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Opening Day 14th August 1993 Saints V Everton
Friday, 14th Aug 2020 12:29

We go back 27 years in time to the 2nd ever season of the Premier League and take a look at an opening day fixture that soon saw trouble ahead and indeed pre game brought up some issues surrounding racism that are still relevant today.

If you think that the last couple of years for Saints have been traumatic then you don't remember the 1990's when we seemed to be perennial relegation battlers playing in usually the smallest stadium in the Premier League with the lowest budget and with a manager who daren't walk the streets for fear of abuse.

Only a couple of years earlier Saints seemingly were going to be the team of the 1990's, but then along came Ian Branfoot and the playing style changed and the star names departed, so season 1993/94 was not greeted on this day 27 years ago with much enthusiasm.

The only major signing was Simon Charlton from Huddersfield for £250k , he would go on to make 121 appearances for the club in a 5 year spell so could be described as a bargain, but the only other two newcomers were Colin Cramb and Paul McDonald both from Hamilton Academicals for a joint cost of £150k, so much for the Premier League riches.

Everton like Saints were a shadow of their former selves and only 14,051 assembled on a sunny Saturday afternoon and few from either side were full of optimism.

There was one significant change though, the Archers Road terrace had been knocked down and a small seated end built, affectionately to be dubbed the Bike Shed and this end was given over to Away fans, for what would be one season only.

In terms of kit a few years of actually playing in what could be termed normal red & white stripes, something that back then everyone saw as important to our identity ended with what was called the Pony Tick kit, it had stripes in it but only just as you will see from the picture above.

Simon Charlton made his debut at left back with Francis Benali on the bench, another debutant would be Frankie Bennett who would come on as sub.

The game didn't start well, Peter Beagrie scored after only 10 minutes and on the brink of half time Ebrell doubled the lead and that was just about it, a 2-0 reverse on the opening day of the season and this would start a run that would see us lose 7 of the next 8 games in the Premier League and only not be rock bottom due to the one game we won was against Swindon Town who would remain in 22nd place virtually all season.

Saints would have an awful season that just seemed to get worse and worse up to Xmas, at the half way point on 18th December we had lost 15 out of 21 games, winning 4 and drawing the other 2, the writing was on the wall, protests were under way and things would improve after the half way point, but it would still take a nerve wracking final day at West Ham to see us safe.

But there was controversy surrounding this game before it even kicked off, The Commission for Racial Equality had launched a campaign "Lets Kick Racism Out Of Football" now Southampton has always been a multi cultural city and the crowd at the Dell had always seen a mixture of different cultures and races, but when the CRE released a list of clubs who were agreeing to back the campaign Saints name was not on the list.

The club had apparently sent a message wishing the CRE well but saying it would not print details in the programme for the opening day fixture.

The Guardian took up the cause and printed an article in the days leading up to the opener saying that Saints had refused to back the campaign because "they were concerned that they would alienate some of their fans"

This sounds a little far fetched, but back then certain clubs had a reputation for not being welcoming to people of colour, both players and fans, some fanbases even extending this to their own players and fans.

Indeed Saints refusing to sign up to the campaign was far from an isolated case and around 3/4 of the top flight had also rejected the appeal for support.

The Guardian sent an undercover reporter (or two) to the Dell to expose our supposedly racist club, but it was in the away end that they heard racist abuse, Ken Monkou was the brunt of "Foul racist abuse" thoughout the game and the arrival of Frankie Bennett saw the reporter hear comments about "another monkey on the pitch"

An interview with a teenage Saints supporter about the club's refusal to sign up prompted the response.

" We haven't signed up cos there is no racist abuse down here and if you highlight it then some will start up"

He had a point, the campaign was much needed and it cannot be denied that even at the Dell you would get some racist comments, but it was genuinely not a major issue and it was not uncommon for a supporter to make a racist comment to be challenged for his remarks, back then we didn't sit back as supporters, we stood up for what we thought was right.

Given the current situation today it is rather ironic that in researching for this article 27 years later that this was in the news back then, I am not giving an opinion either way, just reporting what was topical surrounding this fixture.

Photo: Action Images



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pjt50 added 12:47 - Aug 14
"...Southampton has always been a multi cultural city and the crowd at the Dell had always seen a mixture of different cultures and racists..."

"racists" or "races"? Hopefully the latter but, sadly, the former may also be true.
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NewburySaint added 13:36 - Aug 14
Not to forget in those 15 defeats up until Xmas we lost at Swindon, probably the worst team the premier league has seen, in a truly woeful performance, which in actual fact was a blessing in disguise because, although he lasted another few weeks, I think this result & performance was probably the final straw for Branfoot’s tenure.
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dirk_doone added 13:48 - Aug 14
Of all the games on August 14, a depressing one like that seems a weird one to choose. Our 2-0 victory over Liverpool in 1968, with goals from Terry Paine and Ron Davies, or our Charity Shield game at Wembley in 1976 or even Rickie Lambert scoring the winning goal for England v Scotland at Wembley on his debut in 2013 would have been much better.
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SaintNick added 15:00 - Aug 14
I chose this game as it was the last time the opening day was on this date and the article was opening day, not "other" games so to speak and the 1968 game was not the opening day anyway
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green added 11:19 - Aug 16
Thanks for this, I enjoyed reading about the issues surrounding the off field matters as well as the game itself.
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