I’ve been following soccer for a while now. Sorry, I’ve been following football for a while now. I’ve played since I was just a little boy, and growing up I only really knew the big names: Man United, Barcelona, Real Madrid. I knew nothing about any other teams, but I started learning more about them as my football viewing kept on.
I eventually found myself admiring Southampton for the same reasons any fan might. I like watching attractive football, I like the idea of supporting a team with young talented prospects, and who doesn’t like to root for an underdog every now and again?
But the one thing that kept me tuning into Saints games was simple. Southampton to me, seemed to be a club that wholly trusted itself. Regardless of what the premier league throws the team’s way, the Saints keep producing because they believe in their philosophy.
I don’t know any other Americans who support Southampton. American EPL fans will recognize the club, FIFA players will be familiar with its players, but beyond that there’s no one. I think there’s a good chance that I’m the only American Southampton supporter in the world.
My friends will continue to follow their clubs: United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton. (I even know a Watford supporter, believe it or not). But I’m good with that. I’m going to root for the Saints.
This year, at the start of the EPL season, I decided to really increase my following of Southampton. Like, truly become a supporter. It didn’t bother me that I thought we’d be in for a tough season. Sure, I wanted to win loads of games and push on to bigger and better achievements, but I was realistic. I was extremely skeptical of implementing a diamond in midfield, and although I was thoroughly excited at the purchase of Nathan Redmond – who I’m a huge fan of – were we really going to be testing him as a striker?
But as it turns out, we’ve done well at implementing both of those things and more.
I’ve watched all the games, or at least as many as I could, and to be honest, I’m pretty happy overall. Heading toward Christmas-time and looking at where we stand in the table, I think we’ve fared decently. We’ve had many quality outings, especially in the Europa League, and our football has been good. As Puel said early on, attractive football can “give pleasure to the players,” but it “gives pleasure to the fans also.” I think if we trust how we’ve been playing, success will come.
Southampton’s identity is something that I will respect for as long as it remains intact – it’s a truly unique thing in modern football. That, plus the continued success of recent years, is truly irresistible from my perspective. There’s still plenty more twists and turns in the remainder of this season, but in this moment, I’m hopeful we can fight for yet another high finish.
We march on.
Written by Nick Thelen – @itsmenickyt