularly known for its beauty into a sweet serenade.

‘There were six SAS men to protect us in the dugout and they had helicopters flying above the team bus,’ said the man making his return to Fratton Park exactly five months days after walking out to join his employer’s fiercest rivals.

‘The team were too scared to play and we got battered 4-1.’

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Drink up those final 13 words of Harry Redknapp’s quotes and reflect once more on the afternoon the Fratton bearpit saw a footballing foe chewed up, spat out and their corpses left to rot in the Championship.

The white heat of the occasion was felt across the Redknapp household, with son Jamie, of course, in action on that famous Sunday afternoon on an occasion unsurpassed in his career for its intensity.

‘The most intimidating fixture I ever played in?’ he asked in his column last year. ‘It was not Liverpool versus Manchester United, nor was it the Merseyside derby against Everton.

‘Tottenham against Arsenal was not my most hostile match, either. It was Southampton versus Portsmouth. In April 2005, I went to Fratton Park.

Lomana Lualua celebrates the Demolition Derby devastation

‘There were just over 20,000 fans there, but it felt more like 200,000. The hatred towards us was like nothing I have ever experienced.’

The irony is for all the talk of the vitriol which spewed forth from three sides of Pompey’s home that sunny spring Sunday afternoon, the lingering memory isn’t of hatred hanging thick in the PO4 air.

For those royal blue bloods present, they can instead reflect on an occasion which turned into one of the biggest and most jubilant parties in the grand, old gal’s 121-year history.

Middle-aged men regressed into kids as they relived their Saturday afternoons watching Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks wrestling, complete with the exuberant clapping choreography. Easy! Easy!

It was all set of, of course, to the soundtrack of Tony Christie’s (Is This the Way to) Amarillo, remodelled for a PO4 audience with words which echoed across the summer.

Twenty miles west of the island city, there’s still denial of the impact of that battering. But few of the key players on either side would deny the wound inflicted was devastating. The lyrics are true, the three lost points made the difference.

Yet even fewer, if anyone, would ever have predicted quite how emphatic the mortal blow would be. Nor the breakneck velocity at which is would be delivered.

‘27 minutes of bliss,’ was how Pompey reporter Steve Bone would succinctly and brilliantly describe the the firestorm inflicted on Redknapp’s side, in his memorable match report in the following day’s News.

At the heart of the destruction was a force of nature delivering the most brutal showing of his three-year stay. And all within the space of 28 minutes.

Lomana Lualua is blessed with the kind of ability to leave opponents with twisted blood. Southampton’s defence would need transfusions by the time he’d finished with them.

First keeper Antti Niemi was duped by the magician’s sleight of feet, to allow Yakubu to open the scoring in trademark nonchalant fashion from the spot.

When the Zooooooo chants rolled down from the stands in acclaim of Arjan De Zeeuw’s 17th-minute header, the jamboree was well and truly underway - and that was before the trademark somersaults started.

If Lualua’s first intervention was the kind of opportunism which belongs to those blessed with balletic feet, the second was simply the property of the chosen few.

Niemi’s charge from his box gave the DR Congo man to the chance to showcase his finishing ability in the opening instance. The five-minute devastation was completed with a finish devoid of backlift from 20 yards, which sent Fratton into a delirium which rarely seen before or since.

And then he was gone, his work complete. Lualua’s had taken to the field with a tight hamstring which was exacerbated in decadent celebration. It was his last contribution to the season, and it didn’t matter a jot.

Like Dynamo after a piece of street magic he was gone, his audience in thrall to his sorcery.

There were other moments to savour, though. Richard Hughes dumping Nigel Quashie on the Fratton turf, after he followed Redknapp along the M27. The Southampton boss’ rosy complexion inching closer to shades of claret. And the non-stop party on three sides of ground, the fourth, of course, in mourning.

The reality was the margin of victory was not unwarranted, a sentiment picked up on by the man who allowed us to relive the occasion in print the following day.

‘Say it,’ began Bone’s match report. ‘Then say it again – as many times as you like. It may not tell the full story, and it's a scoreline which may not do justice to the superiority Pompey had from start to finish. But still it sounds so, so sweet.’

And to this day, that remains the case.