Southampton travelled to the Withdean Stadium to face League One’s already crowned champions Brighton & Hove Albion.
A win would put them in second place and put the pressure on Huddersfield Town who weren’t playing. A tall order for Nigel Adkins side who were under intense pressure themselves to gain promotion.
Adkins’ entered the Withdean to a chorus of abuse after comments he made about Brighton having to ‘keep up’ with Southampton. This was the biggest game of the season.
Ashley Barnes put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half time. Saints created a flurry of chances in the final 10 minutes but to no avail. They’d lost 1-0. A Jose Fonte header at the death ruled out for a foul in the box the closest they came to snatching a point.
Despite overcoming Hartlepool United at home in the next game, Saints were drained of confidence and went down at Brentford. Main rivals for automatic promotion Huddersfield Town kept on winning, they even succeed where Saints failed, beating Brighton 2-3 at the Withdean to leapfrog us into second place. Saints win their game in hand at Plymouth but go into the final day needing to beat Walsall and hope that the Terriers lose at home to Brentford. Saints see off their Midlands rivals, but Huddersfield secure a thrilling 4-4 draw sealing automatic promotion. Saints face the lottery of the playoffs.
Saints face local ‘rivals’ Bournemouth in their semi-final and overcome them after extra time in the second leg at St. Mary’s to setup a final with Peterborough United at Old Trafford. Saints fail their final test and lose the playoff final on penalties. Jonathan Forte missing the decisive spot kick.
10th June 2011. Nigel Adkins and his backroom staff are relieved of their duties with immediate effect.
16th June 2011. The club release a statement from Katherina Liebherr announcing that as of today the club is for sale.
1st July 2011. Southampton Football Club is bought by a consortium of local businessmen. They talk of consolidation and rebuilding. Nicola Cortese is relieved of his duties as chairman.
4th July 2011. Rickie Lambert is sold to Brighton & Hove Albion for £1.2 million.
6th July 2011. Jose Fonte is sold to Crystal Palace for £850k.
9th July 2011. Adam Lallana and Lee Barnard are sold to Leicester City for a combined £2.8 million.
11th July 2011. Jason Dodd is appointed first team manager.
2011/12 League One.
As the new owners look to settle the club and clear what they call a ‘difficult financial situation’ they ensure fans that they have every confidence in the current squad and will be hoping for another promotion push.
Saints open the season at home to Bury and lineup like so:- Davis, Richardson, Seaborne, Martin, Dickson, Guly, Hammond (c), Schneiderlin, Chaplow, Connolly, Forte.
They secure a 1-1 draw and start the campaign with three consecutive ties. Dodd’s side look like the summer upheaval hasn’t effected them too much and they go on an unbeaten run in the league that lasts 19 games and takes them to the end of November. Although they are yet to be beaten they still trail Charlton Athletic by five points having drawn a lot of those games.
Saints suffer their first defeats of the season away at leaders Charlton and then at home to Bournemouth before getting back on track going into the January transfer window.
11th January 2012. Top scorer Guly do Prado is sold against his wishes to Birmingham City for £700k.
18th January 2012. Morgan Schneiderlin is sold to Reading for £1.5 million.
20th January 2012. Southampton announce the double signing of Matt Ritchie from Swindon Town and Tyrone Barnett from Crawley Town for undisclosed fees.
Saints find their form again despite supporter unrest given the transfer dealings of the club in January. The club’s owners move to reassure the fans that no business was done without the best interest of the club at heart.
With eight games to go, Saints are still within three points of automatic promotion, sadly those eight games would see them have their worst run of the season, losing four and eventually finishing 4th, twelve points adrift of 2nd placed Sheffield Wednesday.
Saints overcome Milton Keynes Dons in the playoff semi finals before facing Sheffield United in the final at Wembley. The game ends 0-0 after extra time and goes to penalties. With the scores at 7-7, the captain Dean Hammond steps up knowing if he scores Saints are back in the Championship.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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)!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Most of the hotel guests are either in bed or enjoying a beer in the neighbouring bar after a long day on Act 2 of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series.
One isn’t. One is sat in his room nervously watching text updates from the Official Southampton Football Club website, as his beloved club take on Bristol Rovers at St. Mary’s.
Guly do Prado wins the game in the 82nd minute after all indication from the text updates showed that Saints kept frustratingly knocking at the door without being let in. The win kept Southampton in second place in League One, with an advantage over the pursuing Huddersfield Town in third.
Most of the hotel guests are sleeping soundly after a long day working on Act 2 of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series.
One isn’t (he set his alarm). One is sat in his room nervously waiting for Sky Sports Score Centre to load on his Mac. His beloved Saints will have just finished their game against Peterborough United.
Saints have won. Goals from Jos Hooiveld (midweek cowboy) and Billy Sharp have secured the crucial three points. The win keeps Saints safe in second place in the Championship, with a five point advantage over West Ham in third.
Supporting Saints isn’t a hobby. It’s a religion. Like most religious people Saints fans don’t let being in another country stop them worshipping.
I am extremely lucky. I do a job where I get to travel the world, the inconvenience of following Saints on those trips is not that often. This post is dedicated to all the Saints fans around the world who live permanently on foreign shores. They may not be at St. Mary’s every week (neither am I), but their support is no less passionate.
Since Sky television made it’s presence felt in the world of football broadcasting, the traditional Saturday three pm kick off time has become less set in stone. Particularly in the Premier League, but also in the Football League, fans will find their clubs kick off times changed to suit the demand for television viewing.
In the Football League they have an allocated slot of twenty past five on a Saturday afternoon, so Sky Sports can instantly hook the viewers of the ever popular Soccer Saturday straight into another ninety minutes of action.
Saints took part in one of the most entertaining of these fixtures on this weekend a year ago, Nigel Adkins’ men travelled to London Road to take on Peterborough United and played out a 4-4 draw in front of the cameras. Richard Chaplow, Rickie Lambert (2) and Dean Hammond giving Saints 0-2 and 2-4 leads before a second Posh equaliser deep into injury time.
As fate would have it Saints head to a St. Andrews tonight (weather permitting) for the Sky evening fixture in what looks to be a difficult game against a Birmingham side in devastating form.
So how do Saints fare in these games? Better than you might think.
We have a notion that we are poor in front of the Sky camera’s, but our record in the Saturday 17:20 fixtures is pretty reasonable. Losing just two of their eight games since entering the Football League in 2005 (both coming in the ill fated 2008/09 Championship relegation season), what Saints do seem to guarantee at this kick off time is goals. Of those eight fixtures there has been an average of 3.25 goals in the game!
Saints in fact, opened their time in the Football League in one of these fixtures, a goalless stalemate with Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s on the 6th August 2005.
They didn’t feature again until the 27th October 2007, where goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips, Jason Euell and Stern John saw Saints beat Burnley at Turf Moor by three goals to two.
What followed was a disastrous season in Saints history and it coincided with the two 17:20 defeats. A crushing 1-4 loss at the Ricoh Arena was soon followed by a 0-1 home reverse by Bristol City. Not overly surprising in a season that saw Saints record just ten league wins.
Last years goalfest in Cambridgeshire was next and then in the following month Saints took to the St. Mary’s pitch for an evening kick off again for a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte securing the points.
Saints opened this season as they had their first in the Championship, at home in front of the cameras for the evening kick off. Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly netted to give Saints the best possible start, convincingly beating Leeds United 3-1.
Saints were less convincing at the Madejski Stadium in October, Steve de Ridder rescuing a point with a late leveller against Reading.
Southampton Saturday 17:20 kick off record:-
Played – 8
Won – 3
Drawn – 3
Lost – 2
Goals For – 14
Goals Against – 14
Incidentally today’s opponents Birmingham City’s record in these fixtures is P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 GF 5 GA 5.
What do these statistics prove? Well not a lot really, other than in terms of form they don’t make a hell of a lot of difference!
With West Ham playing in the other television spot, kicking off at half past twelve against arch rivals Millwall, Saints will get started at St. Andrews knowing what they have to do. Let’s hope they give the performance of the weekend! COYR!
“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….
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.”
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.
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.
The experiment aims to see if you can take a regular Sunday League side (in this case Ivory Fc from the Brentwood League first division in Essex), give them the right coaching, nutrition, physio and facilities and turn them into a successful team. Coached by the likes of Terry Venables, Ray Wilkins and Ray Clemence the Ivory team have already had an impressive start to their league campaign, and the perennial strugglers currently lie top of the table.
This Sunday the Ivory lads get their biggest test though, when they face off against a team of England Legends!
Boasting over two hundred caps between them, the ex-pros will not want to be beaten by a ‘pub-side’ and will be going all out to ensure they don’t get egg on their faces.
Amongst the England legends will be ex-Saints legend Mark Wright, and GWC.com are proud to be his official backer for the match!
The no-nonsense but stylish defender made two hundred and twenty two appearances for Saints between April 1982 and May 1987 having signed from Oxford United and was part of the great Saints team that finished league runners up in the 1983/84 season. Lawrie McMenemy succesfully predicted at the time that he had just signed a future England player and got he his first cap within two years.
Wright would have been a shoe in for the 1986 World Cup squad but unfortunately broke his leg in Saints FA Cup Semi final against Liverpool. Having left Saints for Derby County, he did however make the 1990 squad, scoring his only international goal, a crucial winner against Egypt in the group stages.
Wright went on to play for Liverpool and gain forty five caps for his country before moving into management with Southport, Oxford United, Peterborough and Chester City.
Wright will lineup with his fellow ex-England pro’s at Dagenham & Redbridge’s Victoria Ground this Sunday for a 1400 kick off against the Ivory FC boys. His team mates consist of:- Ian Walker, Luther Blissett, Nigel Winterburn, Viv Anderson, Ray Parlour, Clive Allen, Rob Lee, Alvin Martin, Tony Woodcock and Rob Jones.
As Wrights official backers, Nivea For Men have given the readers of this site a chance to win bundle of their products! If Wright is selected as the England legends Man of the Match on Sunday, anyone who has retweeted this article, or commented on it below could be picked at random to win the prize!
Let’s hope we see some of Mark’s old school, classy defending and he catches the judges eye!
For previous articles on the Great Football Experiment check here.
The Fourth and final instalment of the 2011/12 Championship season preview by the fans. Following on from parts one, two and three, the final six Championship fans give their opinion on how their clubs will fare…
What can we expect from your club this season? Goals galore!! probably at both ends to be honest. Even with CMS gone we still have Boyd, Tomlin and McCann who all got double figures last season. Add to that Nicky Ajose who comes with a big reputation, we should score plenty. In pre season we have conceded an average of 2 a game, we do need to tighten up at the back! There is a great team spirit among the lads, hopefully that will pull us through!
Who is your most important player? Grant McCann the skipper and set piece king, his quality and experience is something we didn’t have at this level last time. Not just the goals he scores but he also got 13 assists last season, goals from set pieces will be very important I think.
Your predicted finishing position? 15th…we will flirt with relegation but save ourselves in February/March.
Who might win the Championship? I don’t think you can see past Leicester really, they seem to be getting quality in all over, if they can gel together as a team early on in the season, they could runaway with it.
Who definitely won’t? MK Dons (If you want a serious answer to this let me know).
Most anticipated fixture? Really looking forward to West Ham away, feels like one of those days similar to Newcastle two seasons ago when loads of Posh fans turnout. Although I hope it’s not the same result and fallout as that game!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Brighton v Hull….the Mac Attack on the same pitch again although on opposite sides. Both are great lads and deserve success and still loved by Posh fans.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Mackail-Smith! He is irreplaceable not just for the goals but mostly for his work rate and turning lost causes into chances.
You find yourself stuck in Sixfields. How do you escape unnoticed? Easy! Sneak one of those implements that kids use to split their lego up with and take out a few of the lego bricks from the main stand and Bob’s your Uncle, back on the A45 home!
What can we expect from your club this season? A promotion push is obviously the aim, but it all depends on how Steve Cotterill does in the transfer window between now and the start of the season as we’ve still got a tiny squad.
Who is your most important player? We had a number of key figures last season like Liam Lawrence, Hayden Mullins and Joel Ward and with David Norris, Luke Varney, Jason Pearce and Stephen Henderson all added to the ranks it could be any of them, but our money’s on Varney to light up the Championship next season.
Your predicted finishing position? Top 10 would be ideal however there are a lot of big and strong sides in the Championship next season so a promotion push will be tough.
Who might win the Championship? Leicester have spent big and West Ham have got a lot of quality experienced players so I think it’s a two horse race to be honest.
Who definitely won’t? Southampton 😉
Most anticipated fixture? It has to be the South Coast derby home and away doesn’t it? The Pompey v Southampton rivalry is back on this season and with some big 4-1 victories over Southampton the last two games, both teams and both sets of fans will be well up for it!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I think Leicester v West Ham will be a big one. As I said, I think they’ll both be fighting for promotion and they’ve got some quality players.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Scott Parker’s still at West Ham isn’t he? He’d be pretty useful. Mind you we’re a bit desperate for another striker at the moment. I’d be quite keen on Charlie Austin or Jay Bothroyd to link up with Kitson and Varney.
You find yourself stuck in St Mary’s. How do you escape unnoticed? That’s a tough one! To be fair I don’t think anyone caught in a Pompey shirt in St Mary’s is gonna be welcomed with open arms. Maybe use Joel Ward and his new found strength (following his conditioning trip to USA) as a bodyguard.
What can we expect from your club this season? I think we’ll be pretty solid this season, as we’ve (at the time of writing) retained the core of the side that did so well last season. A lot depends on whether Shane Long goes (and if so how much for) but I’m confident we’ll be in and around the play-offs again.
Who is your most important player? Again depends if he’s still here but right now it’s Shane Long. The striker’s second half form turned us from a mid-table side to being 90 minutes from the Premier League and his goals will again be crucial. If he goes it’ll be up to Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff to provide some magic from the wings.
Your predicted finishing position? Right now I’ll say 8th.
Who might win the Championship? Hard to look past West Ham or Leicester right now. Big Sam’s bought wisely and is exactly the type of manager the club needs, while Sven’s been spending cash like mad (including our captain Matt Mills).
Who definitely won’t? Peterborough will struggle. The last time they were in this league they were so far off the pace and even last year they conceded goals for fun. Losing Mackail-Smith is a killer for them and it’s hard to see them surviving.
Most anticipated fixture? Trips to St Mary’s and the AMEX have been looked forward too most of the summer, while our games with West Ham usually entertain.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Some real grudge matches in the league this year, Southampton v Portsmouth, Millwall v Leeds, Brighton v Palace, this division isn’t for the faint of heart this season!
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Kevin Nolan. Nolan was fantastic as Newcastle walked the league two years ago and while not the most likeable player out there he’s a terrific player.
You find yourself stuck in the Kassam Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed? Quietly make my way to the end without a stand and sneak over the fence!
What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking, free flowing, attractive football, quality soundbites from Nigel Adkins and a team on the ascendancy as opposed to the last time we were in this division.
Who is your most important player? Adam Lallana. Since January all the focus has been on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but on the other wing we have a young player who is far more accomplished and far more important to the team. Lallana is a class act, and is liable to tear holes in your defence at the drop of a hat. When Lallana ticks we can beat anybody. Honourable mention for David Connolly too, IF he can stay fit, he is still a fantastic goalscorer at this level.
Your predicted finishing position? 10th. I think we are a couple more players away from being a real contender. So I might be a little bit more optimistic if the expected “two more signings” happen.
Who might win the Championship? The obvious answers are West Ham and Leicester, but I have got a sneaking feeling for Ipswich Town.
Who definitely won’t? I fear that Coventry City are going to be the next of the ex-Prem clubs to drop into the third tier.
Most anticipated fixture? Hmmm. Tough one, but I think I will have to say the two games against our poor relations down the road. They have trounced us the last two times we have played them, but this time we are on a level footing and the blue few have no longer got a team built on other peoples money.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I am quite interested to see what Nathan Tyson will do if he scores the winner against Forest…
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Nicky Maynard from Bristol City. Fantastic striker, who I think would score bagfuls playing off of Rickie Lambert.
You find yourself stuck in Fratton Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I would open two packets of Scampi fries and put them in my pockets, draw an anchor on each forearm in biro, speak in a fake cockney accent and talk about nothing but “scummers”. This should see me blend in with the locals. Failing that, I will dress like the sheik from Cannonball Run and walk about with a bag labelled “swag”, the Fratton faithful will be so busy putting up “Welcome to Portsmouth” banners on the flyovers of the M27, I will be able to walk out unnoticed…
What can we expect from your club this season? A low average age! As a result of the club’s precarious financial state, we were forced to field more of our younger players last year than we perhaps would have liked. We’ve made a few additions to the squad over the summer, noticably Chris Iwelumo, but we’ll still be relying on our array of Harefield Academy graduates. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – they performed admirably last year, but the Championship seems incredibly competitive this year, big teams entering the division from both the Premier League and Division One, so they will need to deliver for us again. Whatever happens, a team managed by Sean Dyche is always going to give 100% so I’d be surprised if we didn’t provide a tough challenge for the majority of teams in this league.
Who is your most important player? Having said we’re largely dependent on youth, we do have a couple of experienced players. Cult hero Lloyd Doyley is entering his testimonial year, whilst fellow defender Martin Taylor is a vital part of our defensive unit. Our most important player is another man with experience – our captain John Eustace. Eustace is a born leader, barking orders on the pitch whilst crunching into tackles, breaking up play and kick-starting many of our attacking moves. The sort of player you hate playing against, but adore when he’s one of yours. The news that John Eustace had signed a contract extension was without doubt the best news of the summer.
Your predicted finishing position? If you’ve ever listened to me on the ‘From the Rookery End’ podcast, you’ll know that I’m not the most optimistic of souls! I do however think it’s fair to say that our single aim for this season is safety. If we can avoid relegation, it will have been a successful year and so anything above 21st will be god news as far as I’m concerned. We certainly have the talent to survive, but a good start to the season will be vital – especially with Sean Dyche entering his first season in management.
Who might win the Championship? Leicester City have been attracting a lot of attention with their eye catching activity in the transfer market, so I’d imagine they will be short odds. Will all the new signings gel though? I’m not sure. Their fans will expect a lot after all the investment, so their will be definite pressure on Sven and his team. Of the relegated sides I think West Ham United will be challenging, whilst Division One champions Brighton will be full of confidence after demolishing their opponents last year. I’d be surprised if they won it, but I can certainly see them making the play-offs. If you were to give me a fiver to back a winner, I’d go for Nottingham Forest. I think they have pulled off a master stroke in getting Steve McLaren on board, he has a wealth of experience and in getting rid of the permanently angry Billy Davies, I imagine the City Ground is already a more pleasant place to be. They get big crowds and have a decent squad – I’m going with Nottingham Forest.
Who definitely won’t? Birmingham City. Things are unravelling at an alarming pace at St Andrews and their fans will be hoping they can simply survive the season. They are losing players left right and centre and have seemingly have no funds with which to bring in replacements. It’s looking bleak for the blues.
Most anticipated fixture? Over the summer, most of our key players and staff departed for Wales. Danny Graham went to Swansea, whilst what felt like every one else followed Malky Mackay to Cardiff City. There was a lot of good will towards Malky after what he achieved in his time as boss at Vicarage Road, but this evaporated when he used his knowledge of contract situations at Watford to pinch Don Cowie, our influential midfielder, on a free. I think a lot of fans will be looking forward to the games with Cardiff and praying that we can prove to those that left they made a mistake. From a personal point of view I’m looking forward to visiting Brighton’s shiny new stadium and finding out first hand if they make good on their promise of lighting the away end in the colour of the visiting team. Intriguing!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I always enjoy watching the joys of the South Coast derby unfold – ideally from a very safe distance. With the Saints back in the Championship, I am looking forward to watching Southampton and Portsmouth do their thing. South coast neighbours Brighton also have their eyes on a tasty derby with long time rivals Crystal Palace, so that will be good fun to watch.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? He’s actually got a lot to prove at Championship level, but he’s a local lad and is rumoured to be a Watford supporter, showing him to be of impeccable taste. He needs a haircut, but I reckon Craig Mackail-Smith would be a decent addition to any Championship side. It will be interesting to see how CMS does at this level.
You find yourself stuck in Kenilworth Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Very simple. I would simply explain that I am an official from the Football League and am therefore obviously very lost. I probably wouldn’t even need to explain; they have been non league for so long now, they simply wouldn’t recognise a supporter from a football league club! Bless their cotton socks.
What can we expect from your club this season? A top two finish. Hopefully!
Who is your most important player? Kevin Nolan. If he can score his usual amount of goals then we can be very hopeful of promotion at the first attempt.
Your predicted finishing position? 1 or 2.
Who might win the Championship? Us!
Who definitely won’t? The others!
Most anticipated fixture? It’s certainly not Millwall. Maybe v Leeds?
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton v Portsmouth.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Shane Long.
You find yourself stuck in the Den. How do you escape unnoticed? Quickly get some extra tattoos…
Well that wraps up the 2011/12 Championship preview by the top club bloggers and tweeters. All there is to do now, is sit back watch the season unfold and see our optimism and predictions die before our eyes…
The Southampton Football Club Blog that doesn't like to take itself too seriously!