Back in 2011, prior to Saints return to the top flight I was asked by Shoot magazine to compile my ‘Premier League Dream Team’.
I thought it would be good to look back at it now, 5 years later and with some impressive Premier League campaigns under our belt to see where I might now change that team.
Goalkeeper (2011) – Antti Niemi
Goalkeeper (2016) – No change. The flying Finn was and still is the best keeper I’ve ever seen in a Saints shirt.
Left Back (2011) – Wayne Bridge
Left Back (2016) – No change. I was a big fan of Bridge, and though I think Luke Shaw might have stolen this had he stayed a bit longer and Ryan Bertrand is consistently immaculate, Bridge still gets the nod. Just.
Right Back (2011) – Jason Dodd
Right Back (2016) – Nathaniel Clyne. It’s not easy to drop Dodd who was such a fantastic servant to the club but Clyne’s performances in a Saints shirt were superb.
Centre Half (2011) – Dean Richards R.I.P.
Centre Half (2016) – Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman will go on to be know as one of Saints most impressive and important signings of all time in my opinion. Oozes class and is almost unbeatable in the air.
Centre Half (2011) – Michael Svensson
Centre Half (2016) – Jose Fonte. Another difficult decision but Fonte’s impact in the Premier League as the constant amongst several partners and the defensive performances that have stemmed from them have to be rewarded.
Central Midfield (2011) – Chris Marsden
Central Midfield (2016) – Morgan Schneiderlin. An all round brilliant midfielder and arguably is yet to be replaced (though PEH looks a decent bet).
Left Midfield (2011) – Hassan Kachloul
Left Midifeld (2016) – Adam Lallana. The homegrown Lallana may have left a sour taste in the mouths of many when he left, but his performances for Saints were a joy to watch.
Right Midfield (2011) – Ronnie Ekelund
Right Midfield (2016) – No change. Ekelund was at the club for such a short space of time that I feel sorry for those fans who didn’t get to see how good he was.
Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2011) – Matthew Le Tissier
Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2016) – No change. Pretty sure I don’t have to justify this one.
Striker (2011) – Marian Pahars
Striker (2016) – No change. I can’t drop the little Latvian, I simply can’t. He provided too much joy to my younger Dell going self.
Striker (2011) – James Beattie
Striker (2016) – Rickie Lambert. Very difficult to remove Beattie, but Lambert was much more than a brilliant striker, he was a superb footballer and a talisman too.
We love a Moroccan on the South Coast, so it was with some excitement that the news Saints were close to sealing the signing of Sofiane Boufal from Lille was met.
Boufal is some talent, and was linked with moves to Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Barcelona this Summer!
A Moroccan playmaker is just what we need, and the news took me back to watching Hassan Kachloul in a Saints shirt. Kachloul was one of my favourite players (in fact he made it into my Saints Premier League Dream Team) and in my opinion was vastly underrated by other fans. A maverick certainly, and hideous dress sense (leather trousers on Soccer AM and strange suede jacket on Cowes High Street while enjoying the international sailing regatta with countryman Mustapha Hadji), Kachloul was a creative player who could turn a game and made a huge contribution to the Saints team that finished 8th in the Premier League in 1999.
Kachloul wasn’t our only previous Moroccan though, Youssef Safri did an admirable job as a defensive midfielder in the Championship survival season that went to the wire in 2008….
…and who could forget centre half Tahar El Khalej (affectionately known as El Carnage by some fans), the man who kept Keiron Dyer (no loss) out of the 2002 world cup after a horror tackle on the final day of that Premier League Season.
We will all be hoping that Boufal has more of a Kachloul level of impact than a Tahar, and the signs are all there that he will surpass that of all his compatriots.
Last Saturday Saints played out an uninspiring draw at home to Watford in what for many was an Anti-Climax to the exciting build up to the start of the season.
Despite a much improved second half it is fair to say that most were left a little deflated by the result and performance against Watford. In many cases feelings ran a little high. In fact, I was staggered to see the level of reaction by many, which frankly resembled a particularly spoiled hysterical child who hadn’t got their own way.
One game into the season and the new manager, the new players, the tactics, the board and anything else related to the club was written off as not good enough. This was less knee jerk, more collective full body spasm. It was ugly.
I watched the game as usual with the Dubai Saints, who I have to say, on the whole are as level headed as you will find [a few years around the block will do that for you eh fellas ;-)]. But even we found ourselves getting into a fairly heated ‘discussion’ about the level of player investment and ‘ambition’ at the club. I’ve grown to hate that word in all honesty. What exactly is ambition? Some would argue finishing in an automatic qualification place for Europe is as ambitious as Saints can realistically get, others would say that the sky is the limit. There is no rules as to what determines ‘ambition’ and only the people in the boardroom will know what they see as a realistic achievement.
The centre of our well oiled debate in the ‘Francis Benali Stand’ of the Barasti Beach Bar was whether the club should stick with bringing kids through or spend big to improve the squad now.
It got me wondering what it really is Saints fans want?
I’m yet to meet one who doesn’t take pride in the Academy at the club. When one of our ‘own’ turns out for England it gives us all a lift, and over the years we’ve all loved watching young players make their first team debut and go on to be stars in their own right. It’s something that sets us apart from other clubs. We know it and they know it. Parents are now trying to get their kids into Staplewood and not Carrington (Manchester United) and our facilities and coaching methods have become the blueprint for many of Europe’s top clubs. Ex-Southampton Academy graduates scoring 60% of the 7 goals in a much overhyped game between Arsenal and Liverpool at the weekend is the advertising that keeps the wheel turning!
We love this about our club. We love the fabled ‘pathway’. But at what cost?
Everybody likes to see their club sign players. These days it’s an obsession amongst fans, to the point where they aren’t even really bothered who it is, as long as there is a new face holding up their shirt. It’s all a little camp and kitsch, with the latest monstrosity coming from Manchester United when they announced Paul Pogba. With every passing season football becomes more like the X Factor, classless and lacking in any real substance whatsoever. This is heightened of course by massive fees, transfer deadline day and the hype that surrounds it. Has anyone in history not looked a dick in a yellow tie?
But still, we all like a new player through the door, and this Summer (and most Summers), Saints fans would have liked a few more. With exits in key positions again, most have been frustrated that like for like replacements have not been brought in.
But where do you draw the line? What is the right balance between keeping the ‘pathway’ and strengthening the squad.
Like it or not, and my impression is that most people do, Saints have positioned themselves in the market as a club that will accept first team players moving on for the right price, and might not necessarily replace them. Why? Because you cannot maintain the ‘pathway’ if you keep blocking it with big money foreign imports.
It’s a long term strategy and one not without it’s risks, but if Les Reed was to take an occasional glance at Saints supporting presences on the web (Hi Les!) he could be forgiven for placing his head in his hands when he sees the same people bemoaning Harrison Reed’s lack of playing time last season, crying over the club not replacing Wanyama this.
For the club to keep attracting the best players into the Academy at a young age there has to be continuous evidence that the club will give those kids a chance at the top level. Logically, if you replace every player that leaves with a like for like copy those kids will be destined to never fulfil their potential at Saints, and eventually other kids will decide it’s not the place to be, especially as others catch up in terms of facilities and methodology.
My hunch is that the modern Southampton supporter would rather see big investment in players each Summer, some would still favour the pathway, while many will be honest enough to admit they aren’t bothered either way as long as the club keeps progressing.
What do #saintsfc fans really want? The 'Pathway' or 'Big Player Investment'? Honest answers.
The obvious answer, though there is no right one, is that the balance has to be correct. The club needs to find a workable solution where the kids get their chance, but the squad is strong enough to compete. I would say they had this pretty close under Mauricio Pochettino.
The blip in all this, was the reign of Ronald Koeman, and it didn’t surprise me when there was talk of the club not being overly disappointed that he was off. As good a job as he did, he took the organisation ‘off message’ and long term that wasn’t what the board wanted.
Claude Puel would appear to be the ‘anti-appointment’ to Koeman. A man with a track record of giving some pretty good players their first opportunities in France. Yes, the first game was a little underwhelming, but when have Saints’ opening day fixtures not been? Let’s give him a chance.
Tomorrow night, we take on Manchester United at Old Trafford. A huge money ‘name’ like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Paul Pogba could win the game for them, but then Matt Targett or James Ward-Prowse could win it for us. Which would be sweeter?
Together we are going to bring you new interaction between gwc and you before, during and after matches!
An app is coming soon that will allow you to earn points by predicting lineups, rating players and other Saints related tasks. These points can be redeemed for goodies!
Your first taste of the action comes with this Saturday’s opening fixture against Watford!
You may have noticed a box in the bottom corner of the screen that looks like this:-
This is your entry to having your say on how the players performed come 17:45. You will have 5 hours from the final whistle to submit your player ratings and compare them with your fellow fans! So get registered and have your say!
We look forward to bringing you more feature once the season is up and running!
It’s been a month since I brought you part one so it was about time I stopped being lazy and rounded up the rest of Saints’ Summer. It seems unreal to me that the Football League have started and we are just days away from the Premier League opener, but here we are.
Arrivederci Graziano Pelle. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of massive clubs coming along and taking our players, but at this stage in his career could anyone deny him a move to Shandong Lueng?
Let’s face it, never has a transfer been more about money, but it leaves Saints with a serious concern about goals. With the exit’s of both Pelle and Mane we’ve lost our two top scorers, and the majority of our assists, and that is making people nervous.
There have been no other notable outgoings in the last month, and the only real concern at the moment is the future of Jose Fonte. Let’s not talk about it and hopefully the nasty rumours will go away. I bet they don’t, and I’m prepared for the worst.
Despite the ongoing annual meltdown, Claude Puel’s team have gone through the entire pre-season fixtures unbeaten. Four wins and one draw, conceding just two goals the signs are good that the players are fitting into the style that Puel wants.
Results in pre-season rarely mean anything though, and there is still room for improvement. Saints have been blessed with a good home opener against Watford and it will be interesting to see how they start.
In Part One I suggested that the club still needed to invest in another defensive midfielder, a goalkeeper and a strike/winger.
Since then we’ve seen three arrivals in the form of ‘box to box’ midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and utility man Jeremy Pied.
The acquisition of Højbjerg is particularly exciting, and many people have suggested that he is one of the players with the highest potential in Europe and this move is somewhat of a coup.
Alex McCarthy is a keeper who has somewhat lost his way since being so highly rated at Reading. Frustrating spells at QPR and Crystal Palace means he will feel he has something to prove and should provide decent backup for Fraser Forster.
In Pied we have a player that we don’t know much about, but Claude Puel knows him and it looks like he can be used in several positions.
Much to my disappointment the paper stories linking us to Bastian Schweinsteiger did not come to pass.
We still need another attacking option. Be it a ‘Number 10’ or a striker, it is plain to see. There are still a couple of weeks of the transfer window left and it will be mildly disappointing if we have finished our business.
Obviously we will be waiting with baited breath over news of new contracts for Cedric, Dusan Tadic and particularly Jose Fonte. A departure for Fonte could be a devastating end to the Summer.
The key is not to worry about anything negative until it actually happens. Focus on Saturday and the start of the season.
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!
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!
Last night was the first time I had a vested interest in who won a major international final.
Portugal lined up with both of their Saints, Cedric and Jose Fonte. I’m that kind of person. If there are Saints in the team then I want them to win, and though the likes of Pepe and Ronaldo promote ill feeling amongst many football fans the love I have for our players and in particular our captain outweighs any dislike I have for anyone else.
I found myself bickering on twitter the other day with someone who took exception to somebody else referring to Jose Fonte as a ‘Southampton Legend’. Their argument was that he isn’t as worthy of that title as the likes of Peter Shilton amongst others. Isn’t he?
Jose Fonte made a drop in division to join Saints in League One, and although we were clearly a club rejuvenated, that kind of move represents a risk no matter what the circumstances.
Fonte was part of the team that won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in his first season and followed it with promotion from League One in the following year.
En route to that promotion it was Fonte that struck a dramatic winner at the Withdean at the death and showed his passion for the club, sparking wild celebrations at the Saints end.
Fonte by this point was a stalwart in the centre of Saints defence and carried on his superb form in conjunction with a second successive promotion and the Premier League beckoned, Fonte again finding the vital touch in the final game against Coventry to seal their destiny.
Many Saints fans (myself included) questioned whether Jose might be one of the players to make way as the squad was strengthened for the top flight, but luckily Saints procession of manager saw otherwise.
Fonte stayed as the constant amongst a plethora of variables. Dejan Lovren and Toby Alderweireld both benefited from his partnership, perhaps taking the credit for some of Fonte’s work as they got ‘big’ moves away, while Jose quietly and consistently got on with his job.
As each season has passed since we got back to the promised land, it has become somewhat of a Southampton tradition to lose a glut of our key players and rebuild, but always there, at the heart of it all is still our constant.
Taking the captain’s armband from one of the many ingrates who walked, Jose Fonte has led us into the Europa League twice, overseen a cacophony of records broken and forced is way into the Portuguese national setup.
While those that have left for ‘ambition’ or to win trophies were sitting with their feet up watching it unfold on the television, Jose Fonte was playing out a clean sheet for his team and being crowned a Euro 2016 champion.
Only in 2012, I was working on a sporting event in Porto and one of the guests was former Portugal player, and now Sporting Director Joao Pinto. I asked him if he had taken a look at Fonte of Southampton. He said he’d never heard of him. He has now.
Fonte’s rise in such a short space of time has been remarkable and is parallel with our own as a club. He’s grown with us and shown that you don’t have to leave to achieve your goals.
Jose Fonte has been a consistent positive since he arrived at St. Mary’s. He’s more than just our captain. He’s our constant, and he is a legend.
It’s July. It’s unlikely that anyone has had as turbulent a Summer as Saints so far (Quelle surprise!), so I thought I would give my thoughts on some of the (it’s) happenings at St. Mary’s.
As common an occurrence at the South Coast’s premier club as a bottled North London title challenge, we are used to seeing our top assets walk out at the first sign of fluttered eye lashes from one of the Premier League’s oh so powerful ‘MASSIVE’ clubs. I have to admit though, the loss of Wanyama and Mane in quick succession was a tough one to take. I’ve made no bones that they were two of my ‘favourite’ players from recent squads, and both will be difficult to replace.
In Victor’s case, it was no real shock, I think he got the same treatment as Schneiderlin had previously and was told he could go in the Summer if he knuckled down and got on with it, which he did. Spurs are in the Champion’s League, and Wanyama is a much better player than a lot of Saints fans give him credit for. On the bright-side though Oriol Romeu’s performances were a massive credit to him when he played last season, and most would argue that he is a more than capable replacement. I personally think he is not ‘Victor level’ just yet, but the signs are positive and he is becoming a popular figure with the crowd.
Mane’s move to Liverpool struck me as a purely financial decision by the club. £34 million plus add-ons is a lot of money for a player who can blow hot and cold. Having said that, he is unplayable on his day and the club did the right thing holding out for a ‘silly’ offer before conceding. I can understand a player’s motivation for wanting to play for Liverpool, but it irks slightly that Mane has moved to a club who finished below us last season, and without European football, albeit on no doubt a much higher salary.
Nathan Redmond has already joined so technically Mane’s position is covered. I’m a big fan of Redmond, and believe he has huge potential, but like Romeu I think the issue could be that he isn’t at the same level as Mane yet.
Oh, and Juanmi left. *Shrugs*.
The New Boss
Claude Puel. What do I know about him? Very little in truth, but unlike some, who immediately wrote him off as ‘underwhelming’ or an ‘unambitious’ appointment, I did the due diligence and read all I could.
It’s fair to say his reputation in France is good. He has a good record with every club he’s been at, won the league with Monaco, got Lyon to the Champion’s League semi finals and Nice into the top four twice, but more importantly, he has a reputation for playing ‘the best’ football in the French league and promoting youth. A move back to the Southampton ideals a certain Dutchman was happy to ignore?
Since he joined I’ve been impressed with his cool persona. He’s as French as they come, and the nonchalant expression as he was shown round the club’s facilities was official Saints YouTube channel gold. In my head he was simply thinking ‘Ok, stadium and changing rooms, great. Show me where I can get a double espresso.’
He will be assisted by the superbly named Pascal Plancque and Eric Black. I know nothing about Plancque, but Black is a well respected coach who happens to be fluent in French (a shrewd move).
I look forward to seeing what this new coaching setup gets out of our talented squad.
Announced yesterday after a series of teaser trailers, the new strip would appear to have been worth the wait.
In my opinion (abusive replies can be made in the comments section below) it is the smartest home kit we’ve had since the sash and the away strip is decent too.
As a long term admirer of Under Armour equipment (I used to use their cooling t-shirts literally under armour in my highly decorated military adventures in the Middle East) I was excited to see what they come up with and I think they have hit the nail on the head.
Some people are worried about sizing with the emphasis these days on designing for the elite athletes rather than the beer bellies in the crowd (seems misguided), but I ordered yesterday on the basis that I wear large UA coolswitch t-shirts for running and they fit me well. We’ll see.
The main complaints I saw from the terminally diagnosed naysayers were firstly ‘It looks like a bra at the top’, which was most brilliantly shot down by one of our female fans who questioned why a lot of our male fanbase seemed confused about the position of breasts in relation to the chest.
Secondly, it seemed a lot of people wanted a Yellow away strip. Now this is going to be controversial (comments section) but I for one didn’t want a yellow kit. I get the tradition and the history, but yellow kits are consistently garish. Besides, last season was the 40th anniversary of the cup win, so that was the time to have yellow. The black shirt is smart.
Right now our squad is not as strong as it was last season, in fact I would say it is considerably weaker. But I think we can expect a few through the door once Claude has made his assessments of the current squad.
In my opinion we need another defensive midfielder, another striker/winger and perhaps another goalkeeper.
We’ve already been associated with pretty much anyone who has ever kicked a ball, so I am not going to comment on particular names, most of which are being also linked to much bigger parties anyway so seem unrealistic.
All I ask though, is that you try not to have a tantrum when other clubs sign somebody. We only need to worry about our own club, and in the last 5 years, with regards to incoming transfers they’ve (almost) always got it right.
Don’t you just love a nice quiet Southampton Summer?
I’ve not been around for a while, so let me just give you a quick update on what’s happened. Manager has gone, majority of the coaching staff have gone. Juanmi has gone (but no one really noticed), Victor has finally found his way to Spurs and Sadio has left for the great ex-Southampton player career cemetery on Merseyside.
I shall take this opportunity to say the following to those who have left and to any more who may do so in the coming weeks. Ta da.
Amongst the annual meltdown though there was some positive news. Having long been an admirer of the player, I was personally delighted to see Saints bring in Nathan Redmond.
Recruiting a young, English talent seems like a revert to type move for the club, and perhaps one that wouldn’t have happened with the Dutch Asshat at the helm? Either way I think this is an exciting transfer. Fresh from success at the Toulon tournament alongside James Ward-Prowse, Matty Targett and Jack Stephens, it feels like we have brought in a player who is both ready now, but with the potential to be even better.
Can you give me a brief overview of Redmond’s Strengths and Weaknesses?
GG‘First up, I’ll be sad to lose him but there are some City fans who’ll be offering to drive him to Southampton. He divides opinion, no question.
His strengths are obvious: tricky, skillful, quick, an eye for goal and when ‘on it’ he can be the proverbial match-winner. He has appeared on both flanks for City and, occasionally, as the ‘number 10′ but invariably he ends up back on the right wing where he is at his best. His ability to cut in from then left flank on to his right foot has yielded a goal or two but has been more of a threat to anyone sitting in row Z. His chance at ’10’ have been limited mainly due to the fact he was competing with Wes (Hoolahan) for that position but I’ve often wondered if further down the line it’s somewhere he could be effective.
But, and it’s a sizeable but, he can (and possibly will) frustrate for England. He can also infuriate and enrage. In archetypal winger fashion he can go from hero to zero in a flash, and if it’s a wide-man who offers good protection to a full-back he’s definitely not your man. His greatest asset, which is running at defenders and beating them, is something he uses sparingly and all too often he takes the easy option of going sideways or backwards, and he’s exasperated many with his half-hearted approach to his defensive duties and back-tracking.
Yet, in my opinion, he’ll be badly missed at City. We’re not overly blessed with creativity and he was one of the few who has invention in his armoury. We were a better side with him in it – that’s the bottom line.’
What would you consider being his best position? Can he play other roles?
GG ‘Have mainly covered this above. He’s at his best when being utilised as an out-and-out right winger in the traditional mould but is skillful and clever enough to have an impact both at ‘number 10′ and wide on the left.’
He had a great Toulon tournament, and Saints fans are hoping this is a sign that we will be moving back to utilising young British talent. How much potential does he have?
GG ‘He does have potential to improve but he had that exact same potential when he joined us from Birmingham. It’s fair to say he hasn’t progressed at the rate that we – and most pundits – expected and it’s hard to discuss him without tripping over ‘stagnate’. A new challenge is probably what he needs and surrounded by players of higher quality may well be what’s needed to unlock said ‘potential’.’
Do you see him as a future full international?
GG ‘No, not really – it’s almost impossible to imagine him getting into the full squad as things stand. But, as mentioned above, a new challenge and some new faces around him may be just be what’s needed to take him to the next level. Stranger things…’
As an outsider, how do you see Saints coping with (as expected) yet another big Summer?
GG ‘You’ll be fine, I’m convinced of it. A summer upheaval seems to be the norm for you guys, yet every season you bounce back regardless of having to embed new personnel both on and off the pitch. The ‘Southampton way’ is so well ingrained, providing the club keeps faith in its ability to recruit within those parameters it’s almost a given you’ll continue your charge as being the best of the rest.
I hope so anyway… seeing the Saints succeed offers hope for the rest of us.’
Thanks to Gary for his time, and here’s to another fun filled transfer window!
It would appear that we are a matter of hours away from the announcement that Ronald Koeman will be leaving his post at Saints to take over at Everton.
As always when it comes to Summer news surrounding departures at Saints the following things usually happen. Some immediately start to fling mud at the board, accusing them of lacking ambition and conveniently forgetting they’ve overseen seven years of continuous improvement. This reaction would also suggest that these fans take the word of an individual over that of anyone else. Others will instantly find their ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and back the club, insisting that they support the organisation and not an individual. Some will sigh at the rigours of supporting a modern day football club.
I think it is safe to say that we were all sucked in by Ronald’s comments about honouring his contract over the last twelve months. Will we ever learn our lesson? But, there are actually two plausible scenarios as to why this has happened.
Ronald, contrary to what he has said, has proved to be as mercenary as anyone else when it comes to money, and the big bucks on offer from Merseyside saw him abandon his principles.
This is the one that will see people upset, people warmed to Koeman as a person as well as a coach and as pointed out so well by Adam Leitch this has felt a lot more ‘personal’ than previous departures, heightened by the fact that this is a sideways move and not a perceived step up that previous leavers have taken. If this is the case then Ronald might be surprised to see the reaction he gets on his first return to St. Mary’s.
2. The Saints board, wary of entering into a season with a manager in the last year of their contract put a new deal on the table and said sign it or go now.
If this theory is correct then you might find a little bit of sympathy for Ronald. My own opinion is that he was happy at Saints, but unwilling to commit long term as he eyed the possibility of a truly big move in the future (he has publicly mentioned Barca, Chelsea and Arsenal as desired destinations in the past). But here he is in a situation where he has to sign a moderate pay rise extension with Southampton or take the only other option on offer. A big pay rise to a club albeit in a lesser position than Saints right now.
Either way, the sad truth is, for whatever the reason, Koeman clearly did not see his long term future on the South Coast, and that is reason enough to not be too disheartened at his departure.
Let’s not forget. Saints are good at this. We’ve improved with every managerial appointment in the Liebherr era and a short-list will have long been in place.
I can’t help thinking that with Ronald having joined a club whose owner has barely been there five minutes and has already dispensed of one manager, expectations may be high. I would hazard a guess that they might want instant results for making him one of the highest paid coaches in the league and a repeat of last December would put him under incredible pressure. Everton could lose Lukaku and Stones in the transfer window too which won’t help his cause, and with no European football on offer, what might the reported £100 million war chest actually get him?
As is often the case Saints may end up having the last laugh. I wish Ronald all the best and thank him for the joyous two seasons at the helm, but don’t be too surprised if next Summer we are reflecting on another season of progression while a certain Dutchman queues at the Bootle job centre having only led the Toffees to 8th in the Premier League….
Keep the faith.
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