Wednesday, January 30, 2008


TYPICAL, JUST TYPICAL....

Last night saw yet another example of the disaffection shown by Himself Upstairs to His humble servant down here. My beloved Saints were entertaining the Canaries of Norwich City in an evening game at St. Mary`s. I didn`t go. Not that I don`t want to go to evening games, it`s just that the long drive home late at night is a bit much.

But it`s just typical that, after months of tedium served up, last night Saints apparently played very well - there was a buzz about them, a passion and commitment which has been sadly lacking for too long. Don`t know the cause of this transformation, but I do wonder if it has anything to do with the departure of George Burley to manage Scotland.

So I missed a good game but, guess what? Despite hammering the Canaries for much of the game, it was Norwich who won it with a single goal scored on the stroke of half time. Saints hit the post three times, Stern John (he of the birth in the back end of a boat - pictured below) missed a second half penalty which would have seen Saints draw level, oh and Gregory Vignal broke his arm.

On the subject of Stern John, I can`t help wondering if he has siblings named Bow and Midships.

(Anyway, I`m just wondering what it is I might have done to deserve such disaffection from Head Office . Maybe something in a former life? Maybe Glenn Hoddle could help? Then again, maybe not.)



THANK YOU, GOD!

The past week or so has seen us enjoying warm, dry, sunny weather here in the Garden of England. The grass has started to grow again, buds appearing in the orchards, birds singing. That kind of thing.

Tomorrow, I`ll be heading for Stansted Airport to collect my youngest son, his wife and two boys who are flying in from Hamburg to stay with us for a few days. So we had been hoping that they would be blessed with a continuation of the Spring-like weather of late.

But no. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for heavy rain and gale force winds (what`s the betting the QE2 Bridge will be closed?) and the prospect for Friday is even worse, with snow on the way. All thanks to an icy blast coming down from the Arctic. I think this will be the view through my car windscreen:-

Just when we needed the fine weather for our visitors, it turns for the worse. Typical. Just typical. Thank you, God. Thank you so much. Just wait `til I get up there!
Celestial Update : By the time I set out on my journey to Stansted, the rain had stopped and, despite being a bit nippy in the stiff breeze, I had no problems. And today has dawned bright and clear - still a bit nippy in the stiff breeze but nothing to complain about. Just shows what a bit of grumbling can do. Thank you, God. How could I ever doubt you?

Sunday, January 27, 2008



STEAM, SUNSETS AND SHAKERS

It comes to something when the best bits of a day`s excursion to see an FA Cup match are the sight of a steam train pulling a string of Pullman cars away from the docks at Southampton and a quite astonishing sunset across the waters of the Solent.

I hadn`t intended to go to see Saints take on Bury in the 4th round of the Cup, such has been my recent disenchantment with the `entertainment` served up. But, in the end, the withdrawal symptoms were just too strong, so along with my eldest son, we made the effort, enjoyed each other`s company and had a good day out.

As so often in recent times, the game saw Saints struggle to make an impact against a team from the lower leagues and if they thought they could use the departure of George Burley as an excuse, then their opponents were also without a manager following the dismissal of Chris Casper a week or so ago. No, Bury more than matched Saints for effort, skill and commitment and so we were a bit embarrassed to come away with a 2-0 victory, courtesy of a deflected goal from Andrew Surman and a dubious penalty converted on the third rebound by Gregorsz Raziak. The word that comes to mind is `unconvincing` - and that`s being charitable.
Bury FC crest

A word about Bury. It`s a long way from Southampton but 1400 of their supporters made the long journey, behaved impeccably, cheered their team to the echo and have much to be proud of, both in their club and in themselves. They are nicknamed 'The Shakers' thanks to their first chairman, JT Ingham who, before a Lancashire Cup game with Blackburn, said "We will shake them. In fact, we are the Shakers." And they certainly gave Southampton the shakes yesterday afternoon.


Bury have won the FA Cup twice. In 1900, they beat Southampton 4-0 at Crystal Palace and Derby County by the record score of 6-0 in 1903. I wish Bury well as they renew their bid to avoid relegation and, unless there is a dramatic improvement, Saints could find themselves with relegation worries of their own along with the unlikely prospect of seeing much more FA Cup action. But I guess I`ll still keep going - if only for the glorious sunsets on the waters of the Solent.

























Friday, January 25, 2008

A BRIGHTER PROSPECT...
It`s just gone 5.30pm and, as I looked out of the window just now, there was still a touch of daylight in the western sky. So the longest, darkest time of winter may be on the wane and I can look forward to the return of the lighter evenings as, with each day that passes, the sunset gets later.

This has prompted me to install a countdown clock (see below on right hand side) until the beginning of the longest day, 2008. The summer solstice is actually 11.59pm on 20th June, so my countdown is to a minute after that, when summertime will officially begin, just 147 days away. Tempus certainly fugits.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


AN ELEGANT SOLUTION....

The news that Saints manager, George Burley, has left the club to become the manager of the Scotland national team has been received with mixed reactions both north of the border and among the faithful in Southampton.

My own take on it is on a number of levels. On the football front, I have felt for some time now that the style of play, the team selections, the use of substitutions and the tactics employed by Burley have been somewhat baffling to us spectators and, I suspect, to the players themselves. I also suspect that Burley has - to use the cliche - `taken Saints as far as he can` and that the time has come for someone else to hold the reins.

Given the above, therefore, his appointment by the Scottish Football Association is both timely and elegant for all concerned and, contrary to scurrilous rumours, the club and the SFA were quick to agree compensation without the need for Saints to pay the SFA anything at all.

On a human level, I`m genuinely pleased for George that he has achieved the ultimate accolade in Scottish football management and I wish him well, for despite some criticism I may have levelled at him, he is a decent, honest, experienced professional. I have little doubt that he will settle back into life in his home country, doing the job he clearly relishes.

As for Saints, the search for a new manager is already in hand and numerous candidates have already been suggested. There is no point in me speculating as to who might be suitable, since any opinions I may have will have absolutely no influence on the decisions of the Saints board. However, I suggest it`s time we appointed someone who might be in it for the long haul, as eight managers in eight years is not a recipe for stability or development.....and they are qualities we are sorely in need of right now.
So, how about it, Glenn? - all might just be forgiven. And your old mate John Gorman is already here.
BREAKING NEWS.....hard on the heels of the above suggestion, Glenn Hoddle has this morning been quick to distance himself from a possible return to manage Southampton FC, preferring to concentrate his efforts on developing his new academy in Spain. Gorman is said to be devastated and has now signed up for Spainsh lessons. More on that story as we get it. (PA)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008



THEY COME IN THREES....
Good things come in threes, they say. So, too, do things like Degrees, Stooges, Wise Men, Graces, Coins in the Fountain and Amigos.

I`m particularly fond of the three great lies of life, which are:-
- "The cheque is in the post;"
- "I`ll respect you in the morning,"....and
- "I`m from the Council and I`m here to help you."

The last of the three being the stock in trade of local authority officials and locally elected politicians. So it should come as no surprise to discover the trend being alive and well on the national political scene.
Just lately we have been told that:-
- "The annual rate of inflation is about 2%,"
- "The Lisbon Treaty is not the same as the EU Constitution," ....and
-"Evidence shows that the majority of the British people don`t want a referendum."

There are, of course, countless other examples of hoods being winked by politicians, but the prize for the moment at least goes to Foreign Secretary, David (Gap Year) Miliband, who in the past couple of weeks has provided the three examples given above. And not only did he appear to mean what he said, but he also expected us to believe a word of it. No wonder `three strikes and out` comes to mind.





Monday, January 21, 2008


PROPER JOB.....

The more observant among you may have noticed that, thanks to my good friend Wurzel, whose ramblings can be seen at `Wurzel`s thoughts` (see link under `Snopper`s Links`) I have managed to introduce a new feature into these pages. Go to the right and down a bit and you will see `Snopper`s Films.` I hasten to add that this is not a `Top 10` or a list of my favourite films, but just a fairly random list drawn from so many I have seen and enjoyed over the years.
I guess some of my enthusiasm stemmed from my time as a projectionist in the AKC Cinema in Paderborn, Germany, where I endured my National Service, but my love affair with the cinematic world goes much deeper. But, as they say, more on that story later.

On the list I have shown, there is a `+` mark against each film title which, if you click on, something about each film should appear, along with links to the Internet Movie DataBase site for full details, so I won`t go into detail about each one here. However, perhaps one of the entries - `Johnny Frenchman` - deserves a little explanation as to its inclusion, for it most definitely comes into the realms of the obscure.

I first saw this 1945 black and white epic when I was recuperating from some bug or other and `Johnny Frenchman` came on one weekday afternoon - clearly just to fill time in the tv schedule. But it immediately grabbed my attention for a number of reasons. The acting could flatteringly be described as `wooden,` and the plot `contrived` - it centres around an unlikely drama concerning rivalries between Breton and Cornish fishing folk. But the location was Mevagissey, some of whose inhabitants take impromptu roles in the film, and it gives a good insight into how that lovely Cornish fishing port actually was all those years ago, as opposed to the tourist mecca it has since become.
(click on photo for larger image)

The scene which really stood out for me, though, is when that classically trained Shakespearean actor, Ralph Michael, is quaffing a pint in the Mevagissey local and - in a clipped, quasi-Cornish accent - struggles to utter the Cornish approbation `proper job.` At which point, I collapsed with laughter.


Friday, January 18, 2008


TRIUMPH AND DISAPPOINTMENT

This is the Millau bridge in France, which spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France. Designed by Lord Norman Foster of Foster and Partners and bridge engineer Michel Verlogeaux, it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, with one mast's summit at 343 metres (1,125 feet) — slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower and only 38 m (125 ft) shorter than the Empire State Building. The viaduct is part of the A75-A71 autoroute from Paris to Beziers. The bridge was formally dedicated in early December, 2004, having been completed ahead of schedule and within its budget of 348million Euros and was opened to traffic two days later. By any yardstick, it is a triumph of design, engineering and construction.


(QE2 Bridge)

Before the Millau bridge was completed, the longest cable stayed bridge in Europe was the Queen Elizabeth 2 bridge, spanning the Thames between Essex and Kent. The QE2 bridge, which was completed on 7 June 1991 and opened on 30 October of that year, was designed by Dr. Ing Hellmut Homberg and Partner and Kvaerner Technology Limited. The central span is 450 m (1,476 ft) long and is suspended 65 m (213 ft) above the Thames (to accommodate ocean-going cruise liners). The approach viaducts on the Essex side measure 1,052 m (3,451 ft) and 1,008 m (3,307 ft) on the Kent side, giving a total length of 2,872 m (9,423 ft). It has an expected life span of 120 years. Again, a triumph of design, engineering and construction.

So where`s the disappointment in all this? Well,the toll payable for using the bridge was supposed to end once the £86million cost of the bridge had been paid for - which happened in 2003 - but the UK Government has chosen to continue the toll nonetheless, ostensibly on the grounds of safety that removing the toll will increase traffic locally above the route's capacity. A spurious argument for a deceitful decision. We should all know better than to trust politicians. Especially us motorists who might want to escape from Essex back to Kent.
















Monday, January 14, 2008


FIFTY YEARS OF THANKS....

Funny how things stick in your mind. I can recall quite clearly when I got turned on to classical music. I was in my late teens when I first heard the music of Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. At the time, I was staying with my parents where they lived in a small out-of-the-way hamlet which was surrounded by other small hamlets, interspersed with farmland, woods and wide open spaces.
I was reading a book borrowed from a local resident, which detailed the history of the area - even down to the field names and the ancient words to describe the fields, woods, copses and common land - pightles and the like. I seemed to be immersed in a truly rural setting when, quite fortuitously, the radio treated me to Vaughan Williams` Folk Song Suite, which seemed perfectly to capture the time and the place.
So I got interested in Vaughan Williams, who died 50 years ago this year and I have forever since been grateful to him for opening my ears to the joy of not only his music but also the other great English composers - Elgar, Holst of course, Delius and so many others - which led to a much wider appreciation (see, for example, `my complete profile.)
But the root of my appreciation has always been the work of Vaughan Williams and Holst. Now, Holst is best known for The Planets, of course, but there is so much more to him than that and for me his most appealing work is also based on the English folk songs that he and Vaughan Williams collected and orchestrated so vividly. As for Vaughan Williams himself, time and space prevents me from boring you to death with a full biography, but it`s worth noting that, despite his Cymraic name, he was actually born in Gloucestershire and spent much of his life in Dorking of all places. His long and productive life is detailed at http://www.rvwsociety.com/biography.html if you want to read more.

His music - symphonies, choral work, concertos, film scores (`Scott of the Antarctic`) - is a huge collection but if I had to pick just a couple of them I guess it would be The Lark Ascending (Nigel Kennedy gives it a good go) and his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, all 17 minutes of which you can hear at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y7nJL1hpUU. If you think you`ve heard it before, you may have seen `Master and Commander,` where it was heavily featured.

There are events and concerts already happening to mark the 50th anniversary of his passing and I for one owe the great man a huge debt of gratitude for opening my ears and my mind to life beyond Bill Haley and the Comets.




Sunday, January 13, 2008


UNPREPOSSESSING
Good word, unprepossessing - it allows one to express condemnation at an unfavourable impression gained from an unfortunate experience without invoking the utter distaste one might really feel. So I`ll settle for unprepossessing.

Got home last night from Southampton having witnessed a truly heroic rearguard action as Saints held on grimly in the last 20 minutes of the game to protect their slender one goal advantage against relegation threatened Scunthorpe United, who justifiably felt hard done by. Forgive me for not going into detail, for there was, in truth, little detail to go into.

Having recovered from the day and the long journey home, I sat back to watch Match of the Day. The main feature was, inevitably, Manchester United playing Newcastle. Now, there was a time in years gone by, when these two clubs were among the nation`s favourites - Manchester United for the Busby Babes, George Best, their rise from the ashes of the Munich air crash and the quality of their football. Newcastle were the great entertainers, especially under the stewardship of Kevin Keegan. So it`s a pity that the perception of both clubs has suffered in recent years in the eyes of the rest of the nation.

Newcastle have become the basket case of the Premiership, not so much because of their performances on the field of play but because of the never ending merry-go-round of managerial failures that seems endemic on the banks of the Tyne. Manchester United still challenge year in, year out, for the top prizes in the English game and the quality of their football cannot be in doubt. Nowadays, however, they seem to be a club which encourages disenchantment, not among their faithful followers of course, but among the wider audience who look on at their corporate antics sometimes with bewilderment, often with disdain.

The club is probably a reflection of its long-serving manager, Alex Ferguson, who was improbably knighted by that pillar of virtue, Tony Blair, in the belief that some of Ferguson`s success might just reflect onto him. It didn`t, of course. It had quite the opposite result from that intended.
Ferguson gets more irascible as time goes by. His management `style` involves hairdryers, teacups, volcanic rants at match officials, flouting contractual responsibilities and generally bringing the game into disrepute. In short, he displays all the restraint and modesty one has come to expect from someone honoured by Blair.
(Tevez)

And yesterday, as his team demolished hapless Newcastle 6-0, his latest signing, one Carlos Tevez, `celebrated` one of his two goals by producing a baby`s dummy from the inner sanctums of his shorts and promptly stuck it into his mouth before prancing around Old Trafford in the mistaken belief that his display would bring admiration from the assembled gathering. But however admirable his football might be, Tevez`s `celebration` was merely infantile, arrogant and in character with his surroundings, for he is simply part of a club whose watchword must surely be `unprepossessing.`


Thursday, January 10, 2008


NEW DEFINITION
Stonehenge Update

.....or rather Downdate. For this was the master plan for safeguarding Stonehenge`s future as a World Heritage Site. Figures revealed yesterday showed that a staggering £30million has been spent/squandered/wasted (delete as appropriate) in the past decade on preparatory work for the scheme which was abandoned last month by HM Gov.

£16million went on buying a chunk of land on the outskirts of Amesbury which would have been the site of a new visitor centre. As well as buying the land, lots of work was carried out by the usual suspects involved in any `development` - surveyors, engineers, quantity surveyors, architects - all of whose work has proved abortive.

Another £23million has gone on preparatory work, consultation after consultation and inquiry after inquiry for the proposed tunnel under the busy A303 to leave the ancient monument in peace away from all the intrusion of traffic. It ain`t gonna happen! You can almost feel the stones groaning in despair.

Now it seems, there is to be a thorough review of proposals which will doubtless involve yet more expense but I`m not holding my breath that anything will actually happen in my lifetime. As well as the outrage I feel as a taxpayer and someone who is embarrassed every time I make a pit stop at Stonehenge, I`m sure UNESCO - the guardians of World Heritage Sites - will have something to say about this shambles, as will the good folk of Winterbourne Stoke, whose hopes for a by-pass have been dashed yet again. They could easily have had their by-pass with the money that has been wasted so far.

The whole episode kind of brings a new definition of the word `disgrace.`

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN

You can always tell when the festive season is over when Prime Minister`s Questions reappears on our lunchtime tv screens. Today saw the return of the 600 plus MPs from yet another extended break from their parliamentary duties and it didn`t take long for hostilities to break out, as Gordon Brown faced questions for the first time in 2008.

(Brown)
And it didn`t take long for the yah-boo politics to come to the surface with Tory leader, Dave Cameron ripping into Gordon`s current stance on a whole range of headline-grabbing issues - ID cards, the economy, capital gains tax rates and other gripping stuff.


(Cameron)

Nick Clegg, newly elected leader of the LibDems, entered the fray for the first time and was encouragingly composed and incisive in his line of questioning. Fat lot of good it did him, though, for his questions about fuel bills received the same non-answers that Dave`s earlier questions did from Gordon.

(Clegg)

And all these fol-de-rols are supposedly controlled by the Speaker of the House of Commons, "Gorbals" Mick Martin, who looks down on proceedings with a kind of benign bewilderment, as if the world is going on around him and he has no power or intention to bring order to the chaos. Truly, it is no way to run a railroad.

(Steve Bucknor)

If only there were some kind of parliamentary ICC who could step in and suspend proceedings until order is restored. Maybe Steve Bucknor would be a better bet after all.
























DEGREES OF MALEVOLENCE

Quite extraordinary. The newspapers here in England are devoting double page spreads and acres of self-righteous columns to the events taking place in Australia, where the home cricket team are engaged in a Test series against India.

Now, to be fair, I should perhaps apologise for the fact that sport is once again the subject of my latest rant....but it has the effect of unleashing emotions that are sometimes hard to keep to oneself. So, please bear with me, dear reader, for all will be revealed if you read on.

There`s really no need for me to go into all the reasons for the escalating kerfuffle currently rocking the supposedly genteel world of international cricket - yes, I use the word genteel advisedly, because we now live in times when winning seems to be all, even at the expense of long held conventions. But the fact is that over the past 24 hours or so, the cricket tour has given rise to claim and counter claim of racial abuse, effigies being burned in the streets of Indian cities, respective team managements each defending their own and the ICC (who are supposed to be in charge) effectively sacking cricket`s most experienced umpire, Steve Bucknor - pictured above - for want of a more obvious scapegoat.
(Andrew Simons)

It`s easy to get caught up in the developing `politics` and the heightened tensions that now occupy cricket followers the world over, but perhaps a little more difficult to define the root cause of the problem. People have short memories, but you only have to go back to Day 1 of the Test match, when Andrew Simons of Australia quite clearly snicked a ball to the Indian wicket keeper and was most definitely `out.` However, Simons stood his ground, refused to accept his dismissal and compounded the felony by going on to score a big hundred, which was arguably the telling contribution of the game and the starting point for all that has followed.

There was a time in the distant past when the conventions of cricket - and, I imagine, most other pursuits in life - were respected without question and in the process led to individual self-respect as well as mutual respect between individual rivals and rival teams. Batsmen `walked.` People could sleep nights. So when did it all go wrong?

As an Englishman and a lover of the game, I live in constant awareness that the demise of such conventions can be traced back to the infamous `Bodyline` tour which the England team made to Australia in 1932-3, when determination to win at all costs by England captain DR Jardine brought about the kind of political crisis we are now seeing in the Australia-India series.
(Jardine)

History might well be repeating itself but, in all honesty, I cannot see that Simons` regretful refusal to accept his dismissal, the respective `sledging` by each team or the scapegoating of well-meaning umpires can in any way be compared with the quite deliberate abandonment of basic standards of behaviour and respect for the spirit of the game displayed by Jardine all those years ago.

At least in this current series, no-one has yet been carted off to hospital with a fractured skull, such as that suffered by Aussie batsman Bill Woodfull in 1932 as a direct consequence of Jardine`s tactics.
(Bill Woodfull falls)

So, before any more forests are decimated to provide the newsprint which continues to be covered over here with reports of events on the cricket fields of the antipodes, perhaps our army of reporters, commentators and opinion-formers should pause and reflect and be very wary of issuing condemnation. Just remember who cast the first stone.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

BEGGARS AND CHOOSERS

A few years ago, I bought some shares in Southampton Leisure Holdings plc, the parent company which owns Southampton Football Club. At the time I bought them,, they were 35p per share and I did so not as a financial investment but as an emotional investment in the club I have supported man and boy for over 60 years. I didn`t expect to make a killing on the share purchase, since I have no intention of ever selling them, but it has been `interesting` to note that the share price rose to almost 70p a few months ago before falling back to the 35p that I bought them for. So I`m not out of pocket - yet.

There has been a lot of speculation for over a year now about a possible takeover of Southampton Leisure Holdings (SLH) and it`s true that SLH are seeking new investment in order to boost finances, stave off the bank manager, avoid administration and move onwards and upwards. In the past year, suggested suitors have ranged from multi-billionaire Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, to Ray Ranson`s SISU Hedge Fund outfit, which has now taken over Coventry City and the latest name doing the rounds is that of Kia Joorabchian, who I have long thought has `something of the night` about him.


As a shareholder, I should welcome any initiative that brings finanacial stability to the company....and I suppose I do, but of course my investment is a purely emotional one. We have to be careful about who it might be that `takes us over.` There has been a rising trend over the last few years for football clubs up and down the country to be `taken over` by a host of `interesting` characters with a host of differing reasons for their actions. Abramovich, Gaydamak, the Glazers and the intriguingly named Randy Lerner, who sounds more like a rampant student, are just the tip of the iceberg of foreign owners of English football clubs. It seems that the motives behind this newfound fad include owning the ultimate boys toy, pure unabashed financial greed and, in the case of porn barons, alleged gun runners and that paragon of human rights virtue, Thaksin Shinawatra, a brazen attempt to gain some legitimacy.

So, SLH have to be careful, for we are a family-friendly provincial club with a proud history and a loyal following brought up on the traditions of home town decency. Some will say, of course, that beggars cannot be choosers and if we are to avoid all the consequences of financial insecurity, then maybe we should grab any hand that offers a fistful of cash to secure our future. They may have a case. But it is purely a financial one... and one which ignores all the other values which I for one may hold dear.

There are whispers that a knight in shining armour may be interested in coming to our rescue who has had a hugely successful and rewarding career, has recently retired and now wishes to realise his lifelong ambition to run Southampton Football Club along with likeminded souls who might also put their money where their devotion lies and bring the stability we have craved for so long.

If the whispers are true, then we have the prospect of remaining in the hands of people who know their way to St. Mary`s without the need for a satnav, have dignity and honour in abundance and who will impart a new sense of optimism among the faithful. I hope it comes to pass and, in the process, demonstrate that in resisting the first offer that may have come along, beggars might be choosers after all. Time will tell, but if it does happen then it will reflect great credit on the club`s current local custodians, who have fought long and hard to bring it about.





























Friday, January 04, 2008


OUT WITH THE NEW.....
It`s taken a day or two for me to come to terms with the new year. Now, I know I`m getting old and increasingly grumpy but one thing I`ve never really come to terms with is this mania for celebrating the turn of the year.

It could be because I`m not Scottish....or it could be because I just know that the new year will arrive on cue come what may. It is, after all, just another turn of events and one which has only been made at all significant by its inclusion in the man made calendar.

So, on new year`s eve, I go to bed as usual, get off to sleep as usual only to woken up at the midnight hour by a cacophany of noise as my neighbours start letting off fireworks. Not just any old fireworks either - these seem to be armour-piercing, weapons grade fireworks which go on and on for ages. It`s almost as if they have a malevolent determination to keep me awake.

The good news is that Henry doesn`t seem to mind too much, but then very little seems to disturb him. There are times, New Year`s Eve being one of them, when I`m convinced that our canine friends are much more `knowing` than we can ever be.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


NICE STADIUM....SHAME ABOUT THE FOOTBALL

Southampton FC`s St. Mary`s Stadium is one of the more pleasant sporting venues; nice design, uninterrupted view of the pitch from all 32,000 seats, convenient city-centre location. I enjoy my visits there and I paid another one yesterday, when Saints `entertained` the Hornets of Watford FC in a Championship encounter.

In recent years, the most memorable meeting between these two teams was the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park in 2003, which Saints won to secure a place in the Final at Cardiff, which we lost narrowly to Arsenal. My, how times have changed in those few short years.

Relegation from the Premiership, with all its financial consequences, the loss of a whole squad of class players, the narrow defeat on penalties to Derby County in last season`s play-off semi-final, endless boardroom shenanagins, all make for sad litany of decline for all true Saints fans. But, until yesterday, at least there was some dignity about our decline. OK, Watford won the game yesterday by 3-0 (Saints were lucky to get 0) and I can have no complaints about the result.

It was one of those days when I knew - just knew - that the day was too good to last; the journey down had been easy on the quiet New Year`s Day roads and I got to the stadium in good time. But things started to go badly wrong as the teams were lining up on the half-way line before the start of the game, expecting - as we all were - to have a minute`s respect paid to Phil O`Donnell, the Motherwell captain who died during a game at the weekend. Pity Saints` management weren`t aware of it - Darude`s `Sandstorm` continued to blast forth on the stadium louspeakers, the players and crowd looked around in bewilderment, the referee appeared to let the moment pass, waved play on and the game got under weigh, leaving us all a bit embarrassed.

The embarrassment of the home fans was completed not only by the trouncing dished out by a strong, determined Watford side but also by the antics of Saints` manager, George Burley (pictured above,) whose team selections, tactics, substitutions and general deportment have conspired to leave the team demoralised, confused and unsure of anything very much any more....and their state of mind is mirrored precisely by that of the paying customers.

A haul of two points from a possible twelve over the Christmas period is, frankly, not good enough and yet there are still numbskulls on the message boards believing that a play-off position is still achievable, if not automatic promotion back to the never-never land of the Premiership. They really should know better than to inhabit the land of nod and vicariously live their lives through the medium of a failing football club. It`s just not healthy.

I`m a bit sanguine about it all, really - I enjoy my days out back in old haunts amongst good friends, so I`ll probably still make the effort. I enjoy the stadium too...it`s just the football that spoils it all for me. Bon Jovi are doing a concert at St. Mary`s in June - if I knew who they were, I might just go, since they are likely to be more entertaining than the overpaid wasters currently wearing the red and white.


Saints are at home to Leicester City in an FA Cup match on Saturday; I`m not going, preferring to save my physical, financial and emotional resources for the following Saturday when Scunthorpe come visiting. And hoping beyond hope that there isn`t another minute`s silence or applause to be bungled.