I guess if you should support your local team then poor Weymouth FC were never going to fully capture my heart even though they have the advantage of playing in claret and blue.
Despite the odd cup run against the likes of Cambridge Utd, Swindon, Cardiff and even Millwall, I needed to look beyond lower non-league to get my football juices going. So who were the largest fairly local team? Southampton were clearly the obvious choice and I had several trips in my youth including 31,000 packed into The Dell to see Fulham with George Best, Rodney Marsh and Bobby Moore but even after their famous FA Cup Final victory against Manchester United, I would not be convinced until my first trip to Upton Park
Well here I go again on the 8.03 from Weymouth to Waterloo knowing that at some stage I will be surrounded by the travelling Saints fans on there way to Upton Park hoping to lose them on my tube trip to The Black Lion in Plaistow. Not that they will look like Saints fans, of course, due to their current kit without the large white stripes which is a shocker but they will no doubt be in full voice when they see me and my mates in our claret and blue. Never has “you have only got one song” been more appropriate.
This led me to reminisce about the many times I have seen this fixture. While I have pushed several woeful performances to the back of my mind last season’s away trip is to strong in my mind. Rarely have I felt so angry after a game as this after 5,000 Hammers fans had turned up mid-week to see us play one of our main rivals, joining what turned out to be a record attendance at their stadium, only for the players of West Ham United to put on such a poor show that they were not worthy of such an occasion and made Southampton look a much better team than they actually were.
I confess the tactics used by Sam in this game made me think we had no chance of promotion and I’m pleased to have been proven wrong. Another happier time was again mid-week in 1993 and in pouring rain winning 2-0 at The Dell sporting our updated sky blue away kit with the hoops. A great night indeed but the stand out memory for me was at home in 1996 resulting in a 2-1 win.
Why was this such a memory? Well purely for the home debut of the crocked Portuguese legend Paulo Futre. He only ever made nine appearances for our club on a pay-per-play contract but in this game – and only this game – he was truly outstanding. His touch, his skillfulness and vision was incredible but unfortunately most of it broke down as he moved ahead of his team mates and they had no idea what he was going to do but as we left the ground we were all buzzing. Shame it was an one off experience.
When I look at Southampton’s squad for this season, they have some talent but it doesn’t excite me. Ricky Lambert has proved his ability to find the back of the net in all the lower divisions and although he has made a bright start, I cannot see him sustaining it to be a 15-plus goals a season player. As for call for him to be called up to the England squad – Really!? Clyne looks to have something and perhaps we should have made more effort to sign him, Rodriguez is unproven at this level with the burden of a heavy price tag, Lallana shows some quality but nothing else really stands out.
When you think back to the stars who have played for them over the years like Le Tissier (how could he have not starred for England), Keegan, Channon, Case, Ball, Osgood, Shearer and Shilton, clearly they are not too unlike West Ham especially when they have lost their young talent far to early like we have on so many occasions such as Walcott and Chamberlain.
The pundits are saying how unlucky they have been with the draw of top sides so early in the season but it is the poor performances at home to Wigan and Fulham that they need to be most concerned about. They have clearly been left wanting in defence and as long as Noble, Nolan and Diame get on top of their midfield from the start I can only see a two goal margin win for us. I hope so anyway.