Saints currently have six players trying to prove themselves at other clubs. Forwards Jonathan Forte and Sam Hoskins are with Phil Brown’s Preston North End, Goalkeepers Tommy Forecast and Jack Dovey are paying their dues in non-league football with Bromley Town and local club Eastleigh respectively. Black sheep Jason Puncheon is back in the Premier League with new boys Queens Park Rangers and promising defender Jack Saville has gone to Underhill to help League Two strugglers Barnet.
I thought it would be interesting to have a look at their progress with these clubs, with reports from the people who are getting behind them and watching every week.
The most high profile of the Saints loanees is of course Puncheon, who headed to Loftus Road in the summer with the all too public falling out at Saints behind him. The glamour of the Premier League may have been too much to turn down, but Puncheon has been little more than a bit part player with the R’s, making just two league appearances off of the bench.
Jonathon Forte might not have made the impact he would have liked at St. Mary’s after arriving from Scunthorpe last season, but his goals against MK Dons were extremely important as Saints headed for promotion. Often harshly treated by Saints fans for me, Forte and youngster Hoskins headed to Lancashire to play for North End.
Forte has started twice for the Deepdale club, both against Rochdale, playing the full ninety minutes in both games. We caught up with John Kelly from the Preston Supporters Group to give us his thoughts on Forte:-
“North End are having a bit of a nightmare at the moment, with a complete lack of investment from our new owner Trevor Hemmings. Forte started up-front alongside our young striker Juvel Tsumo, who was soon replaced with Neil Mellor.
Forte struggled to get into the game, and despite running around alot seemed a little out of his depth and offered little. It would be un-fair to judge him on this game alone, however I honestly can not see his loan being much of a success for any party involved. He is unavailable to play tomorrow and even if he was, as soon as Iain Hume or Jamie Proctor returns he will be left out anyway. Most PNE fans fined both loans very strange and not what we need. Mainly due to their lack of experience and age.
Maybe if he had come into a winning side things would be different, but I would expect him to be back at your place soon without either PNE or Southampton being any the wiser on his ability. As for Hoskins I really can not understand this loan at all.”
Hoskins is yet to feature for PNE.
After arriving from Chelsea, young defender Jack Saville came with much promise, the performances of the current Saints defence though makes first team time hard to come by. Jack headed back to London at the start of the month to spend some time on loan with League Two side Barnet. He made his debut off the bench in the FA cup win at Southport before making his first start in the 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium, Barnet’s first league win in five. Eric from Barnet site Downhill Second Half gave us his take on the young defender:-
“I’ve only got one full 90 to go on so far, but his showing at Bristol Rovers was excellent.
It’s no mean feat for a lad of 20 to settle straight in to an almost entirely new defensive unit. Owing to injury, we had three loanees in the back four for yesterday’s second half, so for them to work so well together was a strong statement.
For me, Jack was the pick of the three. For a start, he was playing out of position at left back and faced two quick wingers all afternoon. His no nonsense approach was key in us soaking up a lot of pressure in the second half and he put himself on the line several times with some brilliant blocks.
As we were under the cosh for plenty of the second period, we didn’t see much of Jack going forward. However, I cannot imagine that Lawrie Sanchez will change much after this showing, so we should get to see more in the coming weeks, starting with a home match against Macclesfield on Friday night (that’ll get the crowds in…!)”
Jack Dovey has been at Eastleigh FC since the end of October and made an impressive start for the Blue Square South club. Making his debut at Thurrock Town, Dovey saved a penalty to immediatly shine, and the Spitfires haven’t lost in the four games he has played.
Blue Square South rivals Bromley is where Dovey’s fellow keeper Tommy Forecast has been since late September. Forecast has been a fixture for the Kent club and we caught up with Jeff Hutton, club development officer for Bromley FC to see how he has been doing:-
“Tommy Forecast was drafted in by Bromley manager Mark Goldberg for a three month loan spell on 23rd September. Since then Tommy has made eleven starts for the Lillywhites and has featured in every one of Bromley’s FA Cup fixtures which cumulated in a first round proper appearance at Brisbane Road against Leyton Orient. Tommy has failed to keep a clean sheet in any of his starts but this will come as no surprise to any Bromley supporter as we have failed to keep a clean sheet in any fixture since the start of September. Despite the score line Saturday, we lost 6-1 at Chelmsford City, Tommy pulled of a number of high quality saves and could do very little about the six goals conceded. People like to pick fault with keepers at any level but League sides send out keepers to our level to gain experience and that is Tommy is gaining valuable experience with every game he plays.”
What can we expect from your club this season:- Your guess is as good as mine! Paul Jewell has brought in some excellent signings for this level, but it is all about ensuring they gel quickly and play as a unit. I’m confident we have much to look forward to under Jewell, but it may take time to build a winning mentality after a number of years accepting mid-table obscurity.
Who is your most important player? I think it’s safe to suggest Michael Chopra will be our talisman this season. If he can approach anywhere near the 25-goal mark we will be having a decent campaign. ‘Chops’ has had a very good pre-season so we’re all hoping he will hit the ground running at Ashton Gate.
Your predicted finishing position? 6th. Possibly letting my heart rule my head but I think we can just about sneak into the playoff mix this season.
Who might win the Championship? I don’t think you can look much beyond West Ham and Leicester. Both sides have chucked around considerable sums of money and have top flight experience that will prove crucial in the bigger games.
Who definitely won’t? Peterborough are operating on the smallest budget in the division and don’t seem to have learnt about fielding a side lacking in Championship experience.
Most anticipated fixture? For personal reasons I am looking forward to our duels with Peterborough, although some revenge at Upton Park for our semi-final playoff defeats in the Joe Royle era would be nice!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Tough one – I guess it will be interesting to see how many fans make it onto the pitch this time between Millwall and West Ham!
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Jimmy Bullard. An enigmatic figure in our side whilst on loan last season and pre-season performances suggest we are desperately missing his creativity in the final third.
You find yourself stuck in Carrow Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Find the nearest exit and run for the hills! (And shower to cleanse my sins)
What can we expect from your club this season? It’s difficult to say at the moment. Sections of the White Army would have you believe that we’ll be tumbling back into League One come the end of April but I think somewhere around the middle is likely with the current squad (27th May). Signings, or the lack thereof, have done little to lift the mood of missing out on the Play-offs last year with a dreadful run of form in the final month.
Who is your most important player? You’d have to say it’s a toss up between Luciano Becchio and Max Gradel. The pair scored a combined 38 goals last season. I’ll go with Max as his 18 goals came from midfield and with Becchio set to miss the start of the season, we’ll need him more than ever.
Your predicted finishing position? Again, difficult to say at this stage. I don’t think we over-achieved last year, so you’d have to say anything less than Play-offs is a disappointment. But to answer the question – 9th.
Who might win the Championship? You’d have to say Leicester, given all the cash they’re throwing about. Although they’ll soon realise that Kasper Schmiechel isn’t quite as good as the name suggests… West Ham seem the other obvious shout I suppose.
Who definitely won’t? Any team that finished in the bottom half last season, the likes of Derby, Doncaster, Crystal Palace etc. Ipswich might be a dark horse though…
Most anticipated fixture? Erm… We don’t have many local derbys now the Sheffield clubs have fallen into oblivion, and Huddersfield Town bottled the Play-off Final. My favourite place to go is Turf Moor because we usually win, and it’s local to me, so I’ll go for that – Burnley v Leeds United. (A repeat of last season’s comeback from 2-0 down would be great!).
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? West Ham v Millwall, just for the comedy factor of watching Burberry clad, Danny Dyer wannabes go to war. “Pwopa Nawty!”
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? SHANE LONG – I think he’d be a perfect compliment to Luciano Becchio. We’ll probably sign him in about 8 years time when he is knocking about on a free, but we’ll still haggle on the wages!
You find yourself stuck in Old Trafford. How do you escape unnoticed? Sit silently in my seat, staring glumly at the pitch. Occasionally grumble when a pass goes astray but at no point would I break into song. If Manchester United are losing I could safely file out of the ground after 65 minutes with the rest of the idiots. 75 minutes if they’re playing well. I’d keep a prawn sandwich about my person as an alibi, just in case I’m rumbled.
What can we expect from your club this season? Going by the noises coming from Sven and the owners, a push for the automatic promotion places and nothing less.
Who is your most important player? Matt Mills has the responsibility of marshalling a new defence which should concede far fewer than the 71 goals it managed last season.
Your predicted finishing position? 2nd.
Who might win the Championship? Hardly original, but West Ham should be strong enough to take the title.
Who definitely won’t? Coventry City, perhaps the best they can hope for is a positive goal difference for the first time in eight seasons.
Most anticipated fixture? Forest away in August should be a cracker with two promotion contenders and two former England managers going head-to-head, but the idea of a promotion party at Leeds..oh my!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton against Portsmouth should be pretty tasty. The rematch of the 2010 Playoff Final between Cardiff and Blackpool will be one for the purists, that would be my choice if you’re going to force me to pick just one.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? I’d love to have Shane Long, but it looks like that boat has sailed.
You find yourself stuck in the City Ground. How do you escape unnoticed? Perhaps by having a rant about how the club aren’t investing and making envious remarks about certain neighbours ‘buying the league’. Not so effective if wear a replica shirt, mind.
What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking passing football from a team of youth academy players.
Who is your most important player? Kevin Thompson if fit but we have a handful of injury prone midfielders who are just as good. Rhys Williams has premier league admirers and captain Matty Bates is our Stevie G. The physio is the most important man for our chances.
Your predicted finishing position? Anywhere from 2nd to 7th the difference between them might only be 3 points.
Who might win the Championship? Leicester. Good manager with money to burn! Everyone has got a big chance of winning it. it’s all about the start and finish!
Who definitely won’t? Watford, all of the players who made a difference in games last year have left and so too has the manager who gave the team belief. Palace will flirt with danger again.
Most anticipated fixture? Our closest game to a local derby is Leeds.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Millwall v West Ham or Southampton v Portsmouth, big derbies with fireworks on and off the pitch.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Shane Long goal machine with a massive work rate he’d fit into our team perfectly or Lee camp, Jason Steele has a big future but we need clean sheets ASAP camps experience and commanding presence at the back
You find yourself stuck in Elland Road. How do you escape unnoticed? To get out any championship ground you simply say: “The manager needs more money!” “If we put a run together we could get promoted” “We can beat these today”.
What can we expect from your club this season? Despite losing Steve Morison in the offseason, Millwall should benefit from a season under their belts in the Championship. Morison’s departure was the only player loss of any significance (not counting the sentimental departure of Neil Harris. Chopper!) They have become a stronger team in each of Kenny Jackett’s three seasons at the helm and should improve again this year. A playoff spot, at minimum, is well within reach.
Who is your most important player? James Henry’s north to south attacking ability from midfield, ability to find the open man with pin point crosses, and excellent dead ball skills make him our most important player this season. Millwall’s ability to score more will be key for them – defensively they are solid.
Your predicted finishing position? 6th or better at a minimum would be a successful season and show continued improvement.
Who might win the Championship? If not The Lions, then my picks would be either Leicester or Forest, although Forest have shown an ability to play below their ability the past couple of seasons.
Who definitely won’t? Barnsley, Doncaster, and Crystal Palace.
Most anticipated fixture? Ha! West Ham home, West Ham away. Leeds games are always fun too.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I’ve heard the south coast derby between Southampton and Portsmouth can get quite feisty, so that would be a fun one.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton.
You find yourself stuck in Upton Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I’d point to the other end of the stands and yell “There’s Avram Grant!” Then just walk out while the bubble blowers are looking about.
What can we expect from your club this season? Impossible to predict! I expect playoffs at least, but have been underwhelmed so far with transfers (in terms of quantity – happy with the players we have signed) so maybe mid table.
Who is your most important player? I think it will prove to be Jonathan Greening.
Your predicted finishing position? 4th.
Who might win the Championship? West Ham.
Who definitely won’t? Derby
Most anticipated fixture? Gotta be when those Derby Rams come to town for an annual beating.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? To be honest, I’m too Forest-centred to really care unless of course the outcome has a benefit to us.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Lots of good players to choose from this year, would love to see Nicky Maynard in garibaldi red.
You find yourself stuck in Pride Park. How do you escape unnoticed? Fortunately the Nottingham and Derby accents are pretty close, so you cut out any words more than two syllables, affix a blank expression and make like a sheep and follow the person in front of you until you get outside!
Part Four featuring Peterborough, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton, Watford and West Ham coming soon…
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