By Jim Mackney @JimMackney @TLE_Sport
It was the 18th of October 2014. There was a bubbling sense of excitement, the smell of hotdogs and flat Carlsberg filled the air along with the sound of a few thousand shuffling feet; the customary swell of noise as the players emerged from the tunnel…
This could have been any football stadium in any part of the country at 2:58pm but at St Mary’s you could have cut the tension with a knife. The tension however was unfounded as Saints went on to win 8-0 and in turn record their biggest EPL win.
Ronald Koeman has done an amazing job since joining the club and his decision to sign the ever impressive Dušan Tadić appears to be a masterstroke. Column inches have been given to the partnership blossoming between Tadić and fellow new signing Graziano Pellé and rightly so, but if anything the re-emergence of Jack Cork, who looked close to a move to Crystal Palace but fell through at the end of the summer window, is possibly one that needs to be recognised a little more.
Morgan Schneiderlin is heartbeat of the team and keeps the midfield in check but Cork alongside him is the team’s metronome. He never does anything fancy, he dispossess the opposition and passes to a teammate, all game, every game. And he’s finally added goals to his game, netting three this season taking his club total to three.
Stoke City turned up this weekend and looked for all the world like they would rather be anywhere else. They wasted time from the first minute and played not with their new found freedom under Mark Hughes but with the niggling, scrappy petulance that was the hallmlark of Tony Pulis’ reign.
Saints were the better team for long stretches of the game with Saido Mane being the pick of the first half performances. After having his goal against Sunderland chalked off in midweek by the dubious goals panel he thoroughly enjoyed emphatically smashing the ball past Asmir Begovic on the rebound after Pellé had hit the post.
It is true testament to how far Saints have risen since their promotion to the Premier League three seasons ago that Stoke played with absolutely no ambition to win the game. Yes Saints sat third going into it but Stoke gave Saints a reverence, especially in the first half, that is usually reserved for the likes of Chelsea, City and Arsenal.
Stoke were more combative in the second half and stopped Saints’ full backs from bombing down the wings. In truth this nullified Stoke as much as it did Southampton. Diouf stretched for a looping ball towards the end of the game but never really looked like getting there. It was Stoke’s best opportunity of the game.
The season is only nine games old and there is a lot more football to be played but it is comforting to see Saints win ugly. They weren’t great for certain stretches and in truth, seemed to view Stoke as an irritant. However they did a professional job and solidified 2nd spot after City dropped all three points at The Boleyn Ground at lunch time.
Whether it’s by eight clear goals or one, it really does seem as if Saints are very, very capable of great things this season. Next up in the league is Hull away and long may Saints’ winning ways continue.