He played them both - Villa: Carl Tiler
The Graham Rix era won't be remembered with much affection at Fratton Park. Not surprising really considering that he considered £250,000 spent on Tiler in March 2001 as good business.
Rix told the press, "He's a good solid professional and a great capture for us. He's also left-footed which is a bonus in any team." Tiler was also upbeat about the move. "Obviously Graham Rix has a reputation as a good coach. I understand he was very instrumental in what was happening at Chelsea. There's no such thing as guaranteed first-team football because if you don't produce you won't be in the team, but it would appear I have a good chance of regular football here if I play well enough. I wasn't getting that - and probably wouldn't in the near future - at Charlton."
As if £250k wasn't enough to waste, the deal was said to be worth a further £200k if Tiler made 100 appearances for the Fratton Park club. Many fans held their breath and prayed it never happened. His debut came in a 1-0 loss at Crewe. He played the full 90 in the next six matches, all of which Pompey failed to win.
Then came a huge relegation six-pointer at home to Crystal Palace. I was there that night. I've tried to forget it but just can't. It was the stuff of nightmares. Palace took a two-goal lead in just 25 minutes. Their fans, who took over the entire Milton End, couldn't believe it. Pompey fans looked on in disbelief. Relegation seemed a certainty. On the stroke of half time Lee Mills scored to give us hope. Unfortunately while the Pompey fans were still celebrating, Crystal Palace steamed forward and Dougie Freedman left the defence for dead before scoring into a stunned Fratton End no more than twenty seconds after kick off. I can remember fans trying to get on the pitch, it was horrible. We lost 4-2 eventually and only stayed up by somehow beating Barnsley 3-0 a few days later with Tiler helping keep a clean sheet.
The following season saw Tiler improve slightly. He then played a full part in the humiliating 4-1 home defeat by Orient in the FA Cup, even giving the fans a one fingered salute as they booed the team off at full time. He also got sent off in the next league match, a 3-1 defeat at Bradford as Rix's era came to a bloody end. Luckily my memories of him run out there.
He finally retired from the game in 2003 due to injury having had almost £5m spent on him during his career, not including wages. It was a day that many football fans had dreamed of for years.
Football was finally safe.
Written by The Rabbi.
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