Long Read / Opinion: Salisbury now Poole’s fiercest rivals – forget Wimborne, Dorchester or even Weymouth

Football just wouldn’t be football without the tribalism local derbies can bring. Some rivalries are so iconic, they can bring entire countries to a halt for 90 minutes.

Some clubs are lucky enough to boast multiple fixtures with bragging rights attached – whilst some can feel almost lonely, without an opposite to truly despise.

Poole and Salisbury could arguably fall into that second category. Both clubs have had tumultuous existences for the past two decades or so, bouncing between multiple leagues down, and then back up, the non-league ladder.

Geographically, Poole’s nearest ‘outer-city’ rivals would be AFC Bournemouth – a side that has rarely crossed paths with the Dolphins, and are currently far from Poole’s reach.

Weymouth were the nearest side to share a division with Poole for a significant amount of time, but the Terras boast multiple other rivals ahead of Poole.

Violence has marred games between Yeovil and Weymouth over the years, whilst the Ridgeway Derby with fellow Dorset side Dorchester frequently topped the attendance charts in the Southern Premier this past decade.

In fact, Bath City and Salisbury even claim rivalries with Weymouth – which might speak more about Weymouth than anything else!

Despite Weymouth and Poole going at it frequently in the hunt for promotion over recent years, there was never a feeling of a mutual hatred.

There was no added needle to those fixtures beyond the games being must-wins for either side’s respective title fight.

Even during their shared days in the Southern League, Weymouth were constantly top half finishers, whilst Poole frequently battled relegation, yo-yoing between the Southern League’s two divisions.

That’s not to say there was total indifference between the two sides – but rather, most Weymouth fans probably view Poole as a ‘noisy neighbour.’

It’s a similar story for Dorchester, who would much rather host Weymouth on Boxing Day than Poole.

That dynamic now applies to Poole and their closer Dorset neighbours – Hamworthy United and Wimborne Town.

Right before Poole were banished to the Hampshire League, Bashley probably held the torch of Dolphins’ competitive rivals.

However, Poole quickly found out they had noisier neighbours closer to home – with Dolphins embroiled in a promotion battle with Wimborne for the first time.

Fast forward a decade and Poole still share a league with Wimborne – but there is little fanfare on Poole’s end when the two sides meet.

Instead, the Magpies take the most joy in games – with Poole treating it like any other fixture. Dolphins fans that don’t travel away will usually trek to Wimborne to get their football fix at the weekend, highlighting the lack of animosity in the fixture.

For Salisbury, there has been no one to match the fervour caused by Eastleigh, as the sides clashed in the early 2000s.

But now Eastleigh are an established National League side, whilst Salisbury are still trying to clamber back up to the heights they once reached. The two clubs now play friendlies in the summer, hardly the sign of two fierce rivals.

However, games between Poole and Salisbury have slowly evolved into games with plenty of needle – raising the question whether the two sides have found their new arch-nemesis.

Even before the reformed Salisbury FC had reached the same division as Poole, a spat had already started between the two sides’ managers, with both managers utilising their local press to spread their messages.

Marvin Brooks’ sudden drop from England’s 6th tier to its 8th, further away from his home, raised eyebrows – and started a disliking that has festered ever since.

Killick opened the affair by claiming Salisbury were offering “National League money”, also asserting that the Whites had tried to lure Luke Burbidge to the Ray Mac the same summer.

Claridge responded, stating that the claims were “a myth” and “absolute nonsense.”

The former Pompey man then pointed out, quite rightly, that “everybody seems to offer an opinion about our football club without knowing the true facts” – before hilariously showing no hint of irony in his next quote.

Displaying the same “lack of knowledge” he had accused Killick of, Claridge claimed: “It’s also a bit rich coming from a club which has been happily spending sums on wages to win promotions while the infrastructure is clearly not up to scratch.”

That was a nerve struck by many opposing managers, officials, players and fans over the years – and one such falsehood Poole have had to ignore during their years in the wilderness.

Perhaps that is an added factor – something resembling jealousy when Poole visit the established grounds of Weymouth, Dorchester and Salisbury.

Salisbury’s Ray Mac, built in 1997 as a purpose built football ground, is one of the nicest stadiums in the division. The same could be said for Dorchester, with both grounds befitting a higher division.

Even down the road Wimborne have a shiny new ground, whilst Poole are still left trying to make things work at their temporary home.

It’s the chip on the shoulder for Poole that adds to this fixture, the pride that despite mitigating circumstances, Dolphins can more than match their more established neighbours for 90 minutes, or even across the course of a full season.

Going into last night’s game, it felt like there were multiple storylines all meeting at the same place. There was Marvin Brooks, who had re-joined Salisbury for a second stint after previously falling out with Claridge; Luke Holmes, who had been written off by Salisbury after a brief stint in Wiltshire.

Charlie Davis, a two time Dolphins man that never managed to nail down a spot in Tom Killick’s side, lined up for Salisbury.

That’s not to forget that Tom Killick was once assistant manager at the Ray Mac, way back at the turn of the century, or to omit the fact that Steve Claridge broke Poole hearts as a player, his last-minute goal turning a playoff final on its head in 2012.

There is no love lost between the players or managers, and that was shown during the game, with players using the wet surface to slide into crunching tackles.

However, that feeling has slowly seeped into the stands. For some reason or another, both sets of fans view each other’s manager as some sort of pantomime villain – with each a figure for lampooning and critique.

Scroll through Salisbury fan pages and see articles containing throwaway comments about The Whites by Killick devoured by baying commenters.

The same ire meets any mention of Steve Claridge in Poole quarters – with that hatred slowly becoming associated with each manager’s respective clubs.

Even without the added spice of those storylines, there is the consideration that sides from Poole and Salisbury have faced each other since the 1800s.

Whilst the offical timelines and continuations of those clubs are a bit murky, sides bearing the name Poole and Salisbury have competed against each other in the Dorset League, Hampshire League, Western League, and Southern League.

Perhaps it is slightly premature to label this the Bokerley Dyke derby (name pending) but during a span of 14 days around Christmas and the New Year when Poole play Salisbury, Dorchester and Wimborne, I know which one I’m looking forward to the most.

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