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.
When you talk about contentious issues, the best or worst eleven players for any club is probably number one. I was recently asked to write an article on my best Saints Premier League eleven for Shoot magazine and after a fair amount of wrestling and changes I settled on a team. I was lucky in one respect, I only had a window of fifteen years to toy with. My Saints experience started in the Premier League and I am guilty of vainly believing it would always reside there.
Actually after careful consideration, my best Saints Premier League eleven, is my best eleven full stop. It is drawn from a period where we competed with the best, and it is no coincidence that many of those selected made up our 2002/03 side.
The compiling of that team got me thinking, how difficult must it be to pick a side with a much bigger window of players to choose from? My colleague Dan and I couldn’t agree and our time watching Saints is of the same period.
I also thought about my worst eleven. Sadly, as a Saints fan this is much more difficult a prospect. Even in the twenty years of my support, we have been inundated with, for want of a better word. Crap.
So when in need of sensible opinion, broad knowledge and perhaps even an entertaining turn of phrase, I turned to the only resource where all three are commonplace. Twitter. I sought out the best and worst elevens of someone in their 50’s, 40’s and 20’s (Dan and I cover the 30’s), and I got some pretty entertaining responses. No doubt you won’t all agree with them, and as a collective we welcome comment. Opinion makes football what it is.
The rules were simple. You must have seen a player in the flesh to select them and state when you first started attending matches, and that was pretty much it! Everyone has taken their own approach, some have picked best individuals, others have tried to pick the best to fit a system or compliment each other.
“I started following Saints at the start of the 1965/66 season. Remembering my 1st game is simply impossible! However, one of my very early games was the 9-3 drubbing of Wolves which did come early in 1965/66. I have always remembered it was 2-2 after about 5 minutes and that remarkably after we scored on the hour to make it 9-3 there were no more goals. Chivers scored 4, Paine 2, Sydenham 2 and George O’Brien also scored. I think that game probably meant I was hooked for life!”
Peter Shilton – “Genuine world class. Only Niemi comes close.”
Ivan Golac – “The first overseas signing we made I believe. The best attacking full back I have seen.”
Steve Mills – “Class personified, career sadly cut short or I believe he would have played for England.”
Mark Wright – “Took a little while to settle at the Dell, even played at right back. But developed into a top central defender.”
Dave Watson – “Already a seasoned International when he signed, another great Lawrie Mac signing and just ahead of some other top quality centre halves.”
Matthew Le Tissier – “Don’t need to say much, the most skilful player I have seen for us, legend is the right word.”
Alan Ball – “Another player who doesn’t require many words. A true legend of the game, vital in our 1977/78 promotion- another LM master stroke and simply world class.”
Steve Williams – “Oozed quality and formed in Division 2 a partnership with Bally that was exceptional. 1st saw him v Pompey in 1976 on his debut, looked class even then.”
David Armstrong – “Great left sided midfield player who scored a lot of vital goals, in many ways the front 2 are determined by his inclusion ahead of the wing wizard John Sydenham.”
Mick Channon – “Impossible to omit, our leading goalscorer ever, genuine nice guy and of course part of our FA Cup success in 1976. Another who deserves the term legend.”
Marian Pahars – “This was the most difficult decision but Marian is included as I feel he would have combined well with Channon. Keegan was not here long enough I don’t feel, Ron Davies is a super, super sub who could be introduced along with Sydenham and Terry Paine if needs be. Cannot believe strikers like Moran, Boyer and Osgood don’t even make the bench!”
Subs : Antti Niemi, Mark Dennis, Ron Davies, Kevin Keegan, Terry Paine, John Sydenham, Michael Svennson
(gwc – There was a refusal at this point by Chris to justify his selections in this team. They were simply that bad.)
Subs : Sandy Davie, Mark Walters, Tommy Widdrington, Oshor Williams, Tony Pulis
(gwc – No idea who Beaney, Crabbe and Dawtry are? Me either!)
“1968 (I think) Went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang . Never got in (cinemas had queues and sell outs in those days) Dad took me to see Saints v Coventry instead. Overriding memory – pitch was green, crowd was in colour (had only seen football on b&w tv before that) 0-0 draw (again, I think), at least I don’t remember a goal, or anything else exciting come to that, but I was hooked.”
GK Peter Shilton – “Didn’t have to do a lot, he was so dominant the defence was scared to make a mistake. When they did he was like another one man defensive line all on his own. Still England’s record cap holder (125) should have been much higher but for a job-share arrangement with Ray Clemence. Booze, birds but still simply the best. Crap on Strictly Come Dancing.”
RB Ivan Golac – “First of the modern day foreign imports after we finally got round work permit problems, and possibly still the best value for money foreigner to this day. Took no prisoners in defence, and was even better going forwards . Scored a thunderbolt against WBA from at least 75 yards that their keeper never even saw. Used feigned lack of English to keep himself out of trouble with the ref, was the first foreigner to play in a Wembley final.”
CH Mark Wright – “A very good youngster who got better and better thanks to being paired with and learning from some experienced greats. Looked too frail to be a centre half but had great positional play and perfect timing. Reminiscent of Bobby Moore as, with head up, he would bring the ball out of defence and always look to pass, never hoof . Can still hear the sound his (frail looking) leg made as it snapped in the 86 semi final. Sadly ginger.”
LB Steve Mills – “England international in the making (he played for the Under 23s), it was clear we had unearthed a new star before his career was cruelly cut short after only 60 appearances first by injuries sustained in a car crash and then later developing (and sadly passing away from) leukaemia. Fast, tough tackling, intelligent passer and capable of a quick overlap and getting back again in no time. For younger fans imagine Wayne Bridge but twice as good. Maybe three times.”
LBRBCHRMLMCMRWLWCFS Nick Holmes – “I’d play him just in front of the CH behind the Midfield, put as the positional initials show he played virtually every position for Saints except keeper and never ever let us down. Never received the international recognition he deserved, possibly due to his beard. Seemed a quiet character on the pitch, he simply got on with his job and done it well, very well. It was often said that you only really noticed him if, through injury, he wasn’t there, and you’d be looking for the three players we seemed to be missing. For me this jack-of-all-trades-master-of-all would be the first on every team sheet.”
RW Terry Paine – “Still holds the record for most appearances for the club. Tirelessly hogging the touchline, one of, if not the best crosser of a ball I’ve ever seen. Played in the 66 World Cup squad but picked up an injury so never made the final. Unlike most modern wingers, not afraid to stick a boot, or elbow, in when needed, dropped back into a deeper midfield role as age and differing tactics caught up with him.”
CM Kevin Keegan – “The signing that shocked the football world, it came as big a shock as if we signed Messi today. He didn’t stay long (a couple of seasons) but gave 110% every minute he was on the pitch. Total live-wire, his amazing enthusiasm rubbed off on other players who wouldn’t or couldn’t let their standards drop in his presence. He always struck me as a short player who was a giant on the pitch (the afro may have helped there) Scored the world’s best ever disallowed goal (search YouTube for it) not to mention the goal that took Saints to the top of the league – not our division, THE league. Hard to believe nowadays with not just Saints but football changing so much since then but yes, with him in our team we really were the best side in the country for a while.”
CM David Armstrong – “Just 3 England caps for a player that would walk into today’s national team, he was unfortunate to play in an era when our country had a dearth of mid-fielders. Fantastic box to box player, great at bringing others into the game, making goal after goal for our forwards whilst contributing better than 1 goal in every 4 games himself (a ratio many forwards would be proud of). Added bonus of his head dazzling the opposition under floodlights.”
LW Danny Wallace – “To be fair not a winger as such but was always prepared to hang out wide before bursting inside on a run and terrifying defenders who never knew if he would take the ball past them to their right, left or through their legs. Often utilised in Chris Nicols (unheard of nowadays) 4-2-4 formation he scored a MotD goal of the season with an overhead kick against Liverpool, which I missed, still the one and only time I’ve been for a pee during a game. Added advantage of being able to swap him for brothers Rodney or Ray if he gets tired and no-one will notice.”
CF Ron Davies – “The best header of a ball. Ever. Anywhere. Any time. Benefited from the accuracy of Paine’s crosses but I’m sure he would still have got his head to most balls if it had been my Gran crossing them for him. He scored four headed goals away at Old Trafford. I don’t mean in his career I mean in ONE game and ended up as top scorer in the top division. He, like Ryan Giggs, had the footballing misfortune of being Welsh, depriving him of what would have been a well deserved place on the world stage.”
S Mike Channon – “A striker capable of scoring from anywhere, whether playing through the middle or starting out on the wing* and cutting in. An England regular he played the game with a smile, not least as he “stumbled” over a defenders leg to gain yet another penalty. Scorer of the Greatest Goal Ever® (search YouTube for Greatest Goal Ever®) when against Liverpool he finished off a move consisting of over a thousand passes without them touching the ball before wheeling away giving his trademark windmill arm goal celebration. *Wing positions were often taken up in order to get the racing results , another advantage of the Dell crowds close proximity to the pitch.”
Sub: Matthew Le Tissier – “Famed for his one club loyalty he has probably more individual talent than any of the above but in my opinion all of the above are better team players. Capable of scoring from virtually anywhere in the opponents half, lethal with free kicks and penalties, but starts on the bench as he was prone to disappear for long spells (sometimes as long as 90 minutes especially if it was cold and raining) Selection as sub possibly clouded by my love of being controversial but hey, this is MY team.”
“I refuse to pick a worst XI. After all, good bad or indifferent, they are all Saints and therefore worthy of our support and respect.
Except for David Speedie &Kerry Dixon. They were s***e.”
Tim Flowers – “Best Keeper in England 91-96 unlucky not to get more caps ahead of “Spunky”Seaman. Consistently good for Saints his best performance ,possibly, being in the 92 ZDS Cup Final at Wembley when Saints should have been about 8 down at half time and would have been had it not been for Timmy.”
Ivan Golac – “Quality attacking Right Back who was mysteriously binned for “Oh No” Mick Mills.”
Mark Dennis – “A mental tough tackling left back whose footballing ability would surely have gained England honours had he been the full ticket. Famously lamped by Chris Nicholl at half time and also offered to put all of us up after midweek away games when p****d at an IW supporters dinner.”
Steve Williams – “Classiest Central Midfielder I have witnessed in a Saints shirt. Was that important to the team that they hastily arranged a league game on the Monday before the 84 cup game against Pompey so he could serve a suspension.”
Mark Wright – “Elegant Centre half and token Ginger in my team.”
Micheal Svensson – “Killer was all you wanted in a Centre half,committed, brave and crazy. Massive shame his career was curtailed by injury and it speaks volumes about the man’s character the way he kept trying to come back. Would have been the token Ginger had I not already had one.”
Matthew Le Tissier – “Most skillful footballer I have ever seen.Would have been the laziest had David McGoldrick not turned up some seasons ago. The man is a genius.”
Jimmy Case – “Hardest player I have seen play for Saints and never tried to make a career out of it like some others did (Terry Hurlock). Could also play a bit too and it was funny to watch him steam in every time we played Everton.”
Steve Moran – “Prolific homegrown scorer. Scored 89th minute winner at Fratton in 1984. Say no more.”
David Armstrong -“Put the ball in for the aforemetioned Moran goal. Cultured left foot and token baldy in my team.”
Danny Wallace – “Energetic skillful 3 foot 2 inch winger who was electric on the wing. Scored a magnificent overhead kick against Liverpool but I like to remember his second goal in that game when he out jumped that over critical sour faced Sweaty Hansen to head home at the far stick.”
Dave Beasant – “I haven’t seen many poor Keepers at Saints, Jones had his moments, but “Lurch” gets my vote for general dodginess and that howler when from the corner flag he side footed it straight to John Barnes who couldn’t believe his luck as he stroked the ball into an empty net just hard enough so hapless Dave sprawled into the net after it.”
Lloyd James – “Never saw him have a good game for Saints and at the end of his Saints career was a broken man who regularly passed the ball out of play.”
Olivier Bernard – “A Redknapp signing. Say no more. French, crap.”
Paul Wotton – “Professional footballer my arse. Defensive Midfielder with a complete inability to defend.”
Richard Dryden – “Struggled to get a game in the lower leagues with Bristol City so signed by Saints and played in the Premiership with sadly inevitable results. Remembered for being one of 3 Centre Halves in a defensive line up in a live game @ Newcastle when Saints were 4-0 down inside 15 mins”
Alan Bennett – “Quite simply the slowest and worst Centre Half in the history of the club. Endured the worst Saints debut (home to Palace) since the infamous George Weah’s cousin”
Jermaine Wright – “Inside his head he was a majestic skillful player who could pick a pass from anywhere. To the rest of us he was an overpaid waste of skin who ended up where he belonged playing for Croydon.”
Luis Boa Morte – “More wasted finances on a player who never did it for Saints. Makes my team for trying to beat a man in the 94th minute with Saints 3-2 up against Derby at The Dell. He lost it and no prizes for guessing what happened next. That error cost me a door to my front room after I deposited my right foot through it. And my children were scared of me for weeks afterwards.”
Paul Moody – “I was going to have Dowie in my team before I was reminded of Moody, a Dowie clone but even worse! Unbelievable but true.”
Craig Maskell – “Had 2 spells at Saints, how I don’t know.I can only imagine that he put on a disguise when signing for the second time. Remembered for scoring in the snowy 4-2 win against Liverpool but I defy anybody who remembers another goal scored by him.”
Perry Groves – “Ginger Gooner P**shead who came to Saints for an easy payday. Pulled his shorts up to ridiculous heights. Crap for Saints but his book is a good read.”
“First went to the Dell in 1992. Saints v Arsenal. 2-0 home win. Ian Wright missed a penalty. The only way was up…Oh wait.”
Antti Niemi – “Finland international Niemi, joined the club from Hearts in 2002 and soon established himself as one of the top keepers in the Premier League. Breathtaking shot stopping ability and an ice cool temperament, the flying Finn became a cult hero at St. Mary’s, even smashing a volley against the bar at Fulham.”
Wayne Bridge – “Local boy Bridge was a graduate of the famous Southampton academy, both a competent defender and potent attacker Bridge made his first team debut at 18 and never looked back. He made 151 appearances for Saints and soon broke into Sven Goran Errikkson’s England setup before a big money move to Chelsea.”
Jason Dodd – “Dodd played just shy of 400 games for Saints after signing from non-league Bath City in 1989, the ever dependable full back became part of the furniture in Southampton and is still part of the backroom staff.”
Dean Richards – “Big Deano joined Dave Jones Saints team in 1998 Wolves, the towering centre half was like a brick wall at the back and soon became a fans favourite, being voted as the supporters player of the year in his first season. Sadly passed away this year aged just 36.”
Michael Svensson – “Killer arrived in Southampton from French side Troyes for a fee of £800k in 2002. A fee that would turn out to be an absolute bargain, forming a formidable partnership with Claus Lundekvam (himself unlucky to not make this side) at the back. Svensson was so impressive in the cup final team of 2003 that he was linked with a move to Barcelona, before injury problems blighted his career.”
Chris Marsden – “Something of a journeyman, expectations from Saints fans were low when Marsden joined from Birmingham in 1999. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Marsden provided the engine for a successful Saints midfield, combative and creative, he went on to captain the 2003 cup final side and score a memorable Pele style goal at Ipswich.”
Matthew Le Tissier – “What more needs to be said? Le God as he is known on the South Coast wowed the Southampton faithful for 16 years, despite tempting offers from more glamourous clubs. Simply, the best we ever had. Majestic and mercurial, the man who could turn any game on it’s head in a matter of seconds.”
Ronnie Ekelund – “An odd choice, based on his lack of games maybe, but the impact the Dane had in such a short time at the Dell was massive. A pre-season “gift” from then Barcelona boss Johan Cruyff to old friend Alan Ball in 1994, Ekelund formed an almost telepathic understanding with Le Tissier as Ball’s free flowing side scared many a defence.”
Hassan Kachloul – “Morrocan international Kachloul played 86 games for Saints between 1998 and 2001 after signing from FC Metz on a free transfer and was instrumental in Glenn Hoddle’s successful Saints side. A player that splits opinion among Saints fans, Kachloul was never short of a trick or turn.”
Marian Pahars – “The little Latvian took Saints to heart as much as the supporters did him. Another bargain signing at just £800k from Skonto Riga (where he is now manager), Pahars turned out 137 times for Saints between 1999 and 2006. His love for the club evident is his passionate celebration after a curled wonder strike against the blue few of Pompey, and his tear filled farewell lap of honour.”
James Beattie – “Saints fans may have been disappointed to lose striker Kevin Davies to Blackburn in 1998, but little did they know, that they were getting a much more potent striker as part of the deal. Beattie’s goalscoring exploits tended to come in fits and starts, but when he was hot, he was certainly hot. His partnership with Brett Ormerod, crucial in the 2003 cup run.”
Subs:- Claus Lundekvam, Francis Benali, Matthew Oakley, Carlton Palmer, Egil Ostenstad.
Dave Beasant – “I almost feel guilty, because he was clearly a character and nice bloke. Almost. Too many howlers.”
Olivier Barnard – “I was chuffed when we signed him, probably the biggest disappointment ever. Difficult to express how terrible he was, or indeed how little he cared as we limply dropped out of the top flight.”
Callum Davenport – “Somewhere out there, there is another bloke called Callum Davenport who is really good at football, but has somehow ended up doing a useless, clumsy, lanky blokes job”
Allan Bennett – “Irish international? Crazy. Terrible debut, and it didn’t get much better.”
Darren Kenton – “I literally can’t remember a single moment involving Kenton that wasn’t hapless”
Rory Delap – “Our record signing. We didn’t even utilise the long throw. A utility man. Equally bad in all positions.”
Mark Hughes – “Yeah, yeah, great for everyone else he played for. Poor for us. We were his career blip.”
Simon Gillett – “Couldn’t pass, tackle or shoot, and extremely lightweight. All the trappings of a terrible central midfielder.”
Neil McCann – “Nearly left him out because he attacked Lee Bowyer, but he simply wasn’t very good.”
Paul Moody – “Bloody Hell! Dowie is having shocker today. Wait a minute. That isn’t Dowie, it’s his slightly better looking, but even worse at football teammate”
Ali Dia – “How could I leave him out?”
My Best and Worst Saints XI by Russell Masters age 20
Antti Niemi – “His legendary ability to somehow stop the most unreachable shots made him my first choice ‘keeper whenever I had to go in goal down the park.”
Gareth Bale – “I’ll always remember Bale’s attacking nature whilst playing at left-back for Saints, he was exciting and a hot prospect at the time. His set pieces weren’t too bad either.”
Claus Lundekvam – “Our Claus, in the middle of defence. Need I say more? Solid, long-serving defender, and a hero in my eyes.”
Michael Svensson – “Killer formed a cracking partnership at the back with Lundekvam which stopped some of the Premier League’s best attackers.”
Jason Dodd – “Seemed to be the only good Southampton right back whilst I was growing up, was always in the team and deservedly so.”
Chris Marsden – “Marsden is here purely for THAT goal versus Ipswich. Football genius.”
Matt Le Tissier – “Le God. 433 league appearances, 162 league goals. A Southampton legend, and I agree with Xavi when he said ‘for me, he was sensational’.”
Morgan Schneiderlin – “One of the best central midfielders I’ve seen, his composure and the way he plays is sublime. I was also there for his only Saints goal, away at Bristol Rovers.”
Adam Lallana – “Arguably our best current player, Lallana oozes talent, his skill on the ball is a class above and he is a joy to watch.”
Marian Pahars – “Probably one of my favourite players of all time, Pahars did the business on the highest stage, and his nickname of ‘Latvia’s Michael Owen’ is well deserved. He was fantastic.”
James Beattie – “He was sometimes hit and miss, but when he was hitting, he was top class.”
Tommy Forecast – “On the odd occasion I’ve seen him play, he has never, ever, impressed.”
Lee Molyneux – “Did nothing aside from getting sent off after he joined, and has done nothing since leaving.”
Ollie Lancashire – “He tried, but just could not cut it in a Saints team where he looked increasingly out of his depth.”
Chris Makin – “Came to us at the end of his career and it showed.”
Lloyd James – “Like Lancashire, often looked out of his depth. Had a few good games, but was often poor.”
Luis Boa Morte – “The promising attacking midfielder pretty much flopped during his short spell at Saints.”
Ryan Smith – “He was supposed to be good, but wasn’t. Now plying his trade in the MLS.”
Nigel Quashie – “Four relegations with four different teams, including Saints.”
Leon Best – “Own goal and a missed penalty in a play off semi final is unforgivable.”
Ali Dia – “A couple of years before my time, but he has to be mentioned. Just awful. “
Agustin Delgado – “The £3.5m striker scored one goal in two starts over the course of three years. Then manager Gordon Strachan said there was a yoghurt in his fridge that was more important than Delgado.”
So there we have it, some recurring choices, but also some differences. Thankfully we didn’t have any players feature for a Best and Worst teams, which would have been embarrassing. I am sure some of you will be astounded at players that haven’t made best elevens, and some that have made the worst. Feel free to add your selections in the comments section. No opinion is wrong!
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