Player of the Season. A Two horse race?

With @SouthamptonFC announcing that voting was open for this year’s ‘Player of the Season’ award, it became pretty clear on social media that this would be a contest with only two contenders.

So who will join an illustrious list that includes Kevin Keegan, Mick Channon, Peter Shilton, Alan Shearer, Rickie Lambert and of course three time winner Matt Le Tissier.

Will current captain Jose Fonte be the first person to equal Le God’s feat? Will Fraser Forster become only the fifth goalkeeper to take the crown? The answer to both is almost certainly no.

So here are the clear front runners:-

In the Red corner….

….hailing from Breda in Holland, the two time Scottish Premier League winner and undisputed ‘in the box’ champion. Virgil van Dijk.

Undoubtedly, van Dijk has been one of the signings of the season, and not just for Saints, but for any club, his immaculate displays at the heart of the defence have often been spell binding. Having barely put a foot wrong, the Dutchman has filled the Alderweireld shaped hole that appeared last Summer nicely and winning this award could eclipse his predecessor’s achievements. A monster in the air, yet delicate with the ball at his feet, Saints have unearthed another star, and he would be a worthy addition to the list of winners.

In the White corner….

….from Gortnahoe in Ireland, the former Football Association of Ireland Young Player of the Year, Reading Player of the Year and Munster Minor Hurling Championship winner. Shane Long.

Not many would have predicted Long being such a clear favourite this time last year, but his performances in a Saints shirt this season have been superb. Often bemoaned as a striker who doesn’t score enough goals, Long’s input in this campaign has been crucial. The Irish forward has netted 11 times this term (so far), many of which were part of match winning turns. Long’s tireless effort and attitude whether playing up top or as part of a support three is breathtaking and given the indifference from Saints fans and the scoffing from Scousers when he was linked to Anfield in January, a Player of the Season award would be a fitting end to a point proving campaign!

Somebody’s 0 has got to go.

Vote here:-

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Also remember that georgeweahscousin.com will also be hosting it’s own prestigious awards as always, so keep an eye out for the voting form come the end of the season!

Saints announce huge kit sponsorship deal with Under Armour!

Yesterday, Saints Chairman Ralph Krueger hosted an assembly to make an announcement on a new partnership with an innovative sports brand. Journalist Ben Hooke was on hand for georgeweahscousin.com to find out more about this exciting new chapter in the Southampton experience:-

Saints today announced a record-breaking kit deal with Under Armour, becoming only the second Premier League club to opt for the American company as principal kit sponsor.

The deal was announced by Krueger and Under Armour’s Vice President of Global Sports Marketing Peter Murray at St. Mary’s today and extends until 2023 with Krueger believing it’s a big step in Saints’ journey.

“We went from the Championship to the Premier League in 2012; that was a historic day for the club and I believe this is a historic leap for the club too. Our partnership with Under Armour as a club takes us into a completely new space.”

“The most important thing about a partnership like this, the focus of Southampton FC, is excellence through the first team on a weekly basis in our Premier League matches. So, as quick as we are growing as a club we are adding strengths in all aspects of the club.”

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At its heart the deal involves six pledges:

1.  Relentlessly innovate and create revolutionary product enabling our first team to perform at the highest level.

2.  Continue to develop the next generation of academy talent and empower them with over 5000 pairs of cutting edge footwear over the next seven years

3.  Work with Saints foundation and kit out over 5000 children in the local community

4.  Develop the women and girl’s game through our shared expertise and knowledge

5. Realise our global ambition by spreading the benefits of sport and healthy living through technology and activations

6. Together we commit to having fans and innovation at the heart of everything we do

Peter Murray shed some light on what attracted the two parties together:

“A big driver from a partnership standpoint was not only the first-team but also the commitment by Southampton to develop their academy players to achieve their very best.”

“Under Armour will be on the Southampton FC journey every step of the way; providing the club with training resources, training tools in addition to outfitting the academy players from head-to-toe in state of the art product including footwear.”

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Spurs became the first team in the UK to don the US giants in 2011 and the brand’s profile on this side of the Atlantic has increased recently with their sponsoring of tennis star Andy Murray and recently crowned IBF heavyweight world champion, Anthony Joshua.

Krueger was ringside at Joshua’s fight against Charles Martin and was seen on Sky Box Office embracing the new champion after he knocked out Martin in just the second round.

The deal also increases Saints’ rising stature across the pond with the club receiving solid media coverage in the US since their return to the Premier League as well as recently opening soccer schools set to expose 100,000 children to Southampton FC coaching.

UA replaces Adidas after three years of the agreement between the club and the Three Stripes – the current kit makers’ sponsorship ends at the close of this season – but the clubs relationship with Adidas hasn’t been the smoothest.

The club opted to produce its own in-house kits for the 2014-15 campaign after a break-down in talks midway through their first season as partners, before resuming the initial agreement at the start of this season.

The Under Armour deal with Saints is believed to equate to £8 million per season.

Kangaroo Court: Gaston or Gast-off?

Many things split the opinions of Saints fans, and Gaston Ramirez is certainly one of them.

The Uruguayan arrived with much promise, but for many he has flattered to deceive, while others think he’s been misused or not given the right amount of chances to show what he can do.

The latter argument has been fuelled most recently due to Gaston’s form for loan club Middlesbrough.

Ramirez has scored six goals in eleven appearances for the Teesiders and looks to be pulling the strings in their push for promotion,  but should Saints be utilising him better, or is this a flash in the pan and the club would be better off moving him on in the Summer?

I put it to the masses on twitter to decide.

The case for the Prosecution:-

@saint_al1976 ‘We all wanted Gaston to succeed – he was the face of a new era at Saints that washed away the memory of Record signing Rory Delap. We had beaten Liverpool to his signature – we had arrived in the big time. But something didn’t sit quite right with me from the start.

Signed on the back of a decent display in the 2012 Olympics “the Championship” equivalent of international football, he immediately looked sublimely gifted – but massively light-weight. Once the early season killer passes and the odd goal wore away with his confidence it was clear that opportunities would be limited in a bottom 5 team.

Pochettino should have been the perfect manager to get the best from Ramirez – unlocking his natural ability and adding that layer of intensity that had been so lacking. But it just never happened – and with willing runners like Steven Davis his chances again became limited. I truly believe that if Gaston had really had it in him, Mauricio would have persevered – but he didn’t. 

And finally we came to Ronald – a man who has worked with the very best in world football. Do you not think that if he felt Gaston was a world class player he would have made it happen at Saints? As it turned out he was allowed to leave for Hull on loan and was duly relegated playing a bit part role.

A string of goals in the Championship has now raised the question of whether Saints missed something, wasted an opportunity? But don’t kid yourselves, it’s still the part of you that wanted to believe. Fact is, the championship although tough, is slower. And in a top of the table team he will be afforded the time and space that would never be available in the top flight. Should he be promoted with Middlesbrough and get a second crack I wish him all the best. But I expect normal service to quickly resume.’

The case for the Defence:-

@TacoAli Cast your mind back to 22 September 2012. Saints were yet to win on their return to the Premier League but Aston Villa were in town and that would soon change. With Gastón pulling the strings in a number ten role, Saints won 4-1, and today the game is a remainder of what might have been.

To say Gastón hasn’t been given chances isn’t true; under Nigel Adkins, who clearly loved him as a player, and Mauricio Pochettino, who didn’t seem quite so keen, he was given chances. To say he didn’t take those chances is also untrue. Injuries and international duty hampered his development, especially under Pochettino, but when he played he always gave Saints something a bit different and invariable made things happen. He’s strong on the ball, capable of going past players with ease, has great vision and isn’t afraid to shoot from distance. Now he’s getting the chance to play regularly, it’s no surprise to see him tearing things up. 

Since Ronald Koeman’s been in charge, and perhaps more importantly Ralph Krueger chairman, Gastón’s been ostracized; shipped out on loan or left to rot not even getting on the bench. He’s been used as a stick to hit Nicola Cortese with, a symbol of the Italian’s apparent avarice and arrogance, rather than being utilised. When he came on against Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season he added some dynamism to Saints’ play and set up Sadio Mané’s equaliser. In those eleven minutes he did more than Jaunmi’s done all season, yet it was he who’s been deemed surplus to requirements, and the latter who remains at St. Mary’s, a bench-warmer in whom Koeman evidently has no confidence.

Gastón’s showed what he can do, but under Koeman he’s never had a chance to do it. When you consider some of the dire football we’ve played this season, that really is a shame.’

Verdict:-

Certainly one that was perhaps closer than I personally expected. Sometimes a player simply doesn’t fit at a club and does for whatever reason perform better elsewhere. It would probably best for all parties if Gaston gets a move away in the Summer. We’ll always have the corn rows.

Kangaroo Court: The Ward-Prowse Debate

As Saints fans we have always had a vested interest in the progress of our Academy products. Long a gold mine of talent, when a Southampton kid makes their first team debut it comes surrounded in hope and expectation.

James Ward-Prowse has been one that has perhaps split opinions. The Pompey born midfielder has been consistently in and around the first team squad, but is yet to command a regular starting berth.

Often praised for his technical ability, his goals and assists record leaves a lot to be desired and often he seems to struggle to make an impact on games.

I put it to twitter (and misspelled kangaroo again FFS) to ask if Ward-Prowse is destined to be the star we all hoped he would be, or has he not lived up to expectations?

The case for the Prosecution:-

@peter_stephens Now where do we start on the English wonderkid that is James Ward-Prowse? Another kid hot off the Southampton academy conveyor belt ready to take the country by storm and force a move to the big 4? Probably not.

The issue with JWP is that you can watch a match and forget he is even out there, his best position in the team is still tbc but he *looks* like a footballer, or a bloke doing an impression of one…. His delivery is generally very good from set pieces, which is ALWAYS noted by commentators, but is that enough to merit his place in the team? In open play he is lost, he has played in a few different positions and hasn’t excelled in any. 

If he wasn’t an English kid from our academy, would fans still clamour over him as they do?

 I have no agenda against him, I just don’t think he merits a place in the team, or even the squad right now. He lacks pace, aggression, has no ‘trick’ and doesn’t score goals (yeah yeah a FK and a pen, bravo). All of his 4 assists have been from corners, again set pieces. While a true DMF option in Harrison Reed has disappeared, JWP continues to flatter to deceive in whatever position he is tried in.

But, “he takes a cracking corner”. Yawn.’

The case for the Defence:-

@TheDanJames James Ward-Prowse. Over 100 club appearances, captain for his country at u21 level, already receiving recognition from the current manager of England Roy Hodgson. Yet some people seem to not think he’s got ability or potential?

He was given his break by Adkins in the cup competitions, grabbing his first goal in a victory over Coventry. Months later, on our return to the premier league he started at the Etihad against reigning champions  Man City at the tender age of 17. You don’t get that opportunity for no reason.

He’s used heavily as a role model in the club academy. He’s a level headed, intelligent and driven young man who loves the club. He possesses a superb delivery from set pieces, recently grabbing his first goal of the season from a well taken free kick, reminiscent of his former set piece tipster Rickie Lambert. Still at the age of 21 he’s got a lot to learn and he will make mistakes, but doesn’t everyone?

Playing at Premier League level will only help him develop and find his position in our team. He’s been tried in many different roles but hasn’t nailed down one spot as his own. As long as he takes chances and continues to perform well he’ll find his place in the Saints starting XI and the national team.  

Future captain material for sure.’

Verdict:-

As the vote shows, though there are some doubters, JWP is still considered a ‘Young Star’ at the club. Perhaps upping his output in terms of goals and assists will see it swing even further in his favour.

Get enhanced odds on this weekends football action!
Get enhanced odds on this weekends football action!

The Not a Derby Derby: How do Saints and Bournemouth really feel about each other?

With Saints trip to Bournemouth coming up, we will inevitably see a rise in twitter statements about how it ‘isn’t a derby’ from both sides of the New Forest and lots of claims that ‘we don’t care.

The irony is that the more people shout about how they don’t care, the more they sound like they do.

I gathered a varying array of fans and asked them how they feel about the ‘Not a Derby Derby’.

The Saints fan in Dorset:-

Name: @saintsmadmomma
From: Southampton
Lives: Poole

The Saints fan long term in Bournemouth:-

Name: @andy_head
From: Southampton
Lives: Bournemouth

The Saints fan short term in Bournemouth:-

Name: @smithbk87
From: Southampton
Lives: Bournemouth

The Saints fan from Southampton:-

Name: @kevmarmol
From: Southampton
Lives: London

The Bournemouth fan from Dorset:-

Name: @careypayton
From: Wimborne
Lives: Brentford

The Bournemouth fan from Bournemouth:-

Name: @PeterBell19
From: Bournemouth
Lives:- Redhill

Check out Peter’s AFC Bournemouth Blog:- Cherry Chimes

The fan who likes both:-

Name: @afcb_tom
From: Bournemouth
Lives:- Bournemouth

How do you feel about Bournemouth?

smm Used to like them. Would remember at The Dell and the annoucer would always give us the Portsmouth and Bournemouth results in addition to the top flight results (snigger, snigger) and we would always cheer when Bournemouth won and boo when Portsmouth won. I always looked out for their results and hoped they would win. So it was a complete shock to me when I started my first day at the Bournemouth Echo (back in 2001) when I was speaking to the librarian and life-long Cherry fan who almost imploded when I said I was from Southampton and a Saints supporter. The vitriol I was greeted with really surprised me. When i was called a scummer, I was almost offended on behalf of Portsmouth and said: ‘You can’t call me that, only Portsmouth people can call me that.’ Since then I’ve met a few more Bournemouth ST holders who look at me as if I’m a bad smell under their nose. They’re not interested that I’m actually from Southampton and a long-line of generations of Sotonions – they just see another ‘glory hunter’ (I kid you not) living in Dorset that supports the Saints. So thanks to the vitriol of a handful, I’m not so fond of Bournemouth and am rather satisfied when we beat them. The main thing I have learned from living in these parts is that most people couldn’t give a toss about football. For 10 years I’vve been quite happily driving around in my Saints emblazoned car without a mutter or look of disgust (I wouldn’t chance it in Portsmouth). In my experience most people who do like football in Bournemouth are armchair supporters of the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea etc and many of those are now helping to fill out Dean Court now they’re in the Premier League. I’ve actually come across more Bournemouth fans in Poole than I ever did in Bournemouth. My guestimate is Bournemouth have a hardcore of 5,000 fans – it’s not a football town.’

ah Having always been the bigger team in terms of fan base and league position, I’ve never seen Bournemouth as a real rival. Obviously the team to the East in blue have and will always be the main rivals even though in my time we’ve only bumped into them (mostly disastrously from memory!) in the league for a few seasons. Saints v P*mp*y will always be the real rivalry. For that reason I’ve never had any bad feeling towards Bournemouth and have always wanted them to do well. This did change slightly though when I was the only fan in the pub when we played in the 2003 FA Cup final when there was A LOT of vitriol coming at me and us on the screens from a few of the Bournemouth fans.’

sb Love the beaches… they are great in the summer. But in terms of the football club, I can’t say I’m too bothered about them to be honest. It is the same sort of feeling I have for Reading or Poole Town.’

km I quite like them, and remember the days of their results being cheered at the Dell and have always thought well of them. I also lived in Bournemouth for a bit and have many friends that are Cherries fans and like to see them do well. 

That said in reality for 99% of the time i’m pretty indifferent to them, i never check their results or pay any real attention to them and it’s only the fact they’re relatively close that gives me any interest in them (in the same way as Brighton, Swindon or Reading).’

How do you feel about Southampton?

cp I’ve mellowed a lot with age towards Saints. When I was a kid, you didn’t say Southampton, it was always Scumhampton. But that was at primary school, I had no idea that Bournemouth even had a football club and it was more in a jokey name-calling way. I guess it was the nearest big city in a neighbouring county so kids needed somewhere to see as a rival. Then when I started going to games I realised it was an opinion bigger than that of the small town I grew up in and people were quite passionate about it. And there were a few years of hate, admittedly, but I’ve grown up since and these days it’s not really that much of an issue for me – I think the games in League 1 helped to end that. We’d goaded each other for years without any chance of being on the same pitch but by 2011 we’d been in the same league, played each other for the first time in 13 years and we’d lost all 3 games that season (typically after all that time, we got each other in the League Cup that year as well) and could go our separate ways as far as I was concerned, I was off sulking with my tail firmly between my legs. Now, for me, it’s more of a friendly goading, nothing malicious. I just can’t be bothered. And I have many Saints friends who are – SHOCK HORROR – decent human beings. And I love Ronald Koeman.

However, when Saints came to Brentford in 2011 and Rickie Lambert took a free kick that hit me at full force in the crowd behind the goal, I did have a few choice words for him, the club and the general area of Southampton. I wasn’t very ladylike. Apologies.’

pb My mood has probably changed over the years. I used to dislike them in every way as they have always been the bigger team 🙁 but that has changed to grudging respect as I think Southampton have produced some great players and AFCB could learn a thing or two in how they have managed to establish themselves in the Premier League. I was actually rooting for the Saints when they beat Man Utd in the cup in 1976 as well, so sometimes the southerner support can stretch up past the New Forest with me.’  

at It’s difficult, because my loyalties are somewhat split. I would probably say I’d favour a Bournemouth win, mainly because they’re my hometown club, but also because they need the points to survive.

When I was about 5, my dad used to take me to watch both teams. First Saints game I can remember is when I watched Saints 4-3 Norwich. Kevin Phillips played a blinder if I remember correctly! I was also a mascot for Bournemouth on my 8 birthday.

Steven Davis opens the scoring at St. Mary's.
Steven Davis opens the scoring at St. Mary’s.

Fans on both sides seem desperate to claim that it isn’t a ‘derby’, but surely it would be great for everyone if it became one?

smm I disagree – I think Bournemouth fans are desperate to claim it’s a derby and a lot of Saints fans are probably protesting too loudly that it isn’t. It’s a local rivarly without doubt and the Bournemouth fans see us as their nearest rivals. There is a lot of spite because they live and work with so many Saints fans, but not so much the other way round. Summing up my own feelings I’d be delighted to beat them but not feel like the world is coming to an end if they beat us (which I would feel if we lost to you know who). It’s not THE derby but as we’re unlikely to experience that one for a while, let’s enjoy this one.’

ah Given what’s happened to the blue team, in terms of a practical point of view, this is the only derby we’re going to have for the foreseeable future (unless you want to classify Reading as a rival and they make it back up – I don’t BTW) I guess from my exposure to Bournemouth fans, I would say that they see it much more of a derby then we do. They don’t have anyone closer than us as a team whereas we have ‘them’. And to me derby’s are more about history than necessarily locale. I don’t know the differences but I’m sure there are lots of teams close to say, Man Utd who would say they have a local rivalry with them (e.g. Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton etc) but Utd wouldn’t see it like that so they aren’t really derby’s in the sense that there is a lack of animosity between both sets of fans.’

sb Technically I think it is a derby. I get loads of abuse from Bournemouth/UTD fans when games come up giving me banter. It would be good for the clubs as well. The media obviously see it as a derby as they have put both games on TV. I look forward to the games in the same way I used to look forward to playing against my younger brothers team in a tyro pre-season friendly. We know we will win but it is nice to see how they have grown up from last year.’

km I think the issue is that from our side – Saints – it isn’t a derby and we have no interest in the slightest in it becoming one. The problem comes with the reactions that follow from our opinion. Our lack of interest or desire for it to be judged so gets deemed arrogance, when in fact it’s a statement of fact, there’s one team, one city and one group of inbreds that we care about, the dirty skates.

As for would it be good? I don’t really see why it would be anything, it’s a local game and an a decent away day (Bournemouth is a great place for a drink despite the stupidly early last train back!). 

Personally i’d much rather people stopped referring to it as a derby and just got on with it. It holds little to no importance in Southampton and never has in my lifetime. I often attribute the need to call it a derby to the Soccer AM generation that were brought up thinking every club needed one. But not every club has a derby.

If anything the need to make this a derby turns me off the game, it becomes boring to deal with Cherries fans that want it to be that way and i have to be honest I didn’t bother going to the cup game against them despite being a season ticket holder as i found the entire thing boring and uninteresting.’

cp The very fact that everyone is so desperate to go to great lengths to constantly state that it’s not a derby to me surely means it’s more than just another game?! Not sure I’d go so far as to say a rivalry, but the fact that Premier League clubs are quite sparse on the south coast (oh look – there’s only two of us) means that as Prem neighbours (my mind is still boggled at saying that) it’s a derby by location if nothing else?! Either way, the competition of who cares less about who will rage on till the end of time, I’m sure. But, then again, I don’t care. And I definitely care less than you, ok?’

pb Eddie Howe said last time the two clubs played that AFC Bournemouth have to start winning some of these clashes if they want it to truly become a derby game and I tend to agree with that. There is no real grudge against the Saints as there have not been many matches between the two clubs and when they have met Southampton have usually come out on top. I’d like to think that it will become a south coast derby that both clubs can look forward to for a few years to come, but I feel that fans of both sides probably dislike some other clubs more than each other. I know a few Saints fans that, believe it or not, are pleased to see the Cherries in the Premier League – at least we are both guaranteed at least one short travel away game as season.’

at I don’t see why it’s a bad thing. I’ve not seen that much animosity between the two fanbases, certainly not to the same extent as Saints and Pompey! With Pompey now languishing in the lower leagues, surely a new, less fierce rivalry would be welcomed by saints fans?’

League One 'Not a Derby Derby' action...
League One ‘Not a Derby Derby’ action…

Saints fans often have a ‘soft spot’ for Bournemouth. Has that changed since they were promoted to the Premier League? And will that change with continued success?

smm I think it began to change for some Saints fans when we were both in League One – I think a lot of Saints fans felt that shock I experienced on my first day working at the Bournemouth Echo that a lot of Bournemouth fans really hate us. I suspect a few more fans’ fondness has also waned since the promotion, particularly for those of us active on social media. My instinct is that a majority of Saints fans are indifferent or hold Bournemouth with a degree of fondness. If we are to remain in the same league for years to come I’m sure the rivalry will increase.

ah I’m not sure it has, not yet anyway. I still think the general feeling from most of my mates and people in my office is that we still want them to do well. Perhaps I know a lot of nice people but I don’t think we quite believe they will stick around for any length of time to be classified as rivals and I’m sure the more realistic Bournemouth fans will think the same. What Eddie and the team have done is pretty incredible so personally I wish them all the best… for now! I’m more concerned about our own future (keeping Ronald, Fraser, what happens to Pelle/Vic etc) than worrying about them.’

sb As I have just said it is like watching a younger sibling grow up. I think if they become more successful, there will be a change in the way we view them. If they ever finish above us in the league (and God i hope it never happens) then that will change everything.’

km ‘Not really, for the most part I’ve been oblivious to their season as I’ve been concentrating on ours. That said i want them to stay up as it’d be good for the south coast and a nice break to the general Premier League status quo.’

ab I think it’s changed a little bit. It’s easier to have a soft spot for clubs in different divisions, but when those clubs become competitors, it changes the dynamic. I also things Saints quick rise up the leagues has somewhat been overshadowed by Bournemouth’s remarkable story. Are they stealing Saints limelight?’

Pre-Season Friendly's? Not the usual actions of rivals?
Pre-Season Friendly’s? Not the usual actions of rivals?

How do you feel about people from Dorset (especially Bournemouth) who support Saints?

cp For years, Southampton have been the more successful team in the area and have naturally attracted a lot of glory hunters from the Bournemouth area. And a lot of people are very aggrieved by that. I, personally, quite liked the fact that I supported my local team and was prepared to go through the grief and heartache that brought, rather than go the easy route and support the big team down the road. Many times I’d be stood on the platform at Poole or Dorchester station, waiting for trains to various League 1/2 fixtures to join about 200 others, while the blokes stood next to me in shirts that looked like deckchairs were off to some swanky Prem fixture in That Lundin. I felt like I was the proper fan, one of the few hardy souls, and they were just Premier League customers, a few out of thousands of faceless others. 

After recent events, I’m currently revising that theory.’

pb The only reason I can see for a person in Bournemouth or the wider Dorset area travelling up to St. Mary’s to watch football is that they can’t get a ticket at Dean Court. Some will have family roots that have always been with the Saints so fair enough to them, but the Cherries are after attracting as many new fans as they can and being the only Dorset club in the Premier League there is a fair chance that the fan base will grow in the next few seasons with the promised ground improvements at Dean Court.’

Why do Bournemouth and Pompey fans love each other so much? A mutual hatred of Saints?

 cp One of the funniest things at a game is when supporters of both sides join in together, to sing about a team that aren’t anything to do with that game. Bizarre. I think a lot of Pompey and Bournemouth fans think they have found kindred spirits through a mutual dislike of Saints, but there are a lot of Bournemouth fans I know who have a distinct dislike of Pompey as well. Of course, when we played them in the FA Cup a few weeks ago, they were at great pains to point out that it “wasn’t a derby” as were we. 

Whatever it was, we won (just). So ner.’

pb Absolutely. In the recent game against Pompey there was much mutual singing aimed at the Saints and while Bournemouth is not a port, we know why Pompey hate the Saints so much which harks back to the Southampton dockers carrying on working past the picket lines when the dockers in Portsmouth went on strike in the 1950’s. Pompey have good reason to hate the Saints, while AFCB fans are working on it.’

Editor’s comment ‘The dockers strike is a total myth, perpetuated by so many Pompey fans over the years it even gets mentioned in recent books about their club. There is no record of it. Ironically, when the Southampton dockers went on strike in the 1890’s, it was workers from Portsmouth that were brought in to do their jobs.’

Pelle seals victory for Saints in the last fixture.
Pelle seals victory for Saints in the last fixture.

Why aren’t Bournemouth fans grateful that Saints played fund raising games for them? They owe us right?

smm I don’t think they owe us anything but now that we know how much they ‘love us’ they can kiss goodbye to any future bucket collections if it all goes belly up when the Russian leaves.’

ah Football rarely works on that logic does it? If there is a local neighbour to hate then you’re going to hate them regardless of what they’ve done. Not that it’d ever happen, but if we were to help out P*mp*y with their situation, would that stop them hating us? No. I’m sure there are a lot of reasonable Bournemouth fans who will be slightly thankful for what we did but let’s be honest, it was one game and won’t ever come into any sort of emotional or rational reasoning.’

sb 100% yes. As a token of their appreciation they should have refused the Lallana money.’

km Not sure they owe us anything and I’m also not sure why (or if) they’re ungrateful either. I did actually go to one of those friendlies and don’t remember there being any animosity at all, in fact the first time I was ever aware that there was even a consideration of it being a derby was when I was well into my late twenties and a Cherry said that we were “Scummers” after I wished him luck in their in promotion battle at the time. 

That confused the hell out of me to be honest and I think I actually laughed when he said it as I didn’t think he was being serious, which probably annoyed him more!’

cp The fact that it gets brought up at every possible opportunity makes it all a bit sour. A lot of Saints fans have been overly condescending about this over the years and it was very kind, yes, and it helped, yes, thank you very much, but Saints didn’t save us and it wasn’t what ensured our existence as many like to claim.’ 

pb I don’t think AFC Bournemouth fans were ungrateful but they have some pride and whoever wants to be in a position to need a handout? I actually felt sorry for Southampton when they fell on hard times. I don’t think any fan wants to see any club in financial trouble.’

at It was definitely a nice gesture on Saints part, and I’m sure if it was the other way round, Bournemouth would’ve done the same!’ 

I’ve found something we can truly fall out about. Harry Redknapp is a c**t. Discuss.

smm Without doubt. They love that saggy faced fraudster in these parts – it’s vomit inducing. In fact, at my son’s football presentation evening last year, I did vomit in my mouth when ‘Arry was the guest of honour and walked past me and touched my arm. Bleuurgggghhhhh.’

ah Yes, most definitely but I’d rather not waste my energy on him. My friend once described him as having a face like a mixed grill. I think that’s all I want to say on the matter.’

sb The guy is a massive knob. Would love to have a beer with him though!’ Editor’s comment ‘Why? Would definitely be a round dodger.’

km Now that statement can’t be denied by anyone, even the Skates must admit that!’

cp I can’t hate Harry. I’m sorry, I just can’t. I’m not as fond of him as I used to be but I wouldn’t go that far. For years, he was our most successful manager. Obviously, this has all been well & truly surpassed now. By someone with much better hair. And my Harry Redknapp impression has gone down a storm at work over the years. You wouldn’t have to ask too many Bournemouth fans before you found one to agree with you, though.’

pb Yeah, you got me. Harry Redknapp will always be highly regarded around AFC Bournemouth as he was the manager to put us on the map in recent times before the boy genius Eddie Howe arrived. Harry did okay as a player for us as well. I suppose it is becoming harder for any manager to move from one club to another and always leave with his head held high and at least we might be able to agree that Harry loves the south, even if West Ham is probably his biggest love after Sandra!’

at He’s certainly a character! I mean I don’t personally hate him, how could I after all he did for Bournemouth? Although, saying that, his increased involvement with the club does rather coincide with them being promoted to the Premier League.’ 

More relegations than trophies. Considered by media as 'great manager'....
More relegations than trophies. Considered by media as ‘great manager’….

How do you see the game going? Score prediction?

smm History and form says we should win – but Bournemouth are due a result against us at some point and it’s most likely to be at their place – but I’ll still go for a 2-1 win to us.’

ah It will be a cracking atmosphere and I’m sure it will descend into a usual derby in terms of lots of intensity and flying tackles in the first 20 minutes. If we can ride out the initial period and get our foot on the ball I’m sure that our midfield will work their way into the game and unpick their defence. I’ve heard several times about how slow their CBs are so whilst we don’t have bundles of pace, we’ll get a few chances and hopefully stick one or two away. I’ll opt for a 0-2 scoreline to help our push for that 5th spot.’

sb 2-1 Saints…. they will break the clean sheet duck.’

km It’s going to be very close and very tight, I think a lot depends on the Chelsea game for us. If we pick up a result there I can see us winning it 1-0 or something similar, if we fall away after that game I think it’ll be 1-1 or 2-1 to the Cherries.’

cp You’ll win. You always do. I’m sure it’s written in some bylaw somewhere. I don’t allow myself to get over-excited as I just get more let down. Happens every time. I’ll go 0-2 and hope that my reverse psychology will win the day.’

pb That’s easy. The Cherries start confidently and look like world beaters only for Southampton to score from two set pieces and a breakaway to ruin our day again! 1-3 to those delightful chaps down the road. Obviously, I hope I am entirely wrong. Isn’t it about time that the Saints let us win a game to ensure there is a couple of south coast derby matches next season? You don’t need the points and playing in Europe is overrated – look what happened to you last time. Oops, I fear the rivalry is building.’

at Bournemouth’s home form isn’t great at the moment, losing 3 out of the last 4, and Saints don’t look like they’ll concede anytime soon. Think Saints will win and keep a clean sheet. 0-2.’

So there we have it, the ‘Not a Derby Derby’ heat’s up, or rather doesn’t really. Thanks to everyone who answered questions!

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Interview:- Mark Sanderson on his forthcoming Bobby Stokes Biography!

It was with much anticipation that I first heard of Mark Sanderson and his upcoming biography of ’76 hero Bobby Stokes.

Aptly titled ‘The man from Portsmouth who scored Southampton’s most famous goal’, there is an air of mysticism about Stokes and how he bridged a gap between two cities so often at each other’s throats.

Bobby-Stokes-2560x1440

I asked Mark about whether anyone these days could become a hero in red and white stripes, but also maintain the respect and love of his rival home town?

MS ‘Bobby Stokes is one of several Pompey lads who have gone on to play for Saints – from Steve Mills to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Ward-Prowse. Far fewer have done the opposite. Perhaps the most notable example was Bitterne Park schoolboy Darren Anderton, who was part of the Pompey side that lost to Liverpool on penalties in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final. Although none of these players have had as much impact for either club as Bobby’s winning goal for Southampton in the 1976 FA Cup Final. Bobby remained a Pompey lad, but he had a special relationship with Southampton – his funeral was in Porchester, but his ashes were scattered at The Dell. ‘

See what else Mark had to say here:-

I for one can’t wait to read this book.  You can pre-order it here:- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobby-Stokes-Portsmouth-Scored-Southamptons/dp/1785311379/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454506270&sr=8-1&keywords=bobby+stokes and as Mark says, he will be doing a signing at St. Mary’s on April 30th, so get along and support him.

Chris

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Kangaroo Court: Wanyama’s Saints future!

There has been much talk this season about Victor Wanyama’s impact or lack thereof.

The Kenyan has become one of a long line of ‘marmite’ characters in a Saints shirt, often finding himself the scapegoat for poor team performances, and no matter how well he plays, has always struggled to win some fans round.

Having had to adapt to life post-Morgan Schneiderlin there is no doubt Victor hasn’t had quite the same level of performance we have come to expect, but are people being overly harsh?

Having been sent off three times this season, it is clear that a lot of the St. Mary’s faithful have lost patience with him, but there are still those who think he has a future at the club, and whats more, is still a ‘key’ player.

Everyone knows my opinion of Wanyama, so I put it to twitter to ask where does his future lie? Should Saints cash in as they now have other (possibly better) options? Or is he still an important part of our team?

It is predictably tight.

The case for the Prosecution:-

@ShaneyyG4 ‘While I think Vic has turned a corner in terms of commitment to the cause (arguably the upturn in form and the potential for another crack at European football on the cards will have helped this) I think we should sell him while his stock is high.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s had loads of good performances in a Saints shirt, but it’s becoming all too common for him to get sent off.  If this was one of our Young academy prospects coming through I’d completely understand and put it down to a learning process, but Vic is an experienced player who has played in the Champions league with Celtic and spent most of his Saints career next to arguably one of our best ever midfield destroyers in Schneiderlin.

What Vic really lacks is the Intelligence to know when he does have to commit a red/yellow card offence for the benefit of the team and when he has to keep his temper in check and play it clever.

Personally I think we have more tactically astute replacements in Romeu and Clasie, and Reed can push both of these all the way for a starting berth too.

Do we need Vic?’

The case for the Defence:

@geddesduncan At face value, our strength in depth can be used as a convincing argument to sell Victor Wanyama and take some money. Who needs him when we’ve got Romeu?

Koeman gives us the answer in his team selection. Wanyama comes first for holding onto the ball at all costs, putting himself in the way of opposition passes and outmuscling almost everyone he comes up against.

Most of his work is done when the ball is elsewhere, closing space before opposing players can reach it.

His ‘attitude problems’ felt real at one stage, but most backlash from supporters smacked of second hand anger at truly disrespectful twerps like Saido Berahino or Dani Osvaldo.

Transfer speculation may or may not be behind Wanyama’s dips in form or recent acquaintance with red cards.

But fans would do well to remember that Romeu has consistently worse discipline and isn’t accused of losing focus.

Meanwhile, Wanyama gets on with his job.

So long as the staff are confident they can keep him performing, as they are right now, he is worth more than the money we could recoup from letting him off his contract.’

Verdict:-

It is testament to Saints up-turn in form and their strength in midfield that this is an incredibly close call, but the vote is swayed slightly towards keeping Wanyama at the club. Will he commit to a new contract though?

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Seven things we re-learned from Saints resurgence!

Just a month ago, I found myself (over) analysing a run of terrible form here. Since that victory at Watford, Saints have made it to an unbeaten run of five games, dropping just two points at Arsenal and haven’t conceded a single goal.

So what have we re-learned during Koeman’s resurgence?

  1. The Transfer Policy is ok

During that run of five unbeaten games Summer signings Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu have both been standout players. Consider their impact alongside that of Virgil van Dijk and to a lesser extent Cedric, and Saints look to have a decent squad, better than the poor run they had been on suggested. Add to that the instant impact of Charlie Austin and Saints fans have good reason to be looking up again rather than down.

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Romeu – An assured replacement for Wanyama.

2. Ronald knows Tactics

Many people winced when they saw the return of three at the back, especially with Ryan Bertrand taking a place in the centre, but Ronald has got his tactics spot on recently. With the exception of the West Ham game, he has recreated the dominant home performances we had gotten used to, and defensively the team have been superb on the road.

What poor form?
What poor form?

3. Player Power won’t always beat us

Despite his sending off against West Ham, Victor Wanyama has seemingly (if temporarily) shaken off his desire to head to North London and been a key player during this run. Wanyama is one of Saints’ best players on his day, only a fool argues that point, but his position is more difficult with the emergence of Clasie and Romeu. Arguably, Saints could afford to lose him, but chose not to. A nice change.

It was refreshing to see that no key players left the bus on deadline day, and whether or not you believe the likes of Wanyama and Mane are biding their time, perhaps Saints have decided they won’t be held to ransom anymore.

4. Goalscoring

Many of us felt vindicated when Charlie Austin came off the bench at Old Trafford to put away his first chance in a Saints shirt. It’s what we had been saying for some time. We miss too many good chances.

A three pronged competition for places of Austin, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long is a pretty ideal situation for a manager as they all differ in style, and all must take their opportunities to stay in the team.

The natural, the unorthodox and the hassler? Have Saints ever been so striker rich?

Charlie 'You don't have to ask me twice' Austin.
Charlie ‘You don’t have to ask me twice’ Austin.

5. We still have decent Academy products

During this run, amongst many of the pleasing aspects, it has been great to see the performances of James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett.

JWP finally got the free kick monkey off his back and has looked more tenacious than ever in midfield and Targett was in scintillating form in a more advanced role.

It was especially pleasing to see Matt Targett show that he isn’t the write off some people had decided he was, and who knew he had that cross on him? A justified player of the month and bright future ahead!

The kids are alright.
The kids are alright.

6. We missed ‘The Wall’

There is very little more to be said about Fraser Forster’s miraculous return to the team. Literally no sign of rustiness, despite being out for nine months, his return has coincided with this run of form.

For many of the games he has little to do, but I wonder just how much more confident his presence makes the back four (or three/five). His display against Arsenal was pure heroics and with due respect to our other keepers would we have conceded no goals in the last five games had any of them been playing. I seriously doubt it. The confidence of Jose Fonte in a behind the scenes video after the West Ham game tells a story of faith. No one is scoring past us mate.

NONE SHALL PASS.
NONE SHALL PASS.

7. Mark Clattenburg still hates us

Yes I am bitter, but allowing the West Ham players to talk him into changing his yellow card to red for Wanyama and then allowing Sam Byram to get away with a clear red card tackle means his record of terrible decisions against us continues. He’s either a cheat or incompetent. You decide.

In Conclusion…

Someone once said that football was a ‘funny old game’ and it most certainly is. A month ago we were talking about a possible relegation battle, today a win against Swansea would see us reach 40 points with 12 games to go and people are talking about Europe again.

Clubs that were perceived to be having amazing seasons while we struggled (Stoke and Palace in particular) are now below us in the table, and even the Klopp revolution finds itself behind. No need to even mention Chelsea.

Keep the faith.

Chris

 

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