FOOTBALL at Christmas has always been different.

Naturally, the crowd are in more of a sing-song attitude and I think a lot of supporters may have a different sort of drink to a normal cup of tea beforehand!

But, when I was a manager, the players had to be reminded that their job was different.

My big thing as a manager was to make sure we had to try to get them treating the festive period as a normal week, as opposed to a holiday.

I even remember taking players to a hotel locally, which would normally be only done for away games, to make sure that we were always prepared for the games on Boxing Day afternoon.

It wasn’t a popular decision with the players, who were probably being criticised by their families.

The families could relax and celebrate and have their holiday time but I had to remind the squad it was exactly the opposite for them.

The people who had paid to watch were still paying their hard-earned money to watch. I used to say to the players ‘get a win today and you can do your Christmas celebrations tomorrow’.

I am sure Nathan Jones and his staff will be reminding his players we have to get out of this bottom six as soon as possible and I wish them good luck.

  • I recently met a gentleman who wanted me to sign a programme – and when he turned up it was not an ordinary edition. It was the FA Cup final programme from 1976!

He was of an age and I said to him, ‘you must have been supporting quite a long time?’.

He told me he had been following Saints since he was a schoolboy but what really surprised me was when we talked about 1976, he said he watched every cup game that year home and away.

But in addition, he also went to every league game home and away as well! When you think that’s 42 league games and some distances they would travel with the likes of Sunderland in the league – he saw every game we played that season.

That is most unusual and I think if I’d known about it as manager back then, I would have probably made sure he was invited to a training session, to meet the players and get their autographs at the same time.

I wondered, was he the only one to have done that? He obviously worked hard to be able to make the journeys and the football gave him the chance to enjoy a get together with friends – especially in a season when we didn’t actually get promotion.

But we enabled him and his pals to top off their journeys with a trip to Wembley.

  • Looking back at the World Cup and the way it all finished in dramatic fashion. We probably had more people watching it than ever and the football gave the game in general a good mention, when you saw the passion coming from the players and supporters.

The game benefitted by supporters watching from all round the world. Full marks to Mr Messi and Argentina in particular for the victory over France in the final.

Brighton, of course, now have a World Cup winner in their squad in Alexis Mac Allister, who could line up against Saints. It would be good to see him on Boxing Day, as long as he’s not on a winning side!

I think as I’ve said on other occasions, I look at all the games between all the clubs on the south coast as derby matches.

Even though Brighton is a good few miles further away from the likes of Bournemouth and the lads in blue up the road.

It will be an occasion where Brighton supporters can get to the game and I am sure they would have sold all their tickets for this one.

Brighton will be wanting to let Saints supporters know where they are in the league at present, sitting seventh. I am sure our supporters will want to point out there is not too much difference after a win. 

  • I would just like to say to all of the readers, thank you for your interest in the column.

People like you make Saints, in my opinion, have an extra warmth in them.

I with you all a very happy and successful Christmas