This weekend sees two of League One’s biggest teams go head-to-head as Southampton make the long journey north to take on Leeds United at Elland Road.

Southampton are another victim of the Football League’s ridiculous points deduction policy and started the 2009-10 campaign on minus ten. What annoys me about this rule is that when a club hits financial difficulty, the Football League should be helping teams overcome their troubles, not hindering them further. Afterall, without these member clubs, there wouldn’t be a Football League.

I’m not going to dwell on the ridiculous rules which teams are governed by though. I think we as Leeds United fans have suffered enough at the hands of Lord Mahwinney and co. and although I have nothing but sympathy for the Saints, I can’t help but think the idiots at FL head office have done us a favour this term (about time too!)

Had Southampton not began this season with the handicap they did, then I honestly think we’d be facing more competition than that of Norwich City and Charlton Athletic. Add the ten points back to the Saints’ current tally and they’d be right alongside Huddersfield Town in the play-off places. Not only that, but after their slow start to the season, Southampton have picked up the pace and are now picking points up at an ever-increasing rate. Maybe a little premature for predictions, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t make the play-offs.

A lot of the credit for Southampton’s defiant rise up the table has to go to League One’s star striker, Rickie Lambert. Whilst no one man makes a team, Southampton have successfully built around the hitman and his return of 17 goals so far puts him top of the scorers list – five ahead of our very own Jermaine Beckford.

Both players will attract a lot of press over the coming weeks as the transfer window opens. With struggling Premier League teams desperate to find a goalscorer and Championship clubs looking for an edge, many will turn to League One’s attention grabbing duo for answers. Whether both clubs can retain their key men, only time will tell, but this weekend is bound to bring out a few scouts.

It’s been over two years since we last played Southampton in our relegation season from the Championship. They bet us both home and away that season, reversing the results from the season before where Leeds United were victorious in both meetings.

For both sets of fans, the fixture will no doubt bring a reminder of how far the teams have fallen. Back in 2004, before our two seasons together in the Championship, Leeds and Southampton competed in the top flight. Neither team will have expected to be meeting in League One just over five years later, but that’s the unfortunate reality.

Regardless of how big both teams are, both have fallen from grace and both will be hoping to turn things round and head back towards the dizzy heights of the Premier League. This Saturday’s clash at Elland Road will no doubt draw a bumper crowd as the game shows all the hallmarks of a classic.

Jermaine Beckford vs Rickie Lambert. Simon Grayson vs Alan Pardew. Leeds United vs Southampton. It’s Simon Grayson’s 40th birthday today and he’ll also celebrate a year in charge of Leeds United this week. A win over the Saints will be the ideal present for him and a great early Christmas present for the Whites fans. It’s likely that Beckford or Lambert will be making the headlines Sunday morning. Let’s hope Jermaine can win the battle.

  • I can’t get over the fact the Simon Grayson is only 40. I mean, I was forewarned about the policemen getting younger, but nobody told me about Leeds managers.

  • Paul South Wales

    The only thing I would say is that Rickie Lambert probably doesn’t need as many chances as Beckford, and some times it’s why we don’t kill games off ealier.

  • Strasbourg Saint

    Great article by a true fan. Points penalties punish fans and new Boards of Directors not those who were responsible for our clubs’financial problems. Let’s hope we both make it to Wembley for the JPT final. My brother-in-law is a Luton fan. He said it was amazing at last year’s final when 35,000 Luton fans turned their collective backs on Mahwinney. This year it would be 70,000 true fans showing him their backs. Only his pig-ignorance would ensure that he didn’t get the message. Looking forward to Saturday. It’ll be a test of where both clubs have got to and where they’ll end up in May.

    • TSS

      He’s been a poor leader of the Football League and I don’t think there’ll be many fans upset when he finally steps down next year.

      I agree that points penalties are more of a punishment to fans than they are those responsible. In our case, the fans were punished for Ken Bates’ actions and for me, that’s the main reason we’re still stuck in League One. Hopefully this will be our final year though and we can get back on track.

      I hope you have more success getting out of this league than Leeds United have had in their first two seasons. It’s not easy being the club everyone wants to beat.

  • James

    Good post. Its been an intresting few years for both Saints and Leeds. Both teams share a lot in common. We both have felt the harsh effects of decisions by made by the football league and previous chairmen. Yet at the same time both teams are now looking on up towards getting back to the Premier League where they belong.

  • Pete

    Lambert can’t be sold by Saints as he has already played for 2 diffrent teams this season. Saints Fan

    • Owen

      From a Saints point of view, nice report, looking forward to the match.

  • saint on the up

    Got read from saints fan looking forward to Saturday

  • Colin

    I’m a Leeds fan who’s a little wary about this game. Leeds seem to be stumbling a bit, changing players in and out of the team, hoping that Beckford gets a goal. Leeds seem to be struggling to close down teams and get those scrappy goals needed to gets 3 points against the likes of scrappers Brentford.

    Pressure’s on Grayson to put faith in who he thinks is his strongest team and start getting 3 points instead of 1.

    I reckon if you offered Grayson right now the opportunity to be top of the league level on points with Charlton but with a slightly better goal difference come New Year’s Day, I think he’d bite your hand off.

    • TSS

      I think the fixture pile-up and injury problems have been the main cause of our mini-slump in form. We’ve remained undefeated throughout December though so not the worst dip ever and I think there’ll be an improvement now the injury list is finally shortening.

  • Andy

    Good article. As a Saints fan I was gutted about the ten point penalty but you have to consider why it exists. The fact is Saints, Leeds and a whole host of other teams have spent above their means, achieving things that more prudent clubs couldn’t. Take for example the season we got into the playoffs – we out-bought others teams with money we didn’t have, giving us a better chance of getting promoted. The gamble failed much like Leeds’ failure to get back into the Champions League and we have paid the price. By spending money we didn’t have our clubs have effectively cheated others in the league by buying players and paying wages that they cannot. What the penalty does is punish those clubs whose actions threaten the stability of the football league. As much as the 10 points seem harsh, I don’t think we have the right to get on our moral high horses.

    That said, both Saints and Leeds are building more responsible clubs which will hopefully mean that we won’t face this type of difficulty again. Lets up this fixture is in the Championship next year!

    • TSS

      My major problem with any deductions is that it’s often an out-going board that have caused the financial problems, leaving the new board, owners, manager et al to pick up the pieces, whilst the previous owners walk away untroubled.

      Take Leeds for example. Every football fan throughout England knows it was Peter Ridsdale’s inept leadership skills that led to our demise, yet the ones that have suffered have been the boards that have followed, not the man himself who has been allowed to take over (and subsequently ruin) another football club in Cardiff. Whilst the people who followed Ridsdale may have contributed to the financial problems we’ve had, he started the domino effect and should be the one facing the consquences. Not the Leeds fans.

      • Colin

        TSS I agree with the sentiment but I don’t think anyone was complaining when Ridsdale was living the dream – the other board members went along with it. I reckon he’s doing alright at Cardiff compared to where they were when he came on board.

        Anyway moan over. Let’s just be thankful that we’ve got a great chairman driving the ship now. Absolutely nothing to worry about….oh hold on a minute….Ken who?

        :)

  • Callum

    Excellent article.

    As a Saint fan, I enjoy reading the impressions of other teams’ supporters on our progress, when they are actually well thought out, well written and balanced.

    Over the years, Southampton and Leeds United Football Clubs have certainly enjoyed some epic battles. Who can forget Leeds comeback from three down at St. Mary’s to win 4-3, and similarly, our classic 3-2 victory at St. Mary’s. When Saints play Leeds, often we can look forward to goals. The semi-rivalry we seemed to have developed over the last few years of goading each other during our tense battles also adds an extra spice to the games between us (certainly from our perspective, and I hope for Leeds Utd fans too).

    Let us hope that Saturday’s fixture at Elland Road has the making of another classic, and that events on the field are the only talking points after the game.

    I hope that when this season is all said and done, that both Leeds Utd and Southampton will be looking forward to renewing battle in The Championship. We’re talking about two big Clubs here, and both should in my opinion be gracing higher levels.

    Starting from after our weekend fixture, I wish Leeds United every success for the season, and hope that you can see it through, to promotion, (alongside ourselves, of course).

    Best Regards,

    A Saint.

  • Hassle Bank

    Excellent thought provoking article as usual – I don’t quite agree with simply blaming rogue chairmen for a club’s misfortunes , it is the responsibility of the board that appointed them and therefore the club must accept some degree of collective responsibility for its misfortune. A more progressive means of sanction however is clearly needed as having a bad chairman in the first instance is punishment enough for any club and its supporters.

  • nick gunnell

    I would be more than happy to swap Beckford for Lambert, i think i could get 20 goals a season if i played for Leeds and was as selfish as Beckford.