It’s not often I research a player that played for us and our opposition of the week and come across two completely differing views about their abilities, commitment or contribution.
It’s even odder considering the two set of fans in question share a common understanding of the beautiful game and always show each other and (generally) their players a great deal of respect, yet the very mention of this weeks ‘They played?’ will bring a smile and a sense of pride to Pompey fans faces, but a grimace, a frown and a few blue words to those that used to frequent Maine Road.
To us, Kit Symons was a rock. A local (ish) lad, who alongside Andy Awford marshalled our defence with pride and with passion, during his seven plus years with Pompey. To City fans he is known as ‘Captain Calamity’. The player they blame for the club’s demise.
Kit made his Pompey debut in a Simod Cup game in November 1988 aged just 17 and from that moment on Pompey fans watched as he worked his way through the ranks with grit and determination to become one of the most memorable players ever to wear the No.5 shirt. Kit gave everything for Pompey and was the kind of player who would be disappointed if he gave anything less.
To categorise Kit Symons as a ‘legend’ would be wrong, but alongside Anderton, Awford, McLoughlin and of course ‘THE Legend’ – Alan Knight, he is up there with the greats of the ‘back end’ of the 20th Century.
He was part of Jim Smith’s side which were seconds from reaching the 1992 FA Cup final as Pompey nearly beat Liverpool in that sensational semi-final at Highbury. He was an integral part of the Pompey team that missed out on promotion to the top flight by goal difference the following season and he was of course a fans favourite. A look at the Fan’s Player of Year list shows Kit as ‘winner’ in 1993/94. An achievement in itself, but a further glance at the list shows him sandwiched between Walshy and Knight, both of whom hold special places in the hearts of Pompey fans. All this goes to show is how highly Kit Symons was regarded by the Fratton faithful.
The Big Time
By virtue of the fact that his family were from Cardiff, Kit took the opportunity to play for Wales and entered the International stage alongside the likes of Giggs, Rush, Saunders, Speed and Hughes. In this company and his tip-top form a move was always going to be inevitable, so when in August 1995, Premier League Manchester City came brandishing a cheque and offering Carl Griffiths and Fitzroy Simpson as sweeteners he was reluctantly let go. Pompey thought Kit was on his way to the big time and so did City. They offered him the Captaincy!
Sometimes the wrong decision is made at the wrong time and looking back it’s clear that that was exactly what happened in Kit’s case. After an impressive start to his Premiership career Symons’ confidence suddenly hit rock-bottom and all of a sudden the big fish in the little pond, was a tiddler in a great big ocean. And the ocean was full of nasty things with teeth.
Despite turning in regular solid performances for Wales, Kit’s City form was inconsistent and although it’s unfair to single out one person, one person is often singled out. Unfortunately, this time it was Kit.
The bottom line was that Symons did not live up to the potential he promised and turned in too many poor displays for a poor team at a poor time in the Manchester clubs history. In Kit’s first season at the heart of City’s defence, they were relegated. Worse was to come.
In his second season he was stripped of his captaincy and as City hit one disaster after another Kit took the brunt of the fans frustration.
In his third year, 1997/98 Kit’s tally of errors supposedly cost City about ten points. Ten points they so desperately needed as they fell to their lowest point in their history, and became the first European trophy winners to be relegated to English football’s third tier. Ironically, City finished, one place and one point below a ‘safe’ Pompey.
Towards the end of that season, despite playing 140 games ‘Captain Calamity’ was forced out of the club. The story goes that he was offered a new contract on half his salary and was prepared to stay but due to ‘fan pressure’ the board withdrew the offer and as a result Kit was available on a Bosman.
Life After City
As it turned out, Kit accepted an offer from Fulham who he served with diligence and pride for over 100 games winning two championships in three years until he fell out of favour with Jean Tigana in 2001.
There were rumours that at the age of 30 Symons would make a return to Pompey but despite the club ‘confirming their interest’ nothing came of it and in the December Kit signed for Trevor Francis’ Crystal Palace for £400,000. His debut game? ? A 2-1 win over Manchester City!
After 49 games (and a couple of injuries) for The Eagles, Kit hung up his boots and turned his hand to management, a vocation he still persues today as Assistant Manager at Colchester United.
Looking back I can see no reason other than a few poor performances and a set of ‘internal’ circumstances that made Kit Symons’ move up North so disastrous, but having slatted some ex-Pompey players in this very coloum it would unfair of me to suggest that the City fans were wrong and that Kit was made the scape-goat for no reason other than it was a very tough time for their club and they needed somebody to blame.
All I know is that come hell or high-water Kit Symons always gave 100% for Pompey and that’s why he will always be remembered with affection and why he is always welcome at Fratton Park? even if he isn’t at the City of Manchester Stadium.