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Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Southampton v Portsmouth: A history of rivalry
by Neil Sackley
BBC Hampshire & IW

Southampton and Portsmouth towers
The cities of Southampton and Portsmouth have a rocky relationship

The rivalry between Portsmouth and Southampton football fans is well known.

Despite the cities being 30 miles apart, it is believed to be one of the fiercest rivalries between any two sets of supporters.

But residents of the two cities were at loggerheads centuries before the football clubs existed.

Southampton historian Genevieve Bailey says most of the rivalry is maritime based.

"After Titanic sank in 1912, sailors from Southampton refused to crew her sister ship Olympic, due to the lack of lifeboats."

She explained: "Dockers from Portsmouth agreed to take the place of their Southampton counterparts."

This action angered the Southampton workers.

Genevieve Bailey
Genevieve Bailey links troubles to a chequered maritime past

"The Portsmouth crews arrived in the dead of night by sea because it would have been too dangerous for them to arrive in the city by road."

However the rivalry could go further back in history.

In Mediaeval times, a settlement's importance would be related to the size of it's port. Until 1180, Portsmouth was a small fishing village.

Archivist for Portsmouth Museums and Records service John Stedman said: "Southampton was the head port in the district. Trade coming through Portsmouth, a much smaller port, was restricted which could have caused conflict."

Mary Rose

One of Portsmouth's most famous warships was actually built by a resident of Southampton

Genevieve Bailey said: "Sir John Daltry was a shipbuilder for Henry VIII and lived in Southampton's Tudor House. Beams in buildings on Southampton's West Quay are identical to those found on board Mary Rose."

So was Mary Rose built in Southampton?

Not according to The Mary Rose Trust.

The Trust's Sally Tyrrell insists: "She was definitely built in Portsmouth, just a few yards from where she now sits."

Port workers

Richard Owen
Richard Owen is Portsmouth FC's club historian

As the industrial age arrived, the rivalry between the cities intensified.

Richard Owen, Honorary Club Historian for Portsmouth Football Club said: "Southampton Company Union men would regularly travel to Portsmouth for work, and vice versa.

"When football arrived around 1900, the Pompey fans used the union's acronym [S.C.U.M.] as a derogatory term for their opposing men."

The two teams were both in the Southern League and would regularly play each other.

Richard explained: "Often when the games were at Fratton Park, the home supporters would pelt the visiting fans with stones."

Working together

However despite the animosity through the years, the neighbouring cities also have a record of working together .

In 1940, Southampton was blitzed by German bombers. It was fire fighters from Portsmouth who drove through the night to extinguish the flames .

Alan Ball
The late Alan Ball managed both football clubs

Despite the rivalry between the clubs, 53 players have played for both Pompey and Saints, including Mick Channon. And the teams have shared two managers.

The late Alan Ball managed Portsmouth in the 1980s and Southampton in 1994/5 before returning to Portsmouth in 1998.

It was Harry Redknapp who caused a stir amongst fans of both sides when he switched teams twice in just over a year.

Elsewhere in sport, followers of Hampshire Cricket would watch home games at both the County Ground in Southampton and at Portsmouth's United Services Ground before the Rose Bowl was built.

More recently, the two councils have submitted a joint bid to become the UK's first City of Culture in 2013.

Southampton's Head of Leisure Mike Harris said they are putting old differences aside: "There is a strong context of sporting rivalry, which is quite intense at times, we do work together particularly in the cultural sector."

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