|Opening Day Of The Season 1989 - Millwall |
Fri 27th Jul 2012 09:49
Hopes for a sucsesful 1989/90 were not high amongst Saints fans as it looked like Chris Nicholl would be relying heavily on youth during the coming year.
The summer had not seen much movement in terms of the playing squad, out had gone Derek Statham, with no new summer signings, although in fairness Nicholl had done some good work ahead of the transfer deadline in the March of the previous season bringing in Micky Adams, Barry Horne & Neil Ruddock all of whom would give good service to Saints.
So the youth policy was high on the agenda, Tim Flowers was reinstalled in the goal, although in truth his time at the club was still one of unfufilled promise, but perhaps the manager saw that what Flowers needed now to fulfill his potential was a chance as undisputed number one and John Burridge was consigned to the reserves.
Millwall had had a great year in 88/89 their first year ever in the top flight and were hoping to consolidate second time out, they bought a healthy following, but the crowd was a very disapointing 14,201, perhaps reflecting the fans aspirations for the coming year, it could also be said that although Chris Nicholl looked set to have to rely on youth, he seemed reluctant to do so initially and that showed in his team selection on the opening day, Rod Wallace was consigned to the bench with Graham Baker being preferred, although Matt Le Tissier started he had been far from being an automatic choice the previous term and many wondered why Nicholl seemed so reluctant to release Alan Shearer with Paul Rideout being the preferred striker, Rideout after his opening pair of goals on the opening day the previous term had only added another four during the entire season.
There was one new welcome arrival on the pitch though and that was a return toour traditional red & white stripes, The fledgling Ugly Inside fanzine had launched its Save Our Stripes campaign SOS for short alongside a slightly less serious SICK, Saints In Conventional Kit, the club had listened and on this opening day finally the proper stripes were on show at the Dell again after 13 years of all sorts of variations, some of which wouldnt have looked out of place in a wallpaper catalogue.
At half time Millwall where a goal in front after a 38th minute strike from Les Briley, although Saints had not played particularly badly, in the second half they cranked up a gear and when Neil Ruddock powered home a header with twenty minutes to go against his old club, most home fans thought that there would be only oe side that would go on to win it.
Sadly though that side would not be Saints, despite controlling the last period and looking for the winner, Saints shot themselves in the foot in the very last minute, as they loct concentration and allowed Teddy Sherringham to win the game for the South London side, a defeat that wasnt deserved, yes Saints hadnt played great but they had done enough to secure at least a point and it sent Saints fans home wondering whether this might be the year that we might lose our top flight status.
Lucky for Saints though the season would soon pick up as we older fans remember and it would be an exciting one at that with a top 10 finish, only Champions Liverpool would score more goals than us, but as usual the problem was at the back and only Crystal Palace and Millwall would concede more, Palace letting in more and Liverpool scoring more was only courtesy of a 9-0 defeat for the Eagles at Anfield in the September, ironically Palace coming to the Dell a few days later and getting a 1-1 draw.
For their part Millwall would collapse and go down weeks before the end of the season, when we drew 2-2 at the Den on 2nd December they were in trouble two points off the bottom with 17 points out of 16 games ( we were 7th with 24) they would fail to win another game all season though and go down with only 26 points on the board.