Tag Archives: Battle

Hello darkness, my old friend

Saints are 18th in the Premier League with fourteen games to go.

‘Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again.’

We’ve been here before. We hoped we’d never be here again, but the ever growing competitive nature of the Premier League means that for a number of reasons 2017/18 is one that will not sit comfortably in the memory whatever the outcome, unlikely FA Cup win aside.

Before I proceed I want to make my position clear. Were I in an executive position on the board of Southampton Football club Mauricio Pellegrino would be out of a job by now, in fact he’d have gone immediately after the frankly embarrassing Leicester thumping at St. Mary’s. Having said that I am prepared to accept that while his tactical naivety is the overwhelming factor in our current decline, it isn’t the only variable that has seen us slip into a relegation battle like it’s the mid-90’s.

But let’s start with the manager. Like it or not, the manager’s one and only remit really is to get results and he isn’t doing that. Saints have a habit of starting games well, which suggests he isn’t so tactically unaware, the problem seems to come once we are in front. His immediate thought process seems to be to stop what was working and settle for what we have. Sitting back and inviting pressure has only gone one way so far, three points have rapidly evaporated.

Great goal Sofiane, but we did discuss holding out for a point. So…

My other concern on the manager is his response to changes by the opposition or lack thereof. The Watford game is a perfect example of this. Saints were two goals to the good and comfortable against a side themselves in disarray, but their introduction of Troy Deeney changed the dynamic and Saints were on the back foot. We didn’t react (one like for like sub in the 63rd minute) and although there was a huge element of fortune in the Hornet’s equaliser, it had been coming and their reading of the situation meant they gained a point, our misunderstanding of it meant we dropped two.

We have won just four league games all season, and barring an element of fortune against West Ham, a Forster masterclass at Selhurst Park and a moment of individual Boufal brilliance it could so easily be one. I know it’s not as simple as that, and we could analyse our draws and defeats and make a case for where we deserved more, but the fact of the matter is, our only truly convincing league win this season was a home thrashing of Everton, who themselves were in free-fall (something they have rectified with a new manager).

But. I think we have to accept that the manager isn’t going, if there was any chance he was under scrutiny by the board then surely they’d have made their move by now? So assuming it isn’t coming then we have to look at what else is going wrong.

I’ve seen many question the qualities of the squad, but to me this is poppycock and a compelling argument as to why the manager has failed. This is not a bottom three squad. No way. I will argue that with anyone. We have a better and more talented group of players than 5 or 6 clubs currently above us in the league. Is it as strong as it was in previous seasons, no I don’t think it is, but departures have weakened it, not destroyed it completely.

We do have an issue with a lack of depth. An injury to Charlie Austin (given his history, something that shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise) and our already lacking goals scored column becomes almost non-existent. A caveat to this though is that we do have a talented striker not getting game time? If we go down with Manolo Gabbiadini as unused sub we’ll be a laughing stock.

The same could be said for Mario Lemina. The lad looks like a real talent yet seems to be out of favour, if you add Sofiane Boufal to the mix that is three of our better players getting splinters.

The mis-use of Steven Davis is frustrating to see also. For me Davis is a consistently good performer in a Saints shirt, if he is played as part of the support three. He isn’t a defensive midfielder, and always plays poorly when asked to be one. The fact that he has been used there when Romeu, Lemina and Hojbjerg are available is baffling to say the least.

Decent. Team.

Football isn’t rocket science. Play your best players, and in the position they are most suited to play.

The biggest factor and the one that is effecting everybody is ‘the fear’.

‘And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains.’

There is a trepidation amongst the players, coaching staff and fans alike that is worrying to say the least, and the capitulations from winning positions reek of 2004/05 and the last time we dropped out of the top flight.

The atmosphere on and off the pitch is the same now as it was then. As most of you will know my physical presence at games is limited now due to my living abroad, but I did have the ‘pleasure’ of being at the Huddersfield game. Again Saints led and looked comfortable, but the Terriers equaliser was met with ‘the fear’, and we might consider ourselves lucky to have come away with a point. Immediately the players heads dropped and the attitude of the crowd changed, like the outcome was now a foregone conclusion.

Overcoming ‘the fear’ will be key to our survival this season, and that is where the crowd plays it’s part. We are Southampton, this isn’t our first relegation battle. We have to draw on that experience, and those of us who, like me, were there for the regular anxiety of the 90’s will tell you that one of the reasons we were very good at getting out of it was the backing of the crowd.

Nobody wanted to come to the Dell in that situation because the crowd backed it’s players and got on top of the opposition and we have to make sure St. Mary’s is the same. Especially when we entertain those around us. It’s all very well getting up for Spurs, but just like the players, we as fans have to take the same attitude into games against Brighton etc.

And please. Get off Nathan Redmond’s back. A promising player who was recognised by England looks a shell of his former self, and some of the abuse he has received while other under-performers seemingly get off scot-free is frankly disgusting.

I know it’s frustrating to watch at times, but to a point you are stuck with the manager and the players, so back them. Save your discontent for the end of the season come what may.

As fans our input is only vocal but it is important. Don’t let the players be faced with the sound of silence.

Keep the faith.

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Apologies for the brief hiatus! I have been working on other projects in both football and my real job. Hopefully this will be the return of regular posts!

As speculation increases as to the future of Nigel Adkins and the comparisons being made of him via social media and such I thought I would compare him to previous Saints Premier League managers the only fair way. Over their respective first 9 games in charge….

Ian Branfoot –  1992/93 season.

P9 W 1 D 4 L 4 F 7 A 11 P 7

Branfoot, like Adkins took until his fifth game to register a win, but had a relatively good start to his first Premier League campaign, picking up points in more games than not.

End result – Finished 18th of 22 in the Premier League, just one point from safety, Sacked in January 1994.

Alan Ball – 1993/94 season.

P9 W 4 D 3 L 2 F 10 A 12 P 15

Ball proved an instant hit at The Dell resotring Matt Le Tissier to the team and going on a great run.

End result – Finished 18th of 22 in the Premier League, just one point from safety (they were 21st when Ball took over). Left the club in the summer of 1995 after a great season finishing 10th.

Dave Merrington – 1995/96 season.

P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 8 A 16 P 6

Whispering Dave was seemingly the players choice when he was appointed in 1995. He took four games to notch his first victory and it was a sign of things to come.

End result – Finished 17th of 20 in the Premier League on goal difference. Sacked that summer.

What I’d like to see Adam, is Saints to score more goals than the opposition..

Graeme Souness – 1996/97 season.

P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 11 A 13 P 6

The fiery Scot promised to be a polar opposite change in management style from Merrington, but had a similar opening to the season. It took Souness until hi 8th game in charge to get 3 points, and despite some flamboyant foreign signings Saints struggled.

End result – Finished 16th of 20 in the Premier League, just one point from safety. Resigned that summer.

Dave Jones – 1997/98 season.

P 9 W 1 D 1 L 7 F 5 A 17 P 4

Dave Jones came to the club from the lower leagues and it was his first taste of management in the top flight. He struggled to put his stamp on the team at the start and people wondered if he had been a poor choice.

End result – Finished 12th of 20 teams, eight points from safety. Followed it with a season finishing 17th (though five points from safety) before being replaced in January 2000 after (unfounded) allegations of child abuse.

Glenn Hoddle – 2000/01 season.

P 9 W 5 D 1 L 3 F 6 A 6 P 16

Former England boss Hoddle came in while Jones was on “leave of absence” to prepare his defence. He had a fantastic start, winning his first five games in charge. In terms of a combination of results and style of play, Hoddle is still for me the best manager of my time supporting Saints.

End result  Saints finished 10th of 20 teams (they were 12th when he took over), and consolidated that the following season though Hoddle left for Spurs in March 2001.

Moving to Spurs was a poor choice…

Stuart Gray – 2001/02 season.

* – Only judged on games in full charge.

P 9 W 2 D 0 L 7 F 5 A 17 P 6

Stuat Gray was promoted from the backroom staff to caretaker manager when Hoddle left and was given the job permanently in the summer. Despite breaking the club’s transfer record Gray struggled for results.

End result. Gray was sacked on the 21st October with the club lying in 19th of 20 of the Premier League.

Gordon Strachan – 2001/02 season.

P 9 W 3 D 1 L 5 F 13 A 16 P 10

Serious question marks were raised when Strachan was appointed after he had eventually relegated Coventry City, but Saints immediately started to look more resilient.

End result. Saints finished 12th of 20 (they were 19th when he took over) and followed it in 2002/03 by finishing 8th and reaching the FA Cup final. He resigned in February 2004 with the club sitting 11th in the table.

Paul Sturrock – 2003/04  season.

P 9 W 4 D 1 L 4 F13 A 13 P 13

Luggy came in to replace his fellow Scot, but never seemed to fit in at the club.

End result. Saints finished 12th of 20, the same position as when he took over. He was sacked in the summer after rumours of player unrest.

And the award for best ‘Dressing room loser’ goes to…

Steve Wigley – 2004/05 season.

* – Only judged on games in full charge.

P 9 W 1 D 2 L 6 F 6 A 12 P 5

Steve Wigley was a highly unambitious appointment from within for the club who were possible already struggling financially behind the scenes. Fans were right to doubt him.

End result. Sacked in December 2004 with Saints in 18th place of 20.

Harry Redknapp – 2004/05 season.

P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 11 A 17 P 6

Redknapp came in controversial circumstances having just left Portsmouth, but fans can be forgiven for thinking he was the man to turn the team around. Sadly they were mistaken, poor signings, inept tactics and the demeanour of a man who wasn’t really interested was what they got.

End result. Saints finished 20th of 20 and were out of the top flight for the first time in 27 years. Returned to Portsmouth in December 2005 with Saints 12th in the Championship.

Time to grit teeth and dig in?

Nigel Adkins – 2012/13 season.

P 9 W 1 D 1 L 7 F 14 A 26 P 4

Nigel has obviously had a damaging start to life in the top flight, but has a very similar results record to Dave Jones who turned it around and got a decent league finish. He has had a worse start than Branfoot, Gray, Sturrock, Wigley and Redknapp, but I wonder how many Saints fans would want them back?

It is still too early to tell just what sort of Premier League manager Adkins will turn out to be, as these openings of other managers prove.

End result. Who knows, but while Adkins is in charge we must back him.