THE other week would have been the fourth anniversary of Gus Poyet’s first game as manager of the Albion, when he took the Seagulls down to St Mary’s to take on Nigel Adkins’ Southampton team in a League One fixture.
I don’t think anyone, either in Hampshire that day or watching on Sky TV, could have imagined what the situation would be with both clubs just four years later.
The Albion for their part have moved to their state-of-the-art £95million stadium at the Amex, enjoyed a play-off adventure last season, which so very nearly resulted in a return to top-flight football, then endured a very acrimonious managerial change before the appointment of Oscar Garcia. That surprised many, including the bookies, but going into the international break the Seagulls find themselves on the cusp of the play-off picture, despite having several key players missing through injury.
I know I’m not alone in thinking that if the club can just tread water in and around where they currently are in the table, when they are back to full strength they can really push on. And every season since the play-offs began more than 25 years ago, the team always coming out of the pack in March/April traditionally do well.
As for Southampton, putting south coast rivalries aside, as I said, I don’t think anyone, let alone the Saints faithful, could have comprehended what was to come that November day when the Albion returned back to Sussex with all three points (sorry, I couldn’t resist getting that one in).
Everyone acknowledges the progress Saints made with back-to-back promotions but then it appeared the train had really come of the tracks when Adkins, for all his faults, a good manager, was sacked before Christmas last season and replaced by former Argentinian international Mauricio Pochettino, a man who still to this day conducts his press interviews through a translator.
But all the doubters have been proved well and truly wrong with Saints now third in the Premier League table, with six regular English outfield players in their starting line-up, culminating in last week’s announcement of the England Squad, which saw three St Mary’s players, Lambert, Lallana and Rodriquez, in Roy Hodgson’s 23.
n There was another landmark last week with a Worthing theme when 18-year-old Harrison Reed made his full Southampton debut in the Capital One Cup.
I can recall turning up at the Orchards School one Sunday over a decade ago with my Worthing United under-sevens to play the Worthing Rebels and seeing this little ginger-haired lad taking teams apart.
He moved on to Worthing Minors, although incidentally and as something I do remind him of on occasions, the last game he played for them against United, was at under-ten level and my side actually managed to win both games in the double header – the first time we had ever won against Minors with him playing!
Like everyone in this town connected with youth football, I’m really proud of what he has achieved. With 15-year-old Brad House doing well at Arsenal, I had previously said he would be the first Worthing-born lad to play in the Premier League, but I think Harry is going to pip him to the post.
It’s also a testament to the dedication of both his parents, Dave and Julia, who have been supportive since the first day he travelled to Hampshire for his trial.
It’s almost quite ironic, as their boy has turned out to be one of the great successes of our local football network, they were also on the touch line two of the most unassuming and almost model football parents.
Yes, they shouted, but in encouragement rather than some of the other facets of behaviour we will see on parks in and around the town this Sunday. Perhaps some parents should take note.
If you’re good enough, you will get spotted, just ask both Harry Reed and Brad House.