Watt View - Unpredictability, excitement, dejection and joy: the life of a Saints fan
Sunday, 14th Feb 2021 09:10 by Matt Watts
Matt gives us an insight into the roller coaster feelings of a Saints supporter, something that I am sure we will all be able to relate to over the past few weeks, when The Beatles sang Hey Jude perhaps it was an acronym for Joy, Unpredicatability, Dejection & Excitement.
If anything demonstrates the unpredictability, excitement, dejection and joy football can throw up, the time between my previous Watt View and this column typifies it.
When I last posted at the end of December (https://tui.fansnetwork.co.uk/news/53786/), Saints were heading into a visit from West Ham United who sat a place below them in the Premier League table and I had said many would have expected six points from that fixture and the trip to Fulham.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men actually took just two points and it laid bare the fragility of the squad and I suggested that if Saints stuttered against the Hammers it would further highlight the need to invest in the transfer window to ensure there is sufficient quality to maintain consistency.
But then came Liverpool. A historic moment for the Austrian as the 1-0 victory over Jurgen Klopp’s Red meant Hasenhuttl had defeated the German for the first time in his managerial career. Danny Ings provided a sublime finish which rightly claimed the headlines.
Were Saints now back on track? This was tested at the King Power where Saints slipped to a 2-0 defeat against the Foxes but two FA Cup wins - and two appearances for Fraser Forster between the sticks - followed.
It was a delight to see Saints dispose comfortably of cup holders Arsenal, but the Gunners’ weakened selection paid dividends as they ran out 1-3 winners at St Mary’s in a night which made Hasenhuttl’s side look second best in most departments.
Next up was the VAR debacle at St Mary’s against Aston Villa which saw the dastardly duo of referees Lee Mason and Mike Dean combine for their first glimpse of the spotlight as they conspired to deny a clear penalty and sending off for Villain Matty Cash and a late equaliser for Ings, who was given offside by a millimetre of shirt sleeve.
But worse was to come when Dean took charge of Saints’ trip to Old Trafford and Mason occupied the position of fourth official. I don’t need to delve into the details of that disastrous night as Saints slumped to a 9-0 defeat for the second time in two seasons, however, the scoreline sat at 6-0 when Dean gave a penalty against Jan Bednarek.
Despite Manchester United’s Anthony Martial even, according to Bednarek, stating it was not a foul, Dean proceeded to review the incident on request of the VAR and sent the Polish international off.
The rest is history as far as the results goes, however, Saints subsequently appealed and overturned the red card, vindicating the sense of injustice and how the scoreline might have been avoided. The club then announced they had requested Dean and Mason no longer officiate the club’s matches.
Following further incidents, Mason has since been demoted to fourth official for a period of 10 days while Dean asked to stand down from Premier League fixtures this weekend after receiving abuse and threats after his controversial dismissal of West Ham’s Tomas Soucek.
While Saints have certainly been poorly treated by these officials on a professional level, there is no place in the game for offensive and personal insults, abuse or threats. It is for the authorities to take appropriate action and football fans, while voicing discontent, can do so respectfully. Unfortunately the minority, as is always the case, take it to unacceptable levels.
For me, as Hasenhuttl said himself, the hammering at the hands of United felt vastly different to October 2019 at home to Leicester so the two cannot be compared. It was unfortunately but, for me, that’s all is was.
Saints are not in the depths of despair they were at that point and, despite the 3-2 loss away at Newcastle last weekend, the comprehensive display against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday which booked a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals is evidence of that.
As I drew upon earlier in this piece in reference to my column from the end of December, the slump we have seen is undoubtedly linked to the absentees and lack of investment in the squad. There is only so far the manager’s style of play can be fulfilled without the personnel to do it.
With faces returning from injury and the astute loan signing of Takumi Minamino - what a signing that is by the way, a huge, huge boost - things are already looking in a much better place again and, as I have always maintained, there is never a dull moment under the Austrian’s leadership!
My one point of note is that, given some recent mistakes from the usually solid Alex McCarthy, I would like to see Forster given an opportunity for more game time in the Premier League having recorded four clean sheets in his four appearances this season so far. He has earned it in my opinion.
Well, there we go. A whizz over the past month and a half. I think it summarises, in a nutshell, the life of a Saints fan. Unpredictability, excitement, dejection and joy. We see and feel it all - regularly - but it is our club and we wouldn’t have it any other way would we?
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #35 by wessex_exile
As many were predicting, time finally ran out for Steve Ball mid-week, after the U’s lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City. Although a considerable improvement in score-line compared to the 6-1 thrashing they handed out at St James Park earlier in the season, apart from the first 10-15 minutes and very brief glimpses throughout the remainder of the game, it was a poor performance, leaving Robbie Cowling with no choice. After a brief interlude, Robbie named Wayne Brown as our new Interim Head Coach (that’s caretaker as far as I’m concerned), and after an even briefer interlude, Robbie and Wayne in a joint statement put to rest any lingering concerns about Wayne’s attitude to race. If Wayne can show the same sort of leadership on the training ground and in the dressing room as he used to show for the U’s on the pitch, I am certain he’s going to do very well in the job.
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
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