|Saints Players You Have Never Heard Of Part 11|
Mon 09th Jul 2012 11:29
Today we take a look at a player who could have been enshrined in Saints history by playing in the FA Cup Final team.
Steve Middleton was a one of a number of players who Saints signed in the late 60's early 70's from the Portsmouth area after Pompey scrapped their youth and reserve teams and ironically would also be one of the many Saints who eneded up at Fratton to finish their career.
Steve made his debut in goal for Saints at the start of the 73/74 season aged only 20 playing three top flight games, two of which Saints wonand the other, his debut a 1-1 draw at QPR, but understandably Eric Martin was reinstated when he returned from Injury, Middleton had done a solid apprenticeship at the clubworking his way through the ranks and in 72/73 establishing himself in the reserve side before his baptism in the first side.
But it would be another two years before he got another opportunity in the first team, cMenemy having bought Ian Turner to replace Eric Martin before the latters departure in the summer of 75, given McMenemy's knowledge of Turner and the fact he had played the lions share of the games the previous season it came as a shock that Middleton started the season as the managers number one choice in goal and with Turner consigned to the reserves.
Initially Steve thrived as Saints got off to a great start and he started the first 17 games of the season as Saints established themselves as a promotion contender, but the problem for the side was they were conceding too many goals, of course this wasnt all down to Steve but a wobbly defence was doing little for his confidence and after a 3-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest ironically the first home loss of the season, Ian Turner was restored to the green jersey to bring some experience to the defence.
This would be the last game of the season for Steve Middleton though and he had to watch as Saints stormed to the FA Cup final and perhaps sit in the stands and consider that it could have been him out there on the pitch, certainly when Turner came back in the side in November, there werent that many Saints fans who truly rated him and some thought that Middleton would be back at the club very soon, little did they or Steve know, that his first team career at the Dell would be over withing 11 months.
At the start of 1976/77 season Steve did have the chance to re establish himself in the side with an injury toTurner he was back in for three games, but unluckily for him Saints were suffering the burn out from the cup final win and were in disarray and the manager brought in first Colin Boulton from Derby and then Jim Montgomery from Sunderland, both on loan to plug the gap, in between there spells he made his final league appearance for the club at home to Hereford, ironically in a game that saw Terry Paine on the Dell pitch for the last time albeit in a Hereford shirt.
However before his time was up at the Dell he made his final first team appearances, both in the cup winners cup against Carrick Rangers, the arrival of Peter Wells in December pushed him further down the ratings and it was no surprise when in the summer of 1977 he was released from his contract and allowed to join his home town club Pompey. His time at Fratton would be brief though, it lasted 26 games, syill low on confidence and not being helped by supporters who just could not accept ex Saints players at the club he quit football to run a pub, although he later became a financial adviser with a building society in Fareham which is where he was last heard of around 2003.