How important is a good start to the season?

By SFC Media time Mon 16 Jun Club

We continue the build up to Wednesday’s 2014/15 Barclays Premier League fixtures release by exploring Saints’ previous starts to top-flight campaigns.

Last year, Saints won on the opening day of a Premier League season for only the second time in 15 attempts. The 1-0 victory against West Bromwich Albion set Mauricio Pochettino’s side up for the first of seven successes on the road last term, as well as helping the club towards its best ever points haul since the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

Southampton’s only other win on the opening day of a Premier League season also came away from home in 1999 with a 1-0 win at Coventry City. Saints’ record after the first five games of that season, was: three wins and two defeats, which points-wise was actually greater than last season’s efforts, but the team would only go on to achieve 44 points by the end of the season for a 15th placed finish.

Seven of Saints’ last eight Premier League opening day games have been away from home. You have to go back to 2002 for the last Premier League curtain-raiser at St Mary’s, a game with Middlesbrough which finished goalless.

Jo Tessem battles with Middlesbrough's Ugo Ehiogu at St Mary's in 2002 [credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images]

Statistically, 2003/04 was the best start with Saints going five games undefeated. The team would go on to finish mid-table with 47 points in what would be the penultimate campaign of Saints’ 27 year long stay in the top-flight.

Perhaps more surprisingly, one of Saints' worst starts to a Premier League season came in 2000. Three draws and two defeats were recorded after the first five games, but the club would go on to achieve its previous best tally of points from a 38 game season with 52, just four points shy of last season’s record-breaking efforts. 

The worst start (1998/99) saw five straight losses, but Saints still stayed up that season, albeit in 17th place!

Matt Oakley in possession against Liverpool's Vegard Heggem in 1998 [credit: Graham Chadwick/Getty Images]

The team’s return to the top-flight in 2012/13 was deemed as one of the toughest challenges on paper with games against Manchester City, Wigan, Manchester United, Arsenal and Aston Villa raising the curtain for Nigel Adkins’ men. After four straight losses, Saints beat Villa to get their campaign up and running.

In more recent times outside of the Premier League, Saints' best start came in the Championship during 2011/12 where a record of four wins and one defeat started a campaign that team would ultimately be successful in with a haul of 88 points.

That year, Saints were successful on the first day of the campaign by beating Leeds United, but a victory in the opening game at home in the Premier League remains elusive.

Draw your own conclusions on the importance of a good start, with a season-by-season view of previous beginnings to campaigns below:

Premier League record

1992/93D 0-0 vs Tottenham (H)W1 D2 L250pts (18th)*
1993/94L 0-2 vs Everton (H)W1 D0 L443pts (18th)*
1994/95D 1-1 vs Blackburn (H)W1 D2 L254 pts (10th)*
1995/96L 3-4 Nott'm Forest (H)W1 D2 L238pts (17th)
1996/97D 0-0 Chelsea (H)W0 D2 L341pts (16th)
1997/98L 0-1 Bolton (H)W1 D0 L448pts (12th)
1998/99L 1-2 Liverpool (H)W0 D0 L541pts (17th)
1999/00W 0-1 vs Coventry (A)W3 D0 L244pts (15th)
2000/01D 2-2 vs Derby (A)W0 D3 L252pts (10th)
2001/02L 0-2 vs Leeds (A)W1 D0 L445pts (11th)
2002/03D 0-0 vs Middlesbrough (H)W1 D2 L252pts (8th)
2003/04D 2-2 vs Leicester (A)W2 D3 L047pts (12th)
2004/05L 0-2 vs Aston Villa (A)W1 D1 L332pts (20th) R
2012/13L 2-3 vs Man City (A)W1 D0 L441pts (14th)
2013/14W 0-1 vs West Brom (A)W2 D2 L156pts (8th)

*22 teams in the division

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