WHEN Tony Funnell discusses the south coast promotion race, there are three very good reasons to take note.

Having enhanced his CV by going up with Southampton, AFC Bournemouth and Poole Town, the former striker knows what he is talking about.

With that unique treble to his name and a strong recent and historical knowledge of the clubs involved, few opinions on today’s Dean Court derby carry as much weight as those offered by Funnell.

Initially with Eastbourne United, he partnered Cherries heroes Ted MacDougall and Phil Boyer in Saints’ frontline to help the Hampshire outfit earn elevation in 1978.

Following spells with Gillingham and Brentford, Funnell scored 22 goals in 64 league appearances for Cherries and was the club’s leading marksman in the 1981-82 promotion success.

Having seen Cherries play a few times this term and been a regular at St Mary’s, Funnell is familiar with today’s combatants.

And he has noticed similarities between the Dean Court class of 1982 and Lee Bradbury’s current crop.

“We had a really good team spirit, probably much the same as they have got now,” Funnell told the Echo.

“A lot of people would have thought, with the manager going and a new manager and assistant manager taking over, it would have been quite easy for it to all slip away.

“But they must have a really good team spirit, and a good manager and assistant manager, because they have kept it ticking over.

“They hadn’t been beaten until Tuesday so they have done well. A team spirit like that just keeps you going.

“We never went into any games thinking we would get beaten and I doubt Bournemouth will be thinking that today.

“They are second in the table. Everyone is chasing them so they shouldn’t feel too worried about playing Southampton.”

Funnell, who starred for Poole after his stint with Cherries was ended by a back injury, thinks the Dean Court club is faring far better, in relative terms, than Saints.

He said: “They have done tremendously. When you consider what they have got and what Southampton have got, Bournemouth are doing 10 times better.

“When you think about the players, the money they have got and the ground, you have got to take off your hat to everyone at Bournemouth – the manager, the players and the people behind the scenes.”

Funnell lives in Poole and is a regular at St Mary’s in his role as a matchday statistician for the Press Association.

The ex-Saints and Cherries man has fond memories of both clubs and a foot firmly planted in each of the camps.

Although his presence as a guest of Cherries chairman Eddie Mitchell could act as a lucky omen for the host club this afternoon – as he has yet to see them lose on home turf this season – he is refusing to take sides and would like a joint celebration come May.

Asked for his prediction, a diplomatic Funnell added: “I’m actually going to go for goals galore with both teams to score.

“I’d be happy with a draw and both teams getting promotion. I had a good time at Southampton and I had a good time at Bournemouth. I wouldn’t sway either way. I want both teams to get promotion.”