Tag Archives: MK Dons

It’s time to talk about Graziano…

Football is as fickle a business as they come. Already this season we have seen fans on social media outlets ludicrously question Ronald Koeman’s position as manager after a shaky start, and as crazy as it seems now, the instantaneous medium that the likes of twitter offer means football’s fickleness is at it’s peak.

If anyone had seriously doubted Ronald’s credentials, it would be interesting to know on what grounds. It can’t be results, in that department he has surely exceeded expectations. It can’t be the standard of football, Saints on their day are as exciting as anyone in the league in terms of their approach. So perhaps it is signings? Wrong again, and that brings me neatly to the subject of this blog.

Nothing epitomises the Dutchman’s success in the transfer market than Graziano Pellè. If we are talking about kneejerk reactions, the Italian striker has suffered every type. Initially written off as not being good enough, then revered, before being written off again on the back of a lean spell in front of goal. Even during his run in the goals last season there were many who weren’t taken by Pellè and perhaps have allowed those initial thoughts to form into a stubborn prejudice that now refuses to acknowledge his contribution.

The reality is, Pellè has been a revelation. A bone fide fantastic signing. You might often hear people say that he doesn’t score ‘enough goals’, but given his all round contribution to the way the team plays I would argue that isn’t a disaster. Having said that 23 in 56 appearances isn’t bad in this day and age anyway.  It is actually an almost identical goal ratio in English football to Romelu Lukaku for instance.

Over the Summer many Saints fans (myself included) were insistent that the club should be looking at other strikers. The likes of Charlie Austin were long talked about and perhaps we had all got a little carried away with ourselves and the now traditional Southampton need for constant improvement. So far this season Pelle has been fantastic. Sure, when the early season form was poor from the team as a unit, he suffered as he was getting little to no service at times, but as the team began to click so did the Italian, and he has been almost unplayable since.

Recent performances against Manchester United and Chelsea particularly highlighted his importance, and why Ronald Koeman has complete faith in him. Superb in the air, never letting the centre halves have a moments rest, setting up chance after chance with his back to goal before burying one himself. Mix all that up with the odd unnecessary flick or back heel and that is Graziano Pellè in a nutshell. I read a tweet (but I can no longer find it unfortunately to credit the author) that described Pellè as the ideal mix of old school English striker and fancy dan foreigner. Perfect.

After the rout of MK Dons, for which Pellè was rested I was amazed to see some fans complain that the Italian might be brought straight back into the team.  The fact that he has 7 goals and 5 assists against much tougher opposition escaping those whose prejudice has long been formed. As much as we all want Jay Rodriguez to return to the force he had become, it has to be as part of a team alongside Pellè, he could certainly benefit from the Italian’s expert hold up play, much as Sadio Mane has.

If that wasn’t enough evidence of his greatness, it is worth pointing out that at the age of 29 he received his first call up to the Azzurri last season and has been a regular ever since. As he joins up with them this week his record to date is 3 goals in 6 games, a pretty good start at international level.  Italy manager Antonio Conte recently said that he hopes ‘Pellè can be an example for other players to follow’.

If goals, assists and all round impressive play at all levels aren’t your cup of tea though, what about passion? Since arriving at St. Mary’s Pellè has really seemed to embrace being at the club and his reaction to scoring is always like it’s his first ever goal. For me he is part of the furniture now and has the potential to join other strikers like Rickie Lambert, Marian Pahars and James Beattie (another who suffered the odd barren spell) as cult heroes at the club.

I guess my point at the end of all this is simply that Graziano Pellè is certainly a player you’d rather have with you than against you. Is he the most natural player in the world, perhaps not, but he produces the goods on a fairly regular basis. Scoring goals is an art form, and while not everyone can do it with the constant grace of a Messi or a Ronaldo, simply doing it is enough.

Pellè is Southampton’s and Southampton is Pellè’s.

September Player of the Month Vote!

Victories over Swansea City and MK Dons and a draw with West Brom made September a decent month, with only a narrow and frustrating defeat to Manchester United spoiling it! There were some stand-out individual performances but who was the Player of the Month? Vote below.

The Three Year Swing….

28th November 2009.

Portsmouth were 20th in the Premier League.

Southampton were 20th in League One.

43 teams separated these great rivals.

28th November 2012.

Southampton are 18th in the Premier League.

Portsmouth are 20th in League One.

45 teams separate these great rivals.

A role reversal of immense proportions as their fortunes almost mirror each other perfectly. What does the future hold? Who knows.

Of that 2009 Premier League table, Birmingham City, Burnley, Blackburn, Hull, Bolton and Wolves are also now absent (is it me or does the league look a hell of a lot stronger now?).

Things can change so fast in football! That is why you must always take advantage of the ascendancies! I noticed some of the teams that now sit between us that were of particular interest:-

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Saints on Loan – Progress Report

Saints currently have six players trying to prove themselves at other clubs. Forwards Jonathan Forte and Sam Hoskins are with Phil Brown’s Preston North End, Goalkeepers Tommy Forecast and Jack Dovey are paying their dues in non-league football with Bromley Town and local club Eastleigh respectively. Black sheep Jason Puncheon is back in the Premier League with new boys Queens Park Rangers and promising defender Jack Saville has gone to Underhill to help League Two strugglers Barnet.

I thought it would be interesting to have a look at their progress with these clubs, with reports from the people who are getting behind them and watching every week.

The most high profile of the Saints loanees is of course Puncheon, who headed to Loftus Road in the summer with the all too public falling out at Saints behind him. The glamour of the Premier League may have been too much to turn down, but Puncheon has been little more than a bit part player with the R’s, making just two league appearances off of the bench.

Jonathon Forte might not have made the impact he would have liked at St. Mary’s after arriving from Scunthorpe last season, but his goals against MK Dons were extremely important as Saints headed for promotion. Often harshly treated by Saints fans for me, Forte and youngster Hoskins headed to Lancashire to play for North End.

Forte has started twice for the Deepdale club, both against Rochdale, playing the full ninety minutes in both games. We caught up with John Kelly from the Preston Supporters Group to give us his thoughts on Forte:-

“North End are having a bit of a nightmare at the moment, with a complete lack of investment from our new owner Trevor Hemmings. Forte started up-front alongside our young striker Juvel Tsumo, who was soon replaced with Neil Mellor.

Forte struggled to get into the game, and despite running around alot seemed a little out of his depth and offered little. It would be un-fair to judge him on this game alone, however I honestly can not see his loan being much of a success for any party involved. He is unavailable to play tomorrow and even if he was, as soon as Iain Hume or Jamie Proctor returns he will be left out anyway. Most PNE fans fined both loans very strange and not what we need. Mainly due to their lack of experience and age. 

 Maybe if he had come into a winning side things would be different, but I would expect him to be back at your place soon without either PNE or Southampton being any the wiser on his ability. As for Hoskins I really can not understand this loan at all.” 

Hoskins is yet to feature for PNE.

Will Jonathan be Preston's Forte?

After arriving from Chelsea, young defender Jack Saville came with much promise, the performances of the current Saints defence though makes first team time hard to come by. Jack headed back to London at the start of the month to spend some time on loan with League Two side Barnet. He made his debut off the bench in the FA cup win at Southport before making his first start in the 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium, Barnet’s first league win in five. Eric from Barnet site Downhill Second Half gave us his take on the young defender:-

“I’ve only got one full 90 to go on so far, but his showing at Bristol Rovers was excellent.

It’s no mean feat for a lad of 20 to settle straight in to an almost entirely new defensive unit. Owing to injury, we had three loanees in the back four for yesterday’s second half, so for them to work so well together was a strong statement. 

For me, Jack was the pick of the three. For a start, he was playing out of position at left back and faced two quick wingers all afternoon. His no nonsense approach was key in us soaking up a lot of pressure in the second half and he put himself on the line several times with some brilliant blocks.

As we were under the cosh for plenty of the second period, we didn’t see much of Jack going forward. However, I cannot imagine that Lawrie Sanchez will change much after this showing, so we should get to see more in the coming weeks, starting with a home match against Macclesfield on Friday night (that’ll get the crowds in…!)”

Jack Saville - Solid start for the bees.

Jack Dovey has been at Eastleigh FC since the end of October and made an impressive start for the Blue Square South club. Making his debut at Thurrock Town, Dovey saved a penalty to immediatly shine, and the Spitfires haven’t lost in the four games he has played.

Blue Square South rivals Bromley is where Dovey’s fellow keeper Tommy Forecast has been since late September. Forecast has been a fixture for the Kent club and we caught up with Jeff Hutton, club development officer for Bromley FC to see how he has been doing:-

“Tommy Forecast was drafted in by Bromley manager Mark Goldberg for a three month loan spell on 23rd September. Since then Tommy has made eleven starts for the Lillywhites and has featured in every one of Bromley’s FA Cup fixtures which cumulated in a first round proper appearance at Brisbane Road against Leyton Orient. Tommy has failed to keep a clean sheet in any of his starts but this will come as no surprise to any Bromley supporter as we have failed to keep a clean sheet in any fixture since the start of September. Despite the score line Saturday, we lost 6-1 at Chelmsford City, Tommy pulled of a number of high quality saves and could do very little about the six goals conceded. People like to pick fault with keepers at any level but League sides send out keepers to our level to gain experience and that is Tommy is gaining valuable experience with every game he plays.”

Forecast getting a warm front in Kent

Chris

Swiss Roll or Mountain to Climb for Saints….

The Saints players are once again in Switzerland for their pre-season preparations, and will be hoping for things to go slightly better this time…

Much was made of last years pre-season efforts, that were followed by a poor start to the season, injuries and accusations of bad practice. The likes of Rickie Lambert took a while to fire, and new boy Frazer Richardson was one of the high profile to suffer injury setbacks, as Saints “favourites” tag looked to be way off as they stuttered to 22nd place after the first five games. So how important are these pre-season trips?

Nigel Adkins says “Vital”. And I agree.

It isn’t just about fitness of course, the need to for any successful team to have a good spirit and camaraderie is as, if not more important. Nigel Adkins looks like he thinks the same, and black sheep Jason Puncheon hasn’t travelled with the squad, for fear of disruption.

So what did Alan Pardew do so wrong? And what will Adkins do differently? Well for a start do we actually know that Pardew did wrong? Let’s face it, had we gone unbeaten in the first five games last season, there would have been no questioning of Pardew’s methods. There were several comments in some of the early season defeats of lethargic looking players. Frazer Richardson was injured on the pre-season tour of 2010, as was Rickie Lambert, who uncharacteristically scored just two goals in the first twelve games, remarkable then that he would go on to be the clubs top scorer with twenty one by the end of the season. Fitness was clearly an issue, something Lambert has talked about himself since.

When Nigel Adkins took over, he was quick to mention fitness and the lack thereof after overseeing a drab 0-2 defeat at MK Dons, and by this point in the season, Saints were gaining a reputation for starting games well and taking control before succumbing to defeat. As Adkins influence became more apparent, the side became more resilient and control became victories.

Nigel Adkins - Controlling the controllables....

Adkins, comes from the opposite side of the coaching spectrum to Pardew, the “new breed” if you will, his previous employment as a Physiotherapist is well documented, and he is obsessed with sports psychology, so it is natural to assume that this time round the Swiss trip should produce fitter players, less injuries and even a squad that is better prepared mentally.

Saints will officially start their pre-season tomorrow evening in the Gurzelen Stadion to take on Swiss Challenge League (Championship equivalent) side FC Biel-Bienne, before heading to the AFG Arena to face recently relegated Super League side St. Gallen on Saturday. Returning new boy Jack Cork, somewhat of a coup signing will get his first run out back in a Saints shirt during these games, while it will also be a chance for returning loanees Ryan Doble and Joseph Mills to stake a claim.

The purpose of the Swiss tour and games, may be more about physical shape, team building and even some commercial links than it is about results, but the squad will be truly tested on their return to the South coast. A week of training will be followed by the inaugral “Markus Liebherr Memorial Tournament” and two forty five minute games against European heavy weights Atletico Bilbao from La Liga and Werder Bremen from the Bundesliga. The squad will get to mix it up with World Cup winners and Champions League regulars in the round robin format and against that level of ability any fitness issues will be sorely punished. The technical ability of the likes of Javi Martinez will be difficult enough to deal with, without chasing their shadows.

West Brom and Yeovil Town will make up the rest of pre-season opposition for the first team before the season opens live on Sky (again) against Leeds United at St. Mary’s on the 6th August.

All we can hope is that the lessons of last season’s start have been learnt. We came from the back of the pack to secure promotion last season, despite the less than perfect preparations and the woeful opening run of results. The Championship will not be so forgiving. Every season this is a league that looks more difficult to get out of, and with the likes of Birmingham City and West Ham amongst the Premier League relegated, it is almost impossible to predict an outcome. A lack of preperation and a slow start could be disasterous, and missing out on promotion could be the least of of our worries…..

Chris

Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1988……

AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town travel up to Manchester today for a face off that sees the victors claim that most valuable of prizes. A place in the Football League.

The clash at Manchester City’s Eastlands stadium will see two great clubs try to get back to where they feel that they belong, as both have suffered differing but equally drastic circumstances that sees them fighting it out in the nether regions of English Football.

AFC Wimbledon is of course the Phoenix that rose from the ashes after the original Wimbledon made the controversial 2003 move to Milton Keynes, leaving their South London supporters distraught. It was their commitment and perseverance though that sees their new form on the brink of the League again.

1988. The "Crazy Gang" after conquering Liverpool.

Luton Town were relegated from the Football League in 2008/09 after receiving a thirty point penalty for financial irregularities, a punishment that most believed to be too harsh. They had already received a points deduction the season before and the new owners and long suffering supporters had to live with the repercussions of the previous regimes misdemeanors.

For the supporters of these clubs, 1988 must seem like a long time ago, but staggeringly on April 9th of that year, they met at White Hart Lane to contest the FA Cup Semi Final. 23 years ago, the fortunes of both were very different. Both sides were in the top flight, Luton had already won that season’s League Cup and would finish 9th, Wimbledon would go on to win one of the most famous upsets in FA cup final history and take 7th spot.

1988. The Hatters after downing Arsenal at Wembley.

For the neutral’s both clubs will find plenty of support, as both have had the sympathy of other fans over their years of decline, so whatever happens today, come Six o’clock, the football league will be welcoming back an old friend…

Good Luck to both AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town today!

Chris

Fungus the Bogey Team….

As Saints prepare to take on Swindon Town today, one of football’s strangest traditions is brought to prominence. The Bogey Team.

Saints have failed to beat the Robins since August 1993, alright there have only been five games since, but those have been five defeats, with Saints scoring just one goal! This kind of record brings out the pessimist in even the most “glass half full” type of supporter. Swindon have been on increasingly poor form this season, which has seen them plummet into a relegation battle, having not taken maximum points from a game for two months. This won’t stop the Southampton faithful fearing this game, more than any other.

In recent meetings, Charlie Austin has been the Saints “Tormenter in Chief”, solitary goals for the striker have been the deciding factor in two of the games. Austin also chipped in with a goal when the Robins turned Saints over 0-3 at St. Mary’s earlier this season as they weakly submitted to an early Johnstones Paint Trophy defeat. The result only made more painful by the performance of former Saints player Vincent Pericard, who scored the other two goals,  two more than he scored in his whole Southampton stay!

Saints glad to see the back of Austin... pic from swindontownfc.co.uk

Swindon, aren’t are only bogey team of course, for years Saints fans would have told you that Everton held that mantle. For obvious reasons, we haven’t played Everton too often recently, but back in the day the Toffees were the side we never seemed to beat.

The stand out defeat for Saints against the blue half of Merseyside would certainly be the 1996 7-1 demolition at Goodison Park. Saints lined up with former England man Chris Woods in goal, as the Toffees ran riot, going 5-0 up in the first thirty five minutes. In some sort of twisted irony, Woods was appointed goalkeeping coach at Goodison the following season, a position he has held ever since!

It isn’t all bad news for the Saints fan though, as we have also been a bogey team ourselves. Famously Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominant 90’s team had a mental block when it came to visiting the South Coast. Ferguson blamed the new grey away strip in 1996 for their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Dave Merrington’s men, but in less than six months later, United and their more striking Blue and White strip were despatched 6-3 in one of the Premier League’s most celebrated matches.

Grey day for Giggs....

More recently, in times when sending the likes of Manchester United packing are behind us, we have become the bogey team for perhaps less glamorous sides. MK Dons would have hoped to have never seen the Saints again after last season. In Saints four defeats of the Dons, they racked up ten goals, conceding just two. That hoodoo was broken  pretty quickly though. In the sides first meeting this season, the Dons ran out 2-0 winners in what was Nigel Adkins first game in charge. The Dons were also under new manager, Karl Robinson, so was it that Saints were MK Dons bogey team? Or perhaps more like Paul Ince’s?

Perhaps that would be answered at Meadow Lane back in October, Ince took charge of Notts County for the first time, and could be forgiven for hoping for different opposition. Predictably Saints ran out 1-3 winners, making it five defeats in five for Ince against the Saints. Ince has since got a draw in the return fixture at St. Mary’s, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to record a win. Should Saints get the promotion they desperately crave, it could be some time before they meet again.

So what have we learned, Bogey teams, definitely exist. I am sure of that, but they don’t last forever, and changes in circumstances change the dynamics of “bogey team law”, something I have just made up. It has been some time since Manchester United have lost to Saints, in fact they have won their last three games at St. Mary’s. Can Saints beat Swindon Town today? Of course. Like MK Dons, we have a new manager, one we haven’t played Swindon under and Charlie Austin has moved on. Chris Woods won’t be in goal, and we won’t be wearing grey.

Will I be putting my hard earned cash on a home win though? No chance.

Chris