Little sympathy over Premiership realities

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The Independent Football

If Southampton's defence had resisted as impressively as their stewards, the club would now be looking forward to a 28th successive season of top-flight football. Offered the opportunity to shape their own destiny when Fulham shredded Delia's dreams they failed, for the10th match on the trot, to maintain a clean sheet.

If Southampton's defence had resisted as impressively as their stewards, the club would now be looking forward to a 28th successive season of top-flight football. Offered the opportunity to shape their own destiny when Fulham shredded Delia's dreams they failed, for the10th match on the trot, to maintain a clean sheet.

The immediate cost is an income cut of around £15m, rising to £25m if Saints do not bounce back in the two seasons they receive a parachute payment. Last time it took them four years to return but demotion was far less punitive in 1974.

Harold Wilson was running the country, David Cassidy was playing to hysterical audiences, and football shared its revenues. That same season Manchester United were also relegated. Coming the other way, into the top flight, were Carlisle United. This season Carlisle's promotion is from the Conference. Even gate money was divided then. Now the bigger clubs take ever greater slices of the cake.

Which is where Malcolm Glazer comes in. The American's target is the television millions and Manchester United are the key to that wealth. Yesterday their supporters, in a misguided bid to publicise their cause, tried three times to invade the pitch. Dozens of stewards, augmented by police, repelled each attempt.

They were left to wave banners that read "Glazer, watch your back" and "You were my life. Goodbye Manchester United Football Club. 1978-2005. RIP."

It is not just the United supporters who are gearing up for a fight. In his programme notes, Southampton's chairman, Rupert Lowe, argued the case for maintaining the current collective bargaining.

He cited the "founders' agreement" as the reason the League has "flourished" and expressed the hope that "any newcomers fully appreciate a successful domestic league is the rock on which any great football club is built".

Lowe, of course, will not be dipping into the Premiership trough next season. As he has been one of the prime movers in the Premier League's steady accumulation of power there is a sweet irony that he will no longer benefit from it. He will not even have a seat at the table as relegation means he must give up his place on the FA's management board.

Maybe that is just as well because he has plenty of work to do at St Mary's. First he must quell a supporters' rebellion which yesterday manifested itself in the hundreds of fans calling for his departure. A successful academy team will be little compensation for relegation.

In another irony Paul Sturrock, the first of the three managers employed by Lowe this campaign, may return next season with Sheffield Wednesday, having lifted the previously moribund club into the League One play-offs.

At least Lowe was in good company. Roy Keane also angered Saints fans by gesturing downwards - after, presumably, receiving some stick when he came out for a warm-down. Earlier United's equally charmless followers, intruders at a wake, had chanted "Going down". Saints fans responded: "USA". Glazer may threaten the future of football but after years of arrogant supremacy United's fans will not win many sympathy votes.

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