Category Archives: Chris Rann

All posts written by Chris Rann

Super Ken: From The Premier League to the Printing Press..

Yesterday, former Saints centre half Ken Monkou set off on a new footballing journey as his new magazine ‘Football Life‘ was launched at Stamford Bridge.

The dutchman made 233 appearances for Southampton after joining from Chelsea in August 1992 for a fee of £750k. He proved a popular figure at the Dell, with his commanding performances at the back essential to several survival battles.

He stayed on the South Coast until the summer of 1999 when he moved to Huddersfield Town before retiring in 2002.

Since his playing days Ken has continued to be in and around football including coaching at Chelsea, managing young players, media work and organising friendly matches/tournaments for clubs including Feyenoord and Liverpool.

His latest venture though seems him enter the world of printed media.

Football Life‘  is a stylish, insightful magazine focusing on the untold, human stories surrounding the world of football. Containing candid interviews with the game’s leading players as well as various behind-the-scenes personalities, the magazine provides an exciting glimpse into the world’s most popular sport. From the humble kitman to world famous superstars, FL offers a unique voice within football. Intriguing and offering a new perspective, FL gives an in-depth appraisal of its subject matter whilst remaining true to its core values of honesty, and integrity. 

A concept that was started in Monkou’s native Netherlands by former Sheffield Wednesday and Celtic star Regi Blinker, the magazine aims to show the side to football that perhaps we the supporters don’t often see. It will feature guest editorial contributors from the world of football, including Saints legend and former teammate of Monkou, Matt Le Tissier.

georgeweahscousin.com caught up with Ken to ask him about all things Saints…

How did you find your time at Southampton?

KM: “It was a wonderful experience and I met some great people. I had very loyal support from the fans and the people at the club which I will never forget and still means a lot to me.”

What are your best memories of Saints?

KM: “Beating the ‘mighty’ Man Utd 4-2 and of course the famous win over Norwich 5-4 to keep us in the Premiership in a crazy and memorable game. I scored the winning goal from a Matt Le Tissier corner and it was one of the highlights of my time there. I also remember fondly playing under Alan Ball who was a truly inspirational and lovely man and ‘really one of us’.”

What do you make of our current Dutch centre back Jos Hooiveld?

KM:  “He has the physical and mental presence needed to deal with the life that is the Premier League and he will make a strong contribution to the Saints in their first season back.”

How do you think Saints will fair back in the Premier League?

KM:  “I think they will do themselves proud as they have done really well over the past two seasons and they have built the foundation to have a really successful run in the Premiership.”

How did you feel when you saw the betting scam revelations by ex Saints Claus Lundekvam this week?

KM: “I was shocked and surprised as I always rated him as a good player and that is all I can judge him on. The only time I remember Claus getting into trouble was when he had his regular one way conversation with the referees.”

The first issue of ‘Football Life” goes on sale this Thursday (18th July 2012) and is available from major magazine stockists. The first issue includes a feature on Matt Le Tissier and is a must read for Saints fans!

Chris

Happy St. Markus Day!

On the 8th July 2009, Saints were rescued by Markus Liebherr, we started the 2009/10 season at the foot of the League One table on -10 points. Just three years later we await our return to the Premier League this coming season.

Thank you Markus. R.I.P.

Happy St. Markus Day.

Chris

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buttner: Davis Signs For Saints…

…..headline courtesy of @Swanie_888

Amongst the talk of Vitesse Arnhem stating on their official site that they had agreed a fee with Saints for left sided player Alex Buttner yesterday, Saints did what they do best and waited until late in the evening and announced the signing of a completely different player!

With Glasgow Rangers in financial turmoil and facing an extremely uncertain future (their fellow SPL sides recently voted resoundingly against them staying in the top division), Saints became the latest English club to take advantage, securing the signing of Northern Ireland and Gers captain Steven Davis on a free transfer.

Davis has been linked with Saints for some weeks, but with the likes of Liverpool, Swansea and Fulham also interested it looked like we might miss out on the central midfielder, but last night Saints sealed the deal signing the international on a three year contract.

Steven Davis representing his country.

Davis started his career in the Premier League with Aston Villa, making 91 appearances for the Birmingham club, heading north of the border after a brief spell at Fulham. During his time at Ibrox, he won three Scottish titles, two Scottish cups, three Scottish league cups and played in the 2008 UEFA cup final defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg.

I caught up with Gers fan @CompareTitles for his opinion on the midfielder:-

“I am really disappointed to see Davis leave as he’s no doubt a massive Rangers fan who played whole-heartedly for our club. He is a box-to-box midfielder full of energy and never tires, he plays to the  final whistle and is involved in absolutely everything. I’m not just saying that at an SPL level, I have no doubt whatsoever that he will do the same in the English Premier League.

Not only is he dynamic going forward and opens up a lot of options in attack, he will be one of the rare forward minded players you’ll see helping out defensively. I can say as somebody who watches the Premier League on a regular basis that he’s every bit as good as the midfielders in the league.

I don’t need to say much more about Steven Davis because I can guarantee that he will become a very respected player at Southampton and is more than capable of being a top player in the Premier League, I personally wish him nothing but the best. He did a lot for Rangers in his time and he clearly loves the club. I hope he grows to be just as much of an important player at Southampton.

All the best lads!”

Davis was clearly impressed by his talks with the chairman and the manager at Saints, telling the Belfast telegraph that other clubs were interested, but he was impressed by the level of ambition shown by Southampton. “Now watch me soar at Saints”.

I for one am particularly pleased with this signing, and it represents a bargain as no fee was involved. Davis is exactly the type of midfielder we need to progress in the Premier League. Welcome to Saints Steven Davis.

Chris

Stripe A Light!

After much anticipation Saints revealed their new Premier League kits last night.

The home kit is a Red shirt with white pinstripes, red shorts and red socks. The away kit is exactly the same with the colours reversed. I love them. They are simple yet smart.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw some of the outrage aimed at the new uniforms. Comparisons to Cardiff, talk of our identity being ruined and words like “disgrace”. Wow.

It is actually none of those things.

We have, on the whole, played in Red with White stripes, and essentially that is what we have got. To compare it to Cardiff whose, entire home colour has been changed from blue to red is ludicrous. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naive enough to think that some Asian marketing thought might have gone into the design process, hence why Tadanari Lee has been used in the marketing gumph, but we are still going to lineup in a kit that matches our identity.

The New home shirt modelled by Chris from Soccer AM.

People seem to have forgotten that we have played in kits without stripes before.In fact the clubs first kit wasn’t striped at all, as reflected in the 125th anniversary kit in 2010/11.

Starting with the 1980/81 season Saints lined up without striped shirts for a period of seven years, starting with a kit of “thirds” (white middle, red outer) before changing to solid red with white shoulders in 85/86.

Thirds. Is this considered stripes?

Even when Saints went back to stripes in 87/88, only one half of the shirt was striped (pinstriped in fact like the new kit), the the other half was solid red.

Saints didn’t go back to “proper” stripes until 1989/90. It would stay that way until 1999/2000 when we reverted to “thirds” again, although it was the reverse to the previous stint. It was back to stripes in 2001/02 and it stayed that way until the recent 125th anniversary kit, though for a two year period between 1993-95 it was blotted by the abomination that was the Pony tick!

It strikes me that people accept the “thirds” style kits as stripes, at least I don’t remember there being outrage about them (there probably was), but not the pinstripes. Which I find odd. The thickness of the stripes is irrelevant isn’t it?

The problem with kit designers is, they’ve never played the game…

Essentially it doesn’t matter what the design is of the kit, what matters is how the team performs on the pitch. If Saints start the new season well, the lack or perceived lack of stripes will soon be forgotten. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on the kit of course, but please everyone calm down.

Our identity isn’t being stolen, it isn’t an outrage and it is no way comparable to the situation at Cardiff. It’s a football strip, and one we will only wear for a year.

Incidentally, of the major English trophies, you have to go back to 1991 for the last striped winner (Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup), the last striped FA Cup winners were Coventry City in 1987, and the last striped League champions were Sunderland in 1936!

Saints won the FA Cup in yellow and had their best league finish in “thirds”….

Chris

Football Blogging Awards: Shortlist Named…

Firstly, thanks to everyone who voted for this site, whether it was via Facebook or Twitter. The awards shortlists were announced last night, and I was chuffed to see georgeweahscousin.com in the four site group.

All eyes will  now be on the awards ceremony in Manchester on the 13th July, but it is fantastic to be named amongst three other great sites, and ahead of many others. Alongside us in the “Club Specific” category are:-

Famous CFC – A View from the Shed

Anything Palmeiras

We Are Brighton

I would just like to wish my fellow nominees all the best of luck, and although it is a cliche, that I am extremely happy to simply make the shortlist.

See you in Manchester….

Chris

Jos Hooiveld: Illustrated…

After the popularity of Jos Hooiveld’s ‘Square Head’ competition, in which supporters competed for a signed shirt by taking pictures of themselves in amusing locations with cardboard box heads, see the storify for clearer details, I began to wonder what Jos would actually look like as a Comic style Superhero with a box for a head…..

With the help of friend and fantastic illustrator/designer Tom Ayliffe that dream has come true……

Presenting……

Jos Hooiveld.

On Saturdays, he is just a regular (but awesome) central defender, but on midweek evenings he becomes…..

BOXHEAD. The scourge of East London, midweek cowboy, vowing to smash the back of floodlit nets everywhere!

Click the image for a larger version with no background.

Thanks to Tom for his amazing work! Check out his other illustrations at http://www.tomayliffe.com/

Chris

p.s. If you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past year, why not vote for us in the “Club Specific” category at the Football Blogging Awards? Either via Facebook here. Or, tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club

Permanent Fixtures?

Daunting. ‘Baptism of Fire’. Tough….

This was the hyperbole and conjecture that greeted Saints fans on reveal of this season’s coming Premier League fixtures. I looked at it a slighty different way.

Exciting. ‘Back where we belong’. Challenging….

After all, there is no easy games in the Premier League, you have to play every team twice, and our fate will be sealed based on our performances in those games the same as it is for everybody else. Admittedly, having to play last season’s top three in our first four games isn’t ideal, but this lends itself to a plethora of speculation. It may be the best time to play them. They are likely to have new players, and be tinkering with new systems for example. But, actually what it has meant is that, should, God (or whichever fictional deity you choose to worship) forbid, we are in a scrap at the business end of the season, our last seven fixtures (on paper at least) couldn’t be kinder.

But there is that saying again. On paper, and that is all these fixtures are at the moment, a list. Nothing more, nothing less. There are only two teams we can really base our predictions on, those that joined us from the Championship, Reading and West Ham, the rest we haven’t played for at least two seasons.

But what if we took our head to head record (based on the last two competitive fixtures) against the rest of the clubs in the Premier League as a start point. How would we fare in the coming season?

First up we travel to the City of Manchester Stadium to take on the reigning champions. It was January 2007, the last time we made this trip, Kenwyne Jones found the net for Saints, but Man City ran away 3-1 winners with goals from Darius Vassell, Joey Barton and Damarcus Beasley. The last time City visited St. Mary’s it would end goaless in the Premier League fixture of October 2004. Points – 1.

Saints will open their Premier League home campaign with the visit of Wigan Athletic. It was January 1986 when the clubs last met on the South Coast, and in fact is the only competitive fixture between the two in their history! Glenn Cockerill and a brace by David Armstrong saw Saints through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. Points – 4 (A draw  was allocated for the away game).

Manchester United will then make the trip to Southampton, despite a famous run of victories against the Red Devils, it will be 9 years and a day since we last beat them when we kick off on the 1st September. Our last meeting with Sir Alex and his men saw goals from Michael Owen and Javier Hernandez cancel out Richard Chaplow’s opener in the FA Cup 4th Round. Our last trip to Old Trafford ended in a 3-0 reverse at the hands of Scholes, Rooney and Ronaldo in December 2004. Points – 0.

An unlikely hero emerged on our last visit to Arsenal. Rory Delap got both goals in a two all draw, Henry and Van Persie on target for the Gunners! Peter Crouch scored at St. Mary’s in the same season to gain Saints a double of draws over the North London side. Points – 2.

Fans will want to forget the last time St. Mary’s hosted Aston Villa. Peter Crouch and Kevin Phillips gave Saints an early lead, only to lose 3-2. Carlton Cole, Nobby Solano and Steven Davis sealing the victory for Villa in April 2005. It was a 2-0 defeat at Villa Park, Carlton Cole and Darius Vassell getting the goals in an earlier game that season. Points – 0.

Everton were famed as a Saints “bogey team” for years, and in that same fateful final Premier League season, they were just as tight. A Leon Osman goal at the death decided matters at Goodison Park, while Saints managed a point at St. Mary’s with goals from Peter Crouch and Henri Camara cancelling out James “I definitely won’t celebrate” Beattie and Marcus Bent. Points – 1.

It was a goalfest the last time Saints hosted Fulham, a brace from Kevin Phillips and an own goal for the hosts, Radzinski, Malbranque and Bouba Diop for the visitors. The reverse fixture that season saw a victory for the cottagers through a solitary Tomas Radzinski strike. Points – 1.

Chaplow and co celebrate the opener v Man Utd.

West Ham are of course more recent opponents, Jos Hooiveld the scourge of East London, scoring the winner at St. Mary’s and then the equaliser at Upton Park last season. Points – 4.

After the trip to West Ham, Saints play host to their North London neighbours, the now Redknapp-less (shame) Spurs lost on their last visit, Nigel Quashie with the only goal of the game. It was a different story at White Hart Lane though, Saints put to the sword, losing 5-1. Jermain Defoe kept the match ball, Kanoute and Keane getting the other two, Peter Crouch got the consolation. Points – 3.

A trip to the Midlands follows, as Saints go to the Hawthorns. Saints last played WBA in the 2007/08 Championship season. Despite Albion going up as Champions that season and Saints needing last day heroics to stay up, it was the South Coast side that got the better of their two fixtures. Adam Lallana scored in the away leg in a 1-1 draw, while a double from Stern John and a Marek Saganowski strike secured all three points at home. Points – 4.

Swansea City will come to St. Mary’s in November, Saganowski earned Saints a point the last time this fixture happened in the 2008/09 Championship relegation season. The reverse game saw an easy run out for the Swans, Pratley, Gomez and Butler getting the goals in a 3-0 defeat for Saints. Points – 1.

In that same season, Saints suffered a heavy defeat at next opponents QPR. Ex-Saint Dexter Blackstock got a couple, Stewart and Ageymang also netted, Adam Lallana got Saints only reply. Later in the campaign, the two clubs played out a 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s. Points – 1.

Saints haven’t faced Newcastle United in a league game since 2004, going down 1-2 at home to goals from Alan Shearer and Titus Bramble, Peter Crouch almost inevitably being the Saints goalscorer in that season. The last time Saints visited St. James’ Park though is more recent. Keiron Dyer got the only goal in February 2006 in the FA Cup 5th round. Points – 0.

Jos Hooiveld heads Saints to three points.

Saints and Norwich City both left the Premier League in the same season, so barring the past two seasons have been regular opponents. It was in the Johnstones Paint Trophy that the Canaries last came to St. Mary’s, A last minute Papa Waigo equaliser took the game to a penalty shootout which Saints won, subsequently lifting the trophy. A Lee Barnard brace saw Saints take all three points at Carrow Road that same season. Points – 6 (I know, I know, technically the JPT game was a draw after 90 minutes, but it’s my game and my rules).

A trip to Anfield beckons in December, just as it did in our last Premier League season. Florent Sinama-Pongolle scored the only goal of the game that time. Saints got their revenge over Liverpool at St. Mary’s just a month later, David Prutton and Peter Crouch ensuring a 2-0 victory. Points – 3.

In a reverse of last season, Saints will host Reading first. In the game that effectively conceded the title to their Berkshire rivals in April, Saints went down 3-1, Rickie Lambert on the scoresheet, but outdone by Jason Roberts and Adam Le Fondre. It was  a 1-1 draw at the Madjeski, Steve de Ridder cancelling out Mikele Leigertwood’s opener. Points – 1.

The last time Saints went to Stamford Bridge, James Beattie scored at both ends, Frank Lampard sealing the points for Chelsea. Lampard scored again at St. Mary’s which coupled with an Eidur Gudjohnsen double meant Kevin Phillips’ goal was just a consolation. Points – 0.

Saints last faced Sunderland in the 2006/07 Championship season, going down 2-1 at home, after Gareth Bale had grabbed a last minute equaliser at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season. Points – 1.

The last club Saints will renew acquaintances with will be Stoke City. Tony Pulis and his merry band of ex-Southampton players will welcome Saints in the last game of 2012, and it was a 3-2 victory for the Potters in their last potteries encounter. It was an exact reverse of the scoreline in the same season at St. Mary’s, Drew Surman, Gregorz Rasiak and Jhon Viafara got the goals for Saints, Parkin and Fuller for Stoke. Points – 3.

Saints on the up.

So, if we can match those results, we will end on 36 points. Sounds bad doesn’t it? But, take into account that the majority of the games come from a terrible Premier League relegation campaign and consecutive horrific Championship seasons, it is surprisingly good.

Also, it is worth noting that 36 points would mean safety in six of the last ten Premier League seasons, though not the last two.

Of course, none of these teams look anything like the last time we played them, and neither do we. So this is all just speculation and conjecture. Of course it is, back where we started then….

You can see the full fixture list at the Saints Official Website here.

Chris

p.s. If you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past year, why not vote for us in the “Club Specific” category at the Football Blogging Awards? Either via Facebook here. Or, tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club

Saints Get Their Man: Jay Rodriguez

For me, as someone who was never his biggest fan, having Rory Delap as our record signing felt like a monkey on our back. How could we ever be taken seriously with a player of Delap’s quality holding such a prestigious title?

Finally, on Sunday that record was broken. In what was seemingly a long drawn out process, and after much journalist/supporter speculation Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez signed for the club for a fee believed to be in the region of £6-7 millon. Whether or not the club intended to announce it on that day is questionable, but after an eagle eyed hotel guest/member of staff took the snap below, the cat was out of the bag!

Transfer Window

Nigel Adkins has clearly been a long time admirer of “JRod” with the club being continuously linked with the England U21 international, and both staff and supporters alike will be glad to have got their man.

Having scored 15 goals in the Championship last season, 21 in all competitions, the 22 year old proved to be hot property last season, with the likes of Everton, Sunderland and Fulham also believed to be interested.

Immediately, to me it looks like we have bought a player who would be ideal playing off Rickie Lambert, and certainly one who has bags of potential. Many have scoffed at the nature of the transfer fee, but effectively we have gone to Turf Moor and taken their Adam Lallana. How much would you want for him?

To know what we can really expect I sought out those who know him best, and got the opinions of Jamie Smith of Burnley blog NoNayNever and Tony Scholes, editor of Clarets Mad.

Losing Jay

Jamie – “Burnley fans have known for at least a year that Jay Rodriguez would be a Premier League player. I think it’s fair to say – with no disrespect intended to Southampton – that many of us hoped he would get a move to an established side in the top division, but at least a move to the south coast means he’ll have his mate Jack Cork around and the chances are he’ll start most games.”

Tony –“I’m sorry to see Jay Rod go because we are, without doubt, losing our key player. But Southampton are now in the Premier League and Jay needs to go and play there to take his career onto the next step. I watched him come through the youth team via the reserves to the first team and even in our promotion season of 2008/09 he scored some vital and some stunning goals coming on as a substitute.”

Value for Money

Jamie – “A lot has been made of the fee Southampton have paid for Jay and from an outsider’s point of view, this is understandable. £6-7m is a lot of money. But there aren’t many young English strikers out there as good as Jay. I firmly believe it will look like a bargain in a couple of years.”

Tony – “You are getting a player who, in my view, will prove to be very good value for the money you’ve paid, I believe it to be £7 million. He’s a young player who has just got better and better since getting a place in the first team in September 2010.

I don’t think you’ve paid too much for him. It might seem that way right now with him having such little experience but more than one Championship manager last season described him as the best forward in the division.”

Rodriguez at Turf Moor.

Type of Player

Jamie – “It’s hard to describe exactly what sort of player he is. When he first came through into the squad he was seen as a bit of a specialist finisher, coming on to score the winner a few times in our Carling Cup run helped. But he had a bad injury at the start of our season in the Premier League and barely got a look in.

His appearances/goals ratio isn’t really fair to judge him on as he played a lot from the bench in his early days. But the last two seasons saw him secure a place in the side. Brian Laws put his faith in him and Jay repaid him well and last season he was even better, breaking 20 goals for the first time, even though he didn’t play after mid-March because of injury. His goal record in the last two years in the Championship is as good as anyone’s.

Jay can score all sorts of goals. He’s not afraid to have a pop from distance, but he’s far from the sort of player who just shoots whenever the ball comes. He’s intelligent and confident enough to play with his head up – and that’s rare. He’ll drop deep and link the play, his touch is excellent. He’ll run the channels, look to go in behind, get on the end of flick-ons. He’s not great with his back to goal against a big, strong defender, but should provide a good foil for Rickie Lambert. He’s very good in the air for his size, despite not looking like the sort of striker who’ll score headers.”

Tony – “In looking at his strengths and weaknesses I think it is fair to say he has a lot of attributes. He’s a player who doesn’t necessarily do all his work inside the penalty box although he definitely has an ability to get more than his fair share of goals. He scores different kinds of goals too. He’ll get the close range centre forward type goals, he’ll score with headers, he’s a clinical penalty taker (one spot kick apart) and has the ability to hit shots from distance. He’ll say he’s a central striker but I think he offers most when playing that bit deeper enabling him to pick up balls from deep and make runs. He’s strong, and getting stronger, he’s quick although we are not talking Theo Walcott type pace here.”

Future

Jamie – “It’s anyone’s guess how Jay will adapt to the top league and his first few games will shape that to some extent. If he gets off to a flier like Shane Long did last season, he could be in the England squad by Christmas. A slow start will test him. He is a player of huge, vast potential, but the fear for Burnley fans is that he doesn’t get enough service to impress and Southampton come straight back down. I’m sure the Saints survival next year is worth a few quid for us.

The recent transfers of Danny Fox and to a lesser extent Jack Cork haven’t endeared Southampton to Burnley fans, but we’ll certainly be looking out for you on Match of the Day next season to see how Jay gets on.”

Tony – “I personally think he can go all the way and play for England, although we’ll need to be quick because he does qualify for Spain through his dad. He’s English through and through though, a local lad who has lived his entire life to date in Burnley. During his time in the first team he’s become hugely popular with the Turf Moor crowd and there is no doubt he’ll be missed. Because he’s so highly thought of the reaction has been, in the main, one of wishing him the very best of luck. Nothing would please us more than to see Jay Rod become a top Premier League player and pull on an England shirt. You might just have got yourselves a bargain.”

More can be found from Jamie at:- http://nonaynever.net/9709/one-of-our-own-jay-rodriguez/ and Tony:- http://www.clarets-mad.co.uk/feat/edb4/jay_rod__hes_still_one_of_our_own_746850/index.shtml, both worth a read to see how Jay became a terrace favourite at Turf Moor. Thanks to Jamie and Tony for their thoughts.

It is great to see the confidence in him from the fans of his former club, and my reference to Lallana at the start of this article was no coincidence, he is “one of their own” and they are rightly proud of him and confident in his abilities, like we are with Adam. I for one am delighted with this signing.

Welcome to Southampton Jay Rodriguez.

Saint Jay.

Chris

p.s. If you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past year, why not vote for us in the “Club Specific” category at the Football Blogging Awards? Either via Facebook here. Or, tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club

Where do Saints need to strengthen for the Premier League?

I decided to ask the question on twitter as to which positions Saints needed to strenghten for the coming Premier League season….

I used Storify to compile the answers:-

Click on the image to read the rest of the responses!

Chris

p.s. If you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past year, why not vote for us in the “Club Specific” category at the Football Blogging Awards? Either via Facebook here. Or, tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club

Steel City Islander: Lewis Buxton

In a rare break from the Saints related subject matter, I was delighted to catch up with newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday star Lewis Buxton. I am lucky enough to have known Lewis and his family for many years and have watched his career with interest.

Having learnt his trade on the Isle of Wight, a place where not many young kids make the grade Lewis is now enjoying a fruitful career with one of the countries biggest clubs in Sheffield Wednesday. Sealing promotion to the Championship under new boss Dave Jones, Lewis is looking forward to another spell at the higher level, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the Islander….

As one of the few pros to come out of the game on the Island, do you feel that it is a disadvantage for kids here?

LB  “It’s a disadvantage, everyones knows that the Island has a low population so competition isn’t as intense as the big cities. To get the best out of anyone in sport you need to be competing against the best opposition, every week from an early age, the last thing you want is a team winning 14-0 for most of the season. I don’t know what the kids leagues are like now but if they don’t already then it would give the kids a better chance with a structure that has all the current sides feeding one team playing in the Southampton league and one in the Portsmouth league which take all the best players from the existing teams. Kids develop at different rates so some would be dropped out of the teams playing in the mainland leagues and others promoted to them. This would progress the talented kids quicker and give them the best chance to get scouted for professional clubs at a young age. They would then receive the top quality coaching which they need to move onto the next level .

There was however a very good bunch of players in my age group in the Island league at the top 3 or 4 teams. We also played regularly in tournaments against mainland sides at school level, and for East Cowes from an early age we played in the national indoor final at Aston Villa. We won a Hampshire tournament at the Dell, and played at Fratton Park in a similar tournament. We were one game away from Wembley in another. We were entered into these school tournament’s by a very good P.E teacher Mr. McArther so he gave us the opportunity to progress against top opposition as young players.

The stretch of water does make even the the most dedicated kids doubt if it’s all worth it. Travelling over the water from the age of 14 three times a week leaving home at half 4 and getting in 6 hours later for an hour/hour and a half of training straight after school is not much fun. I personally did not enjoy the travelling and the waiting around for hours and contemplated giving up on numerous occasions. You go from playing in your local team with all your best mates and really enjoying it, to joining a new team that all know each other because they play in the top 2 or 3 local sides in Pompey. That is difficult as a young kid and my football struggled at this stage but again I was lucky we had a strong group from the Island that would go over to play for Portsmouth schoolboys together. On top of that, Portsmouth didn’t pay for your travel and the majority of the time you were not getting picked up as the coaches had to train the younger age groups before our age group. It was a joint taxi or the bus, and If the lads you travelled with were ill it would mean getting the bus on your own.”

How did you get involved with Pompey?

LB “I got scouted by Roger North playing for the school. He invited me and my best mate Adam Howarth to train at his soccer school in Sandown where we progressed to his side at Portsmouth’s centre of Excellence. Without the work of Roger, Andrew and Shaun North I wouldn’t have become a professional footballer.”

Lewis at Pompey.

How big was the skill gap between playing in the Island youth teams and then being amongst the young lads at a pro club?

LB “There was a slight gap but we had a good bunch of players on the Island at that age. The best players on the Island at that time competed with Portsmouth’s best but there were just a lot of good players at Pompey.”

Having been a regular at Fratton Park, you found yourself loaned out to Exeter and Bournemouth once Harry Redknapp came in? Do you think this enhanced your career or held you back?

LB “It held me back, I had played 30 games for Pompey in the Championship, and before one game Ted Buxton (not my uncle, as I’ve been told he must have been when telling this story) told me he was trying to get me into the England youth set up and was feeling I could do anything, then I was being farmed out to Exeter a team near the bottom of the football league and low on confidence.

Bournemouth was a good grounding for me though and I had a lot to thank then manager Sean O’Driscoll for. It gave me a good platform for my career in a strong passing side. It was a great club with great staff. Portsmouth had moved on too quickly for me and Harry had turned a struggling Championship side into a Premiership side in no time. Playing in a reserve team and not training with the first team for long periods I lost my way and my focus, I lacked guidance and developed a bad attitude because I felt hard done by.”

After a decent spell with Stoke City, you now find yourself settled with Sheffield Wednesday. It must be brilliant to play for such a big club?

LB “Sheffield Wednesday is a massive club and after a bit of a struggle initially, I worked extremely hard and I’ve played well this season. We came with a strong late run to beat our local rivals to the 2nd spot. We beat them in the derby at Hillsborough in front of around 35,000, the atmosphere was electric, for players playing in the third tier of English football it’s unbelievable and all the players should be proud to play in such a game that means the world to both sets of supporters. In the last game of this season we beat Wycombe in front of nearly 40,000 fans, it was a great feeling but the club belongs in the next league up and in the next few years I hope we’ll get there.”

Buxton & Wednesday. Championship Bound.

Who influenced your career in Island Football?

LB “I would say initially my mum and dad and the friends in East Cowes who I hung around with. Mike Parkman who gave up a lot of his time to manage our East Cowes side which was no easy task. Then obviously Roger, Sean and Andrew North for bringing me through at Portsmouth. As a kid I knew Lee Bradbury had become a pro footballer and so had Gary Rowett. Our PE teacher Mr. Reynolds would always go on about them and how Gary had won the Hampshire Cup (we made it to the final and lostl). They both went to my school so although I didn’t know them I knew it was possible to make it.”

You played for a successful East Cowes youth side. Did you expect others from that team to make it?

LB “We had a very talented group of players who were all good friends at East Cowes, we then brought in better players from Sandown such as Sam Dye and Micky Sherry who had the talent, but again were at a disadvantage being from the Island. The main one though would be one of my best mates, Adam Howarth, we were both from East Cowes and in the Isle of Wight schools sides, Hampshire and Portsmouth kids sides together, always battling to be better than each other so he could have made it given a chance at YTS level. Shaun Cooper another of my best mates who plays for Bournemouth was in the same Pompey kids team as us and was another we played against at school.”

You’ve played under a few different managers, who have you enjoyed playing for the most?

LB “I enjoyed playing for Graham Rix, as a 17 year old, he and my youth team coach Mark O’Connor gave me great confidence, I was gutted when he got sacked.

What advice would you give a young Island footballer with hopes of going pro?

LB “I would say:-

1. Move to Southampton or Portsmouth, the Island is a nice and safe place to live but if you want to be a professional footballer you are up against it. If you can’t move I would say the kids that are the best at a young age need to play for the year above to begin with. This is something Shaun Cooper and I did.

2. Work as hard as possible, if someone says your not good enough then work harder. One of the lads at Wednesday (Jose Semedo) was in the same year of the Sporting Lisbon Academy as Ronaldo and is good friends with him still. He said that the hardest working player he ever played with was Ronaldo, it is no coincidence he is the best. Well second best behind the greatest of all time (Messi). I was told the same thing about Ronaldo by the former fitness coach of Manchester United too.

3. Start sprint training early you can make it with less quality if your faster than everyone else.

4. Watch the best players in the world as much as possible.

5. Learn to be comfortable using every part of your body to control and manipulate the ball.”

Thanks to Lewis for his time.

Chris

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