|Opening Day Of The Season 1993 - Everton|
Fri 03rd Aug 2012 09:40
Where there any Saints supporters back in the summer of 1993 actually looking forward to the coming season with confidence, I dont think so !
Ian Branfoot's second season in charge had pretty much followed the pattern of his first, a poor start followed by a few good results here and there meaning that although we had only beaten the drop by one point, the reality was that we were effectively safe long before the end of the season, the problem was though that in the final eight games we had lost six and taken only four points and crowds were dropping alarmingly as the supporter base became more and more disallusioned with the manager.
Strangely though the Southampton directors didnt appear to share the views of the supporters and gave Branfoot a new three year contract during this summer, Branfoot felt happy with his squad though and made only minor signings, Simon Charlton a left back from Huddersfield for £250k, puzzling in that in Benali and Micky Adams we already had two, plus two minor signings from Scottish football Colin Cramb and Paul McDonald, given the managers record with David Speedie you think he might have stayed clear of Scots, his eye for a player could perhaps be summed up in the fact that these two scots totalled four appearances as sub in the Premier League during their time here, Cramb made one and was gone within a year whilst McDonald made three spread over three seasons at the club.
Funnily enough no one had really gone through the out door during the summer, Branfoots three big signings of his first couple of years had been Perry Groves David Speedie and Kerry Dixon, all of who played their last game for the club, all three had joined in August 1992, all three had been signed using the money from the transfer of Shearer, all three had played their last games for the club by January, between them they had a grand total of 32(3) games and 4 goals, given this record the supporters were not the greatest fans of the manager and 93/94 season was a simmering cauldron waiting to explode.
One player that Branfoot wanted to get through the out door though was Matt Le Tissier, despite the aforementioned trio being brought in at great expense, it was Le God who had saved the day with 15 goals in 40 games and the manager was well aware that he was becoming a symbol to the fans and therefore wanted him out.
One thing that was new though was the kit, it was still stripes but only just, Amercican company Pony was trying to get a big foothold in the football market and had signed up several top flight clubs including Saints, the design as worn above was a little strage to say the least, it was still stripes, but of a sort, the stripes sort of finishing half way up the shirt and then being topped off by Pony's swish logo on the top half, the supporters thoughts on it were mixed to say the least, although it did jhave a certain charm of the time.
Everton were the oppening day opponents at the Dell, another side whose fans were not happy as they lingered just above Saints in the previous years league table, indeed according to the excellent Saints book In That Number the 14,051 who amassed at the Dell on the opening day were exactly the same number who had been at Goodison the previous season for the Saints fixture there and would be almost a thousand more than would witness the return fixture at Goodison in December.
The key for Branfoot would be a decent start to the season, something that hadnt happened under him so far, Everton was seen as an entirely winnable game, indeed given the position of thetwo clubs at the time, almost the first relegation six pointer of the season.
But those optimists would not be rewarded with an opening day win, Peter Beagrie put the visitors ahead after only ten minutes and then on the stroke of half time Ebrell doubled the lead and there would be no way back for the home side as the home fans grumbled and the die was cast for the season.
It turned out that it was a relegation battle, both clubs getting out of it on the final day, Everton under controversial circumstances amidst allegations of bribery alongside threats to the Wimbledon team including their team coach being burned to a charred wreck at the team hotel the night before, but the three points they earned at the Dell on the opening day kept them up, even a draw that day would have seen them go down, albeit on goal difference.
Ian Branfoot though nobody knew it at the time was within five months of the sack, although there was a long way to go in those five months including big fans protests before the board finally saw sense.
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