A famous pundit once said that football is a ‘funny old game’, well sometimes it isn’t.
I was contacted recently by fellow Saints fan Jimmy Hayes with some information about the ‘Why and When Campaign’ focused on raising awareness of the plight that fans of Coventry City find themselves in.
The situation is close to my heart for a number of reasons. Firstly because I love my football club, and I know how it feels to be at the point where you don’t know if you will soon even have one, secondly because I now live in the city of Coventry and I work alongside it’s people and those who have supported the club for years. The third reason is a selfish need for nostalgia. Perhaps I am getting old, but in recent years more than ever I have felt grief for the loss of the game I first knew, and the 1987 FA Cup final was very much a part of that.
The people who started the problems at Coventry were once linked with a takeover for Saints. It doesn’t bare thinking about, but for the fans of the Sky Blues it is reality, and now they find their team playing it’s home games in Northampton. The people behind the campaign tell us more:
Andy Scaysbrook (Lifelong Coventry City fan, and award winning photojournalist) ‘I grew up watching Coventry City, from the age of 6, my family were season ticket holders. My Father and my Grandad took me to Highfield Road during the days of the Sky Blue revolution that was led by Jimmy Hill in the 60’s.
I started my photographic career working for the club, shooting action pictures for the matchday programme. In my 44 years of being a City fan I have travelled all over the country to support the team. We have been through some terrible times over the years but the situation at the club is now desperate. Through all of this, the fans have stood firm and sought to work to try and find a solution to the horrendous situation we now find ourselves in.
I know many City fans and the desperation they feel is awful. I want to be able to put these feelings into pictures and help raise the profile of our plight, hence the Why & When photography campaign.’
Jimmy Hayes ‘As a Southampton fan, I have seen us take the terrible tumble through the leagues, have seen managers, chairman and owners come and go. I, and thousands of others have felt the horrible uncertainty that comes with it. What has happened to Coventry could have easily happened to us. Football club owners should always have the best interest of the club and the fans at heart. If we, the fans, stand together, perhaps we can stop this happening in in the future.’
The first phase of the campaign is based around seven images with the following message:
“We are the sons and daughters of the City of the Phoenix…
Generations have rallied together to fight side by side for what is right.
The people of our city have stood together, through wars, economic depression and social upheaval. We have survived even when the odds were stacked against us.
Coventry City Football Club has been our port in the storm, a rallying point, a shelter, a reason for hope and a chance to dream…
The spirit of Coventry is an unstoppable force. Born from adversity it has gathered strength through generations of Cov Kids. It’s time to fight again…
Our famous club is under threat and stands on the brink of losing its identity. When loyal fans, generations old and new cannot watch a game in the city they love, the time has come to stand up and be counted…
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!
Saints head to the Ricoh Arena tomorrow to face struggling Coventry City.
The midlands side find themselves in the relegation zone, and Saints will be looking to avenge the last time they travelled to the Ricoh which resulted in a 4-1 defeat in October 2008. Ex-Saint Leon Best was the chief tormenter that day and netted the third Sky Blues goal, getting on the end of current Saint Danny Fox’s cross.
Hoping to be fit to face his old club this time round will be Best’s former Saints teammate Martin Cranie, although having suffered a rib injury against Barnsley at the start of October he hasn’t featured for the Sky Blues in the last five games.
Cranie never set the world alight in his brief spell in the first team at St. Mary’s, but he could be considered an unfortunate victim of circumstance.
The Somerset youngster joined the Saints Academy in 2003, and was part of the successful youth team that reached the 2005 FA Youth Cup Final but it couldn’t have been a worse time to get your chance with the first team…
Cranie had already had a disastrous start to his first team life at St. Mary’s, putting through his own net in a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea in 2004, but worse experiences were to come for the defender in the 2004/05 season. Having initially been loaned to Bournemouth the youngster was given a chance at Saints under new boss Harry Redknapp, but as Redknapp’s side meandered hopelessly towards Premier League relegation Cranie looked lightweight and out of his depth.
It may be harsh to judge the likes of Cranie, Best and Dexter Blackstock on that terrible season, young players very much thrown in at the worst possible time.
Things didn’t get much better for Cranie, as Saints started life in the Championship, Cranie was used sparingly in 2005/06 and then in the 2006/07 season he spent two spells on loan at hometown club Yeovil.
On the expiry of his contract in the summer of 2007, the eyebrows of most Saints fans were raised when he was signed by former boss Redknapp for Premier League Portsmouth.
Cranie never quite made the grade with the blue few either, and spent most of his time at Fratton Park on loan with Championship side QPR, and then in League One with Charlton Athletic before settling at the Ricoh in 2009 and becoming a regular in the Coventry side.
22nd April 2005, approximately 21:58. Fifteen year old Edward Upson hits the ball first time from twenty five yards. Andrew McNeill is helpless in the Southampton net. Goal Ipswich Town.
A heartbreaking end to a memorable season for the Saints youngsters, losing the FA Youth Cup final with just two minutes of extra time left to be played.
The first leg had been played at St. Mary’s four days earlier, Saints leading through David McGoldrick before being pegged back by a double from Irishman Cathal Lordan, Leon Best netting the equaliser that kept the tie on a knife edge. The second leg had remained goalless despite Saints dominance, Ipswich thankful to keeper Shane Supple that it got to extra time. Seemingly heading for penalties, substitute Upson was the youngest player on the pitch when he stole the headlines, and the silverware for the Suffolk side.
For young lads with the world at their feet, it must have been difficult to take. For some it was to be their career highlight, for others, just the beginning. Football is a cruel world, and as is commonplace, despite being the cream of the crop as young players not all would be destined for the top.
Actually in this instance it was the losers who have fared better, the Saints squad boast four current Premier League players, the Ipswich squad none. While the Saints players have commanded massive transfer fees between them and gained many international caps, the Ipswich team have not. Having said that, not all of the Saints squad has achieved all of their footballing aims.
I decided to find out where they are now, and how different the careers of these players now hitting their peak age of 24/25 have fared.
Andrew McNeil – The Scottish keeper left Saints in January 2006, returning to his native Edinburgh with SPL side Hibernian, he forced his way into the first team at Easter Road, including playing in the 2007 League Cup final win. He was later replaced in the side and released in 2009. He spent a season in the third division with Montrose before signing for First Division Raith Rovers in 2010. He was released by Raith this summer and signed for Livingston where he is currently first choice.
Craig Richards – Local lad Richards was released by Saints in the summer of 2006. He was picked up by Conference side Salisbury City in 2007. Spells at Eastleigh, Bognor Regis Town and Winchester City followed. He now plays for Whitehawk FC in the Ryman League Division One South.
Sebastian Wallis-Tayler – The frenchman left Saints the summer after the Cup Final and signed for Havant & Waterlooville before playing for Bognor Regis Town and Lewes. He is now back in his native France playing for non-league outfit CA Lisieux.
Sean Rudd – After being released by Saints, Rudd had an unsuccessful trial with former club Oxford United before sadly retiring through injury. Now works for a Sports Shoe company.
Martin Cranie – Had already played first team football on loan at Bournemouth and Premier League football for Saints at the time of the Youth Cup final. He played in the Premier League under Harry Redknapp, before finding chances limited under George Burley in the Championship. Cranie had two spells on loan at Yeovil Town before reuniting with Redknapp at Portsmouth for the 2007 season. Spent time at QPR and Charlton on loan before joining Coventry City in 2009 where he is still a regular for the Championship outfit. Has gained caps for England at U21 level.
Lloyd James – The Welsh utility man earned a professional contract with Saints in 2006, and made over seventy first team appearances in the Championship and League One before his somewhat surprise release (having been a regular in the team) in 2010. He soon signed for Colchester United and is now an established member of the U’s first team. A Welsh U21 international.
Tim Sparv – Finnish midfielder Sparv left Saints in 2007 to sign for Swedish club Halmstads BK, he is now playing in the Dutch first division with FC Groningen via a loan spell in his home country. He has been capped fifteen times by Finland.
Nathan Dyer – The tiny winger made his first team debut for Saints at the start of the season following the final. He was loaned to Burnley before coming back and getting more regular gametime at St. Mary’s. He went on loan again to Sheffield United in 2008, before really flourishing at Swansea City, firstly on loan before joining permanently in 2009 and he is now a regular in their Premier League side.
Theo Walcott – Made his first team debut at sixteen and was soon turning heads at a higher level. Chelsea had already shown an interest in him, but it was Arsenal who paid £5 million with a potential outcome of £12 million (although that is seemingly no longer the case) for him in 2006. He has now played over one hundred times for the Gunners. He became the youngest ever full England international in 2006 and was the surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Erikssons’s World Cup Squad of 2006. He has now played eighteen times for his country.
Leon Best – The Irish striker had already played in the Premier League for Saints by the time of the final, and also spent a period on loan with QPR. Further loans with Sheffield Wednesday, Bournemouth and Yeovil Town followed before he rejected a new contract with Saints in 2007 and joined Coventry City, the tribunal setting the fee at £650k. His performances for the Sky Blues were enough to persuade Newcastle United to move for him and is now a first team player with the Toon in the Premier League. He has represented Ireland at senior level.
David McGoldrick – McGoldrick was handed a first team debut in the September following the match at Portman Road, but it would take him another three years and loan spells at Notts County, Bournemouth and Port Vale before he would be considered a regular. He was an ever present in the Saints team that dropped out of the Championship, scoring twelve goals and left for Nottingham Forest for £1 million the following summer.
Kyle Critchell – Defender Critchell was hampered by a serious injury in 2005 and was eventually loaned out to Torquay United in 2006. He was released the following summer and joined Chesterfield. He joined Weymouth in June 2007 before signing for Wrexham the following season, injuries again stunted his progression and he was loaned to York City before rejoining the Terras. He currently plays for hometown club Dorchester Town in the Blue Square South division who he signed for in 2009.
Ashlee Jones – Sub keeper Jones was released in the summer of 2005 and signed for Rushden & Diamonds, he has played for an array of clubs since and eventually made his football league debut for Darlington in 2009, he now plays for Braintree Town in the Blue Square Premier division.
Adam Lallana – The only member of the squad still at St. Mary’s, the creative midfielder is now a lynchpin in Nigel Adkins side and has made one hundred and thirty appearances for the club, now catching the eye of Premier League suitors he has been capped at U21 level by England.
Feliciano Condesso – Portuguese midfielder Condesso left Saints in 2007 without playing for the first team, somewhat surprisingly he joined La Liga side Villarreal but couldn’t break into the first team setup there either. He played for their ‘B’ side in the Spanish third tier before joining UD Logrones and now plays for Ontinyent CF.
Gareth Bale – The youngest member of the Saints squad, aged fifteen, Bale made his first team debut in 2006 and played forty times that season as Saints made it to the Championship play offs. Hot property, the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United were said to be interested, but it was Spurs who signed the Welshman for an initial fee of £5 million that rose to £7 million and Tommy Forescast. Bale struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane to start with, but is now considered one of the best players in the world. A notable hat trick in the Champions League against Inter at the San Siro propelling him to super stardom. He has played thirty times for Wales.
Josh Dutton-Black – Winger Dutton-Black left Saints in 2007 and signed for AFC Totton. He has since had spells at Salisbury, Kidderminster, Eastleigh, Bognor Regis Town and Didcot Town. He now plays for North Leigh in the Southern League Division One South & West.
Shane Supple – Retired. Now a Gaelic Football player.
Michael Synott – Released by League of Ireland side Dundalk in the summer of 2010.
James Krause – Now playing for Cambridge City in the Southern League Premier division.
Chris Casement – Now playing for Linfield in the IFA Premiership. Capped by Northern Ireland.
Aidan Collins – Now playing for the University of London FC.
Sammy Moore – Now playing for AFC Wimbledon in League Two.
Cathal Lordan – Now playing for Cork City in the League of Ireland First division.
Liam Trotter – Now playing for Millwall in the Championship.
Owen Garvan – Now playing for Crystal Palace in the Championship. Eire U21 international.
Liam Craig – Now playing for St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League.
Daryl Knights – Now playing for Newport County in the Blue Square Premier League.
Danny Haynes – Now playing for Barnsley in the Championship.
Blair Hammond – Now playing for Ipswich Wanderers in the Eastern Counties League division one.
Charlie Sheringham – Now playing for Dartford in the Blue Square South.
Ed Upson – Now playing for Yeovil Town in League One.
Andy Reynolds – Now playing for Lowestoft Town in the Ryman Premier divsion.
Stuart Ainsley – Now playing for Lowestoft Town in the Ryman Premier divsion.
It is clear to see that the losing Saints squad have, on the whole fared better than their Ipswich counterparts. Although it is staggering to see that of the thirty four players involved, fifteen of them are now playing at non-league level.
This isn’t a fate exclusive to these young finalists either, of the 2007 Liverpool winning side, only two players have since played for the first team, and only one (Jay Spearing) is still on the fringe. Their defeated opponents that day Manchester United fielded Danny Welbeck who has now become a first team player, the rest of the names are less familiar. In fact if you were to go through the lineups of all the previous finals, you would find only a handful of players plying their trade at the top of the footballing tree. Another case of foreigners ruining the English game? Hardly. These days half the youth teams are foreign players as clubs look to invest abroad as early as possible, all hoping to discover the next Lionel Messi. The fact is the standard required gets higher every season and more are likely to fall by the wayside with every intake. Also, I always wonder how much difference in ability there is between some players playing non-league and those in the lower echelons of the professional game. Not that much I would wager, and in reality we could probably fill another four divisions of professional clubs if it were possible.
Either way, the differing fortunes of some of these young players is a harsh reminder that the career of a footballer is a privilege to be treasured.