Tag Archives: Matthew Le Tissier

Be in that number with a Saints Legend!

Ever fancied living out your dreams? Walking out on to the hallowed turf at the home of football perhaps? Playing the killer pass that allows Brett Ormerod to steer home? Getting on the end of a Jason Dodd cross? Maybe you’d like to be on the receiving end of a Benali tackle? Or simply fancy the perfect view of Le Tissier’s grace?

Well now you can, and what’s more, with the help of this site you can get 5% off of the cost of doing so!

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 third 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.

The four team tournament will take place on 14th 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.

Check out highlights from last year:
To find out more and book your place ‘in that number’ go here:- https://www.playwithalegend.com/southampton-2018

Don’t forget to use the code ‘WEAH’ at checkout for 5% off!

My Ultimate XI

Dear reader, I’ve no doubt that this will open me up to some criticism and that’s fine, all I ask you is that you make that criticism constructive and debate worthy!

Recently Saints have launched their campaign to find the ‘Ultimate’ Saints XI.

As a fan you are entitled to vote for a Goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders, three forwards and a manager. Simple right? Not quite. Only those with 150 plus appearances qualify. That to me is an odd rule. There have undoubtedly been players who made less than that but had more impact than some that did, but anyway, that is their rules and like the submissive man that I am I shall simply take that restriction on the chin and vote while mumbling Dean Richards quietly under my breath.

The beauty of a public poll like this is, that everyone interprets it their own way. For instance I immediately decided I couldn’t vote for those I never saw play.  This was a sub-conscious but clear decision. This is MY Ultimate XI. To me the idea that someone in their 20’s is voting for Mick Mills is a little ludicrous. This is your team, not your Dad’s! But, as it is your team then you are entitled to interpret it however you see fit.

Due to my decision, basically anyone who played for Saints prior to 1986 was basically out. This might seem reckless, but no matter how good they might have been they don’t mean the same to me as they might those who were there at the time. And besides, olden days football was a rubbish standard right? (joke).

Anyway never-mind the reasoning, here is my team:-

This side would of course be managed by Gordon Strachan.

As everybody will think, my team seems self explanatory to me, but I’ll explain it anyway.

Goalkeeper:- Antti Niemi

The Flying Finn, was simply put, a fantastic Goalkeeper, and undoubtedly the best I’ve seen for Saints (even without the 150 appearance rule).  His shot stopping was often spectacular and he was certainly one of those keepers that was worth a few points a season.

Left Back:- Wayne Bridge

Now a star of reality TV, Bridge really was as good as we made out at the time and his further career at Chelsea, Man City and with England goes to prove it. The local lad I watched from debutante to high profile transfer exit. It seems odd to think he is two years younger than me!

Centre Half:- Claus Lundekvam

Our Claus, the Norwegian with a Hampshire twang to his accent was somewhat of an anomaly. It is rare in modern football that somebody earns a testimonial, even rarer when a foreigner does it, but Claus took the city and the club to his heart and backed it up with solid performances.

Centre Half:- Mark Wright

This was the first time when I was selecting where the appearance rule proved a problem. Wright only just sneaks into my own personal criteria, but I have to say the choices in this position weren’t awe inspiring. Wright was a classy ball playing defender, perhaps ahead of his time!

Right Back:- Jason Dodd

For me Dodd was Mr. Dependable. Over 400 games for the club and I don’t remember a bad one. Maybe not the most dynamic right back in the league, but one you could trust and never lost his affinity with the club, even drinking with the fans in Milan last year!

Midfield:- David Armstrong

Largely regarded as one of the most underrated players in English football, though he was recognised internationally. I didn’t worry too much about balance in my team, but I do feel Armstrong is key to that. A tidy midfield player who chipped in with goals.

Midfield:- Morgan Schneiderlin

Like Wayne Bridge, this one has a sense of journey about it. I watched this lightweight French kid who looked useless at first develop into one of the most accomplished midfielders in the Premier League. A defensive midfielder, but so much more, under Pochettino then Koeman he was consistently outstanding.

Free Role:- Matthew Le Tissier

The greatest of all time. Surely there wasn’t anybody who didn’t vote for him, except himself?

Forward:- Danny Wallace

This could easily have gone to Rod, but not Ray. Sorry Ray. Eventually I went for the one with the most goals. Again, I wasn’t looking at balance (but perhaps I was) but with one target man, I wanted my other strikers to be the exciting pacy kind.

Forward:- Rickie Lambert

Had he not continued his fantastic form into the top flight then maybe this position would be filled by a Beattie or a Shearer, but he did. Of course he did. Perhaps the first player to capture the imaginations of Saints fans since Le Tiss. A gentleman, and a great goalscorer.

Forward:- Marian Pahars

 

Impact. Longevity. Talent. The kid from Latvia who dazzled us both with his fantastic ability and his affection for the club. His celebration v Portsmouth still sends shivers down my spine, the man from Riga celebrating like he grew up in Sholing. Some will overlook him, but they would be wrong to, had injuries not hampered him I’ve no doubt he’d be talked in higher regard.

Manager:- Gordon Strachan

I spent more time on this than perhaps on any of the others. There were three periods as a Saints fan I really loved. Under Messrs Strachan, Pochettino and Koeman. Poch didn’t qualify so it was a choice of two. At the end of the day both got us into Europe after prolonged breaks but only one got us to a cup final!

So there it is. Make of it what you will, but please remember, this is MY Ultimate XI, I’m not asking you to change yours. There will be thousands of different combinations, all with great justification but ultimately democracy will decide! I do think the more recent players will win as this is an internet competition for the internet generation, but let it be said, that every nominee in the list deserves our respect and our gratitude for being Saints!

Vote here:- https://southamptonfc.com/news/2017-10-13/southampton-fans-ultimate-xi-sea-city-museum-exhibition

Keep the faith!

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.

5 minutes with…. Kevin Davies Part 1

This week I was given the fantastic opportunity via 888sport.com to pose some questions to former Saints striker Kevin Davies.

Davies had two spells at the club sandwiching a big money move to Blackburn Rovers and can perhaps be credited for changing his style of play completely to earn him greater success as he matured.

From ‘that’ goal against Everton to cup final disappointment and what he makes of the van Dijk ‘situation’, Kevin gave us a frank and honest take on the club.

Kevin Davies, spoke exclusively to 888sport.

What do you expect to see from Saints next season, can they compete for a top eight place again for example?

KD ‘There needs to be more signings and it will be interesting to see what happens between now and the end of the transfer window and particularly whether Van Dijk goes and if they have the timescale to reinvest that money. I covered their games for BT last year and yes there was some fans a bit disgruntled with the style of play but I think when you play that many games in Europe, get to a cup final – which they were unlucky to lose – and finish in the top eight that’s a really good season.

You look at the sides above them and it’s going to be difficult to compete with them but they’ve got a really good manager in Pellegrino and they may well play a more attacking style of football now because he always wants his teams to play the right way.”

The fans need to believe in Les Reed and the model they have created down there. I’m a big fan of what they do where they plan for the future. You may question their ambition a little bit and want them to keep their better players but they have the model in place to be ahead of the game whether that is finding the right playing staff or managers. When you look at where they were seven or eight years ago and now they’re going to be in or around that cluster of top eight teams like West Brom, Stoke and Leicester. There is no danger of relegation and they will finish mid-table at least I think.’

Their biggest flaw last season was the lack of goals, how does Pellegrino bring back that spark up front?

KD ‘They’ve got enough options there. We saw flashes of what Gabbiadini is capable of and though he has never been prolific at previous clubs in Italy he looks a real fox in the box. All the strikers have different attributes with the likes of Shane Long and Charlie Austin. Both missed a lot of last season through injury but they’re different kinds of strikers who can cause different kinds of problems for defenders. There is Redmond in there as well so it comes down to the manager and what he sees in pre-season. Whether he plays three up or one or the old-fashioned 4-4-2 there are plenty of attacking options and it’s about settling on a system that clicks. There will be less rotation which is good because the best players want to player every week and that leads to frustration. Shane Long only made ten starts last season so there is frustration there but what that gives a manager is a clean slate. They will all be eager to impress and make that starting line-up and stay there.’

Read the full 888sport interview with Kevin Davies, including his thoughts on where Southampton will finish this season. 

What is your view on the Virgil van Dijk situation?

KD ‘It just seems unsavoury. Clearly the player wants to go and Southampton are taking a stance which they have every right to do as he signed a new contract not so long ago. It needs to be resolved sooner rather later though because it looks inevitable that they’re going to sell him at some point. The club has done really well in the past bringing in players at the right time then selling them on but I know there are a lot of fans – including former players like Matt le Tissier – who would like those players to stay. That is so difficult when the big clubs come calling and maybe it’s the right move to sell him if they triple their money on him. With the model they have at Southampton they will have been planning this for months, years, and will know how best to reinvest that money.’

More to follow…..

 

Thanks to Kevin and 888sport.

Read the full 888sport interview with Kevin Davies, including his thoughts on where Southampton will finish this season.

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.

Throwback – Saints Premier League Dream Team (2011)

Back in 2011, prior to Saints return to the top flight I was asked by Shoot magazine to compile my ‘Premier League Dream Team’.

I thought it would be good to look back at it now, 5 years later and with some impressive Premier League campaigns under our belt to see where I might now change that team.

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Goalkeeper (2011) – Antti Niemi

Goalkeeper (2016) – No change. The flying Finn was and still is the best keeper I’ve ever seen in a Saints shirt.

Left Back (2011) – Wayne Bridge

Left Back (2016) – No change. I was a big fan of Bridge, and though I think Luke Shaw might have stolen this had he stayed a bit longer and Ryan Bertrand is consistently immaculate, Bridge still gets the nod. Just.

Excuse the picture of Paul Telfer...
Excuse the picture of Paul Telfer…

Right Back (2011) – Jason Dodd

Right Back (2016) – Nathaniel Clyne. It’s not easy to drop Dodd who was such a fantastic servant to the club but Clyne’s performances in a Saints shirt were superb.

Centre Half (2011) – Dean Richards R.I.P.

Centre Half (2016) – Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman will go on to be know as one of Saints most impressive and important signings of all time in my opinion. Oozes class and is almost unbeatable in the air.

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Centre Half (2011) – Michael Svensson

Centre Half (2016) – Jose Fonte. Another difficult decision but Fonte’s impact in the Premier League as the constant amongst several partners and the defensive performances that have stemmed from them have to be rewarded.

Central Midfield (2011) – Chris Marsden

Central Midfield (2016) – Morgan Schneiderlin. An all round brilliant midfielder and arguably is yet to be replaced (though PEH looks a decent bet).

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Left Midfield (2011) – Hassan Kachloul

Left Midifeld (2016) – Adam Lallana. The homegrown Lallana may have left a sour taste in the mouths of many when he left, but his performances for Saints were a joy to watch.

Right Midfield (2011) – Ronnie Ekelund

Right Midfield (2016) – No change. Ekelund was at the club for such a short space of time that I feel sorry for those fans who didn’t get to see how good he was.

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Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2011) – Matthew Le Tissier

Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2016) – No change. Pretty sure I don’t have to justify this one.

Striker (2011) – Marian Pahars

Striker (2016) – No change. I can’t drop the little Latvian, I simply can’t. He provided too much joy to my younger Dell going self.

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Striker (2011) – James Beattie

Striker (2016) – Rickie Lambert. Very difficult to remove Beattie, but Lambert was much more than a brilliant striker, he was a superb footballer and a talisman too.

Subs (2011) – Lundekvam, Oakley, Ostenstad, Palmer, Benali

Subs (2016) – M. Svensson, Wanyama, Mane, Beattie, Benali

So that’s my updated team, but what is yours?

Chris

Top Ten of Saints Shirts: Part Two

Following on from Saturday’s run down of the top Saints shirts from 10-6, Jon Carney of  Classic Football Shirts give’s us his top 5!

5. 1987-89 Home Shirt

southampton-87-home-_1

‘Rare shirt produced by German manufacturers Hummel with an added classic Draper Tools sponsor as worn when the side finished 12th & 13th in the First Division under boss Chris Nicholl. The shirt mirrors the exact design of the Denmark shirt worn in Mexico at World Cup ’86.’

4. 1993-95 Home Shirt

km

‘This bold Pony number with its interesting named Dimplex sponsor was controversial at the time of its release for abandoning simple stripes for the huge geometric Pony logo on the upper front which dominated the design. Today however, bold shirts; whether it be with a huge geometric logo or an acid-house inspired pattern, are enjoying something of a renaissance – perhaps in response to the simplicity of modern day designs. This Pony template was also followed in claret and blue by West Ham in 1993.’

3. 1991-93 Third Shirt

southampton-91-third-use

‘Rare third shirt donned by Premier League legends Le Tissier and Shearer as the side narrowly avoided relegation by just one point during the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League campaign. With a bold pattern throughout this shirt forms part of a brilliant era of football shirts between the late 80’s and early 90’s when designs brazenly toed the line between future classic and garish monstrosity (see 1991 away shirt!) in a reflection of music and fashion. The shirt also gives a nod to the club’s tradition of donning yellow and blue away/third shirts introduced in the 1970’s as part of a wider trend of clubs wanting to emulate Brazil (seriously). On the Wembley turf in May 1976, they did just that.’

2. 2010-11 Home Shirt

aocsash

‘The club returned to its roots with this classic sash design which marked their 125th anniversary, with subtle touches including 1885-2010 detail to the crest and a sponsor-less front. The shirt helped inspire them to win promotion from League One with the side boasting an incredible array of talents for the level, including future internationals Lambert, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Schneiderlin, and Jose Fonte (plus Jason Puncheon)!’

Editor’s Note:- This is my personal favourite, for this simple, classy design, the lack of sponsor and the team that played in it! – Chris

1. 1980-83 Home Shirt

southampton-80-home-use_4

‘Extremely rare home shirt with great vintage design and famous Rank Xerox sponsor as worn when the side achieved consecutive top seven finishes in the First Division under boss Lawrie McMenemy. The Saints were helped by the goals of ’78 and ’79 Ballon D’Or winner Kevin Keegan who joined from Hamburg and enjoyed a stunning campaign in 81-82 scoring 30 goals in all competitions. With its tailored look and collar detail, the design remains a firm favourite with fans who ask for it to be adapted for the new season shirt most summers.’

So there it is, an outsider’s point of view on the best Saints kits so far. Feel differently? Let us know!

Check out some classic Southampton shirts here bit.ly/1NGtSxI and tell us which is your favourite?

Top Ten of Saints Shirts: Part One

Now the season is officially over, and the frustrating rumour mill has already started turning with regards to the future of our players and manager, many will be waiting in anticipation for the reveal of the new Saints kit for next season, especially as it will be the first manufactured by Under Armour. But what have been the best Saints kits over the years?

We caught up with Jon Carney from Classic Football Shirts to give us an outsider’s point of view.

Here are his choices at 10-6….

10. 1999-01 Home Shirt

99_01 Home‘This simple late 90s club designed shirt was famous for closing the final two seasons at the Dell where the club had played since 1898. With subtle touches including special ‘The Dell 1898-2001′ embroidery and a suitably 90s collar this design provides a stylish end to the decade.’

9. 2006-07 Away Shirt

06_07 Away

‘Stylish black number (first ever all largely black away shirt) famous for when a fresh-faced Gareth Bale broke into the Southampton side at the tender age of 16. With some eye-catching performances from the young Welshman the side reached the Championship Play-Off Semi-Finals in ’07. With the classy red and gold Bale #22 Football League printing, this shirt has become something of a collectors piece over the years.’

8. 2013-14 Home Shirt

13_14 Home

‘Adidas debuted their first Saints shirt with this controversial all red number in 2013. The design followed on from the 2012 home shirt which was the first all red design (barring some white pinstripes) since the 1985 Patrick design. Despite the calls of many fans who asked ‘where are our stripes’, added gold detail to the badges and sponsor make this one of the classiest designs in recent years.’

7. 2001-03 Home Shirt

01_03 Home

‘Simple design club-produced home shirt which welcomed in a new era for the side at St Mary’s when James Beattie fought Henry and van Nistelrooy for the golden boot after bagging 23 Premier League goals. The design however is most famously remembered for being worn the day the side said goodbye to the Dell when legendary midfielder Le Tissier scored a late minute volley to secure a stunning 3-2 win against champions elect Arsenal. It doesn’t get more classic than that.’ 

6. 1995-97 Home Shirt

Matthew Le Tissier, Southampton

‘This mid-90s number was far more straightforward than its Pony predecessor, with a classic simple stripe design and a retro collar. Matters were anything but straightforward on the pitch when amateur footballer Ali Dia convinced then-manager Graeme Souness that he was George Weah’s cousin which led to him signing a one month contract. After making just one appearance for the side in this shirt, he was released. Le Tissier later commented, “He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very embarrassing to watch”.’

So there we have it, a nice selection of strips with some great memories attached, but what will make the top 5? Find out soon….

Check out some classic Southampton shirts here bit.ly/1NGtSxI and tell us which is your favourite?

The Long and the Short of it…

For some time now it feels like that as the end of the season approaches, there are numerous positives about Saints and their campaign that I could write about, and this is no exception.

One of the negatives this season, that I feel needs addressing, is that Shane Long might not be voted the player of the season.

In any other season he would have had it sewn up, but with the performances of Virgil van Dijk at the other end of the pitch catching the eye too, it is likely he’ll be a valiant runner up to the Dutchman.

The turnaround in the perception of Long in the eyes of Saints fans has been remarkable. Cast your minds back to August 2014, the 12 million pound transfer from Hull came with some unkind remarks about his perceived value in comparison to the fee paid, and I will not shirk the fact that I was one of those detractors.

This criticism was largely based on the fact that Long’s goal return wasn’t overly impressive for a ‘striker’, based largely on the fact that he had never hit double figures in any of his four previous Premier League campaigns with Reading, West Brom and Hull City respectively.

If the pressure was already on him in his early days as a Southampton player, it was compounded further by his number. Seven. The number that Matthew Le Tissier had worn, and had most recently been vacated by the just departed fan favourite Rickie Lambert. It sounds like a small detail, but people react to such decisions, and an a level of expectation is made.

Long’s first season at Saints was perhaps unremarkable, though it is easily forgotten that he weighed in to a record breaking debut by Ronald Koeman with five goals, despite being not a regular in the starting lineup (Long started 16 times).

It is this season that Long has come into his own though, so far starting 21 games, missing some through injury and has remodelled himself as a player who draws attention to when he isn’t in the team rather than when he is.

His effervescent displays this season, be it up front or as part of a support three have been dazzling at times, and though he might never be considered the most cultured player in the world, many an opposition defence will have felt relieved his constant hassling of them was over.

Relentless energy and supreme efficiency with the ball makes Long a valuable asset, but I shouldn’t fail to address his goal return or perceived lack of it.

Long has hit 10 Premier League goals this season, putting him joint top with Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle but there are further statistics that puts the Irishman out in front. Both Mane and Pelle have started more games than Long, but further still their goal to shot ratios are nowhere near as good. Both the Senegalese and the Italian have score their 10 goals having had 80 shots apiece. Long has achieved the same total from just 59 shots.

Goals are of course important, but I think Long’s contribution has been as much about the team dynamic as it has been the amount of times he has hit the back of the net. Ronald Koeman has built a style that utilises both the wide positions (and particularly the use of crossing) and often at pace. Long is ideal for it, and the added bonus that he is better in the air than you might expect means that he is comfortable in any of the forward positions.

Saints are at the culmination of another decent season, but this Summer you can add Shane Long to the list of the players fans will be anxiously hoping stays at St. Mary’s. He might not be Southampton player of the season, but he is a Southampton player for a reason.  Who saw that coming?

Chris

 

Big Time Charlie, More like About time!

If there is one complaint that all Saints fans have had in common of late, it’s that we were in desperate need of a striker.

There was one name that was repeatedly on the lips of the supporters, an out and out goalscorer who had proved his point in the Premier League in the last campaign, and seemingly the ideal man to come in and lead the line at St. Mary’s.

It’s not often though that the supporters and the club find themselves on the same wavelength when it comes to transfer business so the breaking news on Saturday morning that on this occasion they actually were, was both perfectly timed and a pleasant surprise.

To seal such a sought after striker, whose record is prolific at every level at such a bargain price of £4 million, is staggering business for the club and the only thing left to ask is, what took so you long Charlie?

You see, ever since this site was in it’s infancy, and Saints were playing in League One, it’s always felt to me like destiny that Charlie Austin would one day turn out for us. As mentioned in a nostalgic piece here, the then Swindon Town forward was our ‘tormentor in chief’ at the time.

Having grown up on the South Coast, I remember feeling he might have been one that had slipped through Saints proverbial net, having caught the Robin’s eye while banging in the goals at Poole Town!

Austin was often the difference in games between us and Swindon, and he also notched against Saints in the Championship with Burnley, not to mention last season’s spectacular strike at St. Mary’s in the Premier League.

As Saints have progressed so has Austin at an equal rate, and now is the time for them to move on together!

Austin’s addition couldn’t be any more welcome, and with supporters starting to feel restless after a poor run of late, the return of Fraser Forster, two good wins on the bounce and the announcement of such a good goalscorer joining the squad has brought the confidence flooding back into the stands.

Saints fans love a goalscorer and it was perhaps fitting that Charlie Austin was sat in the stands watching his new team-mates while a former legendary front-man in Rickie Lambert returned with West Brom.

Graziano Pelle and Shane Long have been great in patches this season, but this added competition can only be a good thing, and in Austin it feels like we might have another talisman forward on our hands. Perhaps even the man to takeover from Lambert and join predecessors James Beattie, Le Tiss et al as the focal point in the team.

It feels like a move that makes perfect sense for all parties for a change. QPR got a fee before losing out altogether in the Summer, Saints got their goalscorer, and Charlie Austin has a six month crack at the England Euro 2016 squad.

It’s been a while since Saints made a transfer that inspired such confidence in the stands, and there was a buzz amongst the fans I was watching the WBA game with, while those St. Mary’s were clearly audibly lifted!

Just when it feels like Saints are getting us down again, they know just how to scoop us back up.

Acceptable to be excited again? I think so.

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