I am an AFC Bournemouth supporter and I don’t hate Southampton Football Club. There, I said it.
Offering this opinion sadly isn’t popular amongst a section of our fan base, although I’m still not entirely sure why.
The reasons given to despise our neighbours down the A31 are often flimsy, and occasionally completely baseless. In fact not much else other than “they’re so arrogant” is presented as a reason to hate Claude Puel’s side.
Unfortunately many Bournemouth fans have had their dials set to “hate” when it comes to the Saints for quite a while now, and that won’t change anytime soon I imagine. Especially while we both remain Premier League clubs.
Although I obviously can’t talk for Southampton fans, I think most are bemused by the scorn much of our support has for them – and that bewilderment has potentially developed into a mild dislike on their side, if not an all-out hatred.
It wasn’t always this way of course, and just a few years ago there was barely any discourse between Southampton and Bournemouth fans. Until the two teams played each other in League One in 2010 there hadn’t been a competitive fixture between the sides since 1987, and no league game since 1960.
That game in League One at Saint Mary’s permanently changed the relationship between the sides in my opinion though. The second of October, 2010 – I remember it well.
Let me take you back…we were flying high in the division in the automatic promotion spots, whereas Southampton had made a faltering start to their campaign – having just replaced Alan Pardew with Nigel Adkins (remember him?). The Saints hadn’t yet won a home league fixture, and were hovering around the relegation zone after playing nine matches.
Sadly any optimism going into the game – we were tagged as favourites by many – quickly dissipated as the match unfolded. Despite hitting the post in the first few minutes we were completely outplayed and swatted away with a depressing ease. Eddie Howe sounded gutted in his post-match interview, while Nigel Adkins crowed away smugly in a highly irritating manner that was to sadly become very familiar to anyone who tuned into our local radio station after matches.
The game actually gave my friend a complex about visiting Saint Mary’s stadium, and the fact we’ve now lost our last three games there by a 2-0 scoreline hasn’t helped either.
It wasn’t really the one-sided nature of the game that changed the relationship between the sides in my opinion however, but the behaviour of many of our fans during the match. Many from the very start of the game were gesticulating and shouting at the Southampton supporters just to our left – most of them groups of families – who just sat there and seemed stunned that so much of our fanbase hated them with such fervour. They had no idea what was going on. It was embarrassing.
It was particularly surprising considering how most Saints fans actually used to like AFC Bournemouth before we began to play them fairly regularly, as they apparently used to cheer if we were leading when scores were read out at half time – reserving all their football based resentment for Portsmouth.
Since then it’s been a battle of words between both sides. Every forum thread I see about this fixture – be it on a Southampton, Bournemouth, or a general football message board – seems to devolve into a tiresome drudge through the same dull opinions ad nauseum.
“We don’t care about you,” “you’re arrogant and we hate you,” “we saved your club,” “they’re just annoyed we’re in the Premier League,” and so on. Quite frankly, I’m sick of it.
Southampton fans love to act like they saved our club – by playing a friendly when we were in dire straits – and although there’s no doubt they did help us, the way they hold it over us is pathetic. Equally pathetic is our fans justifying a full blown hatred just because some Saints fans look down on us. It’s a vicious cycle.
And the thing with vicious cycles is that they never end. What I resent is that there’s barely any discussion of the actual games between the two sides from our fans, just a load of bile spewing everywhere and making a dreadful mess. I’m painfully aware I have added to that problem with this piece by the way, but I felt I needed to get this off my chest regardless.
If we stick around the top flight for long enough it could become a major local derby, and perhaps a more mutual respect between the sides could then develop and subsequently limit – if not entirely stop – these repetitive points of debate.
There’s clearly a desire for it to become a decent rivalry one from both clubs too – if past comments from Howe (“I think the more games we play, the rivalry will develop) and pricing for this weekend’s game (£50 for ‘restricted view’ seats) are anything to go by.
We can start this process by gaining a positive result at Saint Mary’s for the first time in our history – although that’s certainly easier said than done…