Opening Day Of The Season 1996 - Chelsea
Monday, 6th Aug 2012 09:19
Enter a new season and enter a new manager, this time Graeme Souness who had replaced Dave Merrington in controversial circumstances.
There is no doubt that Dave Merrington did a good job in 95/96 in extremely difficult circumstances, a last day escape from relegation didnt make for a good season, but the fact was he had steered the ship through stormy waters and it was still afloat, but sacking him was very harsh, not just on a football perspective, but for the fact that only after the last day against Wimbledon had he revealed that his wife had been taken into hospital seriously ill shortly before the game, he had hidden it from everyone and got on with keeping Saints up, a selfless act from a loyal club servant who was rewarded with the sack for his trouble.
Graeme Souness was the new manager as high profile as Saints could probably have hoped for, strangely though his initial signings were far from high profile or calbre, Richard Dryden from Bristol City for £150k to replace Richard Hall who had gone to West ham for £1.5 million and Graham Potter from Stoke for £250k, plus Gary Monk from Torquay. There would be half a dozen higher profile names coming in including the likes of Claus Lundekvam and Egil Ostenstad, but for now it was pretty much last seasons team that Souness had to work with.
The big change though was this was the first season that three subs were allowed in the Premier League and teams could also name a total of five subs.
Chelsea were starting to sign a few big names thereselves and their side included three future Saints players in Dan Petrescu, Denis Wise and Mark Hughes and they had a managerial debutant for the club as well with Glen Hoddle having gone off to manage England and Ruud Gullitt replacing him, the game therefore was selected for a Sky showing on the Sunday so that the nation could get a glimpse of Chelsea's key signing Gianluca Vialli.
In truth the game didnt match up to the hype, Saints were solid but unspectacular and the occasion possibly got to the Chelsea superstars, some of whom were clearly rattled at the enclosed confines of the Dell and the atmosphere generated by the Saints fans who with the arrival of Souness at least felt some optimism for the coming season, something lacking for the past year.
A draw for Saints was seen as a great result , after all in the Sky build up they were seen as nothing more than canon fodder for the multi million pound superstars of the Kings Road, although we didnt know it then it probably was a fir pointer towards a season that would perhaps be the most roller coaster ride of them all, it contained highs like the drubbing of Man Utd 6-3 followed by some real lows, three weks after that game we were beaten 7-1 at Everton and again it would take a run of results in April to keep us up on the final day for the third time in four years
Photo: Action Images
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