Tag Archives: Middlesbrough

Kangaroo Court: Gaston or Gast-off?

Many things split the opinions of Saints fans, and Gaston Ramirez is certainly one of them.

The Uruguayan arrived with much promise, but for many he has flattered to deceive, while others think he’s been misused or not given the right amount of chances to show what he can do.

The latter argument has been fuelled most recently due to Gaston’s form for loan club Middlesbrough.

Ramirez has scored six goals in eleven appearances for the Teesiders and looks to be pulling the strings in their push for promotion,  but should Saints be utilising him better, or is this a flash in the pan and the club would be better off moving him on in the Summer?

I put it to the masses on twitter to decide.

The case for the Prosecution:-

@saint_al1976 ‘We all wanted Gaston to succeed – he was the face of a new era at Saints that washed away the memory of Record signing Rory Delap. We had beaten Liverpool to his signature – we had arrived in the big time. But something didn’t sit quite right with me from the start.

Signed on the back of a decent display in the 2012 Olympics “the Championship” equivalent of international football, he immediately looked sublimely gifted – but massively light-weight. Once the early season killer passes and the odd goal wore away with his confidence it was clear that opportunities would be limited in a bottom 5 team.

Pochettino should have been the perfect manager to get the best from Ramirez – unlocking his natural ability and adding that layer of intensity that had been so lacking. But it just never happened – and with willing runners like Steven Davis his chances again became limited. I truly believe that if Gaston had really had it in him, Mauricio would have persevered – but he didn’t. 

And finally we came to Ronald – a man who has worked with the very best in world football. Do you not think that if he felt Gaston was a world class player he would have made it happen at Saints? As it turned out he was allowed to leave for Hull on loan and was duly relegated playing a bit part role.

A string of goals in the Championship has now raised the question of whether Saints missed something, wasted an opportunity? But don’t kid yourselves, it’s still the part of you that wanted to believe. Fact is, the championship although tough, is slower. And in a top of the table team he will be afforded the time and space that would never be available in the top flight. Should he be promoted with Middlesbrough and get a second crack I wish him all the best. But I expect normal service to quickly resume.’

The case for the Defence:-

@TacoAli Cast your mind back to 22 September 2012. Saints were yet to win on their return to the Premier League but Aston Villa were in town and that would soon change. With Gastón pulling the strings in a number ten role, Saints won 4-1, and today the game is a remainder of what might have been.

To say Gastón hasn’t been given chances isn’t true; under Nigel Adkins, who clearly loved him as a player, and Mauricio Pochettino, who didn’t seem quite so keen, he was given chances. To say he didn’t take those chances is also untrue. Injuries and international duty hampered his development, especially under Pochettino, but when he played he always gave Saints something a bit different and invariable made things happen. He’s strong on the ball, capable of going past players with ease, has great vision and isn’t afraid to shoot from distance. Now he’s getting the chance to play regularly, it’s no surprise to see him tearing things up. 

Since Ronald Koeman’s been in charge, and perhaps more importantly Ralph Krueger chairman, Gastón’s been ostracized; shipped out on loan or left to rot not even getting on the bench. He’s been used as a stick to hit Nicola Cortese with, a symbol of the Italian’s apparent avarice and arrogance, rather than being utilised. When he came on against Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season he added some dynamism to Saints’ play and set up Sadio Mané’s equaliser. In those eleven minutes he did more than Jaunmi’s done all season, yet it was he who’s been deemed surplus to requirements, and the latter who remains at St. Mary’s, a bench-warmer in whom Koeman evidently has no confidence.

Gastón’s showed what he can do, but under Koeman he’s never had a chance to do it. When you consider some of the dire football we’ve played this season, that really is a shame.’

Verdict:-

Certainly one that was perhaps closer than I personally expected. Sometimes a player simply doesn’t fit at a club and does for whatever reason perform better elsewhere. It would probably best for all parties if Gaston gets a move away in the Summer. We’ll always have the corn rows.

Malice in Sunder-Land

Saints head to the North East this weekend defending a superb unbeaten record on the road so far this season. Cause to be optimistic of a positive result then? Nope.

While this season’s travels may have been fruitful, it is hard to ignore Saints’ abysmal record on Wearside. Even after the mesmeric 8-0 home victory over the Black Cats last season, the trip to the Stadium of Light brought with it no more expectancy than usual. Why? Because we never win at Sunderland.

I say ‘never’, and that of course isn’t true, but it’s as near as dammit. Saints last won there in January 2003, James Beattie scored the only goal and Franny Benali was at left back! The win previous to that was also 0-1, Egil Ostenstad’s 1997 strike overcoming a Sunderland side containing Chris Waddle and still resident at Roker Park. Seriously.

The win previous to that? 1983 via a Steve Moran brace.

Sure, there have been a number of seasons in which the two clubs have not been in the same division, but three wins in 32 years is poor by anyone’s standards.

Traditionally Saints struggle in the North East (3 wins against Newcastle and 5 against Middlesbrough in the same 32 year period) and in return those sides struggle on the South Coast. This was long put down to the effects of travelling the distance, but in this modern age, that is surely no longer an excuse (although it might explain the FC Midtjylland debacle).

Right now Sunderland don’t have as good a team as Southampton. I don’t think even the most dedicated Mackem would argue that point but yet again it is a fixture that I symbolically write off in my head as a no hoper. Unsupportive? Sure. Pessimistic? Of course, but not without good reason.

As someone rightly pointed out on twitter to me today, historically for Saints ‘teams that are there for the taking’ (as Sunderland undoubtedly are right now) are usually our downfall. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the team that Ronald built is capable of beating anyone on their day, but there is just something about the North East that causes are soft Southern persona’s to freeze more often than not.

Perhaps it is the cold, or maybe the Smog, the often unintelligible accents or the fear of our beloved ponies (one for any skates that swim by) getting headbutted. I’m not sure. All I know is that I never expect anything from a trip to Sunderland.

Sam Allardyce’s side have won just one of their nine games this season, the North East derby, and have conceded seven goals in their four home games. Surely Saints, this is the year? Please?

I won’t get my hopes up.

Good Friday, Very Good Saturday…

Now I’m not a religious man, I consider myself a man of science and logic, but when you support a club that was formed from a young men’s church association, their ground is called St. Mary’s, their nickname is the Saints, were graced for a years by ‘Le God’ and now they even have a ‘Holy Goalie’, you begin to wonder if divine intervention has ever helped our cause.

Holy Goalie - Good with crosses.
Holy Goalie – Good with crosses.

The Easter weekend is upon us, and Saints welcome European Champions Chelsea to St. Mary’s and it got me thinking. The Easter bank holiday fixtures are a tradition in English football and with Saints christian links, surely this is a fruitful time of year for the club?

And, actually, it is.

I had a look at Saints Easter weekend fixtures over the last 10 seasons (please don’t research their Easter results prior to this period, they are very dull and irrelevant) and found quite a remarkable success rate.

Saints record since the 02/03 season on Easter Weekend actually reads:- P – 10 W – 7 D – 2 L – 1 Pts – 23 GF – 17 GA – 9. You actually have to go as far back as 2004 to find the only defeat, a 1-3 reverse at Middlesbrough. Two of Boro’s goals came from devout Catholics Juninho and Massimo Maccarone. Coincidence?

Last season Saints hosted bitter rivals Pompey on Easter weekend, which accounts for one of the two draws, David Norris stealing a point deep into injury time. Religious people tell me that ‘God moves in mysterious ways’, and there wasn’t much more mysterious than that.

BS
Billy, shall I put a picture of Norris’ goal in?

In the previous season, Saints fans will remember Jose Fonte’s winner at the Withdean, and then Saints made it a 6 point double header with victory over Hartlepool in the same weekend. What’s that readers? That means that in one of the previous seasons we can’t have had an Easter weekend fixture? That’s right we didn’t, 2005/05 the Premier League relegation season. Punishment for having Judas Iscariot himself at the helm? (One of Judas’s main weaknesses seemed to be money (John 12:4–6).)

Fonte christens the net.
Fonte christens the net.

So are Rafa Benitez’ Chelsea ready to be crucified tomorrow? Are we going to see the second coming of the messiah (in my mind this will be presented to us in the form of a Guly do Prado finish)? Can Saints peform a miracle?

Who knows, with God as our co-pilot anything can happen and probably will.

Happy Easter to all of our readers from everyone at georgeweahscousin.com!

Chris

Concentrating on the league….

A phrase we hear relatively often, or at least we did the last time we were Premier League contenders. But what does it actually mean?

I would suggest there are two very different schools of thought on this saying, some might say that as a club in it’s first season back in the big time and finding it’s feet, we should perhaps not ‘waste’ any time and energy on a cup game. The other side of this argument, and the one that I certainly find myself on is that of the ‘winning breeds confidence’ brigade.

Saints prepare to face Chelsea in the FA Cup 3rd round tomorrow, and I have seen a few people say the dreaded ‘we should concentrate on the league’ line, now don’t get me wrong, were we talking about the Carling cup I might even agree with them, but this is the FA Cup, and we should be fielding a strong team tomorrow.

Does ‘concentrating on the league’ actually work and what does it mean?

Firstly, how many FA Cup winners have been relegated in the same season as they won it? Six teams have reached the final and managed to completely forget about their league campaign, seeing it end in relegation. Chelsea (1915), Manchester City (1926), Leicester City (1969), Brighton (1983), Middlesbrough (1997) and Portsmouth in 2010 (snigger). No team has actually focused so much on their cup run that they have lifted the famous trophy before realising that they have been demoted!

Kevin would rue the day he concentrated on the league.....
Kevin would rue the day he concentrated on the league…..

So of the 260 FA Cup finalists so far, just six have been absent minded enough to let it overshadow their league fixtures. That is pretty good odds no?

By ‘concentrating on the league’ I guess that means making the cup games not a priority, resting players and basically stitching up the people who pay at the turnstiles who dare to dream that they might, just might get to go to Wembley that year.

I do get it. As modern football has changed, retaining Premier League status has become far more valuable than a nice day out and a trophy, but can’t we have some romance left in the game?

We also have a seven day gap between playing Chelsea in the cup and then taking on Villa in the league. Seven days! Our players can recover in that time surely? We have prided ourselves on having one of the fittest teams around for the last few seasons, I don’t think two games in that period is too much to ask?

In previous Premier League seasons, when Saints were heading for a relegation battle how did our cup exits effect our league position? Well as a rule (but with exceptions) we did better in the FA Cup in years we finished higher in the league. That could be down to two reasons, either, that as I suggested might be the case, winning breeds confidence and success in one is very much reflected in the success of the other (only once has a cup final featured two teams outside the Premier League top four in countless seasons). Or. In the years we were particularly bad, it correlates that we would be poor in all competitions. Who knows? Football is never an exact science and the variables are countless but I for one will be hideously disappointed if we don’t go for it tomorrow.

The ticket prices are the same, the stadium is the same, the stage is one of the biggest in football. It deserves our full attention. Even if it is for just one weekend.

Concentrate on what boss?
Concentrate on what boss?

Saints Premier League Cup Record:-

1992/93

Final League Position:- 18th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1993/94

Final League Position:- 18th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1994/95

Final League Position:- 10th FA Cup exit:- 5th round. League concentration – Juggled Both.

1995/96

Final League Position:- 17th FA Cup exit:- 6th round. League concentration – Fail.

1996/97

Final League Position:- 16th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1997/98

Final League Position:- 12th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

1998/99

Final League Position:- 17th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1999/00

Final League Position:- 15th FA Cup exit:- 4th round. League concentration – Non result.

2000/01

Final League Position:- 10th FA Cup exit:- 5th round. League concentration – Fail.

2001/02

Final League Position:- 11th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

2002/03

Final League Position:- 8th FA Cup exit:- Final. League concentration – Juggled Both.

2003/04

Final League Position:- 12th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

2004/05

Final League Position:- 20th FA Cup exit:- 6th round. League concentration – Epic Fail.

Of course, I can’t guarantee that any of our many managers was particularly trying to ‘concentrate on the league’ in any of these seasons, and I’m not going to dig out team lineups for each exit and see how ‘strong’ it was, but statistically it does show, that a cup run need not be a hinderance on league concentration.

Hopefully tomorrow Nigel will name our best team and we will give Chelsea a run for their considerable money, perhaps even turn them over and then we can dare to dream about Wembley. Premier League survival is crucial, of course it is, but right now we aren’t going down, and I see know reason why it won’t stay that way. A cup run would be a lovely little bonus.

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Southampton FC – End of Term Report

So here is the georgeweahscousin.com end of season review.

We decided to go with a slightly different format than most….

Student:- Southampton Football Club

School:- nPower Championship

Year:- 11/12

Art

Generally, Saints style was fluid and attractive, particular highlights were the games against Middlesbrough and Birmingham. However, when hanging round with the boys at the other end of the class, Saints had a habit of dropping to their level. They also found it hard to maintain a good standard of work during practical examinations. B.

English

Nigel Adkins, again provided the season with some useful soundbytes. While Dean Hammond let the side down with horrific use of profanity live in front of a full assembly. C.

French

Morgan Schneiderlin was one of the season’s stand out performers, deservedly winning “Most Improved Player” in the gwc.com awards. His confident playmaking from central midfield was sorely missed when he had a spell on the sidelines. A.

Geography

One of Saints weakest subjects. Taking 36 points from a possible 69, Saints away form so often looked like it could be their undoing. Must do better next year. D.

History

Nigel Adkins tenure as Saints boss has seen record breaking as an almost weekly occurrence. Saints completed their longest streak of league wins in a row in August (10) and home league wins in a row in November (19). Saints ended the season by breaking their attendance record too, 32,363 people watched Saints beat Coventry and secure promotion to the Premier League. A.

Home Economics

Superb. Losing just three games all season at St. Mary’s, Saints home form was top of the class. Taking 52 points from a possible 69 and boasting a staggering +31 goal difference, Saints showed that fortress St. Mary’s is a difficult place to come for any team. A+.

A grade season for the Saints!

Mathematics

Towards the end of the season, mathematics played a crucial part. Saints managed to make final day with an equation so difficult for West Ham to solve, promotion was still in their hands. P = (S(pvCC) ≥ (WHU(pvHC). B.

Music

Creativity really shone through during the tribulations of another pupil…. Sha la la la la la…. C.

Physical Education

One of the stand out pupils in this subject. Fitness so often saw other teams bullied into submission. Saints losing only one game in which they scored first. Notable mentions for Billy Sharp – Wrestling, Adam Lallana – Watersports, Guly do Prado – Maverick Samba Dance. A.

Religious Studies

Saints found their way to the promised land of the Premier League with the help of several Gods and some divine intervention at Elland Road. B.

Science

Nigel Adkins theory that “it’s about winning games of football” was put into practice and was a resounding success. In 26 out of 46 (56.5%) cases studied, it was found that winning equated to a better league placing. Biology – Physical specimens such as Jos Hooiveld (size) and Steve de Ridder (pace) showed great effort for the team, contributing to much success. Chemistry – Breathtaking link up play at times between full-backs, midfield, Lallana, Lambert, Guly and Sharp. Physics – Rickie Lambert defied the laws of Physics on more than one occasion with a staggering record of getting a spherical (changed from cylindrical, as pointed out by several eagle eyed readers. E grade for me. – Chris)  object into a guarded net with numerous variables. A.

Attendance

With an average of 26,419 Saints had the second best attendance of all pupils at home, and an average of 2,390 on the road, the third best of all pupils away. Notably, scoring considerably higher than “The bestest fans in the world” on both counts. B.

Behaviour

Generally behaviour was acceptable. Some boisterousness when arguing with the posh Berkshire head boy and the rough cockney troublemaker. Ongoing arguments with nearest neighbour. We’ve had to separate them. C+.

Overall

It has been a very good term for Southampton FC. Surprising many with their performance, it is with upmost confidence that they will go into the higher school next year. With continued improvement and application, Saints should find the step up challenging yet rewarding! A.

So that is our alternative view of the past season!

If you enjoyed this post or any other on the site, why not vote for us in the “Best Club Specific Blog” category of the Football Blogging Awards?

Simply vote for us on the facebook poll:- https://www.facebook.com/questions/376225389081150/

or tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club

Your continued support is always appreciated!

Chris

2011/2012 GWC.com Awards results…

The phone lines are closed, the votes are in and a team of highly dedicated professionals have been counting them round the clock. georgeweahscousin.com is proud to announce the winners of  the inaugural 2011/2012 end of season awards!

Player of the Year

Received Votes:- Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork, Frazer Richardson, Danny Fox, Kelvin Davis, Aaron Martin.

3rd:- Jos Hooiveld.

2nd:- Adam Lallana.

And the winner, capping off an amazing season, the Championship top goalscorer Rickie Lambert!

2011/12 gwc.com Player of the Year – Rickie Lambert

Most Improved Player

Received Votes:- Adam Lallana, Jos Hooiveld, Billy Sharp, Rickie Lambert, Danny Fox, Kelvin Davis, Danny Butterfield, Guly Do Prado, Dean Hammond, Aaron Martin, Jose Fonte, Richard Chaplow.

3rd Place:- Jack Cork.

2nd Place:- Frazer Richardson.

And the winner, whose importance to the side was shown when he was out injured for a while Morgan Schneiderlin!

2011/12 gwc.com Most Improved Player – Morgan Schneiderlin

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Jos Hooiveld, Billy Sharp, Frazer Richardson, Andy Crosby, Kelvin Davis, Danny Butterfield, Tadanari Lee, Guly Do Prado, Dean Hammond, Richard Chaplow, Jose Fonte, Nigel Adkins, Radhi Jaidi.

3rd Place:- Danny Fox.

2nd Place:- Morgan Schneiderlin.

And the winner, filling in all over the middle of the park and back four Jack Cork!

2011/12 gwc.com Unsung Hero – Jack Cork.

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Danny Fox, Tadanari Lee.

3rd Place:- Jack Cork.

2nd Place:- Billy Sharp.

And the winner is, the man who instantly became a cult hero on and off the pitch, with battling defensive displays and some midweek winners Jos Hooiveld!

2011/12 gwc.com Signing of the Season – Jos Hooiveld.

 Performance of the Season

Received Votes:- Leeds Away (Team), Fonte v Coventry (Home), Birmingham Home (Team), P’Boro Away (Team), Millwall Away (Team), Coventry Home (Team), Forest Away (Team), West Ham Away (Team), West Ham Home (Team), Guly Do Prado v Coventry (Away), Rickie Lambert v Watford.

3rd Place:- Ipswich Town Away (Team).

2nd Place (Joint):- Leeds Home (Team), Middlesbrough Home (Team).

And the winner, one of the most ridiculous clean sheets in football history, making save after save Kelvin Davis v Leeds (Away)!

2011/12 gwc.com Performance of the Season – Kelvin Davis

The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment

Received Votes:- Performance against Leicester at home, Fonte Penalty v Brighton, Guly tripping over on TV, Dean Hammond F-Bomb on BBC, Lallana dive v Pompey, Billy Sharp Open Goal v West Ham, Jos Injuring himself celebrating, Leeds Attack v Davis, Billy Sharp celebrating v Pompey, Jos Boxhead campaign, Defending v Pompey, STEEEEEVE, Matt Taylor sending off v West Ham, Nigel’s Arousal Speech, Tadanari Lee goal celebration, Aaron Martin Open Goal v Forest, John Pantsil falling over trying to defend against Lallana, Jos Celebration v Coventry, Fat Sam Allardyce.

3rd Place:- Pompey’s Season/Relegation.

2nd Place:- Nigel Adkins tripping over the water bottles v Blackpool.

And the winner, something I’m sure he won’t be happy about, doing his best Massimo Taibi impression v Blackpool Bartosz Bialkowski!

2011/12 gwc.com Ali Dia Comedy Moment Winner – Bart Bialkowski

Best Opposition Player at St. Mary’s

Recieved Votes:-  Kevin Nolan, Billy Sharp, Ricardo Vaz Te, Robert Koren, Kevin Phillips, Stephan Dobbie, Nicky Maynard, Kasper Schmeichal, David Nugent, Chris Maguire, Robert Snodgrass, Scott Allen, Jamie Ashdown, Neill Danns, Liam Trotter, Wilfred Zaha, Darius Henderson, Joshua King, Jason Scotland, Peter Whittingham, Robert Green, Ian Harte.

3rd Place (Joint):- Adam Le Fondre, Adam Federici, Albert Adomah.

2nd Place:- Matt Phillips.

And the winner, very much part of Reading’s relentless pursuit of the Championship summit, and at his devastating best at St. Mary’s Jason Roberts!

2011/12 gwc.com Best Opposition Player at St. Mary’s Winner – Jason Roberts.

Best Opposition Team at St. Mary’s

Received Votes:- Bristol City, Hull City, West Ham, Forest, Cardiff.

3rd Place:- Blackpool.

2nd Place:- Leicester City.

And the winners, taking all three points with a ruthless lesson for Saints in taking chances  Reading!

2011/12 gwc.com Best Opposition Team at St. Mary’s Winner – Reading.

Best Opposition Fans at St. Mary’s

Received Votes:- Leeds, Reading, Hull City, Millwall, Ipswich Town, Bristol City, Cardiff, Forest.

3rd Place:- West Ham United.

2nd Place:- Portsmouth.

And the winners, loudly supporting their team to the bitter end on final day and staying behind to enjoy the Saints celebrations Coventry City!

2011/12 gwc.com Best Opposition Fans at St. Mary’s Winners – Coventry City.

So that concludes the first gwc.com end of season awards! I shall look forward to compiling them again this time next season in what will be the first Premier League Edition!

Watch out on the site over the coming weeks for a Season review and a Premier League preparation special!

Thanks,

Chris

B Sharp To End Saints Season on a High Note?

Saints have tonight confirmed the signing of Doncaster Rovers forward Billy Sharp for an undisclosed fee.

In what has been an ongoing saga for sometime, Saints have finally got their man, a move that shows that the club has in no way lost sight of their target of gaining promotion at the first attempt. The transfer window signings of Iago Falque, Tadanari Lee, the prodigal son style return of Jason Puncheon and now that of Sharp signal a clear attacking intent from an already fruitful side.

Yorkshireman Sharp has spent the majority of his career in his home region, starting at Rotherham United, before joining his beloved Sheffield United in 2004. Things didn’t work out at Bramall Lane and he spent his only previous spell outside Yorks with a loan move at Rushden & Diamonds.

It was with the now defunct  Northamptonshire club that his goalscoring exploits were first seen, netting nine times in his sixteen appearances.

Scunthorpe United were the club that took a chance on him in the summer of 2005 and they weren’t to be disappointed as Sharp hit twenty four in his first season. In November 2006 the Iron appointed a certain bespectacled Scouser by the name of Adkins and Scunthorpe never looked back. Sharp hit the net thirty three times in all competitions as he fired them to the summit of League One.

Iron fan Aiden McCartney from The Iron Supplement (check here for an interesting piece on Jack Cork) gave us his take on the striker:-

After much persistence by Brian Laws, a 19-year-old striker named Billy Sharp joined Scunthorpe from Sheffield United for £100,000 in August 2005.

Considered relatively anonymous then, that soon changed especially in a small part of Northern Lincolnshire.

He made himself an instant hero on his debut by scoring the winner against Nottingham Forest but that was just the sign of times to come as Sharp became one of the greatest signings in our history.

In his first season at Glanford Park, Sharp netted 23 times to ensure that the Iron comfortably survived in League One. Starring alongside young Irish forward Andy Keogh in a formidable partnership, he had soon established himself as one of the brightest young strikers in the game.

Despite a decent first campaign in League One, no-one quite foresaw the success on the horizon. However with Billy leading the line anything was possible as the next unforgettable year demonstrated.

After a slow start, the Iron exploded into life and a long unbeaten run took us straight to the summit with young Sharp scoring for fun.  

Laws departed for Sheffield Wednesday but Nigel Adkins stepped up from his previous role as physio. He was a more than capable replacement, improving the football and certainly bringing the best out of Sharp.

Although Billy’s partner in crime Keogh also left, he was soon replaced by out of favour Leeds forward Jermaine Beckford who proved to be the catalyst for the Iron’s success.  

He established a potent partnership with Billy as the Iron romped to the League One title, finishing six points clear of our closest rivals.  

Finishing the season on 32 goals, the highest in all four divisions, Sharp had demonstrated his obvious ability and a £2 million pound move back to Bramall Lane followed but not before leaving a legacy at Glanford Park. With 56 goals in just 94 games it is easy to see why.

Seeing Adkins and Sharp together again today brought back some fantastic memories for Scunthorpe fans. If Sharp and Adkins can repeat history then the promised land of the Premier League should appear just that bit closer for Saints fans.”

Sharp and now Saints Assistant Manager Andy Crosby celebrate promotion.

Sharp’s exploits made him hot property and when his boyhood club came calling it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, but again things didn’t work out with the Blades as he might have liked, and after finding himself out of favour Sharp went on loan to Doncaster Rovers. Sharp again found his feet outside Sheffield and was soon amongst the goals, hitting fifteen and sixteen goals in his first two seasons respectively.

Rovers fan Lewis Ward from Donny blog Vikingsbloggen spoke to us about Sharp:-

“Despite only having been at Doncaster Rovers for one full season, Billy Sharp is truly a Rovers’ legend. He is a fantastic player with one hell of a shot on him, it is hard to see Rovers score without him. He’s scored 25 goals since joining us permanently at the start of last season, where he has also had two long term injuries. Sharp came back to score against Middlesbrough for us in November, only days after the death of his son showing how much of a true professional he is. Billy Sharp is a player that should be a great addition to any team, and one we will be heartbroken to lose.

Doncaster Rovers supporters cannot praise Sharp enough, we wish him the very best in the future – he deserves it!”

Sharp has hit ten goals so far this season for Doncaster, an impressive feat in a side struggling at the foot of the Championship table, he captured the hearts of football fans everywhere when he took the field and scored for Rovers just days after the tragic death of his newborn son Luey and scored the only goal when Saints were defeated at the Keepmoat earlier in the season.

True Courage. Sharp's tribute to son Luey.

Welcome to Saints Billy Sharp.

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Middlesbrough

Saints will be looking to make it eighteen straight home victories on Saturday when fellow high fliers Middlesbrough visit St. Mary’s.

Boro have looked an impressive outfit under returning local Tony Mowbray, playing nice flowing football and conceding goals has become a rare occurrence. Currently lying in third place, three points behind leaders Saints, the Teesside club have only lost once so far in the league, away at Nottingham Forest,

It is already looking like a key game, as both clubs will be hoping their good starts to the season will see them in the promotion shake up in May.

Amongst the visiting squad, will be one ex-Saint….

Scott McDonald

The Melbourne born forward started his career in his native Australia, playing for Gippsland Falcons and Cranbourne Comets before Saints snapped him up on a youth contract in 2000.

Despite some impressive performances at youth and reserve level, ‘Skippy’ struggled to force his way into the first team setup at the Dell. Battling with the likes of James Beattie, Kevin Davies, Brett Ormerod, Marian Pahars and errr Agustin Delgado, McDonald had to go out on loan to get regular football. Spells with Huddersfield Town and then AFC Bournemouth followed but he didn’t impress new Saints boss Gordon Strachan enough to retain him and he was released in the summer of 2003.

The tenacious frontman only made three appearances for the first team, and although he looked lively he lacked the quality required to sustain a Premier League place.

After Saints, he was ironically signed for his beloved Celtic by Strachan via spells with Wimbledon and Motherwell, and it was Strachan again who brought him to the North East. The Australian international was in impressive goalscoring form for Boro towards the end of last season, but has only scored once so far in this campaign at Barnsley in August.

Scott McDonald - Wizard of Oz

I was lucky enough to catch up with Scott Gordon, a former teammate of McDonald’s in the Saints Academy setup. Here is what Scott had to say about his namesake:-

‘I played alongside the ‘wizard from Oz’ about 10/11 years ago. Well when he was there I did. Scott Mc was a talent even at 17 when he first came to Saints, so more often than not he was jetting around the world playing for Australia in various Youth International games and tournaments.

Our first game was away to Charlton on a pitch hidden behind the corner of the Valley Stadium. We lost 1-0 and it was slim pickings that day for Maccers. 

Scott was and still is a fantastic player. Small but strong as a bull, he could hold off the biggest of defenders. A great first touch and lightning fast feet got him a few kicks from me in training. But as always he got up and on with it. He was never one for crying at the ref or taking a tumble at the slightest push. 

Around our digs he liked to show off his strong Scottish roots by proudly wearing his Celtic shirt. And maybe it was just me, but every now and then I could hear a wee Scottish brogue through his Aussie accent.

We could all tell he was going to make it, and along with Brian Howard and Chris Baird he went on to ‘bigger and better things’ away from St Marys. 

Every time he comes on the tv I do make a point of saying “I used to play alongside him you know”.’

Middlesbrough fan David McNally gave me his thoughts on the Antipodean striker:-

‘Scott could be a game and season changing player for Boro. Last seasons top scorer has hit a frustrating patch in front of goal but is still an important and hard working member of the team. 

Scott arrived with a big goal scoring reputation from SPL giants Celtic fleeing Tony Mowbray’s revolution to reunite with Gordon Strachan. Both managers failed and as Boro’s season nose dived so did Scott’s chances of making Australia’s world cup squad. Mowbray returned to Boro to rescue his home town club from relegation. Many assumed the players Mowbray had let go from Celtic and then inherited at Boro would be moved on again with Scott a prime candidate. 

This was not the case and Mowbray breathed new life in to the team and notably Scott.

Mowbray paired the rejuvenated Marvin Emnes with Scott McDonald. The pairing sparked as Boro destroyed Hull 4-2 away. As Leroy Lita departed Boro fans stayed calm and trusted in the pairs ability and as the start to the season proved the trust was repaid. Scott’s hard work, first touch and link up play has led to goals and chances for team mates while taking his focus off of goal scoring. He has earned himself a recall to the Australian squad since Mowbray’s arrival.’

Chris

15 years ago today…

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

Chris

Championship Preview Part 3…

Following on from parts one and two, six more Championship fans give their thoughts on the forthcoming season…

Ipswich Town:-

Name:- Lewis Mitchell

Club:- Ipswich Town

Twitter:- @lewismitchell87

Website:- Lewis Mitchell.com

What can we expect from your club this season:- Your guess is as good as mine! Paul Jewell has brought in some excellent signings for this level, but it is all about ensuring they gel quickly and play as a unit. I’m confident we have much to look forward to under Jewell, but it may take time to build a winning mentality after a number of years accepting mid-table obscurity.

Who is your most important player? I think it’s safe to suggest Michael Chopra will be our talisman this season. If he can approach anywhere near the 25-goal mark we will be having a decent campaign. ‘Chops’ has had a very good pre-season so we’re all hoping he will hit the ground running at Ashton Gate.

Your predicted finishing position? 6th. Possibly letting my heart rule my head but I think we can just about sneak into the playoff mix this season.

Who might win the Championship? I don’t think you can look much beyond West Ham and Leicester. Both sides have chucked around considerable sums of money and have top flight experience that will prove crucial in the bigger games.

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough are operating on the smallest budget in the division and don’t seem to have learnt about fielding a side lacking in Championship experience.

Most anticipated fixture? For personal reasons I am looking forward to our duels with Peterborough, although some revenge at Upton Park for our semi-final playoff defeats in the Joe Royle era would be nice!

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Tough one – I guess it will be interesting to see how many fans make it onto the pitch this time between Millwall and West Ham!

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Jimmy Bullard. An enigmatic figure in our side whilst on loan last season and pre-season performances suggest we are desperately missing his creativity in the final third.

You find yourself stuck in Carrow Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Find the nearest exit and run for the hills! (And shower to cleanse my sins)

Leeds United:-

Name:- Lee Condron

Club:- Leeds United

Twitter:- @dirtyleedsblog

Website:- Dirty Leeds Blog

What can we expect from your club this season? It’s difficult to say at the moment. Sections of the White Army would have you believe that we’ll be tumbling back into League One come the end of April but I think somewhere around the middle is likely with the current squad (27th May). Signings, or the lack thereof, have done little to lift the mood of missing out on the Play-offs last year with a dreadful run of form in the final month.

Who is your most important player? You’d have to say it’s a toss up between Luciano Becchio and Max Gradel. The pair scored a combined 38 goals last season. I’ll go with Max as his 18 goals came from midfield and with Becchio set to miss the start of the season, we’ll need him more than ever.

Your predicted finishing position? Again, difficult to say at this stage. I don’t think we over-achieved last year, so you’d have to say anything less than Play-offs is a disappointment. But to answer the question – 9th.

Who might win the Championship? You’d have to say Leicester, given all the cash they’re throwing about. Although they’ll soon realise that Kasper Schmiechel isn’t quite as good as the name suggests… West Ham seem the other obvious shout I suppose.

Who definitely won’t? Any team that finished in the bottom half last season, the likes of Derby, Doncaster, Crystal Palace etc. Ipswich might be a dark horse though…

Most anticipated fixture? Erm… We don’t have many local derbys now the Sheffield clubs have fallen into oblivion, and Huddersfield Town bottled the Play-off Final. My favourite place to go is Turf Moor because we usually win, and it’s local to me, so I’ll go for that – Burnley v Leeds United. (A repeat of last season’s comeback from 2-0 down would be great!).

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? West Ham v Millwall, just for the comedy factor of watching Burberry clad, Danny Dyer wannabes go to war. “Pwopa Nawty!”

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? SHANE LONG – I think he’d be a perfect compliment to Luciano Becchio. We’ll probably sign him in about 8 years time when he is knocking about on a free, but we’ll still haggle on the wages!

You find yourself stuck in Old Trafford. How do you escape unnoticed? Sit silently in my seat, staring glumly at the pitch. Occasionally grumble when a pass goes astray but at no point would I break into song. If Manchester United are losing I could safely file out of the ground after 65 minutes with the rest of the idiots. 75 minutes if they’re playing well. I’d keep a prawn sandwich about my person as an alibi, just in case I’m rumbled.

The Leeds faithful will be hoping to see more from Gradel & Becchio.

Leicester City:-

Name:- Mike McCarthy

Club:- Leicester City

Twitter:- @foxblogger

Website:- Foxblogger

What can we expect from your club this season? Going by the noises coming from Sven and the owners, a push for the automatic promotion places and nothing less.

Who is your most important player? Matt Mills has the responsibility of marshalling a new defence which should concede far fewer than the 71 goals it managed last season.

Your predicted finishing position? 2nd.

Who might win the Championship? Hardly original, but West Ham should be strong enough to take the title.

Who definitely won’t? Coventry City, perhaps the best they can hope for is a positive goal difference for the first time in eight seasons.

Most anticipated fixture? Forest away in August should be a cracker with two promotion contenders and two former England managers going head-to-head, but the idea of a promotion party at Leeds..oh my!

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton against Portsmouth should be pretty tasty. The rematch of the 2010 Playoff Final between Cardiff and Blackpool will be one for the purists, that would be my choice if you’re going to force me to pick just one.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? I’d love to have Shane Long, but it looks like that boat has sailed.

You find yourself stuck in the City Ground. How do you escape unnoticed? Perhaps by having a rant about how the club aren’t investing and making envious remarks about certain neighbours ‘buying the league’. Not so effective if wear a replica shirt, mind.

Middlesbrough:-

Name:- Dave McNally

Club:- Middlesbrough 

Twitter:- @davemcnally87

What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking passing football from a team of youth academy players.

Who is your most important player? Kevin Thompson if fit but we have a handful of injury prone midfielders who are just as good. Rhys Williams has premier league admirers and captain Matty Bates is our Stevie G. The physio is the most important man for our chances.

Your predicted finishing position? Anywhere from 2nd to 7th the difference between them might only be 3 points. 

Who might win the Championship? Leicester. Good manager with money to burn! Everyone has got a big chance of winning it. it’s all about the start and finish! 

Who definitely won’t? Watford, all of the players who made a difference in games last year have left and so too has the manager who gave the team belief. Palace will flirt with danger again. 

Most anticipated fixture? Our closest game to a local derby is Leeds.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Millwall v West Ham or Southampton v Portsmouth, big derbies with fireworks on and off the pitch. 

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Shane Long goal machine with a massive work rate he’d fit into our team perfectly or Lee camp, Jason Steele has a big future but we need clean sheets ASAP camps experience and commanding presence at the back 

You find yourself stuck in Elland Road. How do you escape unnoticed? To get out any championship ground you simply say: “The manager needs more money!” “If we put a run together we could get promoted” “We can beat these today”.

Matthew Bates. The Steven Gerrard of Middlesbrough.

Millwall:-

Name:- Steve Hudson

Club:- Millwall F.C.

Twitter:- @NOLU1885

What can we expect from your club this season? Despite losing Steve Morison in the offseason, Millwall should benefit from a season under their belts in the Championship.  Morison’s departure was the only player loss of any significance (not counting the sentimental departure of Neil Harris. Chopper!)  They have become a stronger team in each of Kenny Jackett’s three seasons at the helm and should improve again this year.  A playoff spot, at minimum, is well within reach.

Who is your most important player? James Henry’s north to south attacking ability from midfield, ability to find the open man with pin point crosses, and excellent dead ball skills make him our most important player this season.  Millwall’s ability to score more will be key for them – defensively they are solid.

Your predicted finishing position? 6th or better at a minimum would be a successful season and show continued improvement.

Who might win the Championship? If not The Lions, then my picks would be either Leicester or Forest, although Forest have shown an ability to play below their ability the past couple of seasons.

Who definitely won’t? Barnsley, Doncaster, and Crystal Palace.

Most anticipated fixture? Ha! West Ham home, West Ham away.  Leeds games are always fun too.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I’ve heard the south coast derby between Southampton and Portsmouth can get quite feisty, so that would be a fun one.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton.

You find yourself stuck in Upton Park.  How do you escape unnoticed? I’d point to the other end of the stands and yell “There’s Avram Grant!”  Then just walk out while the bubble blowers are looking about.

Nottingham Forest:-

Name:- Forest Fan (I blog anonymously y’see).

Club:- Nottingham Forest

Twitter:- @nffcblog

Website:- NFFC Blog

What can we expect from your club this season? Impossible to predict! I expect playoffs at least, but have been underwhelmed so far with transfers (in terms of quantity – happy with the players we have signed) so maybe mid table.

Who is your most important player? I think it will prove to be Jonathan Greening.

Your predicted finishing position? 4th.

Who might win the Championship? West Ham.

Who definitely won’t? Derby

Most anticipated fixture? Gotta be when those Derby Rams come to town for an annual beating.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? To be honest, I’m too Forest-centred to really care unless of course the outcome has a benefit to us.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Lots of good players to choose from this year, would love to see Nicky Maynard in garibaldi red.

You find yourself stuck in Pride Park. How do you escape unnoticed? Fortunately the Nottingham and Derby accents are pretty close, so you cut out any words more than two syllables, affix a blank expression and make like a sheep and follow the person in front of you until you get outside!

Could the experience of Jonathon Greening help Forest past the final hurdle?

Part Four featuring Peterborough, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton, Watford and West Ham coming soon…

Chris