Andy Petterson on what went wrong for Japanese superstar Yoshi Kawaguchi at Portsmouth

Andy Petterson has revealed what went wrong for Yoshi Kawaguchi at Pompey.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 12:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th June 2020, 5:12 pm
Yoshi Kawaguchi failed to perform at Fratton Park after becoming club record signing in October 2001. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Yoshi Kawaguchi failed to perform at Fratton Park after becoming club record signing in October 2001. Picture: Malcolm Wells

Japan’s international goalkeeper arrived at Fratton Park under Graham Rix in October 2001 for a club-record fee.

However, it proved a highly-unsuccessful transfer deal, with Kawaguchi moving to Denmark two years later following just 13 appearances.

Petterson was on Pompey’s books at the time of his fellow goalkeeper’s arrival, the pair going on to train together.

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The Australian also took Kawaguchi under his wing away from the training pitch.

And he believes Japan’s skipper was ill-suited to the English game from the start.

He told The News: ‘Yoshi came in and apparently was the David Beckham of Japanese football at the time.

‘I feel sorry for him because he was a very good goalkeeper who worked so hard in training.

Yoshi Kawaguchi made just 13 appearances in two forgettable years at Fratton Park

‘We would finish and say “Yoshi, we’re going in now” but he’d reply “No, no, kick some more balls at me”. He just wanted to work, work, work.

‘His height was an issue for playing Championship football at the time. He took so much notice of people saying he was too small that he started to come for stuff which maybe he shouldn’t. It backfired on him, I guess.

‘It’s a psychological thing. People say you are too small and you want to prove them wrong – and sometimes it leads you to make wrong decisions.

‘He was also a bit on the lightweight side, but, in saying that, I worked with Jimmy Walker at Walsall.

‘Yoshi wasn’t tiny at all, but in those days most goalkeepers were either tall and skinny or smaller with a bit more of a thicker frame. He didn’t fit in either category.

‘And let’s not forget coming from Japanese football into English football would have taken him a long time to adapt. I don't think he got the time to do that.

‘The situation just wasn't right for him. It probably wasn’t the right club at the right time for him.

‘If it had paid off by selling shirts in Japan it could have been a goldmine for the club. As it was, I think they would have lost money on that one.’

Petterson left Pompey for West Brom in March 2002 after having his contract cancelled by mutual consent.

At the time, Kawaguchi was fighting it out with veteran Dave Beasant for the goalkeeping shirt.

However, following the demoralising 4-1 FA Cup defeat to Leyton Orient in January 2002, the Japanese keeper never again started a Blues match.

Petterson added: ‘Yoshi was a lovely guy, you couldn't help but like him.

‘I lived in Port Solent apartments and he lived two blocks away from me. He’d come over for dinner, but didn’t really speak much English.

‘We would also play Tiger Woods PGA Tour on PlayStation together on, he wasn’t bad at that.

‘It was a strange one, though. If I asked for one of his international shirts, no problem. It would be “Come back to my apartment”.

‘But he would never let me into his apartment – he’d just leave me at the door while he went in to get it!

‘Maybe that's a Japanese thing, I don’t know. I never went in there, he would let stand at the front door and went in there himself, leaving the door ajar. Maybe it was messy.

‘Such a great lad, though, really polite and you could just see he wanted it so badly. Maybe he wanted it too much.

‘He’d turn up for training and every day there would be Japanese schoolgirls there. They were also presents regularly coming through the post.

‘Poor guy, he came as Japan’s number one ahead of the World Cup and captain of his country – and unfortunately lost his international spot.’

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