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The Underachievers

The Underachievers

Luckily for us Pompey fans, it`s all fun and games at Fratton these days. But it wasn`t always like this. Most of you will remember walking down Frogmore Road at 6pm on a Saturday after witnessing another home defeat to Wolves or some other no-hopers. A game of missed chances and defensive blunders, goalmouth scrambles and heads hung in disappointment.

I`m not trying to rekindle that feeling in any way, but it`s important to remember those days, and remember how lucky we are that Milan and Harry came along. So, today I present a Pompey team to remind us of how far we`ve come in the past few years. Ladies and gentlemen, The Underachievers


Some said commercial, some said it was an 'upstairs` transfer. But whatever the hype surrounding Yoshi`s club record £1.8 million signing in 2001, there were certainly some questions to be asked, mainly about the Japanese number one`s frame (he was only 5`10) and whether he was dominating enough for the English game.

Like quite a number of Pompey fans, I travelled down the road to witness Kawaguchi`s first game in the country, as Japan took on Nigeria in a friendly. And we came away happy. He looked bright, and pulled off a couple of cracking reflex saves. But it was not as happy a story for Yoshi once he pulled on the Portsmouth shirt.

It should be noted that he was 'protected` by one of the shakiest defences we`ve seen in recent times, marshalled by the unconvincing Scott Hiley. But he did go on to concede 24 goals in 12 league games, and was consequently dropped. We never saw much of him again, and the former "Sexiest Man in Japan" was eventually sold to Nordsjaelland in Denmark, before moving back to Japan just 8 months later.

A real shame it didn`t work out for him, but he was largely disappointing between the Pompey sticks.

Right back - ADAM NEWTON

Reminded me of our recent Glen Johnson. Great going forward, and lightning down the right flank, Newton seemed to have it all. Arguably shouldn`t be in this team, as he only made 5 appearances for Pompey in 1999, before West Ham recalled him after an injury crisis at the back, but he looked that impressive when he was with us, that we all thought he would go on to big things at West Ham.

He didn`t, and after a couple more loan spells, eventually ended up at Peterborough, where he is still playing today. Maybe he has made something of his career, but from what we saw at Fratton, he should have made a lot more.


77 appearances suggest that Robinson was a certified first choice, but in his years at Pompey, he was up and down like a yo-yo, and I can barely remember a standout performance. For me, he summed up our mediocrity at the time. A 50k 'bargain` from Saints, and unfortunately his history dogged his Fratton career and he never had the backing of the fans. He only scored once in his tenure, and left little impression on the Blues` fans.

Centre half - SCOTT HILEY

One of my least favourite Pompey players of the pre-promotion days, Scott Hiley was another who depicted our depressing years. Also signed from down the road, for 200k in 1999, Hiley impressed originally as a full back. But his move inside, as well as taking over the captaincy, gave Hiley the belief that he was a world-beater.

Playing in the middle of a back three, he would gracefully attempt to carry the ball out of defence, only to be robbed time and time again on the half-way line, usually resulting in Pompey finding themselves 1-0 down. He did make 80 appearances for the club, but again, this was during the dire years. It was the arrogance that got me. He really believed he wasn`t to blame for our abysmal defence. I guess I may come across as harsh - maybe I just didn`t like the guy.

Centre half - LEWIS BUXTON

I`m not happy about putting Buxton into this team, but it`s another case of what he could have been. Breaking into the side as a 17 year old in 2000, he looked fearless. Classy on the ball, strong in the tackle - he was everything that the more experienced players around him were not.

What happened? A couple of dodgy games, and his head dropped. Consequently, he found himself back in the reserves, and never really found his way back. His career might have found legs again, but he has struggled to set the world alight since, and has had further experience with Bournemouth and Exeter.

Another real shame, and a real disappointment. I really thought he was going places.

Central midfield - ROBBIE ENES

One of the Venables` tip-offs, Enes was seen as an absolute steal when nabbed from Down Under for 175k. Pompey had beaten Benfica to the classy midfielder`s signature, and we were all excited about what to expect. Our enthusiasm was short-lived, however, and Enes failed to shine… at all. He only started one game in 97/98, and made three less than encouraging substitute appearances before disappearing in nothingness.

The hype had once again completely outweighed the reality, and Pompey fans` were left disappointed and disillusioned once more.

Central midfield - LEE SHARPE

I can`t believe he`s made the list, since he is (without question) my favourite English player of all time. Really could have answered England`s left side problem throughout the 90s, but injury, partying and a doobie habit ruined any chance of that.

By the time he got to Fratton, he was past it. The odd sublime through-ball, neat flick or long-ranger off the bar were not enough to convince the fans (or management) of his ten grand a week wages, and Sharpe only graced the Pompey midfield for 17 games. Another real shame - if his development had continued at United, he could have been one of the greats.

Left midfield - MARTIN PHILLIPS

Met the curse of Alan Ball on a couple of occasions. The Ginger Squealer predicted that Phillips would be the first £10 million player in the country, and he never lived it down. Phillips flattered to deceive at both Manchester City and Pompey. He signed for the Blues in 1998 for £100k, starting only 4 games, with 20 substitute appearances.

He definitely had pace, skill, could beat a player and cross a ball… he just never did any of them. Having said that, he did chalk up a goal in Pompey colours, before disappearing back down to his hometown Exeter, currently with West Country rivals Torquay. Still, that`s a big fall from grace… £10 million…

Right midfield - MLADEN RUDONJA

I struggled to fill the right midfield role. We`ve rarely really suffered there. Jimmy Carter was ok at times; Jeff Peron was excellent. Paul Hall made it his own for a number of years. So, I`ve gone for a winger who was predominantly left-sided but would have done well to get in the Pompey side wherever he was picked.

A real waste for the Slovenian international, who rarely featured after earning rave reviews for his country. 'Turbo` will argue that he never got his chance, but there must always be a reason why these guys don`t get picked. Faster than lightning, so we were told. If only we`d seen him, or not as the case may be. Another real disappointment, if not completely his fault.


Another Venables` bargain, Hamilton looked a snip at 75k. However, I`m still not convinced we got the full story on these Aussies. You get the feeling there was certainly an ulterior motive or 4 when we saw the influx. Aloisi was obviously class, and Foster wasn`t too bad, but the rest were certainly suspect (Paul Harries couldn`t even make it at Basingstoke).

Thorp was the one who got me worried though. He didn`t even look like a footballer. He looked like he`d won an El Tel holiday competition to shoot over to pommy land and grab as many sheilas as you can. He made one start (albeit in the League Cup) and, although he scored, did not show enough promise to earn more than seven cameo substitute appearances when we were lumping it upfield, desperate for an equaliser.

Altogether a bizarre signing, and another man who won`t remain in the history books for too much longer.

Striker - RORY ALLEN

And what a man to finish on. Possibly our most frustrating player of the last decade, mainly due to the fact that he couldn`t remain on the pitch for 20 minutes without limping off clutching his ankle.

£1 million from Spurs suggested Pompey really meant business in an attempt to break into the play-offs, but it wasn`t to be, and Rory managed a huge total of 3 goals in 16 games. An ankle break didn`t help his case, and things didn`t improve when he returned to fitness, as the other one snapped in two, and off he hobbled.

But the main disappointment had to be Rory`s third return to fitness, when instead of running along happily to pre-season training, off he went to Australia to watch the Ashes. Top commitment Ror. Brilliant stuff. After that, there was no coming back, and Allen retired to a life of playing golf and watching cricket. It`s a hard life when you can`t be @rsed to play professional football.

Once again, people, thanks for reading, and sorry about the delay. Don`t want to get us in trouble, so I will in no way claim that NTL have a disgustingly terrible Internet service. I repeat, they`re brilliant, and I`ll probably stay with them for life.

Feel free to discuss more names on the board. I`ve purposefully left a few names out (including poor old Robbie Simpson), so feel free to add to our depressing list of Pre-Premiership underachievers!

*The second instalment in Pete Alexander`s fantastic weekly column, I think you`ll agree more than worth the wait*

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: pompeyrug Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday August 9 2006

Time: 9:40AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Great stuff - I was in Russia during these memorable years so I missed some of these names - good to know we had such players - really makes you appreciate our current team even when we lose to Havant and Waterlooville in a friendly !
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09/08/2006 09:49:00

I'd have to add Luke Nightingale. A two-goalscoring sustitute appearance debut is something I'll not forget, we spoke of it all the way home, sure it was West Brom. Was going to replace Aloisi (who he did in that match due to his injury!) He had his moments but didn't achieve what was really hoped of him. Had loan after loan. Played for Calridge at his non-league side back along didn't he along with Robbie Pethick. Also had a loan spell at Swindon, joining possible fellow underachievers Stefani Miglioranzi and Sammy. Where is he now? One of a list of many for me...
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09/08/2006 09:49:00

Migsy is still running the midfield at Swindon. And Igoe, would you believe, is kick-starting his career at Bristol Rovers. Scored on his debut at the weekend. I always liked him. Kind of a poor man's O'Neil. And yes, Nightingale showed SUCH promise. I remember him scoring against Leeds in the cup as well, in a 4-1 loss (not the 4-2 win a bit later, after which Leeds supposedly put in a £5m joint offer for Perrett and Svensson. Hindsight, eh? Wonderful thing.)
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09/08/2006 10:25:00

where do i start? ian baird, robbie simpson, lee sharpe, david hillier, carl robinson, neil barrett, robert wollestan, jamie vincent, stefani miglioranzi, mihailis panopoulos, alessandro zamperini, courtney pitt, lee mills, garry brady, thomas thogerson, steve lovell, carl tiler, tom curtis, scott wilson, mark summerbell, leonardo biagini, bernard lambourde, ceri hughes, jason cundy, adrian whitbread, michalis vlachos, martin phillips, paolo vernazza, andy myers, nikos kyzeridis, steve soley, andy thomson, lee russell, robbie enes, craig foster, andy turner, jimmy carter, tony dobson, andy cook. is that enough. i could go on....
The Rabbi
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09/08/2006 11:08:00

sorry back again. Yoshi Kawaguchi's appearance at Bradford on the last day of the 2002-3 season was one of the best things I've ever seen. We were about 3 or 4 up at ht and running the show. Harry gave Yoshi a second half runout in order to say goodbye to the Pompey fans. He got a brilliant reception and then let the occasion get to him. Only the fact that the Bradford forward line were so poor saved him from conceding. He was terrible. but we loved him or I did anyway.
The Rabbi
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09/08/2006 11:15:00

Excellent list. A few of them made my shortlist, but I have to disagree with a few. Some have got to be slightly distanced from the rabble. CARL ROBINSON was never that bad. Just couldn't cut it in the Prem. As a Championship player he is decent, and is still showing that now. MICHAEL PANOPOULOS wasn't bad either. Had some cracking games for Pompey, including a few important goals. I definitely wouldn't group him with the rest. TOMMY THORGESON - no way! Sure, he tired away into nothingness, but he was an extremely consistent performer towards the end of 98/99 and then went on a scoring run in 99/2000 in a more attacking role. Ended up with a decent five goals or something. And MICHAELIS VLACHOS!? He was brilliant! I still remember his debut, he started at left back - loved a tackle! Still maintain that I started the "Stavros" shouts that day. BIAGINI I half agree with - he just looked disinterested after a couple of games, but ended up only playing 6. I had him in my original selection, but he boasts a goalscoring record of 2 in 6. Not too shabby hehehe. Fair enough, big reputation, big disappointment.
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09/08/2006 12:27:00

A good read PR, brought back some unpleasant memories! For the modern era I would like to add Collins Mbesuma who arrived on a mini wave of hype and Zambian rave reviews. He left somewhat anonymously in the back of a Ginsters pastie van after a handful of cameo appearances. Mind you, did he have the potential to be any good? Perhaps if he got match fitness he may have shown us some of his eye for goal, but Alan and Arry certainly weren't convinced. I doubt we'll ever ever hear about this guy again, barring *****taking from opposition fans on forums.
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09/08/2006 12:57:00

whos this "cool dude" with the glasses on, on the portsmouth web banner up there^^ Probaly a spectator???
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09/08/2006 14:33:00

Have to agree some of these players under achieved but some along with many others were never given a fair crack of the whip.
Steve C
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09/08/2006 17:36:00

Yoshi for instance carried the can for a very poor defence. It wouldn't have mattered who was in goal at that time it had more holes than a fishing net.
Steve C
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09/08/2006 17:37:00

What about Eddie Howe, now struggling to make the Bournemouth first team. He didn't have much luck with us.
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09/08/2006 20:15:00

Sadly saw them all, during the thin & thinner days. Now let's be very grateful for what we have & where are & hope to be. Have a look at Leicester, N Forest, Sheff Wed. It can all change very easily. PS. Come on Coventry.
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09/08/2006 20:31:00

Hamilton Thorp now runs a restaurant in BONDI called THE THREE FAT FISH. Craig Foster is a football presenter and commentator with SBS TV Station in Sydney. Maybe we can do a where are they now segment for former players.
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09/08/2006 23:29:00

A where are they now segment is a great idea, you paying attention Pete!
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10/08/2006 00:24:00

Don't want to be a you are wrong I'm right guy pedalo (although I am ;) lol) but when we played Leeds in the FA Cup and Nightingale scored we lost 5-1 at Fratton in the end didn't we, not 4-1. When we went 1 up I thought ding dong Dagenham & Redbridge (think they were waiting for the winners?) here we come, soon changed...
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10/08/2006 00:35:00

I agree with Tantona about Collins Mbesuma - it was amazing that some of those football manager programs put Mbesuma's value at 9million quid without ever having played a game - wish we could sell him for that today! His value turned me off playing those games ! I'd rather have Harry's Fantasy Football - courtesy of all the current transfer gossip!
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10/08/2006 08:30:00


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