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.’
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
If there is one complaint that all Saints fans have had in common of late, it’s that we were in desperate need of a striker.
There was one name that was repeatedly on the lips of the supporters, an out and out goalscorer who had proved his point in the Premier League in the last campaign, and seemingly the ideal man to come in and lead the line at St. Mary’s.
It’s not often though that the supporters and the club find themselves on the same wavelength when it comes to transfer business so the breaking news on Saturday morning that on this occasion they actually were, was both perfectly timed and a pleasant surprise.
To seal such a sought after striker, whose record is prolific at every level at such a bargain price of £4 million, is staggering business for the club and the only thing left to ask is, what took so you long Charlie?
You see, ever since this site was in it’s infancy, and Saints were playing in League One, it’s always felt to me like destiny that Charlie Austin would one day turn out for us. As mentioned in a nostalgic piece here, the then Swindon Town forward was our ‘tormentor in chief’ at the time.
Having grown up on the South Coast, I remember feeling he might have been one that had slipped through Saints proverbial net, having caught the Robin’s eye while banging in the goals at Poole Town!
Austin was often the difference in games between us and Swindon, and he also notched against Saints in the Championship with Burnley, not to mention last season’s spectacular strike at St. Mary’s in the Premier League.
As Saints have progressed so has Austin at an equal rate, and now is the time for them to move on together!
Austin’s addition couldn’t be any more welcome, and with supporters starting to feel restless after a poor run of late, the return of Fraser Forster, two good wins on the bounce and the announcement of such a good goalscorer joining the squad has brought the confidence flooding back into the stands.
Saints fans love a goalscorer and it was perhaps fitting that Charlie Austin was sat in the stands watching his new team-mates while a former legendary front-man in Rickie Lambert returned with West Brom.
Graziano Pelle and Shane Long have been great in patches this season, but this added competition can only be a good thing, and in Austin it feels like we might have another talisman forward on our hands. Perhaps even the man to takeover from Lambert and join predecessors James Beattie, Le Tiss et al as the focal point in the team.
It feels like a move that makes perfect sense for all parties for a change. QPR got a fee before losing out altogether in the Summer, Saints got their goalscorer, and Charlie Austin has a six month crack at the England Euro 2016 squad.
It’s been a while since Saints made a transfer that inspired such confidence in the stands, and there was a buzz amongst the fans I was watching the WBA game with, while those St. Mary’s were clearly audibly lifted!
Just when it feels like Saints are getting us down again, they know just how to scoop us back up.
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?
Football is as fickle a business as they come. Already this season we have seen fans on social media outlets ludicrously question Ronald Koeman’s position as manager after a shaky start, and as crazy as it seems now, the instantaneous medium that the likes of twitter offer means football’s fickleness is at it’s peak.
If anyone had seriously doubted Ronald’s credentials, it would be interesting to know on what grounds. It can’t be results, in that department he has surely exceeded expectations. It can’t be the standard of football, Saints on their day are as exciting as anyone in the league in terms of their approach. So perhaps it is signings? Wrong again, and that brings me neatly to the subject of this blog.
Nothing epitomises the Dutchman’s success in the transfer market than Graziano Pellè. If we are talking about kneejerk reactions, the Italian striker has suffered every type. Initially written off as not being good enough, then revered, before being written off again on the back of a lean spell in front of goal. Even during his run in the goals last season there were many who weren’t taken by Pellè and perhaps have allowed those initial thoughts to form into a stubborn prejudice that now refuses to acknowledge his contribution.
The reality is, Pellè has been a revelation. A bone fide fantastic signing. You might often hear people say that he doesn’t score ‘enough goals’, but given his all round contribution to the way the team plays I would argue that isn’t a disaster. Having said that 23 in 56 appearances isn’t bad in this day and age anyway. It is actually an almost identical goal ratio in English football to Romelu Lukaku for instance.
Over the Summer many Saints fans (myself included) were insistent that the club should be looking at other strikers. The likes of Charlie Austin were long talked about and perhaps we had all got a little carried away with ourselves and the now traditional Southampton need for constant improvement. So far this season Pelle has been fantastic. Sure, when the early season form was poor from the team as a unit, he suffered as he was getting little to no service at times, but as the team began to click so did the Italian, and he has been almost unplayable since.
Recent performances against Manchester United and Chelsea particularly highlighted his importance, and why Ronald Koeman has complete faith in him. Superb in the air, never letting the centre halves have a moments rest, setting up chance after chance with his back to goal before burying one himself. Mix all that up with the odd unnecessary flick or back heel and that is Graziano Pellè in a nutshell. I read a tweet (but I can no longer find it unfortunately to credit the author) that described Pellè as the ideal mix of old school English striker and fancy dan foreigner. Perfect.
After the rout of MK Dons, for which Pellè was rested I was amazed to see some fans complain that the Italian might be brought straight back into the team. The fact that he has 7 goals and 5 assists against much tougher opposition escaping those whose prejudice has long been formed. As much as we all want Jay Rodriguez to return to the force he had become, it has to be as part of a team alongside Pellè, he could certainly benefit from the Italian’s expert hold up play, much as Sadio Mane has.
If that wasn’t enough evidence of his greatness, it is worth pointing out that at the age of 29 he received his first call up to the Azzurri last season and has been a regular ever since. As he joins up with them this week his record to date is 3 goals in 6 games, a pretty good start at international level. Italy manager Antonio Conte recently said that he hopes ‘Pellè can be an example for other players to follow’.
If goals, assists and all round impressive play at all levels aren’t your cup of tea though, what about passion? Since arriving at St. Mary’s Pellè has really seemed to embrace being at the club and his reaction to scoring is always like it’s his first ever goal. For me he is part of the furniture now and has the potential to join other strikers like Rickie Lambert, Marian Pahars and James Beattie (another who suffered the odd barren spell) as cult heroes at the club.
I guess my point at the end of all this is simply that Graziano Pellè is certainly a player you’d rather have with you than against you. Is he the most natural player in the world, perhaps not, but he produces the goods on a fairly regular basis. Scoring goals is an art form, and while not everyone can do it with the constant grace of a Messi or a Ronaldo, simply doing it is enough.
Pellè is Southampton’s and Southampton is Pellè’s.
After the strangeness surrounding Leighton Baines not taking Everton’s penalty against West Brom on Monday night, our friends at Oulala.com decided to have a look at the the Premier League’s best ever penalty takers with some interesting result for Saints fans…. – Chris
Following ‘Mirallas-gate’ on Monday night we have taken a closer look to who the five best ever Premier League penalty takers are.
It’s no surprise that Kevin Mirallas failed to make the cut…
Of course it’s Saints own Matt Le Tissier that leads the way in terms of conversion-rate based on a minimum 10 spot-kicks taken.
Nicknamed ‘Le God’, Le Tissier found the back of the net with an incredible 25 of the 26 penalties he took during 10 seasons in the Premier League with the Saints. An outstanding 96.2% success-rate from the spot. Considered as one of the greatest ever from 12 yards his overall record is 47 goals from 48 penalties.
Danny Murphy enjoyed Premier League spells at Liverpool, Charlton, Tottenham and Fulham during his professional career converting 18 of his 19 EPL penalties at a more than modest rate of 94.7%, just enough to take second spot.
In third comes another ex-Saint, James Beattie. The striker spent much of his career in the Premier League which included time at four other clubs, Blackburn, Everton, Stoke City and Blackpool. With success from 16 of the 17 Premier League penalties he took gave him a conversion-rate of 94.1%.
Defender Julian Dicks spent the majority of his career at West Ham United, with a short stint at Liverpool, comes in fourth alongside the only current Premier League player in the top 5, Everton and England left-back Leighton Baines, both sharing the same record. The pair have converted 15 of the 16 penalties they have taken, a rate of 93.8%.
Of the chasing pack two current players have 100% records from the spot, however have taken less than 10 penalties. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has converted all 8 of the penalties that he has stepped up to in the Premier League while Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has converted all 7 of his spot-kicks.
Note. Six out of Six for Rickie Lambert in a Premier League Saints shirt too! – Chris
Apologies for the lack of a Saints/Chelsea team, I was beaten by time I’m afraid! Never mind that though, the result was more than most were hoping for so we can move on and not worry about it.
I started collating this Saints and Everton team last night, and as you will see, it is a little weak defensively as we don’t seem to have shared many players at all, and certainly not many defenders (at least that I could remember/find out) so if anyone knows of any let me know!
After failing to force David Seaman out of the team at Arsenal, highly rated young keeper Wright signed for Everton in 2002. Although he looked to be first choice he was displaced by Nigel Martyn and suffered a series of injuries which meant he only made 60 appearances in 5 years and eventually released. He signed for West Ham for free but didn’t make play a single game for them and was soon loaned to Saints in the 2007/08 season. He was brilliant for Saints, putting in several fantastic performances in his 7 games.
Full back Molyneux came through the youth system at Goodison Park but never quite made the grade. He signed for Saints in January 2009 but it seemed the Championship was still a couple of grades too high and made just 4 appearances for the club which included a game against Swansea where he was sent off. A reckless tackler, he was loaned to Port Vale and then released. He has since played for Plymouth and Accrington Stanley. Who are they? Exactly.
Current Saints player Danny Fox was another product of the Everton Academy. The left back made the first team bench at the age of 18 but never made it on to the pitch for Everton and was loaned to Gateshead and Stranraer. He was released in 2005 and signed for Walsall where he attracted a lot of attention. He moved to Coventry, Celtic and then Burnley before joining Saints in August 2011. Has made 6 league appearances for the club this season.
Scotsman Gabriel played a defensive midfield role for the Toffees between 1960 and 1967 having started his career at Dundee. He was sold by Everton to Saints in ’67 for £42,500 and stayed until 1972 playing as part of the team’s defence. He later played for Bournemouth, Swindon, Brentford and Seattle Sounders before moving into management, mainly in America but had two spells as caretaker boss at Goodison. League and cup winner with Everton.
‘Sparky’ Hughes came to Saints in 1998 after an illustrious career as a striker with Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea. We played him in midfield, he was pants. Scored 2 goals in well over fifty appearances and left for Everton in 2000, he is seemingly a lot more highly regarded by the Toffees fans and played 18 games before ending his career at Blackburn Rovers.
Chirpy Scouser Reid was born in Huyton, Merseyside but started his career with Bolton Wanderers. He signed for Everton in 1982 and won a plethora of honours and made his way in to the 1986 England world cup squad. He played 159 times for Everton before moving to QPR in 1989 before heading to Manchester City where he became player-manager. Bizarrely after being sacked as City manager he resumed his playing career at Saints, making 7 appearances in the 1993-94 season! Played for Bury and Notts County before retuning to management with Sunderland. Has since managed Leeds, Coventry, Thailand and Plymouth.
Geordie Richardson came through the youth ranks with Everton, signing for the club in 1978, and went on to make 109 appearances for them until 1986. He was a league and cup winner with the Toffees but fell behind Bracewell, Reed and Sheedy in the pecking order and eventually left the club for Watford. He had spells at Arsenal, Real Sociedad, Aston Villa and Coventry City before signing for Saints in 1997. Coming to the end of his career Richardson only played the one season at the Dell and moved to Barnsley the following summer before a spell at Blackpool and retirement.
Considered by some as a bit of a journeyman, Curran was certainly a showman and a self titled ‘maverick’. Having started his career in his native Yorkshire with Doncaster Rovers he was signed by Brian Clough for Nottingham Forest, after a disagreement with the coaching staff Curran spent time on loan at Bury before moving to Derby County. Again his time was short at the Baseball Ground and he signed for Saints just a season later in 1978. It was another short stay of just a season, but he was part of the team that reached the ’79 league cup final. Oddly he took the decision to drop two divisions and sign for Sheffield Wednesday that summer, but became a legend at Hillsbrough and had his longest career spell there, playing in 138 games. Had spell in Sweden and for Sheffield United before moving to Everton in 1982 (initially on loan). He didn’t make much of an impact at Goodison and was soon off again. Playing for Huddersfield, Panionis, Hull, Sunderland, Grantham, Grimsby and Chesterfield before retiring in 1987.
It is difficult to find anyone in football that is fondly remembered at all their clubs, but Alan Ball certainly fits that bill. Ball’s career started in dramatic fashion. Having impressed for Blackpool (having been rejected as a youth by Bolton) he made the 1966 World Cup squad, and the rest as they say is history. Many argue that Ball was England’s best player in the successful final. This prompted a move to Everton and played his part in the ‘Holy Trinity’ with Colin Harvey and Howard Kendall. Ball was a league winner at Goodison in 1970 and played for the club over 200 times. He left for Arsenal in 1971 and stayed for five years before heading to the Dell in 1976. He was a member of the Saints promotion winning team of 1978 and league cup finalist alongside Curran in 1979. He played 132 times for Saint before heading to the emerging North American Soccer League. He returned to England in 1980 for second spells at Blackpool (player-manager) and then Saints, playing another 63 times before his career ended at Bristol Rovers. He returned to management at Portsmouth and went on to lead Stoke, Exeter, Saints, Man City and Pompey again. Sadly passed away in 2007. R.I.P.
Welshman Horne was briefly part of the youth setup at Liverpool before making his professional debut with Wrexham in 1984, he was part of the Wrexham side that knocked Porto out of the Cup Winners Cup, Horne himself scoring in the second leg. He moved to Portsmouth in 1987 and stayed for two seasons before crossing the M27 divide and joining south coast rivals Saints. He played 112 times for Saints between 1989 and 1992 and was part of the team that was runners up in the ZDS final of ’92. He signed for his boyhood club Everton that summer and went on to be an FA cup winner in 1995. He scored for the Toffees in the controversial relegation decider against Wimbledon in 1994. He went on to play for Birmingham, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday, Kidderminster and Walsall before retiring in 2002. Capped 59 times by his country.
Beattie was a revelation for Saints after an initial drought after signing from Blackburn in 1998. He would become an important part of a growing success at Saints as his goals (mostly in spells) made him a firm fan’s favourite. In a tail of two celebrations, he was lauded for his ear cupping of the Pompey fans who had disgracefully booed a minutes silence for Ted Bates, but then took a shine off of his own legendary status by celebrating a goal at St. Mary’s on his sift return to the club. Having left for Goodison in January 2005 with Saints on a slippery slope, Beattie had said pre-match that he wouldn’t celebrate a goal against Saints, but did. Played 76 times for Everton but never quite had the impact they had hoped. Went on to have a fruitful spell at Sheffield United before lean spells at Stoke, Rangers, Blackpool and back at Brammal Lane. Now playing for Accrington Stanley. Who are they? Exactly.
So there we have it. An odd formation, and defensively it looks pretty poor, but not a bad midfield eh? Paul Rideout is the only other player I could think of and misses out, but would love to hear of any others that people know of?
Stephen Crainey Danny Higginbotham Calum Davenport Olivier Bernard
Ryan Smith David Prutton Nigel Quashie Lee Molyneux
Jonathan Forte Dany N’Guessan
The bad, the very bad, and the ugly.
Not a great team is it? What do they have in common? They are all master strokes by Saints in the fabled January transfer window. I challenge any club to come up with a worse lineup from January signings than that?
If you look at our entire signing history since the January window came about, it is ridiculously unimpressive.
Bartosz Bialkowski, Alexander Ostlund, Jim Brennan.
Lee Molyneux, Ryan Smith.
Jose Fonte, John Otsemobor, Dan Seaborne, Lee Barnard
Jonathan Forte, Richard Chaplow, Dany N’Guessan
Tadanari Lee, Billy Sharp
There are some clear exceptions, Jose Fonte, Dan Seaborne, Lee Barnard, Richard Chaplow and Billy Sharp have all made big contributions, and Tadanari Lee hasn’t had much of a chance to show us what he’s got, but when John Otsemobor isn’t making that eleven it shows just how poor it is.
January is the time when managers might panic buy, and looking at some of those names (Anyone seen a worse professional defender than Calum Davenport?) that must have been the case.
Undoubtedly we will strengthen again this season (though Nigel Adkins has surprised a few by saying there won’t be another keeper coming in), but let’s hope they are more the calibre of the last few seasons than the early 00’s!
More Jose Fonte’s, less Olivier Bernard’s please.
The players brought in in the summer look to have been pretty solid so far, so let’s hope the transfer policy continues in the same vein over the next 30 days. You can make or break your season with the acquisitions you make in this window. More quality needs to come in, but not at the expense of the team spirit and unity. Not an easy job.
No doubt we are in for some of the usual bonkers rumours, but we should remember to be patient.
p.s. If this hasn’t depressed you enough, have a butchers at the players that have LEFT us in January transfer windows….. Chris Marsden, Antti Niemi, James Beattie, Theo Walcott…
This was the hyperbole and conjecture that greeted Saints fans on reveal of this season’s coming Premier League fixtures. I looked at it a slighty different way.
Exciting. ‘Back where we belong’. Challenging….
After all, there is no easy games in the Premier League, you have to play every team twice, and our fate will be sealed based on our performances in those games the same as it is for everybody else. Admittedly, having to play last season’s top three in our first four games isn’t ideal, but this lends itself to a plethora of speculation. It may be the best time to play them. They are likely to have new players, and be tinkering with new systems for example. But, actually what it has meant is that, should, God (or whichever fictional deity you choose to worship) forbid, we are in a scrap at the business end of the season, our last seven fixtures (on paper at least) couldn’t be kinder.
But there is that saying again. On paper, and that is all these fixtures are at the moment, a list. Nothing more, nothing less. There are only two teams we can really base our predictions on, those that joined us from the Championship, Reading and West Ham, the rest we haven’t played for at least two seasons.
But what if we took our head to head record (based on the last two competitive fixtures) against the rest of the clubs in the Premier League as a start point. How would we fare in the coming season?
First up we travel to the City of Manchester Stadium to take on the reigning champions. It was January 2007, the last time we made this trip, Kenwyne Jones found the net for Saints, but Man City ran away 3-1 winners with goals from Darius Vassell, Joey Barton and Damarcus Beasley. The last time City visited St. Mary’s it would end goaless in the Premier League fixture of October 2004. Points – 1.
Saints will open their Premier League home campaign with the visit of Wigan Athletic. It was January 1986 when the clubs last met on the South Coast, and in fact is the only competitive fixture between the two in their history! Glenn Cockerill and a brace by David Armstrong saw Saints through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. Points – 4 (A draw was allocated for the away game).
Manchester United will then make the trip to Southampton, despite a famous run of victories against the Red Devils, it will be 9 years and a day since we last beat them when we kick off on the 1st September. Our last meeting with Sir Alex and his men saw goals from Michael Owen and Javier Hernandez cancel out Richard Chaplow’s opener in the FA Cup 4th Round. Our last trip to Old Trafford ended in a 3-0 reverse at the hands of Scholes, Rooney and Ronaldo in December 2004. Points – 0.
An unlikely hero emerged on our last visit to Arsenal. Rory Delap got both goals in a two all draw, Henry and Van Persie on target for the Gunners! Peter Crouch scored at St. Mary’s in the same season to gain Saints a double of draws over the North London side. Points – 2.
Fans will want to forget the last time St. Mary’s hosted Aston Villa. Peter Crouch and Kevin Phillips gave Saints an early lead, only to lose 3-2. Carlton Cole, Nobby Solano and Steven Davis sealing the victory for Villa in April 2005. It was a 2-0 defeat at Villa Park, Carlton Cole and Darius Vassell getting the goals in an earlier game that season. Points – 0.
Everton were famed as a Saints “bogey team” for years, and in that same fateful final Premier League season, they were just as tight. A Leon Osman goal at the death decided matters at Goodison Park, while Saints managed a point at St. Mary’s with goals from Peter Crouch and Henri Camara cancelling out James “I definitely won’t celebrate” Beattie and Marcus Bent. Points – 1.
It was a goalfest the last time Saints hosted Fulham, a brace from Kevin Phillips and an own goal for the hosts, Radzinski, Malbranque and Bouba Diop for the visitors. The reverse fixture that season saw a victory for the cottagers through a solitary Tomas Radzinski strike. Points – 1.
West Ham are of course more recent opponents, Jos Hooiveld the scourge of East London, scoring the winner at St. Mary’s and then the equaliser at Upton Park last season. Points – 4.
After the trip to West Ham, Saints play host to their North London neighbours, the now Redknapp-less (shame) Spurs lost on their last visit, Nigel Quashie with the only goal of the game. It was a different story at White Hart Lane though, Saints put to the sword, losing 5-1. Jermain Defoe kept the match ball, Kanoute and Keane getting the other two, Peter Crouch got the consolation. Points – 3.
A trip to the Midlands follows, as Saints go to the Hawthorns. Saints last played WBA in the 2007/08 Championship season. Despite Albion going up as Champions that season and Saints needing last day heroics to stay up, it was the South Coast side that got the better of their two fixtures. Adam Lallana scored in the away leg in a 1-1 draw, while a double from Stern John and a Marek Saganowski strike secured all three points at home. Points – 4.
Swansea City will come to St. Mary’s in November, Saganowski earned Saints a point the last time this fixture happened in the 2008/09 Championship relegation season. The reverse game saw an easy run out for the Swans, Pratley, Gomez and Butler getting the goals in a 3-0 defeat for Saints. Points – 1.
In that same season, Saints suffered a heavy defeat at next opponents QPR. Ex-Saint Dexter Blackstock got a couple, Stewart and Ageymang also netted, Adam Lallana got Saints only reply. Later in the campaign, the two clubs played out a 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s. Points – 1.
Saints haven’t faced Newcastle United in a league game since 2004, going down 1-2 at home to goals from Alan Shearer and Titus Bramble, Peter Crouch almost inevitably being the Saints goalscorer in that season. The last time Saints visited St. James’ Park though is more recent. Keiron Dyer got the only goal in February 2006 in the FA Cup 5th round. Points – 0.
Saints and Norwich City both left the Premier League in the same season, so barring the past two seasons have been regular opponents. It was in the Johnstones Paint Trophy that the Canaries last came to St. Mary’s, A last minute Papa Waigo equaliser took the game to a penalty shootout which Saints won, subsequently lifting the trophy. A Lee Barnard brace saw Saints take all three points at Carrow Road that same season. Points – 6 (I know, I know, technically the JPT game was a draw after 90 minutes, but it’s my game and my rules).
A trip to Anfield beckons in December, just as it did in our last Premier League season. Florent Sinama-Pongolle scored the only goal of the game that time. Saints got their revenge over Liverpool at St. Mary’s just a month later, David Prutton and Peter Crouch ensuring a 2-0 victory. Points – 3.
In a reverse of last season, Saints will host Reading first. In the game that effectively conceded the title to their Berkshire rivals in April, Saints went down 3-1, Rickie Lambert on the scoresheet, but outdone by Jason Roberts and Adam Le Fondre. It was a 1-1 draw at the Madjeski, Steve de Ridder cancelling out Mikele Leigertwood’s opener. Points – 1.
The last time Saints went to Stamford Bridge, James Beattie scored at both ends, Frank Lampard sealing the points for Chelsea. Lampard scored again at St. Mary’s which coupled with an Eidur Gudjohnsen double meant Kevin Phillips’ goal was just a consolation. Points – 0.
Saints last faced Sunderland in the 2006/07 Championship season, going down 2-1 at home, after Gareth Bale had grabbed a last minute equaliser at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season. Points – 1.
The last club Saints will renew acquaintances with will be Stoke City. Tony Pulis and his merry band of ex-Southampton players will welcome Saints in the last game of 2012, and it was a 3-2 victory for the Potters in their last potteries encounter. It was an exact reverse of the scoreline in the same season at St. Mary’s, Drew Surman, Gregorz Rasiak and Jhon Viafara got the goals for Saints, Parkin and Fuller for Stoke. Points – 3.
So, if we can match those results, we will end on 36 points. Sounds bad doesn’t it? But, take into account that the majority of the games come from a terrible Premier League relegation campaign and consecutive horrific Championship seasons, it is surprisingly good.
Also, it is worth noting that 36 points would mean safety in six of the last ten Premier League seasons, though not the last two.
Of course, none of these teams look anything like the last time we played them, and neither do we. So this is all just speculation and conjecture. Of course it is, back where we started then….
You can see the full fixture list at the Saints Official Website here.
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