It's like walking to work in the rain. At first, you try to stay dry, you skirt close to buildings, you wrestle with a windblown umbrella. Then the moment comes when you are wet through and you can't get any wetter. You relax and start to enjoy the sensation, a sense of calm washing over you. It turns out the sensation is the same when your football team loses NINE-NIL, at home, to Leicester City.
On Friday night I had given up hope long before half-time, goals six, seven, eight and nine were just opportunities for gallows humour. It was the worst home defeat in English top-flight history and equalled the Premier League record to boot. Ipswich fans would have been smiling almost as broadly as Leicester's, finally, someone had joined them at the bottom of the barrel. Let's be honest though, Ipswich were away to one of the best teams in PL history, Saints were at home, to Leicester, the bottom of that barrel is ours alone. It is a result that changes everything. When Chelsea's fourth went in against Burnley yesterday I thought, "ooh, this is nasty..." then I remembered, nothing that happens to anybody else will ever be nasty again. This defeat will most likely be the pinnacle of defeats until the day that I die. It is a scar that Saints fans will wear forever, the jokes will never stop, not ever.
It is a where were you? moment. In years to come old men will meet in parks and tell each other stories about the 25th October 2019. "Where were you when the Saints lost nine-nil, to Leicester?" I was, in fact, playing poker at the house of another Southampton supporting friend. The decision had been made days earlier NOT to watch the football, so certain were we that Southampton would get humped. Before the first hand was dealt Saints were one-nil down. The sending off was next, "we're proper fucked now" read the text message from a friend, who took on the job of bearing the bad news. It is a good job we don't shoot messengers anymore. Another friend was at the match, we do not regularly text during the football but after the fourth went in I couldn't resist testing his mood, apparently, only the rain was keeping him in the ground.
Not all bad news for Saints fans, the only team to feature on both sides of the record defeat table.
|2||Manchester United||9||Ipswich Town||0||1995|
|3||Tottenham Hotspur||9||Wigan Athletic||1||2009|
|=4||Newcastle United||8||Sheffield Wednesday||0||1999|
At half-time in the football, we stopped playing cards for a cigarette break and made our predictions for the second half. The general consensus was seven-nil, nobody said nine. Nine-nil just isn't a thing, it doesn't happen. Normally a team that is being humped so aggressively at half-time comes out and shows a little spirit, shows some spunk. "Win the second half lads, go down fighting, get some pride back." So either, this current crop of Saints players has no pride or for some reason, they have lost faith in the manager and are not really bothered if he remains at the club. Optimism was high when Ralph Hasenhüttl took over the club, here was a man with a plan, a footballing philosophy and ethos we could get behind. In hindsight perhaps the optimism was more to do with Mark Hughes leaving than who was coming in. Some of Hasenhüttl's team selections have been baffling this season, performances have been patchy and good results sporadic. Even before Friday night, Southampton had the worst home record in the division.
The key for Saints, of course, will be how the team react to this hammering. Unfortunately, the next two games are both away at Manchester City, first in the EFL Cup and then the League. It's not a laughing matter, both of those really could be eight or nine.