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FA Carling Premiership, 15/4/00
Tall tales
By Pete Fincham

I have never been to the Dell. It remains one of the few League grounds in England that I have yet to visit, and for a while I was thinking that I would never get there. I mean, before last season, who'd have thought we would get into the Premiership, and even if we did, it would probably be the year that Southampton finally got relegated. Sod's law really, but it hasn't turned out that way and instead of another trip to sodding Grimsby, one of our least attractive games of the season is merely Southampton. What a change of luck!

I never know what to make of Southampton as a club. I mean, how can the supporters stand being put through this year in, year out. Endless relegation struggles and last day escapes. A ground that most of their fans cannot get into for love nor money, in an area that is not exactly football friendly judging by the amount of planning request rejections there have been in the last decade.

But being a fan is not about supporting someone convenient, or successful, or popular. It is about the passion evoked by your club in your heart. About the reasons why you support them (usually only one exists, and that is that the club is in your blood) and not the reasons for not supporting them.

Southampton epitomises what it is like to support a club just to support your club. It is not about bandwagon-jumping as in Watford's miraculous finding of supporters this season, nor is it about the prospect of combining a European adventure in the Champions League with a nice foreign holiday. It is about how you support your club unconditionally whether they are shit, put you through hell or cost you the earth.

Knowing many Southampton fans as I do through the IFC set up, I find it hilarious when they talk about where and when they are going to get their 'safety point' ensuring survival. It never is predicted to come before mid-April, and every year half of them think they will get relegated anyway! Gallows humour year after year. Why do we do it? Because we have to, because every June or July we believe that we can win the league in the back of our minds, we really believe that the new signing on a free transfer will score twenty goals and terrorise defences the country over. It is irrational, totally stupid to think that it just may happen. But sometimes a fairy tale comes true, and it is for that tiny, absolutely improbable occurrence that we still have faith. And for the ones like me with yellow so far into my veins it is hard to tell fiction from reality anymore, faith is sometimes the only thing we can have.

Thought: We are mental really!