Category Archives: Chris Rann

All posts written by Chris Rann

My Ultimate XI

Dear reader, I’ve no doubt that this will open me up to some criticism and that’s fine, all I ask you is that you make that criticism constructive and debate worthy!

Recently Saints have launched their campaign to find the ‘Ultimate’ Saints XI.

As a fan you are entitled to vote for a Goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders, three forwards and a manager. Simple right? Not quite. Only those with 150 plus appearances qualify. That to me is an odd rule. There have undoubtedly been players who made less than that but had more impact than some that did, but anyway, that is their rules and like the submissive man that I am I shall simply take that restriction on the chin and vote while mumbling Dean Richards quietly under my breath.

The beauty of a public poll like this is, that everyone interprets it their own way. For instance I immediately decided I couldn’t vote for those I never saw play.  This was a sub-conscious but clear decision. This is MY Ultimate XI. To me the idea that someone in their 20’s is voting for Mick Mills is a little ludicrous. This is your team, not your Dad’s! But, as it is your team then you are entitled to interpret it however you see fit.

Due to my decision, basically anyone who played for Saints prior to 1986 was basically out. This might seem reckless, but no matter how good they might have been they don’t mean the same to me as they might those who were there at the time. And besides, olden days football was a rubbish standard right? (joke).

Anyway never-mind the reasoning, here is my team:-

This side would of course be managed by Gordon Strachan.

As everybody will think, my team seems self explanatory to me, but I’ll explain it anyway.

Goalkeeper:- Antti Niemi

The Flying Finn, was simply put, a fantastic Goalkeeper, and undoubtedly the best I’ve seen for Saints (even without the 150 appearance rule).  His shot stopping was often spectacular and he was certainly one of those keepers that was worth a few points a season.

Left Back:- Wayne Bridge

Now a star of reality TV, Bridge really was as good as we made out at the time and his further career at Chelsea, Man City and with England goes to prove it. The local lad I watched from debutante to high profile transfer exit. It seems odd to think he is two years younger than me!

Centre Half:- Claus Lundekvam

Our Claus, the Norwegian with a Hampshire twang to his accent was somewhat of an anomaly. It is rare in modern football that somebody earns a testimonial, even rarer when a foreigner does it, but Claus took the city and the club to his heart and backed it up with solid performances.

Centre Half:- Mark Wright

This was the first time when I was selecting where the appearance rule proved a problem. Wright only just sneaks into my own personal criteria, but I have to say the choices in this position weren’t awe inspiring. Wright was a classy ball playing defender, perhaps ahead of his time!

Right Back:- Jason Dodd

For me Dodd was Mr. Dependable. Over 400 games for the club and I don’t remember a bad one. Maybe not the most dynamic right back in the league, but one you could trust and never lost his affinity with the club, even drinking with the fans in Milan last year!

Midfield:- David Armstrong

Largely regarded as one of the most underrated players in English football, though he was recognised internationally. I didn’t worry too much about balance in my team, but I do feel Armstrong is key to that. A tidy midfield player who chipped in with goals.

Midfield:- Morgan Schneiderlin

Like Wayne Bridge, this one has a sense of journey about it. I watched this lightweight French kid who looked useless at first develop into one of the most accomplished midfielders in the Premier League. A defensive midfielder, but so much more, under Pochettino then Koeman he was consistently outstanding.

Free Role:- Matthew Le Tissier

The greatest of all time. Surely there wasn’t anybody who didn’t vote for him, except himself?

Forward:- Danny Wallace

This could easily have gone to Rod, but not Ray. Sorry Ray. Eventually I went for the one with the most goals. Again, I wasn’t looking at balance (but perhaps I was) but with one target man, I wanted my other strikers to be the exciting pacy kind.

Forward:- Rickie Lambert

Had he not continued his fantastic form into the top flight then maybe this position would be filled by a Beattie or a Shearer, but he did. Of course he did. Perhaps the first player to capture the imaginations of Saints fans since Le Tiss. A gentleman, and a great goalscorer.

Forward:- Marian Pahars

 

Impact. Longevity. Talent. The kid from Latvia who dazzled us both with his fantastic ability and his affection for the club. His celebration v Portsmouth still sends shivers down my spine, the man from Riga celebrating like he grew up in Sholing. Some will overlook him, but they would be wrong to, had injuries not hampered him I’ve no doubt he’d be talked in higher regard.

Manager:- Gordon Strachan

I spent more time on this than perhaps on any of the others. There were three periods as a Saints fan I really loved. Under Messrs Strachan, Pochettino and Koeman. Poch didn’t qualify so it was a choice of two. At the end of the day both got us into Europe after prolonged breaks but only one got us to a cup final!

So there it is. Make of it what you will, but please remember, this is MY Ultimate XI, I’m not asking you to change yours. There will be thousands of different combinations, all with great justification but ultimately democracy will decide! I do think the more recent players will win as this is an internet competition for the internet generation, but let it be said, that every nominee in the list deserves our respect and our gratitude for being Saints!

Vote here:- https://southamptonfc.com/news/2017-10-13/southampton-fans-ultimate-xi-sea-city-museum-exhibition

Keep the faith!

Ali Dia: Origins

Let me take you back to the Summer of 1996. It was a different time. Robson & Jerome were stunning us on a regular basis with their reworked classics and we were still the best part of a year away from Tony Blair and Cool Britannia taking the country and turning it on its head. It wasn’t all grim though, England had just put in a credible performance at a major tournament on home soil and were a Gazza boot lace away from a major final. There was an air of optimism, especially for this Isle of Wight student about to embark on a miserable (self-inflicted through lack of effort) A-Level campaign……

Continue Reading

Eight ways to cure goal shy Saints….

It will not have escaped your attention dear reader, that Saints have for some time been a little goal shy. In fact the club’s hierarchy is said to be tempted to change the match-day host to Paul O’Grady† and Ben Elton is considering writing a book about us‡.

To that end I tasked myself with coming up with solutions to this issue, and hopefully see us not be subjected to another week of frustration in front of goal.

Disclaimer. If at this point you are expecting to read carefully thought out coaching suggestions, this isn’t the blog for you.

Still with me?

1. Running Man style exploding collars

I haven’t done the science, but basically invent an exploding collar that all the Saints players must wear. If they get within 25 yards of the opposition goal and the ball doesn’t cross the line (some sort of tie in with the existing goal line technology required here. Over to you Boffins) within the next 3 minutes the wearer’s collar explodes.

2, Pray to Le God

We all worship him, but perhaps our offerings of late haven’t been sufficient and he’s angry with us?

Let’s take it in turns to sacrifice our first born sons at the feet of the Ted Bates statue at midnight on the night before each game while collectively and repeatedly chanting the Le Tiss song under our breaths.

I know what you are thinking. This is easy for Chris to say, he doesn’t have any kids? Point taken, but I would be prepared to do it, and that counts.

Le God approves.

3. Play Home Games at Staplewood

As discussed this week on the Total Saints Pod, our players look superb in training. Banging shots in top bin every time, Ward-Prowse sinking free kicks like it’s the easiest thing in the world! But have we got a team of Willie Thorne’s?

4. Recycle the Clappers

Not my idea, but the brainchild of @saintsmadmomma, and it’s perfect. No one asked for the clappers, no one likes the clappers, so why not make use of them?

5. Hypnosis

Get McKenna in. It’s a cut and shut job for the master of minds. All he’s got to do is collectively hypnotise the squad and tell them that every time they hear the song ‘My Way’ or any bastardised version of it they will believe they are a combination of Le Tissier and Shearer.

As a bonus, while he’s got them under, we can ask Paul to also tell them that every time they hear the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ you suddenly become football’s answer to Frank Spencer. It worked on Lovren.

6. Change the Changing Room Music

Whenever the club releases a playlist of the squad’s choosing it is overrun with terrible R&B tracks. No one in the history of anything has been inspired by anything written or performed by Drake. No wonder half of them look like they’ve just had bad news when they are playing at the moment. Soul? Soul destroying.

Luckily I’ve created a pre-match playlist for them. You can find it here:- https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/saints-matchday/idpl.u-1V3F8keGYj

7. Play in Cartoon Format

Who misses those guys from the kit release cartoon? So accurate, yet Pellegrino has ignored them so far. Ridiculous.

8. Put an Instagram Frame Round the Goals

They love an Instagram post. Some might say they are over focused on posting dull updates on their lives in which they are inevitably wearing hideous clothes and listening to terrible music (refer to point 6). Put the frame up and they won’t be able to get there quick enough!

So there we have it. None of them are realistic or will likely work, but all I’m saying is they can’t do any harm.

Keep the faith,

† – Least famous presenter of Blankety Blank, but only one not dead.

‡ – Elton wrote a book about infertility.

5 minutes with…. Kevin Davies Part 3

Continuing from Parts 1 & 2…..

After the big money move to Blackburn, was it a difficult decision to come back to Saints? How had the club changed?

KD ‘It’s well documented that I didn’t enjoy my time at Blackburn. It was a big money move and sometimes they just don’t work out. I signed a seven year contract when I went up there and then had a difficult first season competing with five or six strikers. I was used to playing in dressing rooms where everybody got on and I didn’t feel that at Blackburn. There were power struggles going on and it felt quite cliquey. It didn’t feel right and I didn’t enjoy my football. We got relegated that season and I was in and out of the team with injuries and illnesses. It was a difficult time especially with the expectation that came with the fee. There were pressure and nerves and I was driving back to Sheffield a lot. Roy Hodgson got sacked and Brian Kidd came in and a couple of games into the Championship he pulled me into his office and was very understanding with me. He said ‘Would you be interested in going back?’ because Blackburn wanted to swap with Egil Ostenstad. So with ten minutes to go I was in the car with my medical records heading back down. It wasn’t a difficult decision at all because I’d had a great time at Southampton and I wasn’t prepared to sit there for five or six years just picking up my money at Blackburn. It suited both parties and for me it was the easiest decision of my life. I have to say that Jack Walker was fantastic with me throughout my time there and he knew I wasn’t happy.

Not much had changed at Southampton. There was still a great team spirit and Dave Jones was still there. It was like going back home. I loved the lifestyle and the area and I had great friends down there.  The only thing that changed was me. My confidence had taken a bit of a battering so it took some time to get that going again.’

While most might remember the FA Cup exploits with Chesterfield, some forget the last minute goal for Saints that kept them in the 2003 competition (which led them eventually to the final). How disappointing was it not to be involved in the final?

KD ‘Gordon Strachan came in and we didn’t see eye-to-eye from the first week. That happens in football. I wasn’t in or around the squad so I took the decision to go out on loan. I was in my final year anyway and I wanted to prove I could still do it so I went to Millwall. It didn’t matter where really because I needed some games: I was rotting away. I came back and knuckled down and started scoring in the reserves. There was a cup run and I think I came on as a sub for that game and scored a late equaliser. We won the replay and got to the final and though I’ve had lots of good points in my career that was a difficult moment when he pulled me aside an hour before the game and told me I wasn’t going to be involved. It was a huge disappointment for me. I knew I wouldn’t start but I was hoping to be a substitute and you have those dreams about coming on against Arsenal and scoring the winner. I was desperate to get my hands on that trophy throughout my whole career.

I see Gordon Strachan on the media circuit now and I know it’s difficult. Somebody has to miss out and back then it was me.’

You were perhaps unfairly labelled as a more physical player later in your career, which is nothing like the style of the player at Southampton. Why did your game change?

 KD ‘I can’t remember a moment when I thought I needed to adapt. At Chesterfield I’d played out on the wing or behind the main striker. I was a bit nippier in my younger days and maybe the injury to my ankle affected that. But I always enjoyed the physical side of football. I grew up on a council estate and I’d play against the older boys on the parks. Then I went to Bolton with Sam on trial around 2003 and, I don’t know, I just enjoy the battle and getting the better of your opponent then shaking hands and having a couple of pints. That was my way of thinking. So it just developed and that first season at Bolton we had a huge amount of success with me as the main striker and the likes of Campo and Diouf playing around me. The stats backed it up because I was involved in about 70/80% of the goals. Maybe Sam just stumbled upon it and we went from there.’

Who was the best player you played with at Saints (Le Tiss excluded) and the worst?

KD ‘Matt was obviously the most naturally gifted player I’ve played with alongside Jay Jay Okocha. At Southampton we didn’t really have a lot of superstars: we were hard-working players who enjoyed training and each other’s company We’d be out at weekends together having a few drinks. It was a proper changing room. We had characters like Carlton Palmer, John Beresford and David Hurst – old-school players – so no-one was allowed to go off on one and be big-time Charlies. I’d liken it to Wales at the Euros where they did so well without having any proper superstars other than Bale.

“We had some good players of course. Marians Pahars was a natural finisher and they loved him down there. There was my partnership too with James Beattie’

Read the full 888sport interview with Kevin Davies, including his thoughts on where Southampton will finish this season. 

5 minutes with…. Kevin Davies Part 2

Carrying on from Part 1….

Unlike most clubs, Saints have not spent much money – do they need to invest in order to remain competitive?

KD ‘They need to and they haven’t been shy in the past of reinvesting the money they receive. In the past couple of years they’ve brought in something like £200m and they keep reinvesting it because they’ve got the scouting ‘black box’ model down there where they’re constantly scouring the planet for the best young players coming through. It almost feels like a stepping-stone club at times where they look to develop. It wouldn’t surprise me if they already have their targets in mind and negotiations are going on so they can wisely reinvest the money they get for van Dijk. They need competition for places and to keep adding to the strong if they want to push forward from what they achieved last year.’

What are your fondest memories of playing for Saints?

KD ‘The first year down there. I obviously made the move from Chesterfield where I’d been playing in League’s one and two so it was incredible to play in the Premier League at the age of 20. I still remember going down with the PFA and them negotiating the deal for me with Graeme Souness who was the manager at the time. He left that summer and Dave Jones took over. There was so much hype around the Premier League and to play with these legends like Zola and Bergkamp was so exciting for me. I loved the area and the club.’

November 4, 1997. Goodison Park. Talk to us about that solo goal against Everton, where does it rank in your best goals scored?

KD ‘That has to be the best one I scored. It was live on Sky and I loved playing at Goodison Park. I see it every now and again on those TV shows and I have a little laugh and a joke with my children saying ‘Have a look at this”. I got the ball and things opened up for me so had a little dribble up from the halfway line and it found the net.

It was a decent little goal and I’m sure if Messi had scored that one it would have been shown a few more times. We won the game 2-0 as well. It was an embarrassing celebration though.’

Do you feel you may have got a bit unlucky at Saints at times  – looking back especially on that ankle ligament injury against Manchester United at The Dell?

KD ‘Leading up to that ankle injury I was absolutely flying at the time in January. I think it was ’98? We had a good team spirit and I loved living on the south coast. We had a good season that year barring my injury. You have ifs and buts and maybe that was a turning point for me because you wonder what could have happened. If I hadn’t got injured that summer was the World Cup. My ankle was never really the same again and that was a big turning point in my career. I went on to do alright but I was never quite the same player again.’

Read the full 888sport interview with Kevin Davies, including his thoughts on where Southampton will finish this season. 

5 minutes with…. Kevin Davies Part 1

This week I was given the fantastic opportunity via 888sport.com to pose some questions to former Saints striker Kevin Davies.

Davies had two spells at the club sandwiching a big money move to Blackburn Rovers and can perhaps be credited for changing his style of play completely to earn him greater success as he matured.

From ‘that’ goal against Everton to cup final disappointment and what he makes of the van Dijk ‘situation’, Kevin gave us a frank and honest take on the club.

Kevin Davies, spoke exclusively to 888sport.

What do you expect to see from Saints next season, can they compete for a top eight place again for example?

KD ‘There needs to be more signings and it will be interesting to see what happens between now and the end of the transfer window and particularly whether Van Dijk goes and if they have the timescale to reinvest that money. I covered their games for BT last year and yes there was some fans a bit disgruntled with the style of play but I think when you play that many games in Europe, get to a cup final – which they were unlucky to lose – and finish in the top eight that’s a really good season.

You look at the sides above them and it’s going to be difficult to compete with them but they’ve got a really good manager in Pellegrino and they may well play a more attacking style of football now because he always wants his teams to play the right way.”

The fans need to believe in Les Reed and the model they have created down there. I’m a big fan of what they do where they plan for the future. You may question their ambition a little bit and want them to keep their better players but they have the model in place to be ahead of the game whether that is finding the right playing staff or managers. When you look at where they were seven or eight years ago and now they’re going to be in or around that cluster of top eight teams like West Brom, Stoke and Leicester. There is no danger of relegation and they will finish mid-table at least I think.’

Their biggest flaw last season was the lack of goals, how does Pellegrino bring back that spark up front?

KD ‘They’ve got enough options there. We saw flashes of what Gabbiadini is capable of and though he has never been prolific at previous clubs in Italy he looks a real fox in the box. All the strikers have different attributes with the likes of Shane Long and Charlie Austin. Both missed a lot of last season through injury but they’re different kinds of strikers who can cause different kinds of problems for defenders. There is Redmond in there as well so it comes down to the manager and what he sees in pre-season. Whether he plays three up or one or the old-fashioned 4-4-2 there are plenty of attacking options and it’s about settling on a system that clicks. There will be less rotation which is good because the best players want to player every week and that leads to frustration. Shane Long only made ten starts last season so there is frustration there but what that gives a manager is a clean slate. They will all be eager to impress and make that starting line-up and stay there.’

Read the full 888sport interview with Kevin Davies, including his thoughts on where Southampton will finish this season. 

What is your view on the Virgil van Dijk situation?

KD ‘It just seems unsavoury. Clearly the player wants to go and Southampton are taking a stance which they have every right to do as he signed a new contract not so long ago. It needs to be resolved sooner rather later though because it looks inevitable that they’re going to sell him at some point. The club has done really well in the past bringing in players at the right time then selling them on but I know there are a lot of fans – including former players like Matt le Tissier – who would like those players to stay. That is so difficult when the big clubs come calling and maybe it’s the right move to sell him if they triple their money on him. With the model they have at Southampton they will have been planning this for months, years, and will know how best to reinvest that money.’

More to follow…..

 

Thanks to Kevin and 888sport.

Read the full 888sport interview with Kevin Davies, including his thoughts on where Southampton will finish this season.

Chris

Inverta-brat. The van Dijk conundrum and other fairy tales.

Of the millions of species in the world, 98% are invertebrates. Invertebrates don’t have a back bone. Common examples of this are Jellyfish, worms and over precious, multi-millionaire Premier League footballers.

It’s somewhat of a mystery to me, that someone as relaxed on the ball as van Dijk, someone as commanding in the air and with such physical presence can find themselves ‘not in the right frame of mind’ to play for their club in a pre-season friendly because their dream move to perennial also-rans Liverpool doesn’t seem to be going to plan. It beggars belief it really does.

Now let me be clear. I have zero issue with someone wanting to better themselves, and despite my tongue in cheap dig at the Scousers in my previous paragraph, they are back in the Champion’s League, and that is where a player of the Dutchman’s quality belongs. So yes, he may have his heart set on a move, but when you are highly paid to do a job that most would kill for, how about you do it in a professional manner? Just get on with it. Do your job, and do it for the club who is paying you until that club agrees a fee with somebody else.

Let’s not overlook that he has taken this stance before a game being played for the benefit of the victims of the Grenfell fire, I wonder what his team mate Ryan Bertrand makes of that? Dream move or not, this whole episode is not putting him in a very good light as far as being human is concerned. He seemed to be enjoying his trip to Disneyland Paris instead and I think Lucy put it best…

Southampton are trialling the new Anti-Liverpool head magnet this Summer…

I’m very much in the camp that believes he should be moved on now as soon as possible. If that is to Liverpool then so be it. If they meet the asking price then move him on, he’s a bad apple. His actions have shown he has zero respect for the fans who chant his name, and the club that gave him the platform to shine. Sadly, he’s a bad apple who is exceptionally good at football. If a deal could be done with any club other than Liverpool then that would be a nice bonus. Our new manager has a handle on it having told ‘the boy’ to train alone. Many would have us stand firm and stick him in the reserves and I understand their frustration, but that is an expensive asset to have hanging around stinking the place up in a permanent sulk. Besides, that money could be invested in the next van Dijk, and God knows we want to be able to go through all this again in a couple of Summers time.

The board are (yet again) in a shit situation regarding a key player, and while I can sympathise with their position, they have to take some of the responsibility themselves having given in in the past. I suggest they make clear decision one way or the other, can they get a final year a la Schneiderlin/Wanyama or cash in and invest the money in new players. Either way, it’s yet another Summer of distractions for Saints and poor Forster has already been caught out at Brentford after spotting a van Dijk lookalike in the crowd at the worst possible time….

Anyway, at least we have all the new incoming players to take our minds off van Strijk. Oh wait…

Personally I’m not of the opinion that we need wholesale changes, but one or two new players to freshen up the squad would be nice. I’m certainly not as desperate as some, and I have to have a little chuckle when I see the same people who were telling us that Puel wasn’t getting the best out of a talented squad now telling us that the squad is poor. Make your mind up lads and lasses.

This squad finished 8th last season with van Dijk and Austin missing for large chunks, and with Puel’s odd negative tactics and a terrible home record. If Pellegrino is the man we all hope him to be then we shouldn’t need an influx of new players to have a better season. Jan Bednarek has come in, in a position that actually we are stronger in than we ever realised given Stephen’s performances in the run in last season, and maybe we could do with another attacking midfielder? I’m not sure we need a lot else.

If van Dijk is sold then I would expect that money to be reinvested in the squad, the board must surely understand that, but if he doesn’t then I don’t think we are in bad shape.

Silly season sees us linked with all sorts, and when they sign for someone else try not forget that may never have really been interested and they may not have improved our squad. We aren’t going to sign the likes of Hernandez and Sigurdsson, it jut isn’t our way. If we sign anyone else this Summer it will likely be someone you’ve never heard of, and in two years time you will be bemoaning his impending big money move to another club…

Enjoy the rest of the window dear reader.

Keep the faith.

 

We know what you did this Summer….

As usual Saints have entered the close season in their usual, quiet understated fashion.

When I was a kid there used to be ‘i-spy’ books. There were numerous subjects, ‘At the Seaside’ for example. The end goal being that you could take the kids on trips to the beach and they could take in some free Summer education in the handy form of checking things off a list in a book and trying to complete it (or translated, piss off and find things and stop bothering you while you crack into Bravo Two Zero and a serious case of sunburn). For instance, if you see a rockpool, tick it off, a starfish tick it off? A nice idea.

I wonder if Saints fans of a similar age to me would be thinking it would be nice if they release a ‘Southampton FC Summer’ version of this book to give to their kids.

The main flaw being that they would have completed the f*%king thing now and it’s only June 10th.

Key players linked to other clubs – Tick it off.

Managerial upheaval – Tick it off.

Star Player having social media sulk – Tick it off.

Liverpool – Tick it off.

Takeover rumours – Tick it off.

Let’s face it, it isn’t going to last the Summer Holidays.

So what do Saints do next? That’s the million dollar question. In fact that’s the billion dollar question. A million dollars is pocket change in football today.

If the stories coming out about Van Dijk meeting Jurgen Klopp are true, then the player, his agent, Klopp and Liverpool FC have behaved abysmally. We might expect that from the latter three but it is a very disappointing chain of events from our captain. All this was taking place while he was in rehabilitation from his injury, and while he chose not to attend the end of season awards. I’ve heard of bored housewives flirting with other men, but bored centre halves with other clubs?

Take me with you Adam…

Perhaps the armband is a curse. Predecessors Lallana and Fonte tarnished their status in Saints folklore by the way they behaved in forcing exits from the club, and the club’s perhaps over easy stance on that is a contributory factor in Virgil thinking he can do the same. This might explain the ‘enough is enough’ comments and the Premier League complaint.

The whole situation stinks and nobody comes out of it smelling like roses. What the club does next is key in maintaining any respect. If they still end up selling to Liverpool (even at the rumoured £75 million asking price) it would look weak, but if they were the only bidder perhaps understandable. If someone else now bids that then I would suggest accepting it and moving on.

So who should be the new Captain? There are many worthy candidates. Steven Davis? Oriol Romeu? Would be no complaints from me if either of these men got it, but in the spirit of election season let me put forward another name…. Maya Yoshida.

Maya’s performances last season were fantastic in VVD’s absence. He appears to be one player who is perfectly content with his life at St. Mary’s and he probably isn’t going to be having his head turned by bigger clubs anytime soon.

And what for our old friend Claude Puel? I’m of the opinion that he already knows his time is up and is playing ball regarding staying quiet about it as part of his compensation package. I’m sure once a successor is finalised we will be able to say adieu to one of the unluckiest managers in Premier League history. Don’t get me wrong, although I defended Claude for a long time I do think it is right that he moves on, the run in to the season was a frustrating watch, the football was dire and my hunch is that many of the players had lost interest in playing for him.

Who will be the new man in the hottest seat in football? Who knows? I’m desperately trying to not get my hopes up that it could be Thomas Tuchel but PLEASE LET IT BE THOMAS TUCHEL. That would represent a massive coup for the club and if we can couple that with not selling half our team we might even come out of this Summer with relatively positive attitudes?

Are you our new dad?

As for the takeover of the club by Chinese company Lander’s Sports, your guess is as good as mine as to what is going on. Reports in China say it is completed, reports in the UK say it isn’t, but there is a time difference, so you know?

Let’s face it nobody knows anything about them, so inevitably the first year will be a time of uncertainty. The Liebherr administration has insisted that the day to day running of the club won’t change and that is a deal breaker, we’ve no reason not to trust them on that. Changes in ownership can see fantastic improvements in some cases (Chelsea, Saints, Man City etc.) but also often come with disastrous consequences (Hull, Leyton Orient, Pompey etc.) It’s a gamble and one we can do little about.

As always we have to take a breath at this time of year and remind ourselves that players, managers, directors and owners are and always have been temporary. We (the fans) are Southampton Football Club. We are permanent.

Keep the faith.

 

The Saints Agenda…

Good morning/afternoon/evening wherever you may be readers! Yet again I’ve left it far too long to give some opinion on this site, and arrogantly it feels like I am denying you all my wisdom.

To that end I thought I would put together a list of discussion points of all things that have happened in the never dull world of Saints over the last few weeks and try and sum up how I’ve felt about it all.

Wembley

I’m not sure anything more really needs to be said, but what a day it was.

The whole thing felt a little surreal, from catching up with friends from all corners of the globe to entering the stadium itself. I’m not sure it ever felt ‘real’. Saints were superb in every aspect, from the cacophony of noise made by the supporters to the effort, desire and impetus of the players on the pitch. We didn’t win, but we deserved too, and in the most simplistic of terms, a player as good as Zlatan Ibrahimovic really can make the difference. Our players left everything on that pitch, and while the result wasn’t reflective of the standard of the two teams, every Saints fan, whether they were in Wembley or glued to their television sets in whichever country they reside was immensely proud of our club. There will be more finals for us.

Let’s not even talk about the ‘offside’ goal.

‘Barry’ Manolo Gabbiadini

I think I love him.

What an impact. Credit to the Saints team behind the scenes again. On the face of it, Gabbiadini was a striker with not a particularly amazing goal record in Italy, but he has been exactly what we needed. His movement in and around the box is superb, and if there has been something we have been lacking with the absence of Charlie Austin it is a front man with one focus. Score. Of course, he won’t be able to keep up this fantastic run for long, but his instinct in the box suggests he can end the season with a decent return.

Caceres/Boufal

Something that really bugged me this week. The U23’s played a home game against Chelsea and Saints fans generally over reacted about two players for two very different reasons.

A strong lineup included the first appearance of Martin Caceres and a run out for Sofiane Boufal.

Caceres acquitted himself well, and immediately there were calls for him to go into the first team. Boufal on the other hand didn’t have the best of games and looked to have a little temper tantrum, this was followed by suggestions that he isn’t good enough and should be moved on. Ridiculous. On both counts.

It was a reserve game. Let Caceres settle in, when he’s ready, he’ll play, and I’ve seen enough of Boufal to know he has a special talent and we’d be foolish to get rid of him. I’m not a fan of these games being televised to be honest, it provokes unnecessary discussion. Let’s not make Boufal the new scapegoat. You were wrong about both Wanyama and Mane.

Formation Change

And not a moment too soon….

I don’t know if it was the arrival of Gabbiadini or just experimenting on Puel’s part but the team seemed to slip back into 4-2-3-1 ridiculously easily and the suggestion that Saints are ‘boring’ is long behind us.

Nathan Redmond

I was desperate for us to sign Redmond in the Summer so it’s been frustrating to see so many get on his back  as the season has progressed. I’m not sure Puel’s comments comparing him to Thierry Henry did him any favours and it looked like he might be a flash in the pan.

But. If anyone has benefited from the formation change more than anyone else it is him. He has been fantastic in the last three games. He’s a winger and reverting him to that role is paying dividends. He is such a dangerous outlet on the break. Long may it continue.

Claude Puel

“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid”

A little tribute to the boss. Monsieur Puel.

Yes, he isn’t particularly animated in interviews. Yes, he might have rotated a bit too much. But.

Taking over at Saints is never an easy job. Another Summer of upheaval and with the added pressures of the Europa League group stages, Puel never really had the chance to settle in. He’s had injuries to his main striker, his best defender and let’s just call it ‘The Fonte situation’ thrust upon him and you know what? He’s done alright.

He took us to a cup final. We’re pushing for a top 10 league finish. Again. He’s used the Academy. As first seasons go, he shouldn’t be mis-judged on this one.

In the first real period with breaks where he has been able to experiment with the tactics and keep a settled side, we’ve been superb. Perhaps not as good defensively as we would like but with a makeshift central partnership it could have been a lot worse.

Chinese Investment?

If the media in the far East is to be believed Landers Sports have invested in the club. Who knows what to make of that?

Personally I prefer investment to takeovers. The Liebherr administration has been nothing but positive in my view, so there control is comfortable for me. If this investment means there is more money in the pot then great.

Any Other Business

I just wanted to send some love the way of our podcasters! For a long time Saints were starved of any podcasts. I had a go myself and I know how time consuming and difficult it is so I’m grateful to two that have come to the fore of late.

First of all there is the Southampton Dellivery run by Matt in California which I’ve enjoyed and will be a guest with soon and also the Saints FC Podcast who have had some fascinating interviews with ex players of late!

So that’s all from me again for a while! What a time to be a Saint!

Chris

Keep the faith.

Play at St. Mary’s alongside a Saints Legend!

Play at St Mary’s with Saints legends!

Matt Le Tissier, Jason Dodd, Francis Benali and Brett Ormerod will be lacing up their boots once again to take to the St Mary’s pitch for a one-off four team tournament, and you could be playing alongside them!

Play With A Legend, the events company which brings you closer to your footballing heroes, is running the event for the second year at St Mary’s. The organisation was co-founded by Perry Groves, best known for his time at Arsenal (and Saints too of course!), who wanted to give fans the chance to play on pitch with their favourite ex-players.

Check out how one amateur player got on at a similar event at Selhurt Park last year – think you can do better!?

The four team tournament will take place on 22nd May from 6pm, on the pitch at St. Mary’s where you can get either 45 or 90 minutes of action, plus your own personalised kit, enjoy post-match drinks with the legends and have your photo taken. Friends and family are invited to purchase audience tickets to cheer you on from the stands too.

Find out more and book here