Tag Archives: Francis Benali

Play at St. Mary’s alongside a Saints Legend!

Play at St Mary’s with Saints legends!

Matt Le Tissier, Jason Dodd, Francis Benali and Brett Ormerod will be lacing up their boots once again to take to the St Mary’s pitch for a one-off four team tournament, and you could be playing alongside them!

Play With A Legend, the events company which brings you closer to your footballing heroes, is running the event for the second year at St Mary’s. The organisation was co-founded by Perry Groves, best known for his time at Arsenal (and Saints too of course!), who wanted to give fans the chance to play on pitch with their favourite ex-players.

Check out how one amateur player got on at a similar event at Selhurt Park last year – think you can do better!?

The four team tournament will take place on 22nd May from 6pm, on the pitch at St. Mary’s where you can get either 45 or 90 minutes of action, plus your own personalised kit, enjoy post-match drinks with the legends and have your photo taken. Friends and family are invited to purchase audience tickets to cheer you on from the stands too.

Find out more and book here

Throwback – Saints Premier League Dream Team (2011)

Back in 2011, prior to Saints return to the top flight I was asked by Shoot magazine to compile my ‘Premier League Dream Team’.

I thought it would be good to look back at it now, 5 years later and with some impressive Premier League campaigns under our belt to see where I might now change that team.

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Goalkeeper (2011) – Antti Niemi

Goalkeeper (2016) – No change. The flying Finn was and still is the best keeper I’ve ever seen in a Saints shirt.

Left Back (2011) – Wayne Bridge

Left Back (2016) – No change. I was a big fan of Bridge, and though I think Luke Shaw might have stolen this had he stayed a bit longer and Ryan Bertrand is consistently immaculate, Bridge still gets the nod. Just.

Excuse the picture of Paul Telfer...
Excuse the picture of Paul Telfer…

Right Back (2011) – Jason Dodd

Right Back (2016) – Nathaniel Clyne. It’s not easy to drop Dodd who was such a fantastic servant to the club but Clyne’s performances in a Saints shirt were superb.

Centre Half (2011) – Dean Richards R.I.P.

Centre Half (2016) – Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman will go on to be know as one of Saints most impressive and important signings of all time in my opinion. Oozes class and is almost unbeatable in the air.

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Centre Half (2011) – Michael Svensson

Centre Half (2016) – Jose Fonte. Another difficult decision but Fonte’s impact in the Premier League as the constant amongst several partners and the defensive performances that have stemmed from them have to be rewarded.

Central Midfield (2011) – Chris Marsden

Central Midfield (2016) – Morgan Schneiderlin. An all round brilliant midfielder and arguably is yet to be replaced (though PEH looks a decent bet).

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Left Midfield (2011) – Hassan Kachloul

Left Midifeld (2016) – Adam Lallana. The homegrown Lallana may have left a sour taste in the mouths of many when he left, but his performances for Saints were a joy to watch.

Right Midfield (2011) – Ronnie Ekelund

Right Midfield (2016) – No change. Ekelund was at the club for such a short space of time that I feel sorry for those fans who didn’t get to see how good he was.

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Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2011) – Matthew Le Tissier

Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2016) – No change. Pretty sure I don’t have to justify this one.

Striker (2011) – Marian Pahars

Striker (2016) – No change. I can’t drop the little Latvian, I simply can’t. He provided too much joy to my younger Dell going self.

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Striker (2011) – James Beattie

Striker (2016) – Rickie Lambert. Very difficult to remove Beattie, but Lambert was much more than a brilliant striker, he was a superb footballer and a talisman too.

Subs (2011) – Lundekvam, Oakley, Ostenstad, Palmer, Benali

Subs (2016) – M. Svensson, Wanyama, Mane, Beattie, Benali

So that’s my updated team, but what is yours?

Chris

Malice in Sunder-Land

Saints head to the North East this weekend defending a superb unbeaten record on the road so far this season. Cause to be optimistic of a positive result then? Nope.

While this season’s travels may have been fruitful, it is hard to ignore Saints’ abysmal record on Wearside. Even after the mesmeric 8-0 home victory over the Black Cats last season, the trip to the Stadium of Light brought with it no more expectancy than usual. Why? Because we never win at Sunderland.

I say ‘never’, and that of course isn’t true, but it’s as near as dammit. Saints last won there in January 2003, James Beattie scored the only goal and Franny Benali was at left back! The win previous to that was also 0-1, Egil Ostenstad’s 1997 strike overcoming a Sunderland side containing Chris Waddle and still resident at Roker Park. Seriously.

The win previous to that? 1983 via a Steve Moran brace.

Sure, there have been a number of seasons in which the two clubs have not been in the same division, but three wins in 32 years is poor by anyone’s standards.

Traditionally Saints struggle in the North East (3 wins against Newcastle and 5 against Middlesbrough in the same 32 year period) and in return those sides struggle on the South Coast. This was long put down to the effects of travelling the distance, but in this modern age, that is surely no longer an excuse (although it might explain the FC Midtjylland debacle).

Right now Sunderland don’t have as good a team as Southampton. I don’t think even the most dedicated Mackem would argue that point but yet again it is a fixture that I symbolically write off in my head as a no hoper. Unsupportive? Sure. Pessimistic? Of course, but not without good reason.

As someone rightly pointed out on twitter to me today, historically for Saints ‘teams that are there for the taking’ (as Sunderland undoubtedly are right now) are usually our downfall. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the team that Ronald built is capable of beating anyone on their day, but there is just something about the North East that causes are soft Southern persona’s to freeze more often than not.

Perhaps it is the cold, or maybe the Smog, the often unintelligible accents or the fear of our beloved ponies (one for any skates that swim by) getting headbutted. I’m not sure. All I know is that I never expect anything from a trip to Sunderland.

Sam Allardyce’s side have won just one of their nine games this season, the North East derby, and have conceded seven goals in their four home games. Surely Saints, this is the year? Please?

I won’t get my hopes up.

Saints: A Year in Review Part Three

Following on from yesterday’s Parts One & Two here is the Saints review of the year using only tweets from July to September. Be warned, it get’s bumpy for a while!

July

August

Aug14

September

Sep14

To be continued….

Great South Run: Sponsor me and it could be you!

As I have mentioned previously, I will this year make my return to the streets of Portsmouth to take on the Great South Run for the second time. This is not my wisest decision and is against the advice of my Doctor as I am currently being treated for stress fractures in both shins, but, I am a firm believer in completing something once you have committed to it, and I may have to take it a little easier than I might have hoped.

I have decided to run it this time in aid of Saints Foundation and am looking to raise at least £250 to help them continue in the great work they do with disadvantaged kids and vulnerable adults.

I appreciate that times are tight for everyone these days, so I appreciate any donation, no matter how small. Every little helps.

This prompted a good opportunity though for me to give some prizes away and hopefully encourage people to give generously! To that end, I have three fantastic prizes that can be one simply by making a donation. two of them are Saints related, the other not so much, but still of interest to the anyone keen on football memorabilia.

Prize One:- THE FIRST EVER OFFICIAL GEORGEWEAHSCOUSIN.COM T-SHIRT!

That’s right folks. this is the opportunity to own the first ever official georgeweahscousin.com t-shirt. Recently the site has entered into a partnership with Cult Zeros to create a range of Saints related t-shirts and Hoodies (watch this space for designs), and they have kindly donated the first ever t-shirt (in a size of your choice) to the winner. And here it  is….

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All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this exclusive t-shirt is go to https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Rann1/, make a donation and put somewhere in the comments ‘t-shirt’.

Prize Two:-SIGNED SOUTHAMPTON SQUAD FOOTBALL CIRCA 1995

This is a football I won in the raffle on an official coach trip to Old Trafford I think in November 1995, but I might be mistaken.

Signatures include:- Matthew Le Tissier, Alan Neilson, Francis Benali, Dave Beasant, Christer Warren, Paul Tisdale, Bruce Grobbelaar, Tommy Widdrington, Mathew Robinson, Matthew Oakley, Ken Monkou, Neil Moss, Neil Shipperley, Barry Venison and several more I cannot identify.

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All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this classic piece of Saints history is  go to https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Rann1/, make a donation and put somewhere in the comments ‘Saints Ball’.

Prize Three- SIGNED EVERTON SQUAD FOOTBALL CIRCA  1989

This is a football that was kindly given to me by my cousin who was an apprentice at Goodison Park at the time. I’m pretty sure (but admittedly not 100%) that this is the squad that was FA Cup finalists in 1989.

Signatures include:- Kevin Ratcliffe, Wayne Clarke, Colin Harvey, Paul Power, Stuart McCall, Pat ven den Hauwe, Kevin Sheedy, Ian Wilson, Dave Watson, Tony Cottee, Neville Southall and several more I can’t identify.

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All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this classic piece of Everton history is  go to https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Rann1/, make a donation and put somewhere in the comments ‘Everton Ball’.

So there we have it, three decent prizes that could be yours for as little as a £1. Please give whatever you can. Winners will be selected completely at random and will be notified after the Great South Run (26th October 2014). Good Luck!

Chris

Twenty Questions: Egil Østenstad

After relentless pursuing of Saints and Ex-Saints on twitter, I managed to get one of my favourites!

Former Saints striker Egil Østenstad wowed the Dell between 1996 and 1999, scoring some great goals and being part of that famous 6-3 victory over Manchester United in which he bagged a hat-trick (he doesn’t care what the dubious goals panel says, he’s got the match ball!).

So here it is 20 questions with Egil Østenstad!

Egil Østenstad. 109 Saints appearances. 33 Saints goals.
Egil Østenstad. 109 Saints appearances. 33 Saints goals.

1. Best Saints Memory?Among a lot of great ones; staying in the Premier League in my first season after being in desperate trouble. Great feeling. Also being voted Player of the season that same season, and scoring in front of the The Kop on my first visit to Anfield.’

2. Worst Saints memory? ‘Not being able to sort out a new and longer contract with Rupert Lowe.’

3. Favourite Manager?  ‘I will always be very grateful towards Graeme Souness for giving my the chance to come to Southampton and the Premier League. At Southampton, in his eyes, I never did anything wrong. At Blackburn I never did anything right…’

4. Least favourite Manager?Even though results were decent I thought Dave Jones had an old school approach to the game and a managerial outlook that I found difficult to like.’

5. Most talented team mate? ‘Le Tiss was the biggest British talent of his generation when it comes to pure football. His willingness to make the most out of his talent is a different story. Eyal Berkovic was a joy to play with.’

6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room?  ‘Jim Magilton. Busy man…’

7. The Dell or St. Mary’s?  ‘For me The Dell.  I only played against Southampton at St Mary’s.’

8. Which member of the current team impresses you most? ‘Adam Lallana. Not just because of his ability. More so because of his attitude, loyalty and being a great ambassador for Saints.’

9. Hardest team mate?  ‘Ulrich van Gobbel. Monster…’

10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘Loads whilst playing for Blackburn. Quite enjoyed that and scored the winning goal (0-1) on my first visit there. Great stuff!’

11. Derby Day memories? ‘Portsmouth were nearly as bad then as they are now when I was there.’

12. Toughest opponent? ‘Martin Keown.’

13. Favourite Away Ground?  ‘Anfield.’

14. Favourite Saints kit? ’97/98 season Home shirt.’

15. Ever had a Benali curry? Loads. Very good actually!’

16. Best friends from Saints days? ‘I appreciate the fact that I have met and occasionally spoken to Jason Dodd, Le Tiss, Franny Benali, Jim Magilton and Gordon Watson in the last years. I sometimes speak to Claus Lundekvam. It was a good group of players when I was there.’

17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game? ‘Too far. I really hope the rules of financial fair play will have the desired effect. Football is turning into too much of a toy for the wrong reasons.’

18. Pace or skill? ‘Average pace and average skill…’

19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘Top 10. Which is a great achievement!’

20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? Access to Spotify…’

….and a bonus question just for you as we have the same taste in music.

21. What song do you think best fits the Saints experience? ‘Smells like teen spirit…’

Many thanks to Egil for taking the time to answer these questions!

Chris

 

Twenty Questions: Gordon Watson

It’s been a while….

So apologies to those of you who follow the site. Life and work got a little hectic for a while there, but hopefully the content will start to flow a little more now, along with a redesign of sorts.

A new feature I have long wanted to add is that of 20 quick-fire questions to anyone associated with Saints. This has more than a little nod of appreciation to the classic ‘Hayling Island Discs’ series that ran in the Red Stripe fanzine in the 90’s, so thanks to them!

So here goes, our first ever interviewee is former Saints striker Gordon ‘Flash’ Watson! I hope you enjoy it.

Gordon 'Flash' Watson.  68 Saints appearances. 14 Saints goals.
Gordon ‘Flash’ Watson. 68 Saints appearances. 14 Saints goals.
1. Best Saints memory? ‘Scoring on Home debut v Newcastle 3-1.’
2. Worst Saints memory? Leaving in January ’97.’
3. Favourite Manager? ‘Alan Ball.’
4. Least favourite Manager? Mike Newell.’
5. Most talented team mate? ‘Matt Le Tissier /Chris Waddle/John Sheridan.’
6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room? ‘No comment.’
7. The Dell or St. Mary’s? ‘The Dell.’
8. Which member of the current team impresses you most? ‘Rickie Lambert.’
9. Hardest team mate? ‘Francis Benali.’
10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘None.’
11. Derby Day memories? ‘Setting up goal and winning against Pompey at the Dell 96.’
12. Toughest opponent? ‘Sol Campbell.’
13. Favourite Away Ground? ‘Hillsbrough.’
14. Favourite Saints kit? ‘2003/4.’
15. Ever had a Benali curry? ‘No.’
16. Best friends from Saints days? ‘Team mates weren’t best friends then.’
17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game? ‘Gone to far.’
18. Pace or skill? ‘Skill.’
19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘9th.’
20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? ‘Gas Mask.’
Thanks to Gordon for taking the time to answer these questions!
Chris

Nicola Cortese: About to lose our rudder?

‘It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.’ – Nelson Mandela

It’s never ‘easy’ being a Saints fan. Having looked like Premier League safety was a given a few weeks ago, we still managed to play ourselves back into the battle and only secured it on Sunday with a laboured point against Sunderland.

Time to relax then surely? Nope.

Yesterday news broke that Chairman Nicola Cortese was considering his future at the club. The reaction amongst the social networking sections of Saints support was quite staggering. Since his arrival at the club in 2009 Mr. Cortese has built quite a reputation, and one that is often negative amongst our own supporters and worse amongst other clubs, yet yesterday the standard reaction of Saints fans was that of grief and nervousness about how the good ship Southampton might fare without the shrewd Italian at the helm. It is some turnaround, given that as recently as January, when he dismissed the hugely popular Nigel Adkins, Cortese was finding his sanity questioned and on the end of some hideous criticism. This wasn’t the first time either.

Behind the scenes Mr. Cortese has faced huge criticism from within and the club and outside it, something that has never appeared to faze him. He has had public fallouts (though he didn’t make them public) with ex-players and been accused of disregarding the history of the club. There have been several bizarre tales of strange behaviour away from the public eye revolving around toilets, teaspoons and an unapproachable personality. In fact, many would be more than happy to see the back of him.

But. From a professional point of view it is impossible to argue that he has done anything but a fantastic job. Brokering the takeover by Markus Liebherr in 2009 he spoke of a five year plan to get the club back into the Premier League. He completed that in three. He has at times made what would appear as ‘rash’ decisions, but you can look back at almost all of them and struggle to find fault retrospectively. He said himself that he wasn’t here to ‘make friends’ and just like he promised he achieved the goal of the Premier League and is now talking about the top 10 and Europe. His ambitions are clear, and they are built on the premise of building the club up from it’s foundations, overseeing big investment in our already World Class Academy.

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So what’s changed?

This summer sees a ‘natural’ contract break for the chairman, which leads the Liebherr Trust to negotiate a renewal. It would appear these talks have broken down (or didn’t even start). As far as I can see it there could be several reasons for this.

1. The ambitions of Mr. Cortese and the Liebherr Trust don’t match. This is the most worrying for me, Cortese has often spoke of the level achievement he wishes for the club, and he has proved that he will spend money to do it. If the Liebherr trust no longer want to spend that money and are happy at the current level then it is logical that Cortese would move on. It is also logical that Saints will no longer progress.

2. The Liebherr trust are not happy with the negative press about the Chairman. Markus Liebherr was a practising christian, and he often spoke about doing things the ‘right’ way. If his family are of the same ilk then they may have viewed some of the talk of Mr. Cortese’s behaviour uncomfortable.

3. Mr. Cortese would like a much improved contract financially to stay. There has been talk of interest of other clubs (AC Milan the standout) and given his achievements over the last few years it’s not exactly unreasonable of Cortese to expect a reward. Players do it, managers do it. Why not an extremely successful chairman?

4. The Liebherr trust are looking to sell the club. This has been rumoured pretty much since the day Markus sadly passed away. The club was only ever the dream of the late billionaire, not his family. They may feel that having restored the club to the Premier League they have fulfilled their obligation and can walk away. Nicola Cortese has often spoke of contingency plans and wealthy investors should this ever happen. Is this plan now about to come into effect, and he would need to leave as Chairman to launch his own takeover?

5. The Liebherr trust aren’t happy with the progress. Perhaps they have taken a leaf out of Cortese’s book a la Pardew/Adkins and decided that the club aren’t doing well enough and could do better under somebody esle? This seems unlikely, but everyone is under scrutiny in big business. Saints have spent money on several players who don’t play. Viewed as a failure?

This is of course all speculation. It could be a very simple contract wrangle that is easily resolved. As I said earlier some Saints fans are revelling in the news, and have long wanted rid of the Italian Chairman, but others (and I would say the majority) are rightly worried. Love him or hate him, Nicola Cortese has been the driving force behind the rise of Southampton Football Club over the last four seasons. He has fronted out all the abuse for his decisions, and bore the brunt of any unrest aimed at the running of the club. He has earned the right to be respected, and it could be a disaster for Saints should he move on. Cortese and Markus were friends, and that drives him on to reach Liebherr’s goals, a replacement may not have the same personal desire.

‘A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.’

Hopefully in the next few days we will hear that there has been some development and perhaps even a resolution. Nicola Cortese might never be a popular person amongst all sections of the crowd, but he has earned the right to lead this football club into this exciting new era.

Be careful what you wish for.

Chris

Mo When The Saints….

‘With Great Moustache Comes Great Responsibility.’

Hero is a strong word, and not one I would use lightly, but for me Francis Benali falls into that category rather comfortably.

Benali was the epitome of a dedicated footballer, and you knew that if Saints took to the pitch with eleven ‘shrinking violets’, there would be one uncompromising warrior. The hometown hero. The hardman.

Benali embodied everything that was the mid-90’s Saints. The underdog, the battler, never knew when they  were beaten.

And what separated Benali from others like him was his moustache. Benali had sported his pushbroom since the age of 15, and it made the man the cult hero that he was. Facial hair was a thing of the past as the Premier League era took off, but Benali, typically contemptuous wore his with a fervent pride.

Winner of the Red Stripe ‘Best Left Back in the World’ award circa 1995, beating Paolo Maldini (though the categories of moustaches, hardness and curries were rather in his favour).

Benali. Moustache wearer. Hardman. Hero.

For the first time this year I have decided to take part in ‘Movember’ to raise both money and awareness for men’s health issues. It seemed fitting to me that I should style my top lip hair attempt on that of Benali. No thrills, no nonsense, just a great tache.

My aim by the end of Movember is to be able to recreate this action pose (though I don’t have that shirt in a large, so any help with that would be appreciated):-

To support my efforts (please be aware the end result is likely to be poor) you can donate at:- http://mobro.co/chrisrann2 Every penny really does count.

You can follow the efforts of my OC Sport colleagues and I at:- http://uk.movember.com/team/629569 and on our MOC Sport Movember blog here:- http://mocsport.tumblr.com/

Thanks for your support!

Chris

Saints Academy: Talent Architects…

Hi all, I am pleased to introduce another new contributor to georgeweahscousin.com in the form of former Saints trainee Scott Gordon. Scott hails from the Emerald Isle, more specifically Lurgan, Co. Armagh. He is the husband to Joanna and soon to be father to a junior Saint.

He has been a Saints fan for nearly 16 years, which all started when the club plucked him from obscurity as a 13 year old playing in his local league. After a week’s trial he found himself signing a 5 year deal that would change his life forever. He might no longer be a Saints player, but he is still Northern Ireland’s number one fan!

Over to you Scott! – Chris

Saints Academy: Talent Architects…

Bridge. Baird. Bale. Walcott. Chamberlain. Five names from the modern day football world and all with one massive thing in common… they are all products of the fantastic Saints Academy. Skip back a few years and Mike Channon, Matthew Le Tissier, the Wallace brothers, Alan Shearer and Francis Benali are once again products of our enviable youth system.

The ‘Academy’ as we know it today came into formation in the 98/99 season. This marked the start of the new scholarships rather than the YTS system of old. In effect these scholarships were designed to safeguard the future of the young players, if and when, they did not manage to make it in football. As a product of this academy (class of 2001) I guess I am glad the scholarship was offered. I’m now a PE teacher back home in Northern Ireland and without the investment from the club and the FA, this may not have been a reality for me. But this was not exactly the remit of the club.

As with any smaller club the purpose of an academy is to produce fine young players to come through and represent the first team. The five players mentioned in the opening line of this piece all achieved this goal and I might add, performed admirably for the senior side. They do, however, have another thing in common… All sold by the Saints. For a total of £38million.

I guess that’s where I have a problem with our club and the way we handle our younger players. For too long we have been a selling club. You can add Brian Howard, Matthew Mills and Scott McDonald into the list of players that have moved on. I wonder now that we have returned to the Premier League will we still have the same attitude? If we still had the big 5 players with us, would we have gotten back to the promised land a lot sooner? Who knows. My only hope is that we become a keeping club and not sell on our best products. Lallana is still there and that is a good sign and there are many other players coming through (I’m told James Ward-Prowse and Corby Moore are two to look out for).

Premier League, Champions League, European Championships. Products of Southampton.

In my time, Crewe, West Ham and Coventry were the clubs with the supposed best academy set ups. I firmly believed then and now that we have the best. Back in 2000 we were defeated in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup 2-1 over two legs by a Coventry side that were then chinned 7-1 by an Arsenal side that contained Steve Sidwell. I can remember reading a quote from our then managers Stewart Henderson and John Sainty. They said that yes, we were on a great run in the competition, but this success did not guarantee any player a professional contract or a future at the club (a statement which was made abundantly clear one season later as I was shown the door).

When I left in 2001, two others came with me and only five (Alan Blayney, Ryan Ashford, Chris Baird, Scott McDonald and Brian Howard) went on to represent the first team. In total we had 25 players across our 1st and 2nd year scholars. None are with the club now and very few are still making a living from the game. It used to be said you had to be best in Europe to make it as a pro footballer. Our year changed that to be the best in the world. Players from all over Uk, Italy, Russia, Africa and Australia represented our youth team during my time with Southampton.

We are without doubt one of the best Academy setup’s in the country. My only hope is that we hold on to our talent and let the other teams be envious of us for a while.

Scott

p.s. If you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past year, why not vote for us in the “Club Specific” category at the Football Blogging Awards? Either via Facebook here. Or, tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club