Eight things about Saints’ 2012 Premier League start

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1. I know I should be pleased about how things have gone so far

But it’s hard to be. The two 2-1 leads we’ve dropped were to the best two teams in the country, yes. And we’ve enjoyed periods of attacking brilliance against both. BUT we’ve still dropped two 2-1 leads. And we’re bottom of the table. And our defence looks suspect.

2. It’s Wigan that sticks in the throat

If we’d had got three points at home to Wigan then two fantastic losing displays against City and United would feel much sweeter. But we cannot afford to be a team that turns it on against the big boys and doesn’t turn up against the rest.

3. For the first time ever I’m critical of Adkins

Not so much for the Manchester City loss. But to take off our most effective attacking players in Lallana and Lambert to try and defend our way to victor against United was madness. Our defence is weak. Our best form of defence is attack. As soon as we started dropping deeper and hoofing the ball up the pitch the United game was only going to head one way. As we bought in so little in the way of defenders in the transfer window, let’s just stick at what we’re obviously good it – aggressive, skilful attacking play. We can outscore opponents but I’m not confident we can contain them.

4. But that doesn’t mean talk of Adkins losing his job isn’t ludicrous

Because it is. This man has seen us through two successive promotions and led us to our first silverware in decades (yes, the Johnstone Paint Trophy counts as silverware). Adkins made an error today, but I’m sure he knows that. He has the team playing progressive, positive football and he’s built a decent squad. And if nothing else he’s earned a stab at the Premiership. They say results are what counts but, y’know, sometimes decency counts for more. Not that I think Adkins will need to rely on sentiment to retain his employment. He’s one of the brightest young managers in the country and is the right man for the job. There are only three managers I’d swap him for – Ferguson, Wenger and Moyes. Judas Redknapp, of all people, is not welcome.

5. £29.3m

We made the third most expensive signing of transfer deadline day (Ramirez – £12m) and were the joint fifth biggest spenders in the window (£29.3m). That’s a good spend, too – not silly spend (although I might reassess that if we do indeed bring in Del Piero on 1m Euros a year as rumoured). Clyne looks the business. Rodriguez? Who knows, as the £7m transfer (who seemed on the pricey side) can’t get a game at the moment. Time will tell if Ramirez proves to be the hit pundits are expecting, or if Mayuka can cut it in the Prem. Davis is a sound signing. God knows about the two keepers. But it’s good. It shows that Cortese and his adopted family means business. We’re on solid ground.

6. Super Rickie Lambert

Nothing has pleased me more than Lambert getting on the Premier League’s scoresheet. Two goals in three games. And against the two Manchester’s too. As with Adkins, he’s earned his top flight chance after years of success in the lower leagues. I had no idea if he’d cut it in the Championship last season. He ended up as the top scorer. I’m now sure he has the goods to do well in the Prem and I sincerely wish him all the best. A true Saints No.7.

7. Our friend Billy Sharp

In the same way that Lambert and Adkins have earned their chance this year, Billy did the same. So I was really quite upset when we shipped him out to Forest. The club let itself down there.

8. And Ward-Prowse and Schneiderlin

I’m not sure if anyone saw these successes coming. Morgan never really stamped hi authority on the Championship but looks right at home in the top league. And 17 year old Ward-Prowse! Credit again to Adkins – he saw it, and James is delivering.

Southampton 6 – 3 Man Utd

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No, this wasn’t the game with the grey kit. Man United used that particular excuse the season before when we beat them 3-1 at The Dell.

I’m writing this post for one reason only. When trying to find information about it earlier today I was disgusted to find that one of the greatest Premier League victories ever seen is barely documented on the internet. It’s my duty as a Saint to address this injustice. Though I’ll never be able to change the fact that we were still last on Match of the Day. We best the reigning champions 6-3. And we were last. On MOTD. Last?

Anyway.

Matthew Le TissierThis game was unlike any I’ve ever experienced in my life. The only games to come close were to come later. January 1997, at home to Newcastle. The Magpies hadn’t beaten us at home for over 20 years but we were 2-0 with just minutes to go. A scrambled Maddison header on the line was seemingly too little, too late. But Magic Matt Le Tiss had othjer ideas, salvaging a point with an injury time volley from 20 yards. Euphoria. It was Le Tiss again in 2002 when, by his own admission, Matt had waddled his way through an unfit and mainly forgettable season. But it was our last ever game at The Dell and there was only one man who could deliver a fitting end, as impossible as it seemed on that day. We were 2-2 with Arsenal when Matt pottered off the bench to score an injury time winner. The last goal at The Dell. His last goal for the club. An amazing, amazing day.

Oh, and Liverpool’s Champions League win in 2005 was pretty special too.

But I digress.

October 26th, 1996. Just a few weeks after England’s unbearable exit from Euro 96 at the hands of Germany and a few months after Kevin Keegan’s glorious “I’d love that” rant aimed at Man Utd, who had gone on to overturn Newcastle’s seemingly un-overturnable lead to claim the league, and the domestic double.

This match came at a time when I was going to nearly every home game at The Dell. It was also exactly one week after I survived what can rightly be described as an horrific car crash. I was in a bad way. Broken nose, shattered nerves. Head was all over the place. I nearly didn’t go to the game, god forbid. But I did. And for 90 minutes and a good few hours afterwards it was all forgotten.

United were on incredible form. Their season had kicked off with Beckham’s 50-yard chip at Wimbledon and they’d barely lost a game since. Apart from the week before when Newcastle had the nerve to thump them 5-0. Which undoubtedly would have annoyed United.

We were fearful in the stands. I remember the bloke next to me observing that the players “looked well fucked off” when they emerged from the tunnel. That means “angry”, and he was right. All of which meant we gave them a particularly hostile reception, with the notable exception of Eric Cantona who, despite being a Manc, was greeted with an appreciative round of applause upon his appearance from the tunnel. He was the best Manc, after all. Though no Le Tiss, obviously.

Our season so far under Souness had been mixed, and continued to be so, leading to yet another final day escape. We were good at those until Harry ‘Judas’ Redknapp came along.

Eyal BerkovicThe match didn’t take long to get going. Unspectacular but admirably solid Norwegian striker Egil Ostenstad saw his shot parried by Peter Schmeichel in just the sixth minute only for Israeli midfield marvel Eyal Berkovic, our man of the match on the day for sure, to tuck in the spillage. Roy Keane was booked amidst the celebrations and, quite tragically, saw a second yellow in just the 20th minute. We gave him the ‘wanker’ as he left down the tunnel. It was 1996 – he gave us the wanker back. Fair play.

But better was yet to come. Weaving his way around the Man Utd defense, Magic Matt then proceeded to do the impossible – chip all six feet and four inches of Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who at the time was barely off his line. He had the decency to do it right in front of me, too. Honestly, I love Matthew Le Tissier. Actually love him. Even though he’s a man.

Being the selfish twats they are, however, United wouldn’t leave us be and quickly emerging superstar David Beckham selfishly curled in a free kick just before the break. But we were spared a tense half time, fortunately, after Ostenstad made it 3-1 from a tight angle.

Just ten minutes after the re-start, though, and fresh from a proper Ferguson-style grilling United were back on the offensive. Amazingly, it was the hapless David May who scored their second. The next 30 minutes was, frankly, dreadful for us Saints. United kept coming at us. They were relentless. Beckham had a free kick go unbearably close and we could feel the points slipping from our grasp. But the next ten minutes more than made up for it. They were possibly the best ten minutes of my life.

Egil OstenstadAs was fitting for such a performance, in the 83rd Berkovic sent us into raptures with a breathtaking 25 yard volley to regain our two goal lead. Just two minutes later the Israeli then delivered an exquisite through ball for Ostenstad, whose second of the match made it 5-2 and sealed the win. But there was still more to come. Ginger Scholes pulled one back, not that it had any effect on our mood. I don’t think I’ve ever hugged other men so affectionately. I could have happily bummed or indeed been bummed by any of the fellas around me when Ostenstad completed his hat-trick in the 90th minute with a tidy finish that went in off Phil Neville. The FA still gave it to our boy, though, as was only fitting.

I work in an office with video gamers. Of our eight editorial team members, four have little or no interest in football. I don’t necessarily blame them. 22 blokes kicking a ball of leather around a bit of grass is stupid, undeniably. But the reason why football is genuinely magical is that it’s not really about 22 blokes, grass and leather. It’s about togetherness, tribal rivalries, saddening failure and glorious victory.

Ever see that scene in The Next Generation where Geordie tries to describe ‘anger’ to Data without referencing other emotions? In short, he can’t. Describing how it feels to support a football team is much the same. You either get it or you don’t. You just can’t understand it until you experience it. I mean, in all honesty I don’t really understand it myself. It’s beyond logic and totally irrational. But it’s inside you. It’s ingrained. And for all the pain that comes with it, it’s a wonderful thing. My life would be demonstrably less without it.

If you don’t support a football team then you’ll never know how I felt that day, in that rickety old stadium filled with 15,250+ fans, seeing my shitty old Southampton FC toppling one of the best clubs in the world. And I feel sorry for you.

Don’t feel too sorry for yourself, however. You’ll never feel how I did when Saints were relegated. Or when we went into administration. Or when we got relegated again. Or when Le Tissier’s consortium bid failed. Or when our savior Markus Liebherr died.

It really is a funny old game.