As Claude Puel prepares to face his former boss in Arsene Wenger this weekend I wonder if he will cast his eye across his countryman’s squad and ponder on what might have been ?
For there will be three names on the list that are yet to live up to their potential after swapping St. Mary’s for North London.
As a man famed for nurturing and developing young talent in France, he must be bemused at the lack of progress made my Messrs. Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers.
Three players who all looked like they had the world at their feet when breaking on to the scene on the South Coast and now nothing more than bit part players and squad fodder at the Premier League’s champion also rans.
Theo Walcott is perhaps the best example. He has completed 10 years as an Arsenal player and despite his only being 27 years old, looks jaded and much older having only played on average 16 complete games for the Gunners for the last seven seasons. Is this the return we as Saints fans expected when we saw this exciting young forward burst into the limelight in 2005?
For me Walcott has always been a striker, and it seems (I’m sure statistically this isn’t necessarily the case) whenever he is given the chance in that role for Arsenal or England he scores. Yet, perhaps a victim of the modern tactics and formations, he has been pigeon holed as a winger-cum-forward often pushed out wide. My point is, Walcott should have been a key striker for England, and Arsenal’s misuse of him has made him something of a joke.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain we still hold out hope for. A dynamic attacking midfielder and still only 23, Chamberlain is another whose abilities should have seen him as a key player in the international setup by now. Enter Arsene Wenger. The Ox scored more goals in his solitary season for Saints than he has so far in an Arsenal shirt (he is embarking on his sixth season at the Emirates), and would appear to be little more than a backup player.
Both AOC and Walcott have had their injury problems admittedly, but then who at Arsenal doesn’t? Perhaps there is something in their training regime there or are the medical/recovery facilities not up to Saints standard?
Last but not least, the one that is most recent in it’s frustration is Calum Chambers. A local Hampshire boy who shone at right back in the Premier League under Mauricio Pochettino at Saints, yet finds himself as fourth/fifth choice centre half under Wenger. So far down the pecking order that he has been loaned out to Middlesbrough, and to be honest that is the best thing for him. It was bamboozling to most Saints fans that given we struggle at times in the right full back position we didn’t make this move ourselves.
Now, I’m not telling Monsieur Wenger how to pick his team, far from it, though I think he might be confused at times about what his own policy is. Famed for annoying his own fans by not spending their wealth, you would think pushing the young players on would be his priority but apparently not.
It’s reasonably sad to see him invest in a centre half that didn’t make the grade at Everton (Mustafi) in the Premier League, while sending out a young English defender who did at Saints out on loan.
The Southampton Academy puts a lot of hard work into developing the best English young players, perhaps if you aren’t prepared to continue that development, don’t buy them?
‘Rare shirt produced by German manufacturers Hummel with an added classic Draper Tools sponsor as worn when the side finished 12th & 13th in the First Division under boss Chris Nicholl. The shirt mirrors the exact design of the Denmark shirt worn in Mexico at World Cup ’86.’
4. 1993-95 Home Shirt
‘This bold Pony number with its interesting named Dimplex sponsor was controversial at the time of its release for abandoning simple stripes for the huge geometric Pony logo on the upper front which dominated the design. Today however, bold shirts; whether it be with a huge geometric logo or an acid-house inspired pattern, are enjoying something of a renaissance – perhaps in response to the simplicity of modern day designs. This Pony template was also followed in claret and blue by West Ham in 1993.’
3. 1991-93 Third Shirt
‘Rare third shirt donned by Premier League legends Le Tissier and Shearer as the side narrowly avoided relegation by just one point during the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League campaign. With a bold pattern throughout this shirt forms part of a brilliant era of football shirts between the late 80’s and early 90’s when designs brazenly toed the line between future classic and garish monstrosity (see 1991 away shirt!) in a reflection of music and fashion. The shirt also gives a nod to the club’s tradition of donning yellow and blue away/third shirts introduced in the 1970’s as part of a wider trend of clubs wanting to emulate Brazil (seriously). On the Wembley turf in May 1976, they did just that.’
2. 2010-11 Home Shirt
‘The club returned to its roots with this classic sash design which marked their 125th anniversary, with subtle touches including 1885-2010 detail to the crest and a sponsor-less front. The shirt helped inspire them to win promotion from League One with the side boasting an incredible array of talents for the level, including future internationals Lambert, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Schneiderlin, and Jose Fonte (plus Jason Puncheon)!’
Editor’s Note:- This is my personal favourite, for this simple, classy design, the lack of sponsor and the team that played in it! – Chris
1. 1980-83 Home Shirt
‘Extremely rare home shirt with great vintage design and famous Rank Xerox sponsor as worn when the side achieved consecutive top seven finishes in the First Division under boss Lawrie McMenemy. The Saints were helped by the goals of ’78 and ’79 Ballon D’Or winner Kevin Keegan who joined from Hamburg and enjoyed a stunning campaign in 81-82 scoring 30 goals in all competitions. With its tailored look and collar detail, the design remains a firm favourite with fans who ask for it to be adapted for the new season shirt most summers.’
So there it is, an outsider’s point of view on the best Saints kits so far. Feel differently? Let us know!
Check out some classic Southampton shirts here bit.ly/1NGtSxI and tell us which is your favourite?
It was with much anticipation that I first heard of Mark Sanderson and his upcoming biography of ’76 hero Bobby Stokes.
Aptly titled ‘The man from Portsmouth who scored Southampton’s most famous goal’, there is an air of mysticism about Stokes and how he bridged a gap between two cities so often at each other’s throats.
I asked Mark about whether anyone these days could become a hero in red and white stripes, but also maintain the respect and love of his rival home town?
MS ‘Bobby Stokes is one of several Pompey lads who have gone on to play for Saints – from Steve Mills to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Ward-Prowse. Far fewer have done the opposite. Perhaps the most notable example was Bitterne Park schoolboy Darren Anderton, who was part of the Pompey side that lost to Liverpool on penalties in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final. Although none of these players have had as much impact for either club as Bobby’s winning goal for Southampton in the 1976 FA Cup Final. Bobby remained a Pompey lad, but he had a special relationship with Southampton – his funeral was in Porchester, but his ashes were scattered at The Dell. ‘
I’m not sure I ever expected it to go this quick, but we really have reached the end of the ‘Five Year Plan’. It hardly seems fathomable that the club that lined up on the 8th August 2009 to play out a 1-1 draw with Millwall in League One, would mark the end of the ‘plan’ with a 1-1 draw with Champions of England Manchester United in the same stadium.
What a five years it’s been. Considering the original plan was to get Southampton into the Premier League, the fact that that has clearly been achieved (a year early), a trophy has been won along the way and the final season saw us break into the top eight, I would say we can consider it a complete success.
Three managers, Two promotions, One trophy and Seventy Seven Players! Can the next five years really live up to it?
Stephen Crainey Danny Higginbotham Calum Davenport Olivier Bernard
Ryan Smith David Prutton Nigel Quashie Lee Molyneux
Jonathan Forte Dany N’Guessan
The bad, the very bad, and the ugly.
Not a great team is it? What do they have in common? They are all master strokes by Saints in the fabled January transfer window. I challenge any club to come up with a worse lineup from January signings than that?
If you look at our entire signing history since the January window came about, it is ridiculously unimpressive.
Bartosz Bialkowski, Alexander Ostlund, Jim Brennan.
Lee Molyneux, Ryan Smith.
Jose Fonte, John Otsemobor, Dan Seaborne, Lee Barnard
Jonathan Forte, Richard Chaplow, Dany N’Guessan
Tadanari Lee, Billy Sharp
There are some clear exceptions, Jose Fonte, Dan Seaborne, Lee Barnard, Richard Chaplow and Billy Sharp have all made big contributions, and Tadanari Lee hasn’t had much of a chance to show us what he’s got, but when John Otsemobor isn’t making that eleven it shows just how poor it is.
January is the time when managers might panic buy, and looking at some of those names (Anyone seen a worse professional defender than Calum Davenport?) that must have been the case.
Undoubtedly we will strengthen again this season (though Nigel Adkins has surprised a few by saying there won’t be another keeper coming in), but let’s hope they are more the calibre of the last few seasons than the early 00’s!
More Jose Fonte’s, less Olivier Bernard’s please.
The players brought in in the summer look to have been pretty solid so far, so let’s hope the transfer policy continues in the same vein over the next 30 days. You can make or break your season with the acquisitions you make in this window. More quality needs to come in, but not at the expense of the team spirit and unity. Not an easy job.
No doubt we are in for some of the usual bonkers rumours, but we should remember to be patient.
p.s. If this hasn’t depressed you enough, have a butchers at the players that have LEFT us in January transfer windows….. Chris Marsden, Antti Niemi, James Beattie, Theo Walcott…
Hi all, I am pleased to introduce another new contributor to georgeweahscousin.com in the form of former Saints trainee Scott Gordon. Scott hails from the Emerald Isle, more specifically Lurgan, Co. Armagh. He is the husband to Joanna and soon to be father to a junior Saint.
He has been a Saints fan for nearly 16 years, which all started when the club plucked him from obscurity as a 13 year old playing in his local league. After a week’s trial he found himself signing a 5 year deal that would change his life forever. He might no longer be a Saints player, but he is still Northern Ireland’s number one fan!
Over to you Scott! – Chris
Saints Academy: Talent Architects…
Bridge. Baird. Bale. Walcott. Chamberlain. Five names from the modern day football world and all with one massive thing in common… they are all products of the fantastic Saints Academy. Skip back a few years and Mike Channon, Matthew Le Tissier, the Wallace brothers, Alan Shearer and Francis Benali are once again products of our enviable youth system.
The ‘Academy’ as we know it today came into formation in the 98/99 season. This marked the start of the new scholarships rather than the YTS system of old. In effect these scholarships were designed to safeguard the future of the young players, if and when, they did not manage to make it in football. As a product of this academy (class of 2001) I guess I am glad the scholarship was offered. I’m now a PE teacher back home in Northern Ireland and without the investment from the club and the FA, this may not have been a reality for me. But this was not exactly the remit of the club.
As with any smaller club the purpose of an academy is to produce fine young players to come through and represent the first team. The five players mentioned in the opening line of this piece all achieved this goal and I might add, performed admirably for the senior side. They do, however, have another thing in common… All sold by the Saints. For a total of £38million.
I guess that’s where I have a problem with our club and the way we handle our younger players. For too long we have been a selling club. You can add Brian Howard, Matthew Mills and Scott McDonald into the list of players that have moved on. I wonder now that we have returned to the Premier League will we still have the same attitude? If we still had the big 5 players with us, would we have gotten back to the promised land a lot sooner? Who knows. My only hope is that we become a keeping club and not sell on our best products. Lallana is still there and that is a good sign and there are many other players coming through (I’m told James Ward-Prowse and Corby Moore are two to look out for).
In my time, Crewe, West Ham and Coventry were the clubs with the supposed best academy set ups. I firmly believed then and now that we have the best. Back in 2000 we were defeated in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup 2-1 over two legs by a Coventry side that were then chinned 7-1 by an Arsenal side that contained Steve Sidwell. I can remember reading a quote from our then managers Stewart Henderson and John Sainty. They said that yes, we were on a great run in the competition, but this success did not guarantee any player a professional contract or a future at the club (a statement which was made abundantly clear one season later as I was shown the door).
When I left in 2001, two others came with me and only five (Alan Blayney, Ryan Ashford, Chris Baird, Scott McDonald and Brian Howard) went on to represent the first team. In total we had 25 players across our 1st and 2nd year scholars. None are with the club now and very few are still making a living from the game. It used to be said you had to be best in Europe to make it as a pro footballer. Our year changed that to be the best in the world. Players from all over Uk, Italy, Russia, Africa and Australia represented our youth team during my time with Southampton.
We are without doubt one of the best Academy setup’s in the country. My only hope is that we hold on to our talent and let the other teams be envious of us for a while.
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
Like all Saints fans, I am immensely proud of our Academy. For years now it has competed with the best in the country, and many believe with the current improvements being made it may well take the title of “the best”.
So when Roy Hodgson announced his England squad for this summer’s European Championships it filled me with pride to see a certain double-barrelled youngster amongst the big names.
Make no mistake, this is no “surprise” to me, and no risk on Roy’s part, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has it all, pace, skill, technique, awareness with an added dash of infectious youthful enthusiasm. In fact I would go as far as to say he is everything we don’t usually look for in traditional English coaching sessions.
When Chamberlain made his debut for Saints aged 16 years and 199 days against Southend United at the end of the 2009/10 season it was with great anticipation, we had been blessed with the baby faced bows of Walcott and Bale after all. Chamberlain did not disappoint. Scoring on his first competitive start against Bournemouth the following season and ending it with a return of 10 goals and 8 assists arguably he had a bigger impact than his predecessors, making the League One Team of the Year, the icing on the cake.
While I rate Walcott, a player who seems to get a lot of uncalled for stick despite consistently scoring and providing goals for Arsenal, Chamberlain was always going to eclipse him for me, but who knows, should Roy decide to go that way maybe they will play on either side of a forward three this summer. You could do a lot worse.
The number of ex-Saints academy players in the Premier League is ever growing, and with two in this England squad I think this could definitely be a sign of the future. Three in the 2014 World Cup squad? Maybe more. While we keep producing players who play the game the right way, the club can only progress. The big challenge is keeping them away from North London.
I offer massive congratulations to Alex on his call up, and to Southampton Football Club for spotting and nurturing another talent. It is on merit, and when he steps on to that training pitch with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney he can be confident that he is good enough to be there. Let’s hope this call up isn’t like Theo in 2006. You had the conviction to put the Ox in your squad Roy, now have the nerve to unleash him….
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
It is an unusual position for a Saints fan to be looking down on the rest of the league after the opening two games. Notoriously slow starters, it is the first time Saints have won their opening two games for twenty three years.
But should we be surprised? Nigel Adkins’ tireless enthusiasm for the job, our relentless end to last season and the additions of some quality players in the transfer window screams of a professional and assured approach to the new campaign. On top of that Adkins focus on fitness, somewhere we seriously failed at the start of last season has clearly paid off, as our lean first team squad look sharp and hungry.
There will be a lot of talk about “momentum” and it definitely plays a part. Steve Grant pointed out on twitter today that Saints have dropped just four points from the last available fifty one, which is phenomenal form. Couple this with the fact that our promoted chums Brighton are keeping up so far, also winning both their games.
What we have at St. Mary’s though, that I believe to be the most important part is a “team” in the truest sense of the word. While Leicester spend big, buying lots of new players, Adkins approach has been to keep the core of last seasons successful side and add to it gradually. Jack Cork has come straight in, and his quality is clear for all to see, while the other new boys Steve de Ridder and Danny Fox look like they will have to be patient to break into what is, a so far this season, an excelling group. The loss of Alex Chamberlain to Arsenal, in the least shocking transfer move of the summer (although perhaps gazumped by Mr. Fabregas and Barca today) hasn’t had any negative effect whatsoever yet, and with de Ridder looking like a shrewd bit of business, there is a fair chance it won’t at all.
There is much talk of new Strikers and Centre halves that don’t look like dying down anytime soon, but with the assured performances of Aaron Martin against Leeds, and Dan Seaborne at Barnsley, coupled with the resurgence of David Connolly up front, I am not sure we are “desperate” for players in any position.
While we can enjoy our 100% start, it is natural as a Saints fan to look for the catch. We simply aren’t used to a good start, and I for one have already scanned the fixture list for the first “back to earth with a bump” outing, and actually tomorrow night’s trip to Portman Road could be it. They are my outside tip for promotion and it will no doubt be a tough place to go. Paul Jewell is no mug at this level, and the acquisitions of Lee Bowyer and Michael Chopra make them an exciting looking team.
The opening two game winning side of 1988, did go on and win their third match to, so we aren’t incapable, but if we are looking for omens, Chris Nicholl’s class of 1988/89, Neil Ruddock, Barry Horne and co finished up 13th in Division One, and I would like to think we are aiming slightly higher than that. In better news, that season, of our current opponents, only Forest, Derby, Coventry and Millwall finished above us.
West Ham United (h) 4-0
Queens Park Rangers (a) 0-1
Luton Town (h) 2-1
Leeds United (h) 3-1
Barnsley (a) 0-1
Ipswich Town (a) ?
Whatever happens, we have already sent a message to the Championship old guard, that we haven’t come here to make up the numbers, and our destination is up.
The Fourth and final instalment of the 2011/12 Championship season preview by the fans. Following on from parts one, two and three, the final six Championship fans give their opinion on how their clubs will fare…
What can we expect from your club this season? Goals galore!! probably at both ends to be honest. Even with CMS gone we still have Boyd, Tomlin and McCann who all got double figures last season. Add to that Nicky Ajose who comes with a big reputation, we should score plenty. In pre season we have conceded an average of 2 a game, we do need to tighten up at the back! There is a great team spirit among the lads, hopefully that will pull us through!
Who is your most important player? Grant McCann the skipper and set piece king, his quality and experience is something we didn’t have at this level last time. Not just the goals he scores but he also got 13 assists last season, goals from set pieces will be very important I think.
Your predicted finishing position? 15th…we will flirt with relegation but save ourselves in February/March.
Who might win the Championship? I don’t think you can see past Leicester really, they seem to be getting quality in all over, if they can gel together as a team early on in the season, they could runaway with it.
Who definitely won’t? MK Dons (If you want a serious answer to this let me know).
Most anticipated fixture? Really looking forward to West Ham away, feels like one of those days similar to Newcastle two seasons ago when loads of Posh fans turnout. Although I hope it’s not the same result and fallout as that game!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Brighton v Hull….the Mac Attack on the same pitch again although on opposite sides. Both are great lads and deserve success and still loved by Posh fans.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Mackail-Smith! He is irreplaceable not just for the goals but mostly for his work rate and turning lost causes into chances.
You find yourself stuck in Sixfields. How do you escape unnoticed? Easy! Sneak one of those implements that kids use to split their lego up with and take out a few of the lego bricks from the main stand and Bob’s your Uncle, back on the A45 home!
What can we expect from your club this season? A promotion push is obviously the aim, but it all depends on how Steve Cotterill does in the transfer window between now and the start of the season as we’ve still got a tiny squad.
Who is your most important player? We had a number of key figures last season like Liam Lawrence, Hayden Mullins and Joel Ward and with David Norris, Luke Varney, Jason Pearce and Stephen Henderson all added to the ranks it could be any of them, but our money’s on Varney to light up the Championship next season.
Your predicted finishing position? Top 10 would be ideal however there are a lot of big and strong sides in the Championship next season so a promotion push will be tough.
Who might win the Championship? Leicester have spent big and West Ham have got a lot of quality experienced players so I think it’s a two horse race to be honest.
Who definitely won’t? Southampton 😉
Most anticipated fixture? It has to be the South Coast derby home and away doesn’t it? The Pompey v Southampton rivalry is back on this season and with some big 4-1 victories over Southampton the last two games, both teams and both sets of fans will be well up for it!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I think Leicester v West Ham will be a big one. As I said, I think they’ll both be fighting for promotion and they’ve got some quality players.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Scott Parker’s still at West Ham isn’t he? He’d be pretty useful. Mind you we’re a bit desperate for another striker at the moment. I’d be quite keen on Charlie Austin or Jay Bothroyd to link up with Kitson and Varney.
You find yourself stuck in St Mary’s. How do you escape unnoticed? That’s a tough one! To be fair I don’t think anyone caught in a Pompey shirt in St Mary’s is gonna be welcomed with open arms. Maybe use Joel Ward and his new found strength (following his conditioning trip to USA) as a bodyguard.
What can we expect from your club this season? I think we’ll be pretty solid this season, as we’ve (at the time of writing) retained the core of the side that did so well last season. A lot depends on whether Shane Long goes (and if so how much for) but I’m confident we’ll be in and around the play-offs again.
Who is your most important player? Again depends if he’s still here but right now it’s Shane Long. The striker’s second half form turned us from a mid-table side to being 90 minutes from the Premier League and his goals will again be crucial. If he goes it’ll be up to Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff to provide some magic from the wings.
Your predicted finishing position? Right now I’ll say 8th.
Who might win the Championship? Hard to look past West Ham or Leicester right now. Big Sam’s bought wisely and is exactly the type of manager the club needs, while Sven’s been spending cash like mad (including our captain Matt Mills).
Who definitely won’t? Peterborough will struggle. The last time they were in this league they were so far off the pace and even last year they conceded goals for fun. Losing Mackail-Smith is a killer for them and it’s hard to see them surviving.
Most anticipated fixture? Trips to St Mary’s and the AMEX have been looked forward too most of the summer, while our games with West Ham usually entertain.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Some real grudge matches in the league this year, Southampton v Portsmouth, Millwall v Leeds, Brighton v Palace, this division isn’t for the faint of heart this season!
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Kevin Nolan. Nolan was fantastic as Newcastle walked the league two years ago and while not the most likeable player out there he’s a terrific player.
You find yourself stuck in the Kassam Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed? Quietly make my way to the end without a stand and sneak over the fence!
What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking, free flowing, attractive football, quality soundbites from Nigel Adkins and a team on the ascendancy as opposed to the last time we were in this division.
Who is your most important player? Adam Lallana. Since January all the focus has been on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but on the other wing we have a young player who is far more accomplished and far more important to the team. Lallana is a class act, and is liable to tear holes in your defence at the drop of a hat. When Lallana ticks we can beat anybody. Honourable mention for David Connolly too, IF he can stay fit, he is still a fantastic goalscorer at this level.
Your predicted finishing position? 10th. I think we are a couple more players away from being a real contender. So I might be a little bit more optimistic if the expected “two more signings” happen.
Who might win the Championship? The obvious answers are West Ham and Leicester, but I have got a sneaking feeling for Ipswich Town.
Who definitely won’t? I fear that Coventry City are going to be the next of the ex-Prem clubs to drop into the third tier.
Most anticipated fixture? Hmmm. Tough one, but I think I will have to say the two games against our poor relations down the road. They have trounced us the last two times we have played them, but this time we are on a level footing and the blue few have no longer got a team built on other peoples money.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I am quite interested to see what Nathan Tyson will do if he scores the winner against Forest…
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Nicky Maynard from Bristol City. Fantastic striker, who I think would score bagfuls playing off of Rickie Lambert.
You find yourself stuck in Fratton Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I would open two packets of Scampi fries and put them in my pockets, draw an anchor on each forearm in biro, speak in a fake cockney accent and talk about nothing but “scummers”. This should see me blend in with the locals. Failing that, I will dress like the sheik from Cannonball Run and walk about with a bag labelled “swag”, the Fratton faithful will be so busy putting up “Welcome to Portsmouth” banners on the flyovers of the M27, I will be able to walk out unnoticed…
What can we expect from your club this season? A low average age! As a result of the club’s precarious financial state, we were forced to field more of our younger players last year than we perhaps would have liked. We’ve made a few additions to the squad over the summer, noticably Chris Iwelumo, but we’ll still be relying on our array of Harefield Academy graduates. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – they performed admirably last year, but the Championship seems incredibly competitive this year, big teams entering the division from both the Premier League and Division One, so they will need to deliver for us again. Whatever happens, a team managed by Sean Dyche is always going to give 100% so I’d be surprised if we didn’t provide a tough challenge for the majority of teams in this league.
Who is your most important player? Having said we’re largely dependent on youth, we do have a couple of experienced players. Cult hero Lloyd Doyley is entering his testimonial year, whilst fellow defender Martin Taylor is a vital part of our defensive unit. Our most important player is another man with experience – our captain John Eustace. Eustace is a born leader, barking orders on the pitch whilst crunching into tackles, breaking up play and kick-starting many of our attacking moves. The sort of player you hate playing against, but adore when he’s one of yours. The news that John Eustace had signed a contract extension was without doubt the best news of the summer.
Your predicted finishing position? If you’ve ever listened to me on the ‘From the Rookery End’ podcast, you’ll know that I’m not the most optimistic of souls! I do however think it’s fair to say that our single aim for this season is safety. If we can avoid relegation, it will have been a successful year and so anything above 21st will be god news as far as I’m concerned. We certainly have the talent to survive, but a good start to the season will be vital – especially with Sean Dyche entering his first season in management.
Who might win the Championship? Leicester City have been attracting a lot of attention with their eye catching activity in the transfer market, so I’d imagine they will be short odds. Will all the new signings gel though? I’m not sure. Their fans will expect a lot after all the investment, so their will be definite pressure on Sven and his team. Of the relegated sides I think West Ham United will be challenging, whilst Division One champions Brighton will be full of confidence after demolishing their opponents last year. I’d be surprised if they won it, but I can certainly see them making the play-offs. If you were to give me a fiver to back a winner, I’d go for Nottingham Forest. I think they have pulled off a master stroke in getting Steve McLaren on board, he has a wealth of experience and in getting rid of the permanently angry Billy Davies, I imagine the City Ground is already a more pleasant place to be. They get big crowds and have a decent squad – I’m going with Nottingham Forest.
Who definitely won’t? Birmingham City. Things are unravelling at an alarming pace at St Andrews and their fans will be hoping they can simply survive the season. They are losing players left right and centre and have seemingly have no funds with which to bring in replacements. It’s looking bleak for the blues.
Most anticipated fixture? Over the summer, most of our key players and staff departed for Wales. Danny Graham went to Swansea, whilst what felt like every one else followed Malky Mackay to Cardiff City. There was a lot of good will towards Malky after what he achieved in his time as boss at Vicarage Road, but this evaporated when he used his knowledge of contract situations at Watford to pinch Don Cowie, our influential midfielder, on a free. I think a lot of fans will be looking forward to the games with Cardiff and praying that we can prove to those that left they made a mistake. From a personal point of view I’m looking forward to visiting Brighton’s shiny new stadium and finding out first hand if they make good on their promise of lighting the away end in the colour of the visiting team. Intriguing!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I always enjoy watching the joys of the South Coast derby unfold – ideally from a very safe distance. With the Saints back in the Championship, I am looking forward to watching Southampton and Portsmouth do their thing. South coast neighbours Brighton also have their eyes on a tasty derby with long time rivals Crystal Palace, so that will be good fun to watch.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? He’s actually got a lot to prove at Championship level, but he’s a local lad and is rumoured to be a Watford supporter, showing him to be of impeccable taste. He needs a haircut, but I reckon Craig Mackail-Smith would be a decent addition to any Championship side. It will be interesting to see how CMS does at this level.
You find yourself stuck in Kenilworth Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Very simple. I would simply explain that I am an official from the Football League and am therefore obviously very lost. I probably wouldn’t even need to explain; they have been non league for so long now, they simply wouldn’t recognise a supporter from a football league club! Bless their cotton socks.
What can we expect from your club this season? A top two finish. Hopefully!
Who is your most important player? Kevin Nolan. If he can score his usual amount of goals then we can be very hopeful of promotion at the first attempt.
Your predicted finishing position? 1 or 2.
Who might win the Championship? Us!
Who definitely won’t? The others!
Most anticipated fixture? It’s certainly not Millwall. Maybe v Leeds?
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton v Portsmouth.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Shane Long.
You find yourself stuck in the Den. How do you escape unnoticed? Quickly get some extra tattoos…
Well that wraps up the 2011/12 Championship preview by the top club bloggers and tweeters. All there is to do now, is sit back watch the season unfold and see our optimism and predictions die before our eyes…
What can we expect from your club this season:- Your guess is as good as mine! Paul Jewell has brought in some excellent signings for this level, but it is all about ensuring they gel quickly and play as a unit. I’m confident we have much to look forward to under Jewell, but it may take time to build a winning mentality after a number of years accepting mid-table obscurity.
Who is your most important player? I think it’s safe to suggest Michael Chopra will be our talisman this season. If he can approach anywhere near the 25-goal mark we will be having a decent campaign. ‘Chops’ has had a very good pre-season so we’re all hoping he will hit the ground running at Ashton Gate.
Your predicted finishing position? 6th. Possibly letting my heart rule my head but I think we can just about sneak into the playoff mix this season.
Who might win the Championship? I don’t think you can look much beyond West Ham and Leicester. Both sides have chucked around considerable sums of money and have top flight experience that will prove crucial in the bigger games.
Who definitely won’t? Peterborough are operating on the smallest budget in the division and don’t seem to have learnt about fielding a side lacking in Championship experience.
Most anticipated fixture? For personal reasons I am looking forward to our duels with Peterborough, although some revenge at Upton Park for our semi-final playoff defeats in the Joe Royle era would be nice!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Tough one – I guess it will be interesting to see how many fans make it onto the pitch this time between Millwall and West Ham!
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Jimmy Bullard. An enigmatic figure in our side whilst on loan last season and pre-season performances suggest we are desperately missing his creativity in the final third.
You find yourself stuck in Carrow Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Find the nearest exit and run for the hills! (And shower to cleanse my sins)
What can we expect from your club this season? It’s difficult to say at the moment. Sections of the White Army would have you believe that we’ll be tumbling back into League One come the end of April but I think somewhere around the middle is likely with the current squad (27th May). Signings, or the lack thereof, have done little to lift the mood of missing out on the Play-offs last year with a dreadful run of form in the final month.
Who is your most important player? You’d have to say it’s a toss up between Luciano Becchio and Max Gradel. The pair scored a combined 38 goals last season. I’ll go with Max as his 18 goals came from midfield and with Becchio set to miss the start of the season, we’ll need him more than ever.
Your predicted finishing position? Again, difficult to say at this stage. I don’t think we over-achieved last year, so you’d have to say anything less than Play-offs is a disappointment. But to answer the question – 9th.
Who might win the Championship? You’d have to say Leicester, given all the cash they’re throwing about. Although they’ll soon realise that Kasper Schmiechel isn’t quite as good as the name suggests… West Ham seem the other obvious shout I suppose.
Who definitely won’t? Any team that finished in the bottom half last season, the likes of Derby, Doncaster, Crystal Palace etc. Ipswich might be a dark horse though…
Most anticipated fixture? Erm… We don’t have many local derbys now the Sheffield clubs have fallen into oblivion, and Huddersfield Town bottled the Play-off Final. My favourite place to go is Turf Moor because we usually win, and it’s local to me, so I’ll go for that – Burnley v Leeds United. (A repeat of last season’s comeback from 2-0 down would be great!).
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? West Ham v Millwall, just for the comedy factor of watching Burberry clad, Danny Dyer wannabes go to war. “Pwopa Nawty!”
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? SHANE LONG – I think he’d be a perfect compliment to Luciano Becchio. We’ll probably sign him in about 8 years time when he is knocking about on a free, but we’ll still haggle on the wages!
You find yourself stuck in Old Trafford. How do you escape unnoticed? Sit silently in my seat, staring glumly at the pitch. Occasionally grumble when a pass goes astray but at no point would I break into song. If Manchester United are losing I could safely file out of the ground after 65 minutes with the rest of the idiots. 75 minutes if they’re playing well. I’d keep a prawn sandwich about my person as an alibi, just in case I’m rumbled.
What can we expect from your club this season? Going by the noises coming from Sven and the owners, a push for the automatic promotion places and nothing less.
Who is your most important player? Matt Mills has the responsibility of marshalling a new defence which should concede far fewer than the 71 goals it managed last season.
Your predicted finishing position? 2nd.
Who might win the Championship? Hardly original, but West Ham should be strong enough to take the title.
Who definitely won’t? Coventry City, perhaps the best they can hope for is a positive goal difference for the first time in eight seasons.
Most anticipated fixture? Forest away in August should be a cracker with two promotion contenders and two former England managers going head-to-head, but the idea of a promotion party at Leeds..oh my!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton against Portsmouth should be pretty tasty. The rematch of the 2010 Playoff Final between Cardiff and Blackpool will be one for the purists, that would be my choice if you’re going to force me to pick just one.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? I’d love to have Shane Long, but it looks like that boat has sailed.
You find yourself stuck in the City Ground. How do you escape unnoticed? Perhaps by having a rant about how the club aren’t investing and making envious remarks about certain neighbours ‘buying the league’. Not so effective if wear a replica shirt, mind.
What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking passing football from a team of youth academy players.
Who is your most important player? Kevin Thompson if fit but we have a handful of injury prone midfielders who are just as good. Rhys Williams has premier league admirers and captain Matty Bates is our Stevie G. The physio is the most important man for our chances.
Your predicted finishing position? Anywhere from 2nd to 7th the difference between them might only be 3 points.
Who might win the Championship? Leicester. Good manager with money to burn! Everyone has got a big chance of winning it. it’s all about the start and finish!
Who definitely won’t? Watford, all of the players who made a difference in games last year have left and so too has the manager who gave the team belief. Palace will flirt with danger again.
Most anticipated fixture? Our closest game to a local derby is Leeds.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Millwall v West Ham or Southampton v Portsmouth, big derbies with fireworks on and off the pitch.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Shane Long goal machine with a massive work rate he’d fit into our team perfectly or Lee camp, Jason Steele has a big future but we need clean sheets ASAP camps experience and commanding presence at the back
You find yourself stuck in Elland Road. How do you escape unnoticed? To get out any championship ground you simply say: “The manager needs more money!” “If we put a run together we could get promoted” “We can beat these today”.
What can we expect from your club this season? Despite losing Steve Morison in the offseason, Millwall should benefit from a season under their belts in the Championship. Morison’s departure was the only player loss of any significance (not counting the sentimental departure of Neil Harris. Chopper!) They have become a stronger team in each of Kenny Jackett’s three seasons at the helm and should improve again this year. A playoff spot, at minimum, is well within reach.
Who is your most important player? James Henry’s north to south attacking ability from midfield, ability to find the open man with pin point crosses, and excellent dead ball skills make him our most important player this season. Millwall’s ability to score more will be key for them – defensively they are solid.
Your predicted finishing position? 6th or better at a minimum would be a successful season and show continued improvement.
Who might win the Championship? If not The Lions, then my picks would be either Leicester or Forest, although Forest have shown an ability to play below their ability the past couple of seasons.
Who definitely won’t? Barnsley, Doncaster, and Crystal Palace.
Most anticipated fixture? Ha! West Ham home, West Ham away. Leeds games are always fun too.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I’ve heard the south coast derby between Southampton and Portsmouth can get quite feisty, so that would be a fun one.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton.
You find yourself stuck in Upton Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I’d point to the other end of the stands and yell “There’s Avram Grant!” Then just walk out while the bubble blowers are looking about.
What can we expect from your club this season? Impossible to predict! I expect playoffs at least, but have been underwhelmed so far with transfers (in terms of quantity – happy with the players we have signed) so maybe mid table.
Who is your most important player? I think it will prove to be Jonathan Greening.
Your predicted finishing position? 4th.
Who might win the Championship? West Ham.
Who definitely won’t? Derby
Most anticipated fixture? Gotta be when those Derby Rams come to town for an annual beating.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? To be honest, I’m too Forest-centred to really care unless of course the outcome has a benefit to us.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Lots of good players to choose from this year, would love to see Nicky Maynard in garibaldi red.
You find yourself stuck in Pride Park. How do you escape unnoticed? Fortunately the Nottingham and Derby accents are pretty close, so you cut out any words more than two syllables, affix a blank expression and make like a sheep and follow the person in front of you until you get outside!
Part Four featuring Peterborough, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton, Watford and West Ham coming soon…
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