Saints Legends Vol 1 : 2003 F.A Cup
Antti Niemi will no doubt go down in Saints history as one of the greatest ever goalkeepers in Saints history. Vital Southampton contacted Niemi in order to ask him a few questions about the successful Saints team that reached the F.A Cup final and finished in 8th place in the Premiership.
The Saints, managed by Gordon Strachan during this period, had one of their best ever seasons they played attractive football and even beat champions Arsenal 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at St Marys. However the season will be best remembered by fans for the thrilling F.A Cup run that saw Saints meet Arsenal in the final.
Saints started the F.A Cup campaign with the 4-0 defeat of Spurs, some will say that this was the best performance of the season, the game was capped by a magnificent goal from Anders Svensson. Then followed games against Millwall, Norwich, Wolves and Watford before Arsenal at the Millenium Stadium.
Niemi told Vital Southampton his thoughts about the final:
Were you disappointed with the way the team played in the final?
I wasn't dissappointed how we performed in the final.I think we gave a good game against very,very good Arsenal team,Brett had a chance right at the end for example.We all tried our very best and thats all you can really ask for.
Did the selection of Chris Baird come as a surprise to the team?
It was a surprise.I dont think anyone saw that coming. But that's Strachan for you.
How did you think he handled the occasion?
He did really well.
How did Fabrice Fernandes take the news that he was dropped?
I cant remember how Fabrice reacted.He didnt make a fuss about it,I would surely remember that.He must have been dissapointed though.
We seemed to play better football under manager Gordon Strachan,
what methods did he use to get the best out of the squad?
Strachan was a wonderful motivator and fitness-freak.And dont forget we had some exellent players playing well at the time,like Bridge,Beattie,M.Svensson etc.
Did the fact that we had already qualified for Europe help take
away the disappointment of losing the final?
Qualifying for Europe didnt make that cup-final loss any easier.We knew it was possibly a once in the life time opportunity for that team and we couldn't win.