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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
As I have mentioned previously, I will this year make my return to the streets of Portsmouth to take on the Great South Run for the second time. This is not my wisest decision and is against the advice of my Doctor as I am currently being treated for stress fractures in both shins, but, I am a firm believer in completing something once you have committed to it, and I may have to take it a little easier than I might have hoped.
I have decided to run it this time in aid of Saints Foundation and am looking to raise at least £250 to help them continue in the great work they do with disadvantaged kids and vulnerable adults.
I appreciate that times are tight for everyone these days, so I appreciate any donation, no matter how small. Every little helps.
This prompted a good opportunity though for me to give some prizes away and hopefully encourage people to give generously! To that end, I have three fantastic prizes that can be one simply by making a donation. two of them are Saints related, the other not so much, but still of interest to the anyone keen on football memorabilia.
That’s right folks. this is the opportunity to own the first ever official georgeweahscousin.com t-shirt. Recently the site has entered into a partnership with Cult Zeros to create a range of Saints related t-shirts and Hoodies (watch this space for designs), and they have kindly donated the first ever t-shirt (in a size of your choice) to the winner. And here it is….
Prize Two:-SIGNED SOUTHAMPTON SQUAD FOOTBALL CIRCA 1995
This is a football I won in the raffle on an official coach trip to Old Trafford I think in November 1995, but I might be mistaken.
Signatures include:- Matthew Le Tissier, Alan Neilson, Francis Benali, Dave Beasant, Christer Warren, Paul Tisdale, Bruce Grobbelaar, Tommy Widdrington, Mathew Robinson, Matthew Oakley, Ken Monkou, Neil Moss, Neil Shipperley, Barry Venison and several more I cannot identify.
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this classic piece of Saints history is go to https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Rann1/, make a donation and put somewhere in the comments ‘Saints Ball’.
Prize Three- SIGNED EVERTON SQUAD FOOTBALL CIRCA 1989
This is a football that was kindly given to me by my cousin who was an apprentice at Goodison Park at the time. I’m pretty sure (but admittedly not 100%) that this is the squad that was FA Cup finalists in 1989.
Signatures include:- Kevin Ratcliffe, Wayne Clarke, Colin Harvey, Paul Power, Stuart McCall, Pat ven den Hauwe, Kevin Sheedy, Ian Wilson, Dave Watson, Tony Cottee, Neville Southall and several more I can’t identify.
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this classic piece of Everton history is go to https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Rann1/, make a donation and put somewhere in the comments ‘Everton Ball’.
So there we have it, three decent prizes that could be yours for as little as a £1. Please give whatever you can. Winners will be selected completely at random and will be notified after the Great South Run (26th October 2014). Good Luck!
Just before Saints went down 3-2 to Leicester at the King Power Stadium at the end of August I looked at the ex-Saints among their squad (check it out here), playing staff wise not a lot has changed. Matt Oakley has had a loan spell with Exeter City, while Matt Mills has been a regular as the Foxes who have been in indifferent form.
It was perhaps this indifferent form that saw manager Sven Goran Eriksson leave the club by mutual consent at the end of October.
This saw the return of another ex-Saint to Leicester, in the shape of former boss Nigel Pearson.
Pearson joined Saints in February 2008 after the side had suffered poor form under the caretakership of John Gorman following George Burely’s defection to the Scottish national team.
Coming in off the back of just one full time managerial role at Carlisle United in the late nineties, many fans were sceptical about his appointment.
He arrived at St. Mary’s when the job was somewhat of a poisoned chalice. Saints were 18th in the Championship and the soon-to-be well publicised financial issues were bubbling under behind the scenes.
The former England U-21 coach got off to a shaky start, not winning in his first five games, although only one of those (his first in charge) ended in defeat. His first victory, came rather ironically, at home to Leicester City. Stern John scoring an acrobatic volley from Mario Licka’s flick to get a precious three points against their fellow strugglers.
Saints would only go on to win twice more that season, but the supporters were encouraged by the battling performances that Pearson’s rejuvenated men were putting in.
Saints went into the final day of the 2007/08 season in 22nd place, and staring relegation to League One in the face. Needing to both win at home to Sheffield United (who could grab themselves a play off place) and hope that at least one other above them slipped up.
Saints came from behind to lead 2-1 before being pegged back again, but it was Stern John who converted the winner and Leicester’s stalemate at Stoke meant Pearson had escaped the drop.
After a truly dreadful season, Saints fans were optimistic that with a transfer window at his disposal, and the encouraging performances at the end of 2008 that Pearson would be capable of building a decent side at St. Mary’s. That wasn’t to be though and at the end of May that year Rupert Lowe sacked Pearson and replaced him with Dutchman Jan Poortvliet, a move that would be proved to be both purely financial and ultimately disastrous.
Pearson was appointed manager of Leicester City and led them to the League One title, while Saints car crash couple of seasons spiralled out of control.
Saints welcome back Pearson to St. Mary’s, now in his second spell at Leicester City on Monday night.
A lot was made of Manchester United’s 6-1 reverse to their arch rivals City at the weekend, and it was the first time the Premier League giants had conceded six goals in a game in fifteen years.
Fifteen years to this very day in fact.
Then Saints manager Graeme Souness had had an indifferent start to the 1996/97 season, but headed into the game on the back of two straight home wins against Middlesbrough and Sunderland. These were the only victories of the season so far though. Both had been impressive, Saints scoring four and three goals against their North East opponents respectively without reply. The new look attacking lineup of Eyal Berkovic, Le Tiss and Egil Ostenstad proving potent.
The visit of the champions was likely to be a different prospect. United themselves came to the Dell having lost their last league game 5-0 at St. James Park, though they did have a midweek victory over Swindon Town inbetween.
Many feared a backlash from United, and the thought of Beckham, Scholes, Cantona et al taking on the likes of Richard Dryden and Alan Neilsen at the back, not to mention unproven new boy Claus Lundekvam was not one for the feint hearted.
Souness made his selections with the attacking prowess of the champions in mind, Jason Dodd, Ulrich Van Gobbel and Simon Charlton, all recognised defenders joined the aforementioned trio in the starting lineup, Matthew Oakley and Berkovic played in the middle, with Le Tissier supporting Ostenstad up front.
Alex Ferguson also named an interesting side, with Cantona the only recognised out and out forward in his lineup.
Having witnessed the 3-1 victory the previous season, I don’t think for a second it crossed my mind that we could win again, let alone what was about to unfold.
It will truly go down as one of the defining moments of the Premier League, and certainly one of the best ever games.
Amongst the furore of the aftermath of the City result at the weekend, it is worth noting, that United went on to retain the title in 1996/97 and by a clear seven points. It also interesting that the only player who could have played in both games fifteen years apart, United talisman Ryan Giggs played in neither.
It wasn’t the first, or last time Saints were a thorn in Ferguson’s side, let’s hope there is more to come….
Southampton:- Beasant, Dodd, Neilson, Dryden, Lundekvam, Van Gobbel, Charlton, Berkovic, Oakley, Le Tissier, Ostenstad Unused Subs:- Potter, Magilton, Watson
Man Utd:- Schmeichel, G. Neville, P. Neville, May, Pallister (Irwin), Keane, Butt (McClair), Scholes, Beckham, Cruyff (Solskjaer), Cantona
Saints head to the King Power Stadium this Saturday to take on high spending Sven Goran Eriksson’s Leicester City.
The former England manager has made nice use of the summer transfer window, bringing a virtually whole new team in, a clear statement of intent from the Swede, that promotion is the Foxes only goal this season.
Amongst the plethora of talent that Eriksson has assembled, two former Saints with differing fortunes on the South Coast could be in line to face their old club.
A product of the Southampton Academy, Oakley is fondly remembered at St. Mary’s. The central midfielder made his debut for the Saints aged just eighteen in 1995 and went on to play over three hundred times for the club.
In his career highlight, Oakley was named in Gordon Strachan’s starting lineup for the 2003 FA Cup final, somewhere we might never have been had it not been for his Extra Time winner at the Den in a Fifth Round Replay. During this period of his career he was also touted for an England chance by many (of course it was Sven who didn’t pick him).
Having established himself over the years as a first choice and dependable midfielder, comfortable at playing the holding role as well as getting forward and creating attacks, it is no surprise to me that Southampton’s Premier League demise coincided with long term injury woes for Oakley, he played just seven times in the 2004/05 relegation season.
Oakley’s twelve year service at the club ended in 2006 after he rejected a new contract before signing for Derby County. It has always been a mystery to me why Oakley was never granted a testimonial with the club, although, it was rumoured that he was to have one in the 2006/07 season had he not moved on.
Oakley went on to captain the Rams in their promotion season, before heading off to Leicester City in January 2008, exchanging a Premier League relegation battle for a Championship one. The Foxes lost that battle, dropping to League One amongst the final day drama that saw Saints survive.
Oakley was named captain for the following season as Leicester romped their way to the League One title and remained a regular in the side during last season’s campaign. Whether or not he can fight off Sven’s new guard and retain it this season remains to be seen…
“Some Leicester fans have just never got on with Matt Oakley. He’s never been the most exciting player but on his day he can still pull the strings in midfield (although one Guardian reporter’s description of him as ‘the Xavi of the Championship’ was perhaps overdoing it).
Oakley’s first team appearances have been limited to the Carling Cup so far this season, and with the wealth of midfield talent in the Leicester ranks it’s difficult to see how the former Saint will be able to force his way back into Sven’s plans. With one year remaining on his contract, we can expect Matt to be looking for another club next summer.”
In contrast to Matt Oakley’s Saints career his namesake Mills spent very little time on the South Coast. Another product of the Academy, centre half Mills showed massive potential in loan spells at Coventry City and Bournemouth, and also in the few Championship appearances he made for the club. On the verge of establishing himself in the Saints first team, Mills’ head was turned by Manchester City in January 2006, former Saints boss Steve Wigley, alerting his new club to the young defender.
Having played for the Southampton first team just six times, the youngster headed off to Eastlands and the Premier League. Mills found first team appearances hard to come by with City though, and had to settle for loan spells at Colchester United and Doncaster Rovers (ironically dropping to a level below Saints) to get games. He eventually joined the Yorkshire club permanently in 2008 after securing promotion to the Championship.
He was to spend just one more season with Rovers though, before signing for Reading in the summer of 2009. This is where Mills really started to catch the eye, establishing himself as a solid central defender, and playing a major role in the Royals campaign last season that saw them reach the playoff final.
Sven was impressed enough with Mills to part with £5.5 million for him this summer.
Mike gives us his thoughts on Mills:-
“It’s fair to say the jury is still out on Matt Mills. The huge fee Leicester payed Reading for the centre-half was beginning to look like an albatross around his neck. An (unfortunate) own goal against Rotherham in the League Cup and a poor performance against his former employers led Sven to drop his new captain to the bench after just two league games. A more assured display at Nottingham Forest, coupled with much less erratic distribution has calmed some fans nerves and hopefully Mills’ own.
Mills is part of a back five in which only Sol Bamba has survived the summer unscathed, so uncertainty at this stage of the season is understandable. Eventually Mills will need to take command and cajole his new colleagues into keeping more clean sheets, something Leicester have only managed against a toothless Coventry City so far. But if results don’t improve in the medium term expect a few reactionaries to point to his price tag and wonder why the defence isn’t producing the goods.”
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