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Have you got your ticket for the Hampshire Shield yet? (A short story)


gonch19

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Hello. My name is Jerry Delle and I am the Chief Events Co-Ordinator at Southampton Football Club. With the fourth annual Hampshire Shield rapidly approaching, I'm here to give you an insight into what exactly is involved in the organisation of this pre-season tournament, and with some of the most exciting names in Europe battling it out for the trophy what better way for Saints fans to follow on from the most successful year in the club's history and kick off the new season.

First a bit about myself. Well what can I say really, I'm a Saints fan and have been all my life. My first memory of the club was my Dad taking me to see the famous 1976 FA Cup Final at Wembley, I was only five at the time. It was an amazing day though and seeing the likes of Osgood, Channon and Stokes bring home the cup was what really got me into football in the first place. As I got older I began to take a greater interest in Southampton and went to as many games as I could. Me and a couple of mates used to make a day of it, travelling around the country following our beloved Saints and we had some good times, although the same couldn't really be said about the standard of football, my word did we see some shocking stuff. It was all part of the game though and even if they weren't the best football club they were our football club and we stuck by them. There were some good memories as well and some great players graced the Dell, the genius that is Matt LeTissier being most people's favourite- his last goal at the Dell was probably my favourite LeTiss moment.

I remember, after years without really achieving much, getting to the FA Cup Final in 2003 under Gordon Strachan, dreaming that we'd pull off another upset and once again bring home the cup, but unfortunately Robert Pires and co put paid to that. We'd performed really well under Strachan and it was a sad day when he decided to up sticks and leave, I thought he had the potential to take us far. After that a few of the lads got a bit bogged down with work and relationships and decided they didn't want to do the same thing anymore, and I understood the sentiment. Things change, and if people fancy a change they're more than entitled to. Follow your heart, that’s what Dad always used to say to me and I agree.

Ironically, whilst that disappointing day in May led my friends to new paths away from Southampton FC, it took me even closer to it. In the back of the matchday programme the club were advertising for an Assistant Events Co-Ordinator. I wasn't really sure what that involved, but as I was in between jobs anyway I decided to give it a go and see where it would lead me. Well by hook or by crook I managed to get the job and here I am today, Chief Events Co-Ordinator for Europe's number 1 football team. Sounds weird just saying it. I'll tell you something though, the day Strachan left if you'd have told me or anyone else down here that five years later we'd retain our Premiership crown and cap off a glorious double by beating Juventus in the Champions League final I'd have probably punched you in the face for taking the mick. Especially when, at around the same time as they appointed me, they appointed Jonathan Fadugba, a complete and utter unknown, to succeed Strachan as manager of the club. I remember that day vividly, if not for the appointment then for the absolute uproar that ensued in the phone-ins on South City FM. Can you imagine a three hour special and not one happy caller! Ah well, the fans gave him a chance after the initial shock and when he brought home the League Cup in his first season in charge, hammering Liverpool 3-0 in the Final, I knew we were onto something. Through my appointment at the club I got to know the gaffer quite well as things go, lovely bloke. We were both new to the club at roughly the same time and so we helped each other settle in and adjust to our new posts and he was very open and friendly to me, as he was with everyone at the club.

As it happens, I was the first person he told about his plans to organise an annual pre-season tournament at St. Marys. He rang me up one night and said 'Jerry, I've got some work for you, some real work, not just making tea,' and then hung up, the cheeky scamp. I'm a bit older than him but he is a man who commands respect and so you learn to live with his more joky side, when it arises. He organised a meeting for the next day where we would discuss this 'work' he had for me.

Sure enough, the next day he called me into his office for a chat and went through his ideas with me. He told me that he wanted to organise a yearly tournament that would involve clubs around Europe playing in a Champions League style group phase at St. Mary's. His objectives in creating such a tournament were to bring in a competitive edge to pre-season, raise the club's profile and get the players accustomed to playing quality opposition, the overall aim being to put the club in the spotlight a bit more and take it up a level. 'I'm sick of being in charge of a nicey nicey family club' I think his exact words were, it certainly made me smile. I agreed with everything he said, and it was nice that my position at the club gave me a say on decisions that I as a fan wanted to see. He told me to get on the phone to the top clubs in Europe and sell them the tournament. 'And when I say top European clubs, I don't mean Manumission is that clear?' I didn't really understand that, but I got the idea and set off. 'And invite the European Champions as well' he shouted to me from his chair. Dinamo Kiev were the then Champions. Hang on a minute, I thought to myself, and peeped my head back round the door. 'What are we gonna call the tournament, gaffer?'

'The Hampshire Shield,' he answered with a wry smile.

‘Its got a ring to it’ I thought to myself as I left the room, and I remember the sense of excitement I felt in just being part of it all.

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Hello. My name is Jerry Delle and I am the Chief Events Co-Ordinator at Southampton Football Club. With the fourth annual Hampshire Shield rapidly approaching, I'm here to give you an insight into what exactly is involved in the organisation of this pre-season tournament, and with some of the most exciting names in Europe battling it out for the trophy what better way for Saints fans to follow on from the most successful year in the club's history and kick off the new season.

First a bit about myself. Well what can I say really, I'm a Saints fan and have been all my life. My first memory of the club was my Dad taking me to see the famous 1976 FA Cup Final at Wembley, I was only five at the time. It was an amazing day though and seeing the likes of Osgood, Channon and Stokes bring home the cup was what really got me into football in the first place. As I got older I began to take a greater interest in Southampton and went to as many games as I could. Me and a couple of mates used to make a day of it, travelling around the country following our beloved Saints and we had some good times, although the same couldn't really be said about the standard of football, my word did we see some shocking stuff. It was all part of the game though and even if they weren't the best football club they were our football club and we stuck by them. There were some good memories as well and some great players graced the Dell, the genius that is Matt LeTissier being most people's favourite- his last goal at the Dell was probably my favourite LeTiss moment.

I remember, after years without really achieving much, getting to the FA Cup Final in 2003 under Gordon Strachan, dreaming that we'd pull off another upset and once again bring home the cup, but unfortunately Robert Pires and co put paid to that. We'd performed really well under Strachan and it was a sad day when he decided to up sticks and leave, I thought he had the potential to take us far. After that a few of the lads got a bit bogged down with work and relationships and decided they didn't want to do the same thing anymore, and I understood the sentiment. Things change, and if people fancy a change they're more than entitled to. Follow your heart, that’s what Dad always used to say to me and I agree.

Ironically, whilst that disappointing day in May led my friends to new paths away from Southampton FC, it took me even closer to it. In the back of the matchday programme the club were advertising for an Assistant Events Co-Ordinator. I wasn't really sure what that involved, but as I was in between jobs anyway I decided to give it a go and see where it would lead me. Well by hook or by crook I managed to get the job and here I am today, Chief Events Co-Ordinator for Europe's number 1 football team. Sounds weird just saying it. I'll tell you something though, the day Strachan left if you'd have told me or anyone else down here that five years later we'd retain our Premiership crown and cap off a glorious double by beating Juventus in the Champions League final I'd have probably punched you in the face for taking the mick. Especially when, at around the same time as they appointed me, they appointed Jonathan Fadugba, a complete and utter unknown, to succeed Strachan as manager of the club. I remember that day vividly, if not for the appointment then for the absolute uproar that ensued in the phone-ins on South City FM. Can you imagine a three hour special and not one happy caller! Ah well, the fans gave him a chance after the initial shock and when he brought home the League Cup in his first season in charge, hammering Liverpool 3-0 in the Final, I knew we were onto something. Through my appointment at the club I got to know the gaffer quite well as things go, lovely bloke. We were both new to the club at roughly the same time and so we helped each other settle in and adjust to our new posts and he was very open and friendly to me, as he was with everyone at the club.

As it happens, I was the first person he told about his plans to organise an annual pre-season tournament at St. Marys. He rang me up one night and said 'Jerry, I've got some work for you, some real work, not just making tea,' and then hung up, the cheeky scamp. I'm a bit older than him but he is a man who commands respect and so you learn to live with his more joky side, when it arises. He organised a meeting for the next day where we would discuss this 'work' he had for me.

Sure enough, the next day he called me into his office for a chat and went through his ideas with me. He told me that he wanted to organise a yearly tournament that would involve clubs around Europe playing in a Champions League style group phase at St. Mary's. His objectives in creating such a tournament were to bring in a competitive edge to pre-season, raise the club's profile and get the players accustomed to playing quality opposition, the overall aim being to put the club in the spotlight a bit more and take it up a level. 'I'm sick of being in charge of a nicey nicey family club' I think his exact words were, it certainly made me smile. I agreed with everything he said, and it was nice that my position at the club gave me a say on decisions that I as a fan wanted to see. He told me to get on the phone to the top clubs in Europe and sell them the tournament. 'And when I say top European clubs, I don't mean Manumission is that clear?' I didn't really understand that, but I got the idea and set off. 'And invite the European Champions as well' he shouted to me from his chair. Dinamo Kiev were the then Champions. Hang on a minute, I thought to myself, and peeped my head back round the door. 'What are we gonna call the tournament, gaffer?'

'The Hampshire Shield,' he answered with a wry smile.

‘Its got a ring to it’ I thought to myself as I left the room, and I remember the sense of excitement I felt in just being part of it all.

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Part 2

For the manager to ring me personally and involve me in what he described as an ‘important project for the future of the club,’ filled me with great honour. Again, although I’m older than him I was small fry compared to him and several other members of staff at the club in similar positions to myself, so to suddenly find myself heading such a project was exciting, especially as a Saints fan. In my first year as an employee for the club my main duties had been to organise catering and matchday hospitality for people in the executive suites, and to provide entertainment for chairmen and other important guests at the various dinners and functions we held throughout the year. It was a good job to have and although I wasn’t at the heart of it all I did gain an interesting insight into the running of the club. As Assistant Events Co-Ordinator however, for me to take responsibility in organising such an event as this meant I needed the approval of my superior Ali Francis. I contacted Ben (everybody calls him Ben, I’ve no idea why) and relayed what the manager’s plans were. He had already caught word of it from Rupert Lowe but because he was very busy he gave me the green light to get on with it myself which I did straight away, drawing up a list of all the phone and fax numbers of the top European clubs and proceeding to ring them one by one to put forward the club’s invitation to take part in the inaugural Hampshire Shield.

The first club I contacted was Valencia. I had a brief chat with the Communications Director but the proposal was rejected off hand, as was the case when I contacted Deportivo La Coruna, FC Barcelona and Sevilla. Real Madrid didn’t even return my phone call. Mr. Fadugba had instructed me to contact the best teams in each league first before inviting lower profile clubs. His reasoning behind this, he later told me, was that if I managed to get one major club to accept the invitation and take part then other major clubs would sit up and take note. I did as he said and moved onto contacting the best German and Italian teams. Again I was met with refusals ranging from polite to abrupt, and of about eight clubs I invited not one accepted the offer. My first big assignment at the club was proving trickier than I first thought. I didn’t think inviting the European Champions would make the situation any easier, but as it turned out they were interested and eventually accepted the offer to take part. That season Southampton had finished seventh in the league so we were still not the most high profile of clubs, but using a bit of artistic elaboration I put it to Dinamo Kiev that we were one of England’s top clubs and they must have bought it. Only days earlier the manager had also managed to secure the £11.5 million pound signing of Diego, a Brazilian attacking midfielder that had all Saints fans light headed with excitement, and I think maybe this high profile signing had an effect on persuading Kiev to come along and see what it was all about. We had our first participants therefore, in the form of the European Champions. Not a bad job I thought to myself! The boss was right, once teams heard that Dinamo Kiev had agreed to take part it made it easier for me to persuade them to join and after a few more hours of phone calls, faxes and pleas both French champions Lyon and Italian outfit Parma added their names to the participants and the lineup for the first ever Hampshire Shield was complete.

I got in touch with the gaffer and told him who the teams taking part were and he seemed very pleased with the standard of the teams, congratulating me on doing a good job. I remember basking in my own pride at persuading great teams like Parma to come and play in my tournament against my football club.

'You've got all the faxes signed by the clubs agreeing to take part, haven't you?' I remember him saying to me.

My heart froze. I ran back to my office and searched frantically through the faxes for the signatures from all three clubs, and luckily for me I found them or I would have faced some serious embarrassment. I remember flicking through the faxes and stumbling across the signed pre-contract agreement between Southampton and Aaron Lennon who joined us a few months later, and I felt like a bit of a big shot telling my friends about the inside information now at my hands. I didn’t exactly have ‘inside information’ but I couldn’t help building it up a bit. I felt like a kid again- everything was new to me and it felt like I had access to major goings on at Southampton football club. Managing to get the teams to agree to take part in the tournament was a great buzz, and once that was completed I felt a sense of satisfaction and relief to have got the job done, and it was the first time in my year and a bit at the club where I felt I had really achieved something. Those were just some of my first experiences in trying to help get the tournament off the ground.

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Part 3

However, tournaments like this don’t just appear as if by magic. Once the contract formalities are tied up there is a lot of work to be done, and the week leading up to the event is a very busy one for all involved particularly myself. Insurance, ticketing, publicity, ground maintenance, sorting out travel arrangements and accommodation for the participating clubs- all these things and more have to be considered carefully and arranged adequately when planning an event like this and until I was actually involved in it I didn’t realise just how in depth the preparations must be. The announcement of the inaugural Hampshire Shield caused a great stir locally, particularly when the public found out the teams involved, and when tickets went on general sale they met with a good, if not great response. The day before tickets go on sale we make the draw and nowadays it is announced on the radio as people like to hear just who is involved and when the games will take place. Back then though, the fixtures were just put on the club website. We now offer day tickets, standard match tickets, a ‘Saints card’ which allows the ticket holder entry to all three Southampton games or a ‘Total card’ which gives access to all the games on show. All matches take place at St. Marys. Once we know roughly how many tickets have been sold my job is to then organise stewarding and crowd control in and around the stadium; although generally the atmosphere is good there was one untoward incident a few years back when we played PSV Eindhoven. A little bit of animosity between the two clubs crept in because several of our fans made no attempt to hide their feelings about Mateja Kezman, a player we had bought for £13.5 million pounds and then sold back to PSV two years and only 22 starts later for £6 million. As the club’s record signing at the time, he failed to perform to the standards one would expect from such a price tag and it’s fair to say that he didn’t make many friends down here with his arrogant attitude. His words leading up to the game did not help, famously calling the fans ‘small town peasants’ and that game got a bit heated, but generally the games are played in good spirits.

With such a high number of games played over the three days, keeping the pitch in good shape is always a big test for the ground staff. We have excellent ground staff at the club, and having won Groundsman of the Year many times Howard Toole is certainly equipped to deal with any wear and tear. Another facet of a tournament like this is the publicity and interest it garners. Every year we entertain several managers, scouts, chairmen and board members who come to watch the high quality football on offer in the Hampshire Shield, and therefore our hospitality packages must be second to none. We employ exquisite chefs and make our guests very welcome as we are fully aware that negotiations between clubs for players can tend to occur over the three days with foreign clubs coming to England looking at talent and English clubs analysing players from the clubs participating, sometimes with a view to a bid. In fact, the famous transfer saga of 2007 that saw Patrick Vieira move from Manchester United to Inter Milan was actually signed and completed by Massimo Moratti and David Gill in our executive suite after our game with Inter Milan, who won the Hampshire Shield that year. They came to St. Mary’s as Champions league holders, and although they beat us 3-2 to win the Shield, by the end of the season we would go on to succeed them as European Champions. Who’d have thought it. Actually now I think about it, three of the four Shields so far have involved the Champions League holders which I think illustrates the quality of the tournament and the exciting football it can bring. Once the travel arrangements and accommodation of the visiting teams is arranged we are then ready for the competition to get underway. The actual trophy is fitting of the tournament I believe, but the choice was not down to me on that one. Well, it would have been, and I remember all those years ago after most of the preparations were complete, Rupert Lowe’s secretary and I heading into town to choose a design and have it engraved when the boss rang me.

'What are you doing about the trophy?' he asked me.

'I'm just in town with Claire now and we're about to buy one.' I replied, worrying that he'd be annoyed I had left it so long.

'Oh no you're ****ing not,' he barked down the phone at me 'I'm coming down now; I'll make the decisions on this one.'

Of course, I was slightly taken aback by his eagerness on that one but obviously he wanted to make sure we chose the right trophy as it represented the whole tournament. He pays a lot of attention to detail does Mr. Fadugba, I guess that’s why he’s been so successful for us. The trophy he ended up choosing is a very nice looking one.

My work isn’t done there though, far from it in fact. With all the preparations for the teams’ arrivals in place, the next day I have to meet the teams and make sure they get to their hotels okay and I also have to make sure everyone’s dietary requirements are catered for. In the first tournament I made a bit of a howler when one of the desserts we served contained nuts and Dinamo Kiev’s Artem Milevskiy had a slight allergic reaction to them. I took a bit of flak for that, but luckily he is not seriously allergic and the situation was quickly resolved.

The first series of games takes place a few days after the teams arrive on the South coast, and in that inaugural year everyone was keen to see how the first Hampshire Shield would pan out. I personally was excited but also anxious as to whether everything would go okay, and I remember not getting much sleep the night before the first series of matches. Nowadays however I am far more experienced when it comes to co-ordinating everything, so I can enjoy the football on offer just as much as everyone else. And over the years the tournament has certainly produced some thrilling football.

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At a time when European football was still very much a novelty for Southampton, the Hampshire Shield served as a welcome pre-season treat for the fans and that was very much the case for me back then as well. Getting to the UEFA Cup 3rd round in 2005 was about the most success we had experienced in Europe over the years and so there was a sense of intrigue when the first ever game kicked off, Southampton versus Parma. The gaffer had made plain his intentions to give the whole squad a run out over the three days and that made it even more fascinating as it gave fans the chance to see what players could cut it against high class opposition and an opportunity to take a look at how the young players were coming along. The name on everybody’s lips in the Parma game was Diego, who would make his first appearance for the club in the centre of midfield. With Gaizka Mendieta leaving the club for Chelsea in the summer Diego was being touted as the main creative outlet in the side for the coming season and he didn’t disappoint on his debut, capping a good individual and team performance by scoring the third goal in a 3-1 win. From almost that moment on we had a new hero, and if you go to the club shop today you will find all sorts of products with his name emblazoned on them.

The second game that year was a real cracker against French Champions Lyon and after a 3-3 draw we won what is now the customary penalty shootout used in the event of draws. Alan Smith, Kevin Phillips and Orri Freyr Oskarsson were on the scoresheet for us that day but it wasn’t enough to win outright mainly thanks to an outstanding display from Giovanne Elber who bagged a hat-trick. Smithy scored the winning penalty in that one though and set up a last game decider against European Champions Dinamo Kiev. Kiev had also won both matches and so we were level on 6 points going into the game. I think playing them in the final game to decide the tournament helped capture the imagination of the Saints fans because ticket sales for that game soared as fans wondered whether we could beat the Champions League holders and make sure the trophy didn’t leave South Hampshire in its first year. Fadugba gave a few youngsters their debuts that day and I remember Stephen Hunt having an excellent game at left back. This was back in the day when we were still trying to get behind Kezman, and so when he gave us the lead in the 7th minute the crowd went beserk. It was a very even game though, and when Denys Onischenko equalised for Kiev in the 71st minute, the game headed towards a penalty shootout to decide the tournament. Lionel Morgan, Alan Smith, David Prutton and Leon Best all scored their penalties but Diego and Chris Eagles both missed, and so at 4-4 Artem Milevskiy slotted home to win Dinamo Kiev the trophy. From my point of view I was just glad he could play having nearly poisoned him just days earlier, so I wasn’t too bothered to see him hit the winner- it probably stopped him filing a lawsuit! Overall the tournament was a resounding success and some months later the decision was made to turn it into an annual tournament. The table looked as follows:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Pos Team Pld Won Pen Lst For Ag G.D.Pts

1st DINAMO KIEV 3 2 1 0 7 2 +5 9

2nd Southampton 3 1 1 1 7 5 +2 6

3rd Parma 3 1 0 2 4 7 -3 3

4th Lyon 3 0 0 3 4 8 -4 0

</pre>

Around the same time as that Ali ‘Ben’ Francis retired from his position as Chief Events Co-Ordinator. It was a sad day as he was very popular at the club, but from a personal point of view it was great; the manager put my name forward for promotion and Rupert Lowe offered me the post which I accepted. My responsibilities increased but I remained in charge of organising the Hampshire Shield to my delight, and I looked forward greatly to sorting the next one out and trying to continue to attract exciting teams to the South coast.

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Part 5

In 2006, the second year of the tournament’s inception, I found it a lot easier to get clubs to take part mainly because of the success of the last one, but having said that it was still difficult to persuade the top clubs in Europe to come along. Chelsea were European Champions that year but the manager told me not to invite any English clubs so they weren’t offered a place. Napoli, Real Betis and Ajax ended up making up the list that year, which probably wasn’t quite as attractive looking as some of the other lineups we’ve had, but there were some interesting tie-ins surrounding some of the games. Napoli’s invitation was quite an interesting one, it was actually part of the agreement in the £5.5 million pound sale of David Prutton that took him to Naples. There was quite an uproar surrounding that deal mainly because Dave was our captain, but it seemed to me that him and the gaffer fell out and so he was sold. We finished 3rd in the league that season and so the Hampshire Shield was now more of a prelude to the real thing, but the enthusiasm for the tournament from the local community was still high, mainly due to the excellent league finish and also because of the exciting signings Fadugba made that year. Replacing Prutton with 34 year old Roy Keane was questionable at first, but proved to be an absolute masterstroke for the club in the end. He had fallen out of favour at Juventus and was signed for a cut price £375,000- a remarkable piece of business that took us to new heights in my opinion. That wasn’t the only signing to take place though. Simone Inzaghi, Mido, Stewart Downing, Ricardo Quaresma and Joleon Lescott were all unveiled at St. Mary’s and the media coverage we attracted from those signings only added to the glamour of the Hampshire Shield. ‘See them make their debuts in the Hampshire Shield’ was my line of sale, and we had billboards and posters all round the town with the new players in their Saints shirts. The publicity worked well as for the opening game of the tournament against Ajax we secured a new record attendance for the Shield. Many people bought a Saints card that year, and the paying public weren’t disappointed, witnessing vintage football starting with a 5-1 hammering of Ajax. Emmanuel Olisadebe got a hat-trick in that game and he would go on to be top scorer in the tournament. The game against Napoli ended 2-0 to us thanks to goals from Leon Best and Bixente Lizarazu, but a lot of fans were disappointed not to see Prutton have any part in the game, he unfortunately picked up an injury in their first match with Betis; many fans actually went to that game just to see him again such was his popularity in his time here.

In the final game we beat Real Betis 5-0 to win the Hampshire Shield for the first time, but it wasn’t winning the Shield that interested most fans. The performances of the team in that tournament gave everybody around the club real belief that they could actually challenge for the Premiership that season, and the hammering of Betis only furthered the confidence around St. Mary’s. Sure enough, by the time the next Hampshire Shield took place Southampton would go into it as holders and Premiership Champions for the first time.

Final Table 2006

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Pos Team Pld Won Pen Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

1st SOUTHAMPTON 3 3 0 0 12 1 +11 9

2nd Napoli 3 2 0 1 5 3 +2 6

3rd Betis 3 1 0 2 2 7 -3 3

4th Ajax 3 0 0 3 2 10 -4 0

</pre>

-----------

In 2007, being Premiership Champions made my job a lot easier. For a start, due to the interest the competition was now attracting, sponsorship led to increased revenue which helped me budget for everything that needed to be sorted out. Sky Tv also offered us a large amount of money to broadcast the tournament on Sky Sports, an offer which we gratefully accepted. Borussia Dortmund, PSV Eindhoven and European Champions Inter Milan agreed to take part which made for a mouthwatering 3rd annual Hampshire Shield certainly for me as Chief Co-Ordinator having secured their signatures. Damien Duff joining acrimoniously on a free transfer from Chelsea was the only main piece of transfer news to contend with, and as holders of both the tournament and the Premiership, demand for tickets was higher than ever. Howard Toole once again picked up Groundsman of the Year that year so I joked with him that for once he wasn’t allowed to complain about the strain the tournament puts on the groundstaff which he took in good spirits. I am always grateful for the excellent job he does in making sure the pitch is kept to a high standard over the three days.

Damien Duff and young Tim Sparv made their debuts in the opening game against Borussia Dortmund and as holders we got off to a good start recording a 3-1 win against the German Champions with two goals from Mido and one from Ricardo Quaresma. Inter, who had knocked us out of the Champions League on the way to winning it last season, began their tournament with a 2-0 win over PSV. Paul Robinson was the hero in our 2-1 victory against PSV in the next set of matches, pulling off several good saves in a game that was marred by ugly crowd scenes and controversy surrounding ex-Saint Mateja Kezman. Inter Milan beat Dortmund 2-1 to set up an exciting final between the Champions of Europe and the best team in England and Hampshire Shield holders. Sadly though, their class shone through once again and an Alvaro Recoba goal in the 60th minute gave them a 3-2 win and the trophy. Unlike the 5-1 thrashing we received in the Champions League quarter finals last year we actually played quite well though and it was by far the most successful tournament to date in terms of revenue and publicity and I think its safe to say it was enjoyed by all.

Final Table 2007

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Pos Team Pld Won Pen Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

1st INTER MILAN 3 3 0 0 7 3 +4 9

2nd Southampton 3 2 0 1 5 3 +2 6

3rd Dortmund 3 1 0 2 5 6 -1 3

4th PSV 3 0 0 3 2 7 -5 0

</pre>

So there you have it, a unique insight into the history of this important event in the Saint’s calendar. It started as just an ambitious tournament organised by a mid table club on the South coast of England, but today it plays host to some of the best teams in Europe, ourselves included, and I’m proud to have played some role in both the tournament and what has been the club’s remarkable development under the manager. When we had our conversation that day I remember him telling me his objectives for the tournament. Whether or not the actual competition itself has had any effect on the club’s staggering rise in fortunes is open to debate, but one thing is for sure; his objectives have borne fruit in the most startling manner, with the club now English and European Champions and well equipped to continue to dominate English football for many more years to come, hopefully anyway. With Bayern Munich, Real Betis and Roma all confirming their participation this year it looks as if the Hampshire Shield will continue to thrive and I couldn’t be happier with that. From my point of view I am just delighted to be amongst it all and I couldn’t be any happier in my job as Chief Events Co-Ordinator for the Saints, the finest club in Europe.

The End

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Just to give a little background info about this story, it comes from a saved game i did about a year back with Southampton. It went on for ages and I may use it for the basis of more stories in the future but for now I had an idea to do a 'Premier League Preview' style of story where, if you haven't seen the programme, there is a section where they look at a club from the inside. The pre-season tournaments that I set up annually seemed a good focus for this type of character and so gave me an idea for this short story. I hope some of you read it and enjoyed it, i enjoyed writing it as a little distraction from my main story which will carry on as normal.

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