|Opening Day Of The Season 1978 - Norwich City|
Fri 13th Jul 2012 09:08
Saints were back in the top flight, but where about to get a rude awakening at Carrow Road on the opening day.
Before a ball was kicked though Saints first had to fend off approaches for manager Lawrie McMenemy not least from from Leeds United, when those had been rebuffed thoughts at last could turn to the business of re establishing the club back in the top flight.
Initially at least McMenemy was content to give the players who had got the club promotion the chance to prove themselves good enough for the first division, but he was already aware of their limitations and knew that after building a team that won the sup and a second to get promotion, he now had to build a third to keep the club in the top echelons and build on it.
In East Anglia however there would only be one debutant Terry Curran a 23 year old winger signed from Derby Couty for £60,000 although Yugoslavian full back Ivan Golac was at the club he had not yet been granted a work permit and he was unable to play on the opening day although it would be through in time for the midweek fixture at home to Bolton.
On a scorching day around 3,000 Saints fans headed up to Norwich, in those days it was a long old haul, up to London, round the north circular and then a drag up a single carriage A road, but the fans were in good voice and the police had to open an overspill section behind the goal as more travelled than they expected.
But it would not be a good start for Saints, the game was seen as a battle of wits between two flambuoyant managers, McMenemy and John Bond, but Saints were found wanting firstly in their preparation as Lawrie documented in his book Diary Of A Season, firstly they forgot the salt tablets which were seen as essential in hot weather, meaning that they had to put extra salt on their pre match meal of steak, to supplement the supply they had at the ground, putting the players into a grumpy mood.
To be fair Saints were outclassed by a team with a little more experience than them in the top flight, yes Saints had those with top flight games under their belt, not least Alan Ball and Chris Nicholl and of course the ex Canaries MaCdougall and Boyer and these were supplemented by the likes of Steve Williams, but the manager knew that they were lacking in certain areas and that these would need to be dealt with over the course of the season.
New Forest born Kevin Reeves opened the scoring for the home side in the 30th minute and on the hour Ryan doubled the advantage, es Saints and Southampton born player Martin Chivers marked his Norwich debut at 33 with the third goal that scotched any hope Saints had of mounting a fightback although Ted MacDougall made the score a little more respectable with 8 minutes left.
In his book McMenemy admitted that although he rarely ripped into players straight after the game he did in this one as he felt that too many didnt play to their capabilities and ultimately let themselves down, although his blast was brief as they needed to be on the 5.42pm train out of Norwich, less than an hour after the kick off.
After this game though McMenemy's job looked tough, he had a hard task ahead, one he wasnt afraid of as three vital players in the promotion run Mike Pickering, Ted Macdougal and Tony Funnell would all play their final games for the club within three months of the season starting as the manager realised he needed to be ruthless, Pickering who had only missed one game in the promotion push, ironically the final game playing only three games, Funnell who was seen as the fans as the next big thing twice and SuperMac ten, although in fairness to the Scots forward in those games he had hit five goals, but as he approached 32 he felt he lacked the sharpness to play in the top flight and instigated his move down the road to Bournemouth himself.
As we know though despite the traditional Southampton bad start the season got better the longer it went on, the Saints were back in the top flight