Tag Archives: Relegation

Seven things we re-learned from Saints resurgence!

Just a month ago, I found myself (over) analysing a run of terrible form here. Since that victory at Watford, Saints have made it to an unbeaten run of five games, dropping just two points at Arsenal and haven’t conceded a single goal.

So what have we re-learned during Koeman’s resurgence?

  1. The Transfer Policy is ok

During that run of five unbeaten games Summer signings Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu have both been standout players. Consider their impact alongside that of Virgil van Dijk and to a lesser extent Cedric, and Saints look to have a decent squad, better than the poor run they had been on suggested. Add to that the instant impact of Charlie Austin and Saints fans have good reason to be looking up again rather than down.

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Romeu – An assured replacement for Wanyama.

2. Ronald knows Tactics

Many people winced when they saw the return of three at the back, especially with Ryan Bertrand taking a place in the centre, but Ronald has got his tactics spot on recently. With the exception of the West Ham game, he has recreated the dominant home performances we had gotten used to, and defensively the team have been superb on the road.

What poor form?
What poor form?

3. Player Power won’t always beat us

Despite his sending off against West Ham, Victor Wanyama has seemingly (if temporarily) shaken off his desire to head to North London and been a key player during this run. Wanyama is one of Saints’ best players on his day, only a fool argues that point, but his position is more difficult with the emergence of Clasie and Romeu. Arguably, Saints could afford to lose him, but chose not to. A nice change.

It was refreshing to see that no key players left the bus on deadline day, and whether or not you believe the likes of Wanyama and Mane are biding their time, perhaps Saints have decided they won’t be held to ransom anymore.

4. Goalscoring

Many of us felt vindicated when Charlie Austin came off the bench at Old Trafford to put away his first chance in a Saints shirt. It’s what we had been saying for some time. We miss too many good chances.

A three pronged competition for places of Austin, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long is a pretty ideal situation for a manager as they all differ in style, and all must take their opportunities to stay in the team.

The natural, the unorthodox and the hassler? Have Saints ever been so striker rich?

Charlie 'You don't have to ask me twice' Austin.
Charlie ‘You don’t have to ask me twice’ Austin.

5. We still have decent Academy products

During this run, amongst many of the pleasing aspects, it has been great to see the performances of James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett.

JWP finally got the free kick monkey off his back and has looked more tenacious than ever in midfield and Targett was in scintillating form in a more advanced role.

It was especially pleasing to see Matt Targett show that he isn’t the write off some people had decided he was, and who knew he had that cross on him? A justified player of the month and bright future ahead!

The kids are alright.
The kids are alright.

6. We missed ‘The Wall’

There is very little more to be said about Fraser Forster’s miraculous return to the team. Literally no sign of rustiness, despite being out for nine months, his return has coincided with this run of form.

For many of the games he has little to do, but I wonder just how much more confident his presence makes the back four (or three/five). His display against Arsenal was pure heroics and with due respect to our other keepers would we have conceded no goals in the last five games had any of them been playing. I seriously doubt it. The confidence of Jose Fonte in a behind the scenes video after the West Ham game tells a story of faith. No one is scoring past us mate.

NONE SHALL PASS.
NONE SHALL PASS.

7. Mark Clattenburg still hates us

Yes I am bitter, but allowing the West Ham players to talk him into changing his yellow card to red for Wanyama and then allowing Sam Byram to get away with a clear red card tackle means his record of terrible decisions against us continues. He’s either a cheat or incompetent. You decide.

In Conclusion…

Someone once said that football was a ‘funny old game’ and it most certainly is. A month ago we were talking about a possible relegation battle, today a win against Swansea would see us reach 40 points with 12 games to go and people are talking about Europe again.

Clubs that were perceived to be having amazing seasons while we struggled (Stoke and Palace in particular) are now below us in the table, and even the Klopp revolution finds itself behind. No need to even mention Chelsea.

Keep the faith.

Chris

 

Five Relegated Premier League Players to boost the Saints Squad!

Southampton’s lack of depth this season has seen their campaign fizzle out and, while both QPR and Burnley may not have collectively made the grade at Premier League level, they have both had some standout players.

Here are five who I think could give the Southampton squad an edge.

1) Tom Heaton

If I were in charge of Saints, Heaton would be on my list of priority signings. The Burnley stopper has been exceptional and the Southampton travelling fans saw that first hand on their trip to Turf Moor. With Fraser Forster out for the foreseeable future, having to use Kelvin Davis and Paulo Gazzaniga at this level has cost the club dear. Heaton was, rightly in my opinion, touted for England honours earlier in the season, and he could be just what the club needs to…

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Saints must stop the rot at Leicester!

We are almost at that historic day. The day we find out whether the euro-sceptic blues can keep themselves in the big house, or whether the Red’s can complete a dramatic turnaround from also-rans to trailblazers!

Election you say? No, I’m talking about Leicester City against Southampton.

There may not be a more pivotal fixture in the Premier League this weekend, as the Foxes can all but secure their miraculous recovery, while Saints must win to keep alive any hopes of an amazing fanfare finish to their season and secure European football.

If you had asked me six months ago what the result of this game might be I’d have confidently predicted a comfortable Southampton victory, but while former Saints boss Nigel Pearson has overseen a revival as good as any of our Premier League ‘Great Escapes’…

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Put up or Shut time for Saints!

A home game against struggling Hull City might be just what the doctor ordered after yet another frustrating Goodison Park experience.

I have taken no pleasure in the fact I predicted the Tigers to be relegated some months ago, and ever since they have set about fulfilling my prophecy and have consistently made their way down the table, now just one place and two points above the drop zone.

Having won only two games in twelve, both of which came at the KC Stadium against fellow strugglers, Steve Bruce’s team should pose no threat to today’s opposition, but if any team knows what the threat of top flight demotion can bring out in a team, it’s the Saints.

We were the kings of it for much of the 1990’s.

Hull have suffered a hangover…

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Never Mind The Turnstiles, Here’s The Bloggers…

Seeing as Saints cleverly thought ahead, and knowing that Mauricio Pochettino’s impending high pressing game was going to require some serious energy, rolled over for Chelsea and got themselves a rest this weekend, I thought I would tackle some general Saints worries and get the feelings of the other great Saints bloggers out there.

No matter how well things are going for Saints we can always find something to worry about, it’s in our nature, so this is a mixture of positives and negatives…

Thanks to all the Saints bloggers for taking the time to answer these questions! They are, in no particular order Ali Iveson from Saints Corner, Glen de la Cour from League One Minus 10, Sean Gonzalez-Lambert from And It’s All Southampton FC , Will Turner from OWhentheSaints, Ben Stanfield from The South Coast Brazil, Sam Dobson from The Saints Hub and Edward Kilby from SFC Player Stats.

How long have you been supporting Saints?

AI – ’12 years.’ GdlC – ’44 years.’ SGL – ’14 years.’ WT –  ’16 years.’ BS – ’28 years.’  SD – ’16 years.’ EK – ’15 years.’

How long have you been blogging about Saints?

AI – ‘2 years.’ GdlC – ‘3 and a half years.’ SGL – ‘1 year.’ WT –  ‘3 years.’ BS – ‘5 years.’  SD – ’18 months.’ EK – ‘7 months.’

How has the season been so far by your standards and expectations?

AI – ‘Not quite as well as I’d expected.’

GdlC – ‘It’s about how I expected in terms of league position.  We are playing better football than I expected though.’

SGL – ‘I think this season has been a pretty decent showing in our return to the Premier League. Our first 10 fixtures didn’t help us. However, the players have coped with the demands of the top flight and we have shown everyone that we can compete against England’s elite. I would have expected us to have a few more points though.’

WT – ‘I’d say as expected. Expected us to be battling relegation and we are.’

BS – ‘I think, as expected by most, Saints are in a relegation battle with 17th being the minimum target for the end of the season. They have however shown throughout the season (except Arsenal away) that they can compete with anyone in the league, home or away, but the amount of points thrown away from winning positions has been both regular and disappointing.’

SD – ‘We’re about where I thought we’d be. I did think we’d pick up a few more points at the start, even with that awful run of fixtures, but our recent form has made up for that somewhat. I didn’t expect anything other than a struggle to be honest, so as long as we stay up this season I’ll be satisfied. I think the teams at the bottom of the table are slightly stronger than they have been in recent Premier League seasons, so it was always going to be difficult to establish ourselves at first.’

EK – ‘I would put us on course of exactly where I thought we would be, although the last four games under Pochettino has been a wake up call and there is a real optimism that we can progress well and challenge the teams above us.’

Who has been your player of the season so far?

AI – ‘Nathaniel Clyne. Consistently excellent at right-back, contributing in defence and attack. Should be in the England squad.’

GdlC – ‘Morgan Schneiderlin, honourable mentions to Jack Cork, Sir Rickie and Luke Shaw.  By the end of the season it will be Artur Boruc.’

SGL – ‘For me, either Rickie Lambert or Morgan Schneiderlin.’

WT – ‘Morgan Schneiderlin’ 

BS – ‘No doubt about it for me – Morgan Schneiderlin! Lambert’s goals have been important but Morgan’s energy, commitment, tackling and even his goals this season have been very consistent. As a young player who has been with the Club nearly 10 years now its great to see how far he has come and he must be one of the first names on the team sheet each week!’

SD – ‘Nathaniel Clyne has been unbelievably consistent at right-back, while Jason Puncheon has done better than anyone could have imagined, but for me you can’t look beyond Morgan Schneiderlin. I’ve always been a fan, but for me he’s improved immeasurably every year. He’s pretty much the total package now. His reading of the game is top class, as is his tackling and passing. He’s even added goals to his repertoire this season.’

EK – ‘Morgan Schneiderlin by an absolute mile, we all knew he had it in him. But he’s excelled in every area and it’s great to see him enjoying his football with Saints, not to mention he’s the top tackler in the Premier League!’

Schneiderlin just in front of Nathaniel Clyne...
Schneiderlin just in front of Nathaniel Clyne…

Will Saints stay up?

AI – ‘Yes.’

GdlC – ‘Yes – 3 from Wigan, Reading, QPR and Villa will go.’

SGL – ‘Absolutely! Before the season started, I stated that Saints would finish between 12th and 15th in the table. It is still possible to achieve this!’

WT – ‘Yes. Well they should do.’

BS – ‘Yes – just! Saints have lacked the ability to close off games this season and its already cost them 24 points! They can’t keep doing it! Performances have been good but Saints need to be more clinical at both ends or they will be in trouble! Luckily for us it seems that there may be 3 ‘worse’ teams than us.’

SD – ‘I’m cautiously optimistic that we will. I’m pretty satisfied with the squad we’ve got, and I’m confident that there are at least three teams worse than us. Having said that, I’m concerned about us throwing away so many points in games we really should have won. We could really be in trouble if a few key players come down with injuries, but that could be said of any team. I predict we’ll be in the mix until near the end, but survive with a late rally. ‘

EK – ‘Yes, I’ve always had faith in this team and I believe with Pochettino leading us we will be a Premier League team next year.’

Adkins/Pochettino. Still hurting or looking forwards?

AI – ‘Looking forward to a bright future- no point dwelling on the past.’

GdlC – ‘Looking forwards – no point doing anything else.  Nigel’s done well out of us and he’ll move on to good things.’

SGL – ‘Hmmm. I was disgusted with the circumstances of Adkins’ sacking and thoroughly deserved more time. I will never forget the job he has done for the club though. I wasn’t sure about Pochettino at first. However, his style of football was really appealed to me.’

WT – ‘Still can’t watch/listen to ‘The Man in the Glass’ but Pochettino is an exciting appointment.’

BS – ‘I was thoroughly disappointed about Saints treatment of Nigel. Disgusted! To have never thanked him for his achievements at Saints was not in the spirit of the Club I love! He was a great character at Saints and we will always owe him a lot BUT I will always support Saints whoever is stood on the touch line – so for me it’s a case of the king is dead, long live the king!’

SD – ‘Like everyone else I was very shocked when it all happened, but the more I read and see about Pochettino, the more optimistic I feel about the future. Time will tell if it was the right decision, but the early signs are good. The players seem to genuinely like him and already look to be buying into his ideas. I will never have a bad word said about Adkins, but if Pochettino delivers I will be glad we made the change.’

EK – ‘Still hurts the way Adkins was treated at the end, but these last few games we have played some quite outstanding football and the future looks to be a bright one under Pochettino.’

Will Redknapp keep QPR up?

AI – ‘No.’

GdlC – ‘No.  Will he take any responsibility? No.’

SGL – ‘I don’t think he will. QPR’s problem is that they have too many individual players instead of team players.’

WT – ‘The million pound question if the contract rumours are true. Think it’s too steep a challenge even for Mr Houdini.’ 

BS – ‘Nope! They’ve been the worst team in the Premier League all season, bought in far too many players in the summer and prayed that they all ‘gelled’ but they haven’t! They also have failed to get another striker in in January to cover Loic Remy, who is injured – again! Whilst they’ve tightened up at the back I simply can’t see them scoring the goals they need to to stay up!’

SD – ‘I don’t think so. Granted they have improved recently, but if you stick eleven men behind the ball, you’re always going to pick a few 0-0 draws. It’s still a hell of a gap they have to make up. Sooner or later they are going to have to start attacking teams. I’m just not sure where the goals are going to come from. You’d think they’ll need a minimum of six wins from their remaining thirteen games, and even that might not be enough. It’s a big ask for a team who have only won twice all season.’

EK – ‘No.’

This little piggy went to High Court, this little piggy lost at home...
This little piggy went to High Court, this little piggy lost at home…

Le Tiss/Cortese. Damaging the club or irrelevant squabbling?

AI – ‘Pretty irrelevant, but certainly can’t help the club.’

GdlC – ‘Gives the media a negative stick to hit us with.  For me it’s very, very boring.’

SGL – ‘It is depressing to see the pair as it doesn’t help whatsoever. Without Liebherr and Cortese, there would be no Southampton Football Club. It seems to me they’re out to score points as if they’re on the Jeremy Kyle Show! Le Tiss hasn’t helped by going to the media about it all but, on the other hand, the fans might know what is actually going on.’

WT – ‘Petty but not irrelevant. I find it quite sad.’

BS – ‘A bit of both! Cortese runs the Club and Le Tiss needs to appreciate that! It’s his rules now! I don’t agree with Cortese’s ‘dictator style’ rule setting all the time but whilst Matt is, and probably always will be, the greatest player I’ve ever seen in the beloved red and white, he isn’t the smartest when it comes to speaking his mind publicly re Cortese!’ 

SD – ‘It is what it is. In an ideal world they would get on, but they don’t. Not a big deal, at the moment at least. I love Matt as much as the next fan, but sometimes I don’t think he helps himself by constantly sniping at Cortese so publicly. The meeting thing was a bit of a farce. I doubt either man had any intention of ever going through with it, both we’re playing a childish game. It was so predictable how it turned out. Matt has made his point countless times, and while he may be justified in some of the things he says, most fans have already decided which side of the fence they are on. There is very little he could say now to make people change their minds. Fans will only turn on Cortese if the team stop delivering on the pitch. Rightly or wrongly most supporters will turn a blind eye to pretty much everything as long as the team is winning. If things turn sour then people will be ready to attack, and Cortese might wish he hadn’t made so many enemies. Personally I think he’s a very shrewd guy, and I’m confident we will continue to be successful under his guidance.’ 

EK – ‘Damaging their reputations with the fans more than the club, but I personally think it’s pretty irrelevant.’

Pompey. Sympathy or Satisfaction?

AI – ‘Sympathy. The majority of their fans don’t deserve it.’

GdlC – ‘Bit of both.  I have kids in the U9 team I help run who wear Skates shirts to training cos Dad supports them and that’s fine.  I’d rather that than Man U/Chelsea to be honest.  Would hate to explain to my lad that his team had gone. However, they are a cess-pit and should have been thrown out of the league 2 years ago.  There are some special people on Twitter who deserve the worst to happen.’

SGL – ‘I have never seen a club in such a worse state than Pompey in my lifetime as yet. I have sympathy for the fans as we all know how they feel as we were in administration four years ago. There is some satisfaction as they simply used money that they didn’t have and the previous owners have ruined the club completely.’

WT – ‘Can’t say I haven’t enjoyed sniggering at the results and numerous has beens they keep signing up. I have sympathy for some of the fans though.’

BS – ‘Unfortunately I have no sympathy for them! Forget their fans, the Club actively cheated the system by winning a Cup with a team they couldn’t afford to buy, achieved European football through this and therefore revenues that a more deserving Club should have had, left charities out of pocket through non-payments and mistreated local businesses as well – potentially the most important ‘fans’ to any Club! Compared to some other Clubs like Aldershot, Luton, Rotherham, who in similar positions suffered sever consequences, Pompey have managed to get off very lightly so far! No Club in British Football history has been so mismanaged by people clearly selfish in their desire to win! History will show that they achieved great things in a short space of time but the reality is that they did it dishonestly and their upcoming comeuppance will be very satisfying for many people!’

SD – ‘I’m pretty indifferent to the whole situation to be honest. Between 2005-2009 I was very bitter about their success. It hurt to see them doing do well, while we were struggling. I would have given anything to see them crash and burn, but now that natural order has been restored I’m content again. I don’t really take much notice of what they are doing anymore.’

EK – ‘Both, I know a lot of Pompey fans so anything to do with the performance on the field I can have a little laugh, but everything off it isn’t particularly nice.’

Jermain, did you hear the one about the unpayed bonuses?
Jermain, did you hear the one about the unpayed bonuses?

Any Niggling worries about Saints?

AI – ‘That we’re not clinical enough in front of goal.’

GdlC – ‘If we stay up we’ll be fine and push on. Relegated and we lose Boruc, Clyne, Shaw, Morgan, Cork, Ramirez, Lambert and have to virtually start again – oh, and I expect we’d need a new manager. On the pitch, an injury to Sir Rickie would still kill us and the central defence needs to sort itself out.’

SGL – ‘I’m slightly worried at the fact that we can’t hold onto leads in games. The statistic of losing 27 points from winning positions doesn’t look good. However, I’m sure we can get the points to stay up.’

WT – ‘Only with the way former players seem to be treated. Le Tiss and co paying for tickets is disgusting in my opinion.’

BS – ‘Just their inability to cut out the niggling defensive mistakes and close off games when they’re leading! They must be more ruthless when leading and get ‘wise’ to seeing out Premier League games.’

SD – ‘The obvious worry is that our star players will eventually be picked off by bigger clubs. Jason Puncheon is worthy of a new deal, but I’m concerned he may not be given one because of his history with Cortese. Schneiderlin’s contract is up in 2014, so that’s another issue that needs addressing soon. If he were to move it would leave a huge whole in the team. He seems very happy at Southampton, but I doubt his recent form has gone unnoticed. He wouldn’t look out of place at any Premier League club in my opinion.’

EK – ‘Relegation is always on my mind despite the confidence I have in the team, as well as potential injuries to big players.’

Guly. Got to go or does a job?

AI – ‘Does a job. The majority of the criticism he gets is totally unfair as people look for a scapegoat.’

GdlC – ‘Does a job when needed as a squad player.  Not a starter and forgive the Brazilian stereotype but away from home on a freezing cold day – leave him at home.’

SGL – ‘Difficult as we don’t know which Guly will turn up! I have to be honest in that I wasn’t his biggest fan but I’d never boo him. At times, he does do a job. I don’t think he is Premier League quality. Although, he has put in some respectable performances recently. I have no idea whether he will move on in the summer though.’

WT – ‘Definitely does a job. The abuse he receives is ridiculous, we have far worse players than him.’

BS – ‘Any player who wears a Saints shirt should be cheered not booed! Guly is not one of my favourite players but he certainly does a job and, bearing in mind the continual abuse he gets from the uneducated section of the Saints fan base, I think he should be applauded for that!’

SD – ‘It annoys me how so many people ignore all the good things he does, and then barrack him every time he makes the slightest mistake. Sometimes he has bad games, but who doesn’t? Most other players can get away with the odd poor showing, but with Guly it’s always a massive scandal. I have no idea what the new coaching staff thinks of him, but I know for a fact he was very highly regarded by Adkins. I’ve heard from more than one player that his teammates think very highly of him too. Ultimately they are the people who really matter, and if Guly is good enough for them then he’s good enough for me. I wouldn’t start him every week, and I suspect he’ll be gradually phased out over the next 18 months, but for now he still has an important role to play.’

EK – ‘Does the job, I’ve never understood the hate towards him, he is the one who helps Saints retain possession of the ball and can on his day change the game with a little bit of his Brazilian magic…although that has been pretty limited so far this season.’

...and then the other nun said "It does doesn't it?"
…and then the other nun said “It does doesn’t it?”

If everyone is fit. Best XI?

AI – ‘(4-2-3-1) Gazzaniga; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork; Lallana, Ramírez, Puncheon; Lambert.’

GdlC – ‘Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Cork, Schneiderlin; Puncheon, Ramirez, Lallana; Lambert.’

SGL – ‘(4-2-3-1): Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, Puncheon, Ramírez, Lallana, Lambert.’

WT – ‘Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Puncheon, Cork, Schneiderlin, Lallana; Ramirez; Lambert.’

BS – ‘Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Forren, Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, Puncheon, Lallana, Ramirez (in the hole), Lambert.’

SD – ‘Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork; Puncheon, Ramirez, Lallana; Lambert.’

EK – ‘(4-2-3-1) Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Puncheon, Lallana, Ramirez and Lambert.’ 

Thanks again to those that took part! Some differing opinions, but credit to the players who have made some very consistent looking starting XI’s, and with recent performances, I think it would be fair to say that Jay Rodriguez is giving Mr. Pochettino some nice selection problems!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Relegation Ramblings: The Opposition’s View

No matter how well we might be playing it is difficult to get away from the fact that we are 6th from bottom, with just 12 games to play (at the time of writing this humble blogger expected us to get nothing from the City game, and is now feeling suitable guilty. Hence no Newcastle fan – Chris). Four points are all that separate Saints from the drop zone, and everyone will have their own opinion as to who will suffer the ultimate disappointment.

I asked a blogger of each of the four clubs below us to see how they see the battle for survival panning out. Here they are in league position order:-

15th Southampton

Points:- 27

Name:- Chris Rann

Blog:- George Weah’s Cousin

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘I thought we might be a bit further up than this, but knew it was also a distinct possibility  I still think our league position reflects our dreadful start rather than our true standing.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘A mixture of terrible defending, a crazy amount of goalkeeping errors and most importantly not being able to defend a lead. Our performances aren’t being reflected in results, we are playing like a side who are much higher in the table.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘I’m sure at least one will, I have been saying all season that West Ham would, as if you look at their squad it looks very poor, but they are continuing to prove me wrong. Norwich look vulnerable too I think.’

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

‘I will be amazed if Villa don’t finish rock bottom, they just look like a truly dreadful team, lacking in ability and experience. They seem to be relying on Benteke too much, who looks very hit and miss to me. I think this season will be one too many for Wigan and they will finish 19th, and despite the hoards of money, I think after a stint of improvement ‘Arry will get found out again and QPR will finish 18th’

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘As I said, we are playing incredibly well, and although we aren’t converting that to as many wins as we would like, we are improving with every game. We have   a squad that is more talented than it gets credited for and we have a goalscorer. The next two games could be crucial for us, we have Newcastle and QPR (both winnable) while those around us have some tough fixtures. We could pull away.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

 ‘Julio Cesar. Without doubt. Although Boruc has been great recently for us, Cesar has already rescued QPR a number of times. A goalkeeper as good as him, who can be relied upon at all times could be crucial in a relegation battle.’

17th Aston Villa

Points:- 24

Name:- Matt Turvey

Blog:- Aston Villa Life

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘I think many fans expected a little more than what happened last season, especially given the stature of Paul Lambert but, truth be told, I don’t think many fans can be too surprised given the past two seasons before this one have been spent close to or in the relegation zone.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘Set pieces – for some reason, Villa have been atrocious at both defending and attacking set pieces. The amount we concede at present is frankly ridiculous, and you only need to have a basic grasp of probability to know that if you concede 16 corners (as we did against Everton), then sooner or later, you are going to concede goals. Not only that but Villa can’t seem to take advantage of scoring from set pieces either. Couple that with the lack of ability to defend, and it is hardly a surprise the club are where we are.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘I think most of the club around the drop zone are, in one way or another, already in the fight. For example, Newcastle are away from immediate danger – so to speak – but they are far from “safe”.’

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

‘I’ll start at the bottom where I think it’ll be QPR. Harry Redknapp may well be seen as an excellent manager (he isn’t – Chris 😉), but he has been relegated before. Couple that with this strange, constant state of flux that the club seems to be in due to their swathes of transfers, and it seems likely that they are going to fail to survive.

After QPR, it gets very hard. Reading seem to be having a mini-renaissance in the past few weeks, epitomised by the fact that Villa fans were having to keep track of their results to see if we would be in/escape the drop zone during matches. However, with all that said, I’m not sure they can keep it up for the whole season. Sure, they are doing progressively better than they were earlier in the season but, let’s be frank, it would be hard to do much worse.

As for the last place, it is really difficult. Truth be told, this place could include any one of Wigan, your good selves (Southampton), and us. I’d like to think that given our ability to play football (when it goes well), that we’d be able to finish above 18th. The choice comes between newly promoted team with a new manager with Southampton, comparatively hardened relegation battlers in Wigan, and us.

It’s really close to call at present so I’ll go with who I’d prefer to go down – Wigan. Why? Truth be told, I’ve never got the hype surrounding Roberto Martinez. Sure, he did well at Swansea as part of the Martinez-Sousa-Rodgers-Laudrup progress they have made, but I’ve seen nothing that puts him up at the top of the tree that Dave Whelan keeps talking about. He does play attractive football, yes, but is a commitment to style over substance genius or idiocy? A lot of the time it seems like the latter when contrasted with how Stoke have developed, or even Swansea – Martinez’s old club.’

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘As stated above, it is far from clear cut in terms of us staying up. If I had to give a reason, it would be that we have more gears we can go through, but we are just playing badly at present. Look at the comparative teams and you’ll see that we should, on paper at least, dodge the drop, even if it isn’t by many points.

I know that is far from a watertight argument but, in my eyes at least, I think – whether from hope or logic – that we can survive if, and this is a big if, we rise to the challenge.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

‘I’d go for Christopher Samba. Now, I know that sounds quite crazy when I’ve said about the belief I have that QPR will finish rock bottom, but Samba has been, and is, a fantastic player. Villa could do with that kind of solidity in defence alongside Ron Vlaar. However, due to the (lack of) money available in the January transfer window, the club are playing a dangerous game not investing back there.’

Chris Samba - QPR's big money man.
Chris Samba – QPR’s big money man.

18th Reading

Points:- 23

Name:- Dan Wimbush

Blog:- The Tilehurst End

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘Sadly so, though I didn’t think we’d be quite in this much trouble. I thought we’d have picked up 3 or 4 more points by now but I knew we were in for a long season, so having a chance of survival with 12 games to go is fine.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘Before Christmas it was a mixture of poor signings, under-performing players, injuries and bad tactical choices… so just about everything really! In the main a poor start and midfield injuries forced us to play 4-4-2 and while it was entertaining (think of the 7-5 & 5-2 with Arsenal, 4-3 with United, 3-3 with Fulham) it wasn’t getting us results and we were looking cut adrift. Thankfully players returned to fitness and Brian went back to 4-5-1, sacrificing entertainment for staying in games as long as possible and effectively trying to turn matches in 25 minute contests at the end of play, when we’d bring on Adam Le Fondre. So far the change has worked and a run of 14 points from a possible 24 has lifted us right back into the right and given us a real chance of survival.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘At the time of writing it’s looking very much 3 from 4, or 3 from 6 if you think QPR have a chance of survival and that Saints and Newcastle are still in the mix. Other than those six then I still don’t think Norwich are totally safe but they should have enough in the tank to stay clear.’

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

’20. QPR  19. Wigan  18. Reading

I think Reading have got a great chance to stay up but I just think we’ll come up slightly short as Villa somehow sneak out of trouble. Reading have left themselves with a set of fixtures that are either six pointers or relative no-hopers against top 8 sides that you can’t realistically hope to get things from. With that in mind anything less than 10-12 points from home games against Wigan, Villa, Saints and QPR will send us down and I don’t know if we’ve got the quality to ensure we get three wins and a draw. I’d love to be proved wrong and I’m naturally a pessimist but I just can’t imagine a survival party taking place this season. I’ll never be happier to be wrong though!

QPR seem doomed, particularly if Remy doesn’t make a very, very swift return. They too have big games against all of their fellow strugglers but clawing back six points when you’ve only won two games all season seems too much to ask, particularly when you’re a team trying to gel and with little momentum.

Wigan could also survive but I think this is just one season to far for Roberto Martinez and after eight drop-defying years, it’ll be time up for Dave Whelan’s club.

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘I suppose I should mention why Saints, Villa and Newcastle will stay up! Newcastle have obviously added great quality in January and I think they’ll have enough at home to stay up comfortably. Southampton have also invested heavily and have a real ability to score goals, something that’ll always keep you in games and pick up points. Your back five finally seems to be coming together and you’ve just got so many weapons that you’ll be fine. With Villa I’m really torn because while it’s a young side, they do have really quality players such as Benteke, that the three I’ve tipped to go down don’t seem to have. I’ve also got a nasty feeling Darren Bent might come in from the wilderness and score some key goals. If any team does replace Reading in those relegation places, it will be Paul Lambert’s side.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

‘Maybe Adam Lallana to add that creative player we’ve been missing behind the front man.’

Adam Lallana - Creativity could keep Saints up.
Adam Lallana – Creativity could keep Saints up.

19th Wigan Athletic

Points:- 21

Name:- Alan

Blog:- This Northern Soul

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘Now, I seem to spend half my time preaching to that we should expect to be in a relegation battle each and every year we’re in the top flight but, if truth be told, I did get drawn in by the finish to last season.  Up until that point Roberto Martinez’ Wigan always seemed to be an ounce of confidence or a dash of je ne sais quoi away from doing well and everything seemed to click running into the final stretch last year, it wasn’t a case of us fighting with our backs to the wall, we were making great strides and playing with a style and confidence that was more befitting of a top-six side.  Which could only lead to one thing…

… High expectations and a massive crash to the ground.  I wasn’t on my own in thinking that we’d pick up somewhere near where we left off, but I really should have known better.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘Our biggest problem has been a tendency to give teams a two goal start.  Underneath that lie injuries to two key players, Ramis and Alcaraz.  Apart from during the first ten minutes of the season against Chelsea, Ramis has looked a class above and Alcaraz was a massive player for us last year, had we been able to keep them together then who knows where we would be.  After all they would still have a proverbial vampiric goalkeeper behind them (he doesn’t like crosses, geddit?) and be supported by wing backs who are ten times more comfortable in the attacking final third than their defensive one.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘Last Friday, I thought that there were seven or eight teams in it, but with your win against Man City, I’m starting to feel the pressure.  In terms of the overall battle, then maybe that figure is still the same, with Sunderland and Norwich, in particular, looking over their shoulders.

For us though, I’m only interested in getting back above Aston Villa.  That’s the only realistic target for us right now, and then let’s see what happens.  We’ve got a massive game against Reading in a couple of weeks and after that it could be all over bar the shouting for Latics (of which there’ll be plenty as the Wigan Wide Web eats itself whole).’ 

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

’18. QPR

19. Reading

20. Wigan’

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘Simply put, because we can’t defend.  No team can keep conceding like we do and win games.  It wouldn’t be so bad if you could see changes that could be made that would make the team more solid, but with Ramis out until next year, Alcaraz permanently two weeks from a return, Boyce joining them on the sidelines and all hopes pinned on Paul Scharner we’re not only restricted with personnel, we’re also tied tactically

There are clear changes that could be made that could strengthen us at the back (a change in left wing back and goal keeper being the most obvious ones) but the manager has seemed reluctant up until now.  The manager needs to pull something out of the bag akin to last season’s switch to 3-4-3, but the nearest we’ve had is a flirtation with the 1930s in a W-M line up.  There’s probably some social commentary based witticism I could throw in at this point (30’s depression vs 2010’s recession, austere football for austere times) but, frankly, I’m too depressed.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

‘After all I’ve said, I should be after a defensive king pin, or a top notch goalie, but I’d have to go for Charles N’Zogbia.  Not only does he know the club and the situation we’re in, but he’d bring a bit of panache that we’ve sadly missed this season.  More so, I reckon his loss would weaken Villa more than the loss of other players would hurt other teams and maybe more than Villa fans realise.  He’s a real man for the moment and when given the stage can really turn it on.’

Charles N'Zogbia - They'd love him back at Wigan!
Charles N’Zogbia – They’d love him back at Wigan!

20th QPR

Points:- 17

Name:- Tony Gibson

Blog:- Lofty Heights

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘Certainly not.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘Simple, Mark Hughes and his team of overpaid mercenaries that he assembled. Also the lack of firepower, Cisse off form and now of course gone, major, long term injuries to Johnson and Zamora. The same could be said of new signing, Loic Remy, who is now also, injured. The simple fact that our stand our player was a 34 year old Kiwi says it all. That of course is Ryan Nelsen, who has also now, sadly left us.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘Anyone from Fulham downwards really.’

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

‘After last weekend, I think there is every chance now we may go, we are just not picking up the points, other teams are starting too and the games are running out. Will be Reading, Villa and Ourselves bottom.’

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘I travel home and away with QPR and this prediction is simply what I have seen from the other sides. Reading and Villa are simply the worst I have seen this season.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

‘Tough one, seeing as it goals that is the problem, your own Rickie Lambert or Benteke from Villa.’

So there we have it, a mixture of views there from inside our rival camps! Thanks to Lasse Burri Gram-Hansen who mailed us to suggest the article and theme. If one thing is clear it is going to be an interesting final 12 games!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Apologies for the brief hiatus! I have been working on other projects in both football and my real job. Hopefully this will be the return of regular posts!

As speculation increases as to the future of Nigel Adkins and the comparisons being made of him via social media and such I thought I would compare him to previous Saints Premier League managers the only fair way. Over their respective first 9 games in charge….

Ian Branfoot –  1992/93 season.

P9 W 1 D 4 L 4 F 7 A 11 P 7

Branfoot, like Adkins took until his fifth game to register a win, but had a relatively good start to his first Premier League campaign, picking up points in more games than not.

End result – Finished 18th of 22 in the Premier League, just one point from safety, Sacked in January 1994.

Alan Ball – 1993/94 season.

P9 W 4 D 3 L 2 F 10 A 12 P 15

Ball proved an instant hit at The Dell resotring Matt Le Tissier to the team and going on a great run.

End result – Finished 18th of 22 in the Premier League, just one point from safety (they were 21st when Ball took over). Left the club in the summer of 1995 after a great season finishing 10th.

Dave Merrington – 1995/96 season.

P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 8 A 16 P 6

Whispering Dave was seemingly the players choice when he was appointed in 1995. He took four games to notch his first victory and it was a sign of things to come.

End result – Finished 17th of 20 in the Premier League on goal difference. Sacked that summer.

What I’d like to see Adam, is Saints to score more goals than the opposition..

Graeme Souness – 1996/97 season.

P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 11 A 13 P 6

The fiery Scot promised to be a polar opposite change in management style from Merrington, but had a similar opening to the season. It took Souness until hi 8th game in charge to get 3 points, and despite some flamboyant foreign signings Saints struggled.

End result – Finished 16th of 20 in the Premier League, just one point from safety. Resigned that summer.

Dave Jones – 1997/98 season.

P 9 W 1 D 1 L 7 F 5 A 17 P 4

Dave Jones came to the club from the lower leagues and it was his first taste of management in the top flight. He struggled to put his stamp on the team at the start and people wondered if he had been a poor choice.

End result – Finished 12th of 20 teams, eight points from safety. Followed it with a season finishing 17th (though five points from safety) before being replaced in January 2000 after (unfounded) allegations of child abuse.

Glenn Hoddle – 2000/01 season.

P 9 W 5 D 1 L 3 F 6 A 6 P 16

Former England boss Hoddle came in while Jones was on “leave of absence” to prepare his defence. He had a fantastic start, winning his first five games in charge. In terms of a combination of results and style of play, Hoddle is still for me the best manager of my time supporting Saints.

End result  Saints finished 10th of 20 teams (they were 12th when he took over), and consolidated that the following season though Hoddle left for Spurs in March 2001.

Moving to Spurs was a poor choice…

Stuart Gray – 2001/02 season.

* – Only judged on games in full charge.

P 9 W 2 D 0 L 7 F 5 A 17 P 6

Stuat Gray was promoted from the backroom staff to caretaker manager when Hoddle left and was given the job permanently in the summer. Despite breaking the club’s transfer record Gray struggled for results.

End result. Gray was sacked on the 21st October with the club lying in 19th of 20 of the Premier League.

Gordon Strachan – 2001/02 season.

P 9 W 3 D 1 L 5 F 13 A 16 P 10

Serious question marks were raised when Strachan was appointed after he had eventually relegated Coventry City, but Saints immediately started to look more resilient.

End result. Saints finished 12th of 20 (they were 19th when he took over) and followed it in 2002/03 by finishing 8th and reaching the FA Cup final. He resigned in February 2004 with the club sitting 11th in the table.

Paul Sturrock – 2003/04  season.

P 9 W 4 D 1 L 4 F13 A 13 P 13

Luggy came in to replace his fellow Scot, but never seemed to fit in at the club.

End result. Saints finished 12th of 20, the same position as when he took over. He was sacked in the summer after rumours of player unrest.

And the award for best ‘Dressing room loser’ goes to…

Steve Wigley – 2004/05 season.

* – Only judged on games in full charge.

P 9 W 1 D 2 L 6 F 6 A 12 P 5

Steve Wigley was a highly unambitious appointment from within for the club who were possible already struggling financially behind the scenes. Fans were right to doubt him.

End result. Sacked in December 2004 with Saints in 18th place of 20.

Harry Redknapp – 2004/05 season.

P 9 W 1 D 3 L 5 F 11 A 17 P 6

Redknapp came in controversial circumstances having just left Portsmouth, but fans can be forgiven for thinking he was the man to turn the team around. Sadly they were mistaken, poor signings, inept tactics and the demeanour of a man who wasn’t really interested was what they got.

End result. Saints finished 20th of 20 and were out of the top flight for the first time in 27 years. Returned to Portsmouth in December 2005 with Saints 12th in the Championship.

Time to grit teeth and dig in?

Nigel Adkins – 2012/13 season.

P 9 W 1 D 1 L 7 F 14 A 26 P 4

Nigel has obviously had a damaging start to life in the top flight, but has a very similar results record to Dave Jones who turned it around and got a decent league finish. He has had a worse start than Branfoot, Gray, Sturrock, Wigley and Redknapp, but I wonder how many Saints fans would want them back?

It is still too early to tell just what sort of Premier League manager Adkins will turn out to be, as these openings of other managers prove.

End result. Who knows, but while Adkins is in charge we must back him.

Chris

Saints To Call On Spirit Of 78?

The England Manager has walked out, Liverpool are heading to the League Cup Final, Portsmouth are facing the possibility of relegation after financial woes, Saints have been knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round but occupy a promotion spot, chasing Sam Allardyce’s side to the top flight as they face Burnley on a February Saturday….

Sound familiar? Well all that happened in the 1977/78 season, the last time Saints secured promotion to the top division.

Ok, some of them maybe rather tenuous coincidences, but in the eyes of the superstitious any parallels can and will be drawn!

New Striker Boyer formed a lethal partnership with Ted MacDougall to fire Saints to Division One.

Pulling the strings at the Dell in the late seventies was Alan Ball and once they had entered the promotion spots in early January they were never to leave them.

Goals from new boy Phil Boyer and strike partner Ted MacDougall were key as they eventually finished second to a Bolton side containing now West Ham manager Sam Allardyce. They almost nicked top spot, drawing their last two games to see them fall a point short, but Lawrie McMenemy’s men were good value for their promotion and it would bring top flight football to the Hampshire coast for twenty seven consecutive seasons.

Saints beat Burnley yesterday in an impressive showing and the fans will be hoping that the recent shaky home form has been put behind them. Perhaps now the 2011/12 side can emulate that of the boys of 78 and lose just one more game between the 12th of February and the end of the season…..

The 1977/78 Saints Promotion Season Remake

Directed by

Nicola Cortese

Starring

Nigel Adkins as Lawrie McMenemy

Rickie Lambert as Ted MacDougall

Adam Lallana as Alan Ball

Kelvin Davis as Peter Wells

Jos Hooiveld as Chris Nicholl

and introducing

Billy Sharp as Phil Boyer

Also Starring (in order of appearance)

St. Mary’s Stadium……………….The Dell

Bartosz Bialkowski……………Ian Turner

Frazer Richardson……………Manny Andruszewski

Danny Fox………………….David Peach

Jack Cork…………………Steve Williams

Jose Fonte………………..Mick Pickering

Jason Puncheon……………Austin Hayes

Dean Hammond…………….Nick Holmes

Aaron Martin………….Malcolm Waldron

Danny Butterfield…………….John Sharpe

Guly do Prado…………………Tony Funnell

Morgan Schneiderlin……………Trevor Hebbard

David Connolly……………….Steve Neville

Richard Chaplow……………Peter Osgood

Dan Harding…………………….Tim Coak

Dan Seaborne……………………Mel Blyth

Ben Reeves…………Forbes Phillipson-Masters

Tadanari Lee…………………..Tony Sealy

Andy Crosby……………………Don Taylor

Jason Dodd…………………John McGrath

Chris

One Saeijs Hits All…

The last time we played Watford, it was very much a game of mixed emotions.

Saints under Mark Wotte were struggling, the end of our Championship life seemed nigh. A far cry from our days as a Premier League mainstay, this once great club stood a shadow of it’s former self the amongst the mist and the cold of Vicarage Road on a Tuesday night. Yet two thousand and thirty two hardy souls, me amongst them, had made the trip from the South Coast, still clinging to the hope that survival was possible.

Without a win in six, Wotte’s men were picking up draws, but not converting those points into vital wins. Saints were 23rd in the Championship and crying out for a saviour.

An unlikely one emerged in Hertfordshire. Dutchman Jan-Paul Saeijs.

The centre half had been signed on loan in the previous January by countryman Wotte, Saeijs had come with no reputation to speak of, unheard of by the Saints fans when he arrived from JC Roda, but he soon proved himself to be the kind of player you would want on your side in a dogfight. Strong and determined the Dutchman would get stuck in, and was good in the air, shame the same can’t be said for a lot of his teammates.

With the crowd in full voice, it was Saeijs who opened the scoring at Watford. Rising above Scott Loach in the home side’s goal, he nodded the ball into the back of the net for his first goal in English football. Sadly, as was commonplace with Saints at the time, the lead wasn’t to last long. Just eight minutes in fact.

Saints battled with their hosts, Ryan Smith, having his best game for the club as I recall it, but inevitably after spurning several chances themselves, they fell behind. Former and now born again Saint Jack Cork flicking the ball on for Tamas Priskin to give the away support that same sinking feeling they seemed to have every week.

Jan-Paul Saeijs celebrates his last minute free kick.

Desperate times called for desperate measures, and what followed I would usually not condone. In the dying seconds of the game, Saeijs made an uncharacteristic maizy run towards the Watford box, he was tackled, but went down pretty easily. The whistle blew, two thousand and thirty two mouths sighed collectively. There was no need for it, and the chance was gone. But wait. The referee had been suitably fooled. Freek kick Southampton. Proverbial last throw of the dice. Who would take it? Skacel? Lallana? Surman? Nope. The dutchman was dusting himself down and hovering over the ball. I don’t know what it was that made me feel so confident. Perhaps it was his confidence emanating on to me, perhaps it was nine months of emotional withdrawal and the final step into delusion, but I knew he would score.

The crowd bemoaned the ridiculousness of letting the centre back take it. Many were eyeing the exit, already, the quiet contemplation of the M25 in their minds. Another away trip, another defeat, another step closer to the dreaded trapdoor and third tier football. Saeijs kicked the ball. Silence. It sailed, bending majestically towards the top right corner. The keeper couldn’t get to it, I’m not sure he moved. I cared, neither then or indeed now. Goal. The cacophony and collective euphoria that accompanies a last minute goal will never be equalled by any moment watching any other sport. The embracing of strangers and the general outpouring of relief would be hard to explain to an alien.

We only had a point. In reality it wasn’t enough, but it still gave us hope. For that moment we were still alive, and still fighting.

Saeijs left the club in the summer and returned to Roda before becoming a teammate of Steve de Ridder’s at de Graafschap where he still plays. Saints face Watford again on Saturday. Top of the Championship.

Chris