Blow me readers! georgeweahscousin.com is 6 years old!
Here we are just 6 days away from a major final, as yet again the Saints journey becomes even more of a fairy tale! Where have 6 years gone?
As has become as traditional as Saints making at least 5 changes per game, we celebrate our birthdays by awarding the ‘Ali Dia award for services to Southampton’ this year proudly sponsored by Fonte’s Face spiting Nose biters!
You can see the previous recipients of the award here. But who will take this year’s crown? The wait is finally over.
As every year, the jury (myself, Ali Dia, Kleber Chala & Graham Potter) found it extremely difficult. Amongst those nominated were Stuart Taylor for turning up and milling about as the figure head of the ever growing Southampton Goalkeeper farm, Jose Fonte for spurning ‘Legend status’ and heading to the London Stadium to ‘win trophies’ and Juanmi for well being Juanmi. But. When it came down to it there was one man who stood out amongst the rest.
We here at georgeweahscousin.com are delighted to announce that the sixth winner of the ‘Ali Dia award for services to Southampton’ sponsored by Fonte’s face spiting nose biters, for providing the icing on the cake to an already memorable semi final against Liverpool with the perfect screenshot:- It’s Dejan Lovren!
Ever since Lovren’s head decided to part company with his neck and head (pun intended) to Anfield early, the Croat and his performances as part of the ever hapless Liverpool defence have provided us with much amusement. From being nutmegged by Tadic, going to pieces under the abuse at St. Mary’s to this perfectly captured shot of his gormless face realising some of his former Saints team mates might pick up Silverware before him no one can say Dejan isn’t a sport!
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.
After much anticipation Saints revealed their new Premier League kits last night.
The home kit is a Red shirt with white pinstripes, red shorts and red socks. The away kit is exactly the same with the colours reversed. I love them. They are simple yet smart.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw some of the outrage aimed at the new uniforms. Comparisons to Cardiff, talk of our identity being ruined and words like “disgrace”. Wow.
It is actually none of those things.
We have, on the whole, played in Red with White stripes, and essentially that is what we have got. To compare it to Cardiff whose, entire home colour has been changed from blue to red is ludicrous. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naive enough to think that some Asian marketing thought might have gone into the design process, hence why Tadanari Lee has been used in the marketing gumph, but we are still going to lineup in a kit that matches our identity.
People seem to have forgotten that we have played in kits without stripes before.In fact the clubs first kit wasn’t striped at all, as reflected in the 125th anniversary kit in 2010/11.
Starting with the 1980/81 season Saints lined up without striped shirts for a period of seven years, starting with a kit of “thirds” (white middle, red outer) before changing to solid red with white shoulders in 85/86.
Even when Saints went back to stripes in 87/88, only one half of the shirt was striped (pinstriped in fact like the new kit), the the other half was solid red.
Saints didn’t go back to “proper” stripes until 1989/90. It would stay that way until 1999/2000 when we reverted to “thirds” again, although it was the reverse to the previous stint. It was back to stripes in 2001/02 and it stayed that way until the recent 125th anniversary kit, though for a two year period between 1993-95 it was blotted by the abomination that was the Pony tick!
It strikes me that people accept the “thirds” style kits as stripes, at least I don’t remember there being outrage about them (there probably was), but not the pinstripes. Which I find odd. The thickness of the stripes is irrelevant isn’t it?
Essentially it doesn’t matter what the design is of the kit, what matters is how the team performs on the pitch. If Saints start the new season well, the lack or perceived lack of stripes will soon be forgotten. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on the kit of course, but please everyone calm down.
Our identity isn’t being stolen, it isn’t an outrage and it is no way comparable to the situation at Cardiff. It’s a football strip, and one we will only wear for a year.
Incidentally, of the major English trophies, you have to go back to 1991 for the last striped winner (Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup), the last striped FA Cup winners were Coventry City in 1987, and the last striped League champions were Sunderland in 1936!
Saints won the FA Cup in yellow and had their best league finish in “thirds”….
“If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.” – Brian Clough
Saints head to Pride Park this weekend to face Derby County in a top of the table clash which has already attracted a crowd of thirty thousand people.
Nigel Adkins will be pitting his wits against Nigel Clough. Both have had fantastic records so far this season, and have their teams playing the way football should be played. One stark difference for them though, is that for Clough, he will always be compared to “Old Big ‘Ead” himself, father Brian.
Clough Snr will always be regarded as one of the greatest managers this country has ever produced, bringing attention to himself, first with Saturday’s opponents Derby, before huge success with arch rivals Nottingham Forest, and it was in his Forest days that Clough Snr, proved to be somewhat of a spoilsport for Saints. Twice, the great man denied us in cup finals, some thirteen years apart.
Firstly, in 1979 Southampton found themselves the underdogs for another Wembley final in the League Cup, taking on league champions and holders Nottingham Forest. Despite taking an early lead, Saints were eventually bossed by the class of Clough’s men. A valiant effort from the team in yellow though saw the final score at 3-2 in favour of the champions, with Saints goals coming from Nick Holmes and David Peach. Archie Gemmill the architect for Forest. Strike one to Clough.
1992 saw Saints and Forest meet again in the capital, this time for the Zenith Data Systems Cup final, Clough’s side may not have been the force they were thirteen years previously, but they were going well in the league, and had been in the previous season’s FA Cup final. Amongst their team were two sons of note, Nigel making a name for himself up front, and Scott the offspring of 1979’s chief tormenter Archie. Saints came back from a 2-0 deficit to take the game to extra time, Kevin Moore and Matthew Le Tissier getting the goals, but it was to be a Gemmill again that would have a definitive say in the outcome. Adding to his fifteenth minute opener, Gemmill won the match in the second period of extra time, for another 3-2 Forest victory. Strike two to Clough.
Son Nigel has followed a similar career path to his Dad so far, starting in the lower echelons of English Football with Burton Albion, and now overseeing things at Derby County. He hasn’t quite emulated Brian’s successes just yet (Clough Snr won the second division in his second season at the Baseball Ground), but signs this season are that he has what it takes to make the Rams Championship challengers.
What does look certain, is that the battle of the Nigel’s, could be both a fantastic spectacle and a meeting of two of this countries top up and coming managers. Saints will be hoping, that the Clough factor is a thing of the past, and that 2007 Pride Park playoff semi final memories can be banished forever. With no chance of Leon Best or Inigo Idiakez being on penalties, Saints will have more than a chance, but away performances haven’t been spectacular recently, and Derby smarting from a a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Leicester last time out will be looking to bounce back.
It is no surprise that this seems to be the Championship “Game of the Week” for many of the countries media outlets. First against third, Let’s hope it lives up to it.
Amongst the humdrum of pre-season gossip and speculation, Saints fans were able to concentrate their optimism on not only who might be coming in and out at St. Mary’s, but also on the design of the new strip.
After taking a break from the traditional Red & White striped offerings of previous years for last seasons 125th anniversary celebrations, the “sash” was released to very mixed reviews, and the anticipation of a striped return reached fever pitch over the summer.
This got me thinking. How important is kit design? We took a notable scalp in one of the Premier Leagues most infamous games, when we defeated Manchester United in 1996. Sir Alex Ferguson blamed the sides grey change strip for their first half hammering and made them change into Blue & White in the second half. Which they won 1-0.
Are stripes a particularly successful kit design? On the face of it no. There are notable exceptions of course. AC Milan and Juventus have had some results in their time, and Barcelona look likely to reign in European football forever, yet Crystal Palace, who adorn the same stripe design as the Catalan club aren’t likely to danger Manchester United in a Champions League semi final any time soon.
Argentina have twice been crowned world champions in stripes (although they were in their plain blue change strip for one final victory), and of course, they cheat.
Domestically, it is a tale of woe for the striped teams. In the FA Cup you have to go all the way back to 1987 for a striped winner, when underdogs Coventry City shocked Spurs, a staggering five teams in stripes (though Saints wore their away yellow) have been runners up in that time. In fact, unless I am mistaken, there have only been twenty one FA Cup winners who play in stripes, many of which are the same club several times, and many of which may not have played in stripes in the final. There have been twenty seven runners up.
In the League Cup it isn’t much better. Sheffield Wednesday were the last stripe wearing winners in 1991, and only they again have since made the final, runners up in 1993. Actually, and I am hoping someone will prove me wrong on this, but it seems there have only ever been two striped winners. Wednesday of course, and Stoke in 1972. There have been six runners up.
There have been one hundred and twelve seasons of the football league. Striped winners? Nineteen. As famously taken this May, Manchester United have this many on their own.
So are stripes a hinderance? Are they simply bad luck?
From Saints personal viewpoint, there have been some differing results, which give some disappointing outcomes for the stripe lover. We had our highest ever league finish in 1983/84 wearing a “thirds” of white surrounded by red sleeves. We won our solitary FA cup in solid yellow, and of course last season we secured promotion in the sash.
But what does all this mean? Well nothing. The fact is, less teams play in stripes, so less trophies is a given. Only one side outside the top four has won the FA Cup since 1995, and they did it with ill gotten gains. From a Saints perspective, and without looking to upset anyone, we aren’t exactly overrun with silverware anyway.
The likes of the aforementioned Juventus, Milan and Barca are trophy laden giants in Europe, even Saturday’s opponents Atletico Bilbao have had some success over the years, and they have done it using a red & white striped kit inspired by us! The nerve.
Had Roman Abramovich tipped up in 2003 and poured his billions into Sunderland instead of Chelsea, I am sure the FA Cup and League winners tallies would have a few more striped scores on them.
It is probably naïve to think that these days, clubs don’t have some sort of psychologist having an input on kit design, but then surely they would all come to the same conclusions, and clubs would all be changing to the same pattern?
The fact is you make your own fortune, and with the right personnel, tactics, coaches, finances, luck and fanbase any team can be a world beater and they can do it whatever kit they like.
To end this pointless yet informative piece , I can quote the Bill Murray film “Stripes”
“A hundred dollar shine on a three dollar pair of shoes”.
It’s about what is underneath the shirts not how they look.
AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town travel up to Manchester today for a face off that sees the victors claim that most valuable of prizes. A place in the Football League.
The clash at Manchester City’s Eastlands stadium will see two great clubs try to get back to where they feel that they belong, as both have suffered differing but equally drastic circumstances that sees them fighting it out in the nether regions of English Football.
AFC Wimbledon is of course the Phoenix that rose from the ashes after the original Wimbledon made the controversial 2003 move to Milton Keynes, leaving their South London supporters distraught. It was their commitment and perseverance though that sees their new form on the brink of the League again.
Luton Town were relegated from the Football League in 2008/09 after receiving a thirty point penalty for financial irregularities, a punishment that most believed to be too harsh. They had already received a points deduction the season before and the new owners and long suffering supporters had to live with the repercussions of the previous regimes misdemeanors.
For the supporters of these clubs, 1988 must seem like a long time ago, but staggeringly on April 9th of that year, they met at White Hart Lane to contest the FA Cup Semi Final. 23 years ago, the fortunes of both were very different. Both sides were in the top flight, Luton had already won that season’s League Cup and would finish 9th, Wimbledon would go on to win one of the most famous upsets in FA cup final history and take 7th spot.
For the neutral’s both clubs will find plenty of support, as both have had the sympathy of other fans over their years of decline, so whatever happens today, come Six o’clock, the football league will be welcoming back an old friend…
Good Luck to both AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town today!
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