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!
24th May 2011. Ian Brown, former frontman of Manchester based Indie sensations the Stone Roses will sing classic Roses tune “This is the One” as Manchester United take to the field against Juventus for Gary Neville’s Testimonial game.
What a send off, and for me a fitting one. For Neville, in my opinion was the finest right back of his generation, and one that England haven’t replaced. Now, I appreciate that, this isn’t going to be popular opinion. Neville is what you might call a “marmite” player. You either love him or you hate him. I fall firmly into the former category. Neville is a player that everybody would love to have in their team(bare with me). He played every minute in a Manchester United and England shirt like a fan would. Passion, doesn’t do it justice.
Just look at his exploits with his M62 neighbours. The derby games between the two biggest clubs in English football is one of the best there is, and certainly overshadows both their respective same city encounters. Neville almost took on the role of pantomime villain in these games, most famously fist pumping, and badge kissing in front of the Liverpool fans after one victory. But that is how a fan would celebrate, and that is the kind of thing that fans love to see their players do, but hate from the opposition. I got the impression that he knew how fans felt in particular situations. I can remember a couple of disappointing England games where he stayed out on the pitch and clapped every section of the crowd, long after his teammates had skulked off down the tunnel. Neville cared.
Some would say Neville was a whiner, and perhaps he was, but you could tell that he played every second with his heart on his sleeve and sometimes that would spill over into over enthusiasm. But for once, he was a player that people disliked only for his antics on the pitch. Off it, Neville didn’t cut the figure that many a modern day footballer does. You never saw pictures of him in the tabloids doing anything controversial, no falling drunk out of nightclubs, or leaving with “mystery blondes”. Neville comes across as a quiet, and unassuming family man away from the game, I’m sure much to the delight of Sir Alex, and his professionalism was often remarked upon.
But Nevilles career, was not all about professionalism and passion. He was also a great player. Another success story fromt he early 90’s youth setup at Old Trafford, Neville may never have had the flair, or ability of a Scholes or a Beckham, but he carved out a long and successful tenure as a dependable defender who was also a great crosser of the ball. It is tantamount to the man, that he started his career and ended it at the very top. How many play 19 seasons without leaving the top three places in the Premier League? Somewhat rewarded for his loyalty to United, but you can hardly picture him playing for anybody else, and one club men are hard to come by these days!
While his club career was trophy laden, his international career of course wasn’t, but then what Englishman’s is? Neville hit the scene at just the right time for England. Paul Parker’s fine run as England right back was over, Lee Dixon and Rob Jones flirted with the position, and even the likes of David Bardsley, Earl Barrett and Warren Barton had a go, but we were crying out for someone as dependable as Neville. Nevilles right hand side partnership with his best mate David Beckham was a joy to watch in the late 90’s early 00’s and I for one am sure, that Beckham’s glittering England career may not have been as successful without his reliable clubmate behind him. 85 caps is a record for England right backs, which certainly isn’t to be scoffed at. Neville’s doubters will always say he lacked competition for the place, but I don’t buy that. Jamie Carragher and Danny Mills were both kept at bay by Neville and in truth, I am not sure any other competition would have succeeded either and since he left the international scene, we have struggled in that area again, Glen Johnson, still not looking the part. Neville’s class was not lost on old foe Carragher “For me he’s the best full-back the Premier League’s had. And also just behind David Beckham probably one of the best crossers of the ball we’ve seen. A great player, great pro and to play at that level for so long is a fantastic achievement so I take my hat off to him.”
There will always be those that dislike Gary Neville, and equally those that regard him as a legend, but I hope that, as he brings the curtain down on a highly succesful career, the majority can admit that they (albeit begrudgingly) respect him.
As Saints prepare to take on Swindon Town today, one of football’s strangest traditions is brought to prominence. The Bogey Team.
Saints have failed to beat the Robins since August 1993, alright there have only been five games since, but those have been five defeats, with Saints scoring just one goal! This kind of record brings out the pessimist in even the most “glass half full” type of supporter. Swindon have been on increasingly poor form this season, which has seen them plummet into a relegation battle, having not taken maximum points from a game for two months. This won’t stop the Southampton faithful fearing this game, more than any other.
In recent meetings, Charlie Austin has been the Saints “Tormenter in Chief”, solitary goals for the striker have been the deciding factor in two of the games. Austin also chipped in with a goal when the Robins turned Saints over 0-3 at St. Mary’s earlier this season as they weakly submitted to an early Johnstones Paint Trophy defeat. The result only made more painful by the performance of former Saints player Vincent Pericard, who scored the other two goals, two more than he scored in his whole Southampton stay!
Swindon, aren’t are only bogey team of course, for years Saints fans would have told you that Everton held that mantle. For obvious reasons, we haven’t played Everton too often recently, but back in the day the Toffees were the side we never seemed to beat.
The stand out defeat for Saints against the blue half of Merseyside would certainly be the 1996 7-1 demolition at Goodison Park. Saints lined up with former England man Chris Woods in goal, as the Toffees ran riot, going 5-0 up in the first thirty five minutes. In some sort of twisted irony, Woods was appointed goalkeeping coach at Goodison the following season, a position he has held ever since!
It isn’t all bad news for the Saints fan though, as we have also been a bogey team ourselves. Famously Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominant 90’s team had a mental block when it came to visiting the South Coast. Ferguson blamed the new grey away strip in 1996 for their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Dave Merrington’s men, but in less than six months later, United and their more striking Blue and White strip were despatched 6-3 in one of the Premier League’s most celebrated matches.
More recently, in times when sending the likes of Manchester United packing are behind us, we have become the bogey team for perhaps less glamorous sides. MK Dons would have hoped to have never seen the Saints again after last season. In Saints four defeats of the Dons, they racked up ten goals, conceding just two. That hoodoo was broken pretty quickly though. In the sides first meeting this season, the Dons ran out 2-0 winners in what was Nigel Adkins first game in charge. The Dons were also under new manager, Karl Robinson, so was it that Saints were MK Dons bogey team? Or perhaps more like Paul Ince’s?
Perhaps that would be answered at Meadow Lane back in October, Ince took charge of Notts County for the first time, and could be forgiven for hoping for different opposition. Predictably Saints ran out 1-3 winners, making it five defeats in five for Ince against the Saints. Ince has since got a draw in the return fixture at St. Mary’s, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to record a win. Should Saints get the promotion they desperately crave, it could be some time before they meet again.
So what have we learned, Bogey teams, definitely exist. I am sure of that, but they don’t last forever, and changes in circumstances change the dynamics of “bogey team law”, something I have just made up. It has been some time since Manchester United have lost to Saints, in fact they have won their last three games at St. Mary’s. Can Saints beat Swindon Town today? Of course. Like MK Dons, we have a new manager, one we haven’t played Swindon under and Charlie Austin has moved on. Chris Woods won’t be in goal, and we won’t be wearing grey.
Will I be putting my hard earned cash on a home win though? No chance.
Well Sir Alex Ferguson did, by playing him on the wing in Manchester United’s FA Cup 5th round victory over non-league Crawley Town! And thanks go to him for that!
Bebe played so woefully bad, that he is being compared to the one and only Ali Dia(George Weah’s Cousin), and in the weekend I launched this site that couldn’t be better timing. Having witnessed both Dia and Bebe though, I have to say, he has a long way to go to reach those levels of incompetence, let’s see if he ends up on trial at Gateshead in the summer……
The Southampton Football Club Blog that doesn't like to take itself too seriously!