The England Manager has walked out, Liverpool are heading to the League Cup Final, Portsmouth are facing the possibility of relegation after financial woes, Saints have been knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round but occupy a promotion spot, chasing Sam Allardyce’s side to the top flight as they face Burnley on a February Saturday….
Sound familiar? Well all that happened in the 1977/78 season, the last time Saints secured promotion to the top division.
Ok, some of them maybe rather tenuous coincidences, but in the eyes of the superstitious any parallels can and will be drawn!
Pulling the strings at the Dell in the late seventies was Alan Ball and once they had entered the promotion spots in early January they were never to leave them.
Goals from new boy Phil Boyer and strike partner Ted MacDougall were key as they eventually finished second to a Bolton side containing now West Ham manager Sam Allardyce. They almost nicked top spot, drawing their last two games to see them fall a point short, but Lawrie McMenemy’s men were good value for their promotion and it would bring top flight football to the Hampshire coast for twenty seven consecutive seasons.
Saints beat Burnley yesterday in an impressive showing and the fans will be hoping that the recent shaky home form has been put behind them. Perhaps now the 2011/12 side can emulate that of the boys of 78 and lose just one more game between the 12th of February and the end of the season…..
Since Sky television made it’s presence felt in the world of football broadcasting, the traditional Saturday three pm kick off time has become less set in stone. Particularly in the Premier League, but also in the Football League, fans will find their clubs kick off times changed to suit the demand for television viewing.
In the Football League they have an allocated slot of twenty past five on a Saturday afternoon, so Sky Sports can instantly hook the viewers of the ever popular Soccer Saturday straight into another ninety minutes of action.
Saints took part in one of the most entertaining of these fixtures on this weekend a year ago, Nigel Adkins’ men travelled to London Road to take on Peterborough United and played out a 4-4 draw in front of the cameras. Richard Chaplow, Rickie Lambert (2) and Dean Hammond giving Saints 0-2 and 2-4 leads before a second Posh equaliser deep into injury time.
As fate would have it Saints head to a St. Andrews tonight (weather permitting) for the Sky evening fixture in what looks to be a difficult game against a Birmingham side in devastating form.
So how do Saints fare in these games? Better than you might think.
We have a notion that we are poor in front of the Sky camera’s, but our record in the Saturday 17:20 fixtures is pretty reasonable. Losing just two of their eight games since entering the Football League in 2005 (both coming in the ill fated 2008/09 Championship relegation season), what Saints do seem to guarantee at this kick off time is goals. Of those eight fixtures there has been an average of 3.25 goals in the game!
Saints in fact, opened their time in the Football League in one of these fixtures, a goalless stalemate with Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s on the 6th August 2005.
They didn’t feature again until the 27th October 2007, where goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips, Jason Euell and Stern John saw Saints beat Burnley at Turf Moor by three goals to two.
What followed was a disastrous season in Saints history and it coincided with the two 17:20 defeats. A crushing 1-4 loss at the Ricoh Arena was soon followed by a 0-1 home reverse by Bristol City. Not overly surprising in a season that saw Saints record just ten league wins.
Last years goalfest in Cambridgeshire was next and then in the following month Saints took to the St. Mary’s pitch for an evening kick off again for a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte securing the points.
Saints opened this season as they had their first in the Championship, at home in front of the cameras for the evening kick off. Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly netted to give Saints the best possible start, convincingly beating Leeds United 3-1.
Saints were less convincing at the Madejski Stadium in October, Steve de Ridder rescuing a point with a late leveller against Reading.
Southampton Saturday 17:20 kick off record:-
Played – 8
Won – 3
Drawn – 3
Lost – 2
Goals For – 14
Goals Against – 14
Incidentally today’s opponents Birmingham City’s record in these fixtures is P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 GF 5 GA 5.
What do these statistics prove? Well not a lot really, other than in terms of form they don’t make a hell of a lot of difference!
With West Ham playing in the other television spot, kicking off at half past twelve against arch rivals Millwall, Saints will get started at St. Andrews knowing what they have to do. Let’s hope they give the performance of the weekend! COYR!
“Well, if they can keep with us, maybe.” – Nigel Adkins 23rd November 2010, having been asked if Saints and Brighton would be battling it out for promotion come the end of the season.
Brighton were eight points clear of Saints at the time.
“They play the same kind of football as Dagenham and Redbridge. The only difference is they’ve got (Rickie) Lambert. If you gave Dagenham and Redbridge (Lee) Barnard and Lambert they would be in the top six.” – Gus Poyet speaking on the 23rd April 2011 after Saints 2-1 victory at the Withdean ended Brighton’s undefeated home run.
Southampton were being praised from all corners of the media and opposition fans for their attractive flowing football under Adkins.
Last season something funny happened between the respective prides of Hampshire and Sussex. Almost as a sub-plot to the season, a rivalry (many fans will insist that it wasn’t a rivalry , but it was) developed between two of League One’s South coast clubs. Saints fans had never really cared about Brighton (and vice-versa I am sure), in fact I’ve always kind of liked them, but the events of last season brought about a new outlook on each other, that was fuelled mainly by the quoted comments above.
The great thing about rivalries is that they are the added to spice to any season, and last season’s campaign saw both teams without games against their real rivals. In fact both had been starved of regular derby games for a few years, so when a side reasonably local becomes your main promotion challenger things are likely to hot up. Add to that a sprinkling of former Brighton players now turning out for Saints and there was already enough reasons to see some full blooded encounters between the two.
The fanning of the flames though, didn’t come from the terraces, but from the clubs respective managers.
Nigel Adkins comments, following the 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s were unwise to say the least. Perhaps said tongue in cheek, as we all know Adkins likes a little joke with interviewers, but when you are eight points behind, it was enough ammunition to make the Saints boss a figure of hate for the Seagulls faithful. The disdain from the Saints fans point of view came from events on the pitch in that game. I was never a fan of Poyet as a player, and what I saw that night was a team very much influenced by their manager. Time wasting, play acting and imaginary card waving seemed to be the order of the day from the team in blue and white and incensed the Saints fans.
So the scene was set for the rest of the season.
The build up to the return match at the Withdean was almost comical, mainly because despite the months of ‘banter’ between the two sets of fans, both claimed to not really care about the other. The banners made especially for Nigel Adkins by the Brighton fans and the wild celebrations of the Saints fan after Jose Fonte’s winner would suggest nothing could be further from the truth. Another incident surrounding this match, that was blown out of proportion was the non-guard of honour. A contentious issue no doubt, but one that was spoken about far more because of the bad blood that had already built up between the clubs. Brighton were deserved champions, and under any other circumstances I am sure that Saints would have obliged, but I backed Adkins decision then, and I do now. Guards of honour are usually provided by teams with nothing left to play for in a season, and when the game means nothing to either side. That certainly wasn’t the case for a Saints team still chasing automatic promotion and the game clearly did mean a lot to both teams, managers and fans.
If Saints fans had cringed in November when Adkins had made his vocal faux pas, it was time for the Brighton fans to put their fingers in their ears, as a clearly disappointed Poyet came out with his uninformed and factually incorrect rant after the game. A man who had also claimed that the game wasn’t important to him, but had withdrew the ball boys with twenty minutes to go when 1-0 up, Poyet’s South American passion had clearly got the better of him.
The comments may have been fair had they been aimed at Saints under Alan Pardew, who did like to go the direct route often, but it was now a weapon that was used only rarely by Adkins, albeit effectively to seal a last minute winner at the Withdean. The most insulting thing about it though was the disrespect to the Saints squad, dismissed as pawns for Lambert by Poyet. Many Saints fans (myself included) have since take glee from the reports of opposition fans in Brighton’s last few games, which suggest that since the signing of Billy Paynter, Poyet himself has mixed it up a bit with some punts to the big man, style is one thing, adapting to situations is another…..
So where does it leave us this season? As Saints and Brighton prepare to face off for the first time in the new campaign, things have very much died down. Brighton have found the step up slightly tougher than Saints, but neither has looked out of their depth. We both have our ‘real’ rivals to worry about now.
Saturday will have some needle though, there is no doubt about that. Poyet won the war last year, but didn’t win any battles and that will hurt him. Nigel Adkins and the Saints players will be fuelled by the Dagenham and Redbridge comments, and both sides will be looking at a possible reverse of the unbeaten home record situation.
It will be a good game, of that I am sure, and a little bit of rivalry and friendly banter never hurt anybody. We will rib Gus, and the Seagulls fans will rib Nigel, but I expect it will all be done with an undertone of begrudging respect for the fantastic jobs both men have done.
Both teams play nice football, and there are some great players in both sides. The additions to Brighton’s squad this season, particularly Mackail-Smith and Vicente are impressive and this could be Saints toughest home game so far. Let’s hope that the talking points all come from the pitch though, and not the post match interviews.
I for one can say honestly, that I have enjoyed the online battle of wills with the Brighton fans, and found it to be humour filled and fun, and long may it continue. Can you keep up?
Spare a thought for poor old Dagenham & Redbridge though. Staring non-league football in the face, but for a Rickie Lambert they would be on the brink of the Premier League….
That seems to be the question on many a googler’s lips, and one of many weird and wonderful search terms that lead people to this site.
Unfortunately for them, they will of course leave disappointed, I have no idea whether Seaborne is single or not, and this isn’t a lonely hearts site. What I do know, is that he maybe a centre half about to find himself in an incredibly unlucky position.
Signed from Exeter City in January 2010, he has largely played second fiddle to Radhi Jaidi as the man to partner Jose Fonte, and was often criticised for being less than cultured a player when he did deputise last season.
The start of this season though, has seen Seaborne given a run in the side alongside Fonte, starting all but the opening game so far. In fairness, his performances have come with mixed reviews, but what does seem clear is that they are much improved. Strong in the air, and pulling off some last ditch saving tackles, Seaborne has proved a few people wrong in the early stages of the campaign and has been part of a fantastic and record breaking start for the club, so it now seems a little unfair that everybody seems certain that the club needs to invest in a new defender.
Ammer Jemal, Kasper Gorkss, and Liam Fontaine have been the names touted to come in at St. Mary’s, but I am not 100% sure we need them. In Seaborne and Aaron Martin we have two young centre halves chomping at the bit, and in a season opening that has seen just one unlucky defeat so far, haven’t really put a foot wrong.
I know that we should be constantly looking at improving the squad and perhaps Seaborne in particular may be a victim of the way we want to play possession football, with every man needing to be comfortable on the ball, but this is still England, and still the Championship and someone of Seaborne’s build, strength and ability will no doubt come in handy against particular sides. Personally I have always been a fan of having two centre halves of differing styles, one continental type, the other old fashioned English bruiser!
Whatever happens in the next twenty four hours, and whether a new defender is brought in or not, hopefully Dan Seaborne has a GSOH and WLTM the challenge head on…