When the 5th round FA Cup draw happened it was 1pm in the afternoon here on the East coast of America. Snow delicatley trickled down outside the window as the winds howled and swirled. My heart was pounding as I tuned into Talksport to hear the words I had so longed to hear. "Number 1 Southampton, will play......Number 12 Portsmouth!" That pause was endless as I let the feeling of euphoria settle in. Then it dawned on me, I would not be there to witness it in person. I had been to the FA Cup third round game at the Dell back in 1996, when Jim Magilton scored twice. I also attended all of the derby matches at St.Mary's and loved every second of them. You could feel the hatred rising from the divides of the Northam end. The air was think with venomous chants. And I was going to miss all of this. I looked towards my wallet to see if I could muster up some dosh to make the trip home. No chance.
Minutes later phonecalls and text flew in from family and friends back home. Every Saints fan it seems could smell the fear rising from the depths of Fratton Park, just above the stench of decay and rot of administration and possible extinction. This was perhaps the perfect time to create one of the biggest upsets in South Coast derby history.
I informed my small legion of Saints mad friends. Soon one of them was urging me to fly back and make the near 9,000 mile round journey for the weekend to see the game. And he would come with me! Many of my team mates have travelled over to England to stay with me, and many have Saints shirts which they wear proudly. Also everyone around my team and those Americans who know me, inform me how they have been checking on Saints' progress and are pleased to see them doing well. Alan Pardew's hard work and the feel good factor certainly have spread a hell of a long way.
Let's hope there's more of it to come. Three trips to Wembley, I'll have some of that.
This morning I trained at 7am, after the session the coaches gathered us in and told us how we had to give a coaching session to underprivelaged children......on the morning of Saturday 13th Febraury. The game is due to be aired at 7.30am Eastern US time. Nightmare.
For me it's a massive dilemma, and the other newly initiated Saints fans were just as devestated as me at this news as we glared at each other in utter disbelief. But we have devised a cunning plan, (as Baldrick would say in true Blackadder fashion) so that myself and 5 team mates can still go and watch the game and just get back in time to coach the kids. We would drive down to the Pub see the Saints win, then sneak into the training session just in time to not be noticed! Perfect!
A Perfect a day full of Soc.....(nope I can't bring myself to say the "S" word, I nearly did though, phew!) A perfect day full of football.
What more can I ask for. Roll on the derby, and remember, at the final whistle, think of a small group of Saints fans in a distant land huddled around a television in the snow, cheering and celebrating as Lambert and co. preserve Saints' 100% record at St.Mary's against out fiercest rival.
Come on you Reds, I'll be there in spirit!