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'Southampton fan' Rishi Sunak makes embarrassing football gaffe during leadership speech

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Conversative leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak has scored an own goal while discussing his support of Southampton.

Sunak was born in the south coast city and has previously described himself as a “massive football fan” and claimed Matt Le Tissier was his favourite player.

His father Yashvir had a season ticket to watch the Saints and Sunak said that, for his 18th birthday, he was given a card signed by the whole squad, which then became “one of his most prized possessions”.

Those credentials as a Southampton fan have come under the microscope during hustings in Manchester. Asked how he would get Saints back to winning ways following a dire run of form which stretches back to last season, he replied: “I’m going to be unpopular for saying it here, starting by beating [Manchester] United this weekend.”

Southampton are in fact preparing to play Leicester City at 3pm on Saturday, not United, although they will play Erik ten Hag’s side the following weekend on August 27. The gaffe is hardly likely to affect Sunak’s chances of becoming the next Prime Minister, but it will become the latest entry into the book of politicians stumbling over their supposed football fandom.

Back in April 2015, David Cameron famously forgot that he was a supporter of Aston Villa – not West Ham. While celebrating the multicultural and diverse nature of Britain he said: “We are a shining example of a country where multiple identities work. Where you can be Welsh and Hindu and British, Northern Irish and Jewish and British; where you can wear a kilt and a turban; where you can wear a hijab covered in poppies. Where you can support Man United, the Windies and Team GB at the same time. Of course, I’d rather you supported West Ham.”

Cameron later said it was a simple mistake – not evidence of his pretend support for Villa. “I had what Natalie Bennett described as a brain fade,” he explained. “I’m a Villa fan… I must have been overcome by something… this morning. But there we are, these things sometimes happen when you are on the stump.”

Southampton have just one win from their last 14 Premier League games
Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

The former Prime Minister supposedly fell in love with Villa after he was taken to his first match aged 13 by his uncle, ex-Villa chairman Sir William Dugdale. He also once staged a photo opportunity of him jogging in Hyde Park while wearing a Villa shirt daubed with “10 Cameron”.

A biography of Sunak, called ‘Going For Broke: The Rise of Rishi Sunak’, by Michael Ashcroft, claimed that “the naughtiest thing” he did while at Winchester College “was to smuggle a hand-held television into the school so that he did not miss any key games of Euro 96”.

Ashcroft also adds: “Southampton would always be home, and this would always be his team.” From now on Sunak may be careful to study Southampton’s fixture list in case he’s asked any further questions on the subject.

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