Ralph Wants Saints To Show Bournemouth Who Is Number One !
Saturday, 18th Jul 2020 10:16
Saints fans have had a difficult time in the last couple o seasons as they have had to take a back seat behind both Bournemouth and Brighton as the top South Coast club, but Ralph Hasenhuttl is calling on his team to show that Saints are back in their usual position.
Aside from a short spell up to our return to the Championship in 2011, Saints have been the top dogs on the South Coast since 1961 with Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Brighton usually being in a lower division, however that changed over the last couple of seasons with both Brighton and the Cherries finishing above us.
But this season Ralph Hasenhuttl has restored our pride and we go into the penultimate game of the season against Bournemouth guaranteed to finish above both Seagull's and Cherries.
But this game has an added edge and that is that if they were to lose then Bournemouth would face a tough task to escape relegation.
With Saints firmly in mid table the Saints manager will be looking to ensure that we finish as high as possible and he knows a win at the Vitality stadium would all but guarantee 12 place and perhaps 11th.
But the Austrian has done more than just turn things around on the pitch he has started to do it off the pitch, the mood in the supporter base that has been somewhat pessimistic for several years has started to turn and their is a real feeling that we have finally found the manager that this club needs.
Ralph knows the importance of the supporters of a football club and the need to have pride and he has called for his team to restore that pride in fine style.
"Every player has his own story for why we want to win against this club,” Hasenhuttl said.
“Like always, you want to show who is number one on the south coast.
"After the first game we were far behind them in the table and now we are high above them - we have seen how things can change.
"But I always like to concentrate on the things I can change on the pitch, to find tools that give you a chance to win the game.
“This is for me very often more important than finding the motivation to beat them. It is not necessary in this game I don't think.”
This suggests that the Austrian has some underlying reason for beating them, perhaps he felt the underlying gloating of the Bournemouth supporters in their win at St Mary's earlier in the season had seeped through to the Bournemouth dressing room.
Perhaps some of the players who played at St Mary's two seasons ago when Bournemouth arrived boasting of relegating us but only serving to stir up both our team and crowd to a vital win.
The crux of the matter is that Bournemouth are not our rivals, that is Portsmouth, always has been always will be, a fair amount of our support come from the Bournemouth area and traditionally when their players had a testimonial or they were in one of their many periods of financial trouble, we would send a team down there free of charge to boost the crowd with Saints supporters and help fill the coffers.
This feeling of bonhommie ended in the late 1990's when a couple of days after the Mayor of Southampton had been killed in a plane crash, a minutes silence at a testimonial match was marred by a minority who refused to comply and chanted abuse.
It was a minority and most Bournemouth fans were appalled, but it was a big enough one to sour relationships between the fans, indeed with all our hatred towards Pompey and vice versa, the two sets of fans have behaved impeccably in paying respects when tragedy has struck.
When we played them in the League for the first time in 50 years in 2010/2011 Bournemouth were keen to try and forge a rivalry as they have never had one themselves, Exeter being the second nearest team after us but they weren't interested either preferring Plymouth.
They have done their best to try and rile us, calling us Scummers as if they are Pompey fans, but to no avail, most Saints fans are oblivious to all this, indeed up to the past few years their result over the tannoy at St Mary's would be cheered if they won, but slowly things have changed.
Most Saints fans I speak to would be happy to see them drop, but not that bothered if they stayed up either, indeed a few weeks ago many would prefer West Ham to go down instead of them as the Hammers have the potential to compete with us.
The sad things for Bournemouth is that the anti Saints thing is probably still a minority, but their crowd has changed over the past 5 years or so, 10 years ago they struggled to get 5,000 in the ground, as recently as 2012 the average was around that amount.
When they got to the Premier League they suddenly found new supporters, a younger breed of fan who had previously supported a Big Six club but now suddenly had a Premier League club on their doorstep, they filled their ground all season for the first time ever, but the last two seasons saw the average drop around 600, you could get a ticket easily for most games aside from us and the Big Six.
The worry is that if they go down there will be big financial ramifications, their owners had already refused to invest in the infrastructure and a bigger ground and are unlikely to want to underpin too many losses.
This game is big for them in a lot more than being able to finish above us and call us Scummers, it is about their entire future as a club.
The problme if they go down is that after their attempts to forge a rivalry by hatred, when the begging bowls are dusted down and brought out again, they might not find Southampton FC and their fans so generous.
That would be a shame, I do not want to sound patronising because football is all about rivalry, when we play Bournemouth they are for one game the team we care about beating the most, that is the same when we meet Palace or Villa or any other Premier League team, but it is for two games a season only and aside from that with a possible couple of exceptions we do not want to see clubs fall on hard times.
If the Cherries go down then they might go into freefall, they have loyal supporters who have followed them through thick and thin, they have seen the bandwagon jumpers arrive and slowly start to leave.
It is the johnny come lately's who have having failed to create a rivalry with Saints have just created animosity, if they are relegated there will be no tears in Southampton, but if they stay up truly no one will be bothered either, now the Oxford V Portsmouth play off final that was a game we had an interest in the outcome !
Photo: Action Images
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