|Opening Day Of The Season 1991 - Tottenham Hotspur|
Wed 01st Aug 2012 09:39
The start of a new era for Southampton Football Club as Ian Branfoot takes the reins of the team for the first time in what would be the final season before the Premier League.
Branfoot was a condemned man before a ball had been kicked, his long ball style at Reading was famous throughout the footballing world and despite his protestations to the contary, Saints fans were convinced that before a ball was kicked that he would change us from one of the most exciting teams in the top flight, to a team of long ball hoofers. He certainly didnt need to do that, upon his arrival Saints still had plenty of great players, both young and experienced.
Almost Branfoot's first act when taking charge didnt make him popular with the supporters, Jimmy Case was given a free transfer and joined Bournemouth, in truth it was probably a good move from the manager, after all hadn't Lawrie McMenemy done the same with Terry Paine, as you are trying to stamp your authority on a club, the last thing you need is a player who was in the running for your job himself giving the fans ammunition to call for him to replace you.
Other departures included the Wallace twins, this was sorted long before Branfoot arrived so was one thing he couldnt be blamed for, another that wasnt his fault either was the arrival of Paul Moody from Waterlooville (They hadnt joined up with Havant back then) that deal was started under Chris Nicholl and Branfoot merely rubber stamped it, it didnt help his cause though as Moody was seen as a big striker and the first piece needed in the armoury of any long ball merchant.
Moody apart though there were no new debutants in the 12 who would play in this game, although Richard Hall did make his full debut after a cameo as sub in the final game of the previous season under Chris Nicholl.
Another newcomer to the Dell though was a new kit, the fans breathed a sigh of relief when it was another traditional stripes kit and it was seen as a lucky omen when the manufacturer was Admiral, the same company who the club had used at Wembley in 1976, although an away kit of a royal blue shirt wasnt popular for obvious reasons.
On a sunny day with 18,581 in attendance, the new era started at the Dell and although some suspected, none would have quite predicted just what a turbulent 2 1/2 years lay ahead.
But for now it all started in great fashion, with barely 2 mins on the clock Alan Shearer thundered a shot past Erik "The Viking" Thorstvedt in the Spurs goal to shock Terry Venables on the Spurs bench and at the same time have the distinction of the first goal in the entire league for the new season.
For the first 40 minutes Saints looked good, but then five minutes before the break Gary Lineker equalised for Spurs to send both teams in at the break all square, but it got worse, on 70 minutes ordon Durie put the visitors ahead and before Saints had hd time to regroup Lineker had netted his second to make the game look safe for Spurs.
But perhaps they thought they were home and dry, because within a minute or two, Richard Hall headed home to make it three goals in four minutes in the game and 3-2 to Spurs overall and set up a grandstand finish.
But sadly for Saints despite the introduction of the very tall and gangly Moody, who in many respects looked like Iain Dowie's brother, the scoring was over.
Saints fans wondered whether they had seen the start of the long ball game, certainly there was a change of tactic, Alan Shearer previously more of a target man whose main job was to set the chances up for Matt Le Tiss and Rod Wallace, was now pushed to the fore as the main goalscoring threat with balls aimed down the channels at him.
Within weeks though any Saints supporters who thought that Branfoot was going to change his style got a wake up call, out went Paul Rideout and in came Branfoot's Reading henchmen Terry Hurlock and Steve Wood alongside the aforementioned Iain Dowie, as well as a diminutive winger David Lee who was to enjoy a 15 minute golden period for the club in his full debut against Villa, but little else.
The Branfoot era had arrived things were going to get a lot worse before they got better.
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