Tag Archives: Southampton FC

Southampton v Hull City. Premier League: Saturday 29th April 2017

2 May

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For my money there is no better place for getting a view of a football clubs season than from the barbers chair. The barbers own observations will have been triangulated by a huge number of other perspectives and from over the season and their arguments will well honed through countless conversations on the topic. I’d add that perhaps one of the best barbers in this regard is to be found just over the Itchen bridge in Woolston at Sean’s barbers.

The barbers view is particularly valuable as Saints fans struggle to decide whether this season can be considered as success, or a disappointment. Sean’s view was that the club needs to spend more to compete with the big clubs and that in the absence of this the current position is where the club should expect to be. Puel has, Sean also feels managed players well, particularly Maya Yoshida, who has gone from an error-prone bit-part player to an important team member and occasional captain. Crucially though Puel has provided opportunity to young talent to blossom.

Sean’s points are well considered and I’m in agreement. In the context of the last few seasons perhaps to be in 9th place is a disappointment, but in the wider context of the last decade and given the resources the club has then it’s actually quite good – and that’s not even considering the League Cup final.

One impact of sitting in 9th place with just a few games to go is that the Saints went into the game with Hull with relatively little to play for, neither competing for Europe, nor threatened by relegation. Hull on the other hand were fighting for survival, being just one place and two points above the final relegation spot.

It was therefore unsurprising that Hull seemed the keener side out of the blocks, striking the outside of the post from a free kick early on. They were also as one Saints fan later put it “first in the tackle” throughout, but over the course of the game opportunities for either side were few and far between – the best Saints chance falling to Gabbiadini who blazed wide after being put clean through on goal.

All in all it was a rather poor spectacle with little to excite the Saints fans who were the most subdued I’ve ever seen them at St. Mary’s. They were though finally half-roused when, after a spell of pressure, Maya Yoshida won a penalty in the 89th minute.

There is a scene at the end of the Hitchikers Guide to the galaxy where Marvin the android, on the verge of death, sees God’s final message. The message reads “We apologise for the inconvenience” at which the perennially downbeat Marvin appears to take some consolation “I think… I think I feel good about that.”

If scored the Saints fans would dissipate through the streets surrounding St. Marys with a skip in their stride, the 89 minutes of painfully-dull football they’d witnessed swiftly forgotten.

It was however, the Hull fans who embarked on their long journey home happy as Dusan Tadic saw his well-hit penalty – low into the right corner – spectacularly saved by the Hull ‘keeper Eldin Jakupovic.

This secured a valuable point for the visitors which may, before long, prove crucial. For the Saints fans it simply adds further murkiness to the debate on whether the season can be called a success. Perhaps it’s worth a trip to the barbers.

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Where have all the Franny’s Gone? Comparing player Turnover

20 Feb

Yesterday I got to thinking about squad turnover. It’s often said that players come and go and Southampton’s summer exodus seemed to stand in contrast to the old Dell days when the likes of Benali, Dodd and Le Tissier gave the team a familiar feel over the course of many seasons, but just how much is this impression rooted in reality? Do players really move from club to club that much more?

Using some old programmes I’ve taken two points in time January 11th 1997 and January the 1st 2015. I’ve then looked at the starting XI for each game. Respectively these were against Middlesbrough in 1997 and Arsenal in 2015.

  • The 2015 starting XI have played, on average, 49 games for Saints. The class of 1997 however, had played, on average, 65 games for Saints. The median figures are 22 for 2015 and 35 for 1997
  • Three of the starting XI Robinson, Benali and Oakley had at that point only ever played for Southampton, making 302 appearances between them. In 2015 James Ward-Prowse is the only member of the team to have only played for the club, with a total of 71 appearances.
  • In 2015 Jose Fonte is the only member of the starting XI to have clocked up in excess of 100 appearances for Saints. In the 1997 line-up three players: Ken Monkou (164), Francis Benali (256) and Jim Magilton (131) had made over a century.
  • Missing from the 2015 line-up, through suspension, is Morgan Schniederlin with 254 appearances however also missing from the 1997 starting line-up was Matt Le Tissier who was then on 424 appearances.

Appearances Comparison

appearance comparison

Woolston Works Football Club; The team who may have been Southampton FC

6 Jan
The Songvand. Built at Woolston in 1883

The Songvand. Built at Woolston in 1883

Just down-river of St. Marys stadium, on the other side of the Itchen bridge, is the area of Woolston in which, alongside the river, where currently towers rise from the ground, lies the site of the Vosper Thornycroft shipyard. The yard, which until a decade ago dominated the area, now remains only in memory and a continuing legacy of white-van men who originally learnt their trade as yard apprentices in the 1970s and 80s.

It was in the latter part of the 19th century, when Southampton was in the throes of a transition from spa-town to industrial port, that the site became occupied by the ship-builder Thomas Ridley Oswald, arriving in the 1870s along with a large part of his workforce from the Wearside yard where he had previously based his operations.

According to the local Historian A.G.K. Leonard The yard’s first ship the Aberfoyle, weighing 953 tons was launched in 1876 and in 1877 Oswald partnered with John Murray Mordaunt, with the company becoming known as Oswald Mordaunt & Company. The scale of the operation on the banks of the Itchen was significant; Leonard states that White’s Hampshire Directory reported that by 1878 the yard had 1,000 employees over a 20 acre site (for comparison Southampton’s total population at the time of the 1881 census was 78,278).

Oswald’s interests however, seem to have extended beyond mere business, as Juson & Bull observe in Full-Time at The Dell Oswald “appeared to have a predilection for hiring artisans whose skills were not confined to shipbuilding and repair.” With workers drawn from the ship-building and footballing heartlands of Glasgow and the North East the effect on the local football scene was transformative as Juson & Bull illustrate with a 1936 quote by Willliam Pickford, a stalwart of local football who would go on to be chairman of the FA:

The effect of this galaxy of Scotsmen on the game in Hampshire was electrifying. Up to then few local people knew anything about the fine points of the game, and the public troubled little about it as a spectacle. The opening of the Woolston Shipyard… turned Southampton into an Association hot-bed and it woke up with a start

In their book Saints A Complete Record of Southampton Football Club 1885-1987 Gary Chalk and Duncan Holley report that in the late 1870s workers from the yard had formed a team, Southampton Rangers, who regularly played games on Southampton Common. Due to the itinerant nature of the workforce however, the team was rarely stable in terms of its make-up.

By the late 1880s though, a team made up primarily of workers from the yard, Woolston Works had come to dominate the local football scene. In the 1886-87 season Works, noted for a robust style of play, had played 16 games, with only two defeats and had scored 72 goals to a mere six conceded (Gannaway 1996). They had also claimed the Hants and Dorset Senior cup with a 1-0 win over Wimbourne and had reached the final of the Portsmouth & District Association Cup, where they lost 2-0 to a Portsmouth AFC side featuring none other than Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle in the Pompey goal. Works went on the next season to claim more silverware claiming both the Hampshire Football Association six-a-side tournament and the inaugural Hampshire Senior Cup the following season with another 1-0 win, this time over Winchester.

The fortunes of the Works however, were at this point in time still intractably linked to the fortunes of the yard. Unfortunately for the football team Oswald, Mordaunt & Co did indeed run into financial difficulties leading to the closure of the yard in April 1889 and the ultimate dissolution of the company. Having again reached the final of the Hampshire Senior Cup an exodus of players left the side offering only a weak defence of their Hampshire Senior Cup title, losing to the Royal Engineers of Aldershot. It was a sad end for a team which at the very peak of their powers the team had been undone by events off the field.

This was not however, the end of either shipbuilding on the site, or the yards association with football. The yard would reopen soon after in 1890 under new owners, passing through several hands before being acquired by J I Thornycroft & Co in 1904 – the Thornycroft’s name remaining associated with the yard until its final closure in 2004. There would be several sides which emerged from the yard with one Thornycroft’s (Woolston) side reaching the first round of the FA cup in 1920, where they would face first-division Burnley in 1919-20. Securing a 0-0 draw at Fratton Park (the game had at one point been due to be played at the Veracity Ground) the northerners won the replay 5-0. Finally Sholing (previously known as Vosper Thornycroft FC) became the last side to emerge from the yard in 1960 and currently play in the Southern League. None of these sides would however, ever dominate local football to the extent that the Works had done in their all too brief hey-day.

But, what if the company Oswald, Mordaunt & Co had not collapsed when it did? It is reasonable to suppose that St. Marys would have faced a major obstacle in their struggle to become the pre-eminent side in the area.

On the field Works could consider themselves the superior team. In a game between the two in 1888 Juson & Bull report that Works, winners of the Hampshire Senior Cup beat St. Mary’s, winners of the Junior Cup, 3-0. Perhaps most importantly the Works were also ensconced in one of the few enclosed venues in the town available for football, the Antelope Cricket ground.

Although the sale of the land which it occupied (modern day St. Mary’s Street) for development in 1896 meant that the Saints tenure at the Antelope would be relatively short its importance in the clubs development cannot be understated; As Dave Juson states on the website Deftly Hallowed the Antelope played a key role in St. Mary’s rise

It was at the Antelope St Mary’s firmly established themselves as Hampshire’s pre-eminent football club. Not just in terms of trophies – they won the Junior Cup outright after three consecutive wins, and lifted the Senior Cup in 1891 and ’92 – but by far the best supported. It was at the Antelope they first entered the FA Cup; adopted open professionalism; changed their name to Southampton St Mary’s and became one of the nine original Southern League clubs.

Had the Works survived, even for just a few more years, St. Mary’s would be denied the use of the Antelope at this crucial juncture in their history. Although this may not have been immediately catastrophic it would make it particularity difficult for the club to take its next steps it is not difficult to suppose that St. Marys would have withered on the vine to become, not unlike the Works themselves, a footnote in the City’s footballing history.

In other cities it was a works team which went on to achieve prominence: Coventry City began life as Singers FC the works team of the Singer cycle manufacturer, whilst Manchester United’s origin lie among a group workers from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Had Oswald, Mordaunt & Co survived it is likely that the football team would have followed a similar path to these clubs; As football developed and professionalised the side would have outgrown the yard which had supplied players and would have gone it alone, taking on the name of Southampton FC.

This may have resulted in a few differences, some small enough to be imperceptible. In all likelihood the team name would still be Southampton Football Club and the side would, like almost all others at the time, have adopted Southampton’s civic coat-of-arms as a team crest (of which today’s club crest is a variation). Other differences would be more visible; the team today would not be nicknamed ‘the Saints’ – this being derived from St. Marys. They could well be known as ‘the Boatmen’ as Sholing, the last remaining team from the yard, are. The team may also play in different colours as red and white were adopted early on by St. Marys while the Dell may have remained an empty patch of land until developed for housing and today be several streets of Victorian terraces.

As it stands however, fans crossing the Itchen bridge on match day, the site on the left remains, forever, an alternative future, rather than the clubs past, but it is worth perhaps pausing for a moment to consider the role played by the Works both in their rise – doing much for the development of football in the area and subsequently their fall – paving the way for St. Mary’s to become the Southampton FC of today.

Bibliography:

Chalk, G. & Holley, D. (1987) Saints A Complete Record of Southampton Football Club 1885-1987 Breedon Books

Gannaway, N. (1996) ‘Association Football in Hampshire Until 1914’ Hampshire Papers No.9 Hampshire County Council

Juson, D. & Bull, D. (2001) Full Time at The Dell Hagiology Publishing

Juson, D. ‘The Antelope Cricket Ground’ Deftly Hallowed [online] http://www.deftlyhallowed.co.uk/antelope%20ground.html

Leonard A.G.K (2010) ‘The speculatively-built ships of Oswald, Mordaunt and Company, 1879-84: Woolston, Bitterne, Test, Itchen and Netley’ Journal of Southampton Local History Forum No. 16 Winter 2010

Where are all the Saints? Southampton FCs Summer Exodus

31 Jul

There’s an irony that just over ten minutes walk away from Southampton’s St. Mary’s stadium is reputedly the spot where king Canute tried to reprove his courtiers by ordering the tide to turn back; Ironic because Chairman Ralph Krueger’s insistence that Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin are not up for sale seems to be a similar exercise in futility.

Ever since manager Pochettino was lured away by Spurs in May following his successful inaugural season in the Premier League where his style of play won both plaudits and a well regarded 8th place finish for the club Saints fans have braced themselves for an exodus of playing staff.

The situation was only exasperated by the shop window afforded by a World Cup tournament however, only the most pessimistic could have predicted the unprecedented number of players making for the exit. Whilst few fans would begrudge Rickie Lambert a boyhood dream move after years of loyal service and goals which have seen the club rise from the depths of League One, and most expected Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw to depart for big clubs, the loss of Calum Chambers and Dejan Lovren is an altogether harder pill to swallow.

While Pochettino’s main concern is to avoid the slide into mediocrity which undid Glenn Hoddle who made the same move from the South Coast to London in 2001 his replacement Ronald Koeman – a man still best known in England for allegedly costing Graham Taylor his job as England manager – faces a full-blown crisis.

With the beginning of the Premier League season fast approaching Koeman has only succeed in completing two permanent signings, those of Graziano Pelle from his former club Feyenoord and Dusan Tadic from FC Twente along with the addition of Ryan Bertrand on a season-long loan from Chelsea. This lack of recruitment despite recouping a reported figure of around £75 million in transfer fees is also leading to renewed concerns among sections of the fanbase about the intentions of club owner Katharina Liebherr, who inherited the club from her late father Markus.

With Krueger coming out to categorically insist that the club aren’t up for sale, perhaps the harder truth for Southampton fans – also spoilt by years of Le Tissier loyalty – is that in the era of big-money Champions League football the club will always struggle to the retain players, or managers whose success puts them on the radar of bigger clubs. As Canute proved, not so far away, it isn’t easy to turn back the tide.

Fantasy Autobiographies: Southampton FC

7 Jun

Recently I’ve been reading a few footballing autobiographies. Although there’s been some good ones, generally they’re are the sporting equivalent of Mills and Boon romances with their rigid adherence to a formulaic plot; I hated school, but loved football, My dad was stern but supportive and bought my first pair of boots, I was let go by my first club and desperate to prove them wrong, I loved club X until a new manager Y arrived and so on. You can probably fill out a few on a piece of paper, pick half a dozen out of a hat and it’ll resemble most autobiographies out there.  As a Southampton fan too autobiographies are few on the ground. Matt Le Tissier has been the only one in recent years, and that is a rather forgettable effort. All this got me to thinking about autobiographies I’d like to read, ones with the potential to be truly interesting. I narrowed it down to four. In reverse order they are….

 

4.) Francis Benali

ALI DIA .. Senegalese player, had a month contract at Southampto

Fully deserving of his cult status. Holley and Chalk’s (1992) The Alphabet of the Saints says of a young Benali:

Naturally aggressive and a stern tackler, his area of weakness is going forward and this fault has at times earned him the wrath of the crowd. Franny is, however, nothing if not a battler and his commitment to the club’s welfare cannot be doubted. With a little more thought and concentration he could yet become a permanent fixture in the side.

Franny would go on to make 311 appearances in a long career at Saints. His tally of one league goal though suggests that his effectiveness going forward never really did improve, at least in-front of goal. His other qualities though would more than make up for any deficit. On the field Franny was a shining example of passion and hard-work and while is said that it was Le Tissier’s sheer skill which kept Saints in the Premier League Franny’s heart played no small role. Off the field Franny always appeared eager to be involved with charity and community work and an autobiography could do much to educate the next generation in how a professional footballer should conduct themselves. Perhaps Franny is too nice to join in with the standard autobiography fayre of slating former managers and colleagues, but there’s plenty of things to be of interest; not least the curries (Franny had, or did, have an interest in Kuti’s Brasserie one of the best Indian restaurants in the area), but also how Franny felt finally getting that league goal against Leicester, for which I am proud to say I bore witness too.

3.) Claus Lundekvam

ALI DIA .. Senegalese player, had a month contract at Southampto

Claus undoubtedly has a story to tell. Signed in 1996 by Souness from Brann Bergen the defender would go on to be a key presence in the side and would be awarded the captaincy in his 12 year spell at the club. An assured cool on the pitch, always unruffled in possession, however masked what were, particularly at the tail end of his career, some serious personal issues which included issues with drink and drugs. After his retirement Claus would also make some hugely sensational claims about betting fraud in 2012 when he told the Norwegian TV station NRK: “It’s not something I’m proud of. For a while we did this almost every week. We made a fair bit of money. We could make deals with the opposing captain about, for example, betting on the first throw, the first corner, who started with the ball, a yellow card or a penalty. Those were the sorts of thing we had influence over.”Although causing a brief stir in the press and sparking the promise of an investigation by FIFA, it seems that the revelations have been successfully played down. Claus’s former colleagues being at pains to deny any knowledge, while pointing out Claus’s well known personal problems. Thankfully Claus appears to have got his life back on track, becoming a TV pundit in his Native Norway whilst living a normal domestic existence in a house by the sea with his wife, two children and a dog. Would an autobiography lift the lid on the darkest recesses of modern football, or simply reveal the alienation experienced by the player at the tail end of a career and his fight to recover a normal family life?

2) Nicola Cortese

ALI DIA .. Senegalese player, had a month contract at Southampto

Ian Ridley’s book Floodlit Dreams about his brief tenure as Weymouth Chairman is a real eye-opener in terms of how what goes on off the field can be more exciting and more important than what goes on on it. Almost all football clubs are the stage for battling egos and intrigue on a Game of Thrones scale. In terms of autobiographies though it’s very rare to hear from the protagonists. Of those various boardroom players at Southampton; Askham, Crouch, Wilde, Lowe and Cortese it is perhaps the latter pair whose books would provide the most interest. Lowe is still in some quarters a much maligned character who ran the club into the ground whilst making a series of disastrous managerial appointments, but others point to the stadium and youth development programme, both his legacy. A Lowe autobiography could be a chance to tell his side of the story. More sensational though would be Cortese’s story. The Swiss Italian banker who convinced the ageing industrialist to rescue the club at the 11th hour.

Cortese though would be accused running the club with a ruthlessness which made it seem as if he’d swallowed a copy of Machiavelli’s the Prince, making a hatful of enemies whether it was alienating press photographers, banning the local rag, or remodelling Franny Benali’s property with a sledgehammer. As Machiavelli said however, It is better to be feared than loved and the success Cortese delivered was enough for the fans. Just as if it looked like the ‘Don’ was at the peak of his powers, delivering Saints best campaign of recent memory and outlining his vision for the future, he was deposed by his superiors the hitherto in the shadows Liebherr family. Definitely a story worth reading.

1.) Ali Dia

ALI DIA .. Senegalese player, had a month contract at Southampto

He may have only played one game for Saints, but his is perhaps the most remarkable story of all. It began when Southampton manager Graeme Souness received a call from a person purporting to be George Weah, then World Footballer of the year recommending his cousin, a Senegalese international named Ali Dia. Invited for a trial, Dia failed to impress his prospective colleagues in a 5-a-side game, but nevertheless found himself named on the bench for a premier league game against Leeds Utd. Even more improbably after an injury to Matt Le Tissier. Dia found himself on the pitch. He was though a fake. It hadn’t been George Weah on the phone, but someone else, a friend, agent, or perhaps Dia himself – to this day no one knows. Dia was no international, or even a professional footballer. He had somehow blagged his way to appear in the Premier League, in the process becoming a hero to every fan who has ever dreamt of crossing over into that mystical green realm.

The best lies however, have a grain of truth, no matter how small. Ali Dia was, born in Senegal and he was indeed a footballer. His career – had, since seen him undertake a meandering a tour around Europe’s amateur footballing scene with spells in France, Germany and – according to Wikipedia – Finland taking in clubs such as: Avignon, St Quentin and Vfb Lubeck, before ending up in England with Bishop Auckland.

Despite putting in what is unsurprisingly viewed as a sub par performance in the Premier League – which saw him subsequently substituted himself – Dia did manage to get a shot in on goal leading to the crowd briefly chanting his name. Immediately after leaving Southampton Dia was signed by Conference side Gateshead – whose chairman John Gibson, would remark on Dia’s astounding pace. Dia scored on his debut and went on to play eight games, notching up another goal in the process however would once again be subbed after getting off the bench. Finally this was followed by a short spell at Blyth Spartans.

Outside of football Dia undertook a degree in Business Administration at Northumbria University, graduating in 2001. It is here that the trail goes cold; Defying attempts by various reporters and other interested parties to track him down Dia has effectively disappeared – an impressive feat in today’s social media age. This sense of mystery only makes his story more intriguing and it’s tempting to think that Dia is now a middle-manager at a respectable insurance firm, at pains to keep a lid on his moment of infamy.

Apart from the audacity of the tale and the mystery of Dia’s whereabouts now Dia’s story is of interest as it links in to wider narratives of population movement, globalisation and the development of football. Dia’s migration from Senegal and wanderings around Europe would coincide with the emergence of the Premier league and the Bosman Ruling. Dia may have been an extreme example, but as clubs began recruiting players from further afield it would seem that in general clubs and fans alike asked few questions and took claims at face value; Around the same time, for instance, newly promoted premiership side Barnsley would part with £250 000 for Lars Leese, a German goalkeeper, the club had been led to believe was 2nd choice at Bayer Leverkeusen (in fact he was 3rd choice) and whose playing experience mainly took in amateur football. Most importantly though no one at the club had seen Leese actually play.

No mistake, Dia’s has the potential to be a truly fascinating autobiography. Leaving Senegal and journeying around Europe chasing his dream just what were Dia’s feelings, his successes and disappointments? How much did he know about the infamous phone call? I’d also love to know what Dia’s feelings were as he stepped onto the pitch and then as he heard the crowd chanting his name; was it a really the kind of moment every fan dreams of, or was it a sad reminder of the success which had proved so elusive in his long and transient journey?

 

Saint or Sinner: Is it time to re-appraise Rupert Lowe?

13 Dec

For Saints fans Rupert Lowe is one name which is guaranteed to generate controversy – in fact it’s so controversial I’ve thought hard about hard whether to post this at all. But is Rupert’s reputation as the man who took the club to the brink deserved, or is it now time to reappraise Rupert?

For Southampton fans it’s something of an unusual situation to find their club winning plaudits, the clubs last decent run of league success being back in the early 1980s. The reason for this new-found success according to many is the success of the academy in producing home-grown talent, but for saints fans this means an uncomfortable truth, crediting the man who many still hold to be the clubs greatest villain, a man who they feel took the club the brink of extinction.

Rupert Lowe was almost from the very start a bogeyman for Saints fans. No sooner than he arrived than popular manager Graeme Souness and club stalwart Lawrie McMenemy made for the exit; Souness muttering ‘You tell me if there is anyone else in football by the name of Rupert? ‘. The accusation that someone named ‘Rupert’, a hockey playing rugby-loving public-school boy had no place in football was devastating in sewing the seeds of mistrust and denying the new chairman anything approaching a honeymoon period.

The inauspicious start must have seemed far away as during long-serving full-back Jason Dodd’s testimonial Lowe prepared to take a penalty kick in front of a packed Dell crowd. Souness’s would surely be choking on his words too as the ball, kicked by the rugby loving Rupert, embarked on a goalkeeper evading trajectory.

Appearing in full-kit alongside Dean Gaffney and Michael Greco – better known as Robbie and Beppe from Eastenders – was Lowe’s finest hour. Saints biggest priority – aside from a voiding relegation – was a new stadium. Following conversion to all-seater the Dell was left with a capacity of just over 15 000, a figure which was, in the midst of a stadia construction boom, becoming more inadequate by the day. To keep their seat at the top table a new ground was needed and fast, particularly as time had already been wasted with an aborted attempt to build a ground on green-field site to the north of the city.

The ‘keeper beaten Lowe’s penalty clipped the post, however the spectre of the moustacioed Souness was still banished the crowd still cheered, drunk on anticipation; The testimonial would be the penultimate game at the ground before a move to the new 36 000 seater home that Lowe had secured funding for and delivered.

Lowe basked in the adulation, however it was to be short-lived. Just a few years on Lowe would be one of the most vilified figures in the history of the club. There was still an FA Cup final to come, but a widely remarked upon high-turnover of managers – partly as the result of a number of poor-appointments – the relegation of the club from the Premier League and failing to secure a swift return ensured frustration with Lowe’s tenure grew to breaking-point among fans and insiders alike. Things came to a head when a boardroom battle left Lowe with little option but to resign his position in June 2006.

A remarkable set of circumstances saw Lowe return to the club, which had in his absence been beset by boardroom disharmony following a failure to secure required investment, in May 2008, but despite claiming to have returned for the love of the club few viewed Lowe as a saviour. In one indignity a handful of coins representing thirty pieces of silver were thrown at Lowe during a stormy AGM, whilst other fans took vocal protests into the town centre.

Far from saving the club, within less than a year the club were in serious trouble. On the pitch manager Jan Poortvliet had watched his young team struggle, sinking towards the bottom of the Championship resulting in the Dutchman – who had no prior experience of English football prior to his appointment by Lowe – offering his resignation. Attendances also slumped and by the start of April the club finally succumbed; the parent company entering administration with debts in the region of £30 million. Lowe pointed the finger at the previous regime who had he had earlier accused of allowing the wage bill to rise to 81% of turnover, though other factors included the ending of parachute payments and the financing for St. Marys itself . In any case many fans looked no further than the man at the helm of the ship at the time when it went down.

This is how Lowe finds himself remembered. But a few years on one aspect of his spell in charge has risen to prominence; The academy. If bigger clubs can only envy Southampton’s academy – hailed as the best in the league – then it’s in no small part thanks to the vision and enthusiasm of Lowe. It was Lowe who was responsible for many of the key appointments, for setting it’s continental philosophy with the appointment of Frenchman Georges Prost and for directing investment towards it’s facilities, including the satellite site in Bath which was initially attended by Gareth Bale. The aim of the academy Lowe later remarked was to produce players who were not just technically good, but decent people too. Uniquely too players were recruited based not on footballing ability, but intelligence and athleticism. The output, in many ways, speaks for itself, players like; Bale, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Lallana. It may be difficult for many to acknowledge but at least some of the clubs current success is thanks to Rupert Lowe.

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