Tag Archives: Carrow Road

The Great Wall: Fraser Forster the not so lowdown

Well, it wasn’t quite as draw out a transfer saga as the ‘Victor Wanyama Episode’ last summer, but with Celtic’s Champion’s League reprieve it began to feel like it would never happen, but he is here and I think everyone involved is relieved!

Welcome to St. Mary’s Fraser Forster!

Linking up again with Goalkeeping coach Dave Watson from the England setup, Forster has built a formidable record as Celtic goalkeeper, breaking records along the way and now the stopper ranks at Saints look to have far more depth.

As is now tradition I spoke to those who know more about him than me and caught up with Celtic blogger Stephen Taylor from Drop of the Shoulder and Norwich City fan and Club Metro colleague Gary Gowers from My Football Writer to get the not so low (he’s 6’7″) down.

What can you tell us about Forster from his time with your club?

ST ‘Fraser has developed into a top goalkeeper during his time in Glasgow. He arrived at Celtic from Newcastle in the summer of 2010, initially on loan, having just been awarded the Norwich Players’ Player of the Year award the previous season (coming second in the Supporters’ award), and claimed the Macron Golden Gloves Award for keeping the highest number of clean sheets in League One, 18 in 38 appearances.At just 22 years old, some fans, myself included, were a bit wary that our new number one had played just one full season of first team football, especially with it being in League One. However, Forster displayed his capabilities that year, keeping 24 clean sheets from 44 appearances in all competitions. At times he looked his age though, he seemed quiet for a goalkeeper, often afraid to come off his line to claim the ball, and while he was a giant of a man, standing at 6 ft 7 in, he did not possess the commanding physique that he does now.In his second season with Celtic, again on loan from Newcastle, he continued in much the same vein, a very impressive shot stopper, this time earning 26 clean sheets from 47 games, but still culpable to high balls into the box.It wasn’t until Fraser was signed on a permanent basis in 2012 that I believe he really began to fulfil his potential. I don’t know whether it was the added confidence that being trusted with a four year deal had given him, or if it was merely because he had spent the past two seasons as Celtic’s number 1, but Forster seemed to have much more of a presence about him. The SPL is obviously the bread and butter of a Celtic players’ season, but it is the Champions League nights that the fans really crave, and this was where Forster stepped up to the plate. As fourth seeds in the group stage, and being drawn against Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow, we had no right to qualify for the Last 16, and without Forster in goal we would have had no chance. His performance in the famous 2-1 win over Barcelona at Celtic Park was inspired. He was like a man possessed with the Spanish press labelling him “La Gran Muralla” or “The Great Wall”. Messi and co. could not believe their luck as Forster denied them again and again. The stats from the game read that Barcelona had 14 shots on target, the fact that Fraser only finally succumbed to a stoppage time Lionel Messi rebound having pulled off yet another great save tells you all you need to know about his performance that day. It wasn’t just in the victory over Barcelona that Forster showed his class though. I was at both the Nou Camp and the Estadio da Luz for our away fixtures against Barca and Benfica where Fraser kept us in both games, almost clinching us a famous point in the Nou Camp with another majestic display.The season just past was not a great one for Celtic. We were outclassed and embarrassed at times in the Champions League, yet in that competition Forster was still our one shining light. Our solitary victory came at home to Ajax and once again Forster earned us that 3 points with some big saves, including a late one v one with the Ajax man looking certain to score.

In the league Forster kept a Scottish record 13 clean sheets in a row, culminating in 1256 minutes, just 55 short of Edwin van der Saar’s all-time UK record. I know people may think it is easy to keep clean sheets playing for Celtic, especially since Rangers demise has left the SPL a one team league, but if you have seen us play over recent years you will have noted how ropey our defending is at times, and on numerous occasions it has been left to Forster to bail them out.’

GG ‘Top goalkeeper. He was at City, on loan from Newcastle, during the 2009/10 season and was brilliant. Paul Lambert had a dabble in trying to keep him but, at that time, him and Tim Krul were vying for the no 1 shirt at St James’.Eventually they decided Krul was the man but by then John Ruddy had been acquired from Everton to be City’s no 1, and Fraser disappeared north of the border.But the ghost of Forster remained for some time and coupled with Ruddy’s slow start here, many fans yearned for Fraser – which was never going to happen.He’s still remembered very fondly in these parts.’

Does he have any particular strengths and weaknesses we should be aware of?

ST ‘Forster is a great shot stopper. He will always save the shots he should be saving, and more often then not pull out one of his giant paws to stop what had seemed a certain goal. He is also very good in one on one situations. I have countless memories of Fraser staying big to out fox the striker as they bare down on goal. Another major strength is he seems to rise to the occasion. The big games are when you can count on Forster to turn up. The Spanish press have been so impressed with him, in what seem to be our yearly meetings with Barcelona, that as well as dubbing him “La Gran Muralla” they also awarded him with the “El Oscar” award last season, which is a weekly prize given to a footballer for outstanding contribution to their team. I would also say Forster is very good at saving penalties. It seemed as though we waited about two years for him to save one, yet since then I can barely remember the ball going past him from the spot. In fact, even though we were granted a 3-0 victory over Legia Warsaw in the second leg of our Champions League qualifier following their fielding of a suspended player (thank you UEFA!), we would still have gone out were it not for Forster saving one of two missed penalties from Legia in the first game. Remember what I said about being a man for the big occasion?Regarding weaknesses, Forster still can be susceptible to crosses into the box, especially a quick, whipped in delivery, although I am not sure what goalkeepers are good at dealing with them. His kicking can also be a weakness at times. Since he first joined Celtic it is clear that he has been trained to use both feet when clearing the ball, often alternating between left and right foot for goal kicks. The only problem is where they go, when he strikes them cleanly he can send them to the opposite end of the field without any problems, and at times they can be pin point, but on the odd occasion with a striker chasing him down he has been known to scuff a clearance straight into the path of an opposing player. The worst part is it seems that once he has done a few poor clearances he can lose his head and begin lashing waywardly at the ball.’

GG ‘His all-round game is excellent and, as you would expect of someone of his stature, he commands his penalty area superbly. He is also a brilliant shot stopper. The only weakness I can recall is his kicking off the ground, which was a bit wayward. I’d expect that to have been rectified by now.’
Friends Reunited.
Friends Reunited.
Despite England recognition, having spent the majority of the career in the SPL, some are worried he might not have been tested. Do you think he is ready for the Premier League?

ST ‘Without a shadow of a doubt. As I have said previously, Forster rises to the occasion. He seems to relish the added pressure that the big games bring and I believe he will step up to the increased quality of opposition he will be facing without too much difficulty at all. I have witnessed him produce incredible displays against the best teams in the world over the past two seasons so have no worries about his ability to perform in the Premier League. If anything his worst displays at Celtic have come in games were he has not been involved much and has appeared disinterested or bored. ‘

GG ‘I don’t have even the slightest hesitation that he’s ready for the Premier League. In my view he was ready for the PL four seasons ago. If he pitches up at St Mary’s he’ll be brilliant. You’ll love him and wonder why he’s been so overlooked by England for so long.’

What have you made of Saints’ turbulent summer?

ST ‘I have felt for Southampton fans this summer. As a Celtic supporter I know all about what it’s like to lose your star players. The difference with Southampton though, is it appears you are going to reinvest the money you have brought in. Tadic and Taider look promising, exciting young players, and I believe Forster will be a great signing for you (does this mean we can have Boruc back?) As long as you continue to replace quality with quality I believe you will continue to progress.It was a shame to see Pochettino leave for Spurs but in Ronald Koeman you have a great footballing man who has managed some top clubs and won trophies along the way. I also have big expectations for another of your ex-Celtic contingent, Victor Wanyama, this year. I know he didn’t set the world alight last season, but fit and on form he can control a midfield with his sheer strength; I have witnessed him bully Xavi and Iniesta with my own eyes. You must continue to replace the key men you have lost, if you do that then I don’t see why it can’t be another great year for Southampton. ‘

GG ‘I really feel for you. To lose a couple is understandable for clubs the size of ours, but when it turns into a mass exodus that hurts. But Koeman is a shrewd operator and I expect him to spend the money wisely even if it’s occasionally on players you’ve barely heard of!To coin a phrase, you really have been victims of your own success but, if nothing else, it’ll make the visit of Liverpool a tasty one. I hope you batter them.’
 
Club & Country colleagues.
Club & Country colleagues.
There has been talk of Virgil van Dijk making the move from Celtic Park to Saints to. Has there been much talk at your end?

ST ‘Yes, there’s been a lot of talk in the Scottish press and the gossip column’s regarding van Dijk’s potential move to Southampton. He is one player I really do not want to see leave. van Dijk is a classy ball-playing centre half who alongside Forster and Commons stood out like a sore thumb in the SPL last season. He is young and hungry, and after being snubbed by van Gaal for the dutch World Cup squad I can see him leaving in order to gain international recognition. I just hope we can keep him for another year. If he is to go this summer though I suppose I wouldn’t mind seeing him joining Boruc, Forster and Wanyama on the south coast. I guess we owed you some good ones after Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox.’

There has been talk of Nathan Redmond making the move from Carrow Road to Saints to. Has there been much talk at your end?

GG ‘Hands off! Redmond has potential to be a fantastic player, although he’s a little way off at the moment. His final ball and decision making still need work, but the raw materials are there for a future England player.He’s a little like Raheem Sterling in his playing style but probably a year or two behind him in terms of his development.If he does come to St Mary’s he’ll both frustrate you and have you on the edge of your seat. He’s that type of player, but will one for day go on to play for a top six side in my opinion.’

So there we have it! Another new face at St. Mary’s and finally it would seem we have competition for the number one spot!
Chris

Premier League Preview: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our Premier League preview….

Liverpool:-

Name:- Stuart James Quigley

Team:- Liverpool

Website:- kickingtowardthekop.blogspot.com / www.theliverpoolword.com

Twitter:- @sqstudios

What can we expect from your club this season?

That’s a difficult question, as nobody really knows what to expect. The idea is that Rodgers has come in and we’re going to suddenly look like a combination of everything that was good about Swansea last year and Barcelona is all well and good, but a little naive. We’ll probably be a lot better at both ends of the pitch, because at the end of the season it was hard for us to be any worse.

Who is your most important player?

Steven Gerrard. Suarez comes very close but there’s no mistaking as to who everyone associates with Liverpool. There’s a reasonable arguement to be made for Lucas aswell, given what happened last year. Hopefully now that will have put to bed this ludicrous idea that’s he’s anything other than boss.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

5th. Champions League football would be great and while I don’t for any reason think it’s out of our reach, it relies upon too many other factors.

Who might win the Premier League?

Chelsea. They’re addressing the problem with their aging team the only way they know how, spending lots and lots of money. I have a feeling Di Matteo will suffer a lot in the same way that Dalglish did last year (first season no pressure, now there is) but if it clicks then City and United could have a fight on their hands.

Who definitely won’t?

Arsenal. I don’t think any level headed gooner will be thinking that they’re actually challenging, but any that are deserve the same kind of ridicule usually levelled at us.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Tricky.  Everton is more important and you feel that one coming for a lot longer but there’s that “special” something that comes with games against Man United, who probably edge it because it feels a lot less one sided.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

Probably City and United. It’s a bit of a cliche but the two games last year were fascinating. Also, they had the perfect result.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I think they – along with all the promoted teams – are certainly capable of staying up. The league has been divided into three categories now and those that aren’t challenging for Europe don’t ever seem to be really out of it until March, so it’s unlikely anybody will sink without a trace. St. Mary’s will be rocking and not the ideal place for any team to go if you manage to get on a roll.  Can’t wait to see Lambert in the Premier League also.

You find yourself stuck in Goodison Park. How do you escape unnoticed?

I’m not sure because if they ever heard me talk about Liverpool they may assume I’m just one of them.  They’re not obsessed or anything…

Man City:-

Name:- Ric Turner

Team:- Manchester City

Website:- www.bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

Twitter:- @bluemoon_mcfc

What can we expect from your club this season?

Hopefully a successful defence of the league title, and a prolonged run in the Champion’s League.

Who is your most important player?

Vincent Kompany. He’s our leader on and off the field, and is arguably the best centre half in the league. It’s a great relief that he’s recently signed a new six year deal with the club.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

1st, hopefully.

Who might win the Premier League?

Realistically it’s between us, United and Chelsea.

Who definitely won’t?

Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool (and everyone else, of course).

What is your most anticipated fixture?

The derbies against United. What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? United v Chelsea.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I think Southampton will stay up, just.

You find yourself stuck in Old Trafford. How do you escape unnoticed?

Get out my camera phone, and proclaim my love of Manchester in a southern or Irish accent.

Two’s Kompany? City will be looking to retain the Premier League title.

Man Utd:-

Name:- stiuge

Team:- Manchester United

Website:- www.weallfollowunited.com

Twitter:- @stiuge (@weallfollowunited)

What can we expect from your club this season?

A serious fight for the title, we want it back. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes. Had some shocking moments last season, for example drawing with Everton (4-4), Newcastle (1-1) and Stoke City (1-1) followed by a loss at Ewood Park in December (Blackburn beat us 3-2). We had way too many injuries and our form dipped because of that. Michael Carrick had to play as centre back more than he should have for example. If we have a good campaign, but finish 2nd I’ll take it. As long we don’t throw the title away like we did previous season.

Who is your most important player?

This one is easy, Nemanja Vidic. He missed most of last season after twisting his knee against Basel (December) and left the pitch on a stretcher. He only played in 6 Premier League matches. Now that Smalling and Evans are suffering from injuries, It’s crucial our captain stays fit.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

I think we are going to win the title back, so 1st. Who might win the Premier League? I think it’s going to be us or City, could see Chelsea and Arsenal fight for that 3rd place finish.

Who definitely won’t?

Spurs, they won’t even finish in Top 5, there I said it. I could see Newcastle or Everton pushing for that final Champions League spot. One thing that makes Premier League such a wonderful league, is the fact you usually fail with any league table predictions (at least I do!).

What is your most anticipated fixture?

There are some fixtures I look forward to more than others.. usual suspects City,Chelsea,Liverpool,Arsenal of course. Looking forward seeing United play against promoted teams too, such as your lot. Our first fixture of the season is a hard one as well, Everton (Away).

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

Well, must be derby days. Newcastle – Sunderland being a fixture I won’t miss.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

As I said before, predicting is hard but I’ll give it a go. I think you’ll finish anywhere between 12 and 16. You have only signed one new player so far (Jay Rodriguez), so It’s hard to say how much you are going to improve your team before transfer window closes. I think you will have no problem beating the drop, and when you do you can start building for your 2nd season back in Premier League.

You find yourself stuck in the Etihad Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed?

Hmmm, wow. Well moonwalk is out of questions here I suppose. Fake phone call always gets you out of tricky situations I suppose?!

Newcastle:-

Name:- Ed Harrison

Team:-  Newcastle United

Website:- www.nufcblog.com

Twitter:- @TheNufcBlog

What can we expect from your club this season?

Newcastle are in the Europa league this season so we are hoping that we can have a long run in that competition, our first participation in Europe for six years. And as far as the league goes we will do well to repeat our 5th place finish of last year with Liverpool and Chelsea likely to be a lot better this season. And as far the two local cups go we’d like to see us have some good runs in those too – but if we can again qualify for Europe next season we’ll be happy enough.

Who is your most important player?

Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote run the central midfield for us, and up front Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba score the goals, so they are important. Captain Fabricio Coloccini, who has just been selected for Argentina again is a huge player for us at the back,  as well as young Dutch international goalkeeper Tim Krul. Frenchman Ben Arfa also gives us the creativity to unlock any defenses on his day.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Newcastle should be able to finish in the top six, if we can carry on from where we left off last season.

Who might win the Premier League?

Manchester United or Manchester City would seem to be the top choices, although our own Ben Arfa is saying Newcastle could have a chance at the title, but that has to be a long shot – a very long shot.

Who definitely won’t?

Sunderland.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

The games with local rivals Sunderland are always the top fixtures at Newcastle and we haven’t lost to Sunderland for many many seasons, and long may that continue. Of course they also play in red and White stripes with black shorts like Southampton. We also like playing Manchester United, and whacked them 3-0 at St. James Park last January.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

The local derby between the two Manchester clubs.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

They should be able to keep themselves in the Premier League next season, as they seem to have captured some decent players in the summer in Nathaniel Clyne and Jay Rodriguez, although the latter didn’t come cheap. I used to live down in Romsey when I was at IBM in Hursley way back, so I have a soft spot for Southampton.

Cabaye & Tiote will be key to building on Newcastle’s impressive last season.

Norwich:-

Name:- Jamie Grand

Team:- Norwich City

Website:- www.canaries.co.uk

Twitter:- @NorwichCityFC

What can we expect from your club this season?

The same blood, sweat and tears. The same never-say-die attitude. The same Grant Holt. The same energy levels, quick attacks and aerial threat. Oh, and a new manager.

Who is your most important player?

I’ve been vocal about Jonny Howson and think he will be instrumental this season. I’ve even predicted that he will win his first England cap during the course of the 2012/13 season.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

I’d love to see a repeat of last season, but have a feeling that we’ve got a tougher journey this time round. I will predict 15th.

Who might win the Premier League?

Chelsea could be capable of challenging the two Manchester Clubs, but certain senior members of the squad will need to find some form and keep it.

Who definitely won’t?

Any of ther other 17 teams! – If you want me to pick on one I’ll say QPR. A few names have joined over the Summer but Hughes is still to prove that he can make them gel.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

We’re looking forward to welcoming Mr Lambert back to Carrow Road. Of all our fixtures, we will be desperate to win that one!

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

I love a good derby, and I think the North London clashes between Arsenal and Spurs will continue to be vital in the race for Champions League spots.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

Southampton come into the Premier League under near identical circumstances to Norwich. New management has brought fresh impetus and a desire to succeed. The manager has been clever in the transfer market this summer, and I think these signings could be vital in the quest for survival. Can Southampton succeed in the same manner as Norwich and Swansea? Possibly!

You find yourself stuck in Portman Road. How do you escape unnoticed?

With my hands in my pocket. If Ipswich Town fans spot someone with regulation four fingers and a thumb, they immediately become suspicious.

Thanks to all the contributors for their time!

Check out Part 1, featuring Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton & Fulham here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/2012/08/15/premier-league-preview-part-1/

Part 3 coming soon….

Chris

Permanent Fixtures?

Daunting. ‘Baptism of Fire’. Tough….

This was the hyperbole and conjecture that greeted Saints fans on reveal of this season’s coming Premier League fixtures. I looked at it a slighty different way.

Exciting. ‘Back where we belong’. Challenging….

After all, there is no easy games in the Premier League, you have to play every team twice, and our fate will be sealed based on our performances in those games the same as it is for everybody else. Admittedly, having to play last season’s top three in our first four games isn’t ideal, but this lends itself to a plethora of speculation. It may be the best time to play them. They are likely to have new players, and be tinkering with new systems for example. But, actually what it has meant is that, should, God (or whichever fictional deity you choose to worship) forbid, we are in a scrap at the business end of the season, our last seven fixtures (on paper at least) couldn’t be kinder.

But there is that saying again. On paper, and that is all these fixtures are at the moment, a list. Nothing more, nothing less. There are only two teams we can really base our predictions on, those that joined us from the Championship, Reading and West Ham, the rest we haven’t played for at least two seasons.

But what if we took our head to head record (based on the last two competitive fixtures) against the rest of the clubs in the Premier League as a start point. How would we fare in the coming season?

First up we travel to the City of Manchester Stadium to take on the reigning champions. It was January 2007, the last time we made this trip, Kenwyne Jones found the net for Saints, but Man City ran away 3-1 winners with goals from Darius Vassell, Joey Barton and Damarcus Beasley. The last time City visited St. Mary’s it would end goaless in the Premier League fixture of October 2004. Points – 1.

Saints will open their Premier League home campaign with the visit of Wigan Athletic. It was January 1986 when the clubs last met on the South Coast, and in fact is the only competitive fixture between the two in their history! Glenn Cockerill and a brace by David Armstrong saw Saints through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. Points – 4 (A draw  was allocated for the away game).

Manchester United will then make the trip to Southampton, despite a famous run of victories against the Red Devils, it will be 9 years and a day since we last beat them when we kick off on the 1st September. Our last meeting with Sir Alex and his men saw goals from Michael Owen and Javier Hernandez cancel out Richard Chaplow’s opener in the FA Cup 4th Round. Our last trip to Old Trafford ended in a 3-0 reverse at the hands of Scholes, Rooney and Ronaldo in December 2004. Points – 0.

An unlikely hero emerged on our last visit to Arsenal. Rory Delap got both goals in a two all draw, Henry and Van Persie on target for the Gunners! Peter Crouch scored at St. Mary’s in the same season to gain Saints a double of draws over the North London side. Points – 2.

Fans will want to forget the last time St. Mary’s hosted Aston Villa. Peter Crouch and Kevin Phillips gave Saints an early lead, only to lose 3-2. Carlton Cole, Nobby Solano and Steven Davis sealing the victory for Villa in April 2005. It was a 2-0 defeat at Villa Park, Carlton Cole and Darius Vassell getting the goals in an earlier game that season. Points – 0.

Everton were famed as a Saints “bogey team” for years, and in that same fateful final Premier League season, they were just as tight. A Leon Osman goal at the death decided matters at Goodison Park, while Saints managed a point at St. Mary’s with goals from Peter Crouch and Henri Camara cancelling out James “I definitely won’t celebrate” Beattie and Marcus Bent. Points – 1.

It was a goalfest the last time Saints hosted Fulham, a brace from Kevin Phillips and an own goal for the hosts, Radzinski, Malbranque and Bouba Diop for the visitors. The reverse fixture that season saw a victory for the cottagers through a solitary Tomas Radzinski strike. Points – 1.

Chaplow and co celebrate the opener v Man Utd.

West Ham are of course more recent opponents, Jos Hooiveld the scourge of East London, scoring the winner at St. Mary’s and then the equaliser at Upton Park last season. Points – 4.

After the trip to West Ham, Saints play host to their North London neighbours, the now Redknapp-less (shame) Spurs lost on their last visit, Nigel Quashie with the only goal of the game. It was a different story at White Hart Lane though, Saints put to the sword, losing 5-1. Jermain Defoe kept the match ball, Kanoute and Keane getting the other two, Peter Crouch got the consolation. Points – 3.

A trip to the Midlands follows, as Saints go to the Hawthorns. Saints last played WBA in the 2007/08 Championship season. Despite Albion going up as Champions that season and Saints needing last day heroics to stay up, it was the South Coast side that got the better of their two fixtures. Adam Lallana scored in the away leg in a 1-1 draw, while a double from Stern John and a Marek Saganowski strike secured all three points at home. Points – 4.

Swansea City will come to St. Mary’s in November, Saganowski earned Saints a point the last time this fixture happened in the 2008/09 Championship relegation season. The reverse game saw an easy run out for the Swans, Pratley, Gomez and Butler getting the goals in a 3-0 defeat for Saints. Points – 1.

In that same season, Saints suffered a heavy defeat at next opponents QPR. Ex-Saint Dexter Blackstock got a couple, Stewart and Ageymang also netted, Adam Lallana got Saints only reply. Later in the campaign, the two clubs played out a 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s. Points – 1.

Saints haven’t faced Newcastle United in a league game since 2004, going down 1-2 at home to goals from Alan Shearer and Titus Bramble, Peter Crouch almost inevitably being the Saints goalscorer in that season. The last time Saints visited St. James’ Park though is more recent. Keiron Dyer got the only goal in February 2006 in the FA Cup 5th round. Points – 0.

Jos Hooiveld heads Saints to three points.

Saints and Norwich City both left the Premier League in the same season, so barring the past two seasons have been regular opponents. It was in the Johnstones Paint Trophy that the Canaries last came to St. Mary’s, A last minute Papa Waigo equaliser took the game to a penalty shootout which Saints won, subsequently lifting the trophy. A Lee Barnard brace saw Saints take all three points at Carrow Road that same season. Points – 6 (I know, I know, technically the JPT game was a draw after 90 minutes, but it’s my game and my rules).

A trip to Anfield beckons in December, just as it did in our last Premier League season. Florent Sinama-Pongolle scored the only goal of the game that time. Saints got their revenge over Liverpool at St. Mary’s just a month later, David Prutton and Peter Crouch ensuring a 2-0 victory. Points – 3.

In a reverse of last season, Saints will host Reading first. In the game that effectively conceded the title to their Berkshire rivals in April, Saints went down 3-1, Rickie Lambert on the scoresheet, but outdone by Jason Roberts and Adam Le Fondre. It was  a 1-1 draw at the Madjeski, Steve de Ridder cancelling out Mikele Leigertwood’s opener. Points – 1.

The last time Saints went to Stamford Bridge, James Beattie scored at both ends, Frank Lampard sealing the points for Chelsea. Lampard scored again at St. Mary’s which coupled with an Eidur Gudjohnsen double meant Kevin Phillips’ goal was just a consolation. Points – 0.

Saints last faced Sunderland in the 2006/07 Championship season, going down 2-1 at home, after Gareth Bale had grabbed a last minute equaliser at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season. Points – 1.

The last club Saints will renew acquaintances with will be Stoke City. Tony Pulis and his merry band of ex-Southampton players will welcome Saints in the last game of 2012, and it was a 3-2 victory for the Potters in their last potteries encounter. It was an exact reverse of the scoreline in the same season at St. Mary’s, Drew Surman, Gregorz Rasiak and Jhon Viafara got the goals for Saints, Parkin and Fuller for Stoke. Points – 3.

Saints on the up.

So, if we can match those results, we will end on 36 points. Sounds bad doesn’t it? But, take into account that the majority of the games come from a terrible Premier League relegation campaign and consecutive horrific Championship seasons, it is surprisingly good.

Also, it is worth noting that 36 points would mean safety in six of the last ten Premier League seasons, though not the last two.

Of course, none of these teams look anything like the last time we played them, and neither do we. So this is all just speculation and conjecture. Of course it is, back where we started then….

You can see the full fixture list at the Saints Official Website here.

Chris

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

Championship Preview Part 3…

Following on from parts one and two, six more Championship fans give their thoughts on the forthcoming season…

Ipswich Town:-

Name:- Lewis Mitchell

Club:- Ipswich Town

Twitter:- @lewismitchell87

Website:- Lewis Mitchell.com

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)

Leeds United:-

Name:- Lee Condron

Club:- Leeds United

Twitter:- @dirtyleedsblog

Website:- Dirty Leeds Blog

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.

The Leeds faithful will be hoping to see more from Gradel & Becchio.

Leicester City:-

Name:- Mike McCarthy

Club:- Leicester City

Twitter:- @foxblogger

Website:- Foxblogger

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.

Middlesbrough:-

Name:- Dave McNally

Club:- Middlesbrough 

Twitter:- @davemcnally87

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”.

Matthew Bates. The Steven Gerrard of Middlesbrough.

Millwall:-

Name:- Steve Hudson

Club:- Millwall F.C.

Twitter:- @NOLU1885

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.

Nottingham Forest:-

Name:- Forest Fan (I blog anonymously y’see).

Club:- Nottingham Forest

Twitter:- @nffcblog

Website:- NFFC Blog

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!

Could the experience of Jonathon Greening help Forest past the final hurdle?

Part Four featuring Peterborough, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton, Watford and West Ham coming soon…

Chris