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On This Day In History 18th March Part 1
Wednesday, 18th Mar 2020 09:35

A big new signing made his home debut on this day in 1974, can you remember who it was and how he put an extra 10,000 on the gate.

Saints had started 1974 in 8th place in the old First Division and things had looked rosy, but when Leicester City arrived at the Dell on 13th March 1974, we had won only one League game in over 3 months a run of 13 games and we had dropped to 19th place, only 1 off the relegation zone in what was a 22 team league and also the first season of 3 up and 3 down between the top two divisions.

Lawrie McMenemy had decided his team needed a boost so he had persuaded the club to go big and sign Chelsea's Peter Osgood who at 27 should have been at the peak of his game.

There were some who questioned the wisdom, the issue wasn't scoring goals as such but letting them in (sound familiar), surely it would be better to try and shore up the defence rather than spend a club record £275,000 transfer on a forward who having been in dispute with Chelsea was hardly match fit.

That viewpoint seemed to be vindicated on his debut at Stoke City a couple of days earlier when after a good first half display and 1-1 at the break, Saints collapsed in the second half to a 4-1 defeat, a result that is described in the excellent book In That Number by Duncan Holley and Gary Chalk as being flattering to the home side and also said that Osgood lacked match fitness.

This didn't stop the crowds flocking to the Dell on a Monday night though, the gate was officially 26,600 up around 10,000 on the usual expected attendance back then for a team like Leicester.

Back then attendances differed greatly from game to game, the only season ticket holders were in the upper West & East stand and numbered around 6,000, the terraces were always pay on the day meaning that a lot of things could change a gate, form and the attractiveness of the visitors were one thing, but the weather could play just as big a part as not having bought tickets, fans could simply decide not to go if it was poor weather.

Gates were declining back then due to a number of things, hooliganism was one issue but in this season we had general strikes and power cuts amongst social issues of the day.

Indeed the power cuts had meant that Saturday games had kicked off at 2pm during the winter, sup replays had been played in mid week afternoons and our one win of the last three months had been an evening game and powered by a generator hired in for the occasion.

A low gate for Saints was around the 15k mark and most others up to this point had been in the early 20 k's, even away from home grounds were far from full, 22k at Chelsea, 27k at Liverpool, 19k at Arsenal, 21 k at Spurs and only 31k at Manchester United .

So this was a big gate for Saints and the attraction was Peter Osgood, a look at the starting XI shows that 6 of them would be in the 12 on duty at Wembley just over 2 years later and that the Leicester side included future Saints players Peter Shilton, Dennis Rofe and Frank Worthington.

Shilton was a player who was under fire his error in Poland's goal at Wembley a few months earlier meant that England had failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, the fact he had taken to wearing an all white jersey in games also saw him get a lot of stick as back then keeper wore plain green shirts and the same shorts and socks as their team mates, not the fancy outfits of today.

The game was 0-0 for long periods before Bobby Stokes popped up in the 84th minute with an 18 yard shot, sound familiar ? well he waited an extra minute for this one and he received the ball from a rolled ball from Terry Paine taking a free kick, but the result was the same a 1-0 win for Saints.

We all hoped it would be a vital one, but all it did was start another winless run, this time 7 games before we won the last game of the season at Everton away, Peter Osgood finally scoring his first goal for the club in the process, but it was too little too late and we were relegated the first victime of 3 up 3 down.

Photo: Action Images

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