|Opening Day Of The Season 1983 - Nottingham Forest |
Fri 20th Jul 2012 14:09
Its fair to say that most Saints supporters were not expecting too much for season 1983/84, how wrong they would be as it became Saints best ever League season.
At the end of the previous season Lawrie McMenemy had a big clear out with seven players leaving, although most hadnt played for the first team clearly the manager was clearing the decks and going to rely on the undoubtably talent he had coming through the youth ranks, although the general feeling was that this would not be good enough to do much better than the 12th managed in the previous campaign.
The incoming transfers didnt excite either, central defender Ken Armstrong arrived from Kilmarnock for £50k to replace Chris Nicholl who had gone to Grimsby as assistant manager and Frank Worthington who at 35 was certainly not long term arrived for £25k, in the latest crop of youngsters a lad called Dennis Wise signed as an apprentice. On the coaching staff Ian Branfoot left for Reading with much less fanfare than his next departure from the Dell.
Saints team for the trip to the ity ground though had slowly developed and what most fans didnt realise was that the youngsters now had that right balance of experience and the elder statesmen like Shilton, Mick Mills, David Armstrong and even Worthington were the right people to bring out their talent.
Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest were a tough test to start at, they had finished fifth the season just gone and were expected to be up there again, whilst Saints were considered mid table.
But it was clear that McMenemy had built another team at the Dell and was using what he had to hand to its best abilities, at times it was a side that would defend in depth and go on the break, it didnt give much away, the 38 goals that would be conceeded in the coming season was only bettered by Liverpool and QPR who irionically got their 1 goal less conceded by virtue of handing Saints their biggest drubbing 4-0 and attacking wise only five teams would score more.
But on this opening day, Saints set out their stall for the season, defending well with Peter Shilton superb in goal and nicking it on the break with a Danny Wallace goal in the 66th minute, a true team performance with every man doing their job and doing it well.
A satisfying victory that sent the 800 or so Saints supporters in the 14,626 crowd home hopeful that perhaps this team might do better than predicted, from a Forest point of view it was a poor day, not only had they lost, but the crowd was pitiful, where had all their supporters that had seen them lift the European Cup only three years ago gone, ok on this day England were also playing a Test Match 300 yards away at Trent Bridge, but this gate was still more than had been at the corresponding match only five months earlier, more worryingly for the Forest board was the fact that almost exactly two years to the day Saints had also visited for the opening game, then there had been over 25,000 present, where had they all gone.
Ironically come the final day of the season, this result mattered, Saints pipped Forest to second place by 3 points, a draw would have reversed the positions on goal difference.