Fratton on the Essex coast - how Portsmouth have forged an unlikely allegiance with Southend United

Separated by 121 miles, divided by two hours and 18 minutes, yet united by Pompey.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 6:00 pm
Sol Campbell and Hermann Hreidarsson, seen here challenging Cardiff's Paul Parry in the 2008 FA Cup final, have reunited as Southend's management team. Picture: Steve Reid

The south coast has relocated to Essex. Roots Hall has adopted a distinctly Fratton feel.

Not only do the Blues and Southend United share a League One presence, admittedly currently none-too lofty, this season has created some notable mutual associations.

This week has heralded the parachuting of Pompey 2008 FA Cup winners Sol Campbell and Hermann Hreidarsson into the Shrimpers, charged with rescuing a team languishing second from bottom.

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Joining their ranks as striking coach is another face familiar to Fratton Park – Andy Cole.

Campbell and his staff watched from the stands ahead of commandeering the strugglers, witnessing Tuesday night’s 7-1 home defeat to Doncaster.

Still, work officially commenced on Wednesday, as they strive to resurrect a team eight points adrift from safety after 14 league fixtures.

Caretaker boss Gary Waddock occupied the role for 46 days, acting up from his position of assistant manager, while flanked by first-team coach Svetoslav Todorov.

The duo had been asked to stabilise matters following a club-record six-straight league defeats from the start of a season, a wretched spell overseen by Kevin Bond, prompting his removal.

Incidentally, this was the man recommended to chairman Ron Martin by Harry Redknapp in April 2019, who subsequently retained their League One status on a remarkable final day. Understandably, there were few dissenters when Bond’s stay was extended beyond the scheduled summer expiry.

Those whose Pompey recollections extend that far, may recall Bond as formerly assistant manager under Alan Ball and then Redknapp, while recently spent a two-year stint as a lower-league scout for Kenny Jackett.

Which is where the link begins – seven ex-Blues involved at Roots Hall in almost seven months.

‘There didn’t used to be many links between the clubs,’ says long-serving chief sports writer for the Southend Echo, Chris Phillips.

‘We had Mark Stimson for a while, Andy Turner had a brief loan spell before joining Pompey and Justin Edinburgh’s career began at Southend, but that seemed to be it for quite a long time.

‘I guess Pompey went up the divisions, right into the Premier League, and that separated the clubs for a number of years.

‘All of a sudden it has quickly changed, it has gone mad, from one extreme to the other!

‘Kevin Bond began the season with the worst start in the club’s 113-year history and, when he went, Waddock and Todorov stepped up.

‘Now Campbell, Hreidarsson and Cole are in charge and their first game is at home to Ipswich on Saturday.

‘This is a Southend side which have not won at home since the final match of last season, has one clean sheet since January 19 in all competitions, and are eight points adrift from League One safety – or nine if you take goal difference into account.

‘Bond, who was a left-field appointment anyway, was out of his depth. there’s quite a big difference between seemingly doing well coaching at big clubs to managing. 

‘If I am being honest, I didn’t really get to know him like other managers, he’s not someone who particularly opened up or had conversations with you.

‘Bond would constantly try different formations, never played a settled side, and attempted to get them playing out from back, which is fine if Barcelona and Manchester City, but not always realistic in League One.

‘It was tough to watch really. His final match was a Trophy defeat at Leyton Orient, when he didn’t do any interviews afterwards.

‘Having kept the club up at the end of last season, staying up unexpectedly, everyone hoped there would be momentum, a real wake-up call for the club. Somehow it has been even worse.

‘Redknapp was pretty much at every one of Bond’s games last season, even spotted at training once or twice. I didn’t see him at any matches this term.’

Bond’s assistant, Waddock, was put in temporary charge, a role he occupied at Fratton Park more than four years ago.

Following Andy Awford’s exit in April 2015, the Blues turned to his number two for the final four matches of the League Two campaign, reaping four points.

Perhaps his most notable achievement was demonstrating faith in Adam Webster by restoring him to the heart of Pompey’s defence.

The youngster’s Fratton career was saved as a result, signing a new deal that summer when he appeared destined for release. Last weekend he scored his maiden Premier League goal for Brighton in a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa.

Phillips added: ‘Gary Waddock is a really top guy, he came here in such difficult circumstances, with the team on their knees.

‘He was very popular with the players, conducted himself well with the fans, and, even though results didn’t improve significantly, I wouldn’t say that was down to him, but the players at his disposal.

‘I don’t think he could have got more out of them than he did, the sole league win of the season came under him – a 1-0 victory at MK Dons.

‘Everyone knew he wasn’t going to get the job full-time and, whenever asked about his interest, he would reply about how it wasn’t up to him.

‘Also stepping up with him was Todorov, who had been recruited to the club by Bond, arriving from the youth set-up at Crystal Palace.

‘I spoke to him following one pre-season friendly, but nothing other than that.’

There is, of course, one final link between the clubs – Phillips himself.

His mum, Jennie, was born in Portsmouth and lived at 45 Frogmore Road, before moving to Southend when young.

Her side of the family remain Pompey supporters, while she is godmother to Ian Darke’s daughter, Jackie.

‘As a kid, I would play Subbuteo with Adam Darke – always Southend v Pompey,’ said Phillips.

‘He had Alan Knight and Guy Whittingham among his players. I can’t tell you how excited I was the first time I saw Knight in the press box at a Southend game!

‘I’ll be back at Fratton Park on November 5, although Pompey postponing that game for international call-ups has to be one of the most bizarre decisions I have known in 30 years of watching football.

‘None of us could believe it, Southend were there for the taking, Pompey would definitely have won.

‘They’ll still going to be favourites next month, but maybe, just maybe, Campbell will have had an impact by then.’