Tag Archives: Derby County

Played For Both: Saints & Devils

Another ‘Played for Both’ team, another serious lack of defenders (or for that matter a complete team). You will have to excuse some poetic license in this one, with regards peoples positions and err.. questionable playing history. But believe me, no one would want to lineup with one at back, especially if that one was Danny Higginbotham….

Here goes:-

Team

Goalkeeper

Harry Moger

Local Southampton boy Harry Moger signed for his hometown club in 1900 but was never first choice at the Dell, Saints loss was Manchester United’s gain when they took him in 1903. He played over 240 times for the Red Devils and was a league winner twice and FA Cup winner once. He was also part of the United team that won the first ever Charity Shield in 1908. Passed away in Manchester in 1927. R.I.P.

Harry Moger
Harry Moger

Defender

Oshor Williams

Technically a midfielder, Teesider Williams played for local club Middlesbrough as a youth before signing a professional contract with United in 1976, he didn’t kick a ball in anger for the club though and was promptly released a year later. After a couple of seasons in non-league football he was given a second chance by Lawrie McMenemy, he was quickly loaned to Exeter City for experience before coming back to Saints. He made just 6 appearances at the Dell before leaving for Stockport County in 1979. Has the dubious honour of making one of the worst Saints XI’s in our previous feature:- ‘Saints in our Lives’. Now works for the PFA and is a youth coach for Wigan Athletic.

Oshor Williams
Oshor Williams

Defender

Danny Higginbotham

Manc Higginbotham realised his dreams when he signed a professional contract at Old Trafford in 1997 having been a youth player with the club. After being farmed out to Royal Antwerp and being involved in a controversial incident with a referee he returned to Manchester and played four times for the first team. It was clear he was never going to be a regular though and was sold to Derby County for £2 million in 2000. Having impressed with the Rams in both the Premier League and the Championship Saints made their move in January 2003. He was an unused sub in the 2003 cup final, unable to displace the duo of Lundekvam and Svensson, but played more regularly in the subsequent seasons. With Saints dropping to the championship in 2005, Higginbotham let his contract expire and left the club for Stoke City in the summer of 2006. Has since had a spell at Sunderland, a second at Stoke and brief stints with Forest and Ipswich before signing for Sheffield United this month.

Danny Higginbotham
Danny Higginbotham

Defender

Jim McCalliog

Another who isn’t really a defender, glaswegian McCalliog was a youth at Leeds United before signing for Chelsea in 1963. After highly successful periods with Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves, United paid £60,000 to take him to Old Trafford. He was part of the United side that were both relegated to the 2nd division, but also bounced straight back up again at the first attempt, but was sold to Saints for £45,000 in 1975. McCalliog came back to haunt United manager Tommy Docherty, playing a perfectly timed through ball for the onside Bobby Stokes to score the only goal of the ’76 cup final. McCalliog headed to the States in 1977 and had a brief stint as a manager with Halifax Town in 1990.

Jim_McCalliog
Midfield

Gordon Strachan

Errr…. Ok, I was struggling at this point, but he did play for Saints in Matthew Le Tissier’s 2001 testimonial. It counts. It’s my rules.

See....
See….

Midfield

Mark Hughes

Seeing as Hughes made the Everton side too, I will keep this brief. Illustrious career as a striker with United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, United again, Chelsea. Hideous spell as a midfielder for Saints.

Frank Sinclair having a vision of the future...
Eddie Newton having a vision of the future…

Winger

Andrei Kanchelskis

Kanchelskis left his Ukranian home to join United in 1991 for the princely sum of £650,000. It was money well spent as he terrorised Premier League full backs for four seasons, but after a rumoured fall out with Sir Alex Ferguson he was moved on to Everton in 1995. Via a spell at Fiorentina he ensured he would be the answer to the most asked football trivia question of all time by signing for Rangers in 1998. After a highly successful period at Ibrox and a brief loan at Manchester City he signed for Saints in 2002. It was an odd signing and a once great Premier League player was a shadow of his former self, making just two brief substitute appearances. Now the manager of FC Ufa in the Russian second division.

Andrei Kanchelskis
Andrei Kanchelskis

Winger

Danny Wallace

Londoner Wallace joined Saints as a youth player in 1977 and turned pro in 1980. Made his debut at Old Trafford aged just 16, coming off the bench to replace Kevin Keegan. This was a record broken since by only Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale. Wallace was a fans favourite at the Dell, his pace and skill complimented with some fantastic goals. He was joined in the Saints team for the 1988/89 season by brothers Ray and Rodney but was attracted to the Ferguson revolution at United and headed for Old Trafford in the summer of 1989. He had played over 300 times for Saints. Although he didn’t quite live up to his reputation at United he did rack up a few medals and played for the club 47 times before moving to Birmingham City. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996, Wallace has embarked on many charity ventures including the London Marathon. Makes the small list of players to have played just once for England, but scoring in that appearance.

Danny Wallace
Danny Wallace

Forward

Ron Davies

Welshman Davies is a legend at St. Mary’s, scoring 134 goals in 240 games after joining the club from Norwich City in 1965. He was considered the best striker around by Sir Matt Busby in 1967, a high accolade indeed. Unfortunately injures started to hamper Davies, the result of his physical combatant style and he lost his place in the Saints team. He crossed the South Coast divide in 1973 and signed for Portsmouth before heading to Old Trafford the following season. He made little impact at United and went on loan to Millwall before retiring in 1975.

Ron Davies
Ron Davies

Forward

Joe Jordan

After establishing himself as part of the fantastic Leeds team of the mid-70’s the Scotsman made the jump to Old Trafford in 1978. Scoring 37 goals in 109 games for United, Jordan was another physical striker and made the move from top English league player to top export when he moved AC Milan in 1981. He stayed at the San Siro for two seasons, and was highly regarded despite the club being relegated to Serie B in his second and last campaign. He moved to Verona that summer but the goals dried up and he headed back to Blighty and Southampton in 1984. Back on form Jordan scored 12 goals in 48 games for Saints before moving to Bristol City in 1987. After some questionable management periods he has become a mainstay of Harry Redknapp’s coaching team with Portsmouth, Spurs and now QPR. Oddly he didn’t follow Redknapp to Saints in 2004/05 and stayed at Portsmouth (perhaps he saw what was coming).

Joe_Jordan

Forward

Ted MacDougall

Journeyman MacDougall can name 18 clubs that he represented in his career including both United and Saints. Having started his career with Liverpool, he made a name for himself scoring plenty of goals for both York City and Bournemouth which led United to pay £200,000 for him in 1972. Despite scoring on his debut MacDougall didn’t last the season and was sold to West Ham. After not quite finding his feet at the Hammers either he found his scoring boots again at Norwich City, but soon found himself on the move again joining Saints for £50,000 in 1976. He helped Saints retain their place in the top division but MacDougall favoured staying in the lower leagues and returned to Bournemouth in 1978. Now a coach in the United States.

Ted_Macdougall

So there it is, I know I really pushed the acceptable boundaries this time, but amazing how few players there were post-war era. As usual, would love to hear of any other suggestions!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Crossing The Divide: Jhon Viáfara

“For a small minority, it is pure hatred, even in friendlies, I remember one game at Havant’s ground when our goalkeeper Alan Blayney hung his towel through the back of his net only to turn round a few minutes later and find someone had set fire to it. The team coach had bricks thrown at it on the way home and that was just a reserve game.” – Matt Le Tissier

As we get closer to the first South Coast derby of the season, the next in our look at those that have headed to the wrong end of the M27 is a man who failed to set the Premier League alight in Pompey blue, but found himself somewhat of a cult hero in the Championship at St. Mary’s.

Jhon Viáfara

Colombian international Viafara was signed by then Pompey boss Alain Perrin in the summer of 2005 having recently helped his side Once Caldas to Copa Libertadores glory, scoring against Argentinian giants Boca Juniors in the final.

Initially the South American midfielder featured regularly for Perrin’s side, but Pompey’s poor form saw them send an S.O.S. call to former boss (and then Saints boss) Harry Redknapp in December that year. Viafara featured in just three more games for Pompey after the arrival of Redknapp and was even squarely blamed by his manager for a heavy defeat at Arsenal. With his career at Fratton Park already over Viafara went on loan to Spanish side Real Sociedad for the rest of the season.

Pompey fans were never impressed by Viafara, @MikeJSpeak remembers “He would do a job, but never really stood out, bit of a benchwarmer really.” while @MarwellDeZeeuw thought even less of him “Great name. Average to poor player.”.

On his return to Fratton after Sociedad declined the option to buy him (Viafara’s two sending offs in eleven appearances not helping), the Colombian made the move across Hampshire directly.

For a fee believed to be around £750k, George Burley took a chance on him in the hope that he would be suited to Championship football. He hoped right.

Viafara soon became a fan’s favourite at St. Mary’s with his energetic box to box displays in midfield as Saints headed to the Championship play offs. Having trailed the semi final 2-1 on aggregate after defeat to Derby at home, it was Viafara who gave Saints the chance to turn it round at Pride Park. Firstly, hitting a side footed first time effort over the stranded keeper from thirty yards, before smashing in a second and levelling the tie, famously revealing a t-shirt saying “I Sorry I Ruined The Party”. Sadly Saints would go on to lose the tie on penalties, but the away leg is still regarded as one of the best away trips ever by many Saints fans.

Viafara continued to be a regular for Saints in his second season, but as the Championship frontrunners soon became relegation battlers, and things weren’t quite as rosy at St. Mary’s. Amongst the wage cutting at the start of the next season Viafara was offloaded for no fee to his former club Once Caldas and the Saints midfield was not better for it.

He left St. Mary’s hopefully with as fond memories as the fans had of him. @SamDobson1 said “I Liked him. Good energy in midfield, strong both defensively and going forward.” while @alexgbourne appreciated his work ethic “strong and energetic, but lacking class and finesse – one of the better players to cross the divide and show a bit of passion.”

Viafara the Saint.

After moving around a fair bit in South America, Viafara now plays for Deportivo Pereira.

Chris

Ex-Saint Mark Aims For The Wright Result On Sunday…

You may or may not have been following my coverage of Nivea For Men’s Great Football Experiment.

The experiment aims to see if you can take a regular Sunday League side (in this case Ivory Fc from the Brentwood League first division in Essex), give them the right coaching, nutrition, physio and facilities and turn them into a successful team. Coached by the likes of Terry Venables, Ray Wilkins and Ray Clemence the Ivory team have already had an impressive start to their league campaign, and the perennial strugglers currently lie top of the table.

This Sunday the Ivory lads get their biggest test though, when they face off against a team of England Legends!

Boasting over two hundred caps between them, the ex-pros will not want to be beaten by a ‘pub-side’ and will be going all out to ensure they don’t get egg on their faces.

Amongst the England legends will be ex-Saints legend Mark Wright, and GWC.com are proud to be his official backer for the match!

The no-nonsense but stylish defender made two hundred and twenty two appearances for Saints between April 1982 and May 1987 having signed from Oxford United and was part of the great Saints team that finished league runners up in the 1983/84 season. Lawrie McMenemy succesfully predicted at the time that he had just signed a future England player and got he his first cap within two years.

Fresh Face Saint Mark Wright - pic from exsaints.co.uk

Wright would have been a shoe in for the 1986 World Cup squad but unfortunately broke his leg in Saints FA Cup Semi final against Liverpool. Having left Saints for Derby County, he did however make the 1990 squad, scoring his only international goal, a crucial winner against Egypt in the group stages.

Wright went on to play for Liverpool and gain forty five caps for his country before moving into management with Southport, Oxford United, Peterborough and Chester City.

Wright in England Action - Image from theFA.com

Wright will lineup with his fellow ex-England pro’s at Dagenham & Redbridge’s Victoria Ground this Sunday for a 1400 kick off against the Ivory FC boys. His team mates consist of:- Ian Walker, Luther Blissett, Nigel Winterburn, Viv Anderson, Ray Parlour, Clive Allen, Rob Lee, Alvin Martin, Tony Woodcock and Rob Jones.

As Wrights official backers, Nivea For Men have given the readers of this site a chance to win bundle of their products! If Wright is selected as the England legends Man of the Match on Sunday, anyone who has retweeted this article, or commented on it below could be picked at random to win the prize!

Let’s hope we see some of Mark’s old school, classy defending and he catches the judges eye!

For previous articles on the Great Football Experiment check here.

Chris

Just About Enough of Clough…

“If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.”  – Brian Clough

Saints head to Pride Park this weekend to face Derby County in a top of the table clash which has already attracted a crowd of thirty thousand people.

Nigel Adkins will be pitting his wits against Nigel Clough. Both have had fantastic records so far this season, and have their teams playing the way football should be played. One stark difference for them though, is that for Clough, he will always be compared to “Old Big ‘Ead” himself, father Brian.

Clough Snr will always be regarded as one of the greatest managers this country has ever produced, bringing attention to himself, first with Saturday’s opponents Derby, before huge success with arch rivals Nottingham Forest, and it was in his Forest days that Clough Snr, proved to be somewhat of a spoilsport for Saints. Twice, the great man denied us in cup finals, some thirteen years apart.

The Clough's. Winning Mentality.

Firstly, in 1979 Southampton found themselves the underdogs for another Wembley final in the League Cup, taking on league champions and holders Nottingham Forest. Despite taking an early lead, Saints were eventually bossed by the class of Clough’s men. A valiant effort from the team in yellow though saw the final score at 3-2  in favour of the champions, with Saints goals coming from Nick Holmes and David Peach. Archie Gemmill the architect for Forest. Strike one to Clough.

1992 saw Saints and Forest meet again in the capital, this time for the Zenith Data Systems Cup final, Clough’s side may not have been the force they were thirteen years previously, but they were going well in the league, and had been in the previous season’s FA Cup final. Amongst their team were two sons of note, Nigel making a name for himself up front, and Scott the offspring of 1979’s chief tormenter Archie. Saints came back from a 2-0 deficit to take the game to extra time, Kevin Moore and Matthew Le Tissier getting the goals, but it was to be a Gemmill again that would have a definitive say in the outcome. Adding to his fifteenth minute opener, Gemmill won the match in the second period of extra time, for another 3-2 Forest victory. Strike two to Clough.

Clough Jnr. Hoping to point Derby in the right direction.

Son Nigel has followed a similar career path to his Dad so far, starting in the lower echelons of English Football with Burton Albion, and now overseeing things at Derby County. He hasn’t quite emulated Brian’s successes just yet (Clough Snr won the second division in his second season at the Baseball Ground), but signs this season are that he has what it takes to make the Rams Championship challengers.

What does look certain, is that the battle of the Nigel’s, could be both a fantastic spectacle and a meeting of two of this countries top up and coming managers. Saints will be hoping, that the Clough factor is a thing of the past, and that 2007 Pride Park playoff semi final memories can be banished forever. With no chance of Leon Best or Inigo Idiakez being on penalties, Saints will have more than a chance, but away performances haven’t been spectacular recently, and Derby smarting from a a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Leicester last time out will be looking to bounce back.

It is no surprise that this seems to be the Championship “Game of the Week” for many of the countries media outlets. First against third, Let’s hope it lives up to it.

COYR.

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Nottingham Forest

Saints welcome Steve McClaren and his Nottingham Forest side to St. Mary’s this Saturday and will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Leicester City. It hasn’t been the best of starts for the former England manager at the City Ground, with rumours of unrest on his part after not being able to bring the players he wanted in during the transfer window. Results haven’t gone well either, with just one league victory so far against struggling Doncaster Rovers.

McClaren has gone on record as saying he thinks his squad is in need of a major overhaul, but on paper it still looks strong to me, and what he does have at his disposal are three ex-Saints…

Paul Smith

Keeper Smith joined Saints in the 2004 January transfer window. Coming armed with a growing reputation as a top young performer between the sticks at Brentford he was initially understudy to Antti Niemi. Due to injuries to the first choice Finn, he did end up making nine appearances for the first team including five starts in the Premier League, albeit in the ill fated run in to relegation.

Smith looked impressive in his forays into first team action leading Saints fans to believe they had a ready made replacement for Niemi who was increasingly likely to leave after demotion to the Championship. This is exactly what did happen in January 2006, and Smith had the chance to make the number one spot his own, unfortunately his confidence seemed to have deserted him and George Burley turned to new boy Bartosz Bialkowski and veteran free transfer Kevin Miller to take his place.

Smith was sold to League One Forest the following July.

Smith struggled for form at Saints.

Opposition’s view:-

Forest fan NFFCBlogger from the NFFC Blog give his thoughts on Smith:-

“A real ‘hero to zero’ time in a Forest shirt. Once a staple part of our starting eleven, his perceived lack of confidence got the crowd on his back and seemed to heighten the already awful defending prevalent at the time.  Firmly on the bench under Lee Camp now, and I think he would benefit from a move away from the City Ground. An excellent keeper who has lost his way and confidence here. I still think he’s technically a better goalkeeper than Camp, but without the overbearing confidence (or arrogance?) our current number one exhibits.  He’s been made a bit of a scapegoat and unfortunately the moron element in our fan base make it impossible for him to flourish for Forest again.”

David McGoldrick

Nottingham lad McGoldrick started his career in his hometown with Notts County, making his first team debut at just sixteen years old. His talent was soon spotted by Saints and he was signed in the summer of 2004. He was a key member of the Southampton youth team that reached the Youth Cup final in 2005 and his performances earned him a first team debut in the League Cup in September 2005. He went back to Notts County on loan before coming back and having a prolific scoring season for the Saints reserve and youth sides.

This sharp shooting didn’t go unnoticed and George Burley handed him his first league start in April 2006. In and out of the first team for the next couple of seasons, McGoldrick went out for two spells on loan at Port Vale and an impressive tenure at Bournemouth where he scored six goals in twelve games.

In 2008/09 McGoldrick finally nailed down a place as a first team regular under Jan Poortvliet and then Mark Wotte, featuring in all forty six league games as Saints limped out of the Championship. Despite twelve league goals for the club, McGoldrick could have given a whole lot more in my opinion, and in a season where Saints needed all hands to the pump McGoldrick often looked like he wasn’t really trying (with flashes of brilliance thrown in). With a distinct hint of “Big I am” attitude it was a certain case of mixed feelings when McGoldrick made his million pound move to Forest.

McGoldrick never quite lived up to his billing.

Opposition’s view:-

NFFC Blogger gives his thoughts on McGoldrick:-

“It’s quite apt that the original request to me overlooked McGoldrick. As we saw with Paul Smith, Forest fans (or sections of them) love nothing better than a whipping boy. David is our current one.  He’s referred to in such disparaging terms as McGoalDrought or worse – and whilst I dislike any player being singled out for abuse, I do have a little sigh if I see him starting.  Injury, squad rotation, a nigh on zero-creative midfield at times and now a managerial change have all contributed to curtail his development as a Forest player.  Is he a striker? If so, the likes of Findley, Miller and Derbyshire seem more dangerous options – and of course Dex when he’s fit. Tudgay and Garner also probably have as much credit as David.  If he wants to play attacking midfield then he’d need to oust McGugan or Majewski… basically, were it not for the hefty fee we paid for his services I think we’d be looking to offload.”

Dexter Blackstock

Of the three ex-Saints amongst the Forest ranks Blackstock is the most fondly remembered amongst the St. Mary’s faithful. Partly for his decent performances and workman like approach to the game, but mainly for two particular events in his time as a Saint.

Signed from the Oxford United youth setup in 2003, it was a baptism of fire for the eighteen year old in the 2004/2005 season as Saints struggling in the Premier League had a front line injury crisis. The young Blackstock rose to the challenge scoring his first three goals in a Carling cup game against Colchester. He then scored his first league goal at the best possible time, equalising in the South Coast derby at St. Mary’s, Saints going on to beat Pompey 2-1.

Harry Redknapp arrived and Blackstock found himself out in the cold, spending the second half of the season on loan at Plymouth Argyle. After relegation to the Championship Blackstock might have hoped for more playing time, but Redknapp had other ideas. Another loan spell at Derby County followed before Arry headed back to ‘his spiritual home’ with his tail between his legs, George Burley replaced him and immediately recalled Blackstock and used him in the first team. The highlight of Dexter’s final season as a Saint came in the cup at Newcastle. All three substitutes used up, Saints keeper Bartosz Bialkowski went down injured, only for Blackstock to step up to the role, eleven minutes unbeaten in the sticks and two pieces of Southampton folklore secured.

Blackstock was sold to QPR in August of 2006.

Blackstock celebrates securing free drinks in Southampton for life.

Opposition’s view:-

NFFC Blogger gives his view on Blackstock:-

“Signed on loan from QPR when we were battling relegation back to League One, scored a crucial winning goal in a 3-2 win against Bristol City and we’ve loved him ever since. Bought for a bargain fee as his face didn’t seem to fit at Loftus Road, and has carved out a role as a real grafter in leading the line for us, and had made strides to build a dangerous partnership with Robbie Earnshaw, who of course has returned to Cardiff.  Speaking of the Bluebirds, it was there last season he was sidelined when Cardiff City’s Olofinjana raked his studs down his shin whilst he was turning – ultimately leading to a cruciate injury that sees him still recovering. Needless to say no action was taken against the Cardiff midfielder.  In the meantime we have signed a considerable amount of competition to our rank of strikers so he will need to work hard to get back into first team contention – which I’m sure he will, and Forest fans will be thrilled to see him take to the field again.”

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Leicester City…

Saints head to the King Power Stadium this Saturday to take on high spending Sven Goran Eriksson’s Leicester City.

The former England manager has made nice use of the summer transfer window, bringing a virtually whole new team in, a clear statement of intent from the Swede, that promotion is the Foxes only goal this season.

Amongst the plethora of talent that Eriksson has assembled, two former Saints with differing fortunes on the South Coast could be in line to face their old club.

Matthew Oakley

A product of the Southampton Academy, Oakley is fondly remembered at St. Mary’s. The central midfielder made his debut for the Saints aged just eighteen in 1995 and went on to play over three hundred times for the club.

In his career highlight, Oakley was named in Gordon Strachan’s starting lineup for the 2003 FA Cup final, somewhere we might never have been had it not been for his Extra Time winner at the Den in a Fifth Round Replay. During this period of his career he was also touted for an England chance by many (of course it was Sven who didn’t pick him).

Having established himself over the years as a first choice and dependable midfielder, comfortable at playing the holding role as well as getting forward and creating attacks, it is no surprise to me that Southampton’s Premier League demise coincided with long term injury woes for Oakley, he played just seven times in the 2004/05 relegation season.

Oakley’s twelve year service at the club ended in 2006 after he rejected a new contract before signing for Derby County. It has always been a mystery to me why Oakley was never granted a testimonial with the club, although, it was rumoured that he was to have one in the 2006/07 season had he not moved on.

Oakley went on to captain the Rams in their promotion season, before heading off to Leicester City in January 2008, exchanging a Premier League relegation battle for a Championship one. The Foxes lost that battle, dropping to League One amongst the final day drama that saw Saints survive.

Oakley was named captain for the following season as Leicester romped their way to the League One title and remained a regular in the side during last season’s campaign. Whether or not he can fight off Sven’s new guard and retain it this season remains to be seen…

Oakley - a true Saint.

Opposition’s View:-

Leicester City fan Mike McCarthy from Foxblogger gives his thoughts on Oakley:-

“Some Leicester fans have just never got on with Matt Oakley. He’s never been the most exciting player but on his day he can still pull the strings in midfield (although one Guardian reporter’s description of him as ‘the Xavi of the Championship’ was perhaps overdoing it).

Oakley’s first team appearances have been limited to the Carling Cup so far this season, and with the wealth of midfield talent in the Leicester ranks it’s difficult to see how the former Saint will be able to force his way back into Sven’s plans. With one year remaining on his contract, we can expect Matt to be looking for another club next summer.”

Matt Mills

In contrast to Matt Oakley’s Saints career his namesake Mills spent very little time on the South Coast. Another product of the Academy, centre half Mills showed massive potential in loan spells at Coventry City and Bournemouth, and also in the few Championship appearances he made for the club. On the verge of establishing himself in the Saints first team, Mills’ head was turned by Manchester City in January 2006, former Saints boss Steve Wigley, alerting his new club to the young defender.

Having played for the Southampton first team just six times, the youngster headed off to Eastlands and the Premier League. Mills found first team appearances hard to come by with City though, and had to settle for loan spells at Colchester United and Doncaster Rovers (ironically dropping to a level below Saints) to get games. He eventually joined the Yorkshire club permanently in 2008 after securing promotion to the Championship.

He was to spend just one more season with Rovers though, before signing for Reading in the summer of 2009. This is where Mills really started to catch the eye, establishing himself as a solid central defender, and playing a major role in the Royals campaign last season that saw them reach the playoff final.

Sven was impressed enough with Mills to part with £5.5 million for him this summer.

Matt Mills showing his potential at Saints.

Opposition’s View:-

Mike gives us his thoughts on Mills:-

“It’s fair to say the jury is still out on Matt Mills. The huge fee Leicester payed Reading for the centre-half was beginning to look like an albatross around his neck. An (unfortunate) own goal against Rotherham in the League Cup and a poor performance against his former employers led Sven to drop his new captain to the bench after just two league games. A more assured display at Nottingham Forest, coupled with much less erratic distribution has calmed some fans nerves and hopefully Mills’ own.

Mills is part of a back five in which only Sol Bamba has survived the summer unscathed, so uncertainty at this stage of the season is understandable. Eventually Mills will need to take command and cajole his new colleagues into keeping more clean sheets, something Leicester have only managed against a toothless Coventry City so far. But if results don’t improve in the medium term expect a few reactionaries to point to his price tag and wonder why the defence isn’t producing the goods.”

Chris

And What You Give Is What You Get…

It is an unusual position for a Saints fan to be looking down on the rest of the league after the opening two games. Notoriously slow starters, it is the first time Saints have won their opening two games for twenty three years.

But should we be surprised? Nigel Adkins’ tireless enthusiasm for the job, our relentless end to last season and the additions of some quality players in the transfer window screams of a professional and assured approach to the new campaign. On top of that Adkins focus on fitness, somewhere we seriously failed at the start of last season has clearly paid off, as our lean first team squad look sharp and hungry.

There will be a lot of talk about “momentum” and it definitely plays a part. Steve Grant pointed out on twitter today that Saints have dropped just four points from the last available fifty one, which is phenomenal form. Couple this with the fact that our promoted chums Brighton are keeping up so far, also winning both their games.

What we have at St. Mary’s though, that I believe to be the most important part is a “team” in the truest sense of the word. While Leicester spend big, buying lots of new players, Adkins approach has been to keep the core of last seasons successful side and add to it gradually. Jack Cork has come straight in, and his quality is clear for all to see, while the other new boys Steve de Ridder and Danny Fox look like they will have to be patient to break into what is, a so far this season, an excelling group. The loss of Alex Chamberlain to Arsenal, in the least shocking transfer move of the summer (although perhaps gazumped by Mr. Fabregas and Barca today) hasn’t had any negative effect whatsoever yet, and with de Ridder looking like a shrewd bit of business, there is a fair chance it won’t at all.

Jack Cork - Settling into his second St. Mary's spell.

There is much talk of new Strikers and Centre halves that don’t look like dying down anytime soon, but with the assured performances of Aaron Martin against Leeds, and Dan Seaborne at Barnsley, coupled with the resurgence of David Connolly up front, I am not sure we are “desperate” for players in any position.

While we can enjoy our 100% start, it is natural as a Saints fan to look for the catch. We simply aren’t used to a good start, and I for one have already scanned the fixture list for the first “back to earth with a bump” outing, and actually tomorrow night’s trip to Portman Road could be it. They are my outside tip for promotion and it will no doubt be a tough place to go. Paul Jewell is no mug at this level, and the acquisitions of Lee Bowyer and Michael Chopra make them an exciting looking team.

The opening two game winning side of 1988, did go on and win their third match to, so we aren’t incapable, but if we are looking for omens, Chris Nicholl’s class of 1988/89, Neil Ruddock, Barry Horne and co finished up 13th in Division One, and I would like to think we are aiming slightly higher than that. In better news, that season, of our current opponents, only Forest, Derby, Coventry and Millwall finished above us.

1988/89:-

West Ham United (h) 4-0

Queens Park Rangers (a) 0-1

Luton Town (h) 2-1

2011/12

Leeds United (h) 3-1

Barnsley (a) 0-1

Ipswich Town (a) ?

Whatever happens, we have already sent a message to the Championship old guard, that we haven’t come here to make up the numbers, and our destination is up.

If I never ever see you . Again….

Chris

Championship Preview Part 2…

Continuing from Part One, fans of the next six clubs preview the coming 2011/12 Championship season.

Cardiff City:-

Name:- Jordan Jones

Club:- Cardiff City FC

Twitter:- @jordanjonesy 

What can we expect from your club this season? A play-off fight I expect, we’ve had a lot of outgoings but Malky as brought in the right players.

Who is your most important player? Peter Whittingham.

Your predicted finishing position? 6th.

Who might win the Championship? Leicester.

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough.

Most anticipated fixture? Cardiff vs Leeds.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? West Ham vs Millwall.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Andy King from Leicester.

You find yourself stuck in Ashton Gate. How do you escape unnoticed? I run ASAP, and try and get on the coaches early, if a supporter approaches I ignore them.

Coventry City:-

Name:- Stuart Baxter

Club:- Coventry City

Twitter:- @StuartGBaxter

Website:- Shoot Magazine

What can we expect from your club this season? Hard working, resilient, high spirited performances with the determination to prove our doubters wrong (hopefully).

Who is your most important player? Every single player at our club is important. However, the most important man at our club at present is manager, Andy Thorn.

Your predicted finishing position? Difficult to say, mid-table obscurity at best.

Who might win the Championship? It pains me to say, but both Birmingham and Leicester are clear favourites although my outsiders will be Hull and Ipswich to be up there.

Who definitely won’t? We definitely won’t.

Most anticipated fixture? First game of the season against Leicester and pretty much every fixture after that.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I’ll be interested to see how Blackpool do this season following relegation, so let’s say Holloway going back to Leicester to pick his wits against Sven.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? I could give you a list as long as my arm but I think us City fans are still bitter about the Marlon King scenario so if we could turn back time and make him stay that would be nice.  Although I also think Jonathan Greening will be a big signing for Forest this season.

You find yourself stuck in the King Power Stadium (formerly Walkers Stadium), Leicester. How do you escape unnoticed? I would dress up as a £20 note and sneak out without anybody noticing, the amount of money going out of that club surely nobody will notice an extra £20?

Andy Thorn. Hoping to point Coventry City in the right direction.

Crystal Palace:-

Name:- Nick Reay

Club:- Crystal Palace

Twitter:- @nickreay

What can we expect from your club this season? Expect us to be a surprise package this season. We’ve been written off by the bookies already to go down and from other team’s message boards, it seems like we’ll be hovering the bottom quarter of the league again. We’ve signed three internationals and one of League One’s top scorers last season so far. Although I’m not saying we will win the league, or even finish in the top half, I’m saying that I think we will be an improvement to the team that won one game away from home all season.

Who is your most important player? Our most important player is Nathaniel Clyne. The young full back has sparked interest from a lot of Premier League clubs lately. He’s an England U19 international and it’s only a matter of time before he’s called up the U21s. The lad has bags of quality and kept a lot of high profile players quiet including Gradel and Bellamy. His pace plus his great defensive work makes him my most important player.

Your predicted finishing position? I predict we will finish 15th this season. The last two seasons we have survived by the skin of our teeth, and from the outside they may see a young amateur manager with some young players, but with a legend having the best interests of the club at heart and one of the country’s top academies, I think we will succeed in our goal of mid table mediocrity.

Who might win the Championship? No idea who will win the Championship, that’s what makes this league great. Look at the three teams that came down last season, none of them went back up. Blackpool were relegation favourites at the start of 2009/10 and they got promoted too. Leicester have got a great team coming together, but as Cardiff, Middlesbrough (and us, to an extent) can tell you, you can’t buy this league. I’m going to have a guess at West Ham as they have Parker and Nolan. That is a great combination.

Who definitely won’t? Cardiff will not. Their financial problems off the field seem too much. They relied heavily on getting promoted last season and pretty much threw away the clubs financial security to reach the Prem ala Portsmouth with the FA Cup. I can’t see Cardiff finishing top half this season.

Most anticipated fixture? Obviously for me I’m looking forward to Brighton v Palace at their new wonky stadium as it’s been a few years since we played them and they’re looking a lot stronger this time around (as much as it pains me to say it).

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? West Ham v Millwall has to be the most anticipated fixture due to the history between them. Both very working class clubs with similar fans, and there is nothing but pure hatred between them. You only have to look at the Carling Cup tie to see what an entertaining fixture this will be.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? If I could take one club’s player it would be Scott Parker. The guy is a machine and really passionate about playing football. If West Ham stayed up last season, Scott Parker would have done it on his own. The team around him were not very good at all compared to him. I’d be surprised if he played in the NPC this season.

Derby County:-

Name:- Ollie Wright

Club:- Derby County

Twitter:- @derbycountyblog

Website:- Derby County Blog

What can we expect from your club this season?  Modest investment in players is not enough to guarantee a play-off spot in an increasingly competitive division.  Despite the club’s stated aim of a top six finish, mid-table is probably about as far as the current squad can go. A poor start to the season may well trigger serious unrest amongst the supporters and it’s conceivable that Nigel Clough could be sacked before the end of 2011/12, the final season of his current contract.  A meaningful improvement on the embarrassments of last season is required to see off Clough’s detractors and earn him an extension from our American owners.

Who is your most important player? Weirdly, it could be the former Notts Forest forward Nathan Tyson.  I say weirdly because a fair percentage of Rams fans would rather Tyson was anywhere but Pride Park, due to that infamous afternoon in August 2009 when he taunted us with a Forest corner flag at the City Ground. Many fans will get behind him regardless of the corner flag incident.  However, if Tyson has a bad start to the season, it could get a bit hot for him at Pride Park, where the fans have previous for rejecting ex-Forest strikers (Stern John was basically booed out of the club in 2005).  On the other hand, if the undeniably fleet-footed frontman gets off to a flying start, he has the potential to become the most unlikely of Derby County cult heroes.  

Your predicted finishing position? 12th.

Who might win the Championship? West Ham United.  They’ve made a canny managerial appointment in Sam Allardyce – would Matt Taylor and Kevin Nolan have dropped into the Championship for anyone else?

Who definitely won’t? Coventry City are amongst my favourites for relegation this season. They are owned by SISU, a hedge fund who tried to buy Derby from since-disgraced fraudsters ‘The Three Amigos’ in 2006.  Anybody tainted by association with the criminal Amigos is probably best avoided.  Coventry have lost three key players this summer without signing any replacements and, under an unproven manager, are seemingly set for a season of struggle.

Most anticipated fixtures?  Forest home and away.  Both Leeds United games, but especially at home on Boxing Day. This season, West Ham United away also takes on added significance – probably the last chance to visit Upton Park before the Hammers move to an athletics stadium…

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? The play-off final, probably.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Billy Sharp from Doncaster Rovers.  We haven’t had a talismanic striker for a long time and the fans would love him.  Unfortunately, the board aren’t putting in the sort of money that would buy us a player of that calibre. 

You find yourself stuck in the City Ground. How do you escape unnoticed?  That’s simple.  Just put up my brolly, whistle ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ and have a quick promenade in front of the dugouts, before disappearing down the tunnel at full time. They’ll think I’m the manager…

Nathan Tyson. Now "Flagged" as a key man for Derby County.

Doncaster Rovers:-

Name:- Lewis Ward

Club:- Doncaster Rovers

Twitter:- @wardiddly / @vikingsbloggen 

Website:- Vikingsbloggen 

What can we expect from your club this season? A better season than last time. Hopefully we’ll have better luck with far less injuries. Despite being the bookies favourite for relegation I think we’re going to prove them wrong yet again. 

Who is your most important player? There’s two in our squad really. I’d have to say the obvious Billy Sharp as well as James Coppinger. Both had spells out last year through injury and it’s clear how much we missed them. 

Your predicted finishing position? I think mid table so around 14th but if we can improve our squad even more, and we’re luckier with injuries there is a possibility of pushing for the play offs. I don’t think that can ever be ruled out. But we’ll definitely be safe by May. 

Who might win the Championship? I think there’s the obvious like West Ham but with the money being spent throughout the Championship it’s quite open. I know Southampton have made some big changes so you definitely can’t rule them out. 

Who definitely won’t? Crystal Palace have struggled in the past couple of seasons and with an inexperienced manager it seems very unlikely. Peterborough struggled last time they were here too so I’d have to rule them out too. 

Most anticipated fixture? Our opener away at Brighton is one we’re all looking forward to because of the history between the clubs and also the new surroundings. Leeds is always one of the first to look for when the fixtures are released too so that should be an exciting encounter. 

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Millwall against West Ham will be a huge game definitely anticipated by both sets of fans. I’m not sure when they last faced each other so that could definitely be a tasty one!

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Jason Shackell. He was a great addition when on loan here and was missed when he’d left. Signing for Barnsley made it even worse for us Donny fans and we still haven’t found anyone as good. 

You find yourself stuck in Oakwell.  How do you escape unnoticed?  With great difficulty! Keep your head down and maybe add a limp lol. I’m not one for offending the opposition so that’s as far as I’ll go, I bet they say worse about us!

Hull City:-

Name:- Nikita Alden

Club:- Hull City A.F.C

Twitter:-  @nikitaalden

What can we expect from your club this season? After watching them in pre-season friendlies some nice flowing football… Manchester United style!!! Also hopefully plenty of goals and a push for promotion.

Who is your most important player? Cameron Stewart as he is quick and terrorised defences last season. He will be cruicial in open play for assists.

Your predicted finishing position? 4th.

Who might win the Championship? It’ll be a close one between West Ham United or Leicster City as they both have very good players.

Who definitely won’t? Birmingham, even though they have a very good and experienced squad I think they will struggle.

Most anticipated fixture? Most probably a Yorkshire derby however with both West Ham and Hull pushing for promotion back into the Premier League the last game of the season (West Ham v Hull) will be cruicial depending on points.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Either West Ham v Milwall or Southampton v Portsmouth. Both have very big rivalries.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be?  Scott Parker as he is a strong midfielder and has the experience.

You find yourself stuck in Elland Road . How do you escape unnoticed?  There is no where to get stuck in Elland Road as the ground is falling down, there is probably a hole you can escape through!!!!

Cameron Stewart. Vital for a Hull City promotion push?

Part Three featuring Ipswich Town, Leeds, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Millwall and Nottingham Forest coming soon…

Chris