Many things split the opinions of Saints fans, and Gaston Ramirez is certainly one of them.
The Uruguayan arrived with much promise, but for many he has flattered to deceive, while others think he’s been misused or not given the right amount of chances to show what he can do.
The latter argument has been fuelled most recently due to Gaston’s form for loan club Middlesbrough.
Ramirez has scored six goals in eleven appearances for the Teesiders and looks to be pulling the strings in their push for promotion, but should Saints be utilising him better, or is this a flash in the pan and the club would be better off moving him on in the Summer?
I put it to the masses on twitter to decide.
KANGAROO COURT:- Gaston Ramirez is on fire at Boro. Found his level? Or wasted by #saintsfc?
@saint_al1976 ‘We all wanted Gaston to succeed – he was the face of a new era at Saints that washed away the memory of Record signing Rory Delap. We had beaten Liverpool to his signature – we had arrived in the big time. But something didn’t sit quite right with me from the start.
Signed on the back of a decent display in the 2012 Olympics “the Championship” equivalent of international football, he immediately looked sublimely gifted – but massively light-weight. Once the early season killer passes and the odd goal wore away with his confidence it was clear that opportunities would be limited in a bottom 5 team.
Pochettino should have been the perfect manager to get the best from Ramirez – unlocking his natural ability and adding that layer of intensity that had been so lacking. But it just never happened – and with willing runners like Steven Davis his chances again became limited. I truly believe that if Gaston had really had it in him, Mauricio would have persevered – but he didn’t.
And finally we came to Ronald – a man who has worked with the very best in world football. Do you not think that if he felt Gaston was a world class player he would have made it happen at Saints? As it turned out he was allowed to leave for Hull on loan and was duly relegated playing a bit part role.
A string of goals in the Championship has now raised the question of whether Saints missed something, wasted an opportunity? But don’t kid yourselves, it’s still the part of you that wanted to believe. Fact is, the championship although tough, is slower. And in a top of the table team he will be afforded the time and space that would never be available in the top flight. Should he be promoted with Middlesbrough and get a second crack I wish him all the best. But I expect normal service to quickly resume.’
The case for the Defence:-
@TacoAli‘Cast your mind back to 22 September 2012. Saints were yet to win on their return to the Premier League but Aston Villa were in town and that would soon change. With Gastón pulling the strings in a number ten role, Saints won 4-1, and today the game is a remainder of what might have been.
To say Gastón hasn’t been given chances isn’t true; under Nigel Adkins, who clearly loved him as a player, and Mauricio Pochettino, who didn’t seem quite so keen, he was given chances. To say he didn’t take those chances is also untrue. Injuries and international duty hampered his development, especially under Pochettino, but when he played he always gave Saints something a bit different and invariable made things happen. He’s strong on the ball, capable of going past players with ease, has great vision and isn’t afraid to shoot from distance. Now he’s getting the chance to play regularly, it’s no surprise to see him tearing things up.
Since Ronald Koeman’s been in charge, and perhaps more importantly Ralph Krueger chairman, Gastón’s been ostracized; shipped out on loan or left to rot not even getting on the bench. He’s been used as a stick to hit Nicola Cortese with, a symbol of the Italian’s apparent avarice and arrogance, rather than being utilised. When he came on against Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season he added some dynamism to Saints’ play and set up Sadio Mané’s equaliser. In those eleven minutes he did more than Jaunmi’s done all season, yet it was he who’s been deemed surplus to requirements, and the latter who remains at St. Mary’s, a bench-warmer in whom Koeman evidently has no confidence.
Gastón’s showed what he can do, but under Koeman he’s never had a chance to do it. When you consider some of the dire football we’ve played this season, that really is a shame.’
Certainly one that was perhaps closer than I personally expected. Sometimes a player simply doesn’t fit at a club and does for whatever reason perform better elsewhere. It would probably best for all parties if Gaston gets a move away in the Summer. We’ll always have the corn rows.
“I didn’t realise quite the level of intensity and hatred there was there. It was the one derby I hadn’t done – because they hadn’t played for so long – and I didn’t realise it was going to be right up there with all the others. It’s palpable. You understand how much it means to both sets of fans to win the match.” – Referee Graham Poll after the 2nd December 2003 derby at St. Mary’s.
In the build up to the next South Coast Derby on December 18th, I decided to have a look at the players who crossed the divide and turned out in Pompey blue and Southampton Red & White.
The second in this series looks at a man who unites the fans in their opinions of his abilities as a player and who fittingly made his last appearance as a South Coast player in a derby.
A South Coast derby will be hostile occasion for the away side at the best of times, but on the 7th January 1996, it was a particularly nerve wracking experience for one of the visiting Pompey players to the Dell.
For Jon Gittens, it was a case of returning to his old stomping ground as well as a matter of local pride.
Midlands born Gittens was a trainee Tailor while playing for local non-league side Paget Rangers when he was snapped up by Saints in 1985. The twenty one year old central defender made his first team debut in April the following year and initially looked like he was going to become a regular in the first division sides lineup. Gittens found it difficult to get games ahead of the relied upon Mark Wright and Kevin Bond though and having already gained a reputation for being rough and ready Gittens was offloaded to Swindon Town by Chris Nicholl for a fee of £40k.
Nicholl would pay ten times that to bring Gittens back to the Dell just four seasons later. Gittens second spell proved to be as fruitless as the first, playing second fiddle to the likes of Neil Ruddock and Richard Hall in the Premier League, and he was soon loaned to first division Middlesbrough.
While Gittens will never be remembered as one of the clubs best players, Saints fans will always look upon Gittens as a trier and a tough player, but one that “Never looked like cutting it at Saints” according to @ThePhilReed. “Gittens was flipping hard!” was the verdict from Saints fan @alexgbourne “He was rock solid and gave his all.”
After helping Middlesbrough gain promotion to the Premier League, Gittens made his move to the North East permanent but found himself back on the South Coast and in the first division again with Portsmouth just a year later.
His first two seasons at Fratton saw Gittens establish himself as a regular under Jim Smith and then Terry Fenwick. Still renowned for his love of getting stuck in, Pompey fan @simmouae remembers him as a “booking a game man” as his no-nonsense approach made him a regular in front of the officials. Gittens had seemingly found his level in the First division, although Pompey were struggling, @Lord_Palmerston recalls “Gittens was strong but had the turning circle of an oil tanker. On his way downhill before he joined PFC but reasonable at our level”.
Gittens would find first team games more difficult to come by in the 1995/96 season and his trip back to the Dell in January 1996 in the FA Cup third round would prove to be his ninety ninth and last appearance for Portsmouth.
Gittens headed west to play for another set of rivals in Torquay United and Exeter City respectively before heading to non-league football.
After management spells with Fareham Town and Blackfield & Langley the UEFA A licensed coach is now training other coaches for the Football Association.
Saints will be looking to make it eighteen straight home victories on Saturday when fellow high fliers Middlesbrough visit St. Mary’s.
Boro have looked an impressive outfit under returning local Tony Mowbray, playing nice flowing football and conceding goals has become a rare occurrence. Currently lying in third place, three points behind leaders Saints, the Teesside club have only lost once so far in the league, away at Nottingham Forest,
It is already looking like a key game, as both clubs will be hoping their good starts to the season will see them in the promotion shake up in May.
Amongst the visiting squad, will be one ex-Saint….
The Melbourne born forward started his career in his native Australia, playing for Gippsland Falcons and Cranbourne Comets before Saints snapped him up on a youth contract in 2000.
Despite some impressive performances at youth and reserve level, ‘Skippy’ struggled to force his way into the first team setup at the Dell. Battling with the likes of James Beattie, Kevin Davies, Brett Ormerod, Marian Pahars and errr Agustin Delgado, McDonald had to go out on loan to get regular football. Spells with Huddersfield Town and then AFC Bournemouth followed but he didn’t impress new Saints boss Gordon Strachan enough to retain him and he was released in the summer of 2003.
The tenacious frontman only made three appearances for the first team, and although he looked lively he lacked the quality required to sustain a Premier League place.
After Saints, he was ironically signed for his beloved Celtic by Strachan via spells with Wimbledon and Motherwell, and it was Strachan again who brought him to the North East. The Australian international was in impressive goalscoring form for Boro towards the end of last season, but has only scored once so far in this campaign at Barnsley in August.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Scott Gordon, a former teammate of McDonald’s in the Saints Academy setup. Here is what Scott had to say about his namesake:-
‘I played alongside the ‘wizard from Oz’ about 10/11 years ago. Well when he was there I did. Scott Mc was a talent even at 17 when he first came to Saints, so more often than not he was jetting around the world playing for Australia in various Youth International games and tournaments.
Our first game was away to Charlton on a pitch hidden behind the corner of the Valley Stadium. We lost 1-0 and it was slim pickings that day for Maccers.
Scott was and still is a fantastic player. Small but strong as a bull, he could hold off the biggest of defenders. A great first touch and lightning fast feet got him a few kicks from me in training. But as always he got up and on with it. He was never one for crying at the ref or taking a tumble at the slightest push.
Around our digs he liked to show off his strong Scottish roots by proudly wearing his Celtic shirt. And maybe it was just me, but every now and then I could hear a wee Scottish brogue through his Aussie accent.
We could all tell he was going to make it, and along with Brian Howard and Chris Baird he went on to ‘bigger and better things’ away from St Marys.
Every time he comes on the tv I do make a point of saying “I used to play alongside him you know”.’
Middlesbrough fan David McNally gave me his thoughts on the Antipodean striker:-
‘Scott could be a game and season changing player for Boro. Last seasons top scorer has hit a frustrating patch in front of goal but is still an important and hard working member of the team.
Scott arrived with a big goal scoring reputation from SPL giants Celtic fleeing Tony Mowbray’s revolution to reunite with Gordon Strachan. Both managers failed and as Boro’s season nose dived so did Scott’s chances of making Australia’s world cup squad. Mowbray returned to Boro to rescue his home town club from relegation. Many assumed the players Mowbray had let go from Celtic and then inherited at Boro would be moved on again with Scott a prime candidate.
This was not the case and Mowbray breathed new life in to the team and notably Scott.
Mowbray paired the rejuvenated Marvin Emnes with Scott McDonald. The pairing sparked as Boro destroyed Hull 4-2 away. As Leroy Lita departed Boro fans stayed calm and trusted in the pairs ability and as the start to the season proved the trust was repaid. Scott’s hard work, first touch and link up play has led to goals and chances for team mates while taking his focus off of goal scoring. He has earned himself a recall to the Australian squad since Mowbray’s arrival.’
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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