Paul Jones’ long free kick towards the Milton Road end dropped at the edge of the Arsenal box, James Beattie won the ball in the air, knocking it down for substitute Matthew Le Tissier. Le Tisser took a touch, turned and smashed a thunderous half volley into the top corner, Alex Manninger dived in vain but the proverbial script had long been written and the Austrian was only in the supporting cast.
That was the last official goal at The Dell. It could only be Le Tissier that scored it, it could only be spectacular.
Uwe Rosler scored the last actual goal seven days later in a special friendly against Brighton, but it is the Le Tissier goal that everyone still talks about. It hardly seems real that it was ten years ago. St. Mary’s still feels new to me, but actually, it has been our home for more than half my time as a Saint.
There really was something magical about The Dell, it might sound like a cliche, perhaps it is, but for all it’s flaws(and it had many), The Dell was special, and it was ours. For many years it embodied everything that typified Southampton, the plucky little club punching above it’s weight rubbing shoulders with Old Trafford and Anfield. The years of Premier League survival were miraculous anyway, but with a capacity of just over fifteen thousand, how Saints competed and sometimes bettered the likes of Spurs, Everton and Chelsea was often baffling.
It is often said that stadia have character, and The Dell was certainly not lacking in that department. From the odd shaped “chocolate box” two tiered terrace at the Milton Road, to it’s 1993 Right angled triangle all seater replacement. In the front row of the East Stand where I had my Season Ticket(£96, how is that for some football nostalgia?) you were so close to the players you could clearly hear their conversations and interact with them.
This closeness gave the home team an edge, they were safe, the opposition were not, and famously hated it, David Beckham the most notable to audibly complain about playing there. It was a weapon in our arsenal, we used it and we did well there, the top teams often succumbing to the pressures of the close knit ground and finding themselves turned over. In the 1998/99 season Saints finished bottom of the “Away” league table with just ten points, but stayed in the Premier League by five.
The club was lucky enough to move on to our nice big, new stadium in 2001, which is essential in the current financial competitiveness of modern football, but we should never forget where we came from.
So come the new season, when you are enjoying the concourse facilities, or the nice view from your seat, or browsing the megastore, or even not struggling to get a ticket. Spare a thought for The Dell, she wasn’t pretty but she served us well.
Southampton football genius turned Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday telly pundit Matt Le Tissier admits that he’d rather talk nonsense than be a manager!
Being a Sky Sports pundit looks like a giggle…
“It’s brilliant. How can you not enjoy watching football matches with your mates? Jeff Stelling has a great sense of humour and I get on famously with Thommo [Phil Thompson], Charlie [Nicholas] and all the lads.”
There’s a fair bit of mickey-taking…
“And therein lies the fun! We usually meet up on a Friday night in the hotel, get drunk and talk all sorts of nonsense. Then we just carry that over to the show on a Saturday afternoon.”
Ever said anything on air you later regretted then?
“I did say that the referee was c**p once and producer said in my headphones: ‘I think the word you were looking for was rubbish.’ (laughs). It’s all part of the fun though and we enjoy stitching each other up.”
Tell us more…
“We tease each other about our accents, especially the Scottish lads. Charlie Nicholas pronounced the Wigan goalkeeper [John] Filan as feeling and said once” ‘It’s a yellow for feeling.’ I said: ‘I thought you only got a yellow for pushing and shoving Charlie.’ It tickled me anyway!”
As an ex-player do you tread softly when someone has a nightmare?
“A player knows if he’s had a shocker so there’s no need to rub it in. I usually say he’s had a miserable game but I’m sure he’ll be better next week. Some pundits can cross the line and turn their assessment into a character assassination. I’ll always give an honest opinion so if anyone doesn’t like it – tough.”
Reckon you could be England manager then?
“Ha ha. I thought about management briefly when Harry Redknapp left Southampton but I didn’t have any coaching qualifications. You need all that stuff now but I find it a load of bull.”
“I got three quarters of the way through level two coaching but it seemed pointless. It goes against everything I believe in – playing naturally and off the cuff. A guy who had never played the game was showing me how to pass the ball ten yards with the outside of the boot – but I’d been doing that on the pitch for 20 years. I was pulling my hair out…”
Are you annoyed that players put cash before their club now?
“I don’t blame them for that. If a player is going to get offered twice his salary to move clubs of course he’s going to consider it. It’s just a reflection of society in general.”
What about Chelsea’s millions?
“Their wealth inflates the whole transfer market and it makes players get greedy. I can’t quite comprehend why you have to negotiate a contract at Chelsea. When there’s that much money involved why argue the toss over £90,000 and £100,000. Not being funny, but how much can you spend?”
Do you miss your playing days?
“I don’t miss training one bit, especially pre-season. I miss walking out to a full stadium at five to three on a Saturday afternoon and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up with excitement. I can cope without it though.”
With Gareth Bale following Theo Walcott, are Saints becoming a conveyor belt for potential England stars?
“I trained alongside Theo a couple of years ago and thought: ‘This lad can play’. He left Southampton too early though and lost his way by not playing competitively. Gareth may be a defender but can really influence attacks with his set-pieces and foraging runs. I think he’s got every attribute to be a world-class full-back and I’d be very surprised if he didn’t go right to the top of the tree.”
This interview first appeared in Shoot Magazine and appears with permission of the publishers. You can now catch Shoot on line at www.shoot.co.uk
Goodbye to you my trusted friend. We’ve known each other since 2009/10…
When Saints were relegated to the third tier of English football in May 2009, the club was at it’s lowest ebb. Administration, wages not being paid and liquidation a very real possibility.
The rescue of the club by Markus Liebherr was both spectacular in it’s suddenness and an early sign of things to come, especially in terms of how the new owners and chairman conduct their business. In private.
The new regime moved quickly to remove the disastrous Dutch coaching team and install the experienced and somewhat “punching below his weight” Alan Pardew. Suddenly, just as quickly as the club had spiralled downwards, it was growing again, and smiles were seen again around the city. The first season in League One was always going to be interesting. A new division, a new manager and a new team can be uneasy ground at the best of times, but add the points deduction that Saints had suffered as punishment for their financial troubles the previous season and you have a dangerous mix.
As it happened, it was a difficult start for the Saints, and there was an air of “here we go again” in the St. Mary’s stands. It was eight games before they registered a League One win, and ten before they hit “positive” points.
For the first time in a long time, Saints were a scalp. After years of being a weekly underdog, now they were facing life on the opposite side of the fence and it was tough. Smaller clubs desperate to take us down. The opposition League One fans were also hard to please, if a Saints fan suggested promotion they were “arrogant”, but if they suggested otherwise it would be ridiculous for us not to win the league with “our resources”.
But once Pardew’s men got the points deduction monkey off their proverbial backs, there was no stopping them. Showpiece signings like Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte soon got the team fired up the table, and despite some disappointing results away from home, Saints got themselves to within just seven points of the playoffs, highlighting the true punishment of a deduction. They did make Wembley however and lifted the Johnstones Paint Trophy in front of over fifty thousand of their fans, in what was a truly fantastic day for all concerned.
Saints fans went into the summer, cautiously optimistic, the team looked like it was now equipped to deal with the division, and with no points deduction the possibility of promotion was high. But as Saints fans, we learnt a long time ago to never “expect” anything.
It seemed inconceivable as Saints entered the 2010/11 season that there could be anything but good spirits at the club. Sadly there were undercurrents of mistrust between the manager and the board that spawned rumour after rumour. Coupled with an opening day televised home defeat to Plymouth Argyle and all the optimism of the summer was draining away fast, could it get any worse for Saints fans?
It could. Just three days after the first game of the season, Saints owner and saviour Markus Liebherr passed away. A city in shock, suddenly with it’s future up in the air again, and mourning the man who had brought back their smiles.
It didn’t improve on the pitch. A draw at home to Leyton Orient and grumblings of unfit players and poor pre-season preparation spelled the end for Alan Pardew, dismissed ironically after a 4-0 away win at Bristol Rovers. The next three league games all ended in defeat. Saints were 23rd in League One, their season already looking in tatters.
Enter Nigel Adkins. The Scunthorpe manager brought mixed reaction from the Southampton faithful, many still smarting from the removal of Alan Pardew, but after a losing start, the Saints players under a new regime started to put a good run of form together. The emergence of another Southampton “teenage sensation” in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the fantastic form of Adam Lallana and a much steadier looking back four made the Saints a tougher prospect and they were soon battling it out at the business end of the table.
It still looked like automatic promotion was going to be a difficult prospect though, and that we would be victims of our own poor start. Runaway leaders Brighton were having a fantastic season, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and a resurgent Peterborough United under Darren Ferguson all looking to take the second spot. A 0-1 defeat away at Walsall and many Saints fans would have been eyeing potential play off matches, but the run the team put together after that was to fire us half way back to where we belong.
The last fifteen games of the season. Thirteen wins. One draw. One defeat. Amongst this remarkable form there were moments of real inspiration, that finally had me, a natural pessimist believing we could do it.
MK Dons at home. 2-0 down and looking like a serious promotion challenge dent. Cue Jonathon Forte, brought on in the 63rd minute, pulled one back in the 66th and equalised in the 67th. I had no doubt in my mind at that point that we would win the game and we did.
Bristol Rovers at home. Having just lost 0-2 at Rochdale, Saints needed to pick themselves up again. I was in Qingdao, China, where nearly all social media is banned. I was sat in my hotel room at 2300 local time watching the text updates on the official site. Saints carved out chance after chance, but couldn’t score. Until the 82nd minute. Guly do Prado, sending at least one of the 1.3 Billion people in China into a state of delirious satisfaction.
Brighton Away. The deserved champions had got a little big for their boots, the snarling and baiting of their fans towards Nigel Adkins leading up to it, gave the game an unhealthy edge. David Connolly got the equaliser and Jose Fonte and Saints deservedly snatched their unbeaten home record in the last minute. The best team in the league statistically, couldn’t keep up.
Saints went into the last three games knowing that two wins was enough. We won all three, and promotion was sealed.
I have often heard our stay in League One described as a nightmare, but it really wasn’t. Of course it is a blow to find yourselves at this level after years of Premier League extravagance, but it was nice to have a period of winning more games than we lost. Having said that, I am glad to be out of it, and hopefully we won’t be back, although there is something rather refreshing about the less commercial League One.
It is a really weird feeling to be elated about going to the Championship. Last time I was devastated…
We had joy, we had fun, we had two seasons in League One…
After strong ends to their Wessex League campaigns, Brading finishing an impressive 4th and Newport 10th in the Wessex Premier Division, both sides arrived at Westwood Park in Cowes looking to end their season on a high.
Having only recently played out an entertaining draw in a league match, there were high hopes for a free flowing and entertaining final for the Island’s showpiece competition.
The opening exchanges looked like the watching crowd weren’t to be disappointed. Newport were the first to set their intentions, Iain Seabrook shooting over early on. Not to be outdone Brading went straight on the attack themselves, Scott Jones shooting low and forcing a corner.
The Romans started to take control of the game, pressing the Newport 18 yard box, but failing to make any clear cut chances. It was Jones again who looked the dangerman, weaving through the middle, only to be denied by a brave save at his feet from Cameron Farley, that left the Port keeper needing treatment.
Newport nearly broke the deadlock with a hopeful long ball from Graham Stay on the left flank, Darren Powell with a deft touch that evaded the Brading keeper but floated just over the bar.
Brading then created a couple of good chances, firstly Jones winning a header from the ball pumped forward, which found his strike partner Kyle Levrier whose shot went narrowly over. Then some great link up play down the left wing between Giancovich, Levrier and Jack Morris forced a corner, James Butt delivered a testing cross which was spilled by Farley in the Newport goal, but he was able to gather it on the ground before a Brading player could pounce.
It was Newport though that started to look more of a threat as the first half drew to a close, a free kick by Scott Sampson led to a goal mouth scramble in the Brading box, which was eventually cleared before a yellow shirt could apply a finish. Then it was great work through the middle from Charlie Smeeton who battled past two players before finding Tom McInnes who looked likely to open the scoring, but the linesman’s flag was up.
Newport did take the lead soon after, Iain Seebrook’s perfectly weighted through ball, latched on to by Mark Augustus who smashed the ball into Brading net in the 40th minute.
It was almost 2-0 to the Port just a couple of minutes later, a mix up at the back for Brading led to a good exchange between McInnes and Smeeton, the latter forcing a great save from the Romans keeper True.
The referee called an end to a fairly quiet but even first half with all to play for in the second.
HT:- Newport (IOW) 1 Brading Town 0
A foul on Charlie Smeeton early in the second half nearly saw Newport double their advantage. Iain Seabrook’s thunderous freekick from 25 yards was turned round the post by Gareth True at full stretch.
James Butt continued to be a dangerous outlet for Brading on the right flank, sending in several floated crosses crying out for somebody to attack, Scott Jones getting on the end of one, only to be penalised for handball.
It was a hammer blow for the Romans though on 51, when a loose ball out of the defence was picked up by Seabrook who found McInnes, the Port number 9 sent in a cross, which was deflected towards goal by a white shirt, Gareth True did well to dive to his left and palm the ball away, only for it to fall to Charlie Smeeton to tap it into the empty net and give Newport a two goal cushion.
Brading immediately forced a corner, but Newport cleared their lines before there was a triple substitution in the 55th minute. Newport replaced Gregorys Ryan coming on for older brother Ross, while Brading made two changes as they looked to chase the game. Keiron Ford and Jamie O’Rourke replacing Will Quigley and Jack Morris respectively.
Not looking to let up, a now confident Newport looked to impose themselves and kill the game, Charlie Smeeton turning provider, but Iain Seabrook’s shot went wide.
Brading hadn’t thrown in the towel though and perhaps should have been right back in it, Giancarlo Giancovich persevering down the middle of the park before sending a teasing ball across the face of the Newport goal, Jamie O’Rourke just out of reach from tapping it home.
Charlie Smeeton, a constant threat when Newport attacked, had another goalbound effort, well headed behind by Brading defender Ollie Fleming, but Newport effectively ended the tie just minutes later in the 67th. Mark Augustus floating in a cross which was met by 16 year old Ryan Gregory who calmly headed home.
Brading made their final substitution of the evening in the 68th, Jason Ince coming on for James Butt and should have scored a minute later. Levrier lining up what seemed to be a certain goal, but for a perfectly timed sliding tackle from Steve Russell.
Newport now in control, looked to take advantage of Brading having to commit men forward, Seabrook and Smeeton both testing Gareth True. The Romans thought they were back in it though after great hassling by Levrier to force a corner, Jones had the ball in the back of the net from the resulting set piece, only for the linesman to rule it out, because the ball had already gone out of play.
Levrier was give an talking to by the referee for a late challenge on Seabrook in what had been a consistently disciplined affair, the official choosing not to reach for his pocket for the first time in the match.
Brading finally got on the scoresheet in the 82nd, a long range finish that may have taken a deflection from Giancarlo Giancovich stung the gloves of Cameron Farley, but he couldn’t keep it out. In what looked like being a frantic finish by the team in read and white, they carved out another chance straight from the kick off getting in a cross that was well plucked out of the air by Farley to safeguard the Port’s two goal lead.
Newport replaced Iain Seabrook with Tom Scovell before a Jason Ince cross was met by O’Rourke who couldn’t apply a finish for Brading. As the clock wound down and we headed in to stoppage time, Paul Sleep made his final substitution John Chambers coming on for the opening goalscorer Augustus. It was deep into stoppage time when the referee had to take his first real disciplinary action of the night, Kyle Levrier sent off for a late tackle on Charlie Smeeton, before bringing an end to a good contest. Newport retaining the Gold Cup, taking the precious trophy back to St. Georges Park for the 39th time.
Charlie Smeeton was deservedly named the “Alan Reed” Man of the Match.
UPDATE:- This draw has now been accepted and validated.
The draw for the 2011 Island Games football draw was made this morning at 0830.
The Isle of Wight mens team were the first out of the hat in Group B and will take on Alderney, Gibralter and Ynys Mon. The Ladies team were drawn last in Group A and will face Aland, Jersey and Hitra.
Draw in full:-
Jersey, Menorca, Rhodes and Greenland.
Isle of Wight, Alderney, Gibralter and Ynys Mon.
Guernsey, Gotland, Isle of Man and Falklands.
Aland, Saaremaa and Western Isles.
Aland, Jersey, Hitra and Isle of Wight.
Isle of Man, Gibralter and Greenland.
Gotland, Saaremaa and Western Isles.
The group matches will be played between the 26th and the 29th June 2011.
The Saints are heading back to the Championship after a 3-1 win over Plymouth Argyle at Home Park with goals from Rickie Lambert (2 ) and Ryan Dickson. Only a last day defeat and Huddersfield winning by 15 or more goals would prevent the Saints being promoted. Massive congratulations to the players, Andy Crosby and Nigel Adkins. Let’s not forget the terrible start we had this season, and that we were 22nd when Adkins took over.
League One has been a difficult and frustrating experience, with so much expectation on us, credit must also go to Nicola Cortese and of course Markus Liebherr who sadly wasn’t here to see the first part of his dream completed.
Amazing video made by “Southamptonfans” on youtube:-
p.s. Please support this cause:- One Markus Liebherr and ensure we can have the biggest flag possible in a fitting tribute to the man who saved our club.
Channon, nice touch again, McCalliog, oh look at this, Bobby Stokes, did well, Oh and it’s there…
1st May 1976, Wembley Stadium, The greatest day in the history of Southampton Football Club, when Larie McMenemey’s second division side downed the might of Manchester United’s star laded team with Bobby Stokes 82nd minute goal. The Queen clearly knew she would never see the likes again and hasn’t attended an FA Cup final since!
The Island’s top two sides faced off at St. George’s Park on Bank Holiday Monday in a dress rehearsal of this year’s Gold Cup Final. Charlie Smeeton gave the home side the lead early on, before Josh Appell equalised for the Romans on the half hour as the sides battled to a hard fought local derby stalemate.
All eyes will now be on Westwood Park for the 5th May and the final.
In an exact re-run of last years final, the Port will be looking for revenge on Brading who took the trophy last time out with a 2-1 victory.
Both teams will enter the match in good form, without a defeat between them in the last nine games. Newport on a resurgence under new manager Paul Sleep will be full of confidence having only recently won the Russel Cotes Cup in dramatic fashion over fellow Wessex League Premier Divison outfit Bermerton Heath Harlequins. While Brading’s impressive league results see them going into their last match against Champions Poole Town on Thursday knowing a win and results going their way elsewhere could see them runners up.
As we near the end of the 2010/11 season, there is an area of the country that will be happier than most, and it isn’t London or the North West, but somewhere a little less traditional.
Two clubs have dominated their way to promotion this year and both are from the relative footballing backwater of Sussex. In fact both of the more modern East and West Sussex administrations are represented, Brighton & Hove Albion from the East and Crawley Town from the West. This can only be a positive for South Coast football, an area that has been long starved of success. It often amazes me that the South Coast hasn’t produced a bigger force in English football, it is a nice big catchment area, the main clubs all have big potential fanbases, but they so often get close to rubbing shoulders with the big boys, but don’t quite make it. Portsmouth’s relegation last year broke an uninterrupted thirty two years of South Coast representation in the top flight, but barring a few exceptions, neither the red and blue halves of Hampshire pushed on to be silverware manufacturers.
But now the South Coast is on the resurgence it would seem. Portsmouth have beaten a rocky start to cement their place in the Championship, Brighton will be joining them, and both Saints and Bournemouth both potentially could. Add to that the promotion of Crawley Town to the football league for the first time in their history and several money men getting involved with the areas clubs, it can only be a matter of time before we are represented again.
Crawley Town have been an unmitigated success story this season, and they set out their stall early. Having had the debts of the club written off by new owners, the club was even in the position to give manager Steve Evans transfer funds to rebuild the squad. In what is staggering amounts of money to be spending at Blue Square Premier level, the likes of Matt Tubbs and Sergio Torres, players with football league experience (Torres having played in the Championship with Peterbotough United last season) and others cost the club in the region of £500k.
Some non-league fans were critical of Crawley’s spending, but the outlay has paid dividends. Not only have the “Red Devils” stormed their way to the league title, but also put together a money spinning FA Cup run which saw them take the football league scalps of Swindon Town, Derby County and Torquay United before being felled by just one goal at Old Trafford. Such has been the impact of Crawley’s impressive performances as they were propelled into the public eye, that many are predicting the possibility of a second successive promotion for the Broadfield Stadium outfit, and if the financial backing continues who would be surprised?
While Crawley may have been the surprise package in the Blue Square Premier, their East Sussex neighbours Brighton weren’t about to let them steal the show. When Gus Poyet took over the “Seagulls” in November 2009, they were a club in trouble, struggling for results and looking in serious relegation danger, they were a far cry from this season’s win machine. Poyet steadied the ship and they retained their League One status comfortably by nine points. Nobody though was tipping them for anything more than consolidation this season. A good example of this was the scoffing from Swindon Town fans, when Brighton reportedly made a move for their previous season’s play off final captain Gordon Greer. Perhaps Greer could already see what the Swindon fans or anyone else couldn’t, as he chose the Withdean and the Robins went into freefall.
Poyet also re-signed Spaniard Inigo Calderon, fighting off interest from Southampton and brought in experienced keeper Casper Ankergen along with others, as the Brighton ownership also decided to show their Sussex clout. Like Crawley, the results were almost instantaneous, Poyet had created a tight and efficient unit who it soon became clear were not going to be easy to beat.
The style of play Poyet has them playing, is not every bodies cup of tea, but it is certainly effective. Clearly influenced by his South American roots, Brighton established themselves as the League One keep ball masters, a slow and patient build up with Elliott Bennett and Glenn Murray providing the attacking potency. The real key to Brighton’s title win however, is the same as all good champions. Consistency. While, as a Saints fan I am sometimes bemused as our talented pool of players come a cropper against beatable opposition, Brighton are getting results week in, week out, and here lies the key to a somewhat controversial PFA League One team of the year. Five Southampton players and only three from Brighton. Seems wrong, and perhaps it is, but Brighton’s dominant team unit is far more of a threat than five great individuals.
The crazy thing is, that in any other season the “Seagulls” fans could be forgiven for bemoaning bad luck. Brighton have developed a knack for earning then missing penalties, were they not going up, that might have put a serious downer on their year.
With Albion, it is case of double celebration this summer too, as they will start their Championship campaign in a stunning new facility at Falmer, the Withdean has long been holding this potentially big club back, and with their shiny new ground, and season tickets selling fast, it makes you wonder what might be in store for them.
So what we have with these two clubs is two dominant and deserved champions. Yes, it does pain me to say this as a Saints fan, Brighton are doing what perhaps we thought we might have done this year, and for me personally, as not a fan of Gus Poyet it is doubly frustrating. But there comes a time when you have to hold your hands up and say the best team won. Congratulations to both Brighton & Hove Albion and Crawley Town.
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