Pogba next? Five players who crossed a bitter divide…

Ian Watson

If Paul Pogba wants to force a move to Liverpool, he might want to take a leaf out of Lee Clark’s playbook…


Phil Chisnall (Manchester United to Liverpool)
Whenever there is talk of a player crossing the United-Liverpool divide, Chisnall’s name always comes up. The former forward remains the last player to transfer directly between the two clubs when Bill Shankly paid £25,000 to bring him down the East Lancs Road in April 1964.

Despite being labelled by Sir Alf Ramsey in 1963 as “probably the best passer of a ball in the country,” Chisnall had not established himself as a regular at Manchester United. They had just signed John Connelly from Burnley for more than double the amount. So the Red Devils were content to claw back some cash by sending the 22-year-old to Anfield.

“United finished second in 1964 and I remember Matt Busby told me Liverpool had made a bid and that it was up to me whether I wanted to go or not,” Chisnall told the Liverpool Echo in 2007.

“I was 21, Liverpool had won the league and were a great club. Liverpool was a vibrant place with the Beatles making it big and Shankly reviving Liverpool Football Club, so I decided to go for it.

“After I signed I went back and played for Liverpool against United at Old Trafford. I can’t remember getting any stick – it wasn’t like that back then.

Chisnall, by his own admission, “didn’t hit it off” at Anfield. The Mancunian made only nine appearances for the Reds, though he became the first ever player to touch the ball on Match of the Day while making his Liverpool league debut against Arsenal.


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Nick Barmby (Everton to Liverpool)
Prior to Barmby’s switch, Dave Hickson was the last player to move from Everton to Liverpool in 1959. Hickson was a dyed-in-the-wool Evertonian. Barmby, most certainly, was not.

The former Tottenham and Middlesbrough forward was a boyhood Liverpool fan and when word of the Reds’ interest reached Everton’s Player of the Year at the end of the 1999-2000 season, Barmby did everything he could to make the move happen.

He turned down a new contract that would have made him Everton’s highest-paid player ever on £27,000 a week and made clear his intentions. To Bill Kenwright, Barmby used “six of the worst words in the English language: ‘I want to play for Liverpool.'”

Clandestine meetings with Gerard Houllier had already taken place under the cover of darkness after midnight and Liverpool initially valued Barmby at £4million. But Everton were insistent on getting their money back having paid Boro £5.75million, plus a cross-city premium.

Liverpool agreed to pay £6million and Barmby got his move. He scored against Everton in his first Merseyside derby as a Red but after playing a role in the Treble-lite season, Barmby struggled with injury in his second campaign and was sold to Leeds in 2002 for £2.75million.

Alan Smith (Leeds to Manchester United)
“Yeah, Man Utd,” replied Smith when asked on Soccer AM if there was ever a team he would never play for.

“I did say that,” reflected the England striker years after making that very move in 2004. “I’ve also learned to never say never in football. I was young and naive and never thought that a) Man United would ever want me and b) Leeds would ever sell me. Look how silly I was.”

Leeds had to sell Smith. They had just been relegated and were deep in the sh*t financially. They couldn’t turn down £7million from Man Utd and Smith couldn’t turn down Sir Alex Ferguson, especially in the context of bailing out his boyhood club.

“It didn’t really bother me because it was a decision I made purely based on the good of Leeds financially and myself footballing wise.”


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Lee Clark (Newcastle to Sunderland)
Clark had spent seven seasons in the first team at his beloved Newcastle but by 1997, found himself falling out of favour. The midfielder pondered a move but a switch to Sunderland wasn’t on his radar – until Peter Reid plied him with booze.

‘Convincing him to come in the first place had been hard work as his affection for Newcastle was clear, and it was difficult enough for him to contemplate leaving his boyhood club without considering moving to their local rivals,’ wrote Reid in his autobiography. ‘But I got into his agent, Paul Stretford, and managed to talk him into bringing Clarky down to Manchester to meet me at a restaurant called Harper’s.

‘At first, I could tell he was reluctant to be there with me, which was fair enough… he told me he was only seeing me out of courtesy but six bottles of Laurent Perrier later he agreed to sign for me. It was one of the best drinking sessions I’d ever paid for, especially as Bob Murray ended up picking up the tab.’

Clark became a key player for Reid, helping them first to the play-off final before achieving promotion to the Premier League in 1999 with a record 105-point haul. Then he was spotted wearing a ‘Sad Mackem Bastards’ t-shirt at the FA Cup final.

‘When I next saw him I told him he had to go,’ wrote Reid. ‘It was as simple as that. Our fans wanted him out and there was no way back. He could have been Ronaldo and Messi combined the following season and they still wouldn’t have been having him.’


Pat Jennings (Tottenham to Arsenal)
While Clark remains reviled on Wearside, Jennings is a rare example of a player crossing a divide but remaining revered on both sides.

The Northern Ireland legend spent 13 years in the sticks at Spurs, winning the FA Cup, UEFA Cup and League Cup twice. He was the first goalkeeper to be named as PFA Player of the Year.

But in 1977, Tottenham boss Keith Burkinshaw reportedly feared Jennings was past his best by the time he reached 32. So Spurs encouraged offers for their long-standing stopper.

Manchester United and Aston Villa were sniffing but Arsenal made a firm offer of £45,000 and Jennings was happy to shuffle over to Highbury.

“It was a big wrench to leave,” reflected the shovel-handed stopper years later. “The directors, every one of them walked past me in the car park and totally blanked me. From that minute on, I thought ‘why am I going up the country if this is the thanks I get’.”

“So, there was only one place I was going after that and that was over the road to suit me and hopefully create a bit of embarrassment for Tottenham.”

Jennings achieved that by playing for Arsenal for eight more years, making 327 appearances and winning another FA Cup.