Tag Archives: The Championship

Keeping Up With The Daggers….

 “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.

Poyet v Adkins. Mouths of the South?

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.

Adkins gets a warm reception from the Withdean Crowd. Image courtesy of Russell Masters.

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…..

Fonte celebrates the Withdean winner. We didn't care though honest.

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….

Chris

Split Loyalties. Can’t We All Just Get Along….

“A hero has faced it all: he need not be undefeated, but he must be undaunted.” – Andrew Bernstein

Without the likes of Matt Le Tissier we would have no history.

Without Nicola Cortese we would have no future.

Two men. Two passions. Both with a significant input into the fortunes of this football club, be it recently or in the past. Both deserving of respect from the Saints faithful.

Le Tissier will always be the hero. The maverick, who has put smiles on more Saints fans, more times than any of us could put a number on. His contribution to Southampton Football Club is well documented and indisputable. A man of unrivalled loyalty, choosing to stay at our relatively small club over fame and fortune at those more glamourous.

Cortese is still the new boy in town. The businessman overseeing a reversal in the fortunes of the club. His contribution to Southampton Football Club is recent, yet crucial. Without him we may not be here. The club has gone from deaths door to the prime of life, breaking on the pitch records on an almost weekly basis.

Yet, the two of them, and the personal issue that exists between them is causing unrest and bickering between fans, at a time when the club is sat at the top of the Championship and supporters should be enjoying a period of settled success and enjoyment.

Some fans have never warmed to the Chairman. Mainly because he has introduced financial policies, that mean, while the fans get a worse deal than they have in the past, the club is on a sound business footing. This never used to be the case for Le Tissier, he always had the fans on his side. All of them. The recent bickering with the chairman has seen that change though, with some fans questioning the great man, and his intentions. This is a sad state of affairs, and fans taking sides upsets me a lot.

Le Tissier. True Saint.

I have no side in this argument. I back the Chairman, as his running of the club has impressed me greatly. At the same time, I am not going to turn my back on my footballing hero, a man whose signed photo sits proudly framed on my living room wall.

Le Tiss has never struck me as a man only in it for himself. His record as a player would suggest that not be the case, he clearly has a lot of friends in the game, and Mr. Cortese’s interview in The Sun newspaper even prompted Jeff Stelling to give a heart felt public defence of Matt on Soccer Saturday.

I have no first hand knowledge of whether Le Tissier, or for that matter any other ex-player have ever ‘expected’ freebies from the club. My opinion on the matter is that someone of his stature amongst the clubs history should always be treated as a guest of the club if he wants to attend a match, but at the same time shouldn’t be allowed to phone the club and ask for x number of tickets for friends.

Perhaps the bad blood is a hangover from Le Tissier’s involvement with a rival bidding consortium when Cortese was trying to buy the club. Perhaps it is some ticket confusion. Perhaps it is about an ex-players anniversary dinner. Perhaps it is because of comments by both men in the media. Perhaps we will never know.

It makes me wonder what might have been. Had Le Tissier not been involved with the Pinnacle consortium and was still in his ambassadorial role with the club, when Cortese and the Liebherr family took over, I wonder if we now be enjoying a united front from the two men. If only.

Nicola Cortese. New Saint.

I just hope that one day we can see them watching a game together. No dispute is unresolvable, especially between two men whose ultimate goals for the football club should be of the same view. The chairman may need to accept that ex-players will always be spoken to about the club in the media, and are allowed to vent their opinion, and Le Tissier may need to accept that the chairman is in charge, he can run the club how he likes, and he is doing a good job. I would appeal to fans that to take sides isn’t necessary. To go against the Chairman, is to effectively go against the club and to go against Le Tissier is to stab a man who gave you everything in the back.

There is only one number I want to be in, the one we should all be in. When the Saints go marching in. Together.

Chris.