So, the Saints board finally caught up with the rest of us and lost patience with the Argentine Branfoot and gave him his marching orders (#youmarchon) after the frankly diabolical display at Newcastle. Too little too late? Perhaps, but the last couple of days has felt like a fresh start, and for the first time in a long time there would appear to be hope.
Now he is gone, I wish Mr. Pellegrino no ill will, seems like a (too) nice bloke, just wildly out of his depth. I did ‘celebrate’ his sacking though, and I feel no guilt in doing so. This isn’t a bloke on £15k a year who has just been made redundant from the local factory as the result of some Tory inflicted austerity scheme, who now has to worry about how he pays his rent and feed his kids. This is a highly paid man (no doubt already comfortably off from his playing career) who showed incompetence from day one. Worse than that, he didn’t learn and was loyal to the end to his turgid style and failing system. What’s more he didn’t even have the decency to resign when it was plain to see he was taking us down. He will have received a handsome pay off for his trouble and will now be having a lovely holiday in a luxurious resort. With respect Mauricio, I wish you luck in your future endeavours, but I am glad you were fired, please don’t ever darken our door again.
This current Saints board had never been more under pressure. They left the sacking of el confundido far too late, he should have gone after the Leicester debacle and in not removing him sooner have left us staring into the abyss with a very difficult run in. This is self inflicted pressure, and meant the job of replacing him was not an easy one. You could argue the logic behind the appointments of both Pellegrino and Claude Puel, both were employed in pre-season, and both looked like long term options, sadly both failed. Employing someone with 8 games to save the season is a different kettle of fish altogether. Premier League experience is absolutely essential, we aren’t in a position to be letting someone learn as they go, and in Mark Hughes we got the best available.
While Pellegrino floundered on the touchline, it cannot escape attention that the players were not performing to their ability, and that may have been a question of motivation. What we have now in Hughes is someone who knows this league, knows how to organise a team and won’t accept dropping standards of his squad.
To those who I’ve seen complaining about the appointment, I always ask the same question? Who would you have brought in? You can rule out the currently employed. Why would they risk it, when they can wait until the end of the season and see if Saints are still interested, and more importantly what division they are in?
That leaves the unemployed, and risking someone without experience of the Premier League would be one risk too far. The current Saints board are 1 for 2 when it comes to appointing foreign first timers, 1 for 3 would be relegation and their own positions untenable.
Hughes’ record in the Premier League is decent, there is no doubt about that, and despite a poor spell at car crash club QPR and this season with Stoke he would firmly be considered a middle tier manager, and here’s a newsflash. We aren’t a middle tier club at the moment, we are lower tier and in danger of being out of the top flight. Lest we forget, that in removing Hughes, Stoke have ended up with Paul Lambert. A fate worse than death in my opinion. The point is right now we don’t have a ‘project’ to sell to a fashionable foreign manager like we have had in the past, we are in a desperate situation. We should be grateful Hughes has put his reputation (never having been relegated) on the line for us.
Yesterday’s press conference gave everyone a lift. A football man, talking a good game and not the riddle messr’s Puel and Pellegrino gave us. We need grit and we need fight from our squad, they have the talent. Hughes is the man to get it.
It’s time for the fans to stop the infighting and the ‘woe is me’ attitude to go. This is what being a Saints fan is all about. We had it far to easy for far too long and we got comfortable and we got entitled and we got lazy. On Sunday Mark Hughes will start his reign with a trip to league one Wigan and the potential to take us to an FA Cup Semi-Final and as we know from last season once you get a semi anything can happen. Then it is 8 cup finals.
Get behind the manager, get behind the team and as always keep the faith.
Yesterday Saints beat Watford 1-0. Perhaps not the most inspiring or dominating victory, but a victory nonetheless, and passageway into the 5th round of the FA Cup.
I opened up Twitter this morning to see what the assembled masses had made of our performance, the manager’s tactical decisions, maybe even an honest appraisal of the striker that was promised and how he will save our season.
But no. The first so many tweets I saw were all melancholy teenage angst surrounding the performance of Jay Rodriguez for West Brom. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it was an impressive showing from the former Saints forward, as he bagged a brace and duly put a van Dijk inspired (snigger) Liverpool defence to the sword and out of the cup, but should it be the primary focus of the Southampton support?
It’s an odd phenomenon amongst our fanbase, especially the social media wing of it that certain players are elevated to the status of deity when they move on.
If you read the words of our fans on twitter today, with no previous knowledge of Rodriguez and his time with Saints you would form the impression that he had left the club against it’s wishes on the back of a goalscoring season the likes of which could barely be believed. The reality of course is that he never looked the same after his horrific injury against Man City and scored just five league goals in the three and a bit years that followed it.
It’s called Jack Cork syndrome. Cork, like Rodriguez was a good player for Saints and a decent servant, but as the club moved on in terms of the quality of player it attracted his playing time reduced and at what was the right time for both him and the club he was moved on. Both Cork & Rodriguez went to clubs where they were more likely to play and neither pulled up any trees. Yet, every time they put in a decent shift for their new clubs, the Saints fans unite in their bemoaning of ‘the one that got away’ and how shortsighted the club were in letting them go.
The fact is the club have improved on both those players. Several times.
If you stop being blinkered and analysing one off games you will see that they aren’t actually being consistently brilliant for their new clubs either and there was a reason Saints let them go. Despite a considerably higher amount of game time for West Brom, Jay Rod has scored just four league goals for the Baggies, Austin has six for Saints in a third of the minutes on the pitch!
I don’t have an issue with still liking those players, or appreciating what they did in their time at the club, but do we need the constant outpouring of support every time they have a good game? We don’t put as much energy into supporting the players that are currently at the club!
I don’t know what it is about them that makes them so universally popular still, perhaps it is because they are clean cut young English lads? I don’t know. But the time for them to go was right.
smm‘Used to like them. Would remember at The Dell and the annoucer would always give us the Portsmouth and Bournemouth results in addition to the top flight results (snigger, snigger) and we would always cheer when Bournemouth won and boo when Portsmouth won. I always looked out for their results and hoped they would win. So it was a complete shock to me when I started my first day at the Bournemouth Echo (back in 2001) when I was speaking to the librarian and life-long Cherry fan who almost imploded when I said I was from Southampton and a Saints supporter. The vitriol I was greeted with really surprised me. When i was called a scummer, I was almost offended on behalf of Portsmouth and said: ‘You can’t call me that, only Portsmouth people can call me that.’ Since then I’ve met a few more Bournemouth ST holders who look at me as if I’m a bad smell under their nose. They’re not interested that I’m actually from Southampton and a long-line of generations of Sotonions – they just see another ‘glory hunter’ (I kid you not) living in Dorset that supports the Saints. So thanks to the vitriol of a handful, I’m not so fond of Bournemouth and am rather satisfied when we beat them. The main thing I have learned from living in these parts is that most people couldn’t give a toss about football. For 10 years I’vve been quite happily driving around in my Saints emblazoned car without a mutter or look of disgust (I wouldn’t chance it in Portsmouth). In my experience most people who do like football in Bournemouth are armchair supporters of the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea etc and many of those are now helping to fill out Dean Court now they’re in the Premier League. I’ve actually come across more Bournemouth fans in Poole than I ever did in Bournemouth. My guestimate is Bournemouth have a hardcore of 5,000 fans – it’s not a football town.’
ah ‘Having always been the bigger team in terms of fan base and league position, I’ve never seen Bournemouth as a real rival. Obviously the team to the East in blue have and will always be the main rivals even though in my time we’ve only bumped into them (mostly disastrously from memory!) in the league for a few seasons. Saints v P*mp*y will always be the real rivalry. For that reason I’ve never had any bad feeling towards Bournemouth and have always wanted them to do well. This did change slightly though when I was the only fan in the pub when we played in the 2003 FA Cup final when there was A LOT of vitriol coming at me and us on the screens from a few of the Bournemouth fans.’
sb ‘Love the beaches… they are great in the summer. But in terms of the football club, I can’t say I’m too bothered about them to be honest. It is the same sort of feeling I have for Reading or Poole Town.’
km ‘I quite like them, and remember the days of their results being cheered at the Dell and have always thought well of them. I also lived in Bournemouth for a bit and have many friends that are Cherries fans and like to see them do well.
That said in reality for 99% of the time i’m pretty indifferent to them, i never check their results or pay any real attention to them and it’s only the fact they’re relatively close that gives me any interest in them (in the same way as Brighton, Swindon or Reading).’
How do you feel about Southampton?
cp ‘I’ve mellowed a lot with age towards Saints. When I was a kid, you didn’t say Southampton, it was always Scumhampton. But that was at primary school, I had no idea that Bournemouth even had a football club and it was more in a jokey name-calling way. I guess it was the nearest big city in a neighbouring county so kids needed somewhere to see as a rival. Then when I started going to games I realised it was an opinion bigger than that of the small town I grew up in and people were quite passionate about it. And there were a few years of hate, admittedly, but I’ve grown up since and these days it’s not really that much of an issue for me – I think the games in League 1 helped to end that. We’d goaded each other for years without any chance of being on the same pitch but by 2011 we’d been in the same league, played each other for the first time in 13 years and we’d lost all 3 games that season (typically after all that time, we got each other in the League Cup that year as well) and could go our separate ways as far as I was concerned, I was off sulking with my tail firmly between my legs. Now, for me, it’s more of a friendly goading, nothing malicious. I just can’t be bothered. And I have many Saints friends who are – SHOCK HORROR – decent human beings. And I love Ronald Koeman.
However, when Saints came to Brentford in 2011 and Rickie Lambert took a free kick that hit me at full force in the crowd behind the goal, I did have a few choice words for him, the club and the general area of Southampton. I wasn’t very ladylike. Apologies.’
pb ‘My mood has probably changed over the years. I used to dislike them in every way as they have always been the bigger team 🙁 but that has changed to grudging respect as I think Southampton have produced some great players and AFCB could learn a thing or two in how they have managed to establish themselves in the Premier League. I was actually rooting for the Saints when they beat Man Utd in the cup in 1976 as well, so sometimes the southerner support can stretch up past the New Forest with me.’
at ‘It’s difficult, because my loyalties are somewhat split. I would probably say I’d favour a Bournemouth win, mainly because they’re my hometown club, but also because they need the points to survive.
When I was about 5, my dad used to take me to watch both teams. First Saints game I can remember is when I watched Saints 4-3 Norwich. Kevin Phillips played a blinder if I remember correctly! I was also a mascot for Bournemouth on my 8 birthday.‘
Fans on both sides seem desperate to claim that it isn’t a ‘derby’, but surely it would be great for everyone if it became one?
smm ‘I disagree – I think Bournemouth fans are desperate to claim it’s a derby and a lot of Saints fans are probably protesting too loudly that it isn’t. It’s a local rivarly without doubt and the Bournemouth fans see us as their nearest rivals. There is a lot of spite because they live and work with so many Saints fans, but not so much the other way round. Summing up my own feelings I’d be delighted to beat them but not feel like the world is coming to an end if they beat us (which I would feel if we lost to you know who). It’s not THE derby but as we’re unlikely to experience that one for a while, let’s enjoy this one.’
ah ‘Given what’s happened to the blue team, in terms of a practical point of view, this is the only derby we’re going to have for the foreseeable future (unless you want to classify Reading as a rival and they make it back up – I don’t BTW) I guess from my exposure to Bournemouth fans, I would say that they see it much more of a derby then we do. They don’t have anyone closer than us as a team whereas we have ‘them’. And to me derby’s are more about history than necessarily locale. I don’t know the differences but I’m sure there are lots of teams close to say, Man Utd who would say they have a local rivalry with them (e.g. Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton etc) but Utd wouldn’t see it like that so they aren’t really derby’s in the sense that there is a lack of animosity between both sets of fans.’
sb ‘Technically I think it is a derby. I get loads of abuse from Bournemouth/UTD fans when games come up giving me banter. It would be good for the clubs as well. The media obviously see it as a derby as they have put both games on TV. I look forward to the games in the same way I used to look forward to playing against my younger brothers team in a tyro pre-season friendly. We know we will win but it is nice to see how they have grown up from last year.’
km ‘I think the issue is that from our side – Saints – it isn’t a derby and we have no interest in the slightest in it becoming one. The problem comes with the reactions that follow from our opinion. Our lack of interest or desire for it to be judged so gets deemed arrogance, when in fact it’s a statement of fact, there’s one team, one city and one group of inbreds that we care about, the dirty skates.
As for would it be good? I don’t really see why it would be anything, it’s a local game and an a decent away day (Bournemouth is a great place for a drink despite the stupidly early last train back!).
Personally i’d much rather people stopped referring to it as a derby and just got on with it. It holds little to no importance in Southampton and never has in my lifetime. I often attribute the need to call it a derby to the Soccer AM generation that were brought up thinking every club needed one. But not every club has a derby.
If anything the need to make this a derby turns me off the game, it becomes boring to deal with Cherries fans that want it to be that way and i have to be honest I didn’t bother going to the cup game against them despite being a season ticket holder as i found the entire thing boring and uninteresting.’
cp ‘The very fact that everyone is so desperate to go to great lengths to constantly state that it’s not a derby to me surely means it’s more than just another game?! Not sure I’d go so far as to say a rivalry, but the fact that Premier League clubs are quite sparse on the south coast (oh look – there’s only two of us) means that as Prem neighbours (my mind is still boggled at saying that) it’s a derby by location if nothing else?! Either way, the competition of who cares less about who will rage on till the end of time, I’m sure. But, then again, I don’t care. And I definitely care less than you, ok?’
pb ‘Eddie Howe said last time the two clubs played that AFC Bournemouth have to start winning some of these clashes if they want it to truly become a derby game and I tend to agree with that. There is no real grudge against the Saints as there have not been many matches between the two clubs and when they have met Southampton have usually come out on top. I’d like to think that it will become a south coast derby that both clubs can look forward to for a few years to come, but I feel that fans of both sides probably dislike some other clubs more than each other. I know a few Saints fans that, believe it or not, are pleased to see the Cherries in the Premier League – at least we are both guaranteed at least one short travel away game as season.’
at ‘I don’t see why it’s a bad thing. I’ve not seen that much animosity between the two fanbases, certainly not to the same extent as Saints and Pompey! With Pompey now languishing in the lower leagues, surely a new, less fierce rivalry would be welcomed by saints fans?’
Saints fans often have a ‘soft spot’ for Bournemouth. Has that changed since they were promoted to the Premier League? And will that change with continued success?
smm ‘I think it began to change for some Saints fans when we were both in League One – I think a lot of Saints fans felt that shock I experienced on my first day working at the Bournemouth Echo that a lot of Bournemouth fans really hate us. I suspect a few more fans’ fondness has also waned since the promotion, particularly for those of us active on social media. My instinct is that a majority of Saints fans are indifferent or hold Bournemouth with a degree of fondness. If we are to remain in the same league for years to come I’m sure the rivalry will increase.‘
ah ‘I’m not sure it has, not yet anyway. I still think the general feeling from most of my mates and people in my office is that we still want them to do well. Perhaps I know a lot of nice people but I don’t think we quite believe they will stick around for any length of time to be classified as rivals and I’m sure the more realistic Bournemouth fans will think the same. What Eddie and the team have done is pretty incredible so personally I wish them all the best… for now! I’m more concerned about our own future (keeping Ronald, Fraser, what happens to Pelle/Vic etc) than worrying about them.’
sb‘As I have just said it is like watching a younger sibling grow up. I think if they become more successful, there will be a change in the way we view them. If they ever finish above us in the league (and God i hope it never happens) then that will change everything.’
km ‘Not really, for the most part I’ve been oblivious to their season as I’ve been concentrating on ours. That said i want them to stay up as it’d be good for the south coast and a nice break to the general Premier League status quo.’
ab ‘I think it’s changed a little bit. It’s easier to have a soft spot for clubs in different divisions, but when those clubs become competitors, it changes the dynamic. I also things Saints quick rise up the leagues has somewhat been overshadowed by Bournemouth’s remarkable story. Are they stealing Saints limelight?’
How do you feel about people from Dorset (especially Bournemouth) who support Saints?
cp ‘For years, Southampton have been the more successful team in the area and have naturally attracted a lot of glory hunters from the Bournemouth area. And a lot of people are very aggrieved by that. I, personally, quite liked the fact that I supported my local team and was prepared to go through the grief and heartache that brought, rather than go the easy route and support the big team down the road. Many times I’d be stood on the platform at Poole or Dorchester station, waiting for trains to various League 1/2 fixtures to join about 200 others, while the blokes stood next to me in shirts that looked like deckchairs were off to some swanky Prem fixture in That Lundin. I felt like I was the proper fan, one of the few hardy souls, and they were just Premier League customers, a few out of thousands of faceless others.
After recent events, I’m currently revising that theory.’
pb ‘The only reason I can see for a person in Bournemouth or the wider Dorset area travelling up to St. Mary’s to watch football is that they can’t get a ticket at Dean Court. Some will have family roots that have always been with the Saints so fair enough to them, but the Cherries are after attracting as many new fans as they can and being the only Dorset club in the Premier League there is a fair chance that the fan base will grow in the next few seasons with the promised ground improvements at Dean Court.’
Why do Bournemouth and Pompey fans love each other so much? A mutual hatred of Saints?
cp ‘One of the funniest things at a game is when supporters of both sides join in together, to sing about a team that aren’t anything to do with that game. Bizarre. I think a lot of Pompey and Bournemouth fans think they have found kindred spirits through a mutual dislike of Saints, but there are a lot of Bournemouth fans I know who have a distinct dislike of Pompey as well. Of course, when we played them in the FA Cup a few weeks ago, they were at great pains to point out that it “wasn’t a derby” as were we.
Whatever it was, we won (just). So ner.’
pb ‘Absolutely. In the recent game against Pompey there was much mutual singing aimed at the Saints and while Bournemouth is not a port, we know why Pompey hate the Saints so much which harks back to the Southampton dockers carrying on working past the picket lines when the dockers in Portsmouth went on strike in the 1950’s. Pompey have good reason to hate the Saints, while AFCB fans are working on it.’
Editor’s comment‘The dockers strike is a total myth, perpetuated by so many Pompey fans over the years it even gets mentioned in recent books about their club. There is no record of it. Ironically, when the Southampton dockers went on strike in the 1890’s, it was workers from Portsmouth that were brought in to do their jobs.’
Why aren’t Bournemouth fans grateful that Saints played fund raising games for them? They owe us right?
smm ‘I don’t think they owe us anything but now that we know how much they ‘love us’ they can kiss goodbye to any future bucket collections if it all goes belly up when the Russian leaves.’
ah ‘Football rarely works on that logic does it? If there is a local neighbour to hate then you’re going to hate them regardless of what they’ve done. Not that it’d ever happen, but if we were to help out P*mp*y with their situation, would that stop them hating us? No. I’m sure there are a lot of reasonable Bournemouth fans who will be slightly thankful for what we did but let’s be honest, it was one game and won’t ever come into any sort of emotional or rational reasoning.’
sb ‘100% yes. As a token of their appreciation they should have refused the Lallana money.’
km ‘Not sure they owe us anything and I’m also not sure why (or if) they’re ungrateful either. I did actually go to one of those friendlies and don’t remember there being any animosity at all, in fact the first time I was ever aware that there was even a consideration of it being a derby was when I was well into my late twenties and a Cherry said that we were “Scummers” after I wished him luck in their in promotion battle at the time.
That confused the hell out of me to be honest and I think I actually laughed when he said it as I didn’t think he was being serious, which probably annoyed him more!’
cp ‘The fact that it gets brought up at every possible opportunity makes it all a bit sour. A lot of Saints fans have been overly condescending about this over the years and it was very kind, yes, and it helped, yes, thank you very much, but Saints didn’t save us and it wasn’t what ensured our existence as many like to claim.’
pb ‘I don’t think AFC Bournemouth fans were ungrateful but they have some pride and whoever wants to be in a position to need a handout? I actually felt sorry for Southampton when they fell on hard times. I don’t think any fan wants to see any club in financial trouble.’
at ‘It was definitely a nice gesture on Saints part, and I’m sure if it was the other way round, Bournemouth would’ve done the same!’
I’ve found something we can truly fall out about. Harry Redknapp is a c**t. Discuss.
smm ‘Without doubt. They love that saggy faced fraudster in these parts – it’s vomit inducing. In fact, at my son’s football presentation evening last year, I did vomit in my mouth when ‘Arry was the guest of honour and walked past me and touched my arm. Bleuurgggghhhhh.’
ah ‘Yes, most definitely but I’d rather not waste my energy on him. My friend once described him as having a face like a mixed grill. I think that’s all I want to say on the matter.’
sb ‘The guy is a massive knob. Would love to have a beer with him though!’ Editor’s comment ‘Why? Would definitely be a round dodger.’
km ‘Now that statement can’t be denied by anyone, even the Skates must admit that!’
cp ‘I can’t hate Harry. I’m sorry, I just can’t. I’m not as fond of him as I used to be but I wouldn’t go that far. For years, he was our most successful manager. Obviously, this has all been well & truly surpassed now. By someone with much better hair. And my Harry Redknapp impression has gone down a storm at work over the years. You wouldn’t have to ask too many Bournemouth fans before you found one to agree with you, though.’
pb ‘Yeah, you got me. Harry Redknapp will always be highly regarded around AFC Bournemouth as he was the manager to put us on the map in recent times before the boy genius Eddie Howe arrived. Harry did okay as a player for us as well. I suppose it is becoming harder for any manager to move from one club to another and always leave with his head held high and at least we might be able to agree that Harry loves the south, even if West Ham is probably his biggest love after Sandra!’
at ‘He’s certainly a character! I mean I don’t personally hate him, how could I after all he did for Bournemouth? Although, saying that, his increased involvement with the club does rather coincide with them being promoted to the Premier League.’
How do you see the game going? Score prediction?
smm ‘History and form says we should win – but Bournemouth are due a result against us at some point and it’s most likely to be at their place – but I’ll still go for a 2-1 win to us.’
ah ‘It will be a cracking atmosphere and I’m sure it will descend into a usual derby in terms of lots of intensity and flying tackles in the first 20 minutes. If we can ride out the initial period and get our foot on the ball I’m sure that our midfield will work their way into the game and unpick their defence. I’ve heard several times about how slow their CBs are so whilst we don’t have bundles of pace, we’ll get a few chances and hopefully stick one or two away. I’ll opt for a 0-2 scoreline to help our push for that 5th spot.’
sb ‘2-1 Saints…. they will break the clean sheet duck.’
km ‘It’s going to be very close and very tight, I think a lot depends on the Chelsea game for us. If we pick up a result there I can see us winning it 1-0 or something similar, if we fall away after that game I think it’ll be 1-1 or 2-1 to the Cherries.’
cp ‘You’ll win. You always do. I’m sure it’s written in some bylaw somewhere. I don’t allow myself to get over-excited as I just get more let down. Happens every time. I’ll go 0-2 and hope that my reverse psychology will win the day.’
pb ‘That’s easy. The Cherries start confidently and look like world beaters only for Southampton to score from two set pieces and a breakaway to ruin our day again! 1-3 to those delightful chaps down the road. Obviously, I hope I am entirely wrong. Isn’t it about time that the Saints let us win a game to ensure there is a couple of south coast derby matches next season? You don’t need the points and playing in Europe is overrated – look what happened to you last time. Oops, I fear the rivalry is building.’
at ‘Bournemouth’s home form isn’t great at the moment, losing 3 out of the last 4, and Saints don’t look like they’ll concede anytime soon. Think Saints will win and keep a clean sheet. 0-2.’
So there we have it, the ‘Not a Derby Derby’ heat’s up, or rather doesn’t really. Thanks to everyone who answered questions!
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It was with much anticipation that I first heard of Mark Sanderson and his upcoming biography of ’76 hero Bobby Stokes.
Aptly titled ‘The man from Portsmouth who scored Southampton’s most famous goal’, there is an air of mysticism about Stokes and how he bridged a gap between two cities so often at each other’s throats.
I asked Mark about whether anyone these days could become a hero in red and white stripes, but also maintain the respect and love of his rival home town?
MS ‘Bobby Stokes is one of several Pompey lads who have gone on to play for Saints – from Steve Mills to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Ward-Prowse. Far fewer have done the opposite. Perhaps the most notable example was Bitterne Park schoolboy Darren Anderton, who was part of the Pompey side that lost to Liverpool on penalties in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final. Although none of these players have had as much impact for either club as Bobby’s winning goal for Southampton in the 1976 FA Cup Final. Bobby remained a Pompey lad, but he had a special relationship with Southampton – his funeral was in Porchester, but his ashes were scattered at The Dell. ‘
If like me you spent your formative years in the early 1990’s you will be familiar with an incredibly funny duo whose collection of comic characters and sketches are fondly remembered by us all.
You will have swung your pants with The Singing Corner, wondered which hapless celebrity was going to enrage barbers Ken and Eddie Kennedy and enjoyed some Pot Fish sponsored rave nights all from the comfort of your living room on a Saturday morning. Though you may have watched them religiously every week like I did, you may, as I was be ignorant to the fact that Trevor Neal of ‘Trevor & Simon’ fame is a Saint just like us.
I read an article Trevor had written for the Huffington Post in which he spoke of meeting Paul Weller in Debenhams in the city during the 70’s and I wondered then if he might be red an white, this was later confirmed when I saw some tweets of his in which he mentioned Saints.
I was lucky enough to catch some time with Trevor and talk about his life as a Saint.
When did you know you were a Saints fan?
TN ‘I grew up in Southampton and lived there until I was 18 – it was the natural way of things to support The Saints (although before I was old enough to know better in 1972, aged 9 years old, I have to confess that I owned a Leeds United kit (sorry!) – but I think that was only because I liked the sock tabs with numbers on!). My dad was a police dog handler in Southampton and he was occasionally on duty at The Dell (ask your grandparents, kids!) so when I was very young he used to bring home team autographs, which was always very exciting. When I was about 12 years old I went to see the Saints play at the Dell with some school mates and we loved it. We started going regularly after that and used to go and stand in what they called “the chocolate boxes” because as I remember, that’s where families and younger supporters would watch the games. Later we joined the Milton Road end terrace where the main singing and chanting happened. I remember it being really good fun – but this was the 1970s – so being quite young and small it was a bit scary at times too. I remember things getting a bit “lively” at times – particularly when Man United visited.’
Who have been your favourite characters involved with the club over the years? Any you’d think would make good comedy performers?
TN ‘I have to admit I had a bit of a break following football from about 1977, when I discovered Punk Rock and girls, until about the year 2000 when a mate encouraged me to join a Fantasy Football league – so it would be dishonest to pretend I was anything but a part-time supporter really! Anyway I won the Fantasy Football League that season with my team – (which was called Treverton – nothing to do with Everton – just a daft pun) and my star striker was Marians Pahars. I also had Wayne Bridge in defence. The prize money for winning the league was £50 – but I never received it – otherwise I would definitely owe it all to those key Saints players! When I was a kid, players like Ron Davies, Terry Paine and Mick Channon were favourites. In 1976, following the FA cup win, I lined the streets of Southampton to congratulate the team with everyone else, holding a banner which I’d made out of an old bed sheet, proudly aloft which read “Laurie’s Miracle Men”. I think some other fans were a bit miffed that I was suggesting the win was a “miracle” and not through sheer skill and determination – which it obviously was as well – but I still think there was a hint of the miracle about the whole occasion! Bobby Stokes will always be a favourite for that reason. During that season I remember me and my mates used to think the substitute Hugh Fisher was a bit of a comedy performer – but we were just cheeky teenagers and I’m sure it was completely unfair!’
Having performed all over the country, has football and supporting Saints got you into any trouble on stage?
TN ‘Football has never really got me into any trouble at all – I’ve never taken it that seriously – but whenever I have performed in and around the Portsmouth area – I know how to wind up the audience!’
Do you get to St. Mary’s much?
TN ‘I’m ashamed to say that I have never visited St Mary’s. I live in Broadstairs now in East Kent, which is nearer to Belgium than Southampton, so I don’t visit my old home often these days. My son is an Arsenal supporter (don’t blame me!) so a friend arranged for me to take him to watch Saints play Arsenal at the Emirates a few seasons ago – it was a difficult day for me. I was surrounded by Gunners cheering and celebrating as they beat Saints 6-1. My son thought it was the best day ever.’
Do you think Saints can achieve European Football this season?
TN ‘Why not? They were more closely in the running a few months back maybe but I’d like to think it could still happen. Doesn’t look like anyone’s going to catch Chelsea but there’s still room for a bit of change below them. It would be fantastic if they can do it – like 1976. If they do I’ll pull the sheet off my bed and make another banner – “Ronald’s Miracle Men”’
I think Simon is a Manchester City fan, not many bragging rights for you at the moment, but both clubs have had some ups and downs over the years, did you console each other trough it or take the mick?
TN ‘We’re both similar in that we’ve come back to football late in life. Simon was a childhood City fan in the days of Mike Summerbee. He’s very passionate about City now but neither of us take it seriously enough to worry about any rivalry. We gently tease each other sometimes and occasionally we even back each other’s side but only when they’re playing against Chelsea or United!’
What would Ken and Eddie have made of Kevin Keegan’s haircut?
TN ‘When Roger Daltrey visited Ken and Eddie’s barber shop they were offended when he asked for a perm in reverse because of course they “don’t do perms” backwards or forwards – but I think a Reverse Perm is what Kevin would need.’
‘Kevin Keegan had the ultimate “footballer’s haircut” – his hair was shaped like a football.’
Trev & Simon, along with Sophie Aldred (Ace in Dr Who), are launching a new comedy sci-fi audio podcast called Strangeness in Space – full details at www.strangenessinspace.com, check it out!
Now, I appreciate that this blog is going to paint me as somewhat of a hypocrite, but as someone who still believes in the ‘romance’ of the FA Cup I have to fall on my sword and accept that the best possible outcome of this year’s competition now is that one of Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool lift the famous trophy – and better still, two of them contest the final.
While, under normal circumstances I would love to see a club like West Brom or Aston Villa upset the status quo, my only real concern is that of Southampton and a more ‘regular’ winner would keep the European dream alive.
The situation is this: Chelsea’s League Cup win was of great benefit to Saints (cheers Jose!) as it meant the Europa League spot allocated to the winners is passed back…
As I watched Southampton crash out of the FA Cup to an impressive Crystal Palace performance I was absolutely gutted.
Another year and another without a major trophy for my beloved club, taking the tally up to 40 years come next seasons cup final. Soul destroying, especially given the team we have this season and the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Spurs are already out.
Bob Dylan once said ‘For the times they, they are a’changin’ and what I found to my dismay, with regards to my fellow Saints fans that certainly rings true now.
Some of them seemed genuinely pleased that we were out, with the rhetoric that we ‘can concentrate on the league’ very much the reason. I was so stunned to see such a lack of regard for actually ‘winning’ a competition…
Saints prepare to take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Saturday, the first time the two sides have met in the competition since 1976, and I’ve heard it on the grapevine that that was a particularly good year.
At this early stage, the current generation of Saints fans is still dreaming of its own ’76 and that is what makes this competition still special. For fans of clubs like ours and Palace, winning trophies is not a regular occurrence and no matter how much the FA promotes its flagship competition to the sponsors they will not dampen the dreams of 32,000 people at St Mary’s.
As is so often the case these days, the victor may be the manager who ‘shuffles their pack’ with the least vigour. In that respect, Ronald Koeman has resisted the urge to tinker too much in cup…