Southampton looking to build on Wembley JPT success
Like the rest of the country, the exposed south coast has been hit by the dark and numbing weather produced by the worst winter in fifty years, and local footballing matters have provided no solace for supporters.
Southampton began the season with a ten-point deficit after succumbing to administration last season. Their local neighbours have subsequently followed the same pattern with Bournemouth and Portsmouth both facing financial difficulties. Fratton Park has welcomed four different owners this term, but none were able to prevent the club from falling victim to the inevitable.
Twenty miles west and AFC Bournemouth are in similar financial trouble. Last month they were served a winding-up order petition by HM Revenue & Customs. The tax bill for the League Two club reaches £314,000. Despite the obvious concern at the time of the announcement, Cherries’ chairman Eddie Mitchell revealed that £100,000 from advanced season ticket sales would be put towards footing the bill. But in contrast to their Southern neighbours, Bournemouth currently reside in third place in the League and are strong candidates for automatic promotion to the next tier.
The Saints, however, have improved steadily in League One. Despite a sluggish start Alan Pardew secured an astute signing in Rickie Lambert who is currently the top scorer in the League with an impressive 26 goals, with Lee Barnard also having contributed 22 goals to the Saints’ play-off push.
The purchase of the club by Swiss businessman, Markus Liebherr, has ensured much-needed financial stability while the former West Ham United manager Pardew has been allowed to develop his squad, with more funds expected to be made available this summer.
After spending 27 years in England’s top division, the ambition of everyone associated with Southampton is to eventually reach the lofty heights of the Premier League once more. And fans are returning in their droves to St. Mary’s as a sense of optimism sweeps across the city.
The reinvigorated Southampton support was treated to an outing at Wembley on Sunday. Over 44,000 - a record for a single club at the young stadium - were clad in the red and white of the Saints as they watched their side storm to 4-1 victory against Carlisle in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.
The two sides are in close proximity in League One but there was a vast difference between the pair on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon. Southampton were the superior side proving they have the potential to escape this division and re-establish themselves in the Championship.
For now Alan Pardew is content with a Cup final success. “In the short term I wanted a Wembley visit and I’ve done that least now,” the Saints manager said.
“I’m so pleased that this group of players have won something. What they’ve achieved can never be taken away from them,” he added.