My Team & I: Southampton

By Chris Rann
Twitter: @crstig
Why Southampton?
Well…. I was born and bred on the Isle of Wight, which has always been a pretty much 50/50 split between Saints and the blue few, but my mum is from Bootle, and all her family were either diehard Liverpool or Everton fans, subsequently I was inundated with shirts of both on birthdays and christmases from an early age. Call it rebellion, call it self harm, call it a simple sadistic need for hardship, but I shunned the advances of these two trophy laden giants and chose, yes you guessed it. Tranmere Rovers. This didn’t last particularly long, though I still look out for them now. The need to watch games “in the flesh” was too great, I had mates at school who were Saints and Pompey, and it could have gone either way, but the Saints fans asked me first. A lucky escape, I never have liked the smell of fish. It was the 1991/92 season, and we got the ferry early, Saints were playing Arsenal, and if I am honest the away side were the draw for me. To say I was hooked is an understatement, stood on the Upper Milton Road terrace I was enchanted by everything, the noise, the smells, the inflated sense of being part of something. It didn’t matter whether we won or lost, we were in it together. Saints actually did win, 2-0 somewhat of an upset and I ached for the next game, the rest as they say is history.
Favourite Player?
Not a difficult one for people to guess. Matthew Le Tissier embodied everything I would like to be and the spirit of Saints in the mid 90’s. I could wax lyrical about his ability with the ball all day, but I wouldn’t be saying anything anyone hasn’t said before. Not only was he one of the greatest natural talents to grace the English game. He was ours. The frankly ridiculous oversight by successive England managers to not build a team around such talent, or for that matter use it at all, galvanised us against football’s establishment. Not only were we a relative minnow, mixing it with, and often defeating the big boys in the top division but seemingly no matter how well our players were performing they weren’t considered “good enough” for the England setup. Selfishly, I look back on that period now, where England sides came and went, all failing to deliver and I am quite glad Le God didn’t tarnish his reputation with them. I got to see him every week, in red & white stripes, scoring the best goals the Premier League has ever seen. He only ever played for us, and we were extremely privileged to have seen him in action, the relationship he had, and maintains with the supporters is something fans of other clubs may never get to experience, and that is worth more than any trophy.
Favourite Game?
I have to have this as a double header. 2nd December 2003. We had just lost “Mr. Southampton” Ted Bates, a man who had served the club in many capacities for nearly seventy years. The first match after his passing was at home to, of all people Pompey in the League Cup. It was to be the first meeting of the sides in seven years, and for anyone who hasn’t experienced a South Coast derby, they are as fierce as they come. The decision to have a minutes silence for Ted was probably unwise, and could have waited to the next game. The Pompey fans were never going to respect it. Thankfully, once the game started Saints shoved their disrespect down their silence ruining throats, running out 2-0 winners. The iconic image of James Beattie stood in front of the away fans cupping his ear is a gem. After seven years of waiting, the next game arrived just nineteen days later. 21st December 2003, the Pompey fans insistent that our cup victory has been a fluke came to St. Mary’s with even more bile. Saints however, confident from the class gap in the first game went one better and won 3-0, Marian Pahars scoring one of my favourite ever Saints goals and passionately running to the Northam end with eyes full of tears.
Favourite Strip?
It has to be the 2003/04 Uefa Cup kit. Not because it is particularly nice, in fact it isn’t it’s horrible, but for the sheer audacity of the Saints board to decide we needed a special Uefa Cup kit. A common practice of seasoned European campaigners like Man Utd and Liverpool, but Saints? I may be being cynical, as it was a requirement then in European competitions to not have a striped back to a shirt, but surely we could have had altered versions of our normal kit? The fabled kit was certainly not lucky and lasted just two games. Saints limply going out of the competition in the first round to Steaua Bucharest 1-2 on aggregate.
Worst thing about being a Southampton fan?
Our reputation for creating great players, but not keeping hold of them, in the Premier League we created quality sides on several occasions, who perhaps were on the cusp of greatness, but then that team would always be broken up, the calling card of a “selling club”. This has continued for many years from the Wallace brothers and Shearer to our newest star in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who is being touted for a big money move to Arsenal.
Funniest Moment?
Well seeing as I dedicated my entire website to him, Ali Dia or “George Weah’s Cousin” has to be in with a shout. The taking a chance on him, isn’t that funny, we are that sort of club. A friend of mine got a trial around 1995 simply by asking Lawrie McMenemy for one when he was signing autographs at a game. The funny thing is, this guy made in on to the pitch. In the Premier League. Very embarrassing at the time, but not as embarrassing as the Ted Bates statue debacle. The unveiling of a tribute to the clubs longest and most dedicated servant should be a time of class and understated pride. People laughed. Thankfully the club rectified it with a new statue as quick as they could.
Favourite Moment?
It doesn’t take long as a Saints fan to resign yourself to a life more abundant with footballing lows than highs. The FA Cup semi final in 2003 and of course the final were fantastic occasions, seeing my club lift a trophy for the first time in my life in last season in the Johnstone’s Paint Final is something I will never forget, the last day Premier League relegation survival games are fond memories, but actually my favourite moment came as recently as this May. The slump of Saints from Premier League to League One was soul destroying. To add the woe of dropping so low, you aren’t welcomed in any way. Being one of the bigger boys at this level means you are the “team to beat” everyone dislikes you automatically because of your big club “arrogance” and despite never uttering the words yourselves, everyone assumes that you think you will brush everybody aside. When you beat teams you get “well you should with your budget” and when you lose to them it is “you aren’t as good as you like to think you are”. At the start of this season we were sat in 22nd and it was looking like another despairing chapter in the history of Saints, so the joy and relief we felt on the 2nd May when we effectively sealed promotion was unlike any other. It didn’t matter that we didn’t win the division, getting out was enough. League One was a tough prospect, and finally it feels like we are back on the up…

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