Most of the hotel guests are either in bed or enjoying a beer in the neighbouring bar after a long day on Act 2 of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series.
One isn’t. One is sat in his room nervously watching text updates from the Official Southampton Football Club website, as his beloved club take on Bristol Rovers at St. Mary’s.
Guly do Prado wins the game in the 82nd minute after all indication from the text updates showed that Saints kept frustratingly knocking at the door without being let in. The win kept Southampton in second place in League One, with an advantage over the pursuing Huddersfield Town in third.
Most of the hotel guests are sleeping soundly after a long day working on Act 2 of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series.
One isn’t (he set his alarm). One is sat in his room nervously waiting for Sky Sports Score Centre to load on his Mac. His beloved Saints will have just finished their game against Peterborough United.
Saints have won. Goals from Jos Hooiveld (midweek cowboy) and Billy Sharp have secured the crucial three points. The win keeps Saints safe in second place in the Championship, with a five point advantage over West Ham in third.
Supporting Saints isn’t a hobby. It’s a religion. Like most religious people Saints fans don’t let being in another country stop them worshipping.
I am extremely lucky. I do a job where I get to travel the world, the inconvenience of following Saints on those trips is not that often. This post is dedicated to all the Saints fans around the world who live permanently on foreign shores. They may not be at St. Mary’s every week (neither am I), but their support is no less passionate.
Saints currently have six players trying to prove themselves at other clubs. Forwards Jonathan Forte and Sam Hoskins are with Phil Brown’s Preston North End, Goalkeepers Tommy Forecast and Jack Dovey are paying their dues in non-league football with Bromley Town and local club Eastleigh respectively. Black sheep Jason Puncheon is back in the Premier League with new boys Queens Park Rangers and promising defender Jack Saville has gone to Underhill to help League Two strugglers Barnet.
I thought it would be interesting to have a look at their progress with these clubs, with reports from the people who are getting behind them and watching every week.
The most high profile of the Saints loanees is of course Puncheon, who headed to Loftus Road in the summer with the all too public falling out at Saints behind him. The glamour of the Premier League may have been too much to turn down, but Puncheon has been little more than a bit part player with the R’s, making just two league appearances off of the bench.
Jonathon Forte might not have made the impact he would have liked at St. Mary’s after arriving from Scunthorpe last season, but his goals against MK Dons were extremely important as Saints headed for promotion. Often harshly treated by Saints fans for me, Forte and youngster Hoskins headed to Lancashire to play for North End.
Forte has started twice for the Deepdale club, both against Rochdale, playing the full ninety minutes in both games. We caught up with John Kelly from the Preston Supporters Group to give us his thoughts on Forte:-
“North End are having a bit of a nightmare at the moment, with a complete lack of investment from our new owner Trevor Hemmings. Forte started up-front alongside our young striker Juvel Tsumo, who was soon replaced with Neil Mellor.
Forte struggled to get into the game, and despite running around alot seemed a little out of his depth and offered little. It would be un-fair to judge him on this game alone, however I honestly can not see his loan being much of a success for any party involved. He is unavailable to play tomorrow and even if he was, as soon as Iain Hume or Jamie Proctor returns he will be left out anyway. Most PNE fans fined both loans very strange and not what we need. Mainly due to their lack of experience and age.
Maybe if he had come into a winning side things would be different, but I would expect him to be back at your place soon without either PNE or Southampton being any the wiser on his ability. As for Hoskins I really can not understand this loan at all.”
Hoskins is yet to feature for PNE.
After arriving from Chelsea, young defender Jack Saville came with much promise, the performances of the current Saints defence though makes first team time hard to come by. Jack headed back to London at the start of the month to spend some time on loan with League Two side Barnet. He made his debut off the bench in the FA cup win at Southport before making his first start in the 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium, Barnet’s first league win in five. Eric from Barnet site Downhill Second Half gave us his take on the young defender:-
“I’ve only got one full 90 to go on so far, but his showing at Bristol Rovers was excellent.
It’s no mean feat for a lad of 20 to settle straight in to an almost entirely new defensive unit. Owing to injury, we had three loanees in the back four for yesterday’s second half, so for them to work so well together was a strong statement.
For me, Jack was the pick of the three. For a start, he was playing out of position at left back and faced two quick wingers all afternoon. His no nonsense approach was key in us soaking up a lot of pressure in the second half and he put himself on the line several times with some brilliant blocks.
As we were under the cosh for plenty of the second period, we didn’t see much of Jack going forward. However, I cannot imagine that Lawrie Sanchez will change much after this showing, so we should get to see more in the coming weeks, starting with a home match against Macclesfield on Friday night (that’ll get the crowds in…!)”
Jack Dovey has been at Eastleigh FC since the end of October and made an impressive start for the Blue Square South club. Making his debut at Thurrock Town, Dovey saved a penalty to immediatly shine, and the Spitfires haven’t lost in the four games he has played.
Blue Square South rivals Bromley is where Dovey’s fellow keeper Tommy Forecast has been since late September. Forecast has been a fixture for the Kent club and we caught up with Jeff Hutton, club development officer for Bromley FC to see how he has been doing:-
“Tommy Forecast was drafted in by Bromley manager Mark Goldberg for a three month loan spell on 23rd September. Since then Tommy has made eleven starts for the Lillywhites and has featured in every one of Bromley’s FA Cup fixtures which cumulated in a first round proper appearance at Brisbane Road against Leyton Orient. Tommy has failed to keep a clean sheet in any of his starts but this will come as no surprise to any Bromley supporter as we have failed to keep a clean sheet in any fixture since the start of September. Despite the score line Saturday, we lost 6-1 at Chelmsford City, Tommy pulled of a number of high quality saves and could do very little about the six goals conceded. People like to pick fault with keepers at any level but League sides send out keepers to our level to gain experience and that is Tommy is gaining valuable experience with every game he plays.”
It is fouteen months since Guilherme Do Prado joined Saints on loan from Cesena and the Brazilian still seems to split opinion amongst the St. Mary’s faithful.
After a slow start to life in English football (not uncommon amongst new imports) many were questioning the reasoning behind signing him. He was even cited as part of the reason that Alan Pardew and Nicola Cortese had fallen out, many suggesting that Guly had been brought in by the chairman against the wishes of the manager and that he had to play whether Pardew liked it or not. Pardew’s decision to put Guly on the bench, in what proved to be his last game in charge at Bristol Rovers many suggested had been the final straw.
This of course turned out to be nonsense, Guly was again on the bench for the five games following Pardew’s departure as Saints went on a disastrous run of form, and it was Guly as much as anyone that became a scapegoat amongst supporters.
As Saints form turned around under new boss Nigel Adkins, so did Guly’s. He netted his first goal for the club in a scrappy affair away at Yeovil Town before really showing what he could do in a man of the match performance at home to Tranmere Rovers as the Saints fans started to see glimpses of why he had been brought to the club.
Guly ended the season with eleven goals and six assists in twenty seven starts and twelve sub appearances (most of them fleeting). A pretty good return for a player settling in to the English game and being employed mainly on the wing, occasionally partnering Rickie Lambert up front. But the supporters were still split, some suggesting Guly to be lazy, or sometimes drifting in and out of games away from home.
I was always surprised by this, Guly’s creativity and ability to change a game were plain to see, he may not be the kind of player to chase the ball all day long and track back (I actually think he does do this), but every team needs a good mix of water carriers and show ponies.
Guly has started this season as well as he ended the last, still playing some games on the wing and some up top, he has weighed in with six goals and is joint top assist maker for the club creating six goals for his teammates, all of this has come in seventeen starts and one substitute appearance, and this is perhaps the most important statistic as it highlights how important he is in Adkins eyes as the Brazilian is Saints most used player so far this term.
So why do some fans question his place in the team? Well perhaps the trip to Reading highlights that better than most. Guly has been known to be quiet on away games, but with some footballers you need to focus on what he does do rather than highlighting what you perceive that he should be doing. The Brazilian, having been selected in midfield seemingly didn’t have a massive impact on a game that Saints trailed 1-0 with eighty minutes gone. Cue a deft volleyed flick over the top to set Steve de Ridder free on the right, and a point rescued. Still some were more intent on discussing what he didn’t do. Creating something from nothing is a skill that most footballers don’t have, and often eighty nine minutes of anonymity can be forgiven for one of genius and a certain number seven sporting Guernseyman could be often guilty of that.
It is worth remembering that foreign footballers aren’t coached the same way as they are here and sometimes we might be guilty of expecting English tenacity from players that simply weren’t taught that way.
In fact I think Saints have uncovered a gem in do Prado. A maverick and with a touch that is perhaps stereotypically expected of his countrymen, we miss his creativity when he isn’t there. Much is made, in fact a certain amount of panic ensues when Lallana is out injured, but Guly’s attacking contribution has been as prominent this season and at times so evidently lacking once he is off the pitch.
For me, he is far more effective when he plays off of Lambert up front, and although he isn’t a bad winger, he is somewhat restricted there, but he is a must for the starting lineup in my opinion.
We may have signed Guly at just the right time, somewhat of a journeyman in the Italian game, we are already the club where he has played his most football and as he enters his thirties he is likely to be hungry to make his mark before it is too late. His last big chance came in 2005 with Seria A giants Fiorentina, but a serious injury meant he spent along time on the sidelines and the moment passed. He could have stayed with Cesena in 2010 and made it to the Italian top flight having helped them to promotion but for whatever reason, he chose St. Mary’s to ply his trade, and I for one am very glad he did.
One thing I am certain of, is that if he helps Saints to the Premier League, he is one of our squad that will definitely be ready. So I leave you with this, especially those that have questioned his place in the side. If we want Saints to carry on winning and doing so in some style, we could do a lot worse than a bit of Samba magic in the Red & White stripes….
“If we make sure we can get Rickie in the right areas and give the right supply to him then he will put the ball in the back of the net, his career shows you that.” – Nigel Adkins, September 2011.
“He stands just over six foot three Rickie, Rickie…”
When Rickie Lambert signed for Saints in August 2009 for a price of around £1 million, it raised a few eyebrows amongst the other League One clubs as a big amount of money to be spending on a player, so soon after the club had been in severe financial trouble.
It certainly signalled the intent of Markus Liebherr and the new regime, that they would outlay that amount on a player that had never played higher than the third tier. Was it a risk? Perhaps it was at the time, although Lambert’s record speaks for itself at that level. Hindsight of course shows us that it certainly wasn’t, and actually a million pounds would represent a significant bargain. Who could put a price on Lambert’s worth to Saints now?
Lambert completed his one hundredth league game for Saints last Saturday, where his brace of penalties against Watford took him to fifty nine league goals and a record of over a goal every other league game. There were some question marks over whether Lambert could make the step up in his first season at this level, and eight goals in the first ten games would suggest that he can.
Lambert is every bit a goalscorer, proving so everywhere he has been, certainly the Bristol Rovers fans thought they let him go too cheaply in 2009, and still haven’t got a bad word to say about him.
Actually Lambert is one of those players who has improved drastically with age, and bettered his goalscoring record with every transfer and move up. Proving that sometimes, playing in and around players of a higher quality and working with better facilities can bring out the best in those that are willing to work.
Having begun his career at Blackpool, things didn’t take off for the young scouser at Bloomfield Road, and his stuttering professional career could have almost ended before it started, when he struggled to get a new club after being released by the Tangerines. Thankfully, Macclesfield Town took a chance on him, and it was a signing that paid off for the Silkmen. Having scored ten goals for the club in the 2001/02 season Lambert had caught the eye of near neighbours Stockport County and ex -Saint Carlton Palmer, prompting them to pay three hundred thousand pounds for the striker, tripling the Cheshire side’s record transfer income.
Success on the pitch were in short supply at the County Ground, the club faltering under Palmer and then Sammy McIlroy, but Rickie showed his resolve, still netting twelve times as the club battled relegation in 2003/04. Despite this personal success, Lambert was faced with dropping a division in 2005, heading to Spotland.
Rochdale proved to be a good move for Lambert, as he hit his first twenty goal season in 2005/06 even though the club proved to be inconsistent, finishing mid-table in League Two, and he was soon on the move again. This time Rickie would venture outside of the North West for the first time, joining Bristol Rovers for two hundred thousand pound in the summer of 2006.
‘In all his time at Rochdale we always knew that we were lucky to have Rickie Lambert and that one day he’d go onto bigger and better things; we were just happy to have him for as long as we could. The fact that he played alongside Grant Holt too made it even more special – we were the envy of the majority of clubs in our league with probably the best attacking duo. We signed him from Stockport where surprisingly he’d failed to make that much of an impression as far as I can remember.
In the 05/06 season (his second at Rochdale) I believe he played every game and ended the season as the league’s top scorer. Anyone who knows Lambert’s style of play will know about his free-kicks and they became pretty much expected every game; it almost a dead cert that if we got a free-kick outside the area then Lambert would calmly and cooly pop it into the back of the net.
We sold Rickie Lambert to Bristol Rovers in his third season with us for £200,000; it was a huge loss to the club, team and fans alike. We went on to make a further £25,000 from sell on clauses after he helped take Bristol Rovers to the play offs and eventually promotion.
I always look back at his time at Rochdale (especially playing alongside Grant Holt) and think “what if we’d never sold him”.’
It was at the Memorial Ground that Lambert really came to prominence. Despite a slow goalscoring start, he was to become a cult hero of the Gas fans, and it was soon a seemingly weekly occurrence in the 2008/09 season on Soccer Saturday that Jeff Stelling would be lauding him as having scored again. Lambert hit twenty nine league goals that season, an impressive feat in any team, even more so in one stuck in mid table.
Rovers fan Henry Burridge gives his lowdown on Lambert’s time by the Avon:-
“Having forked out £200,000 for Rickie Lambert, a fair wedge for any League 2 club, Bristol Rovers held high expectations of the Scouse forward. It took the big man a while to settle but upon his departure to Southampton there was more than a twinge of sadness amongst the average Gashead.
The fierce strike past Bristol City’s Adriano Basso that gave Rovers victory over ‘the dark side’ was enough to make him a part of Rovers folklore alone, but the goals didn’t stop there. A superlative 40 yard half volley against Swindon and a late header against Hartlepool lead Rovers to the play-offs, eventually winning promotion to League 1 after years in the doldrums.
While those who had shined in winning promotion for the Pirates failed to make the step up Lambert took to the third tier like a duck to water. 15 goals were scored in the league with another four in the FA Cup to boot, helping Rovers to the quarter finals of the prestigious competition, including a free kick against Southampton.
If what was seen in that season was potential then next season would be the blossoming. It seems odd to use such a dainty word when referring to a hefty man of 6’1” but the technique Lambert possessed was that of a class higher than League 1. Great in the air and on the floor, a cerebral footballing brain and two feet like sledgehammers, the only thing lacking from Lambert’s game was a yard or two of pace, though if he had that in his locker then there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been a Premier League player.
In his final season at Rovers Lambert flirted with the 30 goal mark, eventually falling one short, but the summer months would be torture for a set of fans that were just waiting for the inevitable bid to come in. You could not argue with the departure of Lambert to Southampton, going to a club with excellent facilities and getting a much increased wage. At the time the deal looked good, having seen the man go from strength to strength since his move the £1,000,000 fee seems a pittance.
There is still far more to come from Lambert, now making the same impact in the Championship, I live in hope that there is a weighty sell on clause upon his next transfer.” Read more from Henry at his site:- HJB Sports.
“He’ll take us to the Premier League, Rickie, Rickie…”
When Alan Pardew made him his first signing at Saints the following summer, some suggested he might have been overpriced, but Saints plan to sign players that could perform both at League One level and in the Championship showed faith in Lambert to make the grade. Saints started poorly in their first League One season but finished 7th despite a points deduction and Lambert hit thirty league goals, as well as three on route to winning the Johnstones Paint Trophy.
Renamed “Southampton’s Goal Machine” by the St. Mary’s faithful, Lambert represented all that was good about the new Saints positive outlook. His second season saw some doubt creep in though, as Lambert found himself a victim of his own success. A slow start to the season for both Lambert and the team saw frustration set in amongst the fans, and as Alan Pardew moved on, Lambert found his role in the side change under new gaffer Nigel Adkins. Having been very much the target man under the more direct Pardew, Lambert proved himself as a goalscorer, under the more possession based Adkins, Lambert proved himself as a footballer. Adapting his game to suit that of the new manager, Lambert’s ability as a provider and an all round player came to the fore, amazingly his perceived lack of goals led some to suggest he was having a poor season, he still scored twenty one league goals as Saints gained promotion to the Championship.
It has been well documented that Lambert has worked considerably on his fitness under Adkins, and has never looked so svelte. Finally Saints have a number seven befitting that figure, stunning goals (like the screamer against MK Dons), and an ability from a dead ball situation befitting the great man himself.
But could Rickie make the step up to a level he has never played at before? Eight goals in ten Championship games so far would suggest he could. What’s more there have been murmurs of interest from Premier League clubs, most notably Newcastle United, now managed by Pardew.
So has he been worth the £1 million spent in 2009? I think anyone would find it difficult to suggest he hasn’t. If he and the team carry on as they are, he could well get the chance to prove himself at the highest level, but having just missed out on the nPower Championship Player of the Month for September, Rickie Lambert has nothing left to prove. I would love to know what price Saints fans would put on him now, for me he is priceless, his role in our team and the way we play would be exceptionally difficult to replace. Perhaps even impossible.
Great in the air, a physical presence who will give any centre half a hard time, a finisher and a footballer. What we might have is the epitome of a great forward. What is for certain is that the resurgence of this football club has come on the back of a lot of Rickie Lambert goals, and you can’t put a price on that.
“He gets the ball he takes the piss, He wears the shirt of Matt Le Tiss, Rickie Lambert Southampton’s Goal Machine.”
Goodbye to you my trusted friend. We’ve known each other since 2009/10…
When Saints were relegated to the third tier of English football in May 2009, the club was at it’s lowest ebb. Administration, wages not being paid and liquidation a very real possibility.
The rescue of the club by Markus Liebherr was both spectacular in it’s suddenness and an early sign of things to come, especially in terms of how the new owners and chairman conduct their business. In private.
The new regime moved quickly to remove the disastrous Dutch coaching team and install the experienced and somewhat “punching below his weight” Alan Pardew. Suddenly, just as quickly as the club had spiralled downwards, it was growing again, and smiles were seen again around the city. The first season in League One was always going to be interesting. A new division, a new manager and a new team can be uneasy ground at the best of times, but add the points deduction that Saints had suffered as punishment for their financial troubles the previous season and you have a dangerous mix.
As it happened, it was a difficult start for the Saints, and there was an air of “here we go again” in the St. Mary’s stands. It was eight games before they registered a League One win, and ten before they hit “positive” points.
For the first time in a long time, Saints were a scalp. After years of being a weekly underdog, now they were facing life on the opposite side of the fence and it was tough. Smaller clubs desperate to take us down. The opposition League One fans were also hard to please, if a Saints fan suggested promotion they were “arrogant”, but if they suggested otherwise it would be ridiculous for us not to win the league with “our resources”.
But once Pardew’s men got the points deduction monkey off their proverbial backs, there was no stopping them. Showpiece signings like Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte soon got the team fired up the table, and despite some disappointing results away from home, Saints got themselves to within just seven points of the playoffs, highlighting the true punishment of a deduction. They did make Wembley however and lifted the Johnstones Paint Trophy in front of over fifty thousand of their fans, in what was a truly fantastic day for all concerned.
Saints fans went into the summer, cautiously optimistic, the team looked like it was now equipped to deal with the division, and with no points deduction the possibility of promotion was high. But as Saints fans, we learnt a long time ago to never “expect” anything.
It seemed inconceivable as Saints entered the 2010/11 season that there could be anything but good spirits at the club. Sadly there were undercurrents of mistrust between the manager and the board that spawned rumour after rumour. Coupled with an opening day televised home defeat to Plymouth Argyle and all the optimism of the summer was draining away fast, could it get any worse for Saints fans?
It could. Just three days after the first game of the season, Saints owner and saviour Markus Liebherr passed away. A city in shock, suddenly with it’s future up in the air again, and mourning the man who had brought back their smiles.
It didn’t improve on the pitch. A draw at home to Leyton Orient and grumblings of unfit players and poor pre-season preparation spelled the end for Alan Pardew, dismissed ironically after a 4-0 away win at Bristol Rovers. The next three league games all ended in defeat. Saints were 23rd in League One, their season already looking in tatters.
Enter Nigel Adkins. The Scunthorpe manager brought mixed reaction from the Southampton faithful, many still smarting from the removal of Alan Pardew, but after a losing start, the Saints players under a new regime started to put a good run of form together. The emergence of another Southampton “teenage sensation” in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the fantastic form of Adam Lallana and a much steadier looking back four made the Saints a tougher prospect and they were soon battling it out at the business end of the table.
It still looked like automatic promotion was going to be a difficult prospect though, and that we would be victims of our own poor start. Runaway leaders Brighton were having a fantastic season, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and a resurgent Peterborough United under Darren Ferguson all looking to take the second spot. A 0-1 defeat away at Walsall and many Saints fans would have been eyeing potential play off matches, but the run the team put together after that was to fire us half way back to where we belong.
The last fifteen games of the season. Thirteen wins. One draw. One defeat. Amongst this remarkable form there were moments of real inspiration, that finally had me, a natural pessimist believing we could do it.
MK Dons at home. 2-0 down and looking like a serious promotion challenge dent. Cue Jonathon Forte, brought on in the 63rd minute, pulled one back in the 66th and equalised in the 67th. I had no doubt in my mind at that point that we would win the game and we did.
Bristol Rovers at home. Having just lost 0-2 at Rochdale, Saints needed to pick themselves up again. I was in Qingdao, China, where nearly all social media is banned. I was sat in my hotel room at 2300 local time watching the text updates on the official site. Saints carved out chance after chance, but couldn’t score. Until the 82nd minute. Guly do Prado, sending at least one of the 1.3 Billion people in China into a state of delirious satisfaction.
Brighton Away. The deserved champions had got a little big for their boots, the snarling and baiting of their fans towards Nigel Adkins leading up to it, gave the game an unhealthy edge. David Connolly got the equaliser and Jose Fonte and Saints deservedly snatched their unbeaten home record in the last minute. The best team in the league statistically, couldn’t keep up.
Saints went into the last three games knowing that two wins was enough. We won all three, and promotion was sealed.
I have often heard our stay in League One described as a nightmare, but it really wasn’t. Of course it is a blow to find yourselves at this level after years of Premier League extravagance, but it was nice to have a period of winning more games than we lost. Having said that, I am glad to be out of it, and hopefully we won’t be back, although there is something rather refreshing about the less commercial League One.
It is a really weird feeling to be elated about going to the Championship. Last time I was devastated…
We had joy, we had fun, we had two seasons in League One…
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