THE RETURN OF A DECENT MAN
Rory Delap came back to St. Mary`s yesterday. A few years ago, he became Saints` most expensive ever signing, when he joined from Derby County for £4million. They were the days, of course, when Saints were continuing their 27-year stay in the top flight of English football and so could afford such luxuries.
Rory made 127 appearances for the club, scoring five times from midfield - most memorably, this stunning overhead kick against Tottenham Hotspur and two thumping headers in a 2-2 draw against Arsenal at Highbury.
He was an honest player - not the quickest, not the most talented but he possessed a formidable throw-in and always gave everything he had to the team. Sadly, he was not always able to live up to the price tag which came with him and this led to him being the butt of some hostility and abuse from the `fans` who perhaps expected more. I always thought his treatment to be unfair, for despite the criticisms levelled vociferously in his direction, he not once reacted against the `supporters` either in interviews, the written media or in any other way and never had a bad word to say about the club. He was, and remains, a decent man in my view.
And so it was good to see him back playing again yesterday after a dreadful double fracture of the leg, which he suffered on his debut for Stoke City whilst on loan from Sunderland, who he joined when he left Southampton. To their eternal credit, Stoke stood by him as his long recovery took place and rewarded him with a permanent contract.
Yesterday, his performance was subdued and the crowd reaction towards him was muted, maybe even indifferent. Now, some players leave and we are glad to see them go. Rory Delap is one who was always going to move on but he left behind memories of honesty and decency, which are rare qualities in the frantic world of today`s football. I wish him well.