This past weekend saw the beginning of the 2011/12 football league season, and it was certainly worth waiting for. There were some eye-catching results: from many people’s favourites for the Championship West Ham, who suffered a home defeat to Cardiff City, to Preston’s shock loss at home to Colchester United. The two results were not what Sam Allardyce or Phil Brown had envisaged going into the new campaign.
I’m going to focus though on the outcomes of the matches involving three south coast sides: Portsmouth and Southampton in the Championship, and League one side Bournemouth.
Firstly, Portsmouth. Steve Cotterill was going into his second successive season with a thread-bare squad, and was yet again, like on so many occasions last year, unable to fill the substitutes bench. Only four players out of a possible five were sitting present alongside the manager.
However, the players that Pompey do have are not there simply to make up the numbers. There’s arguably a very strong first eleven which could match most teams in this season’s Championship. The likes of Jamie Ashdown, Greg Halford, David Norris and Luke Varney are all reliable performers in the division and it would take a brave person to right Pompey off straight away.
The first test then was to face Tony Mowbray’s Middlesbrough up at the Riverside, and despite going behind twice in the game, the Blues hit back and claimed a well-earned point thanks to goals from new signings Norris and Varney. Looking back on the outcome, I think that come the end of the season it will be viewed as a satisfactory start for Pompey.
Now on to Southampton. Last season’s runners-up in League One, the Saints will be looking to replicate Norwich City in winning back-to-back promotions to the Premier League.
New recruits Steve de Ridder and Jack Cork look like good deals and fans will be hoping they can give the team that extra dimension when competing in the Championship. Expectations are high; although I would say a good, solid season would be more than satisfactory for Nigel Adkins’ side. Then a promotion push next season would be more realistic.
The Saints’ opening encounter of the season was against Leeds United at St Mary’s stadium, and it didn’t take long for the first goal to arrive. Captain Dean Hammond’s left footed strike was the perfect way to start the new season. Additional goals from Adam Lallana and David Connolly capped a dominant performance by the Saints in what proved to be a 3-1 victory.
It was a fine display of attacking intent by Southampton, but fans mustn’t get too carried away despite being second in the league!
League One side Bournemouth opened up their 2011/12 campaign with a visit to the Valley to take on Chris Powell’s new-look Charlton Athletic side.
Lee Bradbury made several changes to the side that finished last season in the play-off semi-finals, while Charlton brought in six new additions to their first XI. However, it was the London team who adapted better to the changes, and ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
It promises to be an interesting campaign for the Cherries, who have, like last season been dismissed as mere mid-table mediocrity when it comes to where they will finish come end of the year. Last season’s success was totally unexpected and a welcome surprise to all in the division.
However, I cannot see the team repeating the heroics once again. I’d like to be proved wrong, but I just feel Lee Bradbury’s inexperience at the helm of a football club could be crucial at times when it really matters. Survival should be achieved without too much of a problem; I just can’t see the Cherries competing at the top of the tree.
So, there you have it, a review of the opening weekend for Pompey, Saints and the Cherries. All in all a win, draw and defeat is not disastrous, and there were plenty of promising signs suggesting a fruitful season ahead for football followers on the south coast.
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