Saturday, 17 December 2011

El Clasicoast Is Back!

It is the most important match to both Southampton and Portsmouth fans. This Sunday sees the league leaders travelling to Fratton Park for the opportunity of bragging rights as well as 3 valuable points. 

This will the first time the teams will have met each other since Saints were on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline at St. Mary's which didn't tell the story of the FA Cup fifth round match. It has been a contrast of emotion for both sets of fans with Southampton enjoying promotion to the Championship and sitting happily at the top however for Portsmouth, it was potentially their last match to be played in their history due to the fear of liquidation along with suffering relegation from the Premier League. Recently, their former chairman Vladimir Antonov had to resign due to his company, Convers Sports Initiatives, plunging into administration and also facing allegations of assest stripping from a Lithuanian bank.

Southampton go into the 214th South Coast Derby at the top of the Championship on goal difference after promotion rivals West Ham beat Barnsley 1-0 at Upton Park on Saturday. It has been a fantastic season so far for the Saints however Sunday is arguably their biggest game of the season to date! The form book is thrown out of the window as this local derby will see who will become top dog on Sunday lunchtime. The Saints' away form has been a rollercoaster in terms of results this season with winning 3, drawing 3 and losing 4. The local derby with the neighbours down the M27 is the perfect opportunity not only pick up 3 points to stay top of the Championship at Christmas but to show the Shrimps, as they were once known, how Southampton has progressed since going into administration themselves in April 2009. All Saints fans won't need reminding of the last derby at Fratton Park which proved significantly as Southampton were relegated from the Premier League in 2005. Nigel Adkins' men know that this fixture is just as significant as any other derby and despite the events in the fortunate draw against Blackpool last weekend.

The last derby between the sides was the first ever South Coast Derby I attented which had goals, incidents and especially the atmosphere was ecstatic! Walking past the Pompey fans being surrounded by an army of police officers by the civic centre was the start of the whole experience of going to a derby match. After the usual pre-match pint in the pub, my friend, his dad and I made our way to St. Mary's and when we were going up the stairs, I could tell that this will be an unforgettable experience. As the teams came out of the tunnel, they came out to a sea of red and white which was an amazing image. The atmosphere was superb in the sense that everyone was really up for the game and to get one over their rivals. The contrast of emotions for myself when Rickie Lambert equalised was something I have never felt before with the rest of the 30,000 Saints fans inside stadium in raptures. The 4-1 scoreline definitely flattered Pompey as we should have scored at least three goals in the first half. Apart from the result, the overall experience was incredible and something I will get to re-live when they visit St. Mary's in April.

SOUTHAMPTON'S GOAL MACHINE: Lambert celebrating his equaliser
against Pompey in February 2010

The ElClasicoast as some Saints fans on Twitter are calling it, sees the introduction of two managers who will take charge of their respective teams in their first ever South Coast Derby. Being brought up on Merseyside, Nigel Adkins knows what derby games mean to the fans as he has experienced fierce rivalry between Liverpool and Everton when he was a boy and he of all people will be as equally up for the match at Fratton Park as well as the players and fans. Adkins has experienced local derbies during his time at Scunthorpe however they do not compare with the intensity of the South Coast Derby. For new Portsmouth boss Michael Appleton, this is his first managerial role in his career and his biggest game since he was appointed at the helm in November. So far, he has guided them to 2 wins, a draw and a loss and currently sit 16th in the Championship. It will be interesting to see who will be playing for both teams on Sunday with the possibility of Luke Varney and Liam Lawrence returning for Pompey and Kelvin Davis for the Saints. From the moment, Adkins and Appleton announce their teams, both sets of players know that it will be a tough match with bragging rights at stake.

UP FOR IT: Michael Appleton and Nigel Adkins come face-to-face in their
 first ever South Coast Derby

I have asked fellow Saints fans from Twitter and Facebook asking them of their favourite memories from previous South Coast derbies and here is a selection:

@DannySaint1: Beattie puttin his finger to his ear when he scored!

@BenStanners: Magic little Latvian, Pahars, cutting inside at St. Mary's and curling his effort into the far post and the joy that brought!

@SamDobson1: Super Kevin Phillips' winning goal back in 04/05, after we had been 1-0 down.

Gary Seward: Watching the w***** "Westwood" having his bell taken away then eventually getting dragged out by his wig. Oh, and seeing Beatts score then standing in front of the Sk***s with his hand cupped to his ear... ;o)

In my opinion, it will be a fantastic occasion as we see these two rivals come head-to-head in the league for the first time since 2005 and it would be terrific for all Saints fans for the Saints to win their first away game since the 4-2 at Coventry in November and more importantly, to win at Fratton Park to top the Championship at Christmas. If Saints can stay top, they could continue the trend that has seen the club that is top at Christmas to gain promotion to the Premier League which has happened in five of the last six seasons. It would cap off a brilliant 2011 for the Saints which has seen a tremendous home record of 21 consecutive wins in all competitions alongside promotion to the Championship and a best ever start to a league season for over 50 years. It will be a year where every Saints fan will never forget and will hope to continue the trend into the New Year. All of the squad know how important this game is to the fans and whoever is chosen to start for the Saints on Sunday will be up for it. That includes if Bartosz Bialkowski starts again due to Kelvin Davis' calf injury however Nigel Adkins has stated that the he has a fully fit squad to choose from which will we have to see when the team is announced.

To finish, my friend Joe (@JosephFuccio91 on Twitter) wrote his own view of what Sunday's match means to him:

"This Sunday is called payback day...... The football team close to my heart are playing in a local derby. Southampton is back on top of those dirty sk*** bastards and it’s our time to beat them 4-1 on their home ground which is the biggest s*** hole I’ve ever seen! Winning this game would put the cherry on top of the huge cake that the Saints faithful will be eating!!!! So tune into BBC 1 on Sunday! To watch a real derby match!! You dirty s**** b*******!! We’re coming for you!!"

Enjoy the game and let's go for the win to show who really is the best team on the South Coast!

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