Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buttner: Davis Signs For Saints…

…..headline courtesy of @Swanie_888

Amongst the talk of Vitesse Arnhem stating on their official site that they had agreed a fee with Saints for left sided player Alex Buttner yesterday, Saints did what they do best and waited until late in the evening and announced the signing of a completely different player!

With Glasgow Rangers in financial turmoil and facing an extremely uncertain future (their fellow SPL sides recently voted resoundingly against them staying in the top division), Saints became the latest English club to take advantage, securing the signing of Northern Ireland and Gers captain Steven Davis on a free transfer.

Davis has been linked with Saints for some weeks, but with the likes of Liverpool, Swansea and Fulham also interested it looked like we might miss out on the central midfielder, but last night Saints sealed the deal signing the international on a three year contract.

Steven Davis representing his country.

Davis started his career in the Premier League with Aston Villa, making 91 appearances for the Birmingham club, heading north of the border after a brief spell at Fulham. During his time at Ibrox, he won three Scottish titles, two Scottish cups, three Scottish league cups and played in the 2008 UEFA cup final defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg.

I caught up with Gers fan @CompareTitles for his opinion on the midfielder:-

“I am really disappointed to see Davis leave as he’s no doubt a massive Rangers fan who played whole-heartedly for our club. He is a box-to-box midfielder full of energy and never tires, he plays to the  final whistle and is involved in absolutely everything. I’m not just saying that at an SPL level, I have no doubt whatsoever that he will do the same in the English Premier League.

Not only is he dynamic going forward and opens up a lot of options in attack, he will be one of the rare forward minded players you’ll see helping out defensively. I can say as somebody who watches the Premier League on a regular basis that he’s every bit as good as the midfielders in the league.

I don’t need to say much more about Steven Davis because I can guarantee that he will become a very respected player at Southampton and is more than capable of being a top player in the Premier League, I personally wish him nothing but the best. He did a lot for Rangers in his time and he clearly loves the club. I hope he grows to be just as much of an important player at Southampton.

All the best lads!”

Davis was clearly impressed by his talks with the chairman and the manager at Saints, telling the Belfast telegraph that other clubs were interested, but he was impressed by the level of ambition shown by Southampton. “Now watch me soar at Saints”.

I for one am particularly pleased with this signing, and it represents a bargain as no fee was involved. Davis is exactly the type of midfielder we need to progress in the Premier League. Welcome to Saints Steven Davis.

Chris

Saints Academy: Talent Architects…

Hi all, I am pleased to introduce another new contributor to georgeweahscousin.com in the form of former Saints trainee Scott Gordon. Scott hails from the Emerald Isle, more specifically Lurgan, Co. Armagh. He is the husband to Joanna and soon to be father to a junior Saint.

He has been a Saints fan for nearly 16 years, which all started when the club plucked him from obscurity as a 13 year old playing in his local league. After a week’s trial he found himself signing a 5 year deal that would change his life forever. He might no longer be a Saints player, but he is still Northern Ireland’s number one fan!

Over to you Scott! – Chris

Saints Academy: Talent Architects…

Bridge. Baird. Bale. Walcott. Chamberlain. Five names from the modern day football world and all with one massive thing in common… they are all products of the fantastic Saints Academy. Skip back a few years and Mike Channon, Matthew Le Tissier, the Wallace brothers, Alan Shearer and Francis Benali are once again products of our enviable youth system.

The ‘Academy’ as we know it today came into formation in the 98/99 season. This marked the start of the new scholarships rather than the YTS system of old. In effect these scholarships were designed to safeguard the future of the young players, if and when, they did not manage to make it in football. As a product of this academy (class of 2001) I guess I am glad the scholarship was offered. I’m now a PE teacher back home in Northern Ireland and without the investment from the club and the FA, this may not have been a reality for me. But this was not exactly the remit of the club.

As with any smaller club the purpose of an academy is to produce fine young players to come through and represent the first team. The five players mentioned in the opening line of this piece all achieved this goal and I might add, performed admirably for the senior side. They do, however, have another thing in common… All sold by the Saints. For a total of £38million.

I guess that’s where I have a problem with our club and the way we handle our younger players. For too long we have been a selling club. You can add Brian Howard, Matthew Mills and Scott McDonald into the list of players that have moved on. I wonder now that we have returned to the Premier League will we still have the same attitude? If we still had the big 5 players with us, would we have gotten back to the promised land a lot sooner? Who knows. My only hope is that we become a keeping club and not sell on our best products. Lallana is still there and that is a good sign and there are many other players coming through (I’m told James Ward-Prowse and Corby Moore are two to look out for).

Premier League, Champions League, European Championships. Products of Southampton.

In my time, Crewe, West Ham and Coventry were the clubs with the supposed best academy set ups. I firmly believed then and now that we have the best. Back in 2000 we were defeated in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup 2-1 over two legs by a Coventry side that were then chinned 7-1 by an Arsenal side that contained Steve Sidwell. I can remember reading a quote from our then managers Stewart Henderson and John Sainty. They said that yes, we were on a great run in the competition, but this success did not guarantee any player a professional contract or a future at the club (a statement which was made abundantly clear one season later as I was shown the door).

When I left in 2001, two others came with me and only five (Alan Blayney, Ryan Ashford, Chris Baird, Scott McDonald and Brian Howard) went on to represent the first team. In total we had 25 players across our 1st and 2nd year scholars. None are with the club now and very few are still making a living from the game. It used to be said you had to be best in Europe to make it as a pro footballer. Our year changed that to be the best in the world. Players from all over Uk, Italy, Russia, Africa and Australia represented our youth team during my time with Southampton.

We are without doubt one of the best Academy setup’s in the country. My only hope is that we hold on to our talent and let the other teams be envious of us for a while.

Scott

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A Saint Amongst Them: Leeds United

Top of the table Saints head to West Yorkshire on Saturday to take on Leeds United in front of the cameras, and not only will there likely be a former Saints player on the Elland Road’s sides bench, but also a Saints fan….

Maik Taylor

The German born, Northen Ireland international goalkeeper Taylor started his semi-professional footballing career while still serving in the British Army. Stationed in Hampshire he represented Petersfield and Basingstoke Town’s respectively before joining Farnborough Town where he was part of the team that won the Southern League Premier Division in 1994.

It was while playing for the now defunct club that he was spotted by League Two Barnet and was given his first professional contract. His performances at Underhill soon meant he was destined for greater things, and just a season and a half later he was heading back to Hampshire and the Premier League.

Graeme Souness was the man who took the gamble on the lower league keeper, signing him in the January of 1997 for a fee of £500k. He replaced the ageing Dave Beasant and soon had the fans on his side with some impressive shot stopping, representing the club he had supported as a child. Saints fans finally felt like they had their replacement for Tim Flowers, albeit somewhat late.

Maik Taylor in international action.

Sadly for Taylor, Souness was to leave in the summer, and despite Taylor’s proficient displays the Scotsman’s replacement Dave Jones bought his namesake and number one from Stockport County with him.

Paul Jones was immediately installed as first choice and Taylor had to make do with a place on the bench, a victim of a rare season in Saints history where they had two good stoppers in one season! Taylor headed for Kevin Keegan’s Fulham on 17th November 1997 for £800k, surprisingly dropping to the second division. After nearly 200 appearances for the Cottagers and two league titles he moved on to Birmingham City. He also established himself as the first choice goalkeeper for Northen Ireland gaining 88 caps between 1999 and 2011.

He signed for Leeds United in Novemeber 2011 and recently had his contract extended to the end of the season, now aged 40.

Chris

Crossing The Divide: Colin Clarke

“The hype around the game was incredible, anyone who didn’t understand the rivalry certainly did afterwards. They’re very competitive and to say they don’t like each other is an understatement.” – Neil Shipperley speaking about the January 1996 South Coast Derby.

With now just twelve days left until the South Coast’s two top clubs renew hostilities at Fratton Park, the next installment in our feature looking at players who dared the wrath of both sets of supporters looks at a man who spent three years with both….

Colin Clarke

Born in Northern Ireland, Clarke made his name for himself as a regular goalscorer in the fourth division for both Peterborough United and Tranmere Rovers before heading to the third division at South Coast AFC Bournemouth. He continued to impress at the higher level, catching the eye of countryman Chris Nicholl, heading to Hampshire from Dorset in the summer of 1986.

Clarke was an instant hit at the Dell, helping himself to twenty league goals in his first season as a top flight player. The start of the 1987-88 season couldn’t have started any better for him either. In the first South Coast derby for three and a half years, Clarke netted twice for Saints at Fratton Park in a 2-2 draw, Clarke also featured in the 0-2 defeat at the Dell in the return game of January 1988.

Clarke finished that season with another sixteen first division goals, and seemingly the future was bright, but the following campaign saw the goals dry up, and Clarke was kept out of the side by new boy Paul Rideout. A loan spell back at Bournemouth was followed by Clarke’s permanent departure to first division rivals QPR.

Saints fans remember the striker fondly, “Fat, round, worth a million pounds.” said @mgbarrett. @JJHislop was also a fan “Always described as Saints’ ”bustling” centre forward. I liked him.”

Clarke the Saint.

It was only a short break from Hampshire for the forward though, as he struggled to hit form at Loftus Road. In the summer of 1990 Clarke was signed by then Pompey boss Frank Burrows for a fee of £500k. Clarke was obviously pleased to be back amongst the South Coast air, and had a fruitful opening season at Fratton Park. Scoring seventeen goals for the blues, impressive in a side that had struggled for form.

Unfortunately for Clarke and the Pompey fans, goals would be harder to come by the following season, but the Northern Irishman would play a part in the Pompey side that got to within a whisker of the 1992 FA Cup final, losing out to Liverpool only on penalties after a replay and extra time.

Clarke stayed at Fratton Park until the end of the 1992/93 season when he decided to hang up his boots aged just thirty one due to a recurring knee injury.

Clarke the Blue.

Since his retirement Clarke focused his energy on coaching, and has been in management in the USA since 1998. He recently relinquished his role as the manager of the Puerto Rican national team, a position he had held since 2007. He is currently the manager of the Puerto Rico Islanders.

Chris

The Class of 2005: Who were the real winners?

22nd April 2005, approximately 21:58. Fifteen year old Edward Upson hits the ball first time from twenty five yards. Andrew McNeill is helpless in the Southampton net. Goal Ipswich Town.

A heartbreaking end to a memorable season for the Saints youngsters, losing the FA Youth Cup final with just two minutes of extra time left to be played.

The first leg had been played at St. Mary’s four days earlier, Saints leading through David McGoldrick before being pegged back by a double from Irishman Cathal Lordan, Leon Best netting the equaliser that kept the tie on a knife edge. The second leg had remained goalless despite Saints dominance, Ipswich thankful to keeper Shane Supple that it got to extra time. Seemingly heading for penalties, substitute Upson was the youngest player on the pitch when he stole the headlines, and the silverware for the Suffolk side.

For young lads with the world at their feet, it must have been difficult to take.  For some it was to be their career highlight, for others, just the beginning. Football is a cruel world, and as is commonplace, despite being the cream of the crop as young players not all would be destined for the top.

Actually in this instance it was the losers who have fared better, the Saints squad boast four current Premier League players, the Ipswich squad none. While the Saints players have commanded massive transfer fees between them and gained many international caps, the Ipswich team have not. Having said that, not all of the Saints squad has achieved all of their footballing aims.

I decided to find out where they are now, and how different the careers of these players now hitting their peak age of 24/25 have fared.

Saints

Andrew McNeil – The Scottish keeper left Saints in January 2006, returning to his native Edinburgh with SPL side Hibernian, he forced his way into the first team at Easter Road, including playing in the 2007 League Cup final win. He was later replaced in the side and released in 2009. He spent a season in the third division with Montrose before signing for First Division Raith Rovers in 2010. He was released by Raith this summer and signed for Livingston where he is currently first choice.

Craig Richards – Local lad Richards was released by Saints in the summer of 2006. He was picked up by Conference side Salisbury City in 2007. Spells at Eastleigh, Bognor Regis Town and Winchester City followed. He now plays for Whitehawk FC in the Ryman League Division One South.

Sebastian Wallis-Tayler – The frenchman left Saints the summer after the Cup Final and signed for Havant & Waterlooville before playing for Bognor Regis Town and Lewes. He is now back in his native France playing for non-league outfit CA Lisieux.

Sean Rudd – After being released by Saints, Rudd had an unsuccessful trial with former club Oxford United before sadly retiring through injury. Now works for a Sports Shoe company.

Martin Cranie – Had already played first team football on loan at Bournemouth and Premier League football for Saints at the time of the Youth Cup final. He played in the Premier League under Harry Redknapp, before finding chances limited under George Burley in the Championship. Cranie had two spells on loan at Yeovil Town before reuniting with Redknapp at Portsmouth for the 2007 season. Spent time at QPR and Charlton on loan before joining Coventry City in 2009 where he is still a regular for the Championship outfit. Has gained caps for England at U21 level.

Lloyd James – The Welsh utility man earned a professional contract with Saints in 2006, and made over seventy first team appearances in the Championship and League One before his somewhat surprise release (having been a regular in the team) in 2010. He soon signed for Colchester United and is now an established member of the U’s first team. A Welsh U21 international.

Tim Sparv – Finnish midfielder Sparv left Saints in 2007 to sign for Swedish club Halmstads BK, he is now playing in the Dutch first division with FC Groningen via a loan spell in his home country. He has been capped fifteen times by Finland.

Tim Sparv. Now in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Nathan Dyer – The tiny winger made his first team debut for Saints at the start of the season following the final. He was loaned to Burnley before coming back and getting more regular gametime at St. Mary’s. He went on loan again to Sheffield United in 2008, before really flourishing at Swansea City, firstly on loan before joining permanently in 2009 and he is now a regular in their Premier League side.

Theo Walcott – Made his first team debut at sixteen and was soon turning heads at a higher level. Chelsea had already shown an interest in him, but it was Arsenal who paid £5 million with a potential outcome of £12 million (although that is seemingly no longer the case) for him in 2006. He has now played over one hundred times for the Gunners. He became the youngest ever full England international in 2006 and was the surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Erikssons’s World Cup Squad of 2006. He has now played eighteen times for his country.

Leon Best – The Irish striker had already played in the Premier League for Saints by the time of the final, and also spent a period on loan with QPR. Further loans with Sheffield Wednesday, Bournemouth and Yeovil Town followed before he rejected a new contract with Saints in 2007 and joined Coventry City, the tribunal setting the fee at £650k. His performances for the Sky Blues were enough to persuade Newcastle United to move for him and is now a first team player with the Toon in the Premier League. He has represented Ireland at senior level.

Leon. Doing his Best for Newcastle in the Premier League.

David McGoldrick – McGoldrick was handed a first team debut in the September following the match at Portman Road, but it would take him another three years and loan spells at Notts County,  Bournemouth and Port Vale before he would be considered a regular. He was an ever present in the Saints team that dropped out of the Championship, scoring twelve goals and left for Nottingham Forest for £1 million the following summer.

Kyle Critchell – Defender Critchell was hampered by a serious injury in 2005 and was eventually loaned out to Torquay United in 2006. He was released the following summer and joined Chesterfield. He joined Weymouth in June 2007 before signing for Wrexham the following season, injuries again stunted his progression and he was loaned to York City before rejoining the Terras. He currently plays for hometown club Dorchester Town in the Blue Square South division who he signed for in 2009.

Ashlee Jones – Sub keeper Jones was released in the summer of 2005 and signed for Rushden & Diamonds, he has played for an array of clubs since and eventually made his football league debut for Darlington in 2009, he now plays for Braintree Town in the Blue Square Premier division.

Adam Lallana – The only member of the squad still at St. Mary’s, the creative midfielder is now a lynchpin in Nigel Adkins side and has made one hundred and thirty appearances for the club, now catching the eye of Premier League suitors he has been capped at U21 level by England.

Adam Lallana, still flying high with Saints.

Feliciano Condesso – Portuguese midfielder Condesso left Saints in 2007 without playing for the first team, somewhat surprisingly he joined La Liga side Villarreal but couldn’t break into the first team setup there either. He played for their ‘B’ side in the Spanish third tier before joining UD Logrones and now plays for Ontinyent CF.

Gareth Bale – The youngest member of the Saints squad, aged fifteen, Bale made his first team debut in 2006 and played forty times that season as Saints made it to the Championship play offs. Hot property, the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United were said to be interested, but it was Spurs who signed the Welshman for an initial fee of £5 million that rose to £7 million and Tommy Forescast. Bale struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane to start with, but is now considered one of the best players in the world. A notable hat trick in the Champions League against Inter at the San Siro propelling him to super stardom. He has played thirty times for Wales.

Josh Dutton-Black – Winger Dutton-Black left Saints in 2007 and signed for AFC Totton. He has since had spells at Salisbury, Kidderminster, Eastleigh, Bognor Regis Town and Didcot Town. He now plays for North Leigh in the Southern League Division One South & West.

Ipswich Town

Shane Supple – Retired. Now a Gaelic Football player.

Michael Synott – Released by League of Ireland side Dundalk in the summer of 2010.

James Krause – Now playing for Cambridge City in the Southern League Premier division.

Chris Casement – Now playing for Linfield in the IFA Premiership. Capped by Northern Ireland.

Aidan Collins – Now playing for the University of London FC.

Sammy Moore – Now playing for AFC Wimbledon in League Two.

Cathal Lordan – Now playing for Cork City in the League of Ireland First division.

Liam Trotter – Now playing for Millwall in the Championship.

Owen Garvan – Now playing for Crystal Palace in the Championship. Eire U21 international.

Owen Garvan. Tipped for big things, now at Palace.

Liam Craig – Now playing for St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League.

Daryl Knights – Now playing for Newport County in the Blue Square Premier League.

Danny Haynes – Now playing for Barnsley in the Championship.

Blair Hammond – Now playing for Ipswich Wanderers in the Eastern Counties League division one.

Charlie Sheringham – Now playing for Dartford in the Blue Square South.

Ed Upson – Now playing for Yeovil Town in League One.

Andy Reynolds – Now playing for Lowestoft Town in the Ryman Premier divsion.

Stuart Ainsley – Now playing for Lowestoft Town in the Ryman Premier divsion.

It is clear to see that the losing Saints squad have, on the whole fared better than their Ipswich counterparts. Although it is staggering to see that of the thirty four players involved, fifteen of them are now playing at non-league level.

This isn’t a fate exclusive to these young finalists either, of the 2007 Liverpool winning side, only two players have since played for the first team, and only one (Jay Spearing) is still on the fringe. Their defeated opponents that day Manchester United fielded Danny Welbeck who has now become a first team player, the rest of the names are less familiar. In fact if you were to go through the lineups of all the previous finals, you would find only a handful of players plying their trade at the top of the footballing tree. Another case of foreigners ruining the English game? Hardly. These days half the youth teams are foreign players as clubs look to invest abroad as early as possible, all hoping to discover the next Lionel Messi. The fact is the standard required gets higher every season and more are likely to fall by the wayside with every intake. Also, I always wonder how much difference in ability there is between some players playing non-league and those in the lower echelons of the professional game. Not that much I would wager, and in reality we could probably fill another four divisions of professional clubs if it were possible.

Either way, the differing fortunes of some of these young players is a harsh reminder that the career of a footballer is a privilege to be treasured.

Chris

Thanks to Gordon Simpson (Daily Echo), Martin Brodetsky (Oxford United FC), David Seabourne (Bognor Regis Town FC Supporters Club), Graham Large (It’s Round & It’s White), Jon Dalton (Granley Rovers FC), Samuel Ridout.