If Venice should only be approached by the water, St. Mary’s stadium should only be approached by the Itchen Bridge. Rising up to the crest of the bridge you are afforded a great view of the stadium sitting majestically along the banks of the Itchen. Looking to the other side is the site of the old Vosper Thornycroft shipyard. In the late nineteenth century it had been occupied by the Oswald, Mordaunt and Co. Shipyard which had relocated from Wearside, bringing a number of it’s existing workforce with it. The Works team, known simply as Woolston Works were once the towns pre-eminent footballing side, becoming the first winners of the Hampshire Senior Cup in 1888 and it was the shipyards workers drawn from footballs heartlands in the North and Scotland who were largely responsible for the flourishing of the game in what had hitherto been a Rugby loving town.
Much later another team from the shipyard, Thornycroft’s (Woolston) F. C, actually met Burnley in the first round of the F.A Cup in 1920, holding then to a 0-0 draw at Fratton Park, before losing the replay 5-0. Since then however knockout cup competitions have fallen out of fashion. Even a national institution like the F.A Cup has been progressively undermined in the past few years, whether it’s weakened teams, or comments such as those made by Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert’s just ahead of the Third round in which he said that that top-flight managers could do without the cup “if they were being honest”
A counter-view is however put forward by Mauricio Pochettino, as a player two time winner of the Copa del Rey, who stated in his programme notes:
When I look back on my playing career, I can instantly remember the title successes, and let me tell you, there is no greater feeling than knowing you have achieved something as special as winning a cup competition
For the fans too. There can be little doubt that your average Southampton fan – even one born long after the event – would have more chance naming the F.A Cup winning team of 1976 than they would reeling off the squad who came runners-up in the league in the 1983 – 84 season, to date the clubs best ever finishing position in the Football League.
Approaching the ground though the crowd seemed thinner than usual and once inside it was clear the attendance was rather poor – reported later as a half full 15 077. Lower league opposition and some miserable weather may have played a part in this, but you sense that the missing 15 000 probably agreed more with Lambert’s sentiments than than Pochettino’s
And what a game they all missed. Some games feel as if they’re written by a Hollywood scriptwriter, so perfectly timed were the twist and turns. After a start in which Burnley took the early initiative two brilliant Southampton goals, a sublime 25 yard half-volley into the top-corner from Nathaniel Clyne and another outside-the-area screamer from Rickie Lambert, saw the saints go in 2-0 up at half time
Southampton however, always looked shaky at the back, with Jos Hooiveld and Maya Yoshida making rare-appearances in the centre of defence along with ‘keeper Kelvin Davis in for the still injured Artur Boruc, allowing a resurgent Burnley to take full advantage in the second half through their two Southampton born strikers Sam Vokes and Danny Ings, with Ings, who was released by Southampton as a youngster, netting what must have been – for the player at least- a rather sweet equaliser on 57 minutes.
Just minutes later, Pochettino reached for the ace in his pack deploying Adam Lallana from the bench. Almost instantly life was breathed back into what had become a rather insipid Southampton side and not long after the influential playmaker’s introduction Saints striker Jay Rodriguez restored the lead in the midst of some confusion over a possible penalty appeal, declining to celebrate his goal being a Burnley lad and ex Burnley player himself. Before the visitors had time to regroup another cracker, this time from Lallana himself, seemed to seal the game, but in true cinematic style Burnley refused to lie down; Kevin Long’s scrambled in from a corner goal popped up like a hand from a freshly dug grave on 87 minutes to set up a tense and thrilling finale as Southampton battled to retain possession in a bid to avoid a long coach-trip up north for the replay.