Many fans have urged Saints to call on the expertise of legendary manager Lawrie McMenemy as they struggle to regain their Premiership status. Today, in a special pre-derby column, Big Mac confesses for the first time that if the call came from St Mary's he would be only too pleased to help...

It's seven years since Southampton FC became a plc and, like any other club, there have been highs and lows.

Although I didn't attend the Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium, I certainly took time out to ring Gordon Strachan and wish him all the very best.

No-one knew better than me what it meant to the supporters to be in a cup final.

Last time it touched a new generation who had probably listened to countless stories from fathers and mothers about what it was like in 1976 - not just the game itself, but the build-up and the wonderful parade around the city on the Sunday.

Sadly it was not to be for Gordon and his players while the European venture faltered at the first fence.

But any club with so many changes in management will find it difficult to have continued success and, when the bad times come along, there is also going to be a lot of criticism.

Football people learn, as Rudyard Kippling said famously in his poem "If", to treat triumph and disaster both the same. But it's often more difficult for newcomers in the business, who have enjoyed some of the glory days, to accept the criticism when it comes along. Because it can be venomous and personal.

Calls for change are bound to come because many supporters eat, drink and sleep the club and are paying more than ever of their hard- earned cash to watch it.

They desperately want to see their team succeed and with the advent of the many radio phone-ins and particularly the internet, they have many more channels to vent their frustration.

I purposely have tried very hard to keep a balanced view. There is no need for me to explain my love for the club. I mix and mingle with fans week in and week out through my involvement with about 11 charities in Hampshire.

So they know how I feel.

With my obvious platform here at The Echo, I have never pointed the finger because no-one knows how difficult the job of running football is in the modern day than myself.

I read the supporters' letters and comments with interest and naturally get a fair share delivered to me. The Echo often ask me to comment and all I can say is that if the club asked me to help in any way then, of course, I would.

I haven't moved house, my address and phone number is just the same.

Anyone connected with the club for over 30 years, as I have been, is bound to want success.

And none more so than tomorrow.

I spent some time recently with an old friend from the north east who took a lot of persuading that any derby was more fiercely fought than Newcastle versus Sunderland.

Probably the Scots and Merseysiders would take the same viewpoint about their own games, but having first hand experience of the south coast tussle, there can be no more passionate affair.

The team talk is simple. Players just have to be aware that on the following Monday morning, supporters of both teams often have to work together.

And we have to make sure that our supporters are in early waiting for the Pompey fans to come in with their heads down.

League positions don't mean a thing. At the moment our friends down the road are having one of their best spells ever, while we are struggling.

But rest assured the very experienced management team at Fratton Park, which includes two of my old players in Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan, will be pointing out that Saints' defeat at Watford will, if anything, act as an inspiration to pull out another Arsenal display which so nearly toppled the almost invincibles.

Management brownie points can be gained or lost on this one game and at present Harry would be happy no doubt with a draw. Steve Wigley could make his season with a win.

It all adds up to yet another hot 90 minutes but please, fans of both sides, keep the passion inside the ground.

I don't want my mate in the north east talking, as he did after the last game at Fratton, about events outside the ground which, of course, got the national headlines instead of the game.