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2020 The Year Saints Got Their Pride Back
Thursday, 31st Dec 2020 10:11

It might well have been the worst year in World history since the Second World War, but for Southampton Football Club it was the year that they got their pride back after several years of negativity.

As 2010 started, when the 21st century was in it's early teenage years, hope was high at Southampton Football Club, we had a new owner who was looking to rebuild the club and we were starting a journey back up the leagues.

But the death of Markus Liebherr started a period where our then Chairman was boasting of targets that could never be achieved, therefore for some when he left in 2014, the next few years were an anti climax, we were finishing in the top 8 and even reaching a major cup final, but they weren't the Champions League places promised by the previous Chairman.

Message boards and social media went into meltdown every summer as players were sold and accusations thrown that we had no ambition, despite the fact that we now actually had a plan.

This was of course not all the supporters, it was a minority, but a very vocal one, at least on social media and although we were flourishing we were talking ourselves down and convincing ourselves that the club had no ambition, rather than enjoy the ride we had almost convinced ourselves that bad times were around the corner, so when they were, for some it was almost a relief to be proved right.

The arrival of Gao looked promising, but almost as soon as he arrived the worsening situation between China and the West, meant that he could not invest as he had intended.

But behind the scenes we were rebuilding, we were putting together plans and strategies and replacing key personnel.

Of course this was not an easy task and with football clubs even the best plans can be derailed by results on the field, but poor form on the field does not always mean a club is badly run, just as much as good form does not signify that a club is well run, we only have to look at the demise of Pompey so quickly after they won the FA Cup a dozen or so years ago.

Many pundits will put that 9-0 defeat against Leicester as our low point, but the truth was that the real rock bottom was the calendar year of 2018, we started that year on a run of bad form after a reasonable start to the season and then started to drop like a stone, Pellegrino came and went and so did Mark Hughes and as we approached December 2018 it was hard to see how we could stop the rot.

No one had heard of Ralph Hasenhuttl when he arrived, but in a little over two years he has revitalised and rejuvenated the club with his enthusiasm and clear dedication to the job, unlike literally all of his predecessors since Chris Nicholl was sacked in 1991, he was interested in all aspects of the club and not just who was in the first team.

When he arrived it was hard to find a Saints fan on social media and message boards that had any pride in the club, four years of talking ourselves down had left us without any pride, but Hasenhuttl showed us that there was hope and that pride started to come back.

Friday 25th October 2019 was a low point, but truth was few blamed Hasenhuttl, they could now see the bigger picture and that included the Saints owner and board.

Since then we have risen and although we are still a work in progress and in these awful times that progress has been slowed, we are now a club that people are talking about again, the owner might not have been able to pump money into the club, but he hasn't just abandoned it to it's fate, he has put in place those in charge on a day to day basis who have a clear strategy to move forward.

Now we have a manager who has a vision, has ambition, but has realistic ambition and as he puts it a project.

We Saints supporters in turn have warmed to him and what he is doing and for the first time since 2014 we have pride in our club , some have never lost that pride, in fact perhaps most, but the minority on social media have not made it seem that way, day after day reading posts and tweets running down the club and every part of it reduced our morale to zero, but not any more.

We go into 2021 in 9th place. only 4 points behind Manchester United in 2nd and with a realistic chance of a top 6 place.

It will be tough, perhaps too tough for us this season, but slowly but surely we are looking a top 10 side again, there will be set backs, we will lose games, but we must never lose our pride again in our club.

Owners come and go, managers and players come and go, but the club and it's supporters are the one constant, it is about sticking with it during the bad times and not disappearing in the bad times.

The pride is back in Southampton Football Club, let's keep it that way !

Photo: Action Images

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felly1 added 10:34 - Dec 31
Nice Post, thanyou Nick. Appreciate your efforts in keeping us entertained and informed with your articles.

WestSussexSaint added 11:23 - Dec 31
All credit goes to Ralph for sticking with his principles and the board for backing him during the low point. The stats don’t lie in this case with only a few of the big 6 sides having a better record in the calendar year the Saints.

Of course expectations are now much higher than this time last year. A top 6 finish will be hard but I think a top 10 is the minimum target now.

Thank you Nick for your site which has allowed Saints fans remain connected during this year when we can’t get to St Mary’s. Here is to a safe and peaceful new year to all Saints and hope it won’t be long before we can all see Ralph’s team playing live once more.

saintmark1976 added 13:24 - Dec 31
Well done Nick for a really good post.

On many occasions I’ve disagreed with you on matters concerning the Saints owners, management and players. However, I compliment you in that when you responded to me your point of view has always been expressed respectfully and without recourse to rancour or bad language.

I take this opportunity of wishing you and all fellow contributors to the site a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

SanMarco added 13:38 - Dec 31
Yes Nick I echo the appreciation for your work on this site. I, on the whole, agree with your narrative as stated in this article. The thing about Gao intending to invest more until international relations problems intervened intrigues me. I didn't know that.

Happy New Year to Nick and all of the TUI crew and to Saints fans everywhere.

davidargyll added 14:24 - Dec 31
I for one was unconvinced by Ralph after that night last year that dare not speak its name, and, to my eternal regret, was suggesting he wasn’t the right man for us because of his lack of defensive nouse.
So all I can say now is thank goodness no one listened (listens?) to me, and as you rightly say, Nick, 2020 was the year when things began to come right for us under him.
So many have cited what a great team generally to watch we have become which, if my season ticket neighbours are anything to go by, is at least as important as the result.
But one thing which, more than anything else, seems not to have been commented on much if at all is that, tough though he undoubtedly is, he may well be one of the exceptions to the rule that, in football, nice people don’t succeed.
When I look at most PL managers, so many of them have that tired and unenthusiastic look on their faces and seem so frustrated. Ralph to me though is the complete opposite and has been and continues to be a breath of fresh air who, like Klopp, knows how to encourage and energise the entire club; I don’t think you can do that if you’re not a nice guy.
So roll on 2021 and the opportunity to get back to SMG to cheer him and the boys on.

ThereIn76 added 23:19 - Dec 31
Great post Nick and thanks for keeping the site going, even though it means taking the brickbats. It would be a boring world if everyone agreed with each other all the time. All the best for the new year. Let’s hope that St Mary’s will be full again before the end of this season.

underweststand added 11:21 - Jan 1
Nick - well done. I join others (above) in sending my appreciation for your efforts to keep us informed (without needless gossip and fake news) ..and in part to entertain us with Saints ' news...even if we don't always share all your views on club and players.
As a Saints fan for over 60 years, I enjoy sharing opinions with other of my generation who also contribute to discussions on this site, and ignore other " less informed" sites.

Yes 2020 was more encouraging, and it is interesting to note that we have a manager who in many ways is more popular than many players in his squad. Ralph is also endeavouring to hark back to the lost theme of " the Southampton Way " in a time of severe financial constraints and having to forfeit the support of dedicated fans whilst playing in empty stadia.
One can only imagine the benefit the club might have had, if the money wasted on those ill-fated buys in the post Koeman era, might have given the club a sounder base for buying players who would really have enriched the squad that Ralph is building.

Other thoughts regarding transfers can be left for later posts (of which there are sure to be many). Let's hope for continued team improvement in 2021, and a steady stream of " Nick-isms" to help us stay alert to the club's progress in these dreary co-vid times.

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