Friday 25th October 2019 ko 20.00
FA Premier League
Bertrand sent off 10 (serious foul play) (VAR)
LEICESTER CITY 9 (Chilwell 10 Tielemans 18 Perez 19 39 57 Vardy 45 55 90p Maddison 85)
Entry – Complimentary
Back in Albania I was sat in the cable car heading down from Mount Dajti and was speaking to one of our guides Ditmar. He has the advantage of being a footballer, playing in the 3rd tier of the Albanian League for Mirdita so I attempted to explain groundhopping to him. The mechanics aren’t difficult to explain, watch a football match in as many places as possible, but the philosophical side is always a little more difficult. Why would someone set out to visit 5 Albanian grounds with only one being top flight? I explained it as being the type of person that likes to see what’s round the next corner.
But where are the limits he asked? For me there are very few, as long as its 11-a-side I’m happy, which does tend to throw people a little. It did with Ditmar, so he asked where I was heading next. I half smiled, half winced. “Southampton” I said, I’m not convinced he still understands completely just how far down the pecking order I watch. Part of me wished I’d said something in the Southampton & District League!
The reason why Robyn and I were at St Mary’s was straightforward, we’d been given a couple of comps by Nike, and I am bound to say neither of us are exactly their target audience, but I was hardly going to turn them down was I? It had been all the way back in 2001 when I’d made my only other visit to St Mary’s for a 1-0 win against Tottenham.
I’d visited Southampton’s wonderful former ground, The Dell in 1996 to see my side Oxford United lose 3-2 in the League Cup, in the season of Ali Dia. That was the infamous “player” that then Saints manager Graeme Souness signed on the strength of him being supposedly George Weah’s cousin. He wasn’t and 53 minutes of a Premier League game exposed Souness’ folly and Dia’s fraud. Dia was released 2 weeks into his contract, and I’ve never quite been able to take Souness seriously since! But why couldn’t they have played Dia against us?
So a revisit to football that while it isn’t exactly out of my comfort zone it does come with all the annoyances of the modern game. I understand the desire to put on a show, but free popcorn, (I know Popcorn!) for the first however-many patrons is a culture shock, as it the floodlights putting on a pre-match show. The latter at least did make use of the torrential rain as the beams bounced off the rivulets.
But the Premier League is still a great product, you get to see some of the best players football can offer, in smart, modern stadia. I may hanker after the enchanted terraces of the past but I can attend a PL game without even thinking about Robyn’s safety and security. That said, the Premier League does seem to shoot itself in the foot on a regular basis.
VAR, or the Video Assistant Referee is a system begat by television and I’d argue is for television. Here it was obvious just the once, and it got the decision right, Ryan Bertrand’s challenge on Ayoze Perez in the build-up to Ben Chilwell’s opening goal was serious foul play, and the review took place during when play was being reset for kick-off after the goal. But that is the exception that proves the rule, and far too often the spectator is kept waiting while a decision is being made. But then this really isn’t about the paying spectator in the ground is it? I’d advise those in authority to think long and hard about who they are inconveniencing and why.
But Leicester were superb, down even to their fans who marked the one-year anniversary of the death of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha with a touching scarf display. They became only the second Premier League club to have two players score hat tricks in the same game, the first being Arsenal in 2003 but who did the Gunners achieve the feat against? Answer after the photos.
It was the biggest away win in Premier League history and… I could easily reel off a slew of superlatives, but it got sufficiently surreal for Robyn to comment during the first half that it was 0-4 and Vardy hadn’t scored!
From a Southampton perspective the humiliation was complete. I’ve seen performances like this before and normally its when the team are trying to get the manager sacked. To the Saints’ board’s credit they stuck with Ralph Hasenhüttl and as I write this the team have rallied somewhat.
It was awkward being sat in the middle of the home fans. For the most part they watched in stunned silence and many left at half time. Some managed to get a chant going about Vardy’s wife’s apparent spat with Coleen Rooney, and one managed a lovely piece of gallows humour at half-time shouting,
“Don’t worry lads, its only Manchester City Next!”
As a matter of record City won the league game 2-1 but required a late Kyle Walker goal to do so. That’s football I suppose!
But this game was about as much as a footballing shock to the system as was possible. The fact of the matter is that the higher up the food chain you get fewer goals. You shouldn’t see a 0-9 this high up!
It was remarkable in so many ways but the thing I’ll take from it was the stunned silence, and to some extent that went for the Leicester fans too. As we trudged back to the car avoiding the puddles we could see why. You celebrate an away win, of course you do, but this was beyond either home, away or the neutral spectators’ expectation. And when that happens, how do you react?
As a postscript we stopped for a coffee at Sutton Scotney Services. We sat in the McDonald’s and since it was on their way home too, so were quite a few Leicester fans. In walked Leicester defender Jonny Evans, and by the time he’d ordered his food, he was posing for selfies and signing no end of autographs! He was a credit to himself and his club, although I am bound to point out that when the furore finished, he did leave without collecting his food!
It was, would you believe, Southampton, in May 2003 with both Jermaine Pennant and Robert Pires scoring 3