|Opening Day Of The Season 1975 - West Bromwich Albion|
Mon 09th Jul 2012 09:05
Perhaps the season when Saints stepped up to the World's footballing stage although on this day it didnt quite feel like that.
A season out of the top flight had brought home some stark realities at the Dell, reduced attendances meant reduced income and a total of nine players had been let go in the summer including Eric Martin and Bob McCarthy, that left just 21 professionals on the books and remember back then a club would put out both a first team and a reserve one on a Saturday, to add to that several of that squad were on the transfer list including both Bobby Stokes and Jim Steele, however one player who hadnt left but had put in a transfer request which had been refused was Mike Channon, initially he had let slip it was probably best if he went in a documentary about his fledgling career as a race horse owner, but the board felt that if they kept the core of the squad they perhaps had a chance of getting back up at the second attempt.
There had been one arrival though Peter Rodrigues, but its fair to say that if Lawrie McMenemy had been under fire from the fans in the previous season, it was simmering under the surface at the start of this one, it was essential that Saints got off to a good start.
One surprise in the team though was the fact that Ian Turner wasnt in it, he was in the reserves opening fixture at Birmingham and would spent some time in the second string, Steve Middleton who had made his debut on the opening day a couple of years previously was the preferred keeper in a starting line up that would include 8 of the 11 who would start the final game of the season at Wembley, the missing three being Paul Gilchrist who was also in the ressies with Turner and Peter Osgood.
15,246 including a chunk of Albion fans on the Archers Road watched the game kick off in bright sunshine and they didnt have long to wait before the majority of the crowd would have something to cheer, West Brom were one of the big pre season favourites for promotion but they were rocked after only six minutes when Nick Holmes knocked in the rebound after the visitors keeper John Osbourne could only parry a Jim McCalliog shot, ten minutes later and the lead was doubled when Channon showed that although he might have preferred to be back in the top flight, he was still up for the fight with Saints and the number 8 fired home after a corner wasnt completely cleared.
Early in the second half the game was effectively over when Channon again scored with a header and the home side saw out the rest of the game without any danger of the visitors getting back into the game.
If you think that failing to win on the opening day is a relatively modern Saints invention, then your wrong, this was the first win on the opening day for 10 years and those looking for good omens poined out that back then in 65/66 another midland side, this time Derby County were beaten 3-0 and Saints would be promoted at the end of the season.
The crowd though went home happy, they knew that this was a good victory against a very good West Brom side, indeed one that would be promoted come the end of the season, the pressure was off Lawrie for this week anyway and the Saints fans pondered that perhaps the dead wood had been cleared and with some promising youngsters in the reserves and coming through, promotion might just be a reality this season, of course as we know the season would be a succesful one, but it wouldnt be promotion that would be the ultimate triumph.
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