Let me take you back to the Summer of 1996. It was a different time. Robson & Jerome were stunning us on a regular basis with their reworked classics and we were still the best part of a year away from Tony Blair and Cool Britannia taking the country and turning it on its head. It wasn’t all grim though, England had just put in a credible performance at a major tournament on home soil and were a Gazza boot lace away from a major final. There was an air of optimism, especially for this Isle of Wight student about to embark on a miserable (self-inflicted through lack of effort) A-Level campaign……
This week I was given the fantastic opportunity via 888sport.com to pose some questions to former Saints striker Kevin Davies.
Davies had two spells at the club sandwiching a big money move to Blackburn Rovers and can perhaps be credited for changing his style of play completely to earn him greater success as he matured.
From ‘that’ goal against Everton to cup final disappointment and what he makes of the van Dijk ‘situation’, Kevin gave us a frank and honest take on the club.
Kevin Davies, spoke exclusively to 888sport.
What do you expect to see from Saints next season, can they compete for a top eight place again for example?
KD ‘There needs to be more signings and it will be interesting to see what happens between now and the end of the transfer window and particularly whether Van Dijk goes and if they have the timescale to reinvest that money. I covered their games for BT last year and yes there was some fans a bit disgruntled with the style of play but I think when you play that many games in Europe, get to a cup final – which they were unlucky to lose – and finish in the top eight that’s a really good season.
You look at the sides above them and it’s going to be difficult to compete with them but they’ve got a really good manager in Pellegrino and they may well play a more attacking style of football now because he always wants his teams to play the right way.”
The fans need to believe in Les Reed and the model they have created down there. I’m a big fan of what they do where they plan for the future. You may question their ambition a little bit and want them to keep their better players but they have the model in place to be ahead of the game whether that is finding the right playing staff or managers. When you look at where they were seven or eight years ago and now they’re going to be in or around that cluster of top eight teams like West Brom, Stoke and Leicester. There is no danger of relegation and they will finish mid-table at least I think.’
Their biggest flaw last season was the lack of goals, how does Pellegrino bring back that spark up front?
KD ‘They’ve got enough options there. We saw flashes of what Gabbiadini is capable of and though he has never been prolific at previous clubs in Italy he looks a real fox in the box. All the strikers have different attributes with the likes of Shane Long and Charlie Austin. Both missed a lot of last season through injury but they’re different kinds of strikers who can cause different kinds of problems for defenders. There is Redmond in there as well so it comes down to the manager and what he sees in pre-season. Whether he plays three up or one or the old-fashioned 4-4-2 there are plenty of attacking options and it’s about settling on a system that clicks. There will be less rotation which is good because the best players want to player every week and that leads to frustration. Shane Long only made ten starts last season so there is frustration there but what that gives a manager is a clean slate. They will all be eager to impress and make that starting line-up and stay there.’
What is your view on the Virgil van Dijk situation?
KD ‘It just seems unsavoury. Clearly the player wants to go and Southampton are taking a stance which they have every right to do as he signed a new contract not so long ago. It needs to be resolved sooner rather later though because it looks inevitable that they’re going to sell him at some point. The club has done really well in the past bringing in players at the right time then selling them on but I know there are a lot of fans – including former players like Matt le Tissier – who would like those players to stay. That is so difficult when the big clubs come calling and maybe it’s the right move to sell him if they triple their money on him. With the model they have at Southampton they will have been planning this for months, years, and will know how best to reinvest that money.’
Now the season is officially over, and the frustrating rumour mill has already started turning with regards to the future of our players and manager, many will be waiting in anticipation for the reveal of the new Saints kit for next season, especially as it will be the first manufactured by Under Armour. But what have been the best Saints kits over the years?
‘This simple late 90s club designed shirt was famous for closing the final two seasons at the Dell where the club had played since 1898. With subtle touches including special ‘The Dell 1898-2001′ embroidery and a suitably 90s collar this design provides a stylish end to the decade.’
9. 2006-07 Away Shirt
‘Stylish black number (first ever all largely black away shirt) famous for when a fresh-faced Gareth Bale broke into the Southampton side at the tender age of 16. With some eye-catching performances from the young Welshman the side reached the Championship Play-Off Semi-Finals in ’07. With the classy red and gold Bale #22 Football League printing, this shirt has become something of a collectors piece over the years.’
8. 2013-14 Home Shirt
‘Adidas debuted their first Saints shirt with this controversial all red number in 2013. The design followed on from the 2012 home shirt which was the first all red design (barring some white pinstripes) since the 1985 Patrick design. Despite the calls of many fans who asked ‘where are our stripes’, added gold detail to the badges and sponsor make this one of the classiest designs in recent years.’
7. 2001-03 Home Shirt
‘Simple design club-produced home shirt which welcomed in a new era for the side at St Mary’s when James Beattie fought Henry and van Nistelrooy for the golden boot after bagging 23 Premier League goals. The design however is most famously remembered for being worn the day the side said goodbye to the Dell when legendary midfielder Le Tissier scored a late minute volley to secure a stunning 3-2 win against champions elect Arsenal. It doesn’t get more classic than that.’
6. 1995-97 Home Shirt
‘This mid-90s number was far more straightforward than its Pony predecessor, with a classic simple stripe design and a retro collar. Matters were anything but straightforward on the pitch when amateur footballer Ali Dia convinced then-manager Graeme Souness that he was George Weah’s cousin which led to him signing a one month contract. After making just one appearance for the side in this shirt, he was released. Le Tissier later commented, “He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very embarrassing to watch”.’
So there we have it, a nice selection of strips with some great memories attached, but what will make the top 5? Find out soon….
Check out some classic Southampton shirts here bit.ly/1NGtSxI and tell us which is your favourite?
As far as jumping on the bandwagon goes, this is as shameless as it gets….
Seemingly started by Richard Osman of Pointless fame with his ‘World Cup of Chocolate, using the new twitter poll feature as a way of deciding who or what is the best at something in a Knockout competition is a bit a of harmless fun that has now been replicated for all sorts of subjects.
I decided to start my own ‘World Cup’ (although in retrospect it should be FA Cup) of Saints Managers.
This is just for fun. It doesn’t really decide anything, and based on the demographic of Twitter I only went back to Lawrie McMenemy (one of the clear favourites). I also only included those who were permanent managers. Except I forgot Steve Wigley. Sorry Steve.
After relentless pursuing of Saints and Ex-Saints on twitter, I managed to get one of my favourites!
Former Saints striker Egil Østenstad wowed the Dell between 1996 and 1999, scoring some great goals and being part of that famous 6-3 victory over Manchester United in which he bagged a hat-trick (he doesn’t care what the dubious goals panel says, he’s got the match ball!).
So here it is 20 questions with Egil Østenstad!
1. Best Saints Memory? ‘Among a lot of great ones; staying in the Premier League in my first season after being in desperate trouble. Great feeling. Also being voted Player of the season that same season, and scoring in front of the The Kop on my first visit to Anfield.’
2. Worst Saints memory? ‘Not being able to sort out a new and longer contract with Rupert Lowe.’
3. Favourite Manager? ‘I will always be very grateful towards Graeme Souness for giving my the chance to come to Southampton and the Premier League. At Southampton, in his eyes, I never did anything wrong. At Blackburn I never did anything right…’
4. Least favourite Manager? ‘Even though results were decent I thought Dave Jones had an old school approach to the game and a managerial outlook that I found difficult to like.’
5. Most talented team mate?‘Le Tiss was the biggest British talent of his generation when it comes to pure football. His willingness to make the most out of his talent is a different story. Eyal Berkovic was a joy to play with.’
6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room?‘Jim Magilton. Busy man…’
7. The Dell or St. Mary’s? ‘For me The Dell. I only played against Southampton at St Mary’s.’
8. Which member of the current team impresses you most?‘Adam Lallana. Not just because of his ability. More so because of his attitude, loyalty and being a great ambassador for Saints.’
9. Hardest team mate? ‘Ulrich van Gobbel. Monster…’
10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘Loads whilst playing for Blackburn. Quite enjoyed that and scored the winning goal (0-1) on my first visit there. Great stuff!’
11. Derby Day memories? ‘Portsmouth were nearly as bad then as they are now when I was there.’
12. Toughest opponent?‘Martin Keown.’
13. Favourite Away Ground? ‘Anfield.’
14. Favourite Saints kit?’97/98 season Home shirt.’
15. Ever had a Benali curry?‘Loads. Very good actually!’
16. Best friends from Saints days?‘I appreciate the fact that I have met and occasionally spoken to Jason Dodd, Le Tiss, Franny Benali, Jim Magilton and Gordon Watson in the last years. I sometimes speak to Claus Lundekvam. It was a good group of players when I was there.’
17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game?‘Too far. I really hope the rules of financial fair play will have the desired effect. Football is turning into too much of a toy for the wrong reasons.’
18. Pace or skill? ‘Average pace and average skill…’
19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘Top 10. Which is a great achievement!’
20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? ‘Access to Spotify…’
….and a bonus question just for you as we have the same taste in music.
21. What song do you think best fits the Saints experience?‘Smells like teen spirit…’
Many thanks to Egil for taking the time to answer these questions!
Apologies for the brief hiatus! I have been working on other projects in both football and my real job. Hopefully this will be the return of regular posts!
As speculation increases as to the future of Nigel Adkins and the comparisons being made of him via social media and such I thought I would compare him to previous Saints Premier League managers the only fair way. Over their respective first 9 games in charge….
Ian Branfoot – 1992/93 season.
P9 W 1 D 4 L 4 F 7 A 11 P 7
Branfoot, like Adkins took until his fifth game to register a win, but had a relatively good start to his first Premier League campaign, picking up points in more games than not.
End result – Finished 18th of 22 in the Premier League, just one point from safety, Sacked in January 1994.
Alan Ball – 1993/94 season.
P9 W 4 D 3 L 2 F 10 A 12 P 15
Ball proved an instant hit at The Dell resotring Matt Le Tissier to the team and going on a great run.
End result – Finished 18th of 22 in the Premier League, just one point from safety (they were 21st when Ball took over). Left the club in the summer of 1995 after a great season finishing 10th.
Dave Merrington – 1995/96 season.
P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 8 A 16 P 6
Whispering Dave was seemingly the players choice when he was appointed in 1995. He took four games to notch his first victory and it was a sign of things to come.
End result – Finished 17th of 20 in the Premier League on goal difference. Sacked that summer.
Graeme Souness – 1996/97 season.
P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 11 A 13 P 6
The fiery Scot promised to be a polar opposite change in management style from Merrington, but had a similar opening to the season. It took Souness until hi 8th game in charge to get 3 points, and despite some flamboyant foreign signings Saints struggled.
End result – Finished 16th of 20 in the Premier League, just one point from safety. Resigned that summer.
Dave Jones – 1997/98 season.
P 9 W 1 D 1 L 7 F 5 A 17 P 4
Dave Jones came to the club from the lower leagues and it was his first taste of management in the top flight. He struggled to put his stamp on the team at the start and people wondered if he had been a poor choice.
End result – Finished 12th of 20 teams, eight points from safety. Followed it with a season finishing 17th (though five points from safety) before being replaced in January 2000 after (unfounded) allegations of child abuse.
Glenn Hoddle – 2000/01 season.
P 9 W 5 D 1 L 3 F 6 A 6 P 16
Former England boss Hoddle came in while Jones was on “leave of absence” to prepare his defence. He had a fantastic start, winning his first five games in charge. In terms of a combination of results and style of play, Hoddle is still for me the best manager of my time supporting Saints.
End result Saints finished 10th of 20 teams (they were 12th when he took over), and consolidated that the following season though Hoddle left for Spurs in March 2001.
Stuart Gray – 2001/02 season.
* – Only judged on games in full charge.
P 9 W 2 D 0 L 7 F 5 A 17 P 6
Stuat Gray was promoted from the backroom staff to caretaker manager when Hoddle left and was given the job permanently in the summer. Despite breaking the club’s transfer record Gray struggled for results.
End result. Gray was sacked on the 21st October with the club lying in 19th of 20 of the Premier League.
Gordon Strachan – 2001/02 season.
P 9 W 3 D 1 L 5 F 13 A 16 P 10
Serious question marks were raised when Strachan was appointed after he had eventually relegated Coventry City, but Saints immediately started to look more resilient.
End result. Saints finished 12th of 20 (they were 19th when he took over) and followed it in 2002/03 by finishing 8th and reaching the FA Cup final. He resigned in February 2004 with the club sitting 11th in the table.
Paul Sturrock – 2003/04 season.
P 9 W 4 D 1 L 4 F13 A 13 P 13
Luggy came in to replace his fellow Scot, but never seemed to fit in at the club.
End result. Saints finished 12th of 20, the same position as when he took over. He was sacked in the summer after rumours of player unrest.
Steve Wigley – 2004/05 season.
* – Only judged on games in full charge.
P 9 W 1 D 2 L 6 F 6 A 12 P 5
Steve Wigley was a highly unambitious appointment from within for the club who were possible already struggling financially behind the scenes. Fans were right to doubt him.
End result. Sacked in December 2004 with Saints in 18th place of 20.
Harry Redknapp – 2004/05 season.
P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 11 A 17 P 6
Redknapp came in controversial circumstances having just left Portsmouth, but fans can be forgiven for thinking he was the man to turn the team around. Sadly they were mistaken, poor signings, inept tactics and the demeanour of a man who wasn’t really interested was what they got.
End result. Saints finished 20th of 20 and were out of the top flight for the first time in 27 years. Returned to Portsmouth in December 2005 with Saints 12th in the Championship.
Nigel Adkins – 2012/13 season.
P 9 W 1 D 1 L 7 F 14 A 26 P 4
Nigel has obviously had a damaging start to life in the top flight, but has a very similar results record to Dave Jones who turned it around and got a decent league finish. He has had a worse start than Branfoot, Gray, Sturrock, Wigley and Redknapp, but I wonder how many Saints fans would want them back?
It is still too early to tell just what sort of Premier League manager Adkins will turn out to be, as these openings of other managers prove.
End result. Who knows, but while Adkins is in charge we must back him.
Top of the table Saints head to West Yorkshire on Saturday to take on Leeds United in front of the cameras, and not only will there likely be a former Saints player on the Elland Road’s sides bench, but also a Saints fan….
The German born, Northen Ireland international goalkeeper Taylor started his semi-professional footballing career while still serving in the British Army. Stationed in Hampshire he represented Petersfield and Basingstoke Town’s respectively before joining Farnborough Town where he was part of the team that won the Southern League Premier Division in 1994.
It was while playing for the now defunct club that he was spotted by League Two Barnet and was given his first professional contract. His performances at Underhill soon meant he was destined for greater things, and just a season and a half later he was heading back to Hampshire and the Premier League.
Graeme Souness was the man who took the gamble on the lower league keeper, signing him in the January of 1997 for a fee of £500k. He replaced the ageing Dave Beasant and soon had the fans on his side with some impressive shot stopping, representing the club he had supported as a child. Saints fans finally felt like they had their replacement for Tim Flowers, albeit somewhat late.
Sadly for Taylor, Souness was to leave in the summer, and despite Taylor’s proficient displays the Scotsman’s replacement Dave Jones bought his namesake and number one from Stockport County with him.
Paul Jones was immediately installed as first choice and Taylor had to make do with a place on the bench, a victim of a rare season in Saints history where they had two good stoppers in one season! Taylor headed for Kevin Keegan’s Fulham on 17th November 1997 for £800k, surprisingly dropping to the second division. After nearly 200 appearances for the Cottagers and two league titles he moved on to Birmingham City. He also established himself as the first choice goalkeeper for Northen Ireland gaining 88 caps between 1999 and 2011.
He signed for Leeds United in Novemeber 2011 and recently had his contract extended to the end of the season, now aged 40.