Category Archives: Guest Posts

United Saints of America

A mixed Southampton squad of established first team players and fringe players from the youth setup jetted out to Maryland, Baltimore this past week for the club’s first ever pre-season trip to the US.

Tying in nicely with the launch of the club’s new kit, developed by Maryland based brand Under Armour, it has been no secret that Saints are looking to expand their boundaries.

It was a great opportunity for the Southampton fans across the Atlantic to get a rare access to the players, as Claude Puel run the rule over his squad for the first time. Saints ran out 2-0 winners over DC United u23’s, travelled the sites of Washington DC during their stay, but perhaps most importantly hosted an open training session for the supporters. Bill Adlin, was one of the fans in attendance and he gave us this feedback.

‘Oh when the Saints came marching in to the University of Maryland’s Ludwig Field on Thursday, July 14 the fans couldn’t have been happier.  The players seemed to have a great time as well!

 

During the preseason, Southampton FC travelled to Baltimore, Maryland both in order to train and to meet their new partners, Under Armour.  On Thursday the Saints travelled to the University of Maryland for a training session.  Fans were invited to watch the session and to meet and greet the players after.

 

Fans got to witness a variety of drills on a blazing hot 98 degree day.  Corner kicks, possession drills and free kicks were among the skills that were practised.  They even played a game that looked like keep away…with their hands.   The crowd said “ooooohhhhhh” when one Saint was gated during a spectacular move on goal.  We won’t name him here!

 

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Fans were treated to a free Under Armour drawstring bag, complete with Southampton logo emblazoned on it, a very generous gesture by Southampton and Under Armour.

 

 After practice Saints fans formed a line and all players and coaches signed autographs, shook hands and took pictures with them.  They couldn’t have been more gracious.  Virgil Van Dyk and Dusan Tadic were among the favourites as were newcomers Nathan Redmond and last season transfer Charlie Austin.  Even new coach Claude Puel got in on the action.  Kelvin Davis, recently retired goalkeeper and new addition to the coaching staff graciously emerged from the bus after practice to greet a fan that missed him the first time through.

It was a brilliant event.  Thanks for Southampton and Under Armour for making it happen.  Good luck this season!  We’ll be pulling for you from across the pond.’

Thanks to Bill for reporting back! Sounds like everyone had a great time!

Five players Saints should consider in January….

It’s always nice to have an outsider take a look at Saints, especially when things aren’t going as well as we’d like, so here is a guest post by 90 Digital on who Ronald might want to take a look at in January… N.B. This was written before Saturday’s defeat at Crystal Palace. – Chris

Southampton haven’t reached the heights of last year’s impressive campaign so far this season, and the recent 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa will have only exacerbated existing frustrations. Having previously stated that he didn’t plan to do any business in January, manager Ronald Koeman may need to reconsider his options if the Saints are to make an impression on the top six markets.

Here are five names that could potentially be arriving at St. Mary’s next month:

Charlie Austin

Queen’s Park Rangers’ Austin will be on many managers’ wish-lists this year, with Southampton reportedly leading the race to sign the forward. In a relegated-QPR side, Austin netted 18 goals in the Premier League last term, meaning that he’s highly regarded by several top-flight clubs as a top goal scorer.

Koeman’s hand may be forced into going in for the striker, especially if one of his prize assets, Graziano Pelle, is poached during the window. But the Southampton boss will be confident that a bid in the region of £10 million would be enough to secure Austin’s services for a Saints team that has struggled for goals in recent weeks.

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Andros Townsend

Things were looking very different for Townsend 12 months ago – he was a key member of Pochettino’s Tottenham side and his club form was rewarded in the form of England caps. But he’s been frustrated by a lack of playing time this season and he needs to leave White Hart Lane in order to resuscitate his international career, with Southampton a credible destination.

Koeman resisted going in for Townsend over the summer after Spurs put a £15 million valuation on the winger, but he’ll surely be available for less in January. Townsend is a direct runner and offers express pace, meaning that he’d certainly enhance Koeman’s offensive options, particularly if Manchester United target, Saido Mané, departs.

Giannelli Imbula

It would appear as if Koeman is preparing for the possible departure of Victor Wanyama in January, as Southampton have supposedly been monitoring midfielder Giannelli Imbula for a while. The 23-year-old only joined Porto in the summer, but is likely to be attracted by the bright lights of the Premier League.

The highly-rated Frenchman definitely wouldn’t be cheap, although after the sale of several big names in recent seasons, the South Coast club most probably have the cash available to them should they wish to pursue their man.

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Solly March

21-year-old Solomon March has played a key role in table-topping Brighton’s success in the Championship this season, which had subsequently made him a target for local rivals Southampton.

Koeman has apparently had March on his radar for the last 18 months or so, and the youngster’s excellent form over the first part of this season is likely to have convinced the manager of his quality. The England U-21 winger has a price tag of around £7.5 million, however, which Southampton may consider to be too much of a gamble.

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Sam Byram

Another Championship star under Koeman’s watch is Sam Byram of Leeds United who the Saints actually failed to sign last summer. The 22-year-old’s head has seemingly been turned by recent interest from a handful of Premier League clubs after rejecting the offer of a contract extension at Elland Road.

Consequently, Byram has been given an ultimatum by boss Steve Evans to decide where his future lies. Southampton will believe that they offer the best place for his development and will be further seduced by Byram’s current contract situation, which could see him being pinched for a fee in the region of £6-7 million.

We shouldn’t expect the Saints to be too busy this January – they sit in a comfortable position in the league and are not plagued by a lengthy injury list. Yet Koeman’s transfer policy may be dictated by incoming bids for his own players, although he may have a better chance of keeping his stars by adding a couple of marquee signings to the squad.

Guest Post: I Told You So

‘It’s always nice to give new bloggers a platform to start on, and we here at georgeweahscousin.com are always open to anyone who wants to have their say be it as a one off or a regular thing, so don’t hesitate to contact us. To that end we are pleased to give a debut to Josh Richards…. Enjoy!’ Chris

“ I told you so.”

A phrase I heard a lot when the final whistle sounded shortly after 14:30pm on Saturday 15th August. The outcry of emotions from a section of Southampton Fans was at the time, in my opinion completely justified.

Everton were a team that had finished four places and thirteen points below Saints in the previous season. They were a team that had laboured to a draw in their opening match against newly promoted Watford, and a team that had one new addition in their ranks, the much criticized; Tom Cleverley. Once you add in the fact that Everton have a miserable record on the South Coast then you can understand the confidence and the almost arrogance among Saint fans that we should be “beating” Everton at home.

However, football has the tendency to “tear up the script”. Everton came to the fortress St. Mary’s and produced a dominant away performance and came away with a deserved 3-0 victory.

What followed and what I saw after, especially on social media, mainly twitter was a real sense of anger from the fans directed at the club. Anger at not spending the money we have generated, anger at the signings we have made, anger for letting our best players go. I’m ashamed to admit it but I was one of those fans. In the aftermath of the Everton defeat I tweeted:

                  “ Break the bank to get Virgil in”

I was angry at how our rock solid defence had easily shipped 3 goals, I was angry at how Saints had been smashed at home. Like a large section of fans I had also been less than impressed by the new signings.

On the 12th of August I tweeted:

“ After all the class midfielders we have been linked with… sorry but i’m a bit negative”

This was in reference to Saints signing Oriol Romeu.

I was in complete agreement with many other fans, that our summer spending and our recruitment hadn’t altered the fact that our squad is no stronger than it was at the end of last season.

The focus of my anger was purely that I  perceived Saints to be going backwards. After making such a stellar start last season, I was frustrated at how things at Saints were looking now.

But seriously, How Naive was I being, and how desperate did I sound?

Six years ago, on August 18th 2009 Southampton FC had just lost 1-0 to Swindon at the County Ground, which made it a less than impressive start to life in League One. Yet here I am, with Saints on the cusp on reaching the group stages of the Europa League and as an established Premier League club and I am complaining.

Every Fan has the right to get annoyed at losing our best players and while we will always want to get one over on Liverpool and Spurs for the obvious reasons, they are simply bigger clubs than us. Toby Alderwerird is a prime example of this, he chose Spurs because they are a bigger club, and anyone thinking that Spurs are not a step up from Saints is frankly delusional. Our own incredible  success over the last 12 months has made us as fans believe that we should be going toe to toe with these clubs and here I think is where the problem lies.

The success over the last 6 years has heightened expectations, and fans want to immediate improvement. Our unbelievable season last time out has fans wanting instant rewards and to finish even higher again. However, lets not forget where we have come from and lets not forget that our business plan has got us this far.

I realised I had been acting much the  ‘fickle’ fan. How do I have the right to question Southampton FC? A club that with an astute business plan and model that has taken us from League One football in 2009 to flirting with the Champions League in 2015. How can  I question the club when it had £90 million worth of players ripped out of it last Summer and yet still managed to overcome the odds and finish in 7th.  The rise has been remarkable and the business model has been immaculate. Yes, i was getting annoyed at the other clubs making “big signings” Firstly Swansea signed Ayew, Palace picked up Cabaye and then Stoke brought in Shaqiri, but this is not in Southampton’s Business model and this is not how we do things. I had let my frustration and negativeness cloud my judgement over Southampton’s transfer policy.

How many clubs have over-invested in the last 8-10 years in search of the holy grail of Champions League football and failed? How many clubs have run out of money and had all their assets stripped?

How do you really think the fans feel down at the other end of the M27?

Did their business model work? I  seem to remember them chucking money at “big” players in a scatter gun approach to instant improvement.

Should Saints really abandon their principles just because of a bad start?

I, like any fan hate the fact we sell our best players, I also hate any game in which Southampton lose, I also getting frustrated when things aren’t going well, but these are knee jerk reactions, reactions because I care but ultimately born out of frustration than logic. I need to have an open mind and  put things into perspective.

Do I think the squad is stronger than last season? Do I think we have a better starting 11?

The answer to both is no, but the fact is that Southampton and more importantly Ronald Koeman has earned the right not to be questioned.

Southampton’s clever strategic method  has got us to where we are today. We have a well respected manager and a talented squad full of internationals. We should not be moaning, we should be embracing the fantastic challenge we have to face this season safe in the knowledge that Southampton Football club is well looked after.

Lets not forget where Southampton have came from and what we stand for. We should be flattered by the interest from the bigger clubs, it is a statement of how far we have come and it is testament of the great work that Southampton continue to do.

If memory serves me well, we saved the best two transfers of last season to the last day of the window.

I am really looking forward to the rest of the season for Southampton, and hopefully being able to say…

‘I told you so.’

Talking Saints: The Bloggers Take on The New Season

Amongst the many previews out on offer as we approach the (official) start of a new season, none bring together many as many of the voices of those who give up their time to talk about their club. I gathered together the Saints blogging fraternity to see what they expect from the new season.

Which new signing are you most excited about?

Me ‘Cedric has looked impressive in pre-season so far, and looks like he will offer even more going forward than Clyne did. We shall see if he can recreate that level of form in the Premier League.’

Glen de la Cour (from League One Minus Ten)  ‘Cedric Soares looks an exciting addition especially as it fits our ethos of selling big and replacing with better quality for less money.  The most important though is Jordy Clasie because of the boots he has to fill.’

Connor Armstrong (from All of the websites) ‘For me it’s probably Cédric, so far. It looks like he’ll give us great balance when Bertrand is back too, as well as another genuine attacking threat.’

Sam Dobson (from The Saints Hub) ‘Excited is probably the wrong word, but Cedric Soares looks the most impressive so far’

George Galpin (from St. Mary’s Musings) ‘I’m really excited about Jordy Clasie. Morgan Schneiderlin was a fantastic player for Saints, and will be remembered as an icon of the club’s recent rise. But people move on, and the Utd move is something that not many would be able to say no to.’

Ben Stanfield (from Teamtalk Fanzone) ‘Cedric Soares. I think he looks like a really bright young talent who, in glimpses against Vitesse, showed he will thrive in getting forward to create opportunities for Saints. He looks physically strong, is quick and seems to have an experienced head on young shoulders. The acid test, which hasn’t really been seen yet, is his defending – particularly against Premier League attackers..’

Ben (from Go Marching In) ‘Cédric Soares – Has looked very assured already despite only playing a few games in a Saints shirt. I like his positivity going forward and have a feeling he could bag a couple of goals in his first season.’

Ben McQuaide (from McQuaide’s Musings and SportsPulse) ‘Without a doubt, Jordy Clasie. I’ve wanted him at Southampton for quite a while now and after watching him a fair bit in the Eredivisie I’m convinced he’ll be a hit in the Premier League.’

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There’s not been this much pressure on a bloke called Cedric to perform since the Tri-Wizard tournament…

Which Saints player do you think will have the biggest impact (secure move to United/Liverpool/Spurs) on the Premier League this season?

Me ‘Sadio Mane. He is such an exciting player and already making a name for himself. Still only 23 I think he is destined for the top sooner rather than later.’

GdlC ‘Sadio Mane- he will hopefully be better equipped in his 2nd season to keep a high level of performance right through.’

CA ‘It’s going to be Sadio Mané. He’s gonna tear it up. Big Vic will keep being Big Vic too, so he’s another who will have a big impact. Let’s hope that Jay Rodriguez makes his mark too.’

SD ‘Sadio Mane. He will win us games single-handedly .’

GG ‘I really think this is Sadio Mané’s year. He’s settled into the team well, but it was noticeable how much physically he had grown and looks frighteningly quick. He could become a real superstar this season.’

BS ‘Sadio Mane. I’m really looking forward to seeing Sadio have a full season with Saints. He was one of the more consistent performers across last year and has already shown in pre-season that he is ready to go. I think he should, and will, be targeting 20 goals for Saints this season. He could well be the key to us winning a few close games.’

B ‘Sadio Mane – One the most fouled players in the Premier League last season. Feel that if he has another impressive season we’ll be fighting off some big offers for him next summer.’ 

BM ‘Sadio Mane, if he can maintain or better his form from the second half of last season for a whole season he’s gonna tear teams apart and I think he could score 15+ goals this season.’

The Mane man this season?
The Mane man this season?

How do you rate our transfer business out of 10?

Me ‘So far I would say it is a 7-8, add another centre half, and in my opinion an out and out striker and then it would be higher.’

GdlC ‘Hard to tell until they’ve adapted (or not)…. on the face of it, it looks like an 8 or 9 out of 10.  A top quality centre back in addition to Caulker will make it even better.’

CA ‘8/10’

SD ‘6 or 7. Difficult to argue that we won’t be worse off without Clyne and Schneiderlin, but the players that have replaced them aren’t THAT much worse, so we should still be competitive.’

GG ‘If Saints can get the CB to replace Alderweireld, 10 for me. The players who had left all had understandable reasons for going, but once again the transfer committee seem to have brought in the right replacements.’

BS ‘I’d say a 7. We seemed well prepared for any departures but, unlike last year, we didn’t need wholesale changes this summer anyway. If we can get a top-class CB in, like Van Dijk for example, then that 7 can become an 8/9 and I think we’re ready to go!’

B ‘8/10’

BM ‘Probably a 6, the replacements look pretty solid for those that departed but I think we may be slightly weaker than last season, starting XI wise. ‘

Ronald, who was it the fans tweeted you to sign?
Ronald, who was it the fans tweeted you to sign?

Morgan Schneiderlin. Impossible to truly replace?

Me ‘Not impossible but incredibly difficult. I hope the Wanyama/Clasie partnership hits the ground running, if it does then we are going to be fine.’

GdlC ‘Maybe hard to immediately replace but you have to give time for a player to grow into the role.  Once Clasie gets used to English football, he may well be that man.  He has roughly the same number of caps for Holland as Morgan has for France – all he doesn’t have is the English football experience.’

CA ‘Probably, but we’ve given it a very good go.’

SD ‘He will definitely be missed, but we’re still pretty strong in that area of the pitch. Victor Wanyama is one of the best midfielders around and if Jordy Clasie doesn’t cut it, Harrison Reed will be ready to step up.’

GG ‘In all honesty, he is not impossible to replace, because no one is for a club the size of Southampton. He was an incredible player, but like I said earlier; people move on. Le Tissier retired, Channon left, Nick Holmes, Terry Paine, Rickie Lambert.. They all stopped playing for Saints, but the club is still there.’

BS ‘No player is ever truly irreplaceable. Morgan was a class act, no doubt about that, but I really feel Wanyama can step up to the same level Morgan was playing at each week and become the star of our Midfield. I wish Morgan well but we will survive without him.’

B ‘I think so. The ability to win the ball back, control the game with his distribution and an engine to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. A lot of players only specialise in one of those areas but Morgan was capable of them all. In Jordy Clasie we have a player who can certainly tick a lot of those boxes, but I think he’ll need time to find his feet in the Premier League. But at 24 there’s plenty of time for him to become as integral to Southampton as Morgan was.

BM ‘Wouldn’t say irreplaceable, top class player but I think Clasie will replace him well.’

Jordy Clasie will have to soon master the balancing head jump with Big Victor...
Jordy Clasie will have to soon master the balancing head jump with Big Victor…

Who will win the Premier League?

Me ‘Chelsea, but not as easily as they did last season.’

GdlC ‘Vitesse Arnhem’s feeder club.’

CA ‘Chelsea. Manchester United will push them but the Blues have got the knack.’

SD ‘Man United.’

GG ‘In my opinion, it’ll take a lot to stop Utd if they can add another attacker. ‘

BS ‘If United ‘click’ then I think they could go close – which they should do after the ridiculous amounts of money they’ve spent over the last two years – but I think it’ll be Chelsea’s to lose again. They are generally the epitome of consistency.’

B ‘Arsenal.’

BM ‘Chelsea, again. Despite concerns over Diego Costa’s hamstring.’

I know it was you Fredo...
I know it was you Fredo…

Who will go down?

Me ‘Bournemouth, Sunderland & Norwich.’

GdlC ‘Tottenham, Liverpool and I don’t really care who else.’

CA ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Sunderland.’

SD ‘Aston Villa, Leicester and Bournemouth.’

GG ‘Bournemouth, Leicester and Norwich’

BS ‘Watford, Leicester and Norwich.’

B ‘Leicester, Norwich and Watford.’

BM ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Leicester.’

Both to tumble?
Both to tumble?

Who do you most want to beat this season?

Me ‘Whoever we get in the cup final.’

GdlC ‘Tottenham.’

CA ‘Liverpool. For obvious reasons. Chelsea and Tottenham are others, but only because I have mates who support them.’

SD ‘Tottenham, we must be due a win against them by now.’

GG ‘Everybody… ;-). For me, I’d like Saints to beat Tottenham, purely because they’re the only team in the top six clubs that I haven’t seen Saints claim all three points from since promotion.’

BS ‘Liverpool and Tottenham. Both for obvious reasons of course!’

B ‘Probably Liverpool. Tottenham was a close second but the scousers win because they have more ex Saints players in their team. It’s got a lot to do with showing that we’re not weaker without them.’

BM ‘Liverpool, without a doubt. You know the reasons. ‘

Shithouse haircut.
Shithouse haircut.

Chips. Mayonnaise or No Mayonnaise?

Me ‘No. Total Dutch nonsense I’m afraid. HP Sauce (now made in Holland) is your standard chip affair.’

GdlC ‘I am determined to try the mayonnaise option soon! Will get back to you.’

CA ‘Mayonnaise, and lots of it. ‘

SD ‘No Mayonnaise. Sorry Ronald.’

GG ‘I tried chips with mayonnaise in Rotterdam for the Feyenoord friendly, and can see why they love it there. But for me, salt, pepper and vinegar is a winner. So is Reggae Reggae sauce.’

BS ‘I’m afraid this is (probably) the only thing in life that Ronald and I don’t agree on. Chips for me can only ever have one condiment on them – tomato ketchup!! So no mayonnaise for me. Sorry Ron!’

B ‘Mayonnaise. Lots of it.’

BM ‘Mayonnaise, obviously.’

Grim.
Grim.

You wake up suddenly and find yourself in Fratton Park for a Pompey home game. How do you escape unnoticed?

Me ‘There is a scene in the US zombie drama ‘The Walking Dead’ where the heroes smother themselves in zombie blood and guts and then act brain-dead to blend in and walk freely amongst the zombies. Like that. But using fish guts.’

GdlC ‘Grow an extra finger on each hand, an extra toe on each foot and an eye in the middle of my forehead, sing ‘Amarillo’ and shout ‘I HATE FACKING SCUMMAHS’and then (most importantly) blame the owners for everything.  Now that I’m fully blended in… I can leave.’

CA ‘Fratton Park? Isn’t that where the big Tesco’s is now?’

SD ‘Reckon it’ll be pretty easy for me to navigate my way through rows of empty seats.’

GG ‘Stick on a thick coat, and casually walk towards the exit. If they say I can’t get back in, I’ll say I’ve left my car unlocked. Simple!’

BS ‘I’d turn to the only other guy in attendance and advise that I think I’ve left my car unlocked and will be right back….’

B ‘Scary thought. I would probably go for some sort of diversion tactic, saying loudly, “Isn’t that guy over there from HMRC?” and then walk briskly in the other direction.’

BM ‘I think you mean the Portsmouth Dockland Stadium (See below). ‘

When is this finished?
When is this finished?

Cheers to all those who took the time to answer questions. We’ll all meet back here in May and see how right (or wrong) we got it!

Keep the faith!

Justice for Jeff!

JUSTICE FOR JEFF ASTLE

Nine minutes into Saturday’s game a large banner will be unveiled in the Smethwick End (to the left of the Southampton supporters) reading ‘Justice for Jeff’ which starts a minute’s applause – nine being the famous shirt number our dad wore. The two big screens at The Hawthorns will also display a picture of Jeff with the words ‘If in doubt, sit them out’ which refers to the dangers of concussion in sport.

Southampton fans are more than welcome to join in with the applause if they choose, for which we would be very grateful for. If not, we would like to take this opportunity to make them aware of our campaign if they haven’t already seen it via the national media.

The Justice for Jeff banner has been at every West Bromwich Albion home and away game and will continue to be for the rest of this season. Hopefully by then, the promised research into the links between heading footballs and brain damage will be in its early stages and, just as importantly, the research into former players and instances of dementia will have commenced.

We would also like to respectfully ask that if you are aware of any other former players who may have died of, or are sadly living with Alzheimer’s or any other Degenerative Brain Disease please contact us by emailing dawnastle@justiceforjeff.co.uk – this information is vitally important to forthcoming research. Our dad was the first British footballer to have been confirmed to die from CTE but he wouldn’t of been the first and certainly won’t be the last.

You can keep up-to-date and learn more about our campaign by visiting our website justiceforjeff.co.uk or our Facebook and Twitterpages.

Yours Sincerely,

The Astle Family

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ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN

The ‘Justice for Jeff’ campaign is dedicated to our dad, Jeff Astle, the countless number of former football players who have died of degenerative brain disease (DBD), and former players and their families who are suffering from the consequences of DBD.

Jeff Astle died at the age of 59 on 19th January 2002. In November that year we attended the Coroners Court. A leading pathologist stood and described how badly damaged dad’s brain was. He found that there was considerable evidence of trauma to his brain that was similar to the brain of a boxer. He said the main candidate for the trauma was heading a heavy ball and it was the repeated trauma that appeared to be the problem. H.M Coroner, Andrew Haigh, ruled “Mr Astle’s type of dementia was entirely consistent with heading a ball and the occupational exposure has made at least a significant contribution to the disease which had caused his death”.

Verdict – INDUSTRIAL DISEASE

Following this landmark ruling the Football Association (FA) and Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) promised to conduct a ten-year joint study into DBD and the medical links associated with head trauma through heading footballs. Thirteen years on, this research has never been concluded or published.

After learning about the FA/PFA and their lack of, well, anything, we contacted a Consultant Neuropathologist based in Glasgow, called Dr. Willie Stewart. Dr. Stewart is one of the World’s Leading Experts in a disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). It’s not a new disease, it’s just got a new name. It’s “dementia pugilistica”, “punch drunk syndrome”, or “boxers brain”. The disease has actually been around for nigh on 100 years. CTE had been found in the brains of former NFL players. It is a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions or, as we now know, in dad’s case, low level repeated brain trauma.

Following his death, Dad’s brain was donated for brain research, it was something dad believed in. We gave Dr. Stewart permission to re-examine dad’s brain to look for evidence of CTE. Dad was originally diagnosed as having dementia/early onset Alzheimer’s. Could they have got it wrong? They had. Dad didn’t have Alzheimer’s. He was now the first ever British Professional Footballer to have died of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Dad died of repeated blows to the head, the type caused by heading a football… just as the Coroner had ruled over 12 years ago. The question is – how many others?

So what are our objectives?

On a personal level, acknowledgement from the game about what killed our dad.

Looking ahead – to create a legacy for past, current and future generations of footballers. We are establishing a charity in dad’s name, ‘The Jeff Astle Foundation’, with 3 principle aims…

  1. SUPPORT – for those in football and their families who have had similar experiences to us, or who are still living with dementia. Dad’s story has had renewed attention over the past 5 months. We have been contacted by families of former players with dementia all with need of support. While we have done what we can to support them, there is a need to put into place a more robust system.
  2. EDUCATION – head injury in sport and its associated immediate and long term risks is a major public health issue, but one for which there is little or no awareness in sport, education, health and allied agencies, never mind public awareness. We would like to see consistent, clear and robust information on aspects of all head injury management, including CTE, and see this information disseminated effectively.
  3. INDEPENDENT RESEARCH – this is a complex and fast moving field and one where there are international experts in research in brain injury positioned to lead. It might be argued that sports agencies, including the FA/ PFA have been guilty of trying to take on research in this highly complex issue, in this highly complex organ ‘in house’, and through their own sponsored research. Invariably, this has failed to deliver its stated aims, as in dad’s case, and /or generated accusations of bias. We support Independent Research.

We quite often get asked “what justice do you want”? Well justice is a powerful word, with many meanings and concepts. The administration of law, reward or penalty as deserved, impartiality, fairness, the quality of being right or correct, to name just a few. The concept of “Justice” in The Justice for Jeff Campaign is again, powerful yet simple. It’s fighting for what is right and fair and importantly, righting wrongs. And make no mistake there have been many wrongs or injustices following the death of our dad, and we make no apologies for doing whatever we can to fight for him, whenever we can, however we can.

We want acknowledgement of what happened to our dad so as to be able to make a difference for those, unlike dad, that it’s not too late for. Those already suffering as he did and those who are, or maybe, a ticking time bomb for the future. We want answers. We need to know. Football needs to know.

No amount of money or compensation can bring our dad back. It is NOT about that. Money may be the first language of modern football and its authorities, it’s not the be all and end all to everyone.

For too long this issue has been the silent scandal of sport, possibly thousands of former players and their families suffering grievously from damage caused by the game they loved.

As a footballer you can expect to get knocks, perhaps ligament damage and even trouble with arthritis later in life, you don’t expect to die of brain damage at 59.

Football should not, and must not, be allowed to shy away from confronting what is an uncomfortable and unsettling reality. The whole game should be united in wanting “Justice for Jeff”.

‘If we could leave you with one final thought it would be that our dad was an ordinary, working class man with an exceptional talent. He was a hero to many but more importantly he was a husband, a father and a grandfather.’

Who are the Premier League’s best ever penalty takers?

After the strangeness surrounding Leighton Baines not taking Everton’s penalty against West Brom on Monday night, our friends at Oulala.com decided to have a look at the the Premier League’s best ever penalty takers with some interesting result for Saints fans…. – Chris

Following ‘Mirallas-gate’ on Monday night we have taken a closer look to who the five best ever Premier League penalty takers are.

It’s no surprise that Kevin Mirallas failed to make the cut…

Of course it’s Saints own Matt Le Tissier that leads the way in terms of conversion-rate based on a minimum 10 spot-kicks taken.

Nicknamed ‘Le God’, Le Tissier found the back of the net with an incredible 25 of the 26 penalties he took during 10 seasons in the Premier League with the Saints. An outstanding 96.2% success-rate from the spot. Considered as one of the greatest ever from 12 yards his overall record is 47 goals from 48 penalties.

Danny Murphy enjoyed Premier League spells at Liverpool, Charlton, Tottenham and Fulham during his professional career converting 18 of his 19 EPL penalties at a more than modest rate of 94.7%, just enough to take second spot.

In third comes another ex-Saint, James Beattie. The striker spent much of his career in the Premier League which included time at four other clubs, Blackburn, Everton, Stoke City and Blackpool. With success from 16 of the 17 Premier League penalties he took gave him a conversion-rate of 94.1%.

Defender Julian Dicks spent the majority of his career at West Ham United, with a short stint at Liverpool, comes in fourth alongside the only current Premier League player in the top 5, Everton and England left-back Leighton Baines, both sharing the same record. The pair have converted 15 of the 16 penalties they have taken, a rate of 93.8%.

Of the chasing pack two current players have 100% records from the spot, however have taken less than 10 penalties. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has converted all 8 of the penalties that he has stepped up to in the Premier League while Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has converted all 7 of his spot-kicks.

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Note. Six out of Six for Rickie Lambert in a Premier League Saints shirt too! – Chris

GUEST POST: What would Fraser Forster bring to Southampton?

‘With lot’s of incoming transfer speculation surrounding Saints at the moment (and not a moment too soon) I thought it might be interesting to see what the rumoured new boy could bring to our squad. Thanks to Matthew Harris from Betfair for this guest contribution.’ – Chris

What would Fraser Forster bring to Southampton?

Reports emerging in the last few days suggest that Saints are ready to battle with Benfica for the signature of England goalkeeper Fraser Forster. The 26 year old has been with Celtic since 2010, signing permanently in 2012 after an initial loan period and he came to prominence last season after setting an SPL record for the longest period without conceding a goal.

Any full England international would be a welcome addition to the Southampton squad but does Ronald Koeman stand a chance of landing the player and what would he bring to St Mary’s?

A stable option?

Southampton are priced at 11/1 with Betfair for a top six finish at the end of 2014-15 but if we are to crash the European places, a consistent and injury free custodian is one of Koeman’s main priorities. Artur Boruc may be a controversial figure as far as other clubs are concerned but he quickly becomes a fans’ favourite with his respective employers. The main issue with the Pole is his appearances and a number 1 would preferably play more than 50 league games out of a possible 76 over two seasons.

Contrast that record with the clubs who finished just ahead of Southampton last season. Spurs, Everton and Manchester United all have reliable stoppers in Hugo Lloris, Tim Howard and David de Gea and their near ever-presence is a positive factor for each side.

No-one can guard against a freak injury but the first thing that Fraser Forster should bring to Southampton is a consistent option behind the back four.

Is Fraser Forster heading to St. Mary's?
Is Fraser Forster heading to St. Mary’s?

Quality

Forster’s record breaking exploits last season provide some remarkable statistics. The 26 year old claimed no less than 13 consecutive clean sheets and an incredible 1256 minutes without conceding before Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes finally found a way past him.

Naturally, any detractors will be quick to point out that the Scottish Premier League doesn’t contain quite the same threat that the English version will pose, should Forster make the switch. That may be a valid point but 13 clean sheets is an amazing achievement, no matter where the games are played.

So Fraser Forster would bring consistency and an improvement in technical ability to St Mary’s but what are Koeman’s chances of landing him?

The Contenders

Benfica are thought to have been monitoring Forster for at least a year now and have previously been warned by Celtic against tapping up their player. This summer, the Portuguese giants are expected to make it official with a £6m bid and there are obvious temptations in playing with such a prestigious club in a pleasant climate.

Southampton have at least two advantages here: Firstly, having made in excess of £60m in player sales already, the transfer fee should not be an issue. In fact, if it gets down to a bidding war, Koeman would, in theory, have money to work with.

The second factor may be the most crucial one however as Forster looks to build on his two England caps and potentially replace Joe Hart as Roy Hodgson’s first choice. In Portugal he would, in all probability, escape the manager’s radar but at St Mary’s he would be in front of Hodgson and his managerial team on a weekly basis.

Ironically, Artur Boruc praised Forster when he was named in England’s 2014 World Cup squad.

“I still watch Celtic games on TV so I saw him in the Champions League and I can see he is a good keeper. I’m not surprised he has been selected,” he said.

In a short space of time they could be joining up at St Mary’s and surely that would be good news for all Saints Fans?

Matthew Harris

Will The Saints Go Marching On?

Everyone loves a stat don’t they? I know I do, and that is why I was chuffed when the guys from kickoff.co.uk offered to put together a season preview for me using their expertise. So dear reader, settle back and prepare to be dazzled by the numbers and enjoy!

Will the Saints go marching on?

‘Second season syndrome’ is a phrase regularly bandied around at Premier League level, with the perception being that promoted clubs are more vulnerable to relegation after their opponents have had a year to get used to facing them.

Southampton find themselves in that position ahead of the new campaign, so I thought I’d take a look back at their 2012/13 season and highlight both what they did well and any areas in which I feel they can improve.

POSITIVES

The Saints finished 14th in the final table, yet they were the tenth highest scorers in the division with 49 goals from their 38 matches. Rickie Lambert was responsible for 15 of these strikes, benefitting from being the focal point at the top of their attacking formation.

Both Mauricio Pochettino and Nigel Adkins before him encouraged a positive brand of football, with this being reflected by the fact that Southampton found the net in 29 (76%) of their top-flight fixtures. This achievement is furnished with additional kudos when you consider that this represented the best record outside of the top-seven.

Furthermore, the men from the South Coast scored in all eight of their meetings with the eventual Champions League qualifiers:

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As the chart above also shows, home wins were achieved against two of the top-three, whilst only late brilliance from Robin van Persie handed Manchester United victory at St. Mary’s.

This shows that Southampton can mix it with the big boys, on their own patch at least, but they also managed to remain unbeaten against teams finishing in their quarter of the final table:

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Although six of these games ended all-square, it is certainly worth noting that only Fulham picked up more points (13) from meetings between members of this quintet.

The Saints were similarly strong in matches in which they opened the scoring, winning eight, drawing six and losing four of these encounters. When you consider that half of these defeats came against the eventual champions, then that record starts to look even better.

NEGATIVES

Draws were undoubtedly a problem, with only Everton and Stoke managing more than the 14 picked up by Southampton. Although the team shone offensively, there was a lack of support for Lambert in the scoring stakes; no other player contributed in excess of six league goals.

Another major issue would have to be the defensive frailty displayed by the South Coast outfit. Just seven clean sheets were kept in 38 games, with four of these coming against the six sides that finished below them in the table.

Winning at the top clubs is never easy, but five draws and eight defeats from 13 trips to those that finished above them hints at fundamental flaws in the Saints’ approach to away matches. Could this be the result of some kind of mental block or is it the end product of an overly-positive tactical approach on the road?

Whatever the reason, it is hard to offer up anything other than complacency as an excuse for Southampton losing at home to three of the bottom-four last season:

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Alarm bells also start to ring when we take a look at results from games in which the men from Hampshire conceded first. Eleven of these 17 fixtures ended in defeat, with the 4-1 hammering of Aston Villa representing the only success achieved on the back of going 1-0 down.

Perhaps the most damning statistic of all, however, is just how easy opponents found it to convert their chances against the Saints:

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As you can see, nearly one in five of the shots that Southampton allowed resulted in a goal being scored against them. Only relegated Wigan fared worse in this category, and that by the narrowest of margins, whilst Newcastle were the nearest club in the other direction.

TRANSFERS

The incomings at St. Mary’s this summer should certainly provide the supporters with plenty of encouragement. Croatian international centre-back Dejan Lovren arrives from Lyon, whilst Victor Wanyama has won rave reviews for his performances at Celtic.

Although I have only seen Lovren in action once, in the Europa League at White Hart Lane last season, he comes highly-rated and has already won close to 20 caps for his country.

Young Wanyama has been far more on my radar, however, producing a string of top-class performances both domestically and on the Champions League stage from his natural position in the middle of the park.

These additions, along with the continued development of Luke Shaw, should help to address some of the aforementioned defensive issues, though the squad as a whole is an extremely young one:

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This perfectly feasible starting XI, for example, would boast an average age of just 24 years and nine months come the start of the season.

One more signing in a forward area could be made with a view to easing the burden on Rickie Lambert, but I don’t actually believe this to be necessary. Jay Rodriguez started to blossom when given a run in the team, albeit not in his preferred position, whilst Emmanuel Mayuka is a real talent. I would be interested to hear what Southampton supporters have made of the Zambian in his fleeting cameos, because he has impressed me greatly on the international stage.

FUTURE

If the previous campaign is anything to go by, then a difficult start awaits:

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If we exclude home games with the newly-promoted duo of Crystal Palace and Hull, then it becomes apparent that the Saints failed to win any of the equivalent 11 fixtures during 2012/13.

I must admit that I have my doubts about Pochettino and his high-pressing style, but I have a lot of faith in the group of players that has been assembled at St. Mary’s. This is a squad capable of pushing for a place in the top-ten, but whether or not they achieve that is open to debate.’

Thanks to Charles and Rob from kickoff.co.uk for compiling this!

Chris