Tag Archives: Football

What do Saints fans really want?

Last Saturday Saints played out an uninspiring draw at home to Watford in what for many was an Anti-Climax to the exciting build up to the start of the season.

Despite a much improved second half it is fair to say that most were left a little deflated by the result and performance against Watford. In many cases feelings ran a little high. In fact, I was staggered to see the level of reaction by many, which frankly resembled a particularly spoiled hysterical child who hadn’t got their own way.

One game into the season and the new manager, the new players, the tactics, the board and anything else related to the club was written off as not good enough. This was less knee jerk, more collective full body spasm. It was ugly.

I watched the game as usual with the Dubai Saints, who I have to say, on the whole are as level headed as you will find [a few years around the block will do that for you eh fellas ;-)]. But even we found ourselves getting into a fairly heated ‘discussion’ about the level of player investment and ‘ambition’ at the club. I’ve grown to hate that word in all honesty. What exactly is ambition? Some would argue finishing in an automatic qualification place for Europe is as ambitious as Saints can realistically get, others would say that the sky is the limit. There is no rules as to what determines ‘ambition’ and only the people in the boardroom will know what they see as a realistic achievement.

High hopes for JWP to push on under Puel.
High hopes for JWP to push on under Puel.

The centre of our well oiled debate in the ‘Francis Benali Stand’ of the Barasti Beach Bar was whether the club should stick with bringing kids through or spend big to improve the squad now.

It got me wondering what it  really is Saints fans want?

I’m yet to meet one who doesn’t take pride in the Academy at the club. When one of our ‘own’ turns out for England it gives us all a lift, and over the years we’ve all loved watching young players make their first team debut and go on to be stars in their own right. It’s something that sets us apart from other clubs. We know it and they know it. Parents are now trying to get their kids into Staplewood and not Carrington (Manchester United) and our facilities and coaching methods have become the blueprint for many of Europe’s top clubs. Ex-Southampton Academy graduates scoring 60% of the 7 goals in a much overhyped game between Arsenal and Liverpool at the weekend is the advertising that keeps the wheel turning!

We love this about our club. We love the fabled ‘pathway’. But at what cost?

Everybody likes to see their club sign players. These days it’s an obsession amongst fans, to the point where they aren’t even really bothered who it is, as long as there is a new face holding up their shirt. It’s all a little camp and kitsch, with the latest monstrosity coming from Manchester United when they announced Paul Pogba. With every passing season football becomes more like the X Factor, classless and lacking in any real substance whatsoever. This is heightened of course by massive fees, transfer deadline day and the hype that surrounds it. Has anyone in history not looked a dick in a yellow tie?

I rest my case.
I rest my case.

But still, we all like a new player through the door, and this Summer (and most Summers), Saints fans would have liked a few more. With exits in key positions again, most have been frustrated that like for like replacements have not been brought in.

But where do you draw the line? What is the right balance between keeping the ‘pathway’ and strengthening the squad.

Like it or not, and my impression is that most people do, Saints have positioned themselves in the market as a club that will accept first team players moving on for the right price, and might not necessarily replace them. Why? Because you cannot maintain the ‘pathway’ if you keep blocking it with big money foreign imports.

It’s a long term strategy and one not without it’s risks, but if Les Reed was to take an occasional glance at Saints supporting presences on the web (Hi Les!) he could be forgiven for placing his head in his hands when he sees the same people bemoaning Harrison Reed’s lack of playing time last season, crying over the club not replacing Wanyama this.

For the club to keep attracting the best players into the Academy at a young age there has to be continuous evidence that the club will give those kids a chance at the top level.  Logically, if you replace every player that leaves with a like for like copy those kids will be destined to never fulfil their potential at Saints, and eventually other kids will decide it’s not the place to be, especially as others catch up in terms of facilities and methodology.

My hunch is that the modern Southampton supporter would rather see big investment in players each Summer, some would still favour the pathway, while many will be honest enough to admit they aren’t bothered either way as long as the club keeps progressing.

The obvious answer, though there is no right one, is that the balance has to be correct. The club needs to find a workable solution where the kids get their chance, but the squad is strong enough to compete. I would say they had this pretty close under Mauricio Pochettino.

The blip in all this, was the reign of Ronald Koeman, and it didn’t surprise me when there was talk of the club not being overly disappointed that he was off. As good a job as he did, he took the organisation ‘off message’ and long term that wasn’t what the board wanted.

Claude Puel would appear to be the ‘anti-appointment’ to Koeman. A man with a track record of giving some pretty good players their first opportunities in France. Yes, the first game was a little underwhelming, but when have Saints’ opening day fixtures not been? Let’s give him a chance.

Tomorrow night, we take on Manchester United at Old Trafford. A huge money ‘name’ like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Paul Pogba could win the game for them, but then Matt Targett or James Ward-Prowse could win it for us. Which would be sweeter?

Keep the faith.

Zebrametrics Partnership!

We here at georgeweahscousin.com are delighted to announce that we have entered into partnership with Zebrametrics.

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Together we are going to bring you new interaction between gwc and you before, during and after matches!

An app is coming soon that will allow you to earn points by predicting lineups, rating players and other Saints related tasks. These points can be redeemed for goodies!

Your first taste of the action comes with this Saturday’s opening fixture against Watford!

You may have noticed a box in the bottom corner of the screen that looks like this:-

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This is your entry to having your say on how the players performed come 17:45. You will have 5 hours from the final whistle to submit your player ratings and compare them with your fellow fans! So get registered and have your say!

We look forward to bringing you more feature once the season is up and running!

Chris

The Comprehensive Saints Summer Update: Part 2

It’s been a month since I brought you part one so it was about time I stopped being lazy and rounded up the rest of Saints’ Summer. It seems unreal to me that the Football League have started and we are just days away from the Premier League opener, but here we are.

Outgoings

Arrivederci Graziano Pelle. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of massive clubs coming along and taking our players, but at this stage in his career could anyone deny him a move to Shandong Lueng?

Let’s face it, never has a transfer been more about money, but it leaves Saints with a serious concern about goals. With the exit’s of both Pelle and Mane we’ve lost our two top scorers, and the majority of our assists, and that is making people nervous.

There have been no other notable outgoings in the last month, and the only real concern at the moment is the future of Jose Fonte. Let’s not talk about it and hopefully the nasty rumours will go away. I bet they don’t, and I’m prepared for the worst.

Show me the money Graz!
Show me the money Graz!

Pre-Season

Despite the ongoing annual meltdown, Claude Puel’s team have gone through the entire pre-season fixtures unbeaten.  Four wins and one draw, conceding just two goals the signs are good that the players are fitting into the style that Puel wants.

Results in pre-season rarely mean anything though, and there is still room for improvement. Saints have been blessed with a good home opener against Watford and it will be interesting to see how they start.

Saints ended pre-season with a win against Bilbao!
Saints ended pre-season with a win against Bilbao!

Kit Update

Snug.

Incomings

In Part One I suggested that the club still needed to invest in another defensive midfielder, a goalkeeper and a strike/winger.

Since then we’ve seen three arrivals in the form of ‘box to box’ midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and utility man Jeremy Pied.

The acquisition of Højbjerg is particularly exciting, and many people have suggested that he is one of the players with the highest potential in Europe and this move is somewhat of a coup.

Alex McCarthy is a keeper who has somewhat lost his way since being so highly rated at Reading. Frustrating spells at QPR and Crystal Palace means he will feel he has something to prove and should provide decent backup for Fraser Forster.

In Pied we have a player that we don’t know much about, but Claude Puel knows him and it looks like he can be used in several positions.

Much to my disappointment the paper stories linking us to Bastian Schweinsteiger did not come to pass.

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What Next?

We still need another attacking option. Be it a ‘Number 10’ or a striker, it is plain to see. There are still a couple of weeks of the transfer window left and it will be mildly disappointing if we have finished our business.

Obviously we will be waiting with baited breath over news of new contracts for Cedric, Dusan Tadic and particularly Jose Fonte. A departure for Fonte could be a devastating end to the Summer.

The key is not to worry about anything negative until it actually happens. Focus on Saturday and the start of the season.

Keep the faith.

United Saints of America

A mixed Southampton squad of established first team players and fringe players from the youth setup jetted out to Maryland, Baltimore this past week for the club’s first ever pre-season trip to the US.

Tying in nicely with the launch of the club’s new kit, developed by Maryland based brand Under Armour, it has been no secret that Saints are looking to expand their boundaries.

It was a great opportunity for the Southampton fans across the Atlantic to get a rare access to the players, as Claude Puel run the rule over his squad for the first time. Saints ran out 2-0 winners over DC United u23’s, travelled the sites of Washington DC during their stay, but perhaps most importantly hosted an open training session for the supporters. Bill Adlin, was one of the fans in attendance and he gave us this feedback.

‘Oh when the Saints came marching in to the University of Maryland’s Ludwig Field on Thursday, July 14 the fans couldn’t have been happier.  The players seemed to have a great time as well!

 

During the preseason, Southampton FC travelled to Baltimore, Maryland both in order to train and to meet their new partners, Under Armour.  On Thursday the Saints travelled to the University of Maryland for a training session.  Fans were invited to watch the session and to meet and greet the players after.

 

Fans got to witness a variety of drills on a blazing hot 98 degree day.  Corner kicks, possession drills and free kicks were among the skills that were practised.  They even played a game that looked like keep away…with their hands.   The crowd said “ooooohhhhhh” when one Saint was gated during a spectacular move on goal.  We won’t name him here!

 

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Fans were treated to a free Under Armour drawstring bag, complete with Southampton logo emblazoned on it, a very generous gesture by Southampton and Under Armour.

 

 After practice Saints fans formed a line and all players and coaches signed autographs, shook hands and took pictures with them.  They couldn’t have been more gracious.  Virgil Van Dyk and Dusan Tadic were among the favourites as were newcomers Nathan Redmond and last season transfer Charlie Austin.  Even new coach Claude Puel got in on the action.  Kelvin Davis, recently retired goalkeeper and new addition to the coaching staff graciously emerged from the bus after practice to greet a fan that missed him the first time through.

It was a brilliant event.  Thanks for Southampton and Under Armour for making it happen.  Good luck this season!  We’ll be pulling for you from across the pond.’

Thanks to Bill for reporting back! Sounds like everyone had a great time!

Jose Fonte: Our Constant. Our Legend.

Last night was the first time I had a vested interest in who won a major international final.

Portugal lined up with both of their Saints, Cedric and Jose Fonte. I’m that kind of person. If there are Saints in the team then I want them to win, and though the likes of Pepe and Ronaldo promote ill feeling amongst many football fans the love I have for our players and in particular our captain outweighs any dislike I have for anyone else.

I found myself bickering on twitter the other day with someone who took exception to somebody else referring to Jose Fonte as a ‘Southampton Legend’. Their argument was that he isn’t as worthy of that title as the likes of Peter Shilton amongst others. Isn’t he?

Jose Fonte made a drop in division to join Saints in League One, and although we were clearly a club rejuvenated, that kind of move represents a risk no matter what the circumstances.

Fonte was part of the team that won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in his first season and followed it with promotion from League One in the following year.

Fonte battles with Carlisle in the JPT final.
Fonte battles with Carlisle in the JPT final.

En route to that promotion it was Fonte that struck a dramatic winner at the Withdean at the death and showed his passion for the club, sparking wild celebrations at the Saints end.

Pandemonium in Brighton!
Pandemonium in Brighton!

Fonte by this point was a stalwart in the centre of Saints defence and carried on his superb form in conjunction with a second successive promotion and the Premier League beckoned, Fonte again finding the vital touch in the final game against Coventry to seal their destiny.

Off to the top!
Off to the top!

Many Saints fans (myself included) questioned whether Jose might be one of the players to make way as the squad was strengthened for the top flight, but luckily Saints procession of manager saw otherwise.

Fonte stayed as the constant amongst a plethora of variables. Dejan Lovren and Toby Alderweireld both benefited from his partnership, perhaps taking the credit for some of Fonte’s work as they got ‘big’ moves away, while Jose quietly and consistently got on with his job.

As each season has passed since we got back to the promised land, it has become somewhat of a Southampton tradition to lose a glut of our key players and rebuild, but always there, at the heart of it all is still our constant.

during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Southampton, England.

Taking the captain’s armband from one of the many ingrates who walked, Jose Fonte has led us into the Europa League twice, overseen a cacophony of records broken and forced is way into the Portuguese national setup.

While those that have left for ‘ambition’ or to win trophies were sitting with their feet up watching it unfold on the television, Jose Fonte was playing out a clean sheet for his team and being crowned a Euro 2016 champion.

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 06: Gareth Bale of Wales battles for the ball with Jose Fonte of Portugal during the UEFA EURO 2016 semi final match between Portugal and Wales at Stade des Lumieres on July 6, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Bale. Shepherded.

Only in 2012, I was working on a sporting event in Porto and one of the guests was former Portugal player, and now Sporting Director Joao Pinto. I asked him if he had taken a look at Fonte of Southampton. He said he’d never heard of him. He has now.

Fonte’s rise in such a short space of time has been remarkable and is parallel with our own as a club. He’s grown with us and shown that you don’t have to leave to achieve your goals.

Jose Fonte has been a consistent positive since he arrived at St. Mary’s. He’s more than just our captain. He’s our constant, and he is a legend.

Investing in the future. Redmond is a Saint!

Don’t you just love a nice quiet Southampton Summer?

I’ve not been around for a while, so let me just give you a quick update on what’s happened. Manager has gone, majority of the coaching staff have gone. Juanmi has gone (but no one really noticed), Victor has finally found his way to Spurs and Sadio has left for the great ex-Southampton player career cemetery on Merseyside.

I shall take this opportunity to say the following to those who have left and to any more who may do so in the coming weeks. Ta da.

Amongst the annual meltdown though there was some positive news. Having long been an admirer of the player, I was personally delighted to see Saints bring in Nathan Redmond.

Recruiting a young, English talent seems like a revert to type move for the club, and perhaps one that wouldn’t have happened with the Dutch Asshat at the helm? Either way I think this is an exciting transfer. Fresh from success at the Toulon tournament alongside James Ward-Prowse, Matty Targett and Jack Stephens, it feels like we have brought in a player who is both ready now, but with the potential to be even better.

I caught up with Norwich fan and football writer Gary Gowers from http://norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com/ to get the lowdown on what we can expect from Redmond.

Can you give me a brief overview of Redmond’s Strengths and Weaknesses?

GG ‘First up, I’ll be sad to lose him but there are some City fans who’ll be offering to drive him to Southampton. He divides opinion, no question.

His strengths are obvious: tricky, skillful, quick, an eye for goal and when ‘on it’ he can be the proverbial match-winner. He has appeared on both flanks for City and, occasionally, as the ‘number 10′ but invariably he ends up back on the right wing where he is at his best. His ability to cut in from then left flank on to his right foot has yielded a goal or two but has been more of a threat to anyone sitting in row Z. His chance at ’10’ have been limited mainly due to the fact he was competing with Wes (Hoolahan) for that position but I’ve often wondered if further down the line it’s somewhere he could be effective.

But, and it’s a sizeable but, he can (and possibly will) frustrate for England. He can also infuriate and enrage. In archetypal winger fashion he can go from hero to zero in a flash, and if it’s a wide-man who offers good protection to a full-back he’s definitely not your man. His greatest asset, which is running at defenders and beating them, is something he uses sparingly and all too often he takes the easy option of going sideways or backwards, and he’s exasperated many with his half-hearted approach to his defensive duties and back-tracking.

Yet, in my opinion, he’ll be badly missed at City. We’re not overly blessed with creativity and he was one of the few who has invention in his armoury. We were a better side with him in it – that’s the bottom line.’

 

What would you consider being his best position? Can he play other roles?

GG  ‘Have mainly covered this above. He’s at his best when being utilised as an out-and-out right winger in the traditional mould but is skillful and clever enough to have an impact both at ‘number 10′ and wide on the left.’

nathan-redmond

He had a great Toulon tournament, and Saints fans are hoping this is a sign that we will be moving back to utilising young British talent. How much potential does he have?

GG ‘He does have potential to improve but he had that exact same potential when he joined us from Birmingham. It’s fair to say he hasn’t progressed at the rate that we – and most pundits – expected and it’s hard to discuss him without tripping over ‘stagnate’. A new challenge is probably what he needs and surrounded by players of higher quality may well be what’s needed to unlock said ‘potential’.’

Do you see him as a future full international?

GG ‘No, not really – it’s almost impossible to imagine him getting into the full squad as things stand. But, as mentioned above, a new challenge and some new faces around him may be just be what’s needed to take him to the next level. Stranger things…’

As an outsider, how do you see Saints coping with (as expected) yet another big Summer?

GG You’ll be fine, I’m convinced of it. A summer upheaval seems to be the norm for you guys, yet every season you bounce back regardless of having to embed new personnel both on and off the pitch. The ‘Southampton way’ is so well ingrained, providing the club keeps faith in its ability to recruit within those parameters it’s almost a given you’ll continue your charge as being the best of the rest.

I hope so anyway… seeing the Saints succeed offers hope for the rest of us.’

Thanks to Gary for his time, and here’s to another fun filled transfer window!

Keep the faith!

They Koem-and go… The ever twisting saga of Saints’ Summers…

It would appear that we are a matter of hours away from the announcement that Ronald Koeman will be leaving his post at Saints to take over at Everton.

As always when it comes to Summer news surrounding departures at Saints the following things usually happen. Some immediately start to fling mud at the board, accusing them of lacking ambition and conveniently forgetting they’ve overseen seven years of continuous improvement. This reaction would also suggest that these fans take the word of an individual over that of anyone else. Others will instantly find their ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and back the club, insisting that they support the organisation and not an individual. Some will sigh at the rigours of supporting a modern day football club.

I think it is safe to say that we were all sucked in by Ronald’s comments about honouring his contract over the last twelve months. Will we ever learn our lesson? But, there are actually two plausible scenarios as to why this has happened.

  1. Ronald, contrary to what he has said, has proved to be as mercenary as anyone else when it comes to money, and the big bucks on offer from Merseyside saw him abandon his principles.

This is the one that will see people upset, people warmed to Koeman as a person as well as a coach and as pointed out so well by Adam Leitch this has felt a lot more ‘personal’ than previous departures, heightened by the fact that this is a sideways move and not a perceived step up that previous leavers have taken. If this is the case then Ronald might be surprised to see the reaction he gets on his first return to St. Mary’s.

2. The Saints board, wary of entering into a season with a manager in the last year of their contract put a new deal on the table and said sign it or go now.

If this theory is correct then you might find a little bit of sympathy for Ronald. My own opinion is that he was happy at Saints, but unwilling to commit long term as he eyed the possibility of a truly big move in the future (he has publicly mentioned Barca, Chelsea and Arsenal as desired destinations in the past). But here he is in a situation where he has to sign a moderate pay rise extension with Southampton or take the only other option on offer. A big pay rise to a club albeit in a lesser position than Saints right now.

Either way, the sad truth is, for whatever the reason, Koeman clearly did not see his long term future on the South Coast, and that is reason enough to not be too disheartened at his departure.

Let’s not forget. Saints are good at this. We’ve improved with every managerial appointment in the Liebherr era and a short-list will have long been in place.

I can’t help thinking that with Ronald having joined a club whose owner has barely been there five minutes and has already dispensed of one manager, expectations may be high. I would hazard a guess that they might want instant results for making him one of the highest paid coaches in the league and a repeat of last December would put him under incredible pressure. Everton could lose Lukaku and Stones in the transfer window too which won’t help his cause, and with no European football on offer, what might the reported £100 million war chest actually get him?

As is often the case Saints may end up having the last laugh. I wish Ronald all the best and thank him for the joyous two seasons at the helm, but don’t be too surprised if next Summer we are reflecting on another season of progression while a certain Dutchman queues at the Bootle job centre having only led the Toffees to 8th in the Premier League….

Keep the faith.

Top Ten of Saints Shirts: Part Two

Following on from Saturday’s run down of the top Saints shirts from 10-6, Jon Carney of  Classic Football Shirts give’s us his top 5!

5. 1987-89 Home Shirt

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‘Rare shirt produced by German manufacturers Hummel with an added classic Draper Tools sponsor as worn when the side finished 12th & 13th in the First Division under boss Chris Nicholl. The shirt mirrors the exact design of the Denmark shirt worn in Mexico at World Cup ’86.’

4. 1993-95 Home Shirt

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‘This bold Pony number with its interesting named Dimplex sponsor was controversial at the time of its release for abandoning simple stripes for the huge geometric Pony logo on the upper front which dominated the design. Today however, bold shirts; whether it be with a huge geometric logo or an acid-house inspired pattern, are enjoying something of a renaissance – perhaps in response to the simplicity of modern day designs. This Pony template was also followed in claret and blue by West Ham in 1993.’

3. 1991-93 Third Shirt

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‘Rare third shirt donned by Premier League legends Le Tissier and Shearer as the side narrowly avoided relegation by just one point during the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League campaign. With a bold pattern throughout this shirt forms part of a brilliant era of football shirts between the late 80’s and early 90’s when designs brazenly toed the line between future classic and garish monstrosity (see 1991 away shirt!) in a reflection of music and fashion. The shirt also gives a nod to the club’s tradition of donning yellow and blue away/third shirts introduced in the 1970’s as part of a wider trend of clubs wanting to emulate Brazil (seriously). On the Wembley turf in May 1976, they did just that.’

2. 2010-11 Home Shirt

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‘The club returned to its roots with this classic sash design which marked their 125th anniversary, with subtle touches including 1885-2010 detail to the crest and a sponsor-less front. The shirt helped inspire them to win promotion from League One with the side boasting an incredible array of talents for the level, including future internationals Lambert, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Schneiderlin, and Jose Fonte (plus Jason Puncheon)!’

Editor’s Note:- This is my personal favourite, for this simple, classy design, the lack of sponsor and the team that played in it! – Chris

1. 1980-83 Home Shirt

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‘Extremely rare home shirt with great vintage design and famous Rank Xerox sponsor as worn when the side achieved consecutive top seven finishes in the First Division under boss Lawrie McMenemy. The Saints were helped by the goals of ’78 and ’79 Ballon D’Or winner Kevin Keegan who joined from Hamburg and enjoyed a stunning campaign in 81-82 scoring 30 goals in all competitions. With its tailored look and collar detail, the design remains a firm favourite with fans who ask for it to be adapted for the new season shirt most summers.’

So there it is, an outsider’s point of view on the best Saints kits so far. Feel differently? Let us know!

Check out some classic Southampton shirts here bit.ly/1NGtSxI and tell us which is your favourite?

The Long and the Short of it…

For some time now it feels like that as the end of the season approaches, there are numerous positives about Saints and their campaign that I could write about, and this is no exception.

One of the negatives this season, that I feel needs addressing, is that Shane Long might not be voted the player of the season.

In any other season he would have had it sewn up, but with the performances of Virgil van Dijk at the other end of the pitch catching the eye too, it is likely he’ll be a valiant runner up to the Dutchman.

The turnaround in the perception of Long in the eyes of Saints fans has been remarkable. Cast your minds back to August 2014, the 12 million pound transfer from Hull came with some unkind remarks about his perceived value in comparison to the fee paid, and I will not shirk the fact that I was one of those detractors.

This criticism was largely based on the fact that Long’s goal return wasn’t overly impressive for a ‘striker’, based largely on the fact that he had never hit double figures in any of his four previous Premier League campaigns with Reading, West Brom and Hull City respectively.

If the pressure was already on him in his early days as a Southampton player, it was compounded further by his number. Seven. The number that Matthew Le Tissier had worn, and had most recently been vacated by the just departed fan favourite Rickie Lambert. It sounds like a small detail, but people react to such decisions, and an a level of expectation is made.

Long’s first season at Saints was perhaps unremarkable, though it is easily forgotten that he weighed in to a record breaking debut by Ronald Koeman with five goals, despite being not a regular in the starting lineup (Long started 16 times).

It is this season that Long has come into his own though, so far starting 21 games, missing some through injury and has remodelled himself as a player who draws attention to when he isn’t in the team rather than when he is.

His effervescent displays this season, be it up front or as part of a support three have been dazzling at times, and though he might never be considered the most cultured player in the world, many an opposition defence will have felt relieved his constant hassling of them was over.

Relentless energy and supreme efficiency with the ball makes Long a valuable asset, but I shouldn’t fail to address his goal return or perceived lack of it.

Long has hit 10 Premier League goals this season, putting him joint top with Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle but there are further statistics that puts the Irishman out in front. Both Mane and Pelle have started more games than Long, but further still their goal to shot ratios are nowhere near as good. Both the Senegalese and the Italian have score their 10 goals having had 80 shots apiece. Long has achieved the same total from just 59 shots.

Goals are of course important, but I think Long’s contribution has been as much about the team dynamic as it has been the amount of times he has hit the back of the net. Ronald Koeman has built a style that utilises both the wide positions (and particularly the use of crossing) and often at pace. Long is ideal for it, and the added bonus that he is better in the air than you might expect means that he is comfortable in any of the forward positions.

Saints are at the culmination of another decent season, but this Summer you can add Shane Long to the list of the players fans will be anxiously hoping stays at St. Mary’s. He might not be Southampton player of the season, but he is a Southampton player for a reason.  Who saw that coming?

Chris