Opening Day Of The Season 1980 - Manchester City
Tuesday, 17th Jul 2012 11:16
Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated opening day in the history of Southampton Football Club as Kevin Keegan made his debut.
Its a pity that this seasons opener against City has been put back a day, if it hadnt it would have been exactly 32 years to the day that the two clubs met on the opening day of the season although on that occasion it was at the Dell, but back in 1980, it wasnt the Manchester club who were the centre of attention it was Saints.
The reason for this was the signing of Kevin Keegan, announced some six months earlier at the Potters Heron Hotel, the City had been eagerly awaiting his appearance ever since. To put this in perspective Keegan was the biggest name in European Football was European Footballer Of The Year, in short this was akin to Lionel Messi signing for an English club, but not joining a top one, signing for say Fulham or if you want to be pedantic Saints, yes it was that much of a deal.
For the first time in their history, Saints were considered genuine title contenders and the whole world was watching (in the days before live tv matches in the UK of course)
The Dell had a new look as well though, the Archers Road End had been demolished and a structure put in its place, this was lower than its predecessor and meant for the first time most of the supporters stood behind the goal could actually see the goal line, Man City had an allocation of around 1,500 fans in the west wing of the terrace with the bulk of the 23,320 sell out crowd being home supporters.
Sadly though perhaps all the budget had been blown on Keegan, the only other new arrival was full back Mike McCartney from Carlisle for £50,000, it seemed strange to bring him in when defenders like Manny Andruszewski had been shipped out for three times that figure or the man he replaced David Peach who had been strangely shipped off to Swindon Town for £150,000, in hindsight Saints perhaps gambled big time and the small capacity of the Dell in those pre tv deal days meant that they couldnt really capitalise as they could have done with a bigger stadium.
But it would not be Keegan who took the plaudits on this sunny opening day, McMenemy confessed afterwards that his biggest worry was the the game might fall flat for Saints, who ran out in their new Patrick strip, something that most would not have described as stripes and even back then it was realised that part of Keegan coming was the signing of a deal with Patrick who were the players main sponsors, we sold our stripes for the French Franc. But the game didnt fall flat and was everything Saints fans wished for, in the 14th minute the ground erupted when Graham Baker crossed for Mick Channon to head home past Joe Corrigan in the City goal, 20 minutes later and the game was won, it was Channon again, this time lobbing Corrigan from the edge of the area, fears that City might mount a comeback were allayed and Saints saw the game out in style with the supporters leaving the ground talking about Keegan and that this might just be the season when Saints would win the league.
Of course we know that didnt happen, but the next few months were a frenzy of Keegan mania not just amongst Saints fans but at every ground they played at as supporters flocked to see Keegan and to a lesser degree the free flowing style of Saints who had plenty of other flair players like Channon and Charlie George not to metion England international Dave Watson at the back.
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Photo: Action Images
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