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Why Do Southampton Always Do Badly On The Opening Day
Tuesday, 2nd Aug 2022 11:41

After West Ham United at the Dell in August 1988, Saints have now played another 33 seasons, during that time they have won only 3 times on the opening day, the last of those being 9 years ago, here we ask the question why !

When Saints despatched West Ham United on 28th August 1988, little did we know that it would be the end of an era, although off the pitch it would be the start of another in that this day saw the 2nd ever issue of the paper fanzine The Ugly Inside hit the streets and would mark the start of our first full season in existence having seen issue 1 come out 4 months earlier in the final weeks of season 87/88.

On that day Saints had a glorious win over the Hammers, debutant Paul Rideout opened the scoring, Glenn Cockerill added a second shortly after and then in the 2nd half Rideout again on the hour and then Substitute Matt Le Tissier added a 4th in the 86th minute to send the Un Appy Ammers streaming out of the then terraced Archers Road end.

It would be a another average season though for Saints and ironically showing little changes around Southampton FC we would top the League a few weeks later and then spectacularly collapse not winning a game in the League between November 12th when we beat Villa to hit 3rd spot and April 1st when we beat Newcastle at home with a last minute penalty that launched The Ruddock Stomp and we limped to a 13th place finish.

But little did we know that we would not win another opening day fixture for 11 years, that would come in a 1-0 win at Coventry City in 1999 when Egil Ostenstad's late winner gave us a 1-0 win.

But if we thought that would break the hoodoo we were wrong, it would be another 12 years before we would win again on the first day of the season, by now we had dropped out of the Premier League, been in League One and were now back in the Championship for what would turn out to be just the one season, Leeds visited St Mary's on the opening day and were despatched 3-1, Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly scoring with Leeds getting a 90th minute consolation.

Since then we have played 10 opening day fixtures and won just once, that coming in 2013 when Rickie Lambert's last minute penalty gave us a win at West Bromwich Albion.

Some would say that this would herald what could be described as the golden age of opening days for Saints in the last 33 years, including the win at the Hawthorns the past 9 years have seen us not only win that one but register 4 draws with only 4 defeats, truly a great time to be a Saints fan on the opening day unless you are old enough to be around in the 1980's.

So in 33 years of hurt we have had just 3 wins and 14 draws with 16 defeats, we have not won a home game on the opening day in the top flight since August 1988.

So why are we so appalling on the opening day of the season, it can't even be put down to playing the top sides, in all that time we have generally avoided the top sides of the time, we met Blackburn in 1994, the season when they would eventually win the Premier League, we met Manchester City in 2012 when they were League Champions, Liverpool had finished 2nd the previous season in 2014, but when we have met so called big sides like Spurs in 91 and then again in 92, or Chelsea in 1997 they were mid table sides.

So in the main we have avoided top sides in the 1st game of the season which makes the record all that worse, the last 5 years have seen us meet sides who would struggle in that season Watford (0-0) in 2016 would finish 4th from bottom, Swansea (0-0) in 2017 would end up relegated, Burnley in 2018 (0-0) 15th and Burnley again in 2019 would finish just one place above us and finally last year when Everton beat us 3-1 at Goodison Park who would go to the final week of the season before achieving safety.

So we can't claim that we have met some of the big guns, in the main it has been against sides who would finish around us or lower.

Has it become a psychological thing ? Perhaps in the last few years, but players change over the years, all of our players who may feature against Spurs on Saturday weren't even born when this run started.

In some respects I find it better to face a side like Spurs on the opening day, it could be said to be a free hit due to our record, if we lose it's expected for two reasons, firstly Spurs standing in the League and secondly our opening day hoodoo, its a game out of the way that we would usually lose whenever played.

Its the past five years that have worried me, we lose to sides that we are going to finish around, we are playing catch up with just one game gone we have lost points we can't afford to drop.

We go to Spurs knowing that we are expected to lose by the rest of the country, so perhaps that is to our advantage, perhaps Spurs themselves will be complacent, although I doubt that Antonio Conte will be using our opening day record to spur his team on, after all the team that lost to Millwall at the start of this rune are all long retired, a game played 30 odd years ago or for that matter 10 years ago is no guide to form now,.

In fact the one advantage we do have is that in each of the last 8 seasons as we have failed to win on the opening day, we are a game nearer recording another win, the odds say that by 5pm on Saturday we will still just be another game nearer that elusive win, but sometimes the underdog upsets the form book and anyway winning on the 10th anniversary of our last win has a ring about it.

All things being taken into account, I would suggest that this is the worst opening day record in any of the top four divisions in English football, I would suggest every other side has managed more than 3 wins in the last 33 seasons.

Photo: Action Images

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mgprobert added 12:10 - Aug 2
its the Southampton way... unfortunately

felly1 added 13:48 - Aug 2
The simple answer is because by Premier league standards we're not very good!

IanRC added 14:02 - Aug 2
Don’t expect to lose to spurs

ericofarabia added 14:24 - Aug 2
The 1999 one was at Coventry only opening day victory since possiibly Keegan's debut as I missed the Whu gane!

ExiledSupporter added 14:25 - Aug 2
My view is that we don't play enough pre season friendlies that are competitive enough to test us and show where we need to focus our efforts.

Four is not enough to get all the squad up to match standard

We should play 6 pre season games with at least the last four with genuinely challenging opponents.

We are all too leisurely about it and I believe quite undercooked and more often than not unsure about who should be in the first team and on the bench on the day before the first and highly unlikely to be ready for the likes of Spurs.

I anticipate a miserable time on Saturday, probably a 3-0 defeat and all that pressure as per previous feeble starts

YosemiteSaint added 18:43 - Aug 2
Part of the problem may be that the transfer window is still open when the season starts. This could favor clubs who can weather squad instability over those that can't.

UgandaSaint added 21:27 - Aug 2
Just in case there might be a chance to beat the opening game hoodoo I'm sure Ralph will play McCarthy in goal to ensure defeat. Remember last season when Forster looked good in the pre season friendlies, and who started against Everton?

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