Well when we left this never-ending story it was 1973, the record fee stood at £154,000 and Pompey were in the old Second Division.
Depending on your angle Pompey were either about to begin the great adventure of the slide to the foot of the Football League and the bounce back to respectability or head to anonymity. But after scraping out of Division Four in 1980 the Third Division Championship was won in 1983 and manager Bobby Campbell began to build a team ready to have a right go at the Second Division again. He surprised the football world by prising England under 21 star striker Mark Hateley from Coventry City for £190,000 the fee fixed by a tribunal.
Hateley was a huge success at Fratton despite only staying for one season in 44 games he scored 25 goals and at the end of the season was selected to play for the full England side. He scored against Brazil in the famous Maracana Stadium in a 2-0 win and it became impossible for Pompey to hold on to him. AC Milan came in with a bid of £915,000 and he was gone. The friendly we were promised never materialised.
We were still left with the memories of a great player who went on to play for Monaco and Rangers in a successful career. There was a rumour that boss Campbell thought Hateley too soft at the start of his Pompey days and took to pushing and kicking him in the changing room to make him realise that the centre half should not get away with rough treatment and he should give it back. If that is true it worked!!
Pompey went on to have several good seasons before promotion was eventually achieved in 1987. Alan Ball the latest manager had some money to spend and looked for a striker to partner Mickey Quinn. His choice was Leeds goal scorer Ian Baird who he signed for £285,000. But it was the wrong decision with his Southampton connections Baird was not really given a chance and after 20 games and only one goal he returned to Leeds for a snip and £120,000 and went back on the goal trail.
Relegation followed back to Division Two and the club was sold by the Deacon family to Jim Gregory a Garage owner who had previously chaired QPR. Gregory set about renovating the ground and on 26th August 1988 signed 21 year old Warren Aspinall from Aston Villa for £315,000.
The push to return to the top flight never happened and ‘Wassa’ failed to deliver the goals. He suffered a serious injury and missed almost the whole of the 1989/90 season. Later he was converted to play in midfield with some success but at the end of 1993 he moved to Bournemouth for £20,000.
However Warren did play with the next record breaker Colin Clarke who joined from QPR in the summer of 1990 for £450,000. Frank Burrows the manager saw Clarke and Guy Whittingham as the perfect strike pair. I had always described Clarke as my favourite Southampton player of all time for his performance for them on 3rd January 1988. Now we all know that was the day we won 2-0 at the Dell with goals from Terry Connor and Barry Horne but if you were there you would know that Colin missed chance after chance as we held out to win.
Again Clarke had to carry the ‘Scummer’ tag and only after a hat-trick against highflying Bristol City did he win the fans over. Clarke went on to became Northern Ireland’s top goal scorer with 13, which has only recently been beaten by David Healy. After 85 games and 18 games Clarke retired in 1993 and for the ‘Where are they now fans’ is now head coach of the Puerto Rico Islanders in the States.
The next few years were exciting times at FP FA Cup semi-finals and Play off despair against Leicester City but it was not until 1994 that the transfer record would be raised. In January Pompey had achieved the impossible by drawing at Blackburn in the FA Cup 3-3 and Manchester United in the League Cup 2-2. The board acted and just before the United replay signed striker Gerry Creaney from Celtic for £650,000. Creaney, a great prospect, had never fully established himself as a first choice striker with veteran strikers such as Frank McAvennie and Charlie Nicholas on the book at Parkhead.
Pompey lost both replays before packed houses at the Park but became the only side to get a result at both Ewood and Old Trafford that season!!
Creaney found goals easier to come by than his fellow incumbents of record signing scoring 29 goals in 58 games before moving to Manchester City in the deal that brought back Paul Walsh in 1995. Gerry also missed the end of the 1994/95 season after being beaten senseless by thugs on Southsea Common.
And so on through more dark days until 1999 when the Million pound barrier was eventually broken by Rory Allen who joined from Tottenham. A player with a great family tradition of scorers was plagued by injury after injury and only played 15 games (3 goals) for the club before resigning in a letter from Australia where he was watching the 2002 Ashes series.
I bet if you ask fellow Pompey fans who was the first million pound man they get it wrong.
One more striker before we close our book – Premiership years are for your other writers – and he is a player seen at Fratton only a few weeks ago. Peter Crouch another signing for QPR for £1.25million in summer 2001. He definitely benefited from the Prosinecki service scoring 19 goals from just 37 starts before on deadline day 2002 – no windows then – Villa’s offer of £5million was accepted and Crouchie moved on.
There we are then Part Two – all strikers, some successful, some not and one forgotten.
Hope you have enjoyed the trip through 104 years of history and I await the next challenge.
Written by eastneydave.
The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.
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