Let me take you back to the Summer of 1996. It was a different time. Robson & Jerome were stunning us on a regular basis with their reworked classics and we were still the best part of a year away from Tony Blair and Cool Britannia taking the country and turning it on its head. It wasn’t all grim though, England had just put in a credible performance at a major tournament on home soil and were a Gazza boot lace away from a major final. There was an air of optimism, especially for this Isle of Wight student about to embark on a miserable (self-inflicted through lack of effort) A-Level campaign……
Play at St Mary’s with Saints legends!
Matt Le Tissier, Jason Dodd, Francis Benali and Brett Ormerod will be lacing up their boots once again to take to the St Mary’s pitch for a one-off four team tournament, and you could be playing alongside them!
Play With A Legend, the events company which brings you closer to your footballing heroes, is running the event for the second year at St Mary’s. The organisation was co-founded by Perry Groves, best known for his time at Arsenal (and Saints too of course!), who wanted to give fans the chance to play on pitch with their favourite ex-players.
Check out how one amateur player got on at a similar event at Selhurt Park last year – think you can do better!?
The four team tournament will take place on 22nd May from 6pm, on the pitch at St. Mary’s where you can get either 45 or 90 minutes of action, plus your own personalised kit, enjoy post-match drinks with the legends and have your photo taken. Friends and family are invited to purchase audience tickets to cheer you on from the stands too.
Find out more and book here.
With @SouthamptonFC announcing that voting was open for this year’s ‘Player of the Season’ award, it became pretty clear on social media that this would be a contest with only two contenders.
So who will join an illustrious list that includes Kevin Keegan, Mick Channon, Peter Shilton, Alan Shearer, Rickie Lambert and of course three time winner Matt Le Tissier.
Will current captain Jose Fonte be the first person to equal Le God’s feat? Will Fraser Forster become only the fifth goalkeeper to take the crown? The answer to both is almost certainly no.
So here are the clear front runners:-
In the Red corner….
….hailing from Breda in Holland, the two time Scottish Premier League winner and undisputed ‘in the box’ champion. Virgil van Dijk.
Undoubtedly, van Dijk has been one of the signings of the season, and not just for Saints, but for any club, his immaculate displays at the heart of the defence have often been spell binding. Having barely put a foot wrong, the Dutchman has filled the Alderweireld shaped hole that appeared last Summer nicely and winning this award could eclipse his predecessor’s achievements. A monster in the air, yet delicate with the ball at his feet, Saints have unearthed another star, and he would be a worthy addition to the list of winners.
In the White corner….
….from Gortnahoe in Ireland, the former Football Association of Ireland Young Player of the Year, Reading Player of the Year and Munster Minor Hurling Championship winner. Shane Long.
Not many would have predicted Long being such a clear favourite this time last year, but his performances in a Saints shirt this season have been superb. Often bemoaned as a striker who doesn’t score enough goals, Long’s input in this campaign has been crucial. The Irish forward has netted 11 times this term (so far), many of which were part of match winning turns. Long’s tireless effort and attitude whether playing up top or as part of a support three is breathtaking and given the indifference from Saints fans and the scoffing from Scousers when he was linked to Anfield in January, a Player of the Season award would be a fitting end to a point proving campaign!
Somebody’s 0 has got to go.
After a rather stunning victory at the weekend, where in fairness we probably didn’t deserve to win the game, a Rickie Lambert hat trick saw all three points head back to St. Mary’s.
What came with those three points though were a few accusations, mainly from West Ham fans, but also on a lesser scale from Reading and our South Coast friends from Portsmouth and Brighton.
Firstly that we are cheats, and that we were given two “dodgy” penalties to convert a defeat into a win. This point I’m not going to discuss. Watch the replays.
Secondly, that we are a “One Man Team”. This isn’t new territory for us. For years in the nineties Matthew Le Tissier’s heroics seemingly kept us in the Premier League, and it is hard to argue with that, and I won’t even try. This time it is a little different. Rickie Lambert now wears Le Tissier’s number seven shirt and is undoubtedly a talisman for Nigel Adkins’ side, hitting 24 league goals so far. But. To call this team a “One Man Team” is a little facetious. This team is top of the Championship on merit, and the goals have come from every aspect of the side.
So exactly how important is Rickie Lambert to our season? In truth. Very.
If we erase his goals from history, instantly wins against Forest and Millwall become defeats, while victories over Brighton, Watford and Leeds all become draws and draws with Derby, Blackpool, Pompey and Ipswich all convert to losses. In all, this is a loss of 17 points and sees Saints four points outside of the play off places.
This only tells half the story of course. Lambert takes our penalties, of which there have been nine awarded this season, and of which he has converted all nine. Had he not been playing, someone else would have taken them, and quite possibly scored them too, which would again completely change the outcome of those games.
Arguably, without Lambert we would have gained at least a point at Brighton too. Sent off with the scores at 0-0 in a game Saints were dominating!
Another factor is that while West Ham and Reading’s top scorers sit on nine and seven goals respectively, our joint second top scorers sit on ten each! So what if we didn’t have those players either?
Guly do Prado. For me, still one of our most consistent and impressive performers, to other Saints fans the devil incarnate. But in terms of dropped points, he becomes the second most important player. Without Guly’s goals wins over Millwall, Hull and Palace become draws and Saints drop to fourth place on 66 points.
Adam Lallana may be shocked to find he plays in a “One Man Team” after being voted in the top three players in the Championship this season. He has also won points for Saints this season, victories against Hull and Barnsley becoming draws without his goals, dropping Saints to second with 68 points.
Frazer Richardson and Danny Fox should also get a mention here. The full backs are often the unsung heros, both in the top ten players in the Championship for assists with Lallana and Guly not to far behind.
And what about Kelvin Davis? How many points would we have taken from Elland Road recently and plenty of other games without him in goal?
This “One Man Team” image becomes more of a myth, the more you look at the stats. Another angle to approach it is which player have we missed the most when they haven’t played? And that is clearly Richard Chaplow. Saints have lost seven league games this season, five of which have come when Chaplow wasn’t involved. In fact we have dropped a staggering 25 points without the energetic midfielder in the side. We have dropped six when Lambert hasn’t played, seven without Lallana and two without Guly. It is no coincidence that our most lacklustre performance, the 0-2 home defeat by Leicester came when Lambert, Lallana and Chaplow were all missing.
So in conclusion we aren’t a “One Man Team”. We have several stand out men, playing amongst what is a very good team. Take away the assists of Fox, Richardson, Guly and Lallana and how many goals would Lambert have?
I would also urge the accusers to go and check their own sides stats before they point the finger again, I wonder how many points West Ham would have without the goals of Kevin Nolan or Mark Noble’s penalties…
“A hero has faced it all: he need not be undefeated, but he must be undaunted.” – Andrew Bernstein
Without the likes of Matt Le Tissier we would have no history.
Without Nicola Cortese we would have no future.
Two men. Two passions. Both with a significant input into the fortunes of this football club, be it recently or in the past. Both deserving of respect from the Saints faithful.
Le Tissier will always be the hero. The maverick, who has put smiles on more Saints fans, more times than any of us could put a number on. His contribution to Southampton Football Club is well documented and indisputable. A man of unrivalled loyalty, choosing to stay at our relatively small club over fame and fortune at those more glamourous.
Cortese is still the new boy in town. The businessman overseeing a reversal in the fortunes of the club. His contribution to Southampton Football Club is recent, yet crucial. Without him we may not be here. The club has gone from deaths door to the prime of life, breaking on the pitch records on an almost weekly basis.
Yet, the two of them, and the personal issue that exists between them is causing unrest and bickering between fans, at a time when the club is sat at the top of the Championship and supporters should be enjoying a period of settled success and enjoyment.
Some fans have never warmed to the Chairman. Mainly because he has introduced financial policies, that mean, while the fans get a worse deal than they have in the past, the club is on a sound business footing. This never used to be the case for Le Tissier, he always had the fans on his side. All of them. The recent bickering with the chairman has seen that change though, with some fans questioning the great man, and his intentions. This is a sad state of affairs, and fans taking sides upsets me a lot.
I have no side in this argument. I back the Chairman, as his running of the club has impressed me greatly. At the same time, I am not going to turn my back on my footballing hero, a man whose signed photo sits proudly framed on my living room wall.
Le Tiss has never struck me as a man only in it for himself. His record as a player would suggest that not be the case, he clearly has a lot of friends in the game, and Mr. Cortese’s interview in The Sun newspaper even prompted Jeff Stelling to give a heart felt public defence of Matt on Soccer Saturday.
I have no first hand knowledge of whether Le Tissier, or for that matter any other ex-player have ever ‘expected’ freebies from the club. My opinion on the matter is that someone of his stature amongst the clubs history should always be treated as a guest of the club if he wants to attend a match, but at the same time shouldn’t be allowed to phone the club and ask for x number of tickets for friends.
Perhaps the bad blood is a hangover from Le Tissier’s involvement with a rival bidding consortium when Cortese was trying to buy the club. Perhaps it is some ticket confusion. Perhaps it is about an ex-players anniversary dinner. Perhaps it is because of comments by both men in the media. Perhaps we will never know.
It makes me wonder what might have been. Had Le Tissier not been involved with the Pinnacle consortium and was still in his ambassadorial role with the club, when Cortese and the Liebherr family took over, I wonder if we now be enjoying a united front from the two men. If only.
I just hope that one day we can see them watching a game together. No dispute is unresolvable, especially between two men whose ultimate goals for the football club should be of the same view. The chairman may need to accept that ex-players will always be spoken to about the club in the media, and are allowed to vent their opinion, and Le Tissier may need to accept that the chairman is in charge, he can run the club how he likes, and he is doing a good job. I would appeal to fans that to take sides isn’t necessary. To go against the Chairman, is to effectively go against the club and to go against Le Tissier is to stab a man who gave you everything in the back.
There is only one number I want to be in, the one we should all be in. When the Saints go marching in. Together.
“Never walk, away from home, ahead of your axe and sword. You can’t feel battle, in your bones, or foresee a fight.” – The Havamal (Book of Viking Wisdom)
In my time watching the Saints, we have had foreign players from all over the world don the famous Red & White stripes. One group in particular that have found themselves taken to the hearts of the fans so readily are the Scandinavians.
So following the succes of the keepers debate I decided to take a vote amongst the users of the #saintsfc hashtag on who has been the best of the many Scandinavian players in Saints history. I was worried that their might be some controversy with this, and as predicted, many did ask as to the non-inclusion of Antti Niemi, who could have been a contender for a second successive Twitter vote victory, but I did check, and had it confirmed to me by others, that Finland is not officially part of Scandinavia. Therefore only players from Denmark, Norway and Sweden could qualify for this highly unofficial title!
In keeping with the four player format, I picked the nominees based on the impact they had on my time watching Saints. Self indulgent? Of course. This is my site. I happily accepted votes in the “other” category though.
1. Claus Lundekvam. It is rare, especially these days, that a foreign player works his way to a testimonial with an English club, but captain Lundekvam did just that. Playing over three hundred and fifty times for Saints, Claus was there for the highs and the lows after joining in 1996. Premier League, Europe, FA Cup final, Relegation, in twelve years at the club, the one thing that was a constant positive were the performances of the centre half. Carried on the tradition of other Scandinavian Premier League stars Jan Molby and Peter Schmeichal, by adopting a local accent.
2. Michael Svensson. Killer was as solid as they come at the centre of defence. A quiet unassuming man off the pitch, but a warrior on it. It is no coincidence that the most successful period of Premier League life for Saints coincided with the Swede’s involvement and the 2004/05 relegation with his loss to injury. His cult hero status at the club would be confirmed a couple of seasons later though, as after being released, he defied his injury problems to return to the playing staff, sadly it wasn’t to be the comeback everyone was hoping for.
3. Egil Ostenstad. The Norweigan with an eye for goal joined Saints in 1996 and became a fan favourite with his slick finishing. He was the fans player of the season in 1996/97 and continued his good goalscoring form in a side struggling in the Premier League. Disappointingly moved on to Blackburn Rovers in a deal that saw Kevin Davies return to the club in 1999.
4. Ronnie Ekelund. In what must have been one of my most enjoyable periods watching Saints, the Dane (a gift from Johan Cruyff to friend Alan Ball) formed a sublime partnership with Matt Le Tissier as they terrorised Premier League defences in the 1994/95 season. His apparent refusal to have surgery on a back problem led to him not being signed permanently, a mistake on Saints part in my opinion. Still rated by Le Tissier as the best player he ever played with.
From over forty votes this was the final result:-
A close victory for the big Swede, it is telling that between them the quality defensive partnership of Svensson and Lundekvam dominated the voting, with most fans finding it difficult to choose between them.
The other category was a lot more popular than I had anticipated. Many finding it strange that Anders Svensson didn’t make the final four, other votes that came in were for Jo Tessem and Alexander ‘Jesus’ Ostlund, but none in the volume that would actually see them as one of the top four choices. There were even a couple of votes for Stig Johansen, but I am not sure how serious those people were taking it. Strangely neither Andreas Jakobsson (The Swedish Callum Davenport © Phil Reed) or Mickael Nilsson (The Swedish Lee Todd) registered a single vote…
So do you agree with the Twitter voters? Anyone else that didn’t get a mention at all? Let me know!
I made my podcast debut this week for the new Football Social Media Site It’s Round and it’s White , speaking with site owner and Wolves fan Graham Large and Norwich City blogger Jamie Grand about Technology in football, the current England side, the prospective British Olympic squad and England’s heroes, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
So if you want to here me talk about the beautiful game, and bemoan the quality of the England team and Matt Le Tissier’s scandalous lack of caps Listen here…
When you talk about contentious issues, the best or worst eleven players for any club is probably number one. I was recently asked to write an article on my best Saints Premier League eleven for Shoot magazine and after a fair amount of wrestling and changes I settled on a team. I was lucky in one respect, I only had a window of fifteen years to toy with. My Saints experience started in the Premier League and I am guilty of vainly believing it would always reside there.
Actually after careful consideration, my best Saints Premier League eleven, is my best eleven full stop. It is drawn from a period where we competed with the best, and it is no coincidence that many of those selected made up our 2002/03 side.
The compiling of that team got me thinking, how difficult must it be to pick a side with a much bigger window of players to choose from? My colleague Dan and I couldn’t agree and our time watching Saints is of the same period.
I also thought about my worst eleven. Sadly, as a Saints fan this is much more difficult a prospect. Even in the twenty years of my support, we have been inundated with, for want of a better word. Crap.
So when in need of sensible opinion, broad knowledge and perhaps even an entertaining turn of phrase, I turned to the only resource where all three are commonplace. Twitter. I sought out the best and worst elevens of someone in their 50’s, 40’s and 20’s (Dan and I cover the 30’s), and I got some pretty entertaining responses. No doubt you won’t all agree with them, and as a collective we welcome comment. Opinion makes football what it is.
The rules were simple. You must have seen a player in the flesh to select them and state when you first started attending matches, and that was pretty much it! Everyone has taken their own approach, some have picked best individuals, others have tried to pick the best to fit a system or compliment each other.
My Best and Worst Saints XI by Chris O’Bee age 55
“I started following Saints at the start of the 1965/66 season. Remembering my 1st game is simply impossible! However, one of my very early games was the 9-3 drubbing of Wolves which did come early in 1965/66. I have always remembered it was 2-2 after about 5 minutes and that remarkably after we scored on the hour to make it 9-3 there were no more goals. Chivers scored 4, Paine 2, Sydenham 2 and George O’Brien also scored. I think that game probably meant I was hooked for life!”
Peter Shilton – “Genuine world class. Only Niemi comes close.”
Ivan Golac – “The first overseas signing we made I believe. The best attacking full back I have seen.”
Steve Mills – “Class personified, career sadly cut short or I believe he would have played for England.”
Mark Wright – “Took a little while to settle at the Dell, even played at right back. But developed into a top central defender.”
Dave Watson – “Already a seasoned International when he signed, another great Lawrie Mac signing and just ahead of some other top quality centre halves.”
Matthew Le Tissier – “Don’t need to say much, the most skilful player I have seen for us, legend is the right word.”
Alan Ball – “Another player who doesn’t require many words. A true legend of the game, vital in our 1977/78 promotion- another LM master stroke and simply world class.”
Steve Williams – “Oozed quality and formed in Division 2 a partnership with Bally that was exceptional. 1st saw him v Pompey in 1976 on his debut, looked class even then.”
David Armstrong – “Great left sided midfield player who scored a lot of vital goals, in many ways the front 2 are determined by his inclusion ahead of the wing wizard John Sydenham.”
Mick Channon – “Impossible to omit, our leading goalscorer ever, genuine nice guy and of course part of our FA Cup success in 1976. Another who deserves the term legend.”
Marian Pahars – “This was the most difficult decision but Marian is included as I feel he would have combined well with Channon. Keegan was not here long enough I don’t feel, Ron Davies is a super, super sub who could be introduced along with Sydenham and Terry Paine if needs be. Cannot believe strikers like Moran, Boyer and Osgood don’t even make the bench!”
Subs : Antti Niemi, Mark Dennis, Ron Davies, Kevin Keegan, Terry Paine, John Sydenham, Michael Svennson
(gwc – There was a refusal at this point by Chris to justify his selections in this team. They were simply that bad.)
Subs : Sandy Davie, Mark Walters, Tommy Widdrington, Oshor Williams, Tony Pulis
(gwc – No idea who Beaney, Crabbe and Dawtry are? Me either!)
My Best and Worst Saints XI by Andy Grace age 49
“1968 (I think) Went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang . Never got in (cinemas had queues and sell outs in those days) Dad took me to see Saints v Coventry instead. Overriding memory – pitch was green, crowd was in colour (had only seen football on b&w tv before that) 0-0 draw (again, I think), at least I don’t remember a goal, or anything else exciting come to that, but I was hooked.”
GK Peter Shilton – “Didn’t have to do a lot, he was so dominant the defence was scared to make a mistake. When they did he was like another one man defensive line all on his own. Still England’s record cap holder (125) should have been much higher but for a job-share arrangement with Ray Clemence. Booze, birds but still simply the best. Crap on Strictly Come Dancing.”
RB Ivan Golac – “First of the modern day foreign imports after we finally got round work permit problems, and possibly still the best value for money foreigner to this day. Took no prisoners in defence, and was even better going forwards . Scored a thunderbolt against WBA from at least 75 yards that their keeper never even saw. Used feigned lack of English to keep himself out of trouble with the ref, was the first foreigner to play in a Wembley final.”
CH Mark Wright – “A very good youngster who got better and better thanks to being paired with and learning from some experienced greats. Looked too frail to be a centre half but had great positional play and perfect timing. Reminiscent of Bobby Moore as, with head up, he would bring the ball out of defence and always look to pass, never hoof . Can still hear the sound his (frail looking) leg made as it snapped in the 86 semi final. Sadly ginger.”
LB Steve Mills – “England international in the making (he played for the Under 23s), it was clear we had unearthed a new star before his career was cruelly cut short after only 60 appearances first by injuries sustained in a car crash and then later developing (and sadly passing away from) leukaemia. Fast, tough tackling, intelligent passer and capable of a quick overlap and getting back again in no time. For younger fans imagine Wayne Bridge but twice as good. Maybe three times.”
LBRBCHRMLMCMRWLWCFS Nick Holmes – “I’d play him just in front of the CH behind the Midfield, put as the positional initials show he played virtually every position for Saints except keeper and never ever let us down. Never received the international recognition he deserved, possibly due to his beard. Seemed a quiet character on the pitch, he simply got on with his job and done it well, very well. It was often said that you only really noticed him if, through injury, he wasn’t there, and you’d be looking for the three players we seemed to be missing. For me this jack-of-all-trades-master-of-all would be the first on every team sheet.”
RW Terry Paine – “Still holds the record for most appearances for the club. Tirelessly hogging the touchline, one of, if not the best crosser of a ball I’ve ever seen. Played in the 66 World Cup squad but picked up an injury so never made the final. Unlike most modern wingers, not afraid to stick a boot, or elbow, in when needed, dropped back into a deeper midfield role as age and differing tactics caught up with him.”
CM Kevin Keegan – “The signing that shocked the football world, it came as big a shock as if we signed Messi today. He didn’t stay long (a couple of seasons) but gave 110% every minute he was on the pitch. Total live-wire, his amazing enthusiasm rubbed off on other players who wouldn’t or couldn’t let their standards drop in his presence. He always struck me as a short player who was a giant on the pitch (the afro may have helped there) Scored the world’s best ever disallowed goal (search YouTube for it) not to mention the goal that took Saints to the top of the league – not our division, THE league. Hard to believe nowadays with not just Saints but football changing so much since then but yes, with him in our team we really were the best side in the country for a while.”
CM David Armstrong – “Just 3 England caps for a player that would walk into today’s national team, he was unfortunate to play in an era when our country had a dearth of mid-fielders. Fantastic box to box player, great at bringing others into the game, making goal after goal for our forwards whilst contributing better than 1 goal in every 4 games himself (a ratio many forwards would be proud of). Added bonus of his head dazzling the opposition under floodlights.”
LW Danny Wallace – “To be fair not a winger as such but was always prepared to hang out wide before bursting inside on a run and terrifying defenders who never knew if he would take the ball past them to their right, left or through their legs. Often utilised in Chris Nicols (unheard of nowadays) 4-2-4 formation he scored a MotD goal of the season with an overhead kick against Liverpool, which I missed, still the one and only time I’ve been for a pee during a game. Added advantage of being able to swap him for brothers Rodney or Ray if he gets tired and no-one will notice.”
CF Ron Davies – “The best header of a ball. Ever. Anywhere. Any time. Benefited from the accuracy of Paine’s crosses but I’m sure he would still have got his head to most balls if it had been my Gran crossing them for him. He scored four headed goals away at Old Trafford. I don’t mean in his career I mean in ONE game and ended up as top scorer in the top division. He, like Ryan Giggs, had the footballing misfortune of being Welsh, depriving him of what would have been a well deserved place on the world stage.”
S Mike Channon – “A striker capable of scoring from anywhere, whether playing through the middle or starting out on the wing* and cutting in. An England regular he played the game with a smile, not least as he “stumbled” over a defenders leg to gain yet another penalty. Scorer of the Greatest Goal Ever® (search YouTube for Greatest Goal Ever®) when against Liverpool he finished off a move consisting of over a thousand passes without them touching the ball before wheeling away giving his trademark windmill arm goal celebration. *Wing positions were often taken up in order to get the racing results , another advantage of the Dell crowds close proximity to the pitch.”
Sub: Matthew Le Tissier – “Famed for his one club loyalty he has probably more individual talent than any of the above but in my opinion all of the above are better team players. Capable of scoring from virtually anywhere in the opponents half, lethal with free kicks and penalties, but starts on the bench as he was prone to disappear for long spells (sometimes as long as 90 minutes especially if it was cold and raining) Selection as sub possibly clouded by my love of being controversial but hey, this is MY team.”
“I refuse to pick a worst XI. After all, good bad or indifferent, they are all Saints and therefore worthy of our support and respect.
Except for David Speedie &Kerry Dixon. They were s***e.”
My Best and Worst Saints XI by Phil Reed age 42
Tim Flowers – “Best Keeper in England 91-96 unlucky not to get more caps ahead of “Spunky”Seaman. Consistently good for Saints his best performance ,possibly, being in the 92 ZDS Cup Final at Wembley when Saints should have been about 8 down at half time and would have been had it not been for Timmy.”
Ivan Golac – “Quality attacking Right Back who was mysteriously binned for “Oh No” Mick Mills.”
Mark Dennis – “A mental tough tackling left back whose footballing ability would surely have gained England honours had he been the full ticket. Famously lamped by Chris Nicholl at half time and also offered to put all of us up after midweek away games when p****d at an IW supporters dinner.”
Steve Williams – “Classiest Central Midfielder I have witnessed in a Saints shirt. Was that important to the team that they hastily arranged a league game on the Monday before the 84 cup game against Pompey so he could serve a suspension.”
Mark Wright – “Elegant Centre half and token Ginger in my team.”
Micheal Svensson – “Killer was all you wanted in a Centre half,committed, brave and crazy. Massive shame his career was curtailed by injury and it speaks volumes about the man’s character the way he kept trying to come back. Would have been the token Ginger had I not already had one.”
Matthew Le Tissier – “Most skillful footballer I have ever seen.Would have been the laziest had David McGoldrick not turned up some seasons ago. The man is a genius.”
Jimmy Case – “Hardest player I have seen play for Saints and never tried to make a career out of it like some others did (Terry Hurlock). Could also play a bit too and it was funny to watch him steam in every time we played Everton.”
Steve Moran – “Prolific homegrown scorer. Scored 89th minute winner at Fratton in 1984. Say no more.”
David Armstrong -“Put the ball in for the aforemetioned Moran goal. Cultured left foot and token baldy in my team.”
Danny Wallace – “Energetic skillful 3 foot 2 inch winger who was electric on the wing. Scored a magnificent overhead kick against Liverpool but I like to remember his second goal in that game when he out jumped that over critical sour faced Sweaty Hansen to head home at the far stick.”
Dave Beasant – “I haven’t seen many poor Keepers at Saints, Jones had his moments, but “Lurch” gets my vote for general dodginess and that howler when from the corner flag he side footed it straight to John Barnes who couldn’t believe his luck as he stroked the ball into an empty net just hard enough so hapless Dave sprawled into the net after it.”
Lloyd James – “Never saw him have a good game for Saints and at the end of his Saints career was a broken man who regularly passed the ball out of play.”
Olivier Bernard – “A Redknapp signing. Say no more. French, crap.”
Paul Wotton – “Professional footballer my arse. Defensive Midfielder with a complete inability to defend.”
Richard Dryden – “Struggled to get a game in the lower leagues with Bristol City so signed by Saints and played in the Premiership with sadly inevitable results. Remembered for being one of 3 Centre Halves in a defensive line up in a live game @ Newcastle when Saints were 4-0 down inside 15 mins”
Alan Bennett – “Quite simply the slowest and worst Centre Half in the history of the club. Endured the worst Saints debut (home to Palace) since the infamous George Weah’s cousin”
Jermaine Wright – “Inside his head he was a majestic skillful player who could pick a pass from anywhere. To the rest of us he was an overpaid waste of skin who ended up where he belonged playing for Croydon.”
Luis Boa Morte – “More wasted finances on a player who never did it for Saints. Makes my team for trying to beat a man in the 94th minute with Saints 3-2 up against Derby at The Dell. He lost it and no prizes for guessing what happened next. That error cost me a door to my front room after I deposited my right foot through it. And my children were scared of me for weeks afterwards.”
Paul Moody – “I was going to have Dowie in my team before I was reminded of Moody, a Dowie clone but even worse! Unbelievable but true.”
Craig Maskell – “Had 2 spells at Saints, how I don’t know.I can only imagine that he put on a disguise when signing for the second time. Remembered for scoring in the snowy 4-2 win against Liverpool but I defy anybody who remembers another goal scored by him.”
Perry Groves – “Ginger Gooner P**shead who came to Saints for an easy payday. Pulled his shorts up to ridiculous heights. Crap for Saints but his book is a good read.”
My Best and Worst Saints XI by Chris Rann age 32
“First went to the Dell in 1992. Saints v Arsenal. 2-0 home win. Ian Wright missed a penalty. The only way was up…Oh wait.”
Antti Niemi – “Finland international Niemi, joined the club from Hearts in 2002 and soon established himself as one of the top keepers in the Premier League. Breathtaking shot stopping ability and an ice cool temperament, the flying Finn became a cult hero at St. Mary’s, even smashing a volley against the bar at Fulham.”
Wayne Bridge – “Local boy Bridge was a graduate of the famous Southampton academy, both a competent defender and potent attacker Bridge made his first team debut at 18 and never looked back. He made 151 appearances for Saints and soon broke into Sven Goran Errikkson’s England setup before a big money move to Chelsea.”
Jason Dodd – “Dodd played just shy of 400 games for Saints after signing from non-league Bath City in 1989, the ever dependable full back became part of the furniture in Southampton and is still part of the backroom staff.”
Dean Richards – “Big Deano joined Dave Jones Saints team in 1998 Wolves, the towering centre half was like a brick wall at the back and soon became a fans favourite, being voted as the supporters player of the year in his first season. Sadly passed away this year aged just 36.”
Michael Svensson – “Killer arrived in Southampton from French side Troyes for a fee of £800k in 2002. A fee that would turn out to be an absolute bargain, forming a formidable partnership with Claus Lundekvam (himself unlucky to not make this side) at the back. Svensson was so impressive in the cup final team of 2003 that he was linked with a move to Barcelona, before injury problems blighted his career.”
Chris Marsden – “Something of a journeyman, expectations from Saints fans were low when Marsden joined from Birmingham in 1999. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Marsden provided the engine for a successful Saints midfield, combative and creative, he went on to captain the 2003 cup final side and score a memorable Pele style goal at Ipswich.”
Matthew Le Tissier – “What more needs to be said? Le God as he is known on the South Coast wowed the Southampton faithful for 16 years, despite tempting offers from more glamourous clubs. Simply, the best we ever had. Majestic and mercurial, the man who could turn any game on it’s head in a matter of seconds.”
Ronnie Ekelund – “An odd choice, based on his lack of games maybe, but the impact the Dane had in such a short time at the Dell was massive. A pre-season “gift” from then Barcelona boss Johan Cruyff to old friend Alan Ball in 1994, Ekelund formed an almost telepathic understanding with Le Tissier as Ball’s free flowing side scared many a defence.”
Hassan Kachloul – “Morrocan international Kachloul played 86 games for Saints between 1998 and 2001 after signing from FC Metz on a free transfer and was instrumental in Glenn Hoddle’s successful Saints side. A player that splits opinion among Saints fans, Kachloul was never short of a trick or turn.”
Marian Pahars – “The little Latvian took Saints to heart as much as the supporters did him. Another bargain signing at just £800k from Skonto Riga (where he is now manager), Pahars turned out 137 times for Saints between 1999 and 2006. His love for the club evident is his passionate celebration after a curled wonder strike against the blue few of Pompey, and his tear filled farewell lap of honour.”
James Beattie – “Saints fans may have been disappointed to lose striker Kevin Davies to Blackburn in 1998, but little did they know, that they were getting a much more potent striker as part of the deal. Beattie’s goalscoring exploits tended to come in fits and starts, but when he was hot, he was certainly hot. His partnership with Brett Ormerod, crucial in the 2003 cup run.”
Subs:- Claus Lundekvam, Francis Benali, Matthew Oakley, Carlton Palmer, Egil Ostenstad.
Dave Beasant – “I almost feel guilty, because he was clearly a character and nice bloke. Almost. Too many howlers.”
Olivier Barnard – “I was chuffed when we signed him, probably the biggest disappointment ever. Difficult to express how terrible he was, or indeed how little he cared as we limply dropped out of the top flight.”
Callum Davenport – “Somewhere out there, there is another bloke called Callum Davenport who is really good at football, but has somehow ended up doing a useless, clumsy, lanky blokes job”
Allan Bennett – “Irish international? Crazy. Terrible debut, and it didn’t get much better.”
Darren Kenton – “I literally can’t remember a single moment involving Kenton that wasn’t hapless”
Rory Delap – “Our record signing. We didn’t even utilise the long throw. A utility man. Equally bad in all positions.”
Mark Hughes – “Yeah, yeah, great for everyone else he played for. Poor for us. We were his career blip.”
Simon Gillett – “Couldn’t pass, tackle or shoot, and extremely lightweight. All the trappings of a terrible central midfielder.”
Neil McCann – “Nearly left him out because he attacked Lee Bowyer, but he simply wasn’t very good.”
Paul Moody – “Bloody Hell! Dowie is having shocker today. Wait a minute. That isn’t Dowie, it’s his slightly better looking, but even worse at football teammate”
Ali Dia – “How could I leave him out?”
My Best and Worst Saints XI by Russell Masters age 20
“Started Supporting Saints in the late 90’s”
Antti Niemi – “His legendary ability to somehow stop the most unreachable shots made him my first choice ‘keeper whenever I had to go in goal down the park.”
Gareth Bale – “I’ll always remember Bale’s attacking nature whilst playing at left-back for Saints, he was exciting and a hot prospect at the time. His set pieces weren’t too bad either.”
Claus Lundekvam – “Our Claus, in the middle of defence. Need I say more? Solid, long-serving defender, and a hero in my eyes.”
Michael Svensson – “Killer formed a cracking partnership at the back with Lundekvam which stopped some of the Premier League’s best attackers.”
Jason Dodd – “Seemed to be the only good Southampton right back whilst I was growing up, was always in the team and deservedly so.”
Chris Marsden – “Marsden is here purely for THAT goal versus Ipswich. Football genius.”
Matt Le Tissier – “Le God. 433 league appearances, 162 league goals. A Southampton legend, and I agree with Xavi when he said ‘for me, he was sensational’.”
Morgan Schneiderlin – “One of the best central midfielders I’ve seen, his composure and the way he plays is sublime. I was also there for his only Saints goal, away at Bristol Rovers.”
Adam Lallana – “Arguably our best current player, Lallana oozes talent, his skill on the ball is a class above and he is a joy to watch.”
Marian Pahars – “Probably one of my favourite players of all time, Pahars did the business on the highest stage, and his nickname of ‘Latvia’s Michael Owen’ is well deserved. He was fantastic.”
James Beattie – “He was sometimes hit and miss, but when he was hitting, he was top class.”
Tommy Forecast – “On the odd occasion I’ve seen him play, he has never, ever, impressed.”
Lee Molyneux – “Did nothing aside from getting sent off after he joined, and has done nothing since leaving.”
Ollie Lancashire – “He tried, but just could not cut it in a Saints team where he looked increasingly out of his depth.”
Chris Makin – “Came to us at the end of his career and it showed.”
Lloyd James – “Like Lancashire, often looked out of his depth. Had a few good games, but was often poor.”
Luis Boa Morte – “The promising attacking midfielder pretty much flopped during his short spell at Saints.”
Ryan Smith – “He was supposed to be good, but wasn’t. Now plying his trade in the MLS.”
Nigel Quashie – “Four relegations with four different teams, including Saints.”
Leon Best – “Own goal and a missed penalty in a play off semi final is unforgivable.”
Ali Dia – “A couple of years before my time, but he has to be mentioned. Just awful. “
Agustin Delgado – “The £3.5m striker scored one goal in two starts over the course of three years. Then manager Gordon Strachan said there was a yoghurt in his fridge that was more important than Delgado.”
So there we have it, some recurring choices, but also some differences. Thankfully we didn’t have any players feature for a Best and Worst teams, which would have been embarrassing. I am sure some of you will be astounded at players that haven’t made best elevens, and some that have made the worst. Feel free to add your selections in the comments section. No opinion is wrong!
Saturday 19th May 2001.
Approximately forty three minutes past four.
Paul Jones’ long free kick towards the Milton Road end dropped at the edge of the Arsenal box, James Beattie won the ball in the air, knocking it down for substitute Matthew Le Tissier. Le Tisser took a touch, turned and smashed a thunderous half volley into the top corner, Alex Manninger dived in vain but the proverbial script had long been written and the Austrian was only in the supporting cast.
That was the last official goal at The Dell. It could only be Le Tissier that scored it, it could only be spectacular.
Uwe Rosler scored the last actual goal seven days later in a special friendly against Brighton, but it is the Le Tissier goal that everyone still talks about. It hardly seems real that it was ten years ago. St. Mary’s still feels new to me, but actually, it has been our home for more than half my time as a Saint.
There really was something magical about The Dell, it might sound like a cliche, perhaps it is, but for all it’s flaws(and it had many), The Dell was special, and it was ours. For many years it embodied everything that typified Southampton, the plucky little club punching above it’s weight rubbing shoulders with Old Trafford and Anfield. The years of Premier League survival were miraculous anyway, but with a capacity of just over fifteen thousand, how Saints competed and sometimes bettered the likes of Spurs, Everton and Chelsea was often baffling.
It is often said that stadia have character, and The Dell was certainly not lacking in that department. From the odd shaped “chocolate box” two tiered terrace at the Milton Road, to it’s 1993 Right angled triangle all seater replacement. In the front row of the East Stand where I had my Season Ticket(£96, how is that for some football nostalgia?) you were so close to the players you could clearly hear their conversations and interact with them.
This closeness gave the home team an edge, they were safe, the opposition were not, and famously hated it, David Beckham the most notable to audibly complain about playing there. It was a weapon in our arsenal, we used it and we did well there, the top teams often succumbing to the pressures of the close knit ground and finding themselves turned over. In the 1998/99 season Saints finished bottom of the “Away” league table with just ten points, but stayed in the Premier League by five.
The club was lucky enough to move on to our nice big, new stadium in 2001, which is essential in the current financial competitiveness of modern football, but we should never forget where we came from.
So come the new season, when you are enjoying the concourse facilities, or the nice view from your seat, or browsing the megastore, or even not struggling to get a ticket. Spare a thought for The Dell, she wasn’t pretty but she served us well.
Southampton football genius turned Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday telly pundit Matt Le Tissier admits that he’d rather talk nonsense than be a manager!
Being a Sky Sports pundit looks like a giggle…
“It’s brilliant. How can you not enjoy watching football matches with your mates? Jeff Stelling has a great sense of humour and I get on famously with Thommo [Phil Thompson], Charlie [Nicholas] and all the lads.”
There’s a fair bit of mickey-taking…
“And therein lies the fun! We usually meet up on a Friday night in the hotel, get drunk and talk all sorts of nonsense. Then we just carry that over to the show on a Saturday afternoon.”
Ever said anything on air you later regretted then?
“I did say that the referee was c**p once and producer said in my headphones: ‘I think the word you were looking for was rubbish.’ (laughs). It’s all part of the fun though and we enjoy stitching each other up.”
Tell us more…
“We tease each other about our accents, especially the Scottish lads. Charlie Nicholas pronounced the Wigan goalkeeper [John] Filan as feeling and said once” ‘It’s a yellow for feeling.’ I said: ‘I thought you only got a yellow for pushing and shoving Charlie.’ It tickled me anyway!”
As an ex-player do you tread softly when someone has a nightmare?
“A player knows if he’s had a shocker so there’s no need to rub it in. I usually say he’s had a miserable game but I’m sure he’ll be better next week. Some pundits can cross the line and turn their assessment into a character assassination. I’ll always give an honest opinion so if anyone doesn’t like it – tough.”
Reckon you could be England manager then?
“Ha ha. I thought about management briefly when Harry Redknapp left Southampton but I didn’t have any coaching qualifications. You need all that stuff now but I find it a load of bull.”
“I got three quarters of the way through level two coaching but it seemed pointless. It goes against everything I believe in – playing naturally and off the cuff. A guy who had never played the game was showing me how to pass the ball ten yards with the outside of the boot – but I’d been doing that on the pitch for 20 years. I was pulling my hair out…”
Are you annoyed that players put cash before their club now?
“I don’t blame them for that. If a player is going to get offered twice his salary to move clubs of course he’s going to consider it. It’s just a reflection of society in general.”
What about Chelsea’s millions?
“Their wealth inflates the whole transfer market and it makes players get greedy. I can’t quite comprehend why you have to negotiate a contract at Chelsea. When there’s that much money involved why argue the toss over £90,000 and £100,000. Not being funny, but how much can you spend?”
Do you miss your playing days?
“I don’t miss training one bit, especially pre-season. I miss walking out to a full stadium at five to three on a Saturday afternoon and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up with excitement. I can cope without it though.”
With Gareth Bale following Theo Walcott, are Saints becoming a conveyor belt for potential England stars?
“I trained alongside Theo a couple of years ago and thought: ‘This lad can play’. He left Southampton too early though and lost his way by not playing competitively. Gareth may be a defender but can really influence attacks with his set-pieces and foraging runs. I think he’s got every attribute to be a world-class full-back and I’d be very surprised if he didn’t go right to the top of the tree.”
This interview first appeared in Shoot Magazine and appears with permission of the publishers. You can now catch Shoot on line at www.shoot.co.uk