Saints and Pompey – Some more analysis

12 Sep

It seems that the map I posted the other day has generated a fair bit of interest. In the discussion which has taken place there have been some key points raised about the validity of the map and some further discussion about what some of the other figures reveal about both clubs support profiles. This post is to address some of these issues.

Gosport and Emsworth

Though these are both in red on the map, I don’t believe they are bastions of Saints support. In total there were 87 Saints supporters and 74 Pompey supporters who responded to the survey. Discounting the areas outside the SO/PO area this left 49 saints Supporters and 52 Pompey supporters.

As many of these were concentrated within the city boundaries themselves this meant that the results for some of the areas outside the respective cities could suffer from response bias. Undoubtedly increasing the sample size would resolve this, but at the end of the day the exercise was just meant as a bit of fun and not to be taken entirely seriously.

If this were to be a serious exercise with time and a budget then the best way to establish both clubs support in the region would be to take a stratified random sample which is based on each postcode areas overall population. To do this would need a complete as possible list of addresses, or phone numbers, some money and a lot of time.

Why don’t more people from surrounding areas support the teams?

Despite the relatively small sample size there were some interesting conclusions which has led to some interesting debate. The Emsworth/Gosport situation came about mainly because both teams support is concentrated within the city boundaries. Step outside of these and the number of people who identify themselves as supporters of either club diminishes.

I’ve gone back to the figures from the survey and separated the postcodes which constitute (in main) the respective cities: SO14 – SO19 and PO1 – PO6

In the case of the SO14 – SO19 postcodes this was home to 20 Saints supporters who responded to the survey, representing 23% of the overall support for the club. In PO1 – PO6 there were 25 Pompey supporters accounting for 34% of the total support for that club.

Looking at the rest of the SO postcode area there were 16 Saints supporters in the survey representing 18% of the total number of club supporters who responded to the survey and in wider PO area (excluding the Isle of Wight) there were 16 Pompey fans accounting for 22% of the clubs support. The Isle of Wight accounted for 6% of Saints supporters and 4% of Pompey supporters. Support from beyond the SO and PO areas accounted for a total of 44% of Saints following and 34% of Portsmouth’s. what this suggests is that while Pompey has a much more concentrated support base the Saints enjoy a greater share of support from beyond the region. In some ways this figures as a Premier League club invariably attracts more attention.

per cent from each area1

It needs to be remembered though that the geographic bulk of the SO and PO areas lies outside the two city boundaries. If we look at the number of supporters per postcode area we can see how dramatic the change is. Unlike the percentages the figures between the two clubs aren’t strictly comparable, but nonetheless provide a good indication of how the level of support diminishes.

amrnded postcode average

Within the Southampton itself there were, on average, 3.3 responding Saints supporters per postcode area. For Pompey there was, on average, 4.2 responding Pompey supporters within the city boundary. Step over the boundary though and in the wider PO area there was, on average 1 Pompey supporter per postcode and in the wider SO area the figure was 0.9.

The question this leads to is why is support so sparse outside the city boundaries, in places like Gosport, Emsworth, Hedge-end and Romsey? Undoubtedly there are plenty of fans from those areas, but if, as I have done you do the cyberspace equivalent of standing with a clipboard and collaring 87 Saints fans they are more likely to be from a postcode area within Southampton itself, or from a postcode completely outside the region than they are from Eastleigh. In fact the chance of them being from Eastleigh is quite small – hence the Gosport/Emsworth problem.

One explanation may be population. Southampton and Portsmouth are the largest cities in the region with (according to the ONS figures for 2012) populations of 239,428 and 206,836 respectively so it may be that more supporters can be expected to come from these areas than the wider region. This is a possibility, but the areas around the cities are also well populated Eastleigh Borough has a population of 126,764 Test Valley of 117,032 , Winchester 117,702 while Fareham and Gosport’s combined population is 196,078 and Havant’s is 121,271. The postcodes outside the cities are also larger to take into account population density.

The other explanation, and the one I favour, is that in both Southampton and Portsmouth, and particularly in those areas where support is strongest – older suburbs and estates the clubs are a much stronger force when it comes to peoples identities. In Millbrook Southampton, just near the Saints Pub, is a water tower on a block of flats painted in red and white stripes. On the other side of town, in SO19 there is a café named after a former Saints manager and also decked out in red and white stripes, and the windows of the Bitterne Park hotel in SO18 has recently acquired Saints crests on all the windows.

By contrast outside these heartlands, across the city boundaries, there are few visible signs of the clubs. There are also local non-league clubs like Eastleigh who have reached the Conference and Gosport and Havant & Waterlooville play in the Conference South. More than that though I believe that in places like Park Gate, Titchfield and Whitely it is not a case of choosing Saints, or Pompey. The choice is far more likely to be between Liverpool, Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea. People living in these in-between suburbs can, if they want follow any of these clubs closely on Television, or via a medium like Twitter – there is no need to go to the ground of one of the clubs which is closest geographically to see a game.

Saints and Pompey: Mapping the Rivalry

10 Sep

Saints Pompey MapFor anyone on the south coast with (or even without) an interest in football it is hard to escape the rivalry between Southampton and Portsmouth’s respective football clubs. More than one book has been devoted to the subject – one of the best being Colin Farmery’s Seventeen Miles from Paradise and it’s a rivalry that I’ve always found fascinating as I am born in Southampton, but have worked in the Portsmouth area for some time.

I had the idea of plotting the two teams spheres of influence on a map, so decided to run a simple survey. In April 2014 I asked supporters of both clubs for the first half of their postcode and which team they supported; Saints, Pompey, or both. In total 166 supporters responded;  87 Southampton supporters 74 Portsmouth Supporters and  5 who followed both. This allowed me to create the map, but beyond this the results of the simple survey showed some other interesting things about the two clubs support base.

The Heartlands

The Saints Pub SO16

The Saints Pub SO16

For each clubs the survey responses suggest around a quarter of their support comes from four postcode areas. In Portsmouth these are in order PO2, PO4, PO3 and PO6 which together account for 27% of the clubs supporters. In Southampton it s SO18, SO16, SO19 and SO31 which together account for 23% of support. Interestingly these areas bear a number of similarities, the heartlands tending to be older suburbs which lie within the city boundaries. A walk around heartlands will also reveal numerous signs of the respective teams whether it’s crests stencilled on pub windows, flags in cafes, or water towers painted in team colours.

Pompey top 4

Saints top 4

The fringes

Almost immediately outside of the city boundaries the number of respondents identifying as supporters of either club appears to fall dramatically. Just outside of the Southampton City boundary the SO30 postcode which covers Hedge-end and SO50 postcode covering Eastleigh had only one response each, whilst in Portsmouth none of the 74 Pompey supporters who responded  to the survey came from the PO10 Emsworth and PO12 Gosport areas. Many of these areas have their own non-league teams which may claim some allegiances however, it could well be that dwellers in these outer suburbs and satellites feel freer to support clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd via their televisions.

No-man’s land

Old maps of the area show Southampton and Portsmouth as two separate and very distinct entities however over the last 50 years the areas in between have become increasingly developed and enmeshed to the point where you can travel from the heart of one city to the heart of the other without ever straying from a built -up area. One question this raises is at what point in this conurbation do allegiances switch. Mark Sanderson, writing for WSC magazine, puts this at Locks Heath, a point roughly equidistant between the two.  This would appear to be backed up by the survey. Locks Heath lies at the very edge of the SO31 postcode area and SO31, which also covers Park Gate and Hamble, was overwhelmingy in the Southampton camp, however a step over the line into the PO14 postcode, covering Stubbington and Titchfield sees the sole Southampton supporter  outnumbered by two Portsmouth supporters

no mans land three

The Island

Often overlooked when talking about the rivalry is the Isle of Wight, but as the survey showed the island has a part to play accounting for .6% of Southampton supporters and 4% of Portsmouth Supporters. The island, which does not host a league football team of its own, is closely connected to the two mainlaind cities being linked by the ferry ports at Cowes and Ryde.


For both clubs a significant amount of supporters who responded to the survey were from outside the Southampton, Portsmouth and Isle of Wight areas. In the case of Portsmouth this was 34% and for Southampton 44%. Some of these came from other parts of the wider region, including the New Forest, Salisbury, Guildford and Reading areas but in both cases at least a fifth of supporters came from areas beyond this, from places like Birmingham, Norwich, Glasgow and even South Africa. This could be related to both the clubs profiles – Southampton in the Premier League and Portsmouth having won the FA cup in 2008. This level of profile may attract fans from beyond the clubs geographic region. More likely though is that, people have had a connection with one of the cities, through having lived there, studied there, worked there, or having close family members from there. A prime example being one respondent, a Saints supporter, now residing in Singapore mentioned they had previously lived in the SO22 postcode.

Supporters of both

It will be surprising to many to hear that there are indeed people who identify themselves as supporters of both clubs. This though is not without precedent. Rumour has it that up until comparatively recently there would be people who switched between grounds when one team, or the other was playing away. There is also the phenomenon of the ‘star-chasers’ – Southampton residents who travelled to watch the great Pompey teams of the immediate post-war period at a time when
Southampton were a second division club. In total though there were only four respondents in this category. Three of
these lived in the PO postcode area and one outside the region. None were from the no-man’s land area which stretches in-between the two cities.

saints pompey by areaSaints pie chartPompey pie chart

both chart

rivalry table

With thanks to all those who completed the survey

Response to some criticisms 14/09/2014

Well, the interest in this post has been phenomenal. Almost 1000 views in the past three days. There has though been some criticism of the survey. I have addressed these points more fully here, and in the comments section on this post, but as a brief recap here is a point I wish to make about the survey:

This was intended primarily as a bit of fun, to satisfy some interest which I, and quite clearly other people, have  in the topic.  Ideally I would have taken a random sample of people in each postcode in proportion to the overall population of the areas, but this takes time, money and a list of addresses, or phone numbers – no online survey will ever be fully representative. If other people want to do this then they are welcome to.

In the event 166 people responded. As with any survey response size can affect the results. I have made no secret of how many  responses were received and the methodology I have used.  The map has been made based on the responses received and it is up to people to draw their own conclusions from this – it is what it is.

AFC Station 0 – 4 Thompson FC Southampton Saturday League Junior 4

7 Sep

For non-league day I had planned to visit the Silverlake Stadium for Eastleigh v Southport, but circumstances intervened which saw me on babysitting duty. Football would have to wait, or so I thought. As we approached the playpark at Riverside Park I happened to notice the changing pavilion open and some players warming up on the pitch for what must be a Saturday League game, the names AFC Station and Thompson FC written in marker on a whiteboard. I would be seeing some football after all.

It’s been a while since I’ve played 11-a-side, but I instantly recognised the warm up routine of crosses into the box – different to 5-a-side which involves players pelting the balls at the unfortunate ‘keeper (me) until the referee signals the start of the game. It was AFC station who were warming up. With half an hour to go until the start of the game there was no sign of the opposition.

By the time Thompson FC trickled onto the pitch, just before the scheduled kick-off time,  AFC Station had moved to an organised routine of jogging across the pitch.  but as the game began taking shape Halfway through helping my daughter up a climbing frame I noticed a Thompson FC forward through on goal. The Station ‘keeper remaining resolutely on his line. “Come on… close him down” I said, involuntarily, half under my breath, as I fought the practised urge of my leg muscles to dash forward with my arms spread like a orang-utan. The ‘keeper though stayed on his line watching the striker send his shot trickling wide, only leaving his position to begin the long jog to retrieve the ball.

Half an hour in and it was clear that there was an inevitability to the result. AFC Station were holding on admirably and benefiting from the odd bit of luck and some bad finishing whilst a Thompson shot which did find itself on target drew a fine save from the ‘keeper, but as legs became tired they would be sure to benefit from the extra space available (and indeed the FA full-time website confirms Thompson FC won 4-0). 

My time in the park though was at an end. As we left we passed along the sideline where one teams manager was pacing restlessly barking instructions. A scene no doubt which was repeated in parks across the country. My youngest daughter, transfixed by the action, tripped over a crack in the footpath. I helped her up and through her tears she turned her head, determined to carry on watching the game as we walked back to the car.



Football Clubs on Twitter: Infographic

4 Sep

Twitter infographic

Are Goalkeepers getting taller?

30 Aug

This post began with a question posed by Andrew of the excellent Hopping Around Hampshire blog: Are football players getting taller? I promised to look into this. 

For a while pondered my approach. First, I’d need a data source. I tried some old league directories, but these didn’t have player height information. I then searched my old football box for my copy of the Official PFA Footballer’s Factfile 1998-99, but was hit by a niggling thought that It had been the one book I’d got rid of. I then tried the internet, buy though I managed to find data on current players at it only had heights going back a few years so back to the old football box. This time I managed to find a Merlin Premier League 97 album (minus stickers) which had what I was looking for, although not for every single player – just the ones deemed worthy of a sticker.

To begin with I decided to compare goalkeepers as height is regarded as a key attribute for Goalkeepers, providing them with an added advantage. I’ve also heard it said that at some point there was a decided shift away from shorter ‘keepers – like Leicester City’s former ‘keeper Kevin Poole 1.78m. As the Merlin Premier League 97 data was incomplete I decided to compare only the preferred ‘keepers in each team with their Premier League counterparts today.

The headline finding is that, on average, Goalkeepers today are 2cm taller than their 1997 counterparts at 1.91m compared to 1.89m. Today’s tallest Premier League Goalkeeper Southampton’s recent signing Fraser Forster also breaks the 2m barrier, standing at 2.01m. In 1997 the tallest was West Ham’s veteran ‘keeper Ludek Miklosko who stood at 1.96m along with Coventry’s Steve Ogrizovic.In total there are three goalkeepers today taller than Miklosko and Ogrizovic, as well as Forster these are Asmir Begovic at 1.98m and Thibaut Courtois at 1.99m. When it comes to the shortest goalkeepers in 1997 Mark Crossley and Neil Sullivan both stood at 1.83m, the same as today’s shortest goalkeepers Hull’s Alan McGregor and Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel.

Goalkeeper Infographic

The list:


Ludek Miklosko 1.96
Steve Ogrizovic  1.96
David Seaman 1.93
Russel Hoult 1.93
David James 1.93
Peter Schmeichel 1.93
Dave Beasant 1.93
Tim Flowers 1.88
Dmitri Kharine 1.88
Nigel Martyn 1.88
Shaka Hislop 1.88
Tony Coton 1.88
Mark Bosnich 1.86
Neville Southall 1.86
Kasey Keller 1.86
Kevin Pressman 1.86
Ian Walker 1.86
Gary Walsh 1.85
Mark Crossley 1.83
Neil Sullivan 1.83


Fraser Forster 2.01
Thibaut Courtois 1.99
Asmir Begovic 1.98
Joe Hart 1.96
Wojctech Szczesny 1.96
Ben Foster 1.93
Brad Guzan 1.93
Simon Mingolet 1.93
David de Gea 1.92
Adrian 1.90
Lukasz Fabianski 1.90
Tom Heaton 1.88
Hugo Lloris 1.88
Tim Krul 1.88
Vito Mannone 1.88
Robert Green 1.87
Tim Howard 1.87
Julian Speroni 1.86
Alan McGregor 1.83
Kasper Schmichel 1.83

How Football Manager Games Changed the World

17 Aug

Old Skool Computer3

The news that the Football Manager database will play a role in informing real clubs recruitment decisions via it’s integration into the Prozone Recruiter tool took me back to my earliest memory of playing a management sim. It was round my mate Kev’s house; us both poring over a green screen I forget the title of the game, but it was pretty basic. Players would have a position and a simple rating and formations were limited to a few 4-4-2 variants. You’d choose your team, set the passing style press a button and after what felt like an eternity you’d receive the result.

As technology developed the management sim became more sophisticated and immersive. Players gained new attributes: heading, aggression, pace, even personality types. Formations multiplied and individual and team instructions could be given with tweaks made real-time during games. It was at Kev’s house again where I was first introduced to the Championship Manager series which would in the guise of Championship Manager 2 claim a large chunk of my adolescence as I worked on my project of enabling Ajax to win every single available honour available in one single season.

In parallel games where you could be a player were also improving rapidly. From the ball-glued-to-foot days of the Commodore 64 came the independent ball physics of Sensible Soccer on the Amiga (which in my view remains to this day the best football game ever), and in turn this was superseded by the isometric view offered by FIFA International Soccer.

Near thirty years of striving for realism has led to the point where such games offer such faithful recreations of stadia and players that walking into a room it can be easy to get confused between a game on a Playstation, or X-box and one happening for real. But, for all this visual slickness and authentic-looking camera angles there is still a yawning chasm between the game and reality. Kicking a ball for real isn’t anything like pressing a button and, for the foreseeable future at least, nor will it be.

Management sims have also made strides towards realism with the effect that attempting to play a recent incarnation of Football Manager resulted in the same sort of stomach churning feeling a WWI Sopwith Pup pilot would feel when confronted with the controls of a modern passenger jet, so overwhelming were the number of buttons. But more than just mimicking reality however, the management sim has been influencing it.

Strangely this has come about because of the genres early limitations. In the late 80’s and early 90s Professional football management was still a largely intuitive business. Apart from a few notable exceptions, such as the Charles Reep notebook school, analysis consisted of the manager and his staff relying primarily on their ability to read the game visually. Early management sims – in effect sophisticated calculators – however, utilised every ounce of processing power in number crunching. There was no room for visual representations so to play the game gamers relied on numbers in the form of an increasing array of performance statistics.

Then in 1996 came the launch of the Opta index – an attempt to systematically log performance data. Much of the data gathered would would have been more than familiar to gamers: goals, assists, passes completed, shots on target, crosses into scoring zone, dribbles.It was just the beginning of a change which would see the scientific data-driven approach rise to ever greater prominence among both fans and clubslast season it was reported that Manchester City were employing no fewer than eleven data analysts. The work of an analyst typically spanning recruitment, identifying weaknesses, developing training plans, tactics and analysing the opposition. This often involves using statistical tools. The victorious German World Cup reportedly utilised a sophisticated software programme called Match Insights which at first glance bears more than a passing resemblance to the match-screen of a management sim.

You can argue that all this may have happened anyway, that there was a certain historical inevitability as technology made it quicker and easier to gather, store and analyse data, but whatever the case management sims were an important primer changing the very way we read the game and in doing this changing the game itself. Looking into that green screen with Kev, neither of us could have imagined how much impact that simple management sim would go on to have.

August v Football

15 Aug

Thursday morning and the texts begin, becoming progressively becoming more desperate as the day goes on. If we’re going to play tonight we need players. Anyone will do. Contact books are wrung for every last possibility.. it doesn’t matter if they can actually play football we just need someone. As lunchtime slips by we’re getting into I-would-but-it’s-too-short-notice territory and things still aren’t looking great.

Normally getting a team together for 5-a-side is no problem, in fact, there’s often more people than there are playing-slots so a rotation system has to be used, but then August comes along; Holidays, weddings and stag-do’s all conspiring to rip the heart out of the team.

11-a-side doesn’t have this problem. The pitches at the park currently lie fallow, recovering from being torn up over the winter as the goalposts slumber in a park-keepers lock-up. 5-a-side though, played on hard-wearing all-weather pitches, has no such break. As soon as one ‘season’ ends straight away another begins. There is no time for putting feet up to reflect on achievements, or else to re-group.

This incessant nature is driven by the pitch and league operators to squeeze every last drop of revenue from their 3G pitches. At around £50 per pitch per hour having a break for August would represent a huge loss of revenue for them. Better instead to leave it to players to scrape teams together to make it through to September when normal service will resume.

There is a trophy on my mantelpiece won, not through any on-pitch prowess, but through pushing the very limits of social-networking technology in pleading, prodding and cajoling a series of reluctant non-football players onto the pitch ensuring that the lead we had built up in the league before August was not lost through forfeiting games.

Some times this can result in some unusual situations. 5-a-side is an intensive game which can be unforgiving for those unfamiliar with its stresses, more so in the August heat. One time, shortly after kick-off, and with us in the lead by one goal, a player, red cheeked, simply walked off leading to puzzled glances and a sheepish expression from the player who’d brought him along. Five minutes later, having regained his breath and refreshed at the water fountain he returned, but by that time, a player down, we’d shipped four goals.

Evening comes, and waiting for the train home after work I receive the text. “footies off, not enough players.” My heart sinks a little, but part of me also welcomes the break. The never-ending season combined with ever advancing age has placed its strain on my body. Still, September can’t come soon enough.


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