The FA Cup Draw Invokes The Spirit Of 76
Tuesday, 30th Jan 2018 10:22
If there is a time when Saints need a good omen it is now and the draw for the 5th round of the FA Cup provided that with a trip to West Bromwich Albion.
Saints and West Bromwich Albion were big rivals in the League in 1975/76 season with both fighting for promotion from the then Second Division back to the top flight.
That season would turn out magical in Saints history, but those that were there will remember that the first half o the season was not the bed of roses that you would assume some 40 years later, it was riddled with supporter discontent after Lawrie McMenemy had taken us down in his first season and then the following had seen us struggle back in the second tier spending most of the season in the bottom half of the table.
That meant 1975/76 was crucial, not just for McMenemy, but the club in general who would not be able to hold on to the big names like Channon and Osgood for much longer.
Although it started well it soon dropped off and by early December we were as low as 12th and the crowd was restless and the manager's head was firmly in their sights.
A rally at Xmas saw us rise as high as 4th in a time when it was 3 promoted automatically, but that form had gone in April and when we travelled to West Bromwich Albion on February 14th in the 5th round of the cup, we were sat in 6th and the season was finely balanced and with West Brom favourites for this tie, it was not a rosy outlook for the club or it's manager.
But something changed in the supporters that weekend, it had perhaps surfaced the week before when thousands travelled to Bristol City, but this tie at the Hawthorns captivated Saints fans in a way that virtually no other game had done in a decade.
For a reason not really apparent then or even now an army of 12,000 travelled, making up a third of the 36,634 crowd and the team played in Yellow and Blue for the first time in the competition.
It was a draw, it turned out that the Saints team were riddled with a virus, it took a late Bobby Stokes goal to keep Saints in the cup and that in itself was prophetical. The replay was won in front of a full house at the Dell a few days later and the dream was on.
But something had changed amongst the fans, the mindset had changed, instead of negativity and moaning about how the team was once again failing to succeed, there was a renewed passion in the fan base, a feeling that things were changing and the rest as they say is history.
So this is a good omen that 42 years after our greatest season we are again going to West Bromwich Albion in the 5th round of the FA Cup (OK I know we also went there in the same round in 78/79, although that was another season we played at Wembley so another omen perhaps) and it can again be the catalyst for a Saints revival both on and off the field.
It is a chance for the team to win games and for the fans to get behind it, show some passion, show some pride and get behind the team, in 75/76 that was the case, as supporters we need to learn from history and ironically repeat it.
If you want another omen this is the second round running we travel to a Premier club and then face them in the FA Cup two weeks later.
So like 1976 this could be a great ending to the season, you are either with the team or against it, the cold reality though is this, we beat West Bromwich Albion twice and the season could just start to get interesting.
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