Another great season for Southampton can only end with one inevitable summer of events.
The vultures that are the ‘bigger’ clubs are already circling as much like last year they look to patch up their own failings by trying to be a little more ‘Southampton’.
The two major focal points of that speculation so far have been Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne. Both have been linked to the usual suspects, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs in the main, but the most recent rumour regarding Clyne can only be too good to be true.
There is a suggestion that Manchester United would be prepared to offer cash and Javier Hernandez to tempt Saints into a deal. Now, Nathaniel Clyne has been consistently superb in a Southampton shirt, let’s make no mistake about that, but is there a Saints fan around that would…
In Saturday’s 8-0 hammering of Sunderland, our very own Dušan Tadić made history after breaking the weekly points record on European fantasy football game Oulala.
With a points matrix sourced from Opta the midfielder picked up a remarkable 151 points thanks to an excellent performance that included a goal, four assists, creating three big chances and supplying five successful crosses. The record was previously held by Carlos Vela who netted four goals for Real Sociedad last season in a 4-3 victory over Celta Vigo.
To sum up just how special Tadić’s performance was, Ronaldo’s top score this season was 140 points after scoring four goals against Elche in a 5-1 win and Lionel Messi scored 130 points when he scored two and assisted two in a 6-0 win over Granada. That’s some company our new signing is mixing with.
Oulala is a free to play, weekly European fantasy football game offering cool prizes to it’s top three managers every week. Oulala offers unique features such as a diverse scoring matrix and live in-play substitutions making it the closest fantasy football has ever got to reality. To register click here https://www.oulala.com/en/register
It is going to take a while isn’t it. The thought that Nigel won’t be in the dugout on Monday is a little terrifying. But life goes on, and we have to support the team and the new man. This isn’t their fault.
But who is the new man? I know very little of him, he is the man who tripped Michael Owen for the match winning penalty at the 2002 World Cup. He is a former centre half who played for Newell’s Old Boys, Espanyol, Paris Saint-Germain, Bordeaux and Espanyol again. He was then the manager of Espanyol until he left in November.
Other than that I don’t know anything else, so as is the custom at georgeweahscousin.com I found someone who does! Gary Linton is a Spanish football expert who writes for several sites that specialise in La Liga.
As you might imagine, we are all a little bemused by Adkins being sacked, and replaced with a man most of us know little about, do you have any words to reassure the Saints fans?
GL:- ‘Of course I can, first of all every Southampton fan will have read the stat, when Pochettino left Espanyol they were bottom of the league with just 2 wins in 14 games, that of course is a fact.
What else is fact is that when he first took over the club, Espanyol were in the drop zone, 8 points adrift of safety and in a bad way, it was their 13th man in charge in just 11 years. Pochettino had around half a season to steer them clear of relegation. In the end he did, in fact, in the end he finished 10th. Along the way he beat Barcelona in their own back yard (Something they have yet to repeat since) They lost just 5 games out of the 18 he managed that season – Facts.
He had to by the end sell most, if not all of his top players each and every season, and work not even on a shoe string budget, there was no budget, yet he managed to finish the following seasons 11th in the league, then 8th then 14th. Fact.
In the end, he may have been sacked, but he was left with nothing, nothing at all and it was the right move for the club and for the manager himself. He couldn’t do anymore, to be honest I’m surprised they weren’t relegated through-out his time, it just shows how good a job he did.
If that doesn’t show how good a job he’s done, this might – At one point in his stage he was a realistic choice to become the new Real Madrid manager.’
We’ve got used to attractive attacking football under Adkins, what can we expect from the new boss?
GL:- ‘You can expect the players to work hard in training for a start, and not slack off, just ask Pablo Osvaldo, he once said on Pochettino’s training: “At times you want to kill him simply because he makes you suffer like a dog. But in the end you get the right results”
That’s just for the training, as for the game itself. Attacking football you say, well that’s what you’ll get from him. Espanyol were a side that pushed high up the park, playing their football from the back always trying to work hard and press the opposition and most importantly they loved the possession-based style, keep the ball at all times.
Most would have saw the quote from Pep Guardiola about Pochettino’s team, if not then here it is here: “There are teams that wait for you and teams that look for you: Espanyol look for you. I feel very close to their style of football.”
If that’s not a compliment of the highest order from a man who was at the time the manager of one of the best footballing sides the world’s ever seen, then I do not know what is.’
Pochettino is said to encourage development from the academy which is in line with Saints vision, but do you think he will move in the transfer window and what sort of player will he go for?
GL:- ‘He’s a man who loves youth systems, he’s a big believer in them and rightfully so. At Espanyol he worked very closely with the youth set-up at every level, he’d even make each team play in an age group above to speed things up, to improve them quicker and help build them up. During his time as manager, he was well into double figures with the amount of youngsters he brought into the first team, it was over 20 players he had brought through by the time he left, the youngest at 16 years old, he was a believer of the ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’
On transfers, one thing is likely and that’s a profit each transfer window. During his time at Espanyol, a club he had played at for many years he developed a friendship with many he had to manage, it didn’t stop him selling and getting rid of them. Each transfer window he made a profit, and mostly a big profit. For example, he sold Albert Riera to Liverpool for just under €9 million, Espanyol bought him 4 seasons prior for just €2.6M – Had Pablo Zabaleta had to sell, but sold him for double what they paid, 3 seasons before. Nicolás Pareja bought for €4.4 million, season and a half later, sold for exactly double. He bought and kept the likes of Euro 2008 winner, Sergio García, he purchased what can be described as Espanyol’s most influential player in Joan Verdú, on a free transfer!
So yes, he does very well in youth development but also does well in the transfer window.’
How did you rate his time at Espanyol?
GL:- ‘He did well, in fact he did very well. As I said before, he led them away from the relegation the first season, made them into a mid-table team with next to no money and having to sell his best players and relying on youth to make the step up.
He then took them just 9 points away from a European spot, a team like that in Europe, if someone had said that at the start of that season, they’d be laughed away, he was this close to doing it.
He then kept them mid-table during his time there, in the last season, after every ‘good’ player had been sold, fans were then getting a little annoyed, the board not helping or backing him and with the man himself getting a little miffed and tired, they decided it was time for him to go. Which I guess was fair, but the main point is, he had taken them far enough and when you get ‘NO’ backing, what else can you do.
In fact, he done an excellent job all things considered.’ ‘
Do you think that he might look at any of his old Espanyol players to improve the Southampton team?
GL:- ‘I don’t see why not, if I was a manger I’d be more than interested in the likes of Joan Verdu, Víctor Sánchez, Christian Stuani or maybe even the goal keeper, Cristian Álvarez to name but a few. I do think though that his best asset will be the long term plan from the youth system.
But if he has to buy a player or two, I’m sure he’ll come knocking on a few La Liga clubs doors, find the likes of the new Michu kicking around, if anyone can do that then a man who’s been in Spain for that many years, with that many contacts can.’
On the whole do you see this as a good appointment for a Premier League club?
GL:- ‘I 100% do, I understand the Saints fans point of view, that they didn’t need to sack their manager, he should have got the season and with the job Nigel Adkins did who can blame them.
But what I do believe is that, even though he’s gone, do be happy with who you have in as manager. This is a man who may not be able to speak English but knows how to manage a club who’ll avoid relegation, get behind him as I’m sure you will and together you supports and the manager can come out at the end of this season still in the Barclay’s Premier League.’
Hopefully that will help make Saints fans feel a little more confident about the coming weeks. We have to back this guy now, and it would seem he is no mug.
Thanks to Gary for these enthusiastic answers! Follow him on twitter @AlbaEspana
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.