Britrock Blog

Just another Brit in New York City

Posts Tagged ‘League One’

Thoughts on the demise of Southampton Football Club

Posted by Britrock on May 12, 2009

Having just watched Manchester United beat a poor Hull City side in the English Premier League’s final round of games and by quirk of fate seal their status in the top flight of English football, I’ve begun to reflect on the demise of the team I’ve supported through think and mainly thin – Southampton Football Club.

Although I live in NYC, I take every opportunity I’m able to seek out the fortunes of the Saints via supporters forums online, Internet radio, my iPhone, televised highlights on my computer or TV through Fox Soccer Channel, a random game on Setanta or a visit to the club every trip home to England. However its difficult to describe affection for what losing this connection to a football club means without coming across as cliched or worse a poor imitation of Nick Hornby.

As a young lad, I grew up in the South of England and at the age of eight I found my interest in football growing and the need for a team to support and players to idolise. Generally accepted wisdom suggests that football teams are chosen by a combination of factors that include the closest team to where you live(d), who your parents supported and who was popular at the time. My closest team by geography was Southampton Football Club, an underdog if ever there was one, and I was lucky enough to attend a few games at The Dell with friends. In 1976 the club won its greatest honour the FA Cup, sadly I was three years old and living in Edinburgh, Scotland at the time. By 1982, Southampton’s best finish in the top flight of English football – second place, I had my first replica kit and my dedication was cemented.

Saints fan - 1982

Southampton have been on a downward rollercoaster ever since, with moments of snatched glory and marginal highlights glimmering through including an FA Cup final appearance against Arsenal in 2003, a 6-3 victory over Manchester United in a Premier League game, dramatic escapes from relegation and inspired individual performances on the pitch from players like Matt Le Tissier. The following BBC slideshow BBC’s slideshow captures many of the highs and lows of Saints demise. Off the pitch the club moved from The Dell, one of the coziest grounds to a legitimate full sized stadium St Mary’s, sold many of its best players and struggled with financial and boardroom challenges.

Regardless of how the club has performed or where I’ve lived my allegiance has never wavered, meaning I’ve sat through and by accounts forced friends and girlfriends to experience watching Southampton lose on TV in grimy, smelly bars all over New York City. Some have even had the pleasure of watching Saints in England and taste the gastronomic dirge that is steak and kidney pie. Relegation to the Championship tested my patience as even fewer Saints games were televised in the U.S. leaving me to huddle over a computer to listen to Internet radio commentary of games we invariably lost.

Regardless of the misery Southampton Football Club have helped me endure, I’d prefer not to lose this constant relationship. Part of my English being, personality and connection to the motherland is maintained through the Saints. I’ve moved away from home, changed job, immigrated country, married, divorced, loved musical groups and then despised them but the one true constant is my football club allegiance.

Through poor performance on the pitch last season the club finds themselves relegated to League One, the third level of English football, and face a ten point deduction for falling into a state of not being able to pay wage bills or other outstanding debts. If Saints do exist next season in League One playing the likes of Millwall, Yeovil and Exeter my trips home to watch games will be less than glamorous… there will be no David Beckham’s for my girlfriend to watch. Most importantly the club needs to be rebuilt from the boardroom down, living within our means and building up and out of League One, without being tempted to look beyond our capabilities. I’d love to see the club receive new ownership, although why anyone would invest in a football club is beyond me with even Manchester United in debt to the tune of millions of pounds.

Financial mismanagement has led the club to the brink of not existing for a “next season” at all. Without a new investor the club will be effectively bankrupt. Meaning the club will be extinct. The will be no more Southampton Football Club to waste countless hours and money over, and rather dramatically part of me would no longer exist either. Without a football club at all how much would I change for better or worse. Personally I hope I only ever have to contemplate the awful prospect and never actually deal with it. To the fans of Newcastle United, Middlesborough and West Bromwich Albion think on to a next season. To my Saints supporting brethren – fingers crossed we’ll have a next season.

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