Saturday, 12 May 2012

We are Southampton, we're Premier League!

It’s official, Southampton Football Club are back in the Premier League! 

Their 4-0 win over relegated Coventry City at St. Mary’s sealed the Saints’ place amongst England’s elite for the first time since 2005. Despite a nervy start from the hosts, Billy Sharp began the scoring after deflecting Adam Lallana's strike after 16 minutes. Minutes later, it was 2-0 as Danny Fox delivered the corner from the left and José Fonte headed the ball against the ground which looped over Coventry goalkeeper. The Saints were looking to increase to their lead in the second half and they did just that from Dutch defender Jos Hooiveld who swept the ball in from close range on the hour mark. Minutes later, it was four when Rickie Lambert delivered the ball across the penalty area, Billy Sharp left it for Adam Lallana to tap in. The sell-out crowd at St. Mary's knew that they were up with 25 minutes left with chants of, "We are Southampton, we're Premier League!" 

As soon as the final whistle was blown, the pitch was invaded by thousands of delirious Southampton fans from all four corners of St. Mary's to celebrate with the players who were lofted above in delight. Afterwards, the players, manager, and backroom staff all made their way onto the the balcony to celebrate what they had just achieved with chants galore echoing around the stadium. On the build-up to the match, I surprisingly kept calm about it and my calmness paid off. I can understand most fans' worries however the fixture list could not have chosen a better opposition than Coventry City who had been relegated to League One the week before and have had one success on the road all season. Many fans will be thinking, "Why did I panic?" however being a Saints fan brings a lot of stress! 

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Rickie Lambert celebrates
with the Saints fans on the pitch
Just cast your minds back to April 2009 when it was announced that Southampton Football Club went into administration (even though it was the holdings company, NOT the club) and a lot anxiety was cast among every single Saints fan. The Football League then confirmed a 10 point deduction which confirmed our relegation to League One. The club was on the verge of becoming extinct however Markus Liebherr and Nicola Cortese stepped in at the last minute to save the club which gave the Saints fan a huge sense of relief. Alan Pardew was then appointed as manager to try and get the five-year plan up and running which the Swiss pair conducted. Pardew made some terrific signings including a certain Liverpudlian who will be discussed about later on. Despite starting on  minus 10 points, the Saints had a fantastic season in 2009/2010 celebrating winning the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley however narrowly missing out on the play-offs. The new owners were very keen for the club to aim for promotion back to the Championship in the consequent season and they decided to sack Pardew after a poor start to the season leaving the club in the League One relegation zone. Nigel Adkins took over as Southampton manager knowing that the ambition was to get the club back in the Premier League however promotion to the Championship was a must. Adkins added some new players of his own and guided the Saints to second place in League One and automatic promotion to the Championship. 

Before the 2011/2012 season began, most Saints fans would have bitten many body parts off if anybody asked them if they could achieve back-to-back promotions. It all started so well for them with a comfortable 3-1 over Leeds at St. Mary's and since then, the fans couldn't have predicted what was to come. Southampton were sending a statement to the rest of the Championship during Christmas and New Year as they stood as the current leaders of the league. It wasn't the best of starts to the New Year as Southampton suffered a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Brighton, who pipped the Saints to the League One title in the preceding season. Southampton's away form was the biggest concern at the time with only having won three games on the road after the defeat at the Amex Stadium. Despite this statistic, the Saints managed to turn things around on the road and continued their fantastic home form to get the fans excited of the prospect of Premier League football returning to St. Mary's. After the 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough, the Saints knew that their destiny was in their own hands and had to beat a Coventry side who were already facing the prospect of playing in the third tier of English football for the first time since 1964. Southampton's 4-0 win secured their place back in the Premier League and now the club can plan for life back in the top flight. 

Overall, it has been an another astonishing season for Southampton Football Club. Making key signings such as Jack Cork, Jos Hooiveld and Billy Sharp proved that the club showed the ambition and belief that they could get back to where they belong. Before the season started, critics said that Rickie Lambert wouldn't cut it out in the Championship however the statistic of 27 league goals will get those individuals thinking of how mistaken they were and the Liverpudlian will be looking to replicate his form in the top flight. I feel the unity of the entire Saints squad has been a major factor in the club's success as Nigel Adkins always says that the players work hard for each other and want to win for each other.

Watching the Saints this season has been a pleasure to watch and in my opinion, it has been the best football that I have ever seen in all of my years as a proud Saints fan. The patience in play and keeping possession of the ball has improved dramatically. The passing and attacking has also been superb with every Saints fan now excited of the future of what is now a Premier League club. The feeling of that statistic is absolutely astounding and I speak on the behalf of all Saints fans that the fixture list on 18th June and the start of the 2012/2013 season two months later cannot arrive sooner! 

You can vote for your player of the season in my poll which you can find on the right hand side where the results will be announced on May 15th.

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