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……
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.
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?
— Rachel Baker (@Saintsmadmomma) September 9, 2017
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.
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’
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.’
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.’
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.
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…
Well it is the start of the school holidays so I'm glad he found someone who could take him.
— Lucy Highnett (@lucyhighnett) July 23, 2017
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!
Keep the faith.
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.
Yet again I find myself apologising for a lack of posts of late, but I am currently working on a very exciting Saints related project and that is occupying my spare time.
Anyway, of late it seems that there are somewhat of a split amongst Saints fans, and the use of certain buzz words to describe each faction is commonplace in the corner of the internet that is associated with the club.
You’ve all heard them, ‘happy clapper’, used to describe someone who looks to the positive aspects of everything and ‘bed wetter’ aimed at those whose Saints mug from the club shop is permanently half empty.
Personally, I like to think I am in the middle, and am willing to see both sides of the coin, the trappings of which mean I have had both titles aimed at me.
I’ve debated with plenty on twitter about whether the club is being run well or not and there are many who have a different point of view to mine. A lot of them are incapable of having that debate without resorting to personal insults or aggressive posturing. In James George though I find that although we often (pretty much always) have an opposing take on things happening at St. Mary’s we are able to discuss it like adults. That’s why I invited him to put his thoughts online, and to each of his points I will make a retort, hopefully leading to us covering most bases and giving alternative views.
Over to you James….
JG ‘There is no doubt that since Markus Liebherr saved Saints in 2009, we have all been on an amazing journey. With the ambitious Nicola Cortese at the helm the 5 year plan to get to the Premier League was achieved in just 3 seasons! Yes Cortese had his faults and also some random ideas. (Banning the press, getting rid of the red and white stripes and sacking Nigel Adkins being just a few.) but he was the driving force behind the scenes. My inside information tells me Cortese had no control over the club’s finances and the signings of Ramirez and Osvaldo were two of the least successful over the last few years, but you could never doubt his ambition and his determination to get the club to as high as it could possibly go.’
CR ‘This is where we no doubt agree, although I’m not sure Cortese was the only reason the club was succeeding. Astute managerial appointments and transfer window moves that would have been committee based decisions (let’s not forget this was Cortese’s first ever role in football).
JG ‘Cortese obviously wanted full control of the club and when Markus passed away and Katarina took over, she was no longer willing to let him run wild. Whilst she obviously wanted to continue her Father’s legacy she also wasn’t willing to let Cortese have an open cheque book. Cortese left but the structure he had built lived on and the club has somehow continued to improve every season.
CR ‘I think the clash came because the Liebherr family wanted the club to be sustainable and Cortese wanted to borrow to push the club has hard as he could to success. So many clubs have gone belly up because of trying to be too much too soon, personally I can see why there was an air of caution. Somehow? It isn’t a coincidence, continued progression is down to the meticulous nature behind the scenes.’
JG ‘Cortese was a stubborn man and would never be pushed around by anyone, least of all the players and agents. He sold Oxlade-Chamberlain but it was for a good fee and there was no way of keeping a player of his quality whilst we were still in the lower leagues. But there was no way he would of allowed the club to sell so many of it’s best players over the last 3 years.’
CR ‘Arguably he was pushed around by Chamberlain’s father, and in modern terms £12 million for AOC doesn’t come across as a fantastic deal on Saints part. It’s easy to say he wouldn’t have let players leave, but actually we didn’t see him really tested.’
JG ‘In 2014 Ralph Krueger was installed as Chairman. An Ice Hockey coach who thought football involved wearing a helmet and the quarter back was the main man. I still remember his big speech in May 2014 when we made big claims that we were not a selling club and we would not be selling our best players.’
CR ‘Pure conjecture on your part there James, with regards to Ralph Krueger’s opinions on football. Some might say that he was more qualified than Cortese, given that he was from a sporting background. I agree on the ‘selling club’ speech, it was unwise, Saints have always been so and it is difficult to escape it.’
JG ‘Pochettino who replaced Adkins in bizarre circumstances was an amazing appointment by Cortese and was obviously destined for the top of the game. The players obviously respected him and letting him go to Tottenham was obviously a bad move.’
CR ‘It was an amazing appointment, though none of us thought it at the time. I take exception to the statement that he was obviously destined for the top of the game. That sounds like hindsight talking. None of us knew who he was, and he was just off the back of almost getting Espanyol relegated!’
JG ‘Since then we have sold every single one of our best players.’
CR ‘This is nothing new where Saints are concerned. It happened long before the Liebherr administration was involved. With the exception of Le Tiss, anyone who has ever played for us that you would consider top quality has moved on to bigger clubs for more money. It seems more prevalent now because, due to the success of the Liebherr era and the work behind the scenes, we have a higher percentage of great players!’
JG ‘That summer Lallana, Lovren, Chambers, Lambert, Shaw and even the mighty Guly all left. Yes, we got decent money for them but it was selling all of these players that has set a precedent for years to come. Morgan Schneiderlin wanted out. He had seen all of his friends move on to bigger clubs for more wages and so why would he and others want to stay?’
CR ‘It’s always difficult to take a spate of top players leaving, I agree, but let’s be pragmatic. Of that list, which of them starts for Saints now? It doesn’t take long. Lallana. Finished. I’m not saying they aren’t good players, I’m saying that the club has done a good job of recruiting when it let’s players go (don’t mention centre halves though at the moment) and actually improving the squad.’
JG ‘Then Southampton made a genius appointment. Ronald Koeman! One of the greatest players ever to have played the game walks through the door. Half the team had been sold and we were tipped for relegation. There’s no doubt the club had a great scouting network and bought some real gems. Under Koeman the club managed to improve once more but once again big name players left that summer.’
CR ‘Let’s be clear on something here. Koeman didn’t walk through the door of his own accord. He was offered the job after a recruitment drive and spell of due diligence by Les Reed and the board. The same people that are vilified for letting people go, are the same people who make these great managerial appointments and sign these players in the first place.’
JG ‘Koeman once again worked his magic and even with a dreadful run through November and December we managed to get our highest ever Premier League finish, sixth, only 3 points from qualifying for the Champions League. Yet again though the board let an amazing manager leave and more of our top players go that Summer! You can start seeing a pattern here.’
CR ‘It’s a long warn out argument, but Koeman left because he thought he could hold the board to ransom. He did a fantastic job for us, but when it came down to it, in modern football money talks, and a man who had talked of the Dutch national team and Barcelona ended up going to Everton, a club who have a very similar glass ceiling to us.’
JG ‘It seems as if the club is now only being run so that we maintain out Premier League status and the value of the club goes up. Very much like Newcastle. We only buy players with player sales and the hundreds of millions earned from TV money seems to be going in the owners back pocket. We fall in love with a player and the next summer they leave. The club claims it doesn’t want to buy too many players so we don’t block a route to first team football for youth players, but its seems they just want to play youth players to sell them on for a bigger profit. It just doesn’t feel as if the owners want the club to win so the fans can enjoy success. They just want us to win so the players value go up and we can sell them for more profit.’
CR ‘Where to start with this! I don’t think we are anything like Newcastle. They have a huge fanbase and still get it so wrong in terms of Managerial appointments and player recruitment. In fact we are the anti-Newcastle, punching well above our weight, while they play the roll of the well supported journeyman who occasionally gets put on his arse! I’m not sure there is any evidence that the owners are pocketing any money, in fact I’m pretty sure (but prepared to be corrected) that the club owes them money based on the last accounts? I’m not sure if the club is playing moneyball or if we are just victims of our own success but yes it is frustrating to see the top players leave. It is always to clubs with bigger resources than us though, and until we can compete with them on the pitch and in terms of numbers through the turnstiles I’m not sure how this could ever change. Player power is paramount.
JG ‘We are just a stepping stone for players now. They aren’t coming to the club to win things. Players are coming to the club to get first team football and get a bigger move. We had a group of players and a scouting network which had the potential to challenge and possibly win the league. But that opportunity was lost and now any player who is half decent is going to want to leave.’
CR ‘I’m afraid we always were. This says more about the attitudes of the modern player than it does the club for me. If the potential to win the league was there why didn’t they all stay and try and achieve it? If we win on the 26th February there will be a delicious irony that Steven Davis will have won a trophy before pretty much all of those that have left in recent years.’
JG ‘I will always support my club and the journey from League One was the best years of football in my lifetime, but I’m not sure when I will allow myself to fall in love with a Saints player again. I just know they will only break my heart and leave. I personally feel new owners are a must. Owners with the ambition of Cortese could take this club to the next step. Yes, I know we were in League One and Le Tissier single handedly kept us in the Premier League for years, but even now we have the potential to be something greater. We have potentially the best centre half in the world, a great left back and few other decent players too. There are some very good youth players and we have proven we can sign top class talent. So lets not sell everyone again this summer. Lets keep what we have and invest in top talent.’
CR ‘Glad to hear it! My tip is don’t fall in love with any player, they are in the main money motivated individuals, even if we won the league they would still be interested in doubling their wages at Man City. With regards to new owners, the interest from China is certainly intriguing, but be careful what you wish for. In terms of foreign ownership we hit the jackpot with Markus Liebherr. There are plenty of fans protesting against the way their clubs are being run due to numerous balmy initiatives taken by their foreign owners.
JG ‘Why not aim for the sky and see where we finish, rather then just being happy with little old Saints.’
CR ‘Amen brother. The main difference between me and you is, I think this is what the club is doing and so far so good! See you at Wembley!’
At the end of the day, we are all Saints fans, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Has this season been as exciting as previous ones in league terms, perhaps not, but we do have a cup final coming up! There is too much emphasis on ‘progress’ for me. Personally I would rather finish 15th this season and win that final than lose it and finish 6th, but each to their own.
Thanks a lot to James for sparing the time to put his thoughts across.
Keep the faith.