Hierarchy on the South Coast Explained

With today’s announcement of pre-season friendlies for Saints at both Bournemouth and Brighton, the usual ‘banter’ broke out on Social Media about South Coast supremacy.

It got me thinking. The relationships between the clubs on the South Coast are complicated and have a completely different outlook depended on which beach you choose to sunbathe. I thought I would write this blog post as a way of explaining to outsiders of our beautiful coastal wonderland just how relationships work and I thought I would do this through the medium of the popular kid’s TV show ‘Game of Thrones’.

If you’ve not seen Game of Thrones, it is about several houses of people living within close proximity in the fantasy realm of Westeros and relationships are strained to say the least…..

So where do the clubs of the South Coast sit in terms of hierarchy? I think this should clear it up.

I’ll start at the bottom.

Pompey. Pompey are Theon Greyjoy. To start with he was prosperous, but it was on the back of another house’s fortune. While things were going well his dick was well and truly overused and now it’s been cut off. At his lowest ebb now and the least threat of the entire kingdom. Fancies his sister. Hates the Lannisters.

Brighton. Brighton are House Tully. They’re in it, but no one really knows why. Slightly detached geographically from the rest and with little to no role to play in the grand scheme of things. Hates the Lannisters.

Bournemouth. Bournemouth are House Stark. Plucky, everyone’s favourite but ultimately toothless. Hates the Lannisters.

Southampton. Southampton are House Lannister. Hated by everybody else but without doubt the top dog. Sitting on the Iron Throne they draw venom from all of their neighbours.

Of course like the TV show, this is all stuff and nonsense but if that doesn’t clear it up then hopefully this helpful graphic will.

Red = Hate Purple = Indifference/Like Yellow = Mutual respect in hating the 'Scummers'

Red = Hate
Purple = Indifference/Like
Yellow = Mutual respect in hating the ‘Scummers’

 

Chris

Steel City Islander: Lewis Buxton

In a rare break from the Saints related subject matter, I was delighted to catch up with newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday star Lewis Buxton. I am lucky enough to have known Lewis and his family for many years and have watched his career with interest.

Having learnt his trade on the Isle of Wight, a place where not many young kids make the grade Lewis is now enjoying a fruitful career with one of the countries biggest clubs in Sheffield Wednesday. Sealing promotion to the Championship under new boss Dave Jones, Lewis is looking forward to another spell at the higher level, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the Islander….

As one of the few pros to come out of the game on the Island, do you feel that it is a disadvantage for kids here?

LB  “It’s a disadvantage, everyones knows that the Island has a low population so competition isn’t as intense as the big cities. To get the best out of anyone in sport you need to be competing against the best opposition, every week from an early age, the last thing you want is a team winning 14-0 for most of the season. I don’t know what the kids leagues are like now but if they don’t already then it would give the kids a better chance with a structure that has all the current sides feeding one team playing in the Southampton league and one in the Portsmouth league which take all the best players from the existing teams. Kids develop at different rates so some would be dropped out of the teams playing in the mainland leagues and others promoted to them. This would progress the talented kids quicker and give them the best chance to get scouted for professional clubs at a young age. They would then receive the top quality coaching which they need to move onto the next level .

There was however a very good bunch of players in my age group in the Island league at the top 3 or 4 teams. We also played regularly in tournaments against mainland sides at school level, and for East Cowes from an early age we played in the national indoor final at Aston Villa. We won a Hampshire tournament at the Dell, and played at Fratton Park in a similar tournament. We were one game away from Wembley in another. We were entered into these school tournament’s by a very good P.E teacher Mr. McArther so he gave us the opportunity to progress against top opposition as young players.

The stretch of water does make even the the most dedicated kids doubt if it’s all worth it. Travelling over the water from the age of 14 three times a week leaving home at half 4 and getting in 6 hours later for an hour/hour and a half of training straight after school is not much fun. I personally did not enjoy the travelling and the waiting around for hours and contemplated giving up on numerous occasions. You go from playing in your local team with all your best mates and really enjoying it, to joining a new team that all know each other because they play in the top 2 or 3 local sides in Pompey. That is difficult as a young kid and my football struggled at this stage but again I was lucky we had a strong group from the Island that would go over to play for Portsmouth schoolboys together. On top of that, Portsmouth didn’t pay for your travel and the majority of the time you were not getting picked up as the coaches had to train the younger age groups before our age group. It was a joint taxi or the bus, and If the lads you travelled with were ill it would mean getting the bus on your own.”

How did you get involved with Pompey?

LB “I got scouted by Roger North playing for the school. He invited me and my best mate Adam Howarth to train at his soccer school in Sandown where we progressed to his side at Portsmouth’s centre of Excellence. Without the work of Roger, Andrew and Shaun North I wouldn’t have become a professional footballer.”

Lewis at Pompey.

How big was the skill gap between playing in the Island youth teams and then being amongst the young lads at a pro club?

LB “There was a slight gap but we had a good bunch of players on the Island at that age. The best players on the Island at that time competed with Portsmouth’s best but there were just a lot of good players at Pompey.”

Having been a regular at Fratton Park, you found yourself loaned out to Exeter and Bournemouth once Harry Redknapp came in? Do you think this enhanced your career or held you back?

LB “It held me back, I had played 30 games for Pompey in the Championship, and before one game Ted Buxton (not my uncle, as I’ve been told he must have been when telling this story) told me he was trying to get me into the England youth set up and was feeling I could do anything, then I was being farmed out to Exeter a team near the bottom of the football league and low on confidence.

Bournemouth was a good grounding for me though and I had a lot to thank then manager Sean O’Driscoll for. It gave me a good platform for my career in a strong passing side. It was a great club with great staff. Portsmouth had moved on too quickly for me and Harry had turned a struggling Championship side into a Premiership side in no time. Playing in a reserve team and not training with the first team for long periods I lost my way and my focus, I lacked guidance and developed a bad attitude because I felt hard done by.”

After a decent spell with Stoke City, you now find yourself settled with Sheffield Wednesday. It must be brilliant to play for such a big club?

LB “Sheffield Wednesday is a massive club and after a bit of a struggle initially, I worked extremely hard and I’ve played well this season. We came with a strong late run to beat our local rivals to the 2nd spot. We beat them in the derby at Hillsborough in front of around 35,000, the atmosphere was electric, for players playing in the third tier of English football it’s unbelievable and all the players should be proud to play in such a game that means the world to both sets of supporters. In the last game of this season we beat Wycombe in front of nearly 40,000 fans, it was a great feeling but the club belongs in the next league up and in the next few years I hope we’ll get there.”

Buxton & Wednesday. Championship Bound.

Who influenced your career in Island Football?

LB “I would say initially my mum and dad and the friends in East Cowes who I hung around with. Mike Parkman who gave up a lot of his time to manage our East Cowes side which was no easy task. Then obviously Roger, Sean and Andrew North for bringing me through at Portsmouth. As a kid I knew Lee Bradbury had become a pro footballer and so had Gary Rowett. Our PE teacher Mr. Reynolds would always go on about them and how Gary had won the Hampshire Cup (we made it to the final and lostl). They both went to my school so although I didn’t know them I knew it was possible to make it.”

You played for a successful East Cowes youth side. Did you expect others from that team to make it?

LB “We had a very talented group of players who were all good friends at East Cowes, we then brought in better players from Sandown such as Sam Dye and Micky Sherry who had the talent, but again were at a disadvantage being from the Island. The main one though would be one of my best mates, Adam Howarth, we were both from East Cowes and in the Isle of Wight schools sides, Hampshire and Portsmouth kids sides together, always battling to be better than each other so he could have made it given a chance at YTS level. Shaun Cooper another of my best mates who plays for Bournemouth was in the same Pompey kids team as us and was another we played against at school.”

You’ve played under a few different managers, who have you enjoyed playing for the most?

LB “I enjoyed playing for Graham Rix, as a 17 year old, he and my youth team coach Mark O’Connor gave me great confidence, I was gutted when he got sacked.

What advice would you give a young Island footballer with hopes of going pro?

LB “I would say:-

1. Move to Southampton or Portsmouth, the Island is a nice and safe place to live but if you want to be a professional footballer you are up against it. If you can’t move I would say the kids that are the best at a young age need to play for the year above to begin with. This is something Shaun Cooper and I did.

2. Work as hard as possible, if someone says your not good enough then work harder. One of the lads at Wednesday (Jose Semedo) was in the same year of the Sporting Lisbon Academy as Ronaldo and is good friends with him still. He said that the hardest working player he ever played with was Ronaldo, it is no coincidence he is the best. Well second best behind the greatest of all time (Messi). I was told the same thing about Ronaldo by the former fitness coach of Manchester United too.

3. Start sprint training early you can make it with less quality if your faster than everyone else.

4. Watch the best players in the world as much as possible.

5. Learn to be comfortable using every part of your body to control and manipulate the ball.”

Thanks to Lewis for his time.

Chris

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A Saint Amongst Them: Doncaster Rovers

Saints head to the Keepmoat stadium this Saturday to face struggling Doncaster Rovers.

A likely starter for Rovers will be a former Saints midfielder…

Simon Gillett

Oxford born Gillett signed for Saints on a youth contract before turning pro in 2005, making his debut off the bench against Leicester in the FA Cup that season.

Gillett struggled to establish himself at St. Mary’s and went on a series of loan moves with Wallsall, Blackpool, Bournemouth and Yeovil Town, and was part of the Blackpool side that won the 2007 League One play off final.

Gillet started the 2009/10 season on loan at Doncaster Rovers before returning after two months. Despite rarely featuring for the first team he did make a substitute appearance in Saints 2010 Johnstones Paint Trophy final success at Wembley.

Gillett was released in the summer of 2010 and joined the South Yorkshire side permanently.

Not a player that ever won me over, lightweight and muscled off the ball too easily, Gillett struggled to impose himself on games, not something you want from a central midfielder.

Gillett at Saints.

Lewis Ward from Doncaster Rovers site Vikingsboggen gave us his thoughts on Gillett:-

“Rovers’ fans have had plenty of time to get used to Gillett, following his two month loan spell in 2009 and his signing in 2010. He has featured in the first team during most of his time here, slotting into O’Driscoll’s style of play perfectly. Last season he had a spell on the sidelines, along with many other players, and when he returned, fans realised how much of a difference his presence made.

He has scored 2 cracking goals so far this season, one of which came against Portsmouth, and has managed to keep his spot in the team despite Saunders’ new style of play.

Some fans think that Gillett is ‘lightweight’ and not good enough for the side but, despite making the odd mistake, I think he still does a job for the side and if he scores more goals like he has in the past, we will all be happy!”

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Leicester City…

Saints head to the King Power Stadium this Saturday to take on high spending Sven Goran Eriksson’s Leicester City.

The former England manager has made nice use of the summer transfer window, bringing a virtually whole new team in, a clear statement of intent from the Swede, that promotion is the Foxes only goal this season.

Amongst the plethora of talent that Eriksson has assembled, two former Saints with differing fortunes on the South Coast could be in line to face their old club.

Matthew Oakley

A product of the Southampton Academy, Oakley is fondly remembered at St. Mary’s. The central midfielder made his debut for the Saints aged just eighteen in 1995 and went on to play over three hundred times for the club.

In his career highlight, Oakley was named in Gordon Strachan’s starting lineup for the 2003 FA Cup final, somewhere we might never have been had it not been for his Extra Time winner at the Den in a Fifth Round Replay. During this period of his career he was also touted for an England chance by many (of course it was Sven who didn’t pick him).

Having established himself over the years as a first choice and dependable midfielder, comfortable at playing the holding role as well as getting forward and creating attacks, it is no surprise to me that Southampton’s Premier League demise coincided with long term injury woes for Oakley, he played just seven times in the 2004/05 relegation season.

Oakley’s twelve year service at the club ended in 2006 after he rejected a new contract before signing for Derby County. It has always been a mystery to me why Oakley was never granted a testimonial with the club, although, it was rumoured that he was to have one in the 2006/07 season had he not moved on.

Oakley went on to captain the Rams in their promotion season, before heading off to Leicester City in January 2008, exchanging a Premier League relegation battle for a Championship one. The Foxes lost that battle, dropping to League One amongst the final day drama that saw Saints survive.

Oakley was named captain for the following season as Leicester romped their way to the League One title and remained a regular in the side during last season’s campaign. Whether or not he can fight off Sven’s new guard and retain it this season remains to be seen…

Oakley - a true Saint.

Opposition’s View:-

Leicester City fan Mike McCarthy from Foxblogger gives his thoughts on Oakley:-

“Some Leicester fans have just never got on with Matt Oakley. He’s never been the most exciting player but on his day he can still pull the strings in midfield (although one Guardian reporter’s description of him as ‘the Xavi of the Championship’ was perhaps overdoing it).

Oakley’s first team appearances have been limited to the Carling Cup so far this season, and with the wealth of midfield talent in the Leicester ranks it’s difficult to see how the former Saint will be able to force his way back into Sven’s plans. With one year remaining on his contract, we can expect Matt to be looking for another club next summer.”

Matt Mills

In contrast to Matt Oakley’s Saints career his namesake Mills spent very little time on the South Coast. Another product of the Academy, centre half Mills showed massive potential in loan spells at Coventry City and Bournemouth, and also in the few Championship appearances he made for the club. On the verge of establishing himself in the Saints first team, Mills’ head was turned by Manchester City in January 2006, former Saints boss Steve Wigley, alerting his new club to the young defender.

Having played for the Southampton first team just six times, the youngster headed off to Eastlands and the Premier League. Mills found first team appearances hard to come by with City though, and had to settle for loan spells at Colchester United and Doncaster Rovers (ironically dropping to a level below Saints) to get games. He eventually joined the Yorkshire club permanently in 2008 after securing promotion to the Championship.

He was to spend just one more season with Rovers though, before signing for Reading in the summer of 2009. This is where Mills really started to catch the eye, establishing himself as a solid central defender, and playing a major role in the Royals campaign last season that saw them reach the playoff final.

Sven was impressed enough with Mills to part with £5.5 million for him this summer.

Matt Mills showing his potential at Saints.

Opposition’s View:-

Mike gives us his thoughts on Mills:-

“It’s fair to say the jury is still out on Matt Mills. The huge fee Leicester payed Reading for the centre-half was beginning to look like an albatross around his neck. An (unfortunate) own goal against Rotherham in the League Cup and a poor performance against his former employers led Sven to drop his new captain to the bench after just two league games. A more assured display at Nottingham Forest, coupled with much less erratic distribution has calmed some fans nerves and hopefully Mills’ own.

Mills is part of a back five in which only Sol Bamba has survived the summer unscathed, so uncertainty at this stage of the season is understandable. Eventually Mills will need to take command and cajole his new colleagues into keeping more clean sheets, something Leicester have only managed against a toothless Coventry City so far. But if results don’t improve in the medium term expect a few reactionaries to point to his price tag and wonder why the defence isn’t producing the goods.”

Chris

Sussex for Success…..

As we near the end of the 2010/11 season, there is an area of the country that will be happier than most, and it isn’t London or the North West, but somewhere a little less traditional.

Two clubs have dominated their way to promotion this year and both are from the relative footballing backwater of Sussex. In fact both of the more modern East and West Sussex administrations are represented, Brighton & Hove Albion from the East and Crawley Town from the West. This can only be a positive for South Coast football, an area that has been long starved of success. It often amazes me that the South Coast hasn’t produced a bigger force in English football, it is a nice big catchment area, the main clubs all have big potential fanbases, but they so often get close to rubbing shoulders with the big boys, but don’t quite make it. Portsmouth’s relegation last year broke an uninterrupted thirty two years of South Coast representation in the top flight, but barring a few exceptions, neither the red and blue halves of Hampshire pushed on to be silverware manufacturers.

But now the South Coast is on the resurgence it would seem. Portsmouth have beaten a rocky start to cement their place in the Championship, Brighton will be joining them, and both Saints and Bournemouth both potentially could. Add to that the promotion of Crawley Town to the football league for the first time in their history and several money men getting involved with the areas clubs, it can only be a matter of time before we are represented again.

Crawley Town have been an unmitigated success story this season, and they set out their stall early. Having had the debts of the club written off by new owners, the club was even in the position to give manager Steve Evans transfer funds to rebuild the squad. In what is staggering amounts of money to be spending at Blue Square Premier level, the likes of Matt Tubbs and Sergio Torres, players with football league experience (Torres having played in the Championship with Peterbotough United last season) and others cost the club in the region of £500k.

Some non-league fans were critical of Crawley’s spending, but the outlay has paid dividends. Not only have the “Red Devils” stormed their way to the league title, but also put together a money spinning FA Cup run which saw them take the football league scalps of Swindon Town, Derby County and Torquay United before being felled by just one goal at Old Trafford. Such has been the impact of Crawley’s impressive performances as they were propelled into the public eye, that many are predicting the possibility of a second successive promotion for the Broadfield Stadium outfit, and if the financial backing continues who would be surprised?

While Crawley may have been the surprise package in the Blue Square Premier, their East Sussex neighbours Brighton weren’t about to let them steal the show. When Gus Poyet took over the “Seagulls” in November 2009, they were a club in trouble, struggling for results and looking in serious relegation danger, they were a far cry from this season’s win machine. Poyet steadied the ship and they retained their League One status comfortably by nine points. Nobody though was tipping them for anything more than consolidation this season. A good example of this was the scoffing from Swindon Town fans, when Brighton reportedly made a move for their previous season’s play off final captain Gordon Greer. Perhaps Greer could already see what the Swindon fans or anyone else couldn’t, as he chose the Withdean and the Robins went into freefall.

Poyet also re-signed Spaniard Inigo Calderon, fighting off interest from Southampton and brought in experienced keeper Casper Ankergen along with others, as the Brighton ownership also decided to show their Sussex clout. Like Crawley, the results were almost instantaneous, Poyet had created a tight and efficient unit who it soon became clear were not going to be easy to beat.

The style of play Poyet has them playing, is not every bodies cup of tea, but it is certainly effective. Clearly influenced by his South American roots, Brighton established themselves as the League One keep ball masters, a slow and patient build up with Elliott Bennett and Glenn Murray providing the attacking potency. The real key to Brighton’s title win however, is the same as all good champions. Consistency. While, as a Saints fan I am sometimes bemused as our talented pool of players come a cropper against beatable opposition, Brighton are getting results week in, week out, and here lies the key to a somewhat controversial PFA League One team of the year. Five Southampton players and only three from Brighton. Seems wrong, and perhaps it is, but Brighton’s dominant team unit is far more of a threat than five great individuals.

The crazy thing is, that in any other season the “Seagulls” fans could be forgiven for bemoaning bad luck. Brighton have developed a knack for earning then missing penalties, were they not going up, that might have put a serious downer on their year.

With Albion, it is case of double celebration this summer too, as they will start their Championship campaign in a stunning new facility at Falmer, the Withdean has long been holding this potentially big club back, and with their shiny new ground, and season tickets selling fast, it makes you wonder what might be in store for them.

So what we have with these two clubs is two dominant and deserved champions. Yes, it does pain me to say this as a Saints fan, Brighton are doing what perhaps we thought we might have done this year, and for me personally, as not a fan of Gus Poyet it is doubly frustrating. But there comes a time when you have to hold your hands up and say the best team won. Congratulations to both Brighton & Hove Albion and Crawley Town.

Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD PTS
1 Sussex 85 34 6 2 103 35 23 14 6 64 27 105 191

Chris

The kids are all Wight Part 2……..

Sometimes, you start something and you know it isn’t quite finished! That is how I felt after the first “Kids are all Wight” article.

The feedback I had to it was astonishing, and now I have a much broader appreciation of Island pros, pre my generation. To that end, I thought it only fitting and fair that I write a follow up, celebrating the talents of those Islanders that made the grade long before my time, and in an era that would have made it even harder for a young man from the Isle of Wight to be snapped up by the professional clubs.

Ferry travel, was not as regular as it is now for the youngsters of the Island, making it tough for them to attend trials, the last ferries home often way too early,  not to mention the expense, this coupled with a non-existent scouting setup meant talented lads had to shine for the bigger Island clubs and hope for the best.

The first to defy this and  “make the grade” and perhaps the most well known of Island footballers was Roy Shiner.

Shiner, a carpentry apprentice from Seaview first caught the eye of Birmingham City while playing for East Cowes Vics during the Second World War, but was persuaded from attending a trial by his father(a brief top level player himself, so perhaps aware of the pitfalls) who urged him to continue with his trade. Shiner did however attend trials with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Portsmouth, neither of which were successful, before signing for Ryde Sports.

Shiner was prolific up front for Ryde, notably smashing 50 goals in the 1947/48 Hampshire League Season, big things were not far away for Roy. In fact just two seasons later, after starring in a match for the Isle of Wight representative team against Gloucestershire, Shiner was signed part time by Southern League side Cheltenham Town. Roy couldn’t have had a better start, scoring the only goal in his Southern League debut in October 1949.

Roy Shiner - Sheffield Wednesday FC. Picture courtesy of Mike Payne.

Roy spent just two seasons at Whaddon Road, before a pre-season friendly against Wolves in 1951 made his dream a reality. Huddersfield Town had a representative in the crowd and Roy was on his way to Division One!

Shiner didn’t made his top flight debut until Christmas Day of that year, and first team appearances were few and far between as he struggled to adapt at this new level. After just twenty one games and six goals in three years at Leeds Road he moved on, signing for Division two club Sheffield Wednesday.

This turned out to be the best decision of Roy’s career. Roy scored goals for fun in the blue and white stripes of Hillsbrough. In a four year spell from 1955 to 1959, he found the net 93 times in 153 league appearances, and established himself as a top level goalscorer. He was part of the Wednesday side that twice won the Division Two championship, all be it coupled with two relegations, and became a terrace favourite for the Owls.

A now 34 year old Roy moved on again in 1959, even further North to Hull City, but despite scoring eight goals, he was only to last one season. Injuries began to take their toll and Shiner accepted that his football league career was finished. Roy went back to Cheltenham and had a spell as player/manager, before completing the circle of his career and returning to the Island in 1962, taking the managerial reigns at Seaview and later those of Newport, East Cowes Vics and St Helens Blue Star.

A true shining light in the arena of Island footballers, Roy sadly passed away in 1988, but his legacy and impact on Island football will never be forgotten.

Roy Shiner(left) in his managerial days at Newport. Picture courtesy of Brian Marriott.

Another name that was mentioned to me several times was that of Wes Maughan. From Cowes, 19 year old Maughan signed for Southampton in 1958 and over a four year spell played six times for the Saints first team and scored one goal before moving on to Reading. He had a bigger impact at Elm Park, scoring three times in sixteen games before heading to Chelmsford City in 1963 and eventually returning to the Island.

Jim Watts from Cowes spent a season with Gillingham in 1956/57, playing in twelve games and scoring one goal in Division Three(South), where he went from there, though, I cannot find out.

Wayne Talkes was the next to hit the professional game. From Brading, although originally London, Talkes signed for Southampton in 1969, a long locked midfielder, Talkes stayed at the Dell until 1974 despite only playing nine first team games. He was loaned to Doncaster Rovers before becoming the first in the long line of Islanders to play for Bournemouth.

It was the eighties before another Islander could make the step up. 20 year old Cowes lad Gareth Williams found his way to the heady heights of Villa Park and the first division via East Cowes Vics and Gosport Borough in 1987. Williams racked up an impressive 225 football league appearances over a thirteen year professional career that ended at Hull City in the year 2000. As well as Aston Villa and Hull, he had spells at Barnsley, Bournemouth, Northampton Town and Scarborough before playing for a few Non-League sides, eventually becoming player/manager of Matlock Town.

Gareth Williams - Scarborough FC

So we come back full circle to where I started in the first article, the 90’s to the 00’s. I did do a couple of Island players from that era a disservice, by not mentioning them.

Aaron Cook from Cowes, was signed by Portsmouth in 1998 and had a loan spell at Crystal Palace after impressing Terry Venables, but it didn’t quite work out for him. Since then though, he has forged a distinguished Non-League career, notably with Havant & Waterlooville and Salisbury City.

Danny Hatcher had a spell with Leyton Orient between 2000/03 playing sixteen games for the London club before returning to play for his hometown team Newport.

So there we have it, another instalment, but perhaps not the last? There may be more from the past, that we know little about, and hopefully there will be more in the future, what is clear to me now, is that while we may not be the hotbed of footballing talent that bigger, more dense areas of the country are, for a place of our size and population we are certainly making ourselves heard!

Many thanks go to Brian Greening, Brian Marriott, Nick Reed and Mike Payne for their help and information on this.

Chris

 

The kids are all Wight……..

It has often been said that being recognised as a talented footballer on the Isle of Wight, is not the easiest job in the world.

Down here off of the South Coast of England, it is hardly a footballing hotbed of talent, not that there isn’t talent, but for obvious reasons the opportunities for young Islanders to shine aren’t as readily available as it is for kids in London or the North West.

Links to the Island have traditionally come from the South Coast Clubs, Saints and Pompey have both run initiatives and scouting programs over the water and Bournemouth have also given many youngsters the chance to make a name for themselves, but still relatively few set the world alight.

Having said that several have made the grade and gone on to achieve great things in the professional arena. In fact we even now have a professional manager amongst our Island alumni. Lee Bradbury has had an impressive start to management after hanging up his boots and replacing the outgoing Eddie Howe at AFC Bournemouth, seven games in and Bradbury is yet to taste defeat as it becomes more of a case of Eddie Whoe at Dean Court!

Cowes born Bradbury is probably the most prominent of the Island pros, making the step up back in 1995 with Portsmouth. It was in 1996/97 season though that he really launched his career, his goal output in a struggling Pompey side was enough for Frank Clark to invest £3 million to take the Islander to Manchester City. While the move may not have worked out exactly as he would have liked, it was a monumental milestone for Island footballers, especially as it was soon followed by an England U-21 call up, and Lee wasn’t finished there. Going on to make over 500 football league appearances including spells for clubs as prominent as Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday before opting for the dugout at Dean Court this year, versatility played a key part in a long career, a player that started off very much a striker used his experience to perform in midfield and at full back in the latter stages.

Lee Bradbury - The Cowes Special One? Picture courtesy of afcb.co.uk

While Bradbury was forging the early stages of his career another Islander was progressing in the youth team at Bournemouth. Sandown lad James Hayter used a loan spell at non-league Salisbury City to show the Dorset club what he could do, and soon found himself a first team regular.

His impression on Bournemouth manager Sean O’Driscoll was notable, as soon after he moved from Dean Court to Doncaster Rovers he broke the Yorkshire club’s transfer record to take Hayter with him. It was here that Hayter had his finest moment, when he headed Rovers into the Championship, scoring the solitary goal in the 2008 League One Playoff final at Wembley.

The year 2000 saw two Islanders hit the local headlines, Lewis Buxton from East Cowes and Shaun Cooper from Newport both signing professional terms with Portsmouth. Buxton made an almost instant impact, earning rave reviews while still a teenager in Graham Rix’s side.  Unfortunately, both players were victims of a policy that didn’t involve the use of the clubs younger players when Harry Redknapp took over, both players spent spells away on loan before moving away permanently in 2005, Buxton to Stoke City, Cooper to Bournemouth.

Lewis’ stay in the potteries was interrupted by injuries, but he still managed to play 50 games before a loan spell at Hillsbrough became a permanent move, where now he is the first choice right back for Sheffield Wednesday.

Cooper made himself at home with the Cherries and captained the side through both the difficult points deduction season and the following promotion campaign.

Lewis Buxton heading for sucess? Picture courtesy of swfc.co.uk

It was also the youth system at Pompey that saw the emergence of another Islander, Gary Silk, now plying his trade for Blue Square Conference side Mansfield Town via Notts County.

Islanders have fared less successfully at the Southampton Academy, famed for it’s production of top players. As recently as the start of this season Island youngster Tom Dunford was released by the Saints, while Lake born Goalkeeper Simon Moore may have felt his chance of a career in the professional game may have passed him by after his time there. Moore though now finds himself on the books of League One Brentford after biding his time at Brading Town and Farnborough. Moore is now Wembley bound after the bees reached the final of the Johnstones Paint Trophy. While Cowes lad Aaron Martin had to “do it the hard way” via Non-League clubs before signing for Southampton last season.

Though not a born and bred Islander former Cowes High student Gary Rowett got as far as the Premier League with Everton in the mid nineties, matched by Jamie Lawrence who went from Westwood Park to the likes of Leicester City, all be it that his stay on the Island may not have been through choice……

From a county that boasts just 140,000 people, our contribution to the sports professional ranks isn’t really that bad. The biggest hurdle faced by Island footballers certainly isn’t the stretch of water that separates us from everyone else but the number of local clubs and the size of the local leagues which seem to dwindle year on year. Add to this the reduction in efforts of clubs like Portsmouth because of financial issues; it might be more difficult than ever to shine.

Hopefully all the names mentioned above will show talented kids that location can mean nothing if the dedication to succeed is there and certainly not to give up.

Chris