Tag Archives: James Ward-Prowse

Monotony & Apathy

‘Live together in perfect harmony’

Well, after another long term hiatus I’m back again. It’s been a while. The whole WordPress backend has changed, I’ve turned 40, and I’m not sure if it’s a combination of the two, or one of those things in particular, but I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Do not fear though dear reader, I’ve never let such a trivial matter as incompetence stop me before and I’m not about to start now!

I return to you rejuvenated. For I do not mind admitting that the last two and half years supporting Saints had become a struggle, and Saturday afternoons had become more about a pint and a chinwag with the Dubai Saints, and less about the ‘football’. Those of you that follow our Facebook Page or Twitter will know that we have a tradition of a group photo and the hashtag #win when we win (not rocket surgery), and when I first moved here drunkenly posing for these celebratory shots was the norm, but until recently they had become as rare as a Dejan Lovren winner’s medal.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a ‘woe is me, we don’t win every week’ post. I started going to the Dell in 1992, I can handle watching a pile of crap week in week out. The issue was not about how good the players were, or even whether we won, lost or drew, though of course winning is always the preferred option. Somewhere along the way, we lost our identity. It became boring, and my feeling towards Saints became apathetic. So what changed?

As is usual, when the fortunes of a football club change, it is likely a combination of factors rather than any one particular person or event. Let’s start with the coaches. When Ronald Koeman left us for Everton he was the fourth manager in a row that had been a successful appointment for Saints. He was also the fourth to have a presence, a personality and an aura around them that inspired a confidence in the fans, and logically the players too.

Claude Puel was none of those things. Not a bad bloke, just an incredibly dull one, and he coupled a lack of charisma off the pitch with monotonous, uninspiring football on it. Baffling team selections (Inter Milan Away anyone?) and zero risk taking that might turn a draw into a win condemned him to being the most successful disliked manager in Southampton history. Saints fans were largely mocked by the nations media and ex pros for wanting the Frenchman sacked, despite finishing 8th place in the Premier League and reaching the League Cup Final, and now Leicester fans find themselves in the same position, with the same complaints and the same mockery from the same sources. Coincidence?

https://twitter.com/FcPuel/status/1085224470900555777

The end of the Puel season meant a fresh start. Surely, the appointment of such a man far removed from the recent ideals of the club was a blip. Nope. We literally went and got the Argentine equivalent. That might be a little harsh, Mauricio Pelligrino at least talked a good game when he arrived, but it’s staggering to think the same nation that produced Maradona, Messi, Bielsa and a whole host of other footballing characters also brought us ‘Senor Frijol’. The football wasn’t a lot better, the results were even worse, and relegation beckoned to the soundtrack of scoffing and hand wringing from the ‘Ridiculous to sack Puel, what do Southampton expect’ brigade.

Saints were sleepwalking to the Championship under Pellegrino, of that I have no doubt. A lack of goals, a weak backbone and an uncanny knack of throwing away a lead meant he had to go. At the time, I called for Saints to be pragmatic for once and agreed with them that Leslie Mark Hughes was the only viable option. This was based on nothing more than the requirement for top flight experience when you are staring into the abyss that is the football league. And I was right. Sort of.

Let us not change history. The fact of the matter is that ‘Sparkey’ did what looked impossible and kept us up. Whether or not you believe that is down to his management/coaching ability or that there were simply three teams even worse than us is for you to decide. I am happy to admit that I believed he had earnt his chance for the job full time. More fool me. My apathy perhaps even reached peak under the reign of the miserable Welsh custodian of proper hand shake etiquette.

Under the tutelage of these three charisma vacuums, the club I loved was transformed from the industry leading, innovative, academy pushing, supremely likeable, entertaining, big boy toppling, exciting unit that were a joy to watch, no matter the result into a turgid collection of hapless misfits that were a chore to endure. I, like many Saints fans found myself watching the games only out of some ridiculous sense of unenforced duty.

But were the managers the only problem?

Les Reed. Let this be the official stance of georgeweahscousin.com. I was never one to turn on Reed, and I am grateful to the man for the role he played in the best era of supporting Saints in my life. But, as the old saying goes, ‘Sometimes, a change is as good as a rest’. With two and a half poor managerial appointments in a row, it can only be fair to say, the magic had perhaps dried up. It certainly felt like things had gone stale behind the scenes, and the decision to remove Reed from his role when it came to it, was a long time coming. Not only did the coaching choices go downhill, but so did the recruitment of players. The time of unearthing gems like Mane, Van Dijk etc was gone, and what followed was a string of expensive failures. Sofiane Boufal, Wesley Hoedt and Garrido Carrillo all cost big money and are all now out on loan, likely on wages that make them difficult to move them on permanently. Jannik Vestegaard and Elyounoussi are the latest to struggle to make an impact on the first team.

Which brings me to the playing squad itself. Throughout this tough period, there was often the suggestion that the squad itself, simply wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, that it lacked the quality to succeed as it once had done. For me this was never the case, and while recruitment wasn’t necessarily improving the starting XI, we still had a top ten Premier League squad, they were just being poorly utilised and poorly motivated. Good players don’t become bad players overnight. But they can lose their way.

I don’t want to do an in depth analysis of every member of the squad, but by highlighting just a few I think I can make my point. The first is Oriol Romeu, in his first season with the club he was the impenetrable wall between midfield and defence, player of the season and hugely popular, his downward spiral coincides perfectly with that of the club, ending with him being a bit part player under Mark Hughes, who looked a shadow of his former self when used. Nathan Redmond has been the victim of some unsavoury over the top criticism, and somehow became the poster boy for our poor football at times. This blog was calling for Saints to sign Redmond long before they did, and never lost faith in his ability as a player, but it was often agonising to watch him take the blame from sections of the crowd for lacklustre team performances. Redmond is a dynamic attacking player, and it is almost criminal that three coaches almost managed to sap that out of him. Remember how upset we all got when Pep Guardiola weirdly berated him on the pitch for not using his attacking intent more effectively? Pep was right.

Ryan Bertrand is an odd one. Many people, myself included have bemoaned his perceived lack of interest and his unenthusiastic manner in games, but with retrospect was he just another victim of the monotonous chore being involved with Saints had become? He quickly took to his Instagram to comment on having a sense of direction under the new manager. Will we see the old Bertrand back soon?

When you look at the upturn in performances from Romeu & Redmond under the new manager, couple them with the resurgence of Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse. Danny Ings scoring goals. Two Goalkeepers making serious claims for the number 1 spot. Stuart Armstrong now showing us why we signed him, and PEH looking like the player that was so highly rated by Guardiola at Bayern; you realise that we shouldn’t be in a relegation battle. Our squad isn’t poor, it was simply in a self inflicted malaise. Neil Warnock said we had the best squad outside the top 8, and while he doesn’t always make sense (#ColinonBrexit), I agree we are there or thereabouts.

So what has Ralph Hasenhüttl done differently? Well, from a very basic point of view he has immediately got the fans onside. That sounds very simplistic, and obviously if performances and results improve then that comes naturally, but, he did it before a ball was kicked. His passionate and charismatic opening gambit as Saints boss brought a renewed hope to a beleaguered faithful and that small psychological tactic, whether it was intentional or not goes a long way. The man is a leader, and instantly we wanted to follow him. If we felt like that so quickly, it is not a huge leap of faith to suggest the players felt the same.

On the pitch, it feels very much like normal service has been resumed. His intensive high pressing dynamic system is entertaining and we look like we are enjoying our football again. There is a tactical shrewdness that saw us get fantastic away results at Chelsea and Leicester and #win photos are on the rapid increase. I could bore you with the statistical comparisons between him and previous managers, but I’m sure you are already aware of them. To summarise, he has improved us in every area already, considerably, and our pathway has been re-opened. If all this wasn’t enough, his passionate reaction to goals and victorious full time whistles endears him to us even further.

It’s early days, but the future looks bright again, and the manager hasn’t even brought any players of his own choosing yet. If our form continues, we can hopefully bring this season to a close without a nail biting finish and prepare for a much more entertaining and successful one. Soon we could be back to the Halcyon days when our only worries were when our top players would be poached or where the manager might jump ship to. Oh fuck.

Keep the faith.

Chris

Eight ways to cure goal shy Saints….

It will not have escaped your attention dear reader, that Saints have for some time been a little goal shy. In fact the club’s hierarchy is said to be tempted to change the match-day host to Paul O’Grady† and Ben Elton is considering writing a book about us‡.

To that end I tasked myself with coming up with solutions to this issue, and hopefully see us not be subjected to another week of frustration in front of goal.

Disclaimer. If at this point you are expecting to read carefully thought out coaching suggestions, this isn’t the blog for you.

Still with me?

1. Running Man style exploding collars

I haven’t done the science, but basically invent an exploding collar that all the Saints players must wear. If they get within 25 yards of the opposition goal and the ball doesn’t cross the line (some sort of tie in with the existing goal line technology required here. Over to you Boffins) within the next 3 minutes the wearer’s collar explodes.

2, Pray to Le God

We all worship him, but perhaps our offerings of late haven’t been sufficient and he’s angry with us?

Let’s take it in turns to sacrifice our first born sons at the feet of the Ted Bates statue at midnight on the night before each game while collectively and repeatedly chanting the Le Tiss song under our breaths.

I know what you are thinking. This is easy for Chris to say, he doesn’t have any kids? Point taken, but I would be prepared to do it, and that counts.

Le God approves.

3. Play Home Games at Staplewood

As discussed this week on the Total Saints Pod, our players look superb in training. Banging shots in top bin every time, Ward-Prowse sinking free kicks like it’s the easiest thing in the world! But have we got a team of Willie Thorne’s?

4. Recycle the Clappers

Not my idea, but the brainchild of @saintsmadmomma, and it’s perfect. No one asked for the clappers, no one likes the clappers, so why not make use of them?

5. Hypnosis

Get McKenna in. It’s a cut and shut job for the master of minds. All he’s got to do is collectively hypnotise the squad and tell them that every time they hear the song ‘My Way’ or any bastardised version of it they will believe they are a combination of Le Tissier and Shearer.

As a bonus, while he’s got them under, we can ask Paul to also tell them that every time they hear the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ you suddenly become football’s answer to Frank Spencer. It worked on Lovren.

6. Change the Changing Room Music

Whenever the club releases a playlist of the squad’s choosing it is overrun with terrible R&B tracks. No one in the history of anything has been inspired by anything written or performed by Drake. No wonder half of them look like they’ve just had bad news when they are playing at the moment. Soul? Soul destroying.

Luckily I’ve created a pre-match playlist for them. You can find it here:- https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/saints-matchday/idpl.u-1V3F8keGYj

7. Play in Cartoon Format

Who misses those guys from the kit release cartoon? So accurate, yet Pellegrino has ignored them so far. Ridiculous.

8. Put an Instagram Frame Round the Goals

They love an Instagram post. Some might say they are over focused on posting dull updates on their lives in which they are inevitably wearing hideous clothes and listening to terrible music (refer to point 6). Put the frame up and they won’t be able to get there quick enough!

So there we have it. None of them are realistic or will likely work, but all I’m saying is they can’t do any harm.

Keep the faith,

† – Least famous presenter of Blankety Blank, but only one not dead.

‡ – Elton wrote a book about infertility.

THE WINNERS OF THE 2016/17 ALI’S! THE RESULTS ARE IN!

Yet again, the voting response to these awards was fantastic, it genuinely surprises me every time, and grows every year!

This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-

ali_trophy

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:- Martin Caceres (<1%), Stuart Taylor (<1%), My Clitoris (<1%), The Penalty Spot (<1%), Jack Stephens (<1%), Manolo Gabbiadini (2%), Nathan Redmond (3%), Steven Davis (3%), Ryan Bertrand (4%),  James Ward-Prowse (5%), Maya Yoshida (10%)

3rd Place:- Cedric (11%)

2nd Place:- Virgil van Dijk (14%)

And the winner is……with a huge 48% of the points, after a stand out season in the middle of the park……

Most Improved Player

Received Votes:- Sam McQueen (2%), Oriol Romeu (3%), Cedric (12%)

3rd Place:- Jack Stephens (16%)

2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (28%)

And the winner is…… Jose who?

Young Player of the Year

Received Votes:- Thomas O’Connor (<1%), They’re all shit, I agree with Ronald (<1%), Nathan Redmond (4%), James Ward-Prowse (15%)

3rd Place:- Josh Sims (19%)

2nd Place:- Sam McQueen (20%)

And the winner is……

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Forbsey (1%), Claude Puel (1%), Eric Black (1%), Hugo Scheckter (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Stuart Taylor (1%), Jordy Clasie (2%), Jack Stephens (2%), Nathan Redmond (3%), Ryan Bertrand (4%), Cedric (15%)

3rd Place:-  James Ward-Prowse (17%)

2nd Place:- Steven Davis (21%)

And the winner is….

Signing of the Season

3rd Place:- That old keeper (<1%)

2nd Place:- Nathan Redmond (12%)

And the winner is…..

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Team v Sunderland (A) (<1%), Sims v Everton (H) (<1%), Forster v Liverpool (A) (<1%), Redmond v Watford (A) (<1%),  Tadic v Watford (A) (<1%), Team v Bournemouth (A) (<1%), van Dijk v Inter (H) (<1%), Team EFL Campaign (<1%), Team v Arsenal EFL (A) (<1%), Stephens v Liverpool (A) (<1%), Fans in Milan (2%), Team v Leicester (H) (2%), Gabbiadini initial impact (2%), Team v Liverpool EFL (H) (5%), Team v West Ham (H) (5%), Team v Inter (H) (5%)

3rd Place:- Team at Wembley (13%)

2nd Place:- Gabbiadini EFL Cup final (20%)

And the winner is…… Team v Liverpool EFL (A)

Goal of the Season

Received Votes:- Tadic v West Ham (<1%), Martina v Arsenal last season (<1%), Gabbiadini offside at Wembley (<1%), Bertrand v Bournemouth (<1%), Redmond v Watford (2%), Gabbiadini v Sunderland (2%), Boufal v Boro (2%), Gabbiadini v West Ham (3%), Clasie v WBA (5%), Rodriguez v Bournemouth (8%), Clasie v Arsenal (8%)

3rd Place:- Gabbiadini 2nd at Wembley (11%)

2nd Place:- Long v Liverpool (13%)

And the winner is…..

Comedy Moment

Received Votes:- Fonte’s countless interviews justifying his move (<1%), Bournemouth Fans (<1%), Cup Final Penalty Decision (<1%), Steven Davis being picked every week (<1%), Roger East reffing (<1%), John Stones defending (<1%), Puel celebration at Anfield (<1%), Pompey getting owned on Social Media (<1%), Les Reed went to Europe… (<1%), The League Campaign (<1%), Sims performance v Everton shoving it to Koeman (<1%), Shane Long (<1%), One Wayne Bridge Chant (<1%), Weak Long finishes (<1%), Cuco’s Moonwalk (<1%), Mike Dean (<1%), Puel Out Brigade (<1%), #cucobants (<1%), Forster’s save attempts (<1%), Palace Away (<1%), Liverpool not scoring in 4 games (<1%), Signing Caceres and not using him (<1%), Klopp believing Saints had an ‘agenda’ against them (<1%), Isgrove’s new contract (<1%), Long pen miss v Boro (<1%), Tadic pen v Hull (2%), Team’s finishing (2%), Hull at home (2%), The ‘song’ (2%), Fonte’s West Ham form (3%), Fonte getting his move to ‘United’ (3%), Harry Kane pen (3%), Not signing a centre half in January (4%),  Tadic & Austin penalty row (5%)

3rd Place:- Shane Long double substitution v Man City (11%)

2nd Place:- Fraser Forster’s clearance v Palace (13%)

And the winner is…. Ruining what have been the biggest moment in Bournemouth’s history….

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Arsenal (<1%), Hull City (<1%)

3rd Place:- Man City (14%)

2nd Place:- Spurs (19%)

And the winner is…..

Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Sadio Mane (<1%), Officials (<1%), Stefano Okaka (<1%), Vincent Kompany (<1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Eldin Jakupovic (<1%), Andy Carroll (<1%), Harry Kane (<1%), David Silva (<1%), Hal Robson-Kanu (<1%), Alexis Sanchez (<1%), Toby Alderweireld (<1%), Kevin de Bruyne (2%), Christian Eriksen (2%), Harry Maguire (2%), Leroy Sane (3%), Mousa Dembele (4%), N’Golo Kante (4%)

3rd Place:- Diego Costa (5%)

2nd Place:- Zlatan Ibrahimovic (24%)

And the winner is….

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Inter (1%), Watford (1%), Swansea (1%), Arsenal (1%), All shit like ours (1%), Everton (joke) (1%),  Middlesbrough (2%), WBA (2%), Leicester (2%), Man City (2%), West Ham (3%), Bournemouth (3%), Liverpool (3%), Spurs (3%), None (3%),  Burnley (4%), Chelsea (6%), Hapoel Beer Sheva (7%), Hull (8%)

3rd Place:- Sunderland (9%)

2nd Place:- Man Utd (11%)

And the winners are…..

Best Saints Related Tweeter

Received Votes:- benstanners (<1%), Me (<1%), Nathan Redmond (<1%), TalkSaints (<1%), saintandy7 (<1%), jamiedriver98 (<1%), Healey17 (<1%), Puel_Out (<1%), chrs00 (<1%),  Max Sopel (<1%),  Lucy Highnett (<1%), Deppo (<1%), alexgbourne (<1%), Alex Crook (<1%), Saints News & Views (<1%), Whoever did the Long Titanic video (<1%), Always SFC, (<1%), saintsmike (<1%), Billy Fingers (<1%), Brian Smithson (<1%), Not you (<1%),  Consortium 11 (<1%), Archers Road (<1%), Oriol’s Northam Army (<1%), Soton PL_panel (<1%), TheFalseLibero(<1%), St. Mary’s Musings (<1%), Anyone but MLG (<1%), Simon Peach (<1%), Don’t use twitter (<1%), Fresh Saints (2%), Matt Le Tissier (2%), Cedric (2%), Maya Yoshida (2%), Official Account (2%), Dubai Saints (2%), L1MINUS10 (3%), Hugo Scheckter (4%), Luke Osman (7%), Adam Blackmore (7%)

3rd Place:- @crstig (9%)

2nd Place:- @SamDobson1 (10%)

And the winner is…… @SAINTSINFRANCE!

So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted and massive congratulations to all the winners!.A big thank you to Alistair Downs for the Photoshop wizardry! Keep the faith!

For previous years awards results see here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/awards-history/

Chris

The League Cup is alive and well at St. Mary’s!

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.

We march on.

What do Saints fans really want?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I rest my case.
I rest my case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the faith.

Investing in the future. Redmond is a Saint!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

nathan-redmond

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

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

Do you see him as a future full international?

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the faith!

The winners of the 2015/16 Ali’s! The results are in!

Yet again, the voting response to these awards was fantastic, it genuinely surprises me every time, and grows every year!

This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-

ali_trophy

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:-  Lee Todd (<1%), Steven Caulker (<1%), Some Scummer (<1%), Cuco Martina (<1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jordy Clasie (<1%), Cedric (<1%), Graziano Pelle (<1%), Jose Fonte (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Fraser Forster(2%), Steven Davis (6%).

3rd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (8%)

2nd Place:- Shane Long (32%)

And the winner is……with a huge 44% of the points, after a stand out season at centre half……

VIRGIL

Most Improved Player

Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Steven Davis (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Alfie Jones (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Jordy Clasie (2%), Ryan Bertrand (2%).

3rd Place:- Matt Targett (11%)

2nd Place:- Cuco Martina (17%)

And the winner is…..in any other season he would have been ‘player of the year’…..

LONG

Young Player of the Year

Received Votes:- Lloyd Isgrove (1%), Josh Simms (1%), Jake Hesketh (1%), Jason McCarthy (1%), Jake Vokins (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Kelvin Davis (2%), Sadio Mane (2%), Olufela Olomola (2%), No One (3%).

3rd Place:- Alfie Jones (5%)

2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (15%)

And the winner is…..

TARGETT

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Maya Yoshida (1%), Jordy Clasie (1%), Graziano Pelle (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Dr. Barry Gale (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Shane Long (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Sammy Lee (2%), Jose Fonte (5%), Cuco Martina (5%).

3rd Place:- Oriol Romeu (10%)

2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (16%)

And the winner is….

DAVIS

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Juanmi (1%), Steven Caulker (1%), Cuco Martina (1%), Kenzie Benali (1%), Some Scummer (1%).

Joint 2nd:- Oriol Romeu & Charlie Austin (2%)

And the winner is….

VIRGIL

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Virgil van Dijk (1%), Shane Long (1%), Mane v Chelsea A (1%), Pelle v Chelsea A (1%), Susan Tadic? (1%), Team v Man Utd A (1%), Wanyama v Arsenal H (1%), Wanyama v Liverpool H (2%), Team v Spurs A (2%), Mane v Liverpool H (3%), Long v Arsenal H (3%), Davis v Spurs A (3%), Tadic v Man City H (4%), Team v Man City H (5%), Team v Chelsea A (6%).

3rd Place:- Forster v Arsenal A (10%)

2nd Place:- Team v Arsenal H (27%)

And the winner is……Team Performance/Comeback v Liverpool H.

Goal of the Season

Joint 2nd:- Ward-Prowse v WBA (1%), Mane v Liverpool (1%), Long v Newcastle (1%), Pelle v Liverpool (1%).

And the winner is….Martina v Arsenal!

MARTINA

Cuco Martina goal v Arsenal

Comedy Moment

Received Votes:- In the Box Jay Rod & k Davis (<1%), Yoshida’s Backpass (<1%), Pochettino chants at WHL (<1%), Spurs Title Bid (<1%), Koeman Out campaign (<1%),  Lovren bottlejob/subbed at HT (<1%), Wanker Spurs fan in blue at WHL (<1%), Austin sinking United (<1%), Davis 5mph goals at WHL (<1%), Liverpool fans after comeback (<1%), Antonio’s goal (<1%), K Davis flicking the security man’s balls (<1%), Lovren’s twitter sulk (<1%), Ronald’s injury (<1%), Long getting away with a foul in build up to goal v Arsenal (<1%), Any video with Maya (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Cuco clearance v Man City (<1%), Camera shots of Angry Juanmi (<1%), Lallana Pen miss (<1%),  Kid in crowd caught doing the v’s (<1%), Wanyama dummying three players by falling over (<1%), Cedric always bleeding (<1%), Brendan Rodgers fired (<1%), Juanmi (<1%), Wanyama’s red card (<1%), Adam Blackmore commentary on JWP goal (<1%), Sunderland playing it into the corners (<1%), Ex Saints celebrating at Liverpool game (<1%), Pompey’s play-offs (<1%), Mourinho Meltdown (<1%), When my mate shit himself on the way to West Ham away (<1%), Man City fan who let a flair off 5 minutes into the game and got himself and his son arrested on his son’s 13th birthday (<1%),  Drawing with Villa (<1%), Bertrand’s acceptance speech (<1%), Pelle doing the Haka (<1%), JWP panicing when clean through against Man City (<1%), Forster refusing to wave (<1%), Europa campaign (<1%), General officiating (<1%), Jon Moss (<1%), Dutch fans fighting each other (<1%), Spurs finishing 3rd in a two horse race (<1%), OctaFX goal hitting a steward (<1%),  Forster v Spurs (<1%), Stekelenburg (<1%),  Koeman linked to Everton (<1%),  Ronald v 4th Official in Arnhem (<1%), Pelle airshot (<1%), December (<1%), Joleon Lescott’s defending (3%), Wenger after the 4-0 blaming all the goals on the ref (4%), Cuco after his goal against Arsenal (6%), The comeback against Liverpool (7%).

3rd Place:- Ref taking the ball off Sadio Mane after his hat trick (8%)

2nd Place:- Various actions relating to Steven Caulker (9%)

And the winner is…..Ronald’s touchline run v Liverpool!

RON

http://georgeweahscousin.com/the-gwc-com-in-depth-and-analytical-end-of-season-review/

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Bournemouth (1%), Meh (1%), Midgetland (1%), Chelsea (1%), Villa (1%), West Ham (1%), Liverpool (4%), Man City (7%).

3rd Place:- Spurs (17%)

2nd Place:- Everton (20%)

And the winner is…..Just when they thought their season couldn’t get any better! Leicester City!

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Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Anthony Martial (<1%), Divok Origi (<1%), Ref at Leicester (<1%), Pione Sisto (<1%), Eden Hazard (<1%), Christian Eriksen (<1%), Kevin de Bruyne (<1%), Joe Hart (<1%), Toby Alderweireld (<1%), Martin Stekelenburg (<1%), John Stones (<1%), Andros Townsend (<1%), Hugo Lloris (<1%), Mezut Ozil (<1%), Sergio Aguero (2%), Willian (2%), Harry Kane (2%), Coutinho (2%), Ross Berkley (2%), Delle Ali (2%), Andy Carroll (2%), N’Golo Kante (3%), Dimitri Payet (3%), David de Gea (3%), Kelechi Iheanacho (6%), Daniel Sturridge (6%).

3rd Place:- Romelu Lukaku (10%)

2nd Place:- Riyad Mharez (12%)

And the winner is……

VARDY

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Man City (<1%), Coventry? (<1%), Couldn’t give a crap (<1%), Not the Scummers (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Liverpool (<1%), Spurs (<1%), All shit (<1%), Everton  (<1%), Norwich (1%), Sunderland (1%), West Ham (2%), Bournemouth (2%), Sunderland (4%), Villa (6%), Newcastle (8%).

Joint 3rd:- Crystal Palace & Vitesse Arnhem (10%).

2nd Place:- Leicester City (24%)

And the winner is…..Manchester United!

Survey-reveals-manchester-United-and-Chelsea-have-ugliest-fans

Best Saints Related Tweeter

Received Votes:- ImagesofRonald (<1%), TheBarhoe (<1%), KristianSFCOake (<1%), Always_SFC (<1%), Toothy (<1%), KitmanForbsey (<1%), theuglyinside (<1%), MushBible (<1%), Wanyama (<1%), Vasco (<1%), sean_stroud (<1%), stevegrant (<1%), ryangregory (<1%), JGBLucas (<1%), Rubbish Award (<1%), DutchTom (<1%), Dunno (<1%), Hugo Scheckter (<1%), Twitter is for Mugs (<1%), Pellz19 (<1%), asiansaint (<1%), alexgbourne (<1%), ChrisIngram96 (<1%), danbsfc (<1%), benstanners (<1%), Alex Crook (<1%), chrs00 (2%), Oriol Romeu (2%), TractorSaint (2%), Florin Gardos (2%), SamDobson (2%), LeagueOneMinus10 (2%), What’s twitter? (2%), Ronald Koeman (3%), Simon Peach (3%), SaintsinFrance (3%), StMarysMusings (5%), Me (6%), OfficialSaints (6%).

3rd Place:- @crstig (12%)

2nd Place:- @ConnorArmstrong (13%)

And the winner is…….@bigadamsport!

So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted and massive congratulations to all the winners!.A big thank you to Alistair Downs for the Photoshop wizardry, check his work out at http://www.carlasam.com! Another great season! Keep the faith!

For previous years awards results see here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/awards-history/

Chris

Kangaroo Court: The Ward-Prowse Debate

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?

The case for the Prosecution:-

@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.’

Verdict:-

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.

Get enhanced odds on this weekends football action!
Get enhanced odds on this weekends football action!

Interview:- Mark Sanderson on his forthcoming Bobby Stokes Biography!

It was with much anticipation that I first heard of Mark Sanderson and his upcoming biography of ’76 hero Bobby Stokes.

Aptly titled ‘The man from Portsmouth who scored Southampton’s most famous goal’, there is an air of mysticism about Stokes and how he bridged a gap between two cities so often at each other’s throats.

Bobby-Stokes-2560x1440

I asked Mark about whether anyone these days could become a hero in red and white stripes, but also maintain the respect and love of his rival home town?

MS ‘Bobby Stokes is one of several Pompey lads who have gone on to play for Saints – from Steve Mills to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Ward-Prowse. Far fewer have done the opposite. Perhaps the most notable example was Bitterne Park schoolboy Darren Anderton, who was part of the Pompey side that lost to Liverpool on penalties in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final. Although none of these players have had as much impact for either club as Bobby’s winning goal for Southampton in the 1976 FA Cup Final. Bobby remained a Pompey lad, but he had a special relationship with Southampton – his funeral was in Porchester, but his ashes were scattered at The Dell. ‘

See what else Mark had to say here:-

I for one can’t wait to read this book.  You can pre-order it here:- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobby-Stokes-Portsmouth-Scored-Southamptons/dp/1785311379/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454506270&sr=8-1&keywords=bobby+stokes and as Mark says, he will be doing a signing at St. Mary’s on April 30th, so get along and support him.

Chris

Get enhanced odds on tonights FA Cup action:-

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Seven things we re-learned from Saints resurgence!

Just a month ago, I found myself (over) analysing a run of terrible form here. Since that victory at Watford, Saints have made it to an unbeaten run of five games, dropping just two points at Arsenal and haven’t conceded a single goal.

So what have we re-learned during Koeman’s resurgence?

  1. The Transfer Policy is ok

During that run of five unbeaten games Summer signings Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu have both been standout players. Consider their impact alongside that of Virgil van Dijk and to a lesser extent Cedric, and Saints look to have a decent squad, better than the poor run they had been on suggested. Add to that the instant impact of Charlie Austin and Saints fans have good reason to be looking up again rather than down.

Football - Southampton v Everton - Barclays Premier League - St Mary's Stadium - 15/8/15 Southampton's Oriol Romeu in action Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details. - RTX1OCZB
Romeu – An assured replacement for Wanyama.

2. Ronald knows Tactics

Many people winced when they saw the return of three at the back, especially with Ryan Bertrand taking a place in the centre, but Ronald has got his tactics spot on recently. With the exception of the West Ham game, he has recreated the dominant home performances we had gotten used to, and defensively the team have been superb on the road.

What poor form?
What poor form?

3. Player Power won’t always beat us

Despite his sending off against West Ham, Victor Wanyama has seemingly (if temporarily) shaken off his desire to head to North London and been a key player during this run. Wanyama is one of Saints’ best players on his day, only a fool argues that point, but his position is more difficult with the emergence of Clasie and Romeu. Arguably, Saints could afford to lose him, but chose not to. A nice change.

It was refreshing to see that no key players left the bus on deadline day, and whether or not you believe the likes of Wanyama and Mane are biding their time, perhaps Saints have decided they won’t be held to ransom anymore.

4. Goalscoring

Many of us felt vindicated when Charlie Austin came off the bench at Old Trafford to put away his first chance in a Saints shirt. It’s what we had been saying for some time. We miss too many good chances.

A three pronged competition for places of Austin, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long is a pretty ideal situation for a manager as they all differ in style, and all must take their opportunities to stay in the team.

The natural, the unorthodox and the hassler? Have Saints ever been so striker rich?

Charlie 'You don't have to ask me twice' Austin.
Charlie ‘You don’t have to ask me twice’ Austin.

5. We still have decent Academy products

During this run, amongst many of the pleasing aspects, it has been great to see the performances of James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett.

JWP finally got the free kick monkey off his back and has looked more tenacious than ever in midfield and Targett was in scintillating form in a more advanced role.

It was especially pleasing to see Matt Targett show that he isn’t the write off some people had decided he was, and who knew he had that cross on him? A justified player of the month and bright future ahead!

The kids are alright.
The kids are alright.

6. We missed ‘The Wall’

There is very little more to be said about Fraser Forster’s miraculous return to the team. Literally no sign of rustiness, despite being out for nine months, his return has coincided with this run of form.

For many of the games he has little to do, but I wonder just how much more confident his presence makes the back four (or three/five). His display against Arsenal was pure heroics and with due respect to our other keepers would we have conceded no goals in the last five games had any of them been playing. I seriously doubt it. The confidence of Jose Fonte in a behind the scenes video after the West Ham game tells a story of faith. No one is scoring past us mate.

NONE SHALL PASS.
NONE SHALL PASS.

7. Mark Clattenburg still hates us

Yes I am bitter, but allowing the West Ham players to talk him into changing his yellow card to red for Wanyama and then allowing Sam Byram to get away with a clear red card tackle means his record of terrible decisions against us continues. He’s either a cheat or incompetent. You decide.

In Conclusion…

Someone once said that football was a ‘funny old game’ and it most certainly is. A month ago we were talking about a possible relegation battle, today a win against Swansea would see us reach 40 points with 12 games to go and people are talking about Europe again.

Clubs that were perceived to be having amazing seasons while we struggled (Stoke and Palace in particular) are now below us in the table, and even the Klopp revolution finds itself behind. No need to even mention Chelsea.

Keep the faith.

Chris