The lack of respect afforded to the League Cup over the more recent seasons has led to a decline in interest in what was once England’s secondary cup competition.
Sadly, the rise of the Champion’s League and it’s inclusion of four teams from the Premier League each season has seen league positioning overshadow it’s priority status in the eyes of the much maligned, much pressured first team manager. Even the ‘smaller’ clubs have followed their bigger colleagues in treating the competition with little more than a passing annoyance, with league survival and the lucrative financial benefits that come with it, to important to gamble with.
Many have suggested that the League Cup is dead.
Try telling that to some of the young faces at St. Mary’s on Wednesday night. Try telling that to Harrison Reed, who asserted himself in the middle of the park with the tenacity of somebody who knows he is working under a manager who will give him further opportunities. Try telling that to Jack Stephens who has patiently waited for a chance to shine in a seemingly impregnable back four. Try telling that to Lloyd Isgrove who will be fully aware he is suited to Claude Puel’s formation in a forward role. Try telling that to Olufela Olomola who greeted his 26th minute introduction by charging down a Sunderland defender like he only had seconds to have an influence.
Try telling that to the many young faces I saw in the St. Mary’s crowd who were there for the first time. The beneficiaries of the low pricing initiative that meant their parents could introduce them to the club in an affordable manner.
Try telling that to Sofiane Boufal.
For me personally it was nice just to be in the stadium. Given my residential location, being there in the flesh is a rare treat and despite it not being the most exciting game in the world it was a good way to assess the changes at the club under Puel.
Having had the pleasure of a fantastic time in Milan with my fellow Dubai Saints, catching up with friends and feeling very much part of a truly historic occasion it felt like a return to reality. The best part of 8,000 Saints fans blasting out ‘Oh when the Saints’ in the San Siro is one of those ‘I was there’ moments and the Inter fans after the game were truly in awe.
Sunderland at home was an altogether different prospect. The manager has faith in his squad, and the extended one he has at his disposal from the Academy. Right now that faith is paying off. I was apprehensive of course when I saw the lineup, but as a Southampton fan it is difficult to feel anything but pride when a team containing six Academy graduates (Jamess Ward-Prowse and Sam McQueen joining the aforementioned four) for the majority of the game looks comfortable against a Premier League opponent.
The crowd was better than most, including a certain tabloid rag and even the club were expecting and that showed by the fact people were queuing to get in once the game had kicked off, but it still felt that at £12 a ticket it could have been better. The 21k that did attend certainly got their money’s worth in the 66th minute. Sofiane Boufal has carried his price tag and the fact he arrived at the club injured with him since he joined, and there has been much hype and expectation of a player who was linked with the world’s best clubs in the Summer. His winning goal did not disappoint.
If Matt Le Tissier tweets to say that the other 89 minutes were worth siting through to see that goal, then you know it was something special. The finish was ‘Le Tiss-esque’, the first touch ridiculous. A goal fitting of winning any game.
In contrast to most foreign managers, Claude Puel is far from bemoaning the amount of fixtures his squad is up against, in fact he is the complete opposite. In a recent interview with french newspaper L’Equipe, he states how playing one game a week in France ‘dragged’ and how he dreamed of playing three times in quick succession.
Puel trusts his squad, and the fans are starting to trust him. While many are trying to read the League Cup it’s last rites, they aren’t about to give up on it yet at St. Mary’s.
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.
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?
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.
What do #saintsfc fans really want? The 'Pathway' or 'Big Player Investment'? Honest answers.
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?
As Saints fans we have always had a vested interest in the progress of our Academy products. Long a gold mine of talent, when a Southampton kid makes their first team debut it comes surrounded in hope and expectation.
James Ward-Prowse has been one that has perhaps split opinions. The Pompey born midfielder has been consistently in and around the first team squad, but is yet to command a regular starting berth.
Often praised for his technical ability, his goals and assists record leaves a lot to be desired and often he seems to struggle to make an impact on games.
I put it to twitter (and misspelled kangaroo again FFS) to ask if Ward-Prowse is destined to be the star we all hoped he would be, or has he not lived up to expectations?
Kangeroo Court. James Ward-Prowse. Should he be playing more? #saintsfc
@peter_stephens‘Now where do we start on the English wonderkid that is James Ward-Prowse? Another kid hot off the Southampton academy conveyor belt ready to take the country by storm and force a move to the big 4? Probably not.
The issue with JWP is that you can watch a match and forget he is even out there, his best position in the team is still tbc but he *looks* like a footballer, or a bloke doing an impression of one…. His delivery is generally very good from set pieces, which is ALWAYS noted by commentators, but is that enough to merit his place in the team? In open play he is lost, he has played in a few different positions and hasn’t excelled in any.
If he wasn’t an English kid from our academy, would fans still clamour over him as they do?
I have no agenda against him, I just don’t think he merits a place in the team, or even the squad right now. He lacks pace, aggression, has no ‘trick’ and doesn’t score goals (yeah yeah a FK and a pen, bravo). All of his 4 assists have been from corners, again set pieces. While a true DMF option in Harrison Reed has disappeared, JWP continues to flatter to deceive in whatever position he is tried in.
But, “he takes a cracking corner”. Yawn.’
The case for the Defence:-
@TheDanJames‘James Ward-Prowse. Over 100 club appearances, captain for his country at u21 level, already receiving recognition from the current manager of England Roy Hodgson. Yet some people seem to not think he’s got ability or potential?
He was given his break by Adkins in the cup competitions, grabbing his first goal in a victory over Coventry. Months later, on our return to the premier league he started at the Etihad against reigning champions Man City at the tender age of 17. You don’t get that opportunity for no reason.
He’s used heavily as a role model in the club academy. He’s a level headed, intelligent and driven young man who loves the club. He possesses a superb delivery from set pieces, recently grabbing his first goal of the season from a well taken free kick, reminiscent of his former set piece tipster Rickie Lambert. Still at the age of 21 he’s got a lot to learn and he will make mistakes, but doesn’t everyone?
Playing at Premier League level will only help him develop and find his position in our team. He’s been tried in many different roles but hasn’t nailed down one spot as his own. As long as he takes chances and continues to perform well he’ll find his place in the Saints starting XI and the national team.
Future captain material for sure.’
As the vote shows, though there are some doubters, JWP is still considered a ‘Young Star’ at the club. Perhaps upping his output in terms of goals and assists will see it swing even further in his favour.
There has been much talk this season about Victor Wanyama’s impact or lack thereof.
The Kenyan has become one of a long line of ‘marmite’ characters in a Saints shirt, often finding himself the scapegoat for poor team performances, and no matter how well he plays, has always struggled to win some fans round.
Having had to adapt to life post-Morgan Schneiderlin there is no doubt Victor hasn’t had quite the same level of performance we have come to expect, but are people being overly harsh?
Having been sent off three times this season, it is clear that a lot of the St. Mary’s faithful have lost patience with him, but there are still those who think he has a future at the club, and whats more, is still a ‘key’ player.
Everyone knows my opinion of Wanyama, so I put it to twitter to ask where does his future lie? Should Saints cash in as they now have other (possibly better) options? Or is he still an important part of our team?
It is predictably tight.
Victor Wanyama. Still one of the best players at the club? Or No longer needed? #saintsfc
@ShaneyyG4‘While I think Vic has turned a corner in terms of commitment to the cause (arguably the upturn in form and the potential for another crack at European football on the cards will have helped this) I think we should sell him while his stock is high.
Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s had loads of good performances in a Saints shirt, but it’s becoming all too common for him to get sent off. If this was one of our Young academy prospects coming through I’d completely understand and put it down to a learning process, but Vic is an experienced player who has played in the Champions league with Celtic and spent most of his Saints career next to arguably one of our best ever midfield destroyers in Schneiderlin.
What Vic really lacks is the Intelligence to know when he does have to commit a red/yellow card offence for the benefit of the team and when he has to keep his temper in check and play it clever.
Personally I think we have more tactically astute replacements in Romeu and Clasie, and Reed can push both of these all the way for a starting berth too.
Do we need Vic?’
The case for the Defence:–
@geddesduncan‘At face value, our strength in depth can be used as a convincing argument to sell Victor Wanyama and take some money. Who needs him when we’ve got Romeu?
Koeman gives us the answer in his team selection. Wanyama comes first for holding onto the ball at all costs, putting himself in the way of opposition passes and outmuscling almost everyone he comes up against.
Most of his work is done when the ball is elsewhere, closing space before opposing players can reach it.
His ‘attitude problems’ felt real at one stage, but most backlash from supporters smacked of second hand anger at truly disrespectful twerps like Saido Berahino or Dani Osvaldo.
Transfer speculation may or may not be behind Wanyama’s dips in form or recent acquaintance with red cards.
But fans would do well to remember that Romeu has consistently worse discipline and isn’t accused of losing focus.
Meanwhile, Wanyama gets on with his job.
So long as the staff are confident they can keep him performing, as they are right now, he is worth more than the money we could recoup from letting him off his contract.’
It is testament to Saints up-turn in form and their strength in midfield that this is an incredibly close call, but the vote is swayed slightly towards keeping Wanyama at the club. Will he commit to a new contract though?
Amongst the many previews out on offer as we approach the (official) start of a new season, none bring together many as many of the voices of those who give up their time to talk about their club. I gathered together the Saints blogging fraternity to see what they expect from the new season.
Which new signing are you most excited about?
Me ‘Cedric has looked impressive in pre-season so far, and looks like he will offer even more going forward than Clyne did. We shall see if he can recreate that level of form in the Premier League.’
Glen de la Cour (from League One Minus Ten) ‘Cedric Soares looks an exciting addition especially as it fits our ethos of selling big and replacing with better quality for less money. The most important though is Jordy Clasie because of the boots he has to fill.’
Connor Armstrong (from All of the websites) ‘For me it’s probably Cédric, so far. It looks like he’ll give us great balance when Bertrand is back too, as well as another genuine attacking threat.’
Sam Dobson (from The Saints Hub) ‘Excited is probably the wrong word, but Cedric Soares looks the most impressive so far’
George Galpin (from St. Mary’s Musings) ‘I’m really excited about Jordy Clasie. Morgan Schneiderlin was a fantastic player for Saints, and will be remembered as an icon of the club’s recent rise. But people move on, and the Utd move is something that not many would be able to say no to.’
Ben Stanfield (from Teamtalk Fanzone) ‘Cedric Soares. I think he looks like a really bright young talent who, in glimpses against Vitesse, showed he will thrive in getting forward to create opportunities for Saints. He looks physically strong, is quick and seems to have an experienced head on young shoulders. The acid test, which hasn’t really been seen yet, is his defending – particularly against Premier League attackers..’
Ben (from Go Marching In) ‘Cédric Soares – Has looked very assured already despite only playing a few games in a Saints shirt. I like his positivity going forward and have a feeling he could bag a couple of goals in his first season.’
Ben McQuaide (from McQuaide’s Musings and SportsPulse) ‘Without a doubt, Jordy Clasie. I’ve wanted him at Southampton for quite a while now and after watching him a fair bit in the Eredivisie I’m convinced he’ll be a hit in the Premier League.’
Which Saints player do you think will have the biggest impact (secure move to United/Liverpool/Spurs) on the Premier League this season?
Me ‘Sadio Mane. He is such an exciting player and already making a name for himself. Still only 23 I think he is destined for the top sooner rather than later.’
GdlC ‘Sadio Mane- he will hopefully be better equipped in his 2nd season to keep a high level of performance right through.’
CA ‘It’s going to be Sadio Mané. He’s gonna tear it up. Big Vic will keep being Big Vic too, so he’s another who will have a big impact. Let’s hope that Jay Rodriguez makes his mark too.’
SD ‘Sadio Mane. He will win us games single-handedly .’
GG ‘I really think this is Sadio Mané’s year. He’s settled into the team well, but it was noticeable how much physically he had grown and looks frighteningly quick. He could become a real superstar this season.’
BS ‘Sadio Mane. I’m really looking forward to seeing Sadio have a full season with Saints. He was one of the more consistent performers across last year and has already shown in pre-season that he is ready to go. I think he should, and will, be targeting 20 goals for Saints this season. He could well be the key to us winning a few close games.’
B ‘Sadio Mane – One the most fouled players in the Premier League last season. Feel that if he has another impressive season we’ll be fighting off some big offers for him next summer.’
BM ‘Sadio Mane, if he can maintain or better his form from the second half of last season for a whole season he’s gonna tear teams apart and I think he could score 15+ goals this season.’
How do you rate our transfer business out of 10?
Me ‘So far I would say it is a 7-8, add another centre half, and in my opinion an out and out striker and then it would be higher.’
GdlC ‘Hard to tell until they’ve adapted (or not)…. on the face of it, it looks like an 8 or 9 out of 10. A top quality centre back in addition to Caulker will make it even better.’
SD ‘6 or 7. Difficult to argue that we won’t be worse off without Clyne and Schneiderlin, but the players that have replaced them aren’t THAT much worse, so we should still be competitive.’
GG ‘If Saints can get the CB to replace Alderweireld, 10 for me. The players who had left all had understandable reasons for going, but once again the transfer committee seem to have brought in the right replacements.’
BS ‘I’d say a 7. We seemed well prepared for any departures but, unlike last year, we didn’t need wholesale changes this summer anyway. If we can get a top-class CB in, like Van Dijk for example, then that 7 can become an 8/9 and I think we’re ready to go!’
BM ‘Probably a 6, the replacements look pretty solid for those that departed but I think we may be slightly weaker than last season, starting XI wise. ‘
Morgan Schneiderlin. Impossible to truly replace?
Me ‘Not impossible but incredibly difficult. I hope the Wanyama/Clasie partnership hits the ground running, if it does then we are going to be fine.’
GdlC ‘Maybe hard to immediately replace but you have to give time for a player to grow into the role. Once Clasie gets used to English football, he may well be that man. He has roughly the same number of caps for Holland as Morgan has for France – all he doesn’t have is the English football experience.’
CA ‘Probably, but we’ve given it a very good go.’
SD ‘He will definitely be missed, but we’re still pretty strong in that area of the pitch. Victor Wanyama is one of the best midfielders around and if Jordy Clasie doesn’t cut it, Harrison Reed will be ready to step up.’
GG ‘In all honesty, he is not impossible to replace, because no one is for a club the size of Southampton. He was an incredible player, but like I said earlier; people move on. Le Tissier retired, Channon left, Nick Holmes, Terry Paine, Rickie Lambert.. They all stopped playing for Saints, but the club is still there.’
BS ‘No player is ever truly irreplaceable. Morgan was a class act, no doubt about that, but I really feel Wanyama can step up to the same level Morgan was playing at each week and become the star of our Midfield. I wish Morgan well but we will survive without him.’
B ‘I think so. The ability to win the ball back, control the game with his distribution and an engine to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. A lot of players only specialise in one of those areas but Morgan was capable of them all. In Jordy Clasie we have a player who can certainly tick a lot of those boxes, but I think he’ll need time to find his feet in the Premier League. But at 24 there’s plenty of time for him to become as integral to Southampton as Morgan was.‘
BM ‘Wouldn’t say irreplaceable, top class player but I think Clasie will replace him well.’
Who will win the Premier League?
Me ‘Chelsea, but not as easily as they did last season.’
GdlC ‘Vitesse Arnhem’s feeder club.’
CA ‘Chelsea. Manchester United will push them but the Blues have got the knack.’
SD ‘Man United.’
GG ‘In my opinion, it’ll take a lot to stop Utd if they can add another attacker. ‘
BS ‘If United ‘click’ then I think they could go close – which they should do after the ridiculous amounts of money they’ve spent over the last two years – but I think it’ll be Chelsea’s to lose again. They are generally the epitome of consistency.’
BM ‘Chelsea, again. Despite concerns over Diego Costa’s hamstring.’
Who will go down?
Me ‘Bournemouth, Sunderland & Norwich.’
GdlC ‘Tottenham, Liverpool and I don’t really care who else.’
CA ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Sunderland.’
SD ‘Aston Villa, Leicester and Bournemouth.’
GG ‘Bournemouth, Leicester and Norwich’
BS ‘Watford, Leicester and Norwich.’
B ‘Leicester, Norwich and Watford.’
BM ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Leicester.’
Who do you most want to beat this season?
Me ‘Whoever we get in the cup final.’
CA ‘Liverpool. For obvious reasons. Chelsea and Tottenham are others, but only because I have mates who support them.’
SD ‘Tottenham, we must be due a win against them by now.’
GG ‘Everybody… ;-). For me, I’d like Saints to beat Tottenham, purely because they’re the only team in the top six clubs that I haven’t seen Saints claim all three points from since promotion.’
BS ‘Liverpool and Tottenham. Both for obvious reasons of course!’
B ‘Probably Liverpool. Tottenham was a close second but the scousers win because they have more ex Saints players in their team. It’s got a lot to do with showing that we’re not weaker without them.’
BM ‘Liverpool, without a doubt. You know the reasons. ‘
Chips. Mayonnaise or No Mayonnaise?
Me ‘No. Total Dutch nonsense I’m afraid. HP Sauce (now made in Holland) is your standard chip affair.’
GdlC ‘I am determined to try the mayonnaise option soon! Will get back to you.’
CA ‘Mayonnaise, and lots of it. ‘
SD ‘No Mayonnaise. Sorry Ronald.’
GG ‘I tried chips with mayonnaise in Rotterdam for the Feyenoord friendly, and can see why they love it there. But for me, salt, pepper and vinegar is a winner. So is Reggae Reggae sauce.’
BS ‘I’m afraid this is (probably) the only thing in life that Ronald and I don’t agree on. Chips for me can only ever have one condiment on them – tomato ketchup!! So no mayonnaise for me. Sorry Ron!’
B ‘Mayonnaise. Lots of it.’
BM ‘Mayonnaise, obviously.’
You wake up suddenly and find yourself in Fratton Park for a Pompey home game. How do you escape unnoticed?
Me ‘There is a scene in the US zombie drama ‘The Walking Dead’ where the heroes smother themselves in zombie blood and guts and then act brain-dead to blend in and walk freely amongst the zombies. Like that. But using fish guts.’
GdlC ‘Grow an extra finger on each hand, an extra toe on each foot and an eye in the middle of my forehead, sing ‘Amarillo’ and shout ‘I HATE FACKING SCUMMAHS’and then (most importantly) blame the owners for everything. Now that I’m fully blended in… I can leave.’
CA ‘Fratton Park? Isn’t that where the big Tesco’s is now?’
SD ‘Reckon it’ll be pretty easy for me to navigate my way through rows of empty seats.’
GG ‘Stick on a thick coat, and casually walk towards the exit. If they say I can’t get back in, I’ll say I’ve left my car unlocked. Simple!’
BS ‘I’d turn to the only other guy in attendance and advise that I think I’ve left my car unlocked and will be right back….’
B ‘Scary thought. I would probably go for some sort of diversion tactic, saying loudly, “Isn’t that guy over there from HMRC?” and then walk briskly in the other direction.’
BM ‘I think you mean the Portsmouth Dockland Stadium (See below). ‘
Cheers to all those who took the time to answer questions. We’ll all meet back here in May and see how right (or wrong) we got it!
Better late than never! The results of this years ‘Ali’s’ are in.
Given the short notice the response was fantastic and it serves as a good reminder about how good a season Saints had that there were so many varied answers for each award and a couple of the result ran very close.
This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-
So without further ado, here are YOUR winners…
Player of the Year
This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.
Scored points:- James Ward-Prowse (<1%), Sam Gallagher (<1%), Saphir Taider (<1%), Dani Osvaldo (<1%), Artur Boruc (<1%), Steven Davis (1%), Dusan Tadic (1%), Nathaniel Clyne (1%), Fraser Forster (2%), Graziano Pelle (4%), Toby Alderweireld (5%), Victor Wanyama (8%), Ryan Bertrand (10%).
3rd Place:- Morgan Schneiderlin (12%)
2nd Place:- Sadio Mane (13%)
And the winner is……with a huge 43% of the points, proving that some people are born to be leaders…..Jose Fonte!
Young Player of the Year
An award of particular interest given the reputation the club has built for producing talent. A strong field would have to produce a strong winner!
Received Votes:- Sam Gallagher (1%), Paulo Gazzaniga (1%), Saphir Taider (1%), Ryan Seager (4%), Sadio Mane (6%).
3rd Place:- Matthew Targett (18%)
2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (21%)
And the winner is……with 47% of the votes a player who truly made the jump from backup to regular first team squad member…..Harrison Reed!
Received Votes:- Kelvin Davis (1%), Sammy Saint (1%), Morgan Schneiderlin (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Paulo Gazzaniga (1%), Jack Cork (1%), Sapher Taider (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Jose Fonte (2%), Les Reed (2%), Graziano Pelle (3%), Frazer Forster (7%), Steven Davis (10%), Shane Long (12%).
3rd Place:- Maya Yoshida (13%)
2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (20%)
And the winner is….with 21% of the votes, breaking back into the England squad after an impressive debut season on the South Coast….Ryan Bertrand!
Joint 3rd Place:- Frazer Forster & Graziano Pelle (12%)
2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (24%)
And the winner is….with 41% of the votes the World Record breaking Senegalese…..Sadio Mane!
Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)
Received Votes:- Fonte at Old Trafford (1%), Team v Newcastle at St. Mary’s (1%), Taider v Bayer Leverkusen (1%), Long v Leicester at St. Mary’s (1%), Team v Everton at St. Mary’s (1%), Team at Stamford Bridge (2%), Long v Villa at St. Mary’s (3%), Forster at the Emirates (4%), Team v Arsenal at St. Mary’s (5%), Tadic v Sunderland at St. Mary’s (7%), Mane v Villa at St. Mary’s (13%).
3rd Place:- Team v Villa at St. Mary’s (14%)
2nd Place:- Team at Old Trafford (22%)
And the winner is…..with 24% of the vote I’m not sure it could really have been anything else but…..Team v Sunderland at St. Mary’s!
The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment
It says everything about the gallows humour of being a Saints fan that this award always comes with most varied answers. Brace yourselves…
Received Votes:- Villa’s Defence, ‘Fucking Weather’, Long’s ‘dummy’ cross, Pompey’s season, Mane falling over, Any of Alex Crook’s articles, Lovren & Lallana’s agent’s work, Steward’s ‘Rock Bottom’ on a Liverpool fan, Goal conceded at Newcastle, Tadic assist past Lovren, Pelle’s anger when others score, Saphir Taider, Long pole axing Leicester player during goal celebration, Fonte constantly getting away with stonewall penalties, Swansea at home, Kevin Friend, Gus Poyet, Wanyama’s goal at Hull, Mane’s 3 minute hat trick ignored by the press, Dr. Barry Gale, Relegation predictions of the collective media, #GoodLuckTim, MELTDOWN, Sunderland fans celebrating a corner, Wanyama’s skill against Arsenal, Dejan Lovren’s fall from grace.
3rd Place:- ‘Chips without mayonnaise is not chips’ (12%)
2nd Place:- Smug Ronald after the Sunderland game (14%)
And the winner is…..with 31% of the vote, the more you watch it, the more hapless it gets….Santiago Vergini’s own goal!
Best Opposition Team
Received Votes:- Manchester United, Sunderland, Leicester City, Swansea City.
3rd Place:- Arsenal (4%)
2nd Place:- Chelsea (35%)
And the winner is…..with 54% of the vote, they may not have won the title but they were comprehensive in their victory at St. Mary’s…..Manchester City!
Best Opposition Player
Received Votes:- Oscar (Chelsea), Ashley Williams (Swansea), Guly, Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Nabil Bentaleb (Spurs), David Silva (Man City), Ron Vlaar (Villa), Frank Lampard (Man City), Yaya Toure (Man City), Coutinho (Liverpool).
3rd Place:- Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) (8%)
2nd Place:- Sergio Aguero (Man City) (13%)
And the winner is…with 59% of the vote without doubt the standout player in the Premier League over the last 12 months….Eden Hazard!
Best Opposition Fans
Received Votes:- West Brom, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Spurs, West Ham, Swansea, Liverpool, Man City, Ipswich, Burnley, Sunderland, Villa.
3rd Place:- Leicester City (11%)
2nd Place:- Manchester United (15%)
And the winner is….with 35% of the vote and retaining their title from last season….Crystal Palace!
Best Saints related Tweeter
Just a bit of fun as always, and pleasing to see so many people vote for themselves again!
Received Votes:- DeppoInExile, KitmanForbsey, JoeBlakey9, mattsmirk, Saint_Alpine, Matt Le Tiss, YoshidaPics, jayrodfan2, Graziano Pelle, leesfcmyers, SamDobson1, nathizzle, uniquesaints, EthanESFC, Ugly Inside, Jim Lucas, L1Minus10, gwcdotcom, GGalpin95, Images of Ronald, Alex Crook, RupertAspden, Benstanners, TalkSaints, Official Club Account, Ronald Koeman.
3rd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)
And the joint winners are….with 17% of the vote each, retaining from last year……Connor Armstrong! and embarrasingly…..crstig!
So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted. A big thank you to Kristian Oake for the Photoshop wizardry! It was another great season, and we are on the verge of another one! Keep the faith!
What sets Southampton apart from other clubs these days is their investment in youth.
Enough has been said about it now and it is common knowledge that the Saints Academy is the best in Britain, and has been for some years.
Often people will point out though that the Southampton youth sides don’t win anything ‘so can’t be that good’, but in comparison to the youth teams of say Chelsea or Manchester City, the coaching staff of the Southampton Under 21’s are constantly losing their best players to the first team.
In last night’s Under 21 Premier League Cup final that was evident as Southampton faced off against Blackburn Rovers with nine players who have represented the senior side at some point either in this season or last.
Paulo Gazzaniga, Jason McCarthy, Matt Targett, Dominic Gape, Harrison Reed, Sam…