A look at former Pompey and Sunderland star Paul Hardyman.
When researching a player for one of these articles I generally find most of what I need from the Internet and then supplement that with information I find in the numerous ‘Pompey books’ I have acquired over the years.
Normally, (with the exception of pre 1980’s players) there’s so much information available I spend hours thinking about what to include and what to leave out, but for this article I found it very hard to find any ‘useful’ information about the playing career of Paul Hardyman.
It could be that Paul wasn’t a flair player or a great leader or a spot kick specialist or somebody that could inject that ‘little bit of magic’ into a game just when the team needed it. More likely it could just be that Paul Hardyman was purely and simply a good old fashioned left back who just did the simple things well and who could be relied on, week in week out.
Portsmouth born (March 1964) and breed, Hardyman, was signed by then Pompey Manager Bobby Campbell while playing for Waterlooville. He made his first senior appearance alongside the likes of Doyle, Tait, Hateley & Biley, just after his 20th birthday when he came off the Fratton Park bench during a 1-0 defeat to a Crystal Palace side containing two names that were later to become instantly recognisable to Pompey fans everywhere. Billy Gilbert and Vince Hilaire.
Hardyman’s full debut came a month later when he donned the No.3 shirt for the first time as Pompey went down 2-1 to Charlton at the Valley thanks to two strikes by Rob Lee. Nicky Morgan scored Pompey’s only goal and despite being booked, Hardyman gave a solid display and nearly grabbed the glory when a thundering shot, which had it gone in, would have been the equalising goal, cannoned of a post.
As the campaign drew to a close Hardyman had only one more opportunity to impress Campbell before the end of the season. As it turned out, impressing him was fruitless as he was sacked in the May, just 12 months after taking Pompey up from Division Three
Having played just three times it was no surprised that Hardyman was not new manager Alan Ball’s first choice left back and therefore had to bide his time until January 1985 before being given another opportunity. The chance was taken and Hardyman made the No.3 shirt his own, and in doing so became very hard to displace.
Not long after Hardyman established himself as a regular, Alan Ball received a call from Dave Sexton (England U21 Manager) requesting that Paul and his teammate Neil Webb represent their country against the Republic of Ireland at Fratton Park. Obviously Bally said ‘yes’. The game itself was a mix of emotions for those Pompey supporters who turned out to watch. They saw England win 3-2 and Pompey’s Mick Kennedy score both the Republics goals from the spot. Ironically Hardyman & Webb conceded the penalties!
Back on the domestic front Hardyman continued to hold down his place in the starting line-up, but he had to wait until the beginning of the following season for his first Pompey goal. It came in a 4-0 home win over Bob Stokoe’s Carlisle. Nicky Morgan grabbed two and Hilaire the other before Mick Channon played a neat little pass into Hardyman to finish and bag his first senior goal. That result sent Pompey top of ‘Cannon League Division 2’ where we were to stay until the middle of December when our slide saw us eventually finish fourth and miss out on promotion (again).
The 1985/86 season also saw Paul represent his country for the second and final time at U21 level in the European Championship Quarter Final against Denmark in Copenhagen. Although England returned victorious Hardyman lost his place for the semi as Mitchell Thomas of Spurs (whom he had replaced) had recovered from injury. Notable players in the England team on that occasion were; Captain Gary Mabbutt (Spurs), Barry Venison (Sunderland), Nigel Clough & Neil Webb (Nottingham Forest) & certain Arsenal youngster by the name of Tony Adams.
Season 86/87 has been well documented as the season Pompey won promotion and Hardyman was an important component in the team making 33 appearances during the campaign. So it was off to First Division and although we only latest one season he stayed loyal to the cause and remained at the club another year before Pompey accepted an offer from Sunderland of £130,000 for his services in July 1989
Paul made his Sunderland debut in a 2-0 victory at Swindon’s County Ground on 19th August 1989 and quickly established himself as a Roker Park regular and incredibly scored seven times (double what he managed in his entire Pompey career) as Sunderland, thanks to Swindon`s ‘financially irregularities, won promotion.
Hardyman was back in Division One, but history was about to repeat itself as just like Pompey, Sunderland could not sustain their status among the elite and they too were relegated after just one season. Paul again stayed loyal but this time had something to show for it as his ‘swansong’ appearance was to be in the FA Cup Final of 1992 against the team that knocked out Pompey in the semis, Liverpool
Although not included in the starting line-up, his arrival from the bench after 69 minutes, just after Ian Rush had secured the game with Liverpool second, at least saw him play on the greatest stage in football against a legendary team who had, in the previous decade swept everything before them.
So as it was, Hardyman was on the move again, this time to Bristol Rovers for the sum of £160,000 where he stayed for three seasons. Information about that stage of his career is very sketchy but I did manage to locate an eye witness account of Hardyman in a Rovers shirt from a young teenage boy called Rug.
Rug gave an interesting account of being taken to his first ever football match where Bristol Rovers entertained Brentford and described, from his position behind the goal, one of the greatest saves ever seen. The only problem was that it was Paul Hardyman who tipped the ball over the bar thus conceding a penalty and collecting a red card in the process.
I’ve no idea was became of the young teenager after his experience at Rovers but Hardyman’s career petered out as free transfers to Wycombe and then Barnet were followed by a handful of games for Slough Town!
After hanging up his boots, Paul returned to his hometown and began work, alongside Pompey Legend ‘Corporal Guy’ as a match day summariser on BBC Radio Solent. These days however Hardyman, again together with Whittingham, Rod Ruddick and former Nottingham Forest winger Ian Woan, coaches Pompey youngster between the ages of 8 & 18 under the watchful eye of Pompey’s Academy boss Paul Hart.
Maybe between them they will discover a ‘home grown’ left back in the Hardyman mould… Let’s hope so.
Written by Chix.
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