This blog was born partly out of frustration. Football fans always have the most to say when times are hard and when I created georgeweahscousin.com in February 2011, Saints (though well on their way back up) were in League One for the second season. Little did I know then that 4 and a bit years later I would be sat here contemplating a Europa League opener against Vitesse Arnhem.
The way the club has embraced it’s entry into the secondary European club competition has been admirable. Cheap tickets will see a packed St. Mary’s tonight, and making the matchday programme (I refuse to call it magazine, we have to keep some traditions alive!) free is another great gesture from the owners who despite considerable public criticism in the last couple of years keep rewarding those who voice their concerns.
It is a breath of fresh air that the club is taking the competition seriously, and why not? Let’s be honest, European football has hardly been a mainstay in the history of being a Saints fan and though the Europa League might be considered a folly to some of our more prestigious friends from the Premier League this is a big deal to us.
The last time Saints made it into Europe, they were eliminated at the first attempt. At the time you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was to be the first of many forays on to the continent, but alas a lot of water has passed under the Itchen Bridge in the 12 years that followed. My career has taken me to considerably more countries than Saints have visited in that time but hopefully that is about to change.
Many, myself included long resisted the desire to be in Europe. Falling into the trappings that it can do damage to a club’s season due to fixture congestion, but isn’t it about time we stopped comparing ourselves to other clubs?
We aren’t Everton, and we certainly aren’t Wigan or Hull. We are Southampton, and we are building a reputation for destroying reputations. We also have a wealth of talent in our youth ranks, and we have to believe that we have a squad capable of fighting on four fronts. ‘Fortune favours the brave’, ‘He who dares wins’ and many other famous motto’s can be applied to the situation, but the one that should echo the most with the fans as they enter the turnstiles this evening is ‘Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try’.
There is still a tendency in the collective media to find fault in anything that happens at Saints, and they will be waiting with baited breath for a bad run of form so they can talk about a ‘stretched’ squad and lack of experience. If there is one thing that’s made the last few years even more enjoyable than it was anyway it is our constant proving these ‘experts’ wrong. So let’s do it again. Let’s take this competition seriously while maintaining a decent league position and let them damn with faint praise.
In fact, let’s win it. That would really piss them off.
Keep the faith.