Tag Archives: Champions League

Kangaroo Court: Wanyama’s Saints future!

There has been much talk this season about Victor Wanyama’s impact or lack thereof.

The Kenyan has become one of a long line of ‘marmite’ characters in a Saints shirt, often finding himself the scapegoat for poor team performances, and no matter how well he plays, has always struggled to win some fans round.

Having had to adapt to life post-Morgan Schneiderlin there is no doubt Victor hasn’t had quite the same level of performance we have come to expect, but are people being overly harsh?

Having been sent off three times this season, it is clear that a lot of the St. Mary’s faithful have lost patience with him, but there are still those who think he has a future at the club, and whats more, is still a ‘key’ player.

Everyone knows my opinion of Wanyama, so I put it to twitter to ask where does his future lie? Should Saints cash in as they now have other (possibly better) options? Or is he still an important part of our team?

It is predictably tight.

The case for the Prosecution:-

@ShaneyyG4 ‘While I think Vic has turned a corner in terms of commitment to the cause (arguably the upturn in form and the potential for another crack at European football on the cards will have helped this) I think we should sell him while his stock is high.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s had loads of good performances in a Saints shirt, but it’s becoming all too common for him to get sent off.  If this was one of our Young academy prospects coming through I’d completely understand and put it down to a learning process, but Vic is an experienced player who has played in the Champions league with Celtic and spent most of his Saints career next to arguably one of our best ever midfield destroyers in Schneiderlin.

What Vic really lacks is the Intelligence to know when he does have to commit a red/yellow card offence for the benefit of the team and when he has to keep his temper in check and play it clever.

Personally I think we have more tactically astute replacements in Romeu and Clasie, and Reed can push both of these all the way for a starting berth too.

Do we need Vic?’

The case for the Defence:

@geddesduncan At face value, our strength in depth can be used as a convincing argument to sell Victor Wanyama and take some money. Who needs him when we’ve got Romeu?

Koeman gives us the answer in his team selection. Wanyama comes first for holding onto the ball at all costs, putting himself in the way of opposition passes and outmuscling almost everyone he comes up against.

Most of his work is done when the ball is elsewhere, closing space before opposing players can reach it.

His ‘attitude problems’ felt real at one stage, but most backlash from supporters smacked of second hand anger at truly disrespectful twerps like Saido Berahino or Dani Osvaldo.

Transfer speculation may or may not be behind Wanyama’s dips in form or recent acquaintance with red cards.

But fans would do well to remember that Romeu has consistently worse discipline and isn’t accused of losing focus.

Meanwhile, Wanyama gets on with his job.

So long as the staff are confident they can keep him performing, as they are right now, he is worth more than the money we could recoup from letting him off his contract.’

Verdict:-

It is testament to Saints up-turn in form and their strength in midfield that this is an incredibly close call, but the vote is swayed slightly towards keeping Wanyama at the club. Will he commit to a new contract though?

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 11.48.51
Get enhanced odds on this weekends FA Cup action!

Why Saints fan should be backing Premier League Rivals in the FA Cup…

Now, I appreciate that this blog is going to paint me as somewhat of a hypocrite, but as someone who still believes in the ‘romance’ of the FA Cup I have to fall on my sword and accept that the best possible outcome of this year’s competition now is that one of Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool lift the famous trophy – and better still, two of them contest the final.

While, under normal circumstances I would love to see a club like West Brom or Aston Villa upset the status quo, my only real concern is that of Southampton and a more ‘regular’ winner would keep the European dream alive.

The situation is this: Chelsea’s League Cup win was of great benefit to Saints (cheers Jose!) as it meant the Europa League spot allocated to the winners is passed back…

View original 301 more words

Cup dream is over, but for some it isn’t a dream anyway!

As I watched Southampton crash out of the FA Cup to an impressive Crystal Palace performance I was absolutely gutted.

Another year and another without a major trophy for my beloved club, taking the tally up to 40 years come next seasons cup final. Soul destroying, especially given the team we have this season and the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Spurs are already out.

Bob Dylan once said ‘For the times they, they are a’changin’ and what I found to my dismay, with regards to my fellow Saints fans that certainly rings true now.

Some of them seemed genuinely pleased that we were out, with the rhetoric that we ‘can concentrate on the league’ very much the reason. I was so stunned to see such a lack of regard for actually ‘winning’ a competition…

View original 381 more words

Time to take Saints Seriously?

Southampton are starting to get the respect they deserve, perhaps it is a little forced, but having turned their form around of late and getting themselves back into the top four, pundits and fans alike have started to accept that this is not a fluke.

Sure, it’s backhanded at times ‘They won’t go away will they?’ was how Gary Lineker worded it on Match of the Day after goals from Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic gave Saints a 2-0 victory over Arsenal, but it is praise nonetheless. How long did Saints fans suffer the ‘They’ve only played the poor teams’ excuse from people looking to find some form of answer to the madness that was unfolding around them. Well I wonder how they feel now? We’ve played everyone once, Arsenal twice and if we win our next game we will leapfrog…

View original 277 more words

Alder right noises: Toby is a Saint!

It was a pretty eventful transfer deadline day for Saints with the club leaving it as late as possible to announce their new players.

The first through the door last night was Belgian international defender Toby Alderweireld on a season long loan with option to buy deal from Atletico Madrid.  Alderweireld was part of Atletico’s La Liga winning and Champion’s League runners up squad last season and it is somewhat of a coup to see him arrive at St. Mary’s.

Capable of playing at both centre half and right back he not only provides vital cover but also the ability to take the club up a level in defensive terms.

I spoke to Kristof Terreur from the website ‘One Man in England‘ and asked him for the lowdown on his countryman.

It’s came from nowhere, but this seems to be a very good signing for Saints. What can we expect from Alderweireld?
KT ‘Alderweireld is a strong, determined central defender with an excellent long pass. He can also play as a right back. Despite the fact that he’s not the tallest, he’s strong in the air and a threat on set pieces. He likes too tackle too. ‘

Any specific strengths and weaknesses?

KT ‘Strengths: His presence, his long ball, his tackle, his treat on attacking set-pieces.

Weakness: he’s not the quickest, and both at Atlético and Ajax he was sometimes caught out of position and made some errors. Although he has a good long ball, he’s not the most accurate passer either, like the other Belgian central defenders in the PL.’

Toby the Saint!
Toby the Saint!

 

Do you think he will be able to adapt quickly to the Premier League?

KT ‘With his determination and tackling he’ll win hearts easily. He has the capacities to turn his hand to the English game.’

With the outgoings at Saints this Summer, many have suggested there is a lack of ‘ambition’ at the club. Does this signing refute that?

KT ‘Well, it’s only a loan. Alderweireld was linked to Arsenal a lot, but the interest was never concrete. Neither with the other big teams. Because he’s Belgian everyone is jumping on the bandwagon as the next big thing. But as a central defender he will always be behind Kompany or Vermaelen in the national team.’

Alderweireld at the World Cup.
Alderweireld at the World Cup.

So there we have it. Saints first of two deadline day players sounds like someone with a big future in the game. Thanks to Kristof for his time. The lowdon on Sadio Mané coming soon…..

Chris

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

Ryan, Like a Lion, In Bayern: Bertrand Signs for Saints!

While Liverpool are busy signing Johnstone Paint Trophy winners, Saints sprung the surprise of the summer with one the papers didn’t get hold of, bringing Champion’s League winner Ryan Bertrand to the club from Chelsea on a season long loan with the option of a permanent move. Interestingly the Merseyside club had been trying to secure a deal for the defender but couldn’t agree a fee.

With Luke Shaw gone to Man United, left back was clearly somewhere the club lacked depth and Bertrand who started for the Blues in their triumph over Bayern Munich in 2012 looks a solid signing.

As always, through the heady mixture of ignorance and laziness I have got two experts to give us the lowdown on the new man.

I caught up with Chelsea fan David Dickson and given that Bertand has spent most of his Stamford Bridge career on loan, Aston Villa fan, freelance football writer and Club Metro colleague Andrew Raeburn.

Bertrand started in Chelsea’s Champion’s League final win, but has never made it as a regular at Stamford Bridge. What did you make of him?

DD ‘Firstly, Bertrand will always, always receive a hero’s welcome back at Stamford Bridge, especially now he hasn’t been shipped off to Liverpool and had to perform the ‘biggest club in the world’ PR initiative in his first interview. I remember the slightly baffled/borderline stunned reaction to hearing his name in the starting line-up that night in Munich from all involved, and his outstanding performance against Bayern in his first ever European appearance for anybody is testament to the balls the guy has. He always struck me as a try-hard; far from a player likely to dislodge Ashley Cole from his throne but enough about him to carry on regardless, taking his opportunities when they arose.’

Bertrand spent some time at Villa last season. What did you make of him?

AR ‘Left-back had been a massive problem for us in the first half of the season, so when Bertrand came in we were all chuffed, considering his background and pedigree (starting in the CL final, etc). He was excellent on his debut in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool, and had several other good games early in his loan spell. But after having to sit out our 1-0 win over his parent club in March (when Joe Bennett came in and was excellent at left-back), Bertrand really struggled. Partly this was down to our own defensive naivety, which appeared to infect him too at times and partly it was down to being shunted between left-back, left midfield and left wing-back. But there were occasions when he was our weakest link. I’d say overall he was solid without ever being spectacular, but disappointed because he was never as good as his Chelsea background suggested he should be.’

What would you say are his significant strengths and weaknesses?

DD ‘As stated previously, Ryan seems to enjoy a complete lack of fear on the big occasion. Following Munich, he was thrown into some of the bigger games towards the end of the (sigh) Rafa Benitez era and performed with similar aplomb. He is quick, with the ability to go forward at pace, whilst also reading the game relatively well, but his defensive ability seems to suffer as a result. He never seemed particularly strong and, as a result, his ability to simply make a tackle never really stood out. He would, on occasion, be caught out of position too, but when pushing up in a good, attacking side, this may be expected and can be forgiven.’

AR ‘One of the real plusses of his loan spell was how well he got forward and linked up with Fabian Delph on the left hand side of Villa’s central three in midfield. His crossing can be hit and miss but he knows which passes to pick out. Defensively, he struggled when isolated one-on-one. Whereas on his debut at Liverpool he was excellent against Raheem Sterling, who runs straight at people, he was given a real examination a couple of weeks later by Everton’s Aiden McGeady, had problems with Ashley Young and got into all sorts of bother against Stewart Downing. Unlike Sterling, all three of those dared to cut inside and go outside to try and beat him. It may be he just needs more support defensively.’

Bertrand the winner.
Bertrand the winner.
Do you see him as a player that has yet to reach his full potential, having been backup at Chelsea for some time?

DD ‘Sad as it is to say, but I feel his potential may not extend beyond his exploits for Chelsea. He still has a decent ten years left in him, obviously, but Ryan seems to be caught between not being technically good enough for a top side, but not able to defend well enough for a less-than-top side. He was exceptionally popular at Norwich, Reading and Forest by the sounds of things, and has long outgrown being a Championship player, but it is hard to see him doing anything but bouncing between mid-table clubs unless someone devotes the time to getting the best out of him. In a Chelsea side with Ashley Cole and the resources to bring in more experienced and better overseas players after Cole’s departure, that role was never going to be taken up by Mourinho, Benitez, Di Matteo…etc. (I’m sure this article has a word limit, so I won’t list them all).’

AR ‘Very much so. Until his loan spell at Villa, he had never really been given a proper run of starts at Premier League level, which is what you need to develop. Obviously he’s had his path blocked by one of the best left-backs England has ever seen, so he’s been unlucky in that regard. Until Cesar Azpilicueta became Ashley Cole’s main backup, Bertrand could never be sent on loan so he had to bide his time. He started 14 PL games in 2012-13 but all in blocks of three or four, never enough to make a mark or develop your game. I actually saw his only Chelsea start last season as well, by sheer coincidence. I was covering the Chelsea-Cardiff game for West London Sport and in the player ratings described Bertrand’s display as: “Always keen, got up and down and provided solid support for Eden Hazard but lacks the self-assurance and attacking penetration of Ashley Cole.” Trouble is, after a half-season of regular games at Villa, I’ve seen no improvement on that. However, I do think he just needs to settle down somewhere, as a trusted, starting left-back and get a full season of regular games under his belt. The only time he’s done that was for Reading in the Championship five years ago.’

Bertrand the Saint.
Bertrand the Saint.
What do you make of the goings on at Saints this summer?

DD ‘I find it all relatively extraordinary. Yes, players from unexpectedly successful sides are regularly burgled (arf) by sides with larger budgets the following season, but the sheer extent to which Liverpool (and seemingly, Spurs) have pilfered every player with ability you have is far beyond anything I’ve seen since the great Leeds exodus of the early 2000s. Ronald Koeman has moved in, and shortly after someone has nicked his fridge, shed, boiler and roof. I am sure there are financial nuances (zzz) to this masterplan, but it is hard to see how any replacements could fill the gaps that have been left and this season could be a real struggle for you chaps, unfortunately. You’re quite nice when you’re not moaning about little smoke bombs…’

AR ‘It’s inevitable really, once the bigger clubs started circling. We got the same treatment after coming 6th three years in a row under Martin O’Neill (you were trifling with the likes of Exeter and Stockport at the time, how things change!). We couldn’t keep Gareth Barry (£12m) and James Milner (£26m) away from Man City, nor Ashley Young (£17m) from Man Utd, nor Stewart Downing (£20m) from Liverpool. The only difference was it didn’t happen all in the same summer. Sometimes that can be worse, as it appears to the fans the club won’t ever keep hold of their best players. But that’s the way football is these days – even Everton, who contend for the Champions League spots, wouldn’t be able to prevent their top talent leaving if the title challengers came knocking. The important thing is reinvesting the money you earn, otherwise you end up like us. I can see why some Saints fans may be angry – it seems, from the outside, that the club isn’t doing much to stop the top players moving on. But when players sense the grass is greener (or their agent convinces them it might be) then you can’t stop them. Speaking of which…’

 
Can we have some other Chelsea players? Please.

DD ‘Rickie Lambert’s gone. You need to replace him with another reliable goal-machine. We have this lad, Fernando… And I’ll bloody drive Ramires to you.’

Can we have Ron Vlaar? Please.

AR ‘No. Leave Concrete Ron alone, please. He’s got a phobia of the sea, anyway. Hopefully.’

So there we have it. Thanks to David and Andrew for their contributions. Let’s hope I need some more contributors soon!
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

Review: The Long Way

Back in February, I was approached by Ashley Greb on twitter as he was intending to go to St. Mary’s for the FA Cup 4th round replay against Millwall and wanted some advice on parking etc.

Four months later and I received an e-mail from Ashley informing me of the release of his book ‘A Long Way’, a football diary of sorts that chronicles his FA Cup adventure.

Inspired by his grandfather, Ashley inadvertently set off on an FA Cup crusade when he attended the Cobham v Badshot Lea game of an August evening in the Extra Preliminary Round. His journey started there at the ‘Leg o’Mutton Field’ and would end at Wembley for the final.

In a true tale of endurance and dedication Ashley, even assigned a set of rules (with assigned points) to his task, which on the whole he sticks to. based on sustainability, time and repetition of teams. In all he attended 26 games (a game and a replay in every round) at 22 grounds, watched 46 teams, saw 97 goals and travelled 1,768 miles.

Saints are privileged enough to have a chapter dedicated to them, describing Ashley’s trip to the Millwall defeat. He has good things to say about Saints (having cheered for them from the stands of the 1979 League Cup final) and their fans.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I like many have felt with bigger sponsorship deals, more emphasis on Champions League qualification and removal of traditions (this years final being played at 17:15 on the same day as league fixtures particularly riled me), the FA Cup has gradually lost it’s magic over the last twenty years, but by reading this book you soon learn that it hasn’t.

Ashley’s journey documents, the highs, lows and drama of the oldest cup competition in the world. If you grew up in a time when the FA Cup final was a massive deal (I still smile when I think about 1988!) or simply love the beautiful game and it’s roots in England then this book is for you!

Check it out:-  The Long Way

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

The Class of 2005: Who were the real winners?

22nd April 2005, approximately 21:58. Fifteen year old Edward Upson hits the ball first time from twenty five yards. Andrew McNeill is helpless in the Southampton net. Goal Ipswich Town.

A heartbreaking end to a memorable season for the Saints youngsters, losing the FA Youth Cup final with just two minutes of extra time left to be played.

The first leg had been played at St. Mary’s four days earlier, Saints leading through David McGoldrick before being pegged back by a double from Irishman Cathal Lordan, Leon Best netting the equaliser that kept the tie on a knife edge. The second leg had remained goalless despite Saints dominance, Ipswich thankful to keeper Shane Supple that it got to extra time. Seemingly heading for penalties, substitute Upson was the youngest player on the pitch when he stole the headlines, and the silverware for the Suffolk side.

For young lads with the world at their feet, it must have been difficult to take.  For some it was to be their career highlight, for others, just the beginning. Football is a cruel world, and as is commonplace, despite being the cream of the crop as young players not all would be destined for the top.

Actually in this instance it was the losers who have fared better, the Saints squad boast four current Premier League players, the Ipswich squad none. While the Saints players have commanded massive transfer fees between them and gained many international caps, the Ipswich team have not. Having said that, not all of the Saints squad has achieved all of their footballing aims.

I decided to find out where they are now, and how different the careers of these players now hitting their peak age of 24/25 have fared.

Saints

Andrew McNeil – The Scottish keeper left Saints in January 2006, returning to his native Edinburgh with SPL side Hibernian, he forced his way into the first team at Easter Road, including playing in the 2007 League Cup final win. He was later replaced in the side and released in 2009. He spent a season in the third division with Montrose before signing for First Division Raith Rovers in 2010. He was released by Raith this summer and signed for Livingston where he is currently first choice.

Craig Richards – Local lad Richards was released by Saints in the summer of 2006. He was picked up by Conference side Salisbury City in 2007. Spells at Eastleigh, Bognor Regis Town and Winchester City followed. He now plays for Whitehawk FC in the Ryman League Division One South.

Sebastian Wallis-Tayler – The frenchman left Saints the summer after the Cup Final and signed for Havant & Waterlooville before playing for Bognor Regis Town and Lewes. He is now back in his native France playing for non-league outfit CA Lisieux.

Sean Rudd – After being released by Saints, Rudd had an unsuccessful trial with former club Oxford United before sadly retiring through injury. Now works for a Sports Shoe company.

Martin Cranie – Had already played first team football on loan at Bournemouth and Premier League football for Saints at the time of the Youth Cup final. He played in the Premier League under Harry Redknapp, before finding chances limited under George Burley in the Championship. Cranie had two spells on loan at Yeovil Town before reuniting with Redknapp at Portsmouth for the 2007 season. Spent time at QPR and Charlton on loan before joining Coventry City in 2009 where he is still a regular for the Championship outfit. Has gained caps for England at U21 level.

Lloyd James – The Welsh utility man earned a professional contract with Saints in 2006, and made over seventy first team appearances in the Championship and League One before his somewhat surprise release (having been a regular in the team) in 2010. He soon signed for Colchester United and is now an established member of the U’s first team. A Welsh U21 international.

Tim Sparv – Finnish midfielder Sparv left Saints in 2007 to sign for Swedish club Halmstads BK, he is now playing in the Dutch first division with FC Groningen via a loan spell in his home country. He has been capped fifteen times by Finland.

Tim Sparv. Now in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Nathan Dyer – The tiny winger made his first team debut for Saints at the start of the season following the final. He was loaned to Burnley before coming back and getting more regular gametime at St. Mary’s. He went on loan again to Sheffield United in 2008, before really flourishing at Swansea City, firstly on loan before joining permanently in 2009 and he is now a regular in their Premier League side.

Theo Walcott – Made his first team debut at sixteen and was soon turning heads at a higher level. Chelsea had already shown an interest in him, but it was Arsenal who paid £5 million with a potential outcome of £12 million (although that is seemingly no longer the case) for him in 2006. He has now played over one hundred times for the Gunners. He became the youngest ever full England international in 2006 and was the surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Erikssons’s World Cup Squad of 2006. He has now played eighteen times for his country.

Leon Best – The Irish striker had already played in the Premier League for Saints by the time of the final, and also spent a period on loan with QPR. Further loans with Sheffield Wednesday, Bournemouth and Yeovil Town followed before he rejected a new contract with Saints in 2007 and joined Coventry City, the tribunal setting the fee at £650k. His performances for the Sky Blues were enough to persuade Newcastle United to move for him and is now a first team player with the Toon in the Premier League. He has represented Ireland at senior level.

Leon. Doing his Best for Newcastle in the Premier League.

David McGoldrick – McGoldrick was handed a first team debut in the September following the match at Portman Road, but it would take him another three years and loan spells at Notts County,  Bournemouth and Port Vale before he would be considered a regular. He was an ever present in the Saints team that dropped out of the Championship, scoring twelve goals and left for Nottingham Forest for £1 million the following summer.

Kyle Critchell – Defender Critchell was hampered by a serious injury in 2005 and was eventually loaned out to Torquay United in 2006. He was released the following summer and joined Chesterfield. He joined Weymouth in June 2007 before signing for Wrexham the following season, injuries again stunted his progression and he was loaned to York City before rejoining the Terras. He currently plays for hometown club Dorchester Town in the Blue Square South division who he signed for in 2009.

Ashlee Jones – Sub keeper Jones was released in the summer of 2005 and signed for Rushden & Diamonds, he has played for an array of clubs since and eventually made his football league debut for Darlington in 2009, he now plays for Braintree Town in the Blue Square Premier division.

Adam Lallana – The only member of the squad still at St. Mary’s, the creative midfielder is now a lynchpin in Nigel Adkins side and has made one hundred and thirty appearances for the club, now catching the eye of Premier League suitors he has been capped at U21 level by England.

Adam Lallana, still flying high with Saints.

Feliciano Condesso – Portuguese midfielder Condesso left Saints in 2007 without playing for the first team, somewhat surprisingly he joined La Liga side Villarreal but couldn’t break into the first team setup there either. He played for their ‘B’ side in the Spanish third tier before joining UD Logrones and now plays for Ontinyent CF.

Gareth Bale – The youngest member of the Saints squad, aged fifteen, Bale made his first team debut in 2006 and played forty times that season as Saints made it to the Championship play offs. Hot property, the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United were said to be interested, but it was Spurs who signed the Welshman for an initial fee of £5 million that rose to £7 million and Tommy Forescast. Bale struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane to start with, but is now considered one of the best players in the world. A notable hat trick in the Champions League against Inter at the San Siro propelling him to super stardom. He has played thirty times for Wales.

Josh Dutton-Black – Winger Dutton-Black left Saints in 2007 and signed for AFC Totton. He has since had spells at Salisbury, Kidderminster, Eastleigh, Bognor Regis Town and Didcot Town. He now plays for North Leigh in the Southern League Division One South & West.

Ipswich Town

Shane Supple – Retired. Now a Gaelic Football player.

Michael Synott – Released by League of Ireland side Dundalk in the summer of 2010.

James Krause – Now playing for Cambridge City in the Southern League Premier division.

Chris Casement – Now playing for Linfield in the IFA Premiership. Capped by Northern Ireland.

Aidan Collins – Now playing for the University of London FC.

Sammy Moore – Now playing for AFC Wimbledon in League Two.

Cathal Lordan – Now playing for Cork City in the League of Ireland First division.

Liam Trotter – Now playing for Millwall in the Championship.

Owen Garvan – Now playing for Crystal Palace in the Championship. Eire U21 international.

Owen Garvan. Tipped for big things, now at Palace.

Liam Craig – Now playing for St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League.

Daryl Knights – Now playing for Newport County in the Blue Square Premier League.

Danny Haynes – Now playing for Barnsley in the Championship.

Blair Hammond – Now playing for Ipswich Wanderers in the Eastern Counties League division one.

Charlie Sheringham – Now playing for Dartford in the Blue Square South.

Ed Upson – Now playing for Yeovil Town in League One.

Andy Reynolds – Now playing for Lowestoft Town in the Ryman Premier divsion.

Stuart Ainsley – Now playing for Lowestoft Town in the Ryman Premier divsion.

It is clear to see that the losing Saints squad have, on the whole fared better than their Ipswich counterparts. Although it is staggering to see that of the thirty four players involved, fifteen of them are now playing at non-league level.

This isn’t a fate exclusive to these young finalists either, of the 2007 Liverpool winning side, only two players have since played for the first team, and only one (Jay Spearing) is still on the fringe. Their defeated opponents that day Manchester United fielded Danny Welbeck who has now become a first team player, the rest of the names are less familiar. In fact if you were to go through the lineups of all the previous finals, you would find only a handful of players plying their trade at the top of the footballing tree. Another case of foreigners ruining the English game? Hardly. These days half the youth teams are foreign players as clubs look to invest abroad as early as possible, all hoping to discover the next Lionel Messi. The fact is the standard required gets higher every season and more are likely to fall by the wayside with every intake. Also, I always wonder how much difference in ability there is between some players playing non-league and those in the lower echelons of the professional game. Not that much I would wager, and in reality we could probably fill another four divisions of professional clubs if it were possible.

Either way, the differing fortunes of some of these young players is a harsh reminder that the career of a footballer is a privilege to be treasured.

Chris

Thanks to Gordon Simpson (Daily Echo), Martin Brodetsky (Oxford United FC), David Seabourne (Bognor Regis Town FC Supporters Club), Graham Large (It’s Round & It’s White), Jon Dalton (Granley Rovers FC), Samuel Ridout.