If this meaningless, pointless little fun competition has taught us anything, it’s that when it come to foreign imports Saints fans have been the winners.
The final four shows how lucky we have been over the years and made for an interesting mix. Three quality, gargantuan centre halves, and like a rose amongst the thorns, a slight, nippy Latvian forward. Great memories.
But who will win? I don’t think many would argue that any of the final four would be a worthy winner.
After some controversial results in the group stages, the interest in the ‘World Cup of Foreign Imports’ hotted up!
The draw for the Round of 16 did not disappoint providing us with certainly the tie of the competition so far with two potential winners Morgan Schneiderlin and Marian Pahars going head to head.
The general consensus is that using the medium of twitter means a much younger voting spectrum and thus the results favour the more recent players, but I remind people of two things, firstly anyone can vote (<1% of the followers of the club official account are voting.) and secondly it is just for fun!
Back in 2011, prior to Saints return to the top flight I was asked by Shoot magazine to compile my ‘Premier League Dream Team’.
I thought it would be good to look back at it now, 5 years later and with some impressive Premier League campaigns under our belt to see where I might now change that team.
Goalkeeper (2011) – Antti Niemi
Goalkeeper (2016) – No change. The flying Finn was and still is the best keeper I’ve ever seen in a Saints shirt.
Left Back (2011) – Wayne Bridge
Left Back (2016) – No change. I was a big fan of Bridge, and though I think Luke Shaw might have stolen this had he stayed a bit longer and Ryan Bertrand is consistently immaculate, Bridge still gets the nod. Just.
Right Back (2011) – Jason Dodd
Right Back (2016) – Nathaniel Clyne. It’s not easy to drop Dodd who was such a fantastic servant to the club but Clyne’s performances in a Saints shirt were superb.
Centre Half (2011) – Dean Richards R.I.P.
Centre Half (2016) – Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman will go on to be know as one of Saints most impressive and important signings of all time in my opinion. Oozes class and is almost unbeatable in the air.
Centre Half (2011) – Michael Svensson
Centre Half (2016) – Jose Fonte. Another difficult decision but Fonte’s impact in the Premier League as the constant amongst several partners and the defensive performances that have stemmed from them have to be rewarded.
Central Midfield (2011) – Chris Marsden
Central Midfield (2016) – Morgan Schneiderlin. An all round brilliant midfielder and arguably is yet to be replaced (though PEH looks a decent bet).
Left Midfield (2011) – Hassan Kachloul
Left Midifeld (2016) – Adam Lallana. The homegrown Lallana may have left a sour taste in the mouths of many when he left, but his performances for Saints were a joy to watch.
Right Midfield (2011) – Ronnie Ekelund
Right Midfield (2016) – No change. Ekelund was at the club for such a short space of time that I feel sorry for those fans who didn’t get to see how good he was.
Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2011) – Matthew Le Tissier
Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2016) – No change. Pretty sure I don’t have to justify this one.
Striker (2011) – Marian Pahars
Striker (2016) – No change. I can’t drop the little Latvian, I simply can’t. He provided too much joy to my younger Dell going self.
Striker (2011) – James Beattie
Striker (2016) – Rickie Lambert. Very difficult to remove Beattie, but Lambert was much more than a brilliant striker, he was a superb footballer and a talisman too.
After relentless pursuing of Saints and Ex-Saints on twitter, I managed to get one of my favourites!
Former Saints striker Egil Østenstad wowed the Dell between 1996 and 1999, scoring some great goals and being part of that famous 6-3 victory over Manchester United in which he bagged a hat-trick (he doesn’t care what the dubious goals panel says, he’s got the match ball!).
So here it is 20 questions with Egil Østenstad!
1. Best Saints Memory? ‘Among a lot of great ones; staying in the Premier League in my first season after being in desperate trouble. Great feeling. Also being voted Player of the season that same season, and scoring in front of the The Kop on my first visit to Anfield.’
2. Worst Saints memory? ‘Not being able to sort out a new and longer contract with Rupert Lowe.’
3. Favourite Manager? ‘I will always be very grateful towards Graeme Souness for giving my the chance to come to Southampton and the Premier League. At Southampton, in his eyes, I never did anything wrong. At Blackburn I never did anything right…’
4. Least favourite Manager? ‘Even though results were decent I thought Dave Jones had an old school approach to the game and a managerial outlook that I found difficult to like.’
5. Most talented team mate?‘Le Tiss was the biggest British talent of his generation when it comes to pure football. His willingness to make the most out of his talent is a different story. Eyal Berkovic was a joy to play with.’
6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room?‘Jim Magilton. Busy man…’
7. The Dell or St. Mary’s? ‘For me The Dell. I only played against Southampton at St Mary’s.’
8. Which member of the current team impresses you most?‘Adam Lallana. Not just because of his ability. More so because of his attitude, loyalty and being a great ambassador for Saints.’
9. Hardest team mate? ‘Ulrich van Gobbel. Monster…’
10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘Loads whilst playing for Blackburn. Quite enjoyed that and scored the winning goal (0-1) on my first visit there. Great stuff!’
11. Derby Day memories? ‘Portsmouth were nearly as bad then as they are now when I was there.’
12. Toughest opponent?‘Martin Keown.’
13. Favourite Away Ground? ‘Anfield.’
14. Favourite Saints kit?’97/98 season Home shirt.’
15. Ever had a Benali curry?‘Loads. Very good actually!’
16. Best friends from Saints days?‘I appreciate the fact that I have met and occasionally spoken to Jason Dodd, Le Tiss, Franny Benali, Jim Magilton and Gordon Watson in the last years. I sometimes speak to Claus Lundekvam. It was a good group of players when I was there.’
17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game?‘Too far. I really hope the rules of financial fair play will have the desired effect. Football is turning into too much of a toy for the wrong reasons.’
18. Pace or skill? ‘Average pace and average skill…’
19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘Top 10. Which is a great achievement!’
20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? ‘Access to Spotify…’
….and a bonus question just for you as we have the same taste in music.
21. What song do you think best fits the Saints experience?‘Smells like teen spirit…’
Many thanks to Egil for taking the time to answer these questions!
Wow. What a day. I was expecting to publish this interview and welcome one person to the club. Instead I am welcoming two people and with a very heavy heart I am saying goodbye to another. Thank you Nigel Adkins, a proper tribute will be up soon. Welcome to the club Mauricio Pochettino. More about the new manager in another piece too, but back to the original plan.
As widely reported over the last few days, Saints today confirmed the signing of Norweigan international Vegard Forren on a three and a half year deal from Molde FK.
The 24 year old comes highly rated and is considered a great young prospect across Europe. He is twice a Norwegian league champion and has 5 caps for his national team. Welcome to Saints Vegard Forren.
As usual at georgeweahscousin.com we like to get the lowdown on all new people at the club from those that know them best so we caught up with Norwegian sports journalist Vegard Flemmen Vaagbø to get all the inside info on Saints new man.
It seems a lot of Premier League clubs were paying an interest in Forren, but then Southampton came from nowhere to win the race. Was this expected in Norway?
VFV:- ‘Everton were for a long time seen as favourites to sign Forren, but also Fulham – amongst others– were tracking him. He also declined an offer from Club Brugge. The Southampton-interest came as a bit of surprise when it was known late Monday night, but from that point they seemed to be in pole position.’
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer obviously rates him quite highly, as do the Norwegian fans. Is it a surprise that it has taken this long to get a move abroad?
VFV:- ‘Maybe a little, but Forren has had his opportunities early – he turned down Hoffenheim 3-4 years ago – and has never had a rush to leave Molde. He has matured as a player, especially the last year, and it seems like the perfect timing for him to leave now.’
Scandinavian players have a rich history with the Premier League, do you think that it is always a preferable destination based on the style of play?
VFV:- ‘I think that was more the case a few years ago. England will always be a very special place to play for Norwegian footballers, but it seems that the players leaving Norway now is as likely to go to Germany (as an example) as England.Yet, for Vegard Forren Premier League was the big dream.’
How will Forren fit into the Southampton lineup. Straight away or will he need time?
VFV:- ‘I think he will play quite a lot from the start, but he hasn’t played a competitive match since early December (against Stuttgart in the Europa League), so I would imagine he could need a few games to regain full fitness.’
What sort of defender is Forren, what can the fans expect?
VFV:- ‘He is a “modern” defender. He is very, very relaxed, confident with the ball, he’s good in the air and strong in the challenge. He’s weakness might be his tempo, but he disguises it well by clever positioning. He did some costly mistakes last season, but it seems like that’s in the past.’
Saints have had a good relationship with Norweigan players over the years. Jo Tessem and Egil Ostenstad were very good, and Claus Lundekvam is a club legend. (We won’t talk about Stig Johansen). Do you think Forren is a player who can be a success with the club too?
VFV:- ‘I think Forren has the ability to be a success, and what fascinates me the most about him is how he always seems to master every new level. He came to Molde from Norwegian third division (fourth tier) and very quickly was a regular, he did well for the Norwegian U21 straight away, he performed well in the Europa League and he was excellent in the World Qualifiers last season when coming on from the bench. He rarely gets nervous, and if he gets a good start I think he can be a valuable asset for many years for Southampton.’
Many thanks to Vegard for answering these questions, I for one am pretty excited about this signing!
Over the last twelve months there has been a complete reversal on popularity of two Saints players. This time a year ago Jason Puncheon’s name was mud in the stands of St. Mary’s, the problem that we couldn’t be rid of, the player who was continually loaned out to teams in higher divisions after a spell of indifference and a seemingly poor attitude for Saints. He had been the subject of crowd abuse and his time looked up on the South Coast, only a difference in opinion between Saints and the chairmen of several other clubs as to his value kept the player a Southampton asset (See this post from March 2011 ‘Puncheon Below His Weight’ for context). At the same time Guly do Prado was a regular in the Saints first team heading for Championship promotion, weighing in with 10 league goals as his role changed between striker and winger as to Adkins needs per game. He was always a crowd splitter though (See the post ‘Guly, or Not Guly’ from November 2011 for context.).
This season Puncheon has completed the ‘prodigal son’ return in full, and is now a crowd favourite, wowing the supporters with match winning performances and even prompting talk of England recognition. Guly on the other hand finds himself the victim of the boo boys, and even when he has yet to do anything wrong (he was booed on being introduced against Reading) he finds himself the target of hate.
For me I find it difficult to explain where this level of hatred has come from. It is perfectly acceptable to not like a player, or rate their ability, but Guly has been decent for us for two and a half seasons now. Whenever I watch Saints and he plays, he barely puts a foot wrong, yet those that decided he wasn’t good enough over a year ago, have moved from silent dislike to noisy disdain, and for me that isn’t fair. Firstly, you support the team, picking out a player for abuse is harsh at the best of times, but to do it before they have even kicked a ball is unfathomable.
Guly has split opinion from day one, and that is fair enough, but what is abundantly clear for anyone that has watched him play, is that in terms of comfort on the ball, he is one of our best. I often ask people what it is that makes them hate him so much, and the responses vary, from rumours of his unrest in England (decent enough reason for him not to be in the team, but to boo him?), his drink driving charge (you would have to boo nearly everyone in football if off the pitch activities are taken into account and remember club ‘hero’ Claus Lundekvam), to him being ‘lazy’ (he isn’t whenever I watch, in fact he is extremely busy), to him being ‘crap’ (this one simply isn’t true), to him being ‘Cortese’s signing’ (if true, still not HIS fault).
Similar reasons were given for the abuse Puncheon received at the time, and it makes me wonder what it is about them that makes people take a dislike to them. From what I can see, the main thing they have in common is that they can be a little nonchalant. Is that enough of a reason to vilify them? Fans should learn from the turnaround of Puncheon that they might not always be right.
One of the most common criticisms of Guly seems to be that he “gives the ball away too much”. Actually this season he has the best pass success rate in our entire squad (90.8%), this is relative with regards to pitch time etc. but clearly indicates that he is someone who rarely makes stray passes. Statistically he is also dispossessed less than once a game (0.8times), in comparison Gaston Ramirez and Adam Lallana are dispossessed 2.8 and 2.6 times per game respectively, and this is what I don’t get.
Guly plays in a similar way to those two. He tries things, he attempts the creative, sometimes it will go wrong, that is the pay off for when it goes right. So why aren’t they given the same treatment?
The fact is, Guly hasn’t made a massive contribution this season, he clearly isn’t first choice, but when he has been used he hasn’t done anything wrong. In the previous two seasons, he has made a massive contribution. So why the disdain?
During our indifferent run of games earlier in the season, I saw fans calling for the likes of de Ridder to be brought into the team and Billy Sharp brought back from loan, yet when Guly is given the nod (a player who has contributed more than those two in the past) it is met with a plethora of complaint from a section of the Saints fans. There comes a time when you have to sit back and say “look. Nigel knows what he is doing”, if he thinks Guly is good enough, then he is.
I’m not saying you have to like him, or think he is the best player around, but when he pulls on the shirt get behind him. The guy is owed at least that. With it looking like Lallana may be out for months, don’t be surprised to see Adkins turn to Guly to play in that role. Back him.
If his home sickness is true (the quotes seemed to suggest that he would like to end his career in Sao Paulo) and he leaves the club in the next couple of transfer windows, let’s hope he does so with his head held high and smile, his contribution over the last two fantastic seasons means he should be wished well.
I had a think about the Saints players that have been booed by their own since I have been watching. I can think of David Speedie, Kerry Dixon, Jermaine Wright, Jason Puncheon and Guly. That shows how spoilt we have been since the Liebherr takeover. Puncheon and Guly should never be categorised with those three for anything, and far worse have wore the shirt.
Back the maverick samba assassin, or at least stay silent when he is brought on if you can’t bring yourself to ‘support’ him.
Yesterday, former Saints centre half Ken Monkou set off on a new footballing journey as his new magazine ‘Football Life‘ was launched at Stamford Bridge.
The dutchman made 233 appearances for Southampton after joining from Chelsea in August 1992 for a fee of £750k. He proved a popular figure at the Dell, with his commanding performances at the back essential to several survival battles.
He stayed on the South Coast until the summer of 1999 when he moved to Huddersfield Town before retiring in 2002.
Since his playing days Ken has continued to be in and around football including coaching at Chelsea, managing young players, media work and organising friendly matches/tournaments for clubs including Feyenoord and Liverpool.
His latest venture though seems him enter the world of printed media.
‘Football Life‘ is a stylish, insightful magazine focusing on the untold, human stories surrounding the world of football. Containing candid interviews with the game’s leading players as well as various behind-the-scenes personalities, the magazine provides an exciting glimpse into the world’s most popular sport. From the humble kitman to world famous superstars, FL offers a unique voice within football. Intriguing and offering a new perspective, FL gives an in-depth appraisal of its subject matter whilst remaining true to its core values of honesty, and integrity.
A concept that was started in Monkou’s native Netherlands by former Sheffield Wednesday and Celtic star Regi Blinker, the magazine aims to show the side to football that perhaps we the supporters don’t often see. It will feature guest editorial contributors from the world of football, including Saints legend and former teammate of Monkou, Matt Le Tissier.
KM: “It was a wonderful experience and I met some great people. I had very loyal support from the fans and the people at the club which I will never forget and still means a lot to me.”
What are your best memories of Saints?
KM: “Beating the ‘mighty’ Man Utd 4-2 and of course the famous win over Norwich 5-4 to keep us in the Premiership in a crazy and memorable game. I scored the winning goal from a Matt Le Tissier corner and it was one of the highlights of my time there. I also remember fondly playing under Alan Ball who was a truly inspirational and lovely man and ‘really one of us’.”
What do you make of our current Dutch centre back Jos Hooiveld?
KM: “He has the physical and mental presence needed to deal with the life that is the Premier League and he will make a strong contribution to the Saints in their first season back.”
How do you think Saints will fair back in the Premier League?
KM: “I think they will do themselves proud as they have done really well over the past two seasons and they have built the foundation to have a really successful run in the Premiership.”
How did you feel when you saw the betting scam revelations by ex Saints Claus Lundekvam this week?
KM: “I was shocked and surprised as I always rated him as a good player and that is all I can judge him on. The only time I remember Claus getting into trouble was when he had his regular one way conversation with the referees.”
The first issue of ‘Football Life” goes on sale this Thursday (18th July 2012) and is available from major magazine stockists. The first issue includes a feature on Matt Le Tissier and is a must read for Saints fans!
A lot was made of Manchester United’s 6-1 reverse to their arch rivals City at the weekend, and it was the first time the Premier League giants had conceded six goals in a game in fifteen years.
Fifteen years to this very day in fact.
Then Saints manager Graeme Souness had had an indifferent start to the 1996/97 season, but headed into the game on the back of two straight home wins against Middlesbrough and Sunderland. These were the only victories of the season so far though. Both had been impressive, Saints scoring four and three goals against their North East opponents respectively without reply. The new look attacking lineup of Eyal Berkovic, Le Tiss and Egil Ostenstad proving potent.
The visit of the champions was likely to be a different prospect. United themselves came to the Dell having lost their last league game 5-0 at St. James Park, though they did have a midweek victory over Swindon Town inbetween.
Many feared a backlash from United, and the thought of Beckham, Scholes, Cantona et al taking on the likes of Richard Dryden and Alan Neilsen at the back, not to mention unproven new boy Claus Lundekvam was not one for the feint hearted.
Souness made his selections with the attacking prowess of the champions in mind, Jason Dodd, Ulrich Van Gobbel and Simon Charlton, all recognised defenders joined the aforementioned trio in the starting lineup, Matthew Oakley and Berkovic played in the middle, with Le Tissier supporting Ostenstad up front.
Alex Ferguson also named an interesting side, with Cantona the only recognised out and out forward in his lineup.
Having witnessed the 3-1 victory the previous season, I don’t think for a second it crossed my mind that we could win again, let alone what was about to unfold.
It will truly go down as one of the defining moments of the Premier League, and certainly one of the best ever games.
Amongst the furore of the aftermath of the City result at the weekend, it is worth noting, that United went on to retain the title in 1996/97 and by a clear seven points. It also interesting that the only player who could have played in both games fifteen years apart, United talisman Ryan Giggs played in neither.
It wasn’t the first, or last time Saints were a thorn in Ferguson’s side, let’s hope there is more to come….
Southampton:- Beasant, Dodd, Neilson, Dryden, Lundekvam, Van Gobbel, Charlton, Berkovic, Oakley, Le Tissier, Ostenstad Unused Subs:- Potter, Magilton, Watson
Man Utd:- Schmeichel, G. Neville, P. Neville, May, Pallister (Irwin), Keane, Butt (McClair), Scholes, Beckham, Cruyff (Solskjaer), Cantona
“Never walk, away from home, ahead of your axe and sword. You can’t feel battle, in your bones, or foresee a fight.” – The Havamal (Book of Viking Wisdom)
In my time watching the Saints, we have had foreign players from all over the world don the famous Red & White stripes. One group in particular that have found themselves taken to the hearts of the fans so readily are the Scandinavians.
So following the succes of the keepers debate I decided to take a vote amongst the users of the #saintsfc hashtag on who has been the best of the many Scandinavian players in Saints history. I was worried that their might be some controversy with this, and as predicted, many did ask as to the non-inclusion of Antti Niemi, who could have been a contender for a second successive Twitter vote victory, but I did check, and had it confirmed to me by others, that Finland is not officially part of Scandinavia. Therefore only players from Denmark, Norway and Sweden could qualify for this highly unofficial title!
In keeping with the four player format, I picked the nominees based on the impact they had on my time watching Saints. Self indulgent? Of course. This is my site. I happily accepted votes in the “other” category though.
1. Claus Lundekvam. It is rare, especially these days, that a foreign player works his way to a testimonial with an English club, but captain Lundekvam did just that. Playing over three hundred and fifty times for Saints, Claus was there for the highs and the lows after joining in 1996. Premier League, Europe, FA Cup final, Relegation, in twelve years at the club, the one thing that was a constant positive were the performances of the centre half. Carried on the tradition of other Scandinavian Premier League stars Jan Molby and Peter Schmeichal, by adopting a local accent.
2. Michael Svensson. Killer was as solid as they come at the centre of defence. A quiet unassuming man off the pitch, but a warrior on it. It is no coincidence that the most successful period of Premier League life for Saints coincided with the Swede’s involvement and the 2004/05 relegation with his loss to injury. His cult hero status at the club would be confirmed a couple of seasons later though, as after being released, he defied his injury problems to return to the playing staff, sadly it wasn’t to be the comeback everyone was hoping for.
3. Egil Ostenstad. The Norweigan with an eye for goal joined Saints in 1996 and became a fan favourite with his slick finishing. He was the fans player of the season in 1996/97 and continued his good goalscoring form in a side struggling in the Premier League. Disappointingly moved on to Blackburn Rovers in a deal that saw Kevin Davies return to the club in 1999.
4. Ronnie Ekelund. In what must have been one of my most enjoyable periods watching Saints, the Dane (a gift from Johan Cruyff to friend Alan Ball) formed a sublime partnership with Matt Le Tissier as they terrorised Premier League defences in the 1994/95 season. His apparent refusal to have surgery on a back problem led to him not being signed permanently, a mistake on Saints part in my opinion. Still rated by Le Tissier as the best player he ever played with.
From over forty votes this was the final result:-
A close victory for the big Swede, it is telling that between them the quality defensive partnership of Svensson and Lundekvam dominated the voting, with most fans finding it difficult to choose between them.