|Opening Day Of The Season 1990 - Aston Villa|
Tue 31st Jul 2012 09:16
Hopes were high amongst Saints supporters as Chris Nicholl looked to have put together a decent little team and the country basked in the aftermath of Italia 90.
Saints had finished 7th in 89/90, indeed if they had won their final two matches away at Arsenal and Spurs respectively instead of losing 2-1 in both, they would have finished third, however seventh was still considered outstanding given the youthfulness of the team and supporters viewed this one as the season that they might just really come of age and perhaps bring a trophy to the Dell.
On the transfer front there was little incoming business the only new face was Sergei Gotsmanov who although had shown a bit of promise down the road at Brighton and cost £150k, not to mention he had scored for Russia at Wembley six years earlier, was seen as more as company for Alexsey Cherednik, through the out dorr were Graham Baker for a second time, Gerry Forrest both on free's and Mark Blake who cost Shrewsbury £100k and showed how Saints were able to keep their youth system so profitable, to put it in perspective, in the summer of 1990, Draper Tools signed a three year shirt sponsorship deal for £500,000.
Saints headed to Villa Park on the opening day, a tough game as Aston Villa had been runners up to Liverpool the previous year and ahead of third by some way, that and the feelgood factor now in the country for the game after the Italia 90 World Cup had made football trendy for the first time in two decades, meant that 29,542 including a couple of thousand Saints fans turned up to see the game, a decend crowd back in those days with football in a post heysel doldrum.
In the blazing sunshine it was Saints who drew first blood, Matt Le Tissier turning a defender inside out in the 7th minute before nonchantly putting the ball past Nigel Spink to put the visitors ahead, but the lead would last only a matter of minutes, four to be exact until Tony Cascarino equalised for the home side.
After such an explosive start it would have been hard for amy game to live up to that and although the 90 minutes had its moments, overall it was an evenly matched contest with Chris Nicholl telling the press in the aftermatch contest that he felt his side were fully deserving of the point.
Certainly Saints fans were happy on their trip home and they felt that perhaps this season Nicholl had finally moulded the team into his own and that with a great mix of experience and youth and indeed that youth having a little more experience under its belts now, that with perhaps the odd addition to the squad, this would be a team that could finally recapture the glory days of a decade or so ago, another top seven finish was definately achievable, but more to the point perhaps one of the cups, this was a flare team and most felt that a Cup final was well within its reach, if not the consistency needed in the league.
It nearly happened in the FA Cup, Saints reaching the third round and only losing to Forest in a replay, in the Carling Cup they reached the quarter finals, again losing in a replay, in controversial circumstances at Old Trafford 3-2 after Jimmy Case had been sent off on 70 minutes, the league season was unspectacular, Saints rarely rising above the 14th they eventually finished in, but with rumours of unrest in the camp, especially as an impending court case against Rod Wallace's agent and mentor and former youth team svengali Bob Higgins had lead to Wallace wanting away, Chris Nicholl found himself sacked in the summer showing that a year is a long time in football when you go from upcoming manager with a promising team, to one who will never manage in the top flight again or indeed anywhere near it.
Ironicall for their part Villa had a worse season that Saints finishing 4th from bottom