Tag Archives: Europa League

Saints will take the next logical step tonight!

This blog was born partly out of frustration. Football fans always have the most to say when times are hard and when I created georgeweahscousin.com in February 2011, Saints (though well on their way back up) were in League One for the second season. Little did I know then that 4 and a bit years later I would be sat here contemplating a Europa League opener against Vitesse Arnhem.

The way the club has embraced it’s entry into the secondary European club competition has been admirable. Cheap tickets will see a packed St. Mary’s tonight, and making the matchday programme (I refuse to call it magazine, we have to keep some traditions alive!) free is another great gesture from the owners who despite considerable public criticism in the last couple of years keep rewarding those who voice their concerns.

It is a breath of fresh air that the club is taking the competition seriously, and why not? Let’s be honest, European football has hardly been a mainstay in the history of being a Saints fan and though the Europa League might be considered a folly to some of our more prestigious friends from the Premier League this is a big deal to us.

The last time Saints made it into Europe, they were eliminated at the first attempt. At the time you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was to be the first of many forays on to the continent, but alas a lot of water has passed under the Itchen Bridge in the 12 years that followed. My career has taken me to considerably more countries than Saints have visited in that time but hopefully that is about to change.

Many, myself included long resisted the desire to be in Europe. Falling into the trappings that it can do damage to a club’s season due to fixture congestion, but isn’t it about time we stopped comparing ourselves to other clubs?

We aren’t Everton, and we certainly aren’t Wigan or Hull. We are Southampton, and we are building a reputation for destroying reputations. We also have a wealth of talent in our youth ranks, and we have to believe that we have a squad capable of fighting on four fronts. ‘Fortune favours the brave’, ‘He who dares wins’ and many other famous motto’s can be applied to the situation, but the one that should echo the most with the fans as they enter the turnstiles this evening is ‘Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try’.

There is still a tendency in the collective media to find fault in anything that happens at Saints, and they will be waiting with baited breath for a bad run of form so they can talk about a ‘stretched’ squad and lack of experience. If there is one thing that’s made the last few years even more enjoyable than it was anyway it is our constant proving these ‘experts’ wrong. So let’s do it again. Let’s take this competition seriously while maintaining a decent league position and let them damn with faint praise.

In fact, let’s win it. That would really piss them off.

Keep the faith.

How Serious are Saints about the Europa League?

Around this time of every season, you will often hear journalists and pundits alike joke about how certain clubs are doing everything they can to avoid qualifying for the Europa League.

I never thought Southampton would be one of them.

Everybody knows the pitfalls of playing in the competition that frankly has too many games and includes far too many teams, but surely for an outfit like Saints, both the novelty and the fact that it would be the next point of progression for the club it would be worth the risk?

Everyone associated with the club keeps saying that Europe is the aim, yet performances on the pitch over the last month or so would suggest that it is anything but. Lacklustre, lethargic and largely lamentable, Saints ambled around the pitch in Leicester like a…

View original 270 more words

Saints must stop the rot at Leicester!

We are almost at that historic day. The day we find out whether the euro-sceptic blues can keep themselves in the big house, or whether the Red’s can complete a dramatic turnaround from also-rans to trailblazers!

Election you say? No, I’m talking about Leicester City against Southampton.

There may not be a more pivotal fixture in the Premier League this weekend, as the Foxes can all but secure their miraculous recovery, while Saints must win to keep alive any hopes of an amazing fanfare finish to their season and secure European football.

If you had asked me six months ago what the result of this game might be I’d have confidently predicted a comfortable Southampton victory, but while former Saints boss Nigel Pearson has overseen a revival as good as any of our Premier League ‘Great Escapes’…

View original 265 more words

Put up or Shut time for Saints!

A home game against struggling Hull City might be just what the doctor ordered after yet another frustrating Goodison Park experience.

I have taken no pleasure in the fact I predicted the Tigers to be relegated some months ago, and ever since they have set about fulfilling my prophecy and have consistently made their way down the table, now just one place and two points above the drop zone.

Having won only two games in twelve, both of which came at the KC Stadium against fellow strugglers, Steve Bruce’s team should pose no threat to today’s opposition, but if any team knows what the threat of top flight demotion can bring out in a team, it’s the Saints.

We were the kings of it for much of the 1990’s.

Hull have suffered a hangover…

View original 291 more words

Fonte is spot on, Chelsea point would be wasted with slip against Clarets!

Southampton’s point at Chelsea will mean nothing if they lose to Burnley (Picture: Reuters)

Saints know their objective for the rest of the season. If they consistently pick up points, as they have done so far (with a couple of minor blips) they will qualify for Europe.

Getting a point at Stamford Bridge last weekend could perhaps be seen as a bonus, but as skipper Jose Fonte has pointed out in the week, lose to Burnley on Saturday and it will have been for nothing.

The chance for Saints to qualify for Europe for the first time since 2003 is great, and were both Arsenal and Liverpool to make it to the cup final, then even greater. But they won’t want to take anything for granted and slip-ups at home to a relegation battler would be nothing short of unacceptable.

Saints have already lost to the Clarets once though this…

View original 278 more words

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

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

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

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

View original 301 more words

Don’t Look Back Stavangar: Norwegian Signs

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.

Vegard Forren
Vegard Forren

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.’

Forren in action for Norway.
Forren in action for Norway.

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!

Chris

Premier League Preview: Part 1

With the big kick off just three and a bit days away, I caught up with fans our our new Premier League opponents to get their thoughts on what lies ahead…

Arsenal:-

Name:- Andrew Mangan

Team:- Arsenal

Website:- http://arseblog.com

Twitter:- @arseblog

What can we expect from your club this season?

Nice, attacking football, short passing, a reluctance to shoot from distance, generous defending, late calamities, the tease of a trophy and balanced, considered expressions of opinion from online fans.

Who is your most important player?

At the moment, with some of the summer still to go and the future of Van Persie still to be decided, I’d say Mikel Arteta. He’s a calm, experienced professional who really makes the team tick. I think if Van Persie goes we might see him step up.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Top four, but I can’t really be any more exact than that.

Who might win the Premier League?

I never rule us out, despite it being so long since we’ve won it we have challenged some seasons so you never know. So, Arsenal, United, Chelsea, Man City.

Who definitely won’t?

Everyone else. I don’t think Liverpool have the squad, I’m not sure Sp*rs do either although they’re definitely top six material, and apart from that the financial side of things pretty much precludes anyone else from challenging.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Obviously the North London derbies but the rivalry with United for so long means I always look forward to those games.

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

Man United v Man City. When United were winning everything I think there was a certain sympathy for City when they were being relegated and being cast under such a successful shadow. It shows how far things have come that this is a game I can’t wait to see and I want United to murder them.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

To be honest I haven’t seen much of Southampton since they were relegated but obviously there’s been a huge turnaround. When you consider how far you fell to have come back to the Premier League is a fantastic achievement. And the club seem to have the infrastructure and know-how to get up and stay up, which is the most important thing. It’s not at all unusual for a newly promoted team to have a fine first season, but it’s achieving the consistency over the next few years that will provide the real challenge.

You find yourself stuck in White Hart Lane. How do you escape unnoticed?

Hold my nose like that bloke out of Rent-a-ghost.

Aston Villa:-

Name:- Matt Turvey

Team:- Aston Villa

Website:- http://www.astonvillalife.com

Twitter:- @MatthewSTurvey for me, @AstonVillaLife for the site.

What can we expect from your club this season?

Some good, solid football.  Now that Paul Lambert is in charge, the club seem to be going in the right direction and most of our fans are appreciative of that.  Progress will take time, but I feel people will see more of our club’s potential this year.  I also expect our new signings to draw the attention of some of the big clubs – Karim El-Ahmadi and Brett Holman will do well this year I feel.

Who is your most important player?

Stephen Ireland – he may well have had a mixed start to his career in his first season, but last year he was rightly fan’s player of the year, and showed a fantastic determination to play for the team.  If he is on form, and signs seem to show he will be this season, he’s unplayable and, in my opinion, the most technically gifted player we have.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

A solid mid-table finish.  This might sound low in the eyes of some Aston Villa fans, but after the past two seasons and the need to change things, it is a good enough expectation.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t do better, just that I am not expecting us to do more.  You never know – we may end up surprising everyone like Newcastle did last year!

Who might win the Premier League?

It depends how you want me to answer.  The obvious candidates, such as the two Manchester clubs, and Chelsea are, well, obvious.  If you mean who could be a dark horse, then I think that it’s probably a stretch too far to pick one.  The most likely candidate would be Tottenham Hotspur I imagine, although a lot will hinge on both how Andre Villas-Boas does at the club, and whether they can keep hold of key players like Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart.

Who definitely won’t?

Sad as it is to say, probably about 16 teams in the league.  I know last season’s campaign was very competitive for the majority of the league members, but the title contenders were way ahead of even the Europa League places.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

It’s a strange pick from me in the eyes of some, but I’ll be interested to see the reaction our manager gets when we play Norwich away.  I imagine it will be mostly positive, but I’m sure there are some Norwich fans who didn’t appreciate him leaving the club.  Beyond that game, I just like teams who play football the right way, so I always like to see those kinds of games.

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

The Manchester derbies –  It’s highly likely that the winner of the Premier League will come from those two teams this year.  Beyond those, any game that involves Manchester City.  I know they may well just be buying success, but they play good football, and their last game of the season against QPR had me out of my seat – I’ve never known a more exciting conclusion to the title race than that.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I think they will do well.  I’ve got a lot of time for Nigel Adkins and few can doubt the way he has taken the club to two successive promotions.  In that regard, he is much like our current manager.  My only concern for Southampton is that if they do well, I imagine bigger clubs will be looking at Adkins as a potential candidate for their clubs.  That’s no disrespect to Southampton as a club, rather the fact that you can be very proud of what your manager has achieved.

You find yourself stuck in St. Andrews. How do you escape unnoticed?

Ah, the lovely St Andrews, home ground of Birmingham City.  Assuming I was there for a match (there’s no real other reason why I’d be there), then I’d probably just try to fit in with their usual fan base by adopting a heavy Birmingham accent and looking constantly miserable.  If I kept that up, I’d fit in nicely and be able to escape.  I guess the only thing against me is that I write for one of the regional papers, so a fair number of them may well know my face!

Stephen Ireland could be a key man for Villa.

Chelsea:-

Name:- Denise Hope

Team:- Chelsea

Website:- http://thechelseablog.org/

Twitter:- @TheChelseaBlog

What can we expect from your club this season?

As ever with Chelsea, you can expect the unexpected. We haven’t had a particularly exciting pre-season although it’s worth bearing in mind the last time we had such an unspectacular pre-season we won the double. I’m not suggesting we’ll repeat that but I do think we’ll have a much more attack-minded side this season rather than the constant defensive displays that saw us defy some remarkable odds last season. I should mention we’re Champions of Europe here really (just because I can).

Who is your most important player?

Historically in this squad that probably has to be John Terry, just for his sheer contribution as a leader and motivator. However, if we’re talking about who will be a key player for us in the coming season, I can see Hazard, Mata and Marin all causing a few nerves in opposition defences but for me our success or failure could fall at the feet of Fernando Torres. If he has the sort of season we bought him for, we’ll be flying – if he doesn’t, we’ll be f***ed.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Top two for sure this season. Our final position in the Premier League last season was down to the damage done under AVB’s management (that’s not laying the blame squarely on his shoulders either). There was no real way back for Di Matteo from that and he was right to go for the Champions League instead. This season though, he’s already made his intention clear to address our Premier League standing, and I’ve every faith he’ll do that.

Who might win the Premier League?

We might! If not us, then United – they won’t take last season laying down, that has to have hurt everyone at Old Trafford and they’ll make sure they finish above City this time. Hopefully that’ll still leave them behind us though.

Who definitely won’t?

Spurs! Not that they’d have a hope in hell anyway but from some of the bitter stuff he’s already had to say in the press, it’s clear AVB’s more focused on Chelsea than anything else in the Premier League – never a good thing.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Of course our game against QPR will have even more added spice than previous meetings but to be honest, JT will undoubtedly have a camera rammed up his left nostril (with an obligatory microphone courtesy of some new FA ruling) and  it’ll be too much of a circus to get too excited about it. So, I’ll go with Spurs – these derbies are always much anticipated and it’ll be an interesting one against them having put them out of the Champions League, not to mention meeting our former manager as the opposition.

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

After events on the final day last season, the Manchester derby should be well worth a watch shouldn’t it?

How do you think Southampton will fare?

If I’m honest, will you edit it out? Just kidding! I think you’ll have a honeymoon season, so you’ll do ok. Maybe a finish around 14th?

You find yourself stuck in The Emirates Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed?

To be honest, if I was stuck in Arsenal’s ground, escape wouldn’t be too difficult. I’d sneak out ten minutes before the end along with the rest of them – no-one would think that was unusual.

Everton:-

Name:- Phill Nuttall

Team:- Everton

Website:- www.evertonfc.com

Twitter:- @phillipnuttall

What can we expect from your club this season?

This season will see a more dynamic Everton in the premier league. We have let go of players who were not making the desired impact, eg Rodwell, Cahill & fringe players, and brought in more industrious players such as Gibson, Naismith & Jelavic, fans can expect to see Everton better in possession, defensively solid, and more free flowing in the goals department.

Who is your most important player?Jac

It’s a coin toss between Steven Pienaar and Maruane Fellaini.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

If we start the season how we finish it then top 6 for Everton this season.

Who might win the Premier League?

City/Chelsea

Who definitely won’t?

The other 18 teams.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Chelsea, always a great game between us.

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

I’m looking forward to watching Chelsea v Arsenal given their signings.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I hope they stay up, robbed of many young talents in recent years but back where they belong, can’t see them.finishing top 10 – a season of consolidation for the saints.

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

Anfield – Go dressed as donkey from Shrek – people will just say “Hi Suarez”.

Everton will look to their midfield pair to chase the leading pack.

Fulham:-

Name:- Kyle Bonn

Team:- Fulham

Website:- FulhamsFinest.com

Twitter:- @FulhamsFinest

What can we expect from your club this season?

This question depends a lot on what happens in the final few weeks of the transfer window.  Martin Jol recently said that Fulham is far from done, and they haven’t spent a pound in the transfer market yet despite having brought in Hugo Rodallega, Mladen Petric, and Sascha Riether.  If Jol can find two more strikers and a midfielder like he said he’s looking for, this club has a ton of potential.

Fulham are a club that have flown entirely under the radar in the last few seasons, and without attracting the attention of much of the media and fans have grown up in the Premier League, making themselves a mainstay in the middle of the pack.  Not only that, but a few top-10 finishes in the last couple of years have the fan base buzzing with thoughts of Europa League qualifying dancing in their heads.  With the overhaul Martin Jol has brought to the squad this offseason and the mystery surrounding Clint Dempsey’s future, there may a settling-in period, but to expect another 9th place finish isn’t overestimating this squad by any means.

Who is your most important player?

The American Clint Dempsey, with the shroud covering his future, can almost be thought of as too much a distraction. However, he’s still no question the most well-rounded talent on the club who can strike at any time from the midfield.  The question is, where will he be when the window comes to a close? And if he’s still on the Fulham roster, what role will he play? He’s been locked out of all preseason action so far, with rumors of misgivings with management abound (although the club insists his fitness is the issue). Liverpool are the no-doubt frontrunners for his services at the moment, but with Fulham requiring £10 million to complete the deal, and Dempsey about to top 30 years of age, the Reds are reluctant to pull the trigger.

My prediction has always been for Dempsey leaving in the winter, and it’s looking more and more like that will be the case.  However, if Fulham do indeed find themselves in the race for a Europa League spot, they may find more value in his playing services than in the cold, hard cash they would receive from a team.  Letting him walk for free would hurt, but at the same time if he successfully helped the team to previously unreached heights, most would be content to overlook that.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Like I said earlier, 9th place is a realistic expectation this season, but the future is bright.

Who might win the Premier League?

I can’t bet against Manchester United, who with their successful acquisitions this offseason, and the lack of moves made by their derby rivals, they once again the upper hand.

Who definitely won’t?

I know this isn’t going out on much of a limb these days, but Arsenal’s struggles to secure hardware will continue this season.  As much as Wenger has figured out how to sign cheques and complete transactions once again, and has used that to his advantage to secure a number of excellent buys, they won’t have a major impact until the second half of the season, by which time it will be too late.  Next season, however, I would beware the Gunners.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

No doubt Fulham fans this season will be looking forward to both ends of the fixtures with Queens Park Rangers.  Fans have developed a fearsome hatred for each side, being fueled with QPR’s hiring of Mark Hughes, completing his traitorous departure from Craven Cottage. Fulham fans sat back last season with a wry smile while they watched their London rivals squirm their way out of relegation. The Cottagers thumped QPR 6-0 in the home fixture, and took another 3 points 1-0 across London, giving firm bragging rights to the banks of the Thames.  The first matchup will be much-anticipated, and fans will have to wait until December 15 for the rivalry to continue at Loftus Road.

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

The Manchester derby has to be the most exciting fixture.  While I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone, these two clubs have to be considered once again the top two in the country.  They very well could decide the championship, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

Unfortunately I think Southampton will struggle to stay in the Premiership.  This isn’t to underestimate Southampton, but rather a number of teams that finished in the bottom quarter of the league last season have spent a great deal of money this offseason and unfortunately for Southampton this puts them at a disadvantage. Look at what clubs such as Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa, and even newly promoted sides West Ham and Reading have added this offseason, they may be distancing themselves from other more dormant clubs like Southampton.

Thanks to all the contributors for their input! Look out for the next three parts soon!

Chris