It’s the 7th December. We are still 25 days away from the opening of the transfer window, yet par for the course the papers are awash with talk of the ever widening St. Mary’s exit door.
Speculation on the whole surrounds the centre half pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte, and as usual it is causing disruption and unrest when we should be talking about a win or bust Europa League game on Thursday night.
In the case of van Dijk, his near immaculate performances since joining from Celtic in 2014 have seen him gather an army of admirers. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Dutchman is one of the best in the league at what he does, if not the best. To see him linked with the usual suspects at the top of the table should be, and isn’t, of no surprise. As usual we are the club that took the risk on a player, blooded him, improved him, and now the vultures are circling
Jose Fonte on the other hand is an altogether more curious case. His superb displays for 8 years at the club have largely gone under the radar. Fonte has quietly gone about his job, while a succession of partners seem to attract all the praise. Dejan Lovren, Toby Alderweireld and now van Dijk are lauded as the key member of the central defence club. While Jose is overlooked as the constant, the variables are enjoying the plaudits and so far managed to secure bigger contracts with ‘bigger’ clubs.
That might just have changed in the Summer though when Fonte was a key member of Portugal’s European Championship winning team. His profile was raised and rightly so, and with it came some wanted and unwanted attention. Speculation has been rife ever since, with Manchester United and Everton both supposedly keen to improve an area they are poor in. Unfortunately that speculation has led to fan unrest and now we have an unnecessary and unwanted public PR battle between club and player as talk of a ‘new’ contract has divided opinion.
Let’s look at it from both points of view.
Should Jose Fonte, returning from a hugely successful Summer, and having given the club eight successful years feel deserving of a contract extension? Sure, that doesn’t seem to much to ask.
Should Southampton FC feel obliged to extend the contract of a player who is 33 this month? Not at all, that is fully dependent on the long term plan of the club. As we know, for everyone at the club there is already a replacement in mind. If that replacement is already inbound, would it be financially prudent to extend Fonte’s contract?
What we don’t know is what the demands of a new contract are? With the likes of Jose Mourinho and Ronald Koeman interested and in charge of cash rich clubs, perhaps Fonte is looking for a considerably lucrative new deal. It would be naive to suggest ‘super’ agent Jorge Mendes wouldn’t be pushing for it, and will be using the interest of others as a deal breaker.
It is reported, and confirmed by Fonte himself that he was offered a pay rise in the Summer, but it didn’t come with an extension. Did the club do enough?
Given his age, and the fact that he is now entering the twilight of his career would anyone begrudge him a move to a Manchester United sized club? It would be hard to justify any anger in that situation, especially if Saints have no interest in extending his deal and were to get a decent fee. You could argue that this is all ‘perfect timing’ from a business point of view.
However, it would be a sad end to a journey that Jose Fonte has very much been a part of, and with the propaganda and the sniping that appears to be commonplace with such speculation, are fans in danger of becoming bitter and twisted about departures? It’s football right, but the business model of the club, successful as it has been, brings with it a sense of anxiety when our players are seemingly hand picked by those we are competing with.
It feels like only a matter of time before Saints fans have somebody to boo in every fixture they play, and that level of negativity isn’t required.
If Jose Fonte leaves in January (and personally I hope he doesn’t) then his contribution over the years will be outweighing of any unpleasantness over the last six months. He should leave with our blessing and be given a Rickie Lambert-esque reception on his return.
The fact of the matter is, that none of us really know what has gone on behind closed doors and perhaps never will. As a Saints fans we have to roll with the punches. We should be used to it by now.
Last Saturday Saints played out an uninspiring draw at home to Watford in what for many was an Anti-Climax to the exciting build up to the start of the season.
Despite a much improved second half it is fair to say that most were left a little deflated by the result and performance against Watford. In many cases feelings ran a little high. In fact, I was staggered to see the level of reaction by many, which frankly resembled a particularly spoiled hysterical child who hadn’t got their own way.
One game into the season and the new manager, the new players, the tactics, the board and anything else related to the club was written off as not good enough. This was less knee jerk, more collective full body spasm. It was ugly.
I watched the game as usual with the Dubai Saints, who I have to say, on the whole are as level headed as you will find [a few years around the block will do that for you eh fellas ;-)]. But even we found ourselves getting into a fairly heated ‘discussion’ about the level of player investment and ‘ambition’ at the club. I’ve grown to hate that word in all honesty. What exactly is ambition? Some would argue finishing in an automatic qualification place for Europe is as ambitious as Saints can realistically get, others would say that the sky is the limit. There is no rules as to what determines ‘ambition’ and only the people in the boardroom will know what they see as a realistic achievement.
The centre of our well oiled debate in the ‘Francis Benali Stand’ of the Barasti Beach Bar was whether the club should stick with bringing kids through or spend big to improve the squad now.
It got me wondering what it really is Saints fans want?
I’m yet to meet one who doesn’t take pride in the Academy at the club. When one of our ‘own’ turns out for England it gives us all a lift, and over the years we’ve all loved watching young players make their first team debut and go on to be stars in their own right. It’s something that sets us apart from other clubs. We know it and they know it. Parents are now trying to get their kids into Staplewood and not Carrington (Manchester United) and our facilities and coaching methods have become the blueprint for many of Europe’s top clubs. Ex-Southampton Academy graduates scoring 60% of the 7 goals in a much overhyped game between Arsenal and Liverpool at the weekend is the advertising that keeps the wheel turning!
We love this about our club. We love the fabled ‘pathway’. But at what cost?
Everybody likes to see their club sign players. These days it’s an obsession amongst fans, to the point where they aren’t even really bothered who it is, as long as there is a new face holding up their shirt. It’s all a little camp and kitsch, with the latest monstrosity coming from Manchester United when they announced Paul Pogba. With every passing season football becomes more like the X Factor, classless and lacking in any real substance whatsoever. This is heightened of course by massive fees, transfer deadline day and the hype that surrounds it. Has anyone in history not looked a dick in a yellow tie?
But still, we all like a new player through the door, and this Summer (and most Summers), Saints fans would have liked a few more. With exits in key positions again, most have been frustrated that like for like replacements have not been brought in.
But where do you draw the line? What is the right balance between keeping the ‘pathway’ and strengthening the squad.
Like it or not, and my impression is that most people do, Saints have positioned themselves in the market as a club that will accept first team players moving on for the right price, and might not necessarily replace them. Why? Because you cannot maintain the ‘pathway’ if you keep blocking it with big money foreign imports.
It’s a long term strategy and one not without it’s risks, but if Les Reed was to take an occasional glance at Saints supporting presences on the web (Hi Les!) he could be forgiven for placing his head in his hands when he sees the same people bemoaning Harrison Reed’s lack of playing time last season, crying over the club not replacing Wanyama this.
For the club to keep attracting the best players into the Academy at a young age there has to be continuous evidence that the club will give those kids a chance at the top level. Logically, if you replace every player that leaves with a like for like copy those kids will be destined to never fulfil their potential at Saints, and eventually other kids will decide it’s not the place to be, especially as others catch up in terms of facilities and methodology.
My hunch is that the modern Southampton supporter would rather see big investment in players each Summer, some would still favour the pathway, while many will be honest enough to admit they aren’t bothered either way as long as the club keeps progressing.
What do #saintsfc fans really want? The 'Pathway' or 'Big Player Investment'? Honest answers.
The obvious answer, though there is no right one, is that the balance has to be correct. The club needs to find a workable solution where the kids get their chance, but the squad is strong enough to compete. I would say they had this pretty close under Mauricio Pochettino.
The blip in all this, was the reign of Ronald Koeman, and it didn’t surprise me when there was talk of the club not being overly disappointed that he was off. As good a job as he did, he took the organisation ‘off message’ and long term that wasn’t what the board wanted.
Claude Puel would appear to be the ‘anti-appointment’ to Koeman. A man with a track record of giving some pretty good players their first opportunities in France. Yes, the first game was a little underwhelming, but when have Saints’ opening day fixtures not been? Let’s give him a chance.
Tomorrow night, we take on Manchester United at Old Trafford. A huge money ‘name’ like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Paul Pogba could win the game for them, but then Matt Targett or James Ward-Prowse could win it for us. Which would be sweeter?
It would appear that we are a matter of hours away from the announcement that Ronald Koeman will be leaving his post at Saints to take over at Everton.
As always when it comes to Summer news surrounding departures at Saints the following things usually happen. Some immediately start to fling mud at the board, accusing them of lacking ambition and conveniently forgetting they’ve overseen seven years of continuous improvement. This reaction would also suggest that these fans take the word of an individual over that of anyone else. Others will instantly find their ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and back the club, insisting that they support the organisation and not an individual. Some will sigh at the rigours of supporting a modern day football club.
I think it is safe to say that we were all sucked in by Ronald’s comments about honouring his contract over the last twelve months. Will we ever learn our lesson? But, there are actually two plausible scenarios as to why this has happened.
Ronald, contrary to what he has said, has proved to be as mercenary as anyone else when it comes to money, and the big bucks on offer from Merseyside saw him abandon his principles.
This is the one that will see people upset, people warmed to Koeman as a person as well as a coach and as pointed out so well by Adam Leitch this has felt a lot more ‘personal’ than previous departures, heightened by the fact that this is a sideways move and not a perceived step up that previous leavers have taken. If this is the case then Ronald might be surprised to see the reaction he gets on his first return to St. Mary’s.
2. The Saints board, wary of entering into a season with a manager in the last year of their contract put a new deal on the table and said sign it or go now.
If this theory is correct then you might find a little bit of sympathy for Ronald. My own opinion is that he was happy at Saints, but unwilling to commit long term as he eyed the possibility of a truly big move in the future (he has publicly mentioned Barca, Chelsea and Arsenal as desired destinations in the past). But here he is in a situation where he has to sign a moderate pay rise extension with Southampton or take the only other option on offer. A big pay rise to a club albeit in a lesser position than Saints right now.
Either way, the sad truth is, for whatever the reason, Koeman clearly did not see his long term future on the South Coast, and that is reason enough to not be too disheartened at his departure.
Let’s not forget. Saints are good at this. We’ve improved with every managerial appointment in the Liebherr era and a short-list will have long been in place.
I can’t help thinking that with Ronald having joined a club whose owner has barely been there five minutes and has already dispensed of one manager, expectations may be high. I would hazard a guess that they might want instant results for making him one of the highest paid coaches in the league and a repeat of last December would put him under incredible pressure. Everton could lose Lukaku and Stones in the transfer window too which won’t help his cause, and with no European football on offer, what might the reported £100 million war chest actually get him?
As is often the case Saints may end up having the last laugh. I wish Ronald all the best and thank him for the joyous two seasons at the helm, but don’t be too surprised if next Summer we are reflecting on another season of progression while a certain Dutchman queues at the Bootle job centre having only led the Toffees to 8th in the Premier League….
Yet again, the voting response to these awards was fantastic, it genuinely surprises me every time, and grows every year!
This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-
So without further ado, here are YOUR winners….
Player of the Year
This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.
Scored points:- Lee Todd (<1%), Steven Caulker (<1%), Some Scummer (<1%), Cuco Martina (<1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jordy Clasie (<1%), Cedric (<1%), Graziano Pelle (<1%), Jose Fonte (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Fraser Forster(2%), Steven Davis (6%).
3rd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (8%)
2nd Place:- Shane Long (32%)
And the winner is……with a huge 44% of the points, after a stand out season at centre half……
Most Improved Player
Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Steven Davis (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Alfie Jones (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Jordy Clasie (2%), Ryan Bertrand (2%).
3rd Place:- Matt Targett (11%)
2nd Place:- Cuco Martina (17%)
And the winner is…..in any other season he would have been ‘player of the year’…..
Young Player of the Year
Received Votes:- Lloyd Isgrove (1%), Josh Simms (1%), Jake Hesketh (1%), Jason McCarthy (1%), Jake Vokins (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Kelvin Davis (2%), Sadio Mane (2%), Olufela Olomola (2%), No One (3%).
3rd Place:- Alfie Jones (5%)
2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (15%)
And the winner is…..
Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Maya Yoshida (1%), Jordy Clasie (1%), Graziano Pelle (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Dr. Barry Gale (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Shane Long (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Sammy Lee (2%), Jose Fonte (5%), Cuco Martina (5%).
3rd Place:- Oriol Romeu (10%)
2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (16%)
And the winner is….
Signing of the Season
Received Votes:- Juanmi (1%), Steven Caulker (1%), Cuco Martina (1%), Kenzie Benali (1%), Some Scummer (1%).
Joint 2nd:- Oriol Romeu & Charlie Austin (2%)
And the winner is….
Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)
Received Votes:- Virgil van Dijk (1%), Shane Long (1%), Mane v Chelsea A (1%), Pelle v Chelsea A (1%), Susan Tadic? (1%), Team v Man Utd A (1%), Wanyama v Arsenal H (1%), Wanyama v Liverpool H (2%), Team v Spurs A (2%), Mane v Liverpool H (3%), Long v Arsenal H (3%), Davis v Spurs A (3%), Tadic v Man City H (4%), Team v Man City H (5%), Team v Chelsea A (6%).
3rd Place:- Forster v Arsenal A (10%)
2nd Place:- Team v Arsenal H (27%)
And the winner is……Team Performance/Comeback v Liverpool H.
Goal of the Season
Joint 2nd:- Ward-Prowse v WBA (1%), Mane v Liverpool (1%), Long v Newcastle (1%), Pelle v Liverpool (1%).
Received Votes:- In the Box Jay Rod & k Davis (<1%), Yoshida’s Backpass (<1%), Pochettino chants at WHL (<1%), Spurs Title Bid (<1%), Koeman Out campaign (<1%), Lovren bottlejob/subbed at HT (<1%), Wanker Spurs fan in blue at WHL (<1%), Austin sinking United (<1%), Davis 5mph goals at WHL (<1%), Liverpool fans after comeback (<1%), Antonio’s goal (<1%), K Davis flicking the security man’s balls (<1%), Lovren’s twitter sulk (<1%), Ronald’s injury (<1%), Long getting away with a foul in build up to goal v Arsenal (<1%), Any video with Maya (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Cuco clearance v Man City (<1%), Camera shots of Angry Juanmi (<1%), Lallana Pen miss (<1%), Kid in crowd caught doing the v’s (<1%), Wanyama dummying three players by falling over (<1%), Cedric always bleeding (<1%), Brendan Rodgers fired (<1%), Juanmi (<1%), Wanyama’s red card (<1%), Adam Blackmore commentary on JWP goal (<1%), Sunderland playing it into the corners (<1%), Ex Saints celebrating at Liverpool game (<1%), Pompey’s play-offs (<1%), Mourinho Meltdown (<1%), When my mate shit himself on the way to West Ham away (<1%), Man City fan who let a flair off 5 minutes into the game and got himself and his son arrested on his son’s 13th birthday (<1%), Drawing with Villa (<1%), Bertrand’s acceptance speech (<1%), Pelle doing the Haka (<1%), JWP panicing when clean through against Man City (<1%), Forster refusing to wave (<1%), Europa campaign (<1%), General officiating (<1%), Jon Moss (<1%), Dutch fans fighting each other (<1%), Spurs finishing 3rd in a two horse race (<1%), OctaFX goal hitting a steward (<1%), Forster v Spurs (<1%), Stekelenburg (<1%), Koeman linked to Everton (<1%), Ronald v 4th Official in Arnhem (<1%), Pelle airshot (<1%), December (<1%), Joleon Lescott’s defending (3%), Wenger after the 4-0 blaming all the goals on the ref (4%), Cuco after his goal against Arsenal (6%), The comeback against Liverpool (7%).
3rd Place:- Ref taking the ball off Sadio Mane after his hat trick (8%)
2nd Place:- Various actions relating to Steven Caulker (9%)
And the winner is…..Ronald’s touchline run v Liverpool!
Received Votes:- Bournemouth (1%), Meh (1%), Midgetland (1%), Chelsea (1%), Villa (1%), West Ham (1%), Liverpool (4%), Man City (7%).
3rd Place:- Spurs (17%)
2nd Place:- Everton (20%)
And the winner is…..Just when they thought their season couldn’t get any better! Leicester City!
Best Opposition Player
Received Votes:- Anthony Martial (<1%), Divok Origi (<1%), Ref at Leicester (<1%), Pione Sisto (<1%), Eden Hazard (<1%), Christian Eriksen (<1%), Kevin de Bruyne (<1%), Joe Hart (<1%), Toby Alderweireld (<1%), Martin Stekelenburg (<1%), John Stones (<1%), Andros Townsend (<1%), Hugo Lloris (<1%), Mezut Ozil (<1%), Sergio Aguero (2%), Willian (2%), Harry Kane (2%), Coutinho (2%), Ross Berkley (2%), Delle Ali (2%), Andy Carroll (2%), N’Golo Kante (3%), Dimitri Payet (3%), David de Gea (3%), Kelechi Iheanacho (6%), Daniel Sturridge (6%).
3rd Place:- Romelu Lukaku (10%)
2nd Place:- Riyad Mharez (12%)
And the winner is……
Best Opposition Fans
Received Votes:- Man City (<1%), Coventry? (<1%), Couldn’t give a crap (<1%), Not the Scummers (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Liverpool (<1%), Spurs (<1%), All shit (<1%), Everton (<1%), Norwich (1%), Sunderland (1%), West Ham (2%), Bournemouth (2%), Sunderland (4%), Villa (6%), Newcastle (8%).
So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted and massive congratulations to all the winners!.A big thank you to Alistair Downs for the Photoshop wizardry, check his work out at http://www.carlasam.com! Another great season! Keep the faith!
For some time now it feels like that as the end of the season approaches, there are numerous positives about Saints and their campaign that I could write about, and this is no exception.
One of the negatives this season, that I feel needs addressing, is that Shane Long might not be voted the player of the season.
In any other season he would have had it sewn up, but with the performances of Virgil van Dijk at the other end of the pitch catching the eye too, it is likely he’ll be a valiant runner up to the Dutchman.
The turnaround in the perception of Long in the eyes of Saints fans has been remarkable. Cast your minds back to August 2014, the 12 million pound transfer from Hull came with some unkind remarks about his perceived value in comparison to the fee paid, and I will not shirk the fact that I was one of those detractors.
This criticism was largely based on the fact that Long’s goal return wasn’t overly impressive for a ‘striker’, based largely on the fact that he had never hit double figures in any of his four previous Premier League campaigns with Reading, West Brom and Hull City respectively.
If the pressure was already on him in his early days as a Southampton player, it was compounded further by his number. Seven. The number that Matthew Le Tissier had worn, and had most recently been vacated by the just departed fan favourite Rickie Lambert. It sounds like a small detail, but people react to such decisions, and an a level of expectation is made.
Long’s first season at Saints was perhaps unremarkable, though it is easily forgotten that he weighed in to a record breaking debut by Ronald Koeman with five goals, despite being not a regular in the starting lineup (Long started 16 times).
It is this season that Long has come into his own though, so far starting 21 games, missing some through injury and has remodelled himself as a player who draws attention to when he isn’t in the team rather than when he is.
His effervescent displays this season, be it up front or as part of a support three have been dazzling at times, and though he might never be considered the most cultured player in the world, many an opposition defence will have felt relieved his constant hassling of them was over.
Relentless energy and supreme efficiency with the ball makes Long a valuable asset, but I shouldn’t fail to address his goal return or perceived lack of it.
Long has hit 10 Premier League goals this season, putting him joint top with Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle but there are further statistics that puts the Irishman out in front. Both Mane and Pelle have started more games than Long, but further still their goal to shot ratios are nowhere near as good. Both the Senegalese and the Italian have score their 10 goals having had 80 shots apiece. Long has achieved the same total from just 59 shots.
Goals are of course important, but I think Long’s contribution has been as much about the team dynamic as it has been the amount of times he has hit the back of the net. Ronald Koeman has built a style that utilises both the wide positions (and particularly the use of crossing) and often at pace. Long is ideal for it, and the added bonus that he is better in the air than you might expect means that he is comfortable in any of the forward positions.
Saints are at the culmination of another decent season, but this Summer you can add Shane Long to the list of the players fans will be anxiously hoping stays at St. Mary’s. He might not be Southampton player of the season, but he is a Southampton player for a reason. Who saw that coming?
Many things split the opinions of Saints fans, and Gaston Ramirez is certainly one of them.
The Uruguayan arrived with much promise, but for many he has flattered to deceive, while others think he’s been misused or not given the right amount of chances to show what he can do.
The latter argument has been fuelled most recently due to Gaston’s form for loan club Middlesbrough.
Ramirez has scored six goals in eleven appearances for the Teesiders and looks to be pulling the strings in their push for promotion, but should Saints be utilising him better, or is this a flash in the pan and the club would be better off moving him on in the Summer?
I put it to the masses on twitter to decide.
KANGAROO COURT:- Gaston Ramirez is on fire at Boro. Found his level? Or wasted by #saintsfc?
@saint_al1976 ‘We all wanted Gaston to succeed – he was the face of a new era at Saints that washed away the memory of Record signing Rory Delap. We had beaten Liverpool to his signature – we had arrived in the big time. But something didn’t sit quite right with me from the start.
Signed on the back of a decent display in the 2012 Olympics “the Championship” equivalent of international football, he immediately looked sublimely gifted – but massively light-weight. Once the early season killer passes and the odd goal wore away with his confidence it was clear that opportunities would be limited in a bottom 5 team.
Pochettino should have been the perfect manager to get the best from Ramirez – unlocking his natural ability and adding that layer of intensity that had been so lacking. But it just never happened – and with willing runners like Steven Davis his chances again became limited. I truly believe that if Gaston had really had it in him, Mauricio would have persevered – but he didn’t.
And finally we came to Ronald – a man who has worked with the very best in world football. Do you not think that if he felt Gaston was a world class player he would have made it happen at Saints? As it turned out he was allowed to leave for Hull on loan and was duly relegated playing a bit part role.
A string of goals in the Championship has now raised the question of whether Saints missed something, wasted an opportunity? But don’t kid yourselves, it’s still the part of you that wanted to believe. Fact is, the championship although tough, is slower. And in a top of the table team he will be afforded the time and space that would never be available in the top flight. Should he be promoted with Middlesbrough and get a second crack I wish him all the best. But I expect normal service to quickly resume.’
The case for the Defence:-
@TacoAli‘Cast your mind back to 22 September 2012. Saints were yet to win on their return to the Premier League but Aston Villa were in town and that would soon change. With Gastón pulling the strings in a number ten role, Saints won 4-1, and today the game is a remainder of what might have been.
To say Gastón hasn’t been given chances isn’t true; under Nigel Adkins, who clearly loved him as a player, and Mauricio Pochettino, who didn’t seem quite so keen, he was given chances. To say he didn’t take those chances is also untrue. Injuries and international duty hampered his development, especially under Pochettino, but when he played he always gave Saints something a bit different and invariable made things happen. He’s strong on the ball, capable of going past players with ease, has great vision and isn’t afraid to shoot from distance. Now he’s getting the chance to play regularly, it’s no surprise to see him tearing things up.
Since Ronald Koeman’s been in charge, and perhaps more importantly Ralph Krueger chairman, Gastón’s been ostracized; shipped out on loan or left to rot not even getting on the bench. He’s been used as a stick to hit Nicola Cortese with, a symbol of the Italian’s apparent avarice and arrogance, rather than being utilised. When he came on against Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season he added some dynamism to Saints’ play and set up Sadio Mané’s equaliser. In those eleven minutes he did more than Jaunmi’s done all season, yet it was he who’s been deemed surplus to requirements, and the latter who remains at St. Mary’s, a bench-warmer in whom Koeman evidently has no confidence.
Gastón’s showed what he can do, but under Koeman he’s never had a chance to do it. When you consider some of the dire football we’ve played this season, that really is a shame.’
Certainly one that was perhaps closer than I personally expected. Sometimes a player simply doesn’t fit at a club and does for whatever reason perform better elsewhere. It would probably best for all parties if Gaston gets a move away in the Summer. We’ll always have the corn rows.
As Saints fans we have always had a vested interest in the progress of our Academy products. Long a gold mine of talent, when a Southampton kid makes their first team debut it comes surrounded in hope and expectation.
James Ward-Prowse has been one that has perhaps split opinions. The Pompey born midfielder has been consistently in and around the first team squad, but is yet to command a regular starting berth.
Often praised for his technical ability, his goals and assists record leaves a lot to be desired and often he seems to struggle to make an impact on games.
I put it to twitter (and misspelled kangaroo again FFS) to ask if Ward-Prowse is destined to be the star we all hoped he would be, or has he not lived up to expectations?
Kangeroo Court. James Ward-Prowse. Should he be playing more? #saintsfc
@peter_stephens‘Now where do we start on the English wonderkid that is James Ward-Prowse? Another kid hot off the Southampton academy conveyor belt ready to take the country by storm and force a move to the big 4? Probably not.
The issue with JWP is that you can watch a match and forget he is even out there, his best position in the team is still tbc but he *looks* like a footballer, or a bloke doing an impression of one…. His delivery is generally very good from set pieces, which is ALWAYS noted by commentators, but is that enough to merit his place in the team? In open play he is lost, he has played in a few different positions and hasn’t excelled in any.
If he wasn’t an English kid from our academy, would fans still clamour over him as they do?
I have no agenda against him, I just don’t think he merits a place in the team, or even the squad right now. He lacks pace, aggression, has no ‘trick’ and doesn’t score goals (yeah yeah a FK and a pen, bravo). All of his 4 assists have been from corners, again set pieces. While a true DMF option in Harrison Reed has disappeared, JWP continues to flatter to deceive in whatever position he is tried in.
But, “he takes a cracking corner”. Yawn.’
The case for the Defence:-
@TheDanJames‘James Ward-Prowse. Over 100 club appearances, captain for his country at u21 level, already receiving recognition from the current manager of England Roy Hodgson. Yet some people seem to not think he’s got ability or potential?
He was given his break by Adkins in the cup competitions, grabbing his first goal in a victory over Coventry. Months later, on our return to the premier league he started at the Etihad against reigning champions Man City at the tender age of 17. You don’t get that opportunity for no reason.
He’s used heavily as a role model in the club academy. He’s a level headed, intelligent and driven young man who loves the club. He possesses a superb delivery from set pieces, recently grabbing his first goal of the season from a well taken free kick, reminiscent of his former set piece tipster Rickie Lambert. Still at the age of 21 he’s got a lot to learn and he will make mistakes, but doesn’t everyone?
Playing at Premier League level will only help him develop and find his position in our team. He’s been tried in many different roles but hasn’t nailed down one spot as his own. As long as he takes chances and continues to perform well he’ll find his place in the Saints starting XI and the national team.
Future captain material for sure.’
As the vote shows, though there are some doubters, JWP is still considered a ‘Young Star’ at the club. Perhaps upping his output in terms of goals and assists will see it swing even further in his favour.
smm‘Used to like them. Would remember at The Dell and the annoucer would always give us the Portsmouth and Bournemouth results in addition to the top flight results (snigger, snigger) and we would always cheer when Bournemouth won and boo when Portsmouth won. I always looked out for their results and hoped they would win. So it was a complete shock to me when I started my first day at the Bournemouth Echo (back in 2001) when I was speaking to the librarian and life-long Cherry fan who almost imploded when I said I was from Southampton and a Saints supporter. The vitriol I was greeted with really surprised me. When i was called a scummer, I was almost offended on behalf of Portsmouth and said: ‘You can’t call me that, only Portsmouth people can call me that.’ Since then I’ve met a few more Bournemouth ST holders who look at me as if I’m a bad smell under their nose. They’re not interested that I’m actually from Southampton and a long-line of generations of Sotonions – they just see another ‘glory hunter’ (I kid you not) living in Dorset that supports the Saints. So thanks to the vitriol of a handful, I’m not so fond of Bournemouth and am rather satisfied when we beat them. The main thing I have learned from living in these parts is that most people couldn’t give a toss about football. For 10 years I’vve been quite happily driving around in my Saints emblazoned car without a mutter or look of disgust (I wouldn’t chance it in Portsmouth). In my experience most people who do like football in Bournemouth are armchair supporters of the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea etc and many of those are now helping to fill out Dean Court now they’re in the Premier League. I’ve actually come across more Bournemouth fans in Poole than I ever did in Bournemouth. My guestimate is Bournemouth have a hardcore of 5,000 fans – it’s not a football town.’
ah ‘Having always been the bigger team in terms of fan base and league position, I’ve never seen Bournemouth as a real rival. Obviously the team to the East in blue have and will always be the main rivals even though in my time we’ve only bumped into them (mostly disastrously from memory!) in the league for a few seasons. Saints v P*mp*y will always be the real rivalry. For that reason I’ve never had any bad feeling towards Bournemouth and have always wanted them to do well. This did change slightly though when I was the only fan in the pub when we played in the 2003 FA Cup final when there was A LOT of vitriol coming at me and us on the screens from a few of the Bournemouth fans.’
sb ‘Love the beaches… they are great in the summer. But in terms of the football club, I can’t say I’m too bothered about them to be honest. It is the same sort of feeling I have for Reading or Poole Town.’
km ‘I quite like them, and remember the days of their results being cheered at the Dell and have always thought well of them. I also lived in Bournemouth for a bit and have many friends that are Cherries fans and like to see them do well.
That said in reality for 99% of the time i’m pretty indifferent to them, i never check their results or pay any real attention to them and it’s only the fact they’re relatively close that gives me any interest in them (in the same way as Brighton, Swindon or Reading).’
How do you feel about Southampton?
cp ‘I’ve mellowed a lot with age towards Saints. When I was a kid, you didn’t say Southampton, it was always Scumhampton. But that was at primary school, I had no idea that Bournemouth even had a football club and it was more in a jokey name-calling way. I guess it was the nearest big city in a neighbouring county so kids needed somewhere to see as a rival. Then when I started going to games I realised it was an opinion bigger than that of the small town I grew up in and people were quite passionate about it. And there were a few years of hate, admittedly, but I’ve grown up since and these days it’s not really that much of an issue for me – I think the games in League 1 helped to end that. We’d goaded each other for years without any chance of being on the same pitch but by 2011 we’d been in the same league, played each other for the first time in 13 years and we’d lost all 3 games that season (typically after all that time, we got each other in the League Cup that year as well) and could go our separate ways as far as I was concerned, I was off sulking with my tail firmly between my legs. Now, for me, it’s more of a friendly goading, nothing malicious. I just can’t be bothered. And I have many Saints friends who are – SHOCK HORROR – decent human beings. And I love Ronald Koeman.
However, when Saints came to Brentford in 2011 and Rickie Lambert took a free kick that hit me at full force in the crowd behind the goal, I did have a few choice words for him, the club and the general area of Southampton. I wasn’t very ladylike. Apologies.’
pb ‘My mood has probably changed over the years. I used to dislike them in every way as they have always been the bigger team 🙁 but that has changed to grudging respect as I think Southampton have produced some great players and AFCB could learn a thing or two in how they have managed to establish themselves in the Premier League. I was actually rooting for the Saints when they beat Man Utd in the cup in 1976 as well, so sometimes the southerner support can stretch up past the New Forest with me.’
at ‘It’s difficult, because my loyalties are somewhat split. I would probably say I’d favour a Bournemouth win, mainly because they’re my hometown club, but also because they need the points to survive.
When I was about 5, my dad used to take me to watch both teams. First Saints game I can remember is when I watched Saints 4-3 Norwich. Kevin Phillips played a blinder if I remember correctly! I was also a mascot for Bournemouth on my 8 birthday.‘
Fans on both sides seem desperate to claim that it isn’t a ‘derby’, but surely it would be great for everyone if it became one?
smm ‘I disagree – I think Bournemouth fans are desperate to claim it’s a derby and a lot of Saints fans are probably protesting too loudly that it isn’t. It’s a local rivarly without doubt and the Bournemouth fans see us as their nearest rivals. There is a lot of spite because they live and work with so many Saints fans, but not so much the other way round. Summing up my own feelings I’d be delighted to beat them but not feel like the world is coming to an end if they beat us (which I would feel if we lost to you know who). It’s not THE derby but as we’re unlikely to experience that one for a while, let’s enjoy this one.’
ah ‘Given what’s happened to the blue team, in terms of a practical point of view, this is the only derby we’re going to have for the foreseeable future (unless you want to classify Reading as a rival and they make it back up – I don’t BTW) I guess from my exposure to Bournemouth fans, I would say that they see it much more of a derby then we do. They don’t have anyone closer than us as a team whereas we have ‘them’. And to me derby’s are more about history than necessarily locale. I don’t know the differences but I’m sure there are lots of teams close to say, Man Utd who would say they have a local rivalry with them (e.g. Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton etc) but Utd wouldn’t see it like that so they aren’t really derby’s in the sense that there is a lack of animosity between both sets of fans.’
sb ‘Technically I think it is a derby. I get loads of abuse from Bournemouth/UTD fans when games come up giving me banter. It would be good for the clubs as well. The media obviously see it as a derby as they have put both games on TV. I look forward to the games in the same way I used to look forward to playing against my younger brothers team in a tyro pre-season friendly. We know we will win but it is nice to see how they have grown up from last year.’
km ‘I think the issue is that from our side – Saints – it isn’t a derby and we have no interest in the slightest in it becoming one. The problem comes with the reactions that follow from our opinion. Our lack of interest or desire for it to be judged so gets deemed arrogance, when in fact it’s a statement of fact, there’s one team, one city and one group of inbreds that we care about, the dirty skates.
As for would it be good? I don’t really see why it would be anything, it’s a local game and an a decent away day (Bournemouth is a great place for a drink despite the stupidly early last train back!).
Personally i’d much rather people stopped referring to it as a derby and just got on with it. It holds little to no importance in Southampton and never has in my lifetime. I often attribute the need to call it a derby to the Soccer AM generation that were brought up thinking every club needed one. But not every club has a derby.
If anything the need to make this a derby turns me off the game, it becomes boring to deal with Cherries fans that want it to be that way and i have to be honest I didn’t bother going to the cup game against them despite being a season ticket holder as i found the entire thing boring and uninteresting.’
cp ‘The very fact that everyone is so desperate to go to great lengths to constantly state that it’s not a derby to me surely means it’s more than just another game?! Not sure I’d go so far as to say a rivalry, but the fact that Premier League clubs are quite sparse on the south coast (oh look – there’s only two of us) means that as Prem neighbours (my mind is still boggled at saying that) it’s a derby by location if nothing else?! Either way, the competition of who cares less about who will rage on till the end of time, I’m sure. But, then again, I don’t care. And I definitely care less than you, ok?’
pb ‘Eddie Howe said last time the two clubs played that AFC Bournemouth have to start winning some of these clashes if they want it to truly become a derby game and I tend to agree with that. There is no real grudge against the Saints as there have not been many matches between the two clubs and when they have met Southampton have usually come out on top. I’d like to think that it will become a south coast derby that both clubs can look forward to for a few years to come, but I feel that fans of both sides probably dislike some other clubs more than each other. I know a few Saints fans that, believe it or not, are pleased to see the Cherries in the Premier League – at least we are both guaranteed at least one short travel away game as season.’
at ‘I don’t see why it’s a bad thing. I’ve not seen that much animosity between the two fanbases, certainly not to the same extent as Saints and Pompey! With Pompey now languishing in the lower leagues, surely a new, less fierce rivalry would be welcomed by saints fans?’
Saints fans often have a ‘soft spot’ for Bournemouth. Has that changed since they were promoted to the Premier League? And will that change with continued success?
smm ‘I think it began to change for some Saints fans when we were both in League One – I think a lot of Saints fans felt that shock I experienced on my first day working at the Bournemouth Echo that a lot of Bournemouth fans really hate us. I suspect a few more fans’ fondness has also waned since the promotion, particularly for those of us active on social media. My instinct is that a majority of Saints fans are indifferent or hold Bournemouth with a degree of fondness. If we are to remain in the same league for years to come I’m sure the rivalry will increase.‘
ah ‘I’m not sure it has, not yet anyway. I still think the general feeling from most of my mates and people in my office is that we still want them to do well. Perhaps I know a lot of nice people but I don’t think we quite believe they will stick around for any length of time to be classified as rivals and I’m sure the more realistic Bournemouth fans will think the same. What Eddie and the team have done is pretty incredible so personally I wish them all the best… for now! I’m more concerned about our own future (keeping Ronald, Fraser, what happens to Pelle/Vic etc) than worrying about them.’
sb‘As I have just said it is like watching a younger sibling grow up. I think if they become more successful, there will be a change in the way we view them. If they ever finish above us in the league (and God i hope it never happens) then that will change everything.’
km ‘Not really, for the most part I’ve been oblivious to their season as I’ve been concentrating on ours. That said i want them to stay up as it’d be good for the south coast and a nice break to the general Premier League status quo.’
ab ‘I think it’s changed a little bit. It’s easier to have a soft spot for clubs in different divisions, but when those clubs become competitors, it changes the dynamic. I also things Saints quick rise up the leagues has somewhat been overshadowed by Bournemouth’s remarkable story. Are they stealing Saints limelight?’
How do you feel about people from Dorset (especially Bournemouth) who support Saints?
cp ‘For years, Southampton have been the more successful team in the area and have naturally attracted a lot of glory hunters from the Bournemouth area. And a lot of people are very aggrieved by that. I, personally, quite liked the fact that I supported my local team and was prepared to go through the grief and heartache that brought, rather than go the easy route and support the big team down the road. Many times I’d be stood on the platform at Poole or Dorchester station, waiting for trains to various League 1/2 fixtures to join about 200 others, while the blokes stood next to me in shirts that looked like deckchairs were off to some swanky Prem fixture in That Lundin. I felt like I was the proper fan, one of the few hardy souls, and they were just Premier League customers, a few out of thousands of faceless others.
After recent events, I’m currently revising that theory.’
pb ‘The only reason I can see for a person in Bournemouth or the wider Dorset area travelling up to St. Mary’s to watch football is that they can’t get a ticket at Dean Court. Some will have family roots that have always been with the Saints so fair enough to them, but the Cherries are after attracting as many new fans as they can and being the only Dorset club in the Premier League there is a fair chance that the fan base will grow in the next few seasons with the promised ground improvements at Dean Court.’
Why do Bournemouth and Pompey fans love each other so much? A mutual hatred of Saints?
cp ‘One of the funniest things at a game is when supporters of both sides join in together, to sing about a team that aren’t anything to do with that game. Bizarre. I think a lot of Pompey and Bournemouth fans think they have found kindred spirits through a mutual dislike of Saints, but there are a lot of Bournemouth fans I know who have a distinct dislike of Pompey as well. Of course, when we played them in the FA Cup a few weeks ago, they were at great pains to point out that it “wasn’t a derby” as were we.
Whatever it was, we won (just). So ner.’
pb ‘Absolutely. In the recent game against Pompey there was much mutual singing aimed at the Saints and while Bournemouth is not a port, we know why Pompey hate the Saints so much which harks back to the Southampton dockers carrying on working past the picket lines when the dockers in Portsmouth went on strike in the 1950’s. Pompey have good reason to hate the Saints, while AFCB fans are working on it.’
Editor’s comment‘The dockers strike is a total myth, perpetuated by so many Pompey fans over the years it even gets mentioned in recent books about their club. There is no record of it. Ironically, when the Southampton dockers went on strike in the 1890’s, it was workers from Portsmouth that were brought in to do their jobs.’
Why aren’t Bournemouth fans grateful that Saints played fund raising games for them? They owe us right?
smm ‘I don’t think they owe us anything but now that we know how much they ‘love us’ they can kiss goodbye to any future bucket collections if it all goes belly up when the Russian leaves.’
ah ‘Football rarely works on that logic does it? If there is a local neighbour to hate then you’re going to hate them regardless of what they’ve done. Not that it’d ever happen, but if we were to help out P*mp*y with their situation, would that stop them hating us? No. I’m sure there are a lot of reasonable Bournemouth fans who will be slightly thankful for what we did but let’s be honest, it was one game and won’t ever come into any sort of emotional or rational reasoning.’
sb ‘100% yes. As a token of their appreciation they should have refused the Lallana money.’
km ‘Not sure they owe us anything and I’m also not sure why (or if) they’re ungrateful either. I did actually go to one of those friendlies and don’t remember there being any animosity at all, in fact the first time I was ever aware that there was even a consideration of it being a derby was when I was well into my late twenties and a Cherry said that we were “Scummers” after I wished him luck in their in promotion battle at the time.
That confused the hell out of me to be honest and I think I actually laughed when he said it as I didn’t think he was being serious, which probably annoyed him more!’
cp ‘The fact that it gets brought up at every possible opportunity makes it all a bit sour. A lot of Saints fans have been overly condescending about this over the years and it was very kind, yes, and it helped, yes, thank you very much, but Saints didn’t save us and it wasn’t what ensured our existence as many like to claim.’
pb ‘I don’t think AFC Bournemouth fans were ungrateful but they have some pride and whoever wants to be in a position to need a handout? I actually felt sorry for Southampton when they fell on hard times. I don’t think any fan wants to see any club in financial trouble.’
at ‘It was definitely a nice gesture on Saints part, and I’m sure if it was the other way round, Bournemouth would’ve done the same!’
I’ve found something we can truly fall out about. Harry Redknapp is a c**t. Discuss.
smm ‘Without doubt. They love that saggy faced fraudster in these parts – it’s vomit inducing. In fact, at my son’s football presentation evening last year, I did vomit in my mouth when ‘Arry was the guest of honour and walked past me and touched my arm. Bleuurgggghhhhh.’
ah ‘Yes, most definitely but I’d rather not waste my energy on him. My friend once described him as having a face like a mixed grill. I think that’s all I want to say on the matter.’
sb ‘The guy is a massive knob. Would love to have a beer with him though!’ Editor’s comment ‘Why? Would definitely be a round dodger.’
km ‘Now that statement can’t be denied by anyone, even the Skates must admit that!’
cp ‘I can’t hate Harry. I’m sorry, I just can’t. I’m not as fond of him as I used to be but I wouldn’t go that far. For years, he was our most successful manager. Obviously, this has all been well & truly surpassed now. By someone with much better hair. And my Harry Redknapp impression has gone down a storm at work over the years. You wouldn’t have to ask too many Bournemouth fans before you found one to agree with you, though.’
pb ‘Yeah, you got me. Harry Redknapp will always be highly regarded around AFC Bournemouth as he was the manager to put us on the map in recent times before the boy genius Eddie Howe arrived. Harry did okay as a player for us as well. I suppose it is becoming harder for any manager to move from one club to another and always leave with his head held high and at least we might be able to agree that Harry loves the south, even if West Ham is probably his biggest love after Sandra!’
at ‘He’s certainly a character! I mean I don’t personally hate him, how could I after all he did for Bournemouth? Although, saying that, his increased involvement with the club does rather coincide with them being promoted to the Premier League.’
How do you see the game going? Score prediction?
smm ‘History and form says we should win – but Bournemouth are due a result against us at some point and it’s most likely to be at their place – but I’ll still go for a 2-1 win to us.’
ah ‘It will be a cracking atmosphere and I’m sure it will descend into a usual derby in terms of lots of intensity and flying tackles in the first 20 minutes. If we can ride out the initial period and get our foot on the ball I’m sure that our midfield will work their way into the game and unpick their defence. I’ve heard several times about how slow their CBs are so whilst we don’t have bundles of pace, we’ll get a few chances and hopefully stick one or two away. I’ll opt for a 0-2 scoreline to help our push for that 5th spot.’
sb ‘2-1 Saints…. they will break the clean sheet duck.’
km ‘It’s going to be very close and very tight, I think a lot depends on the Chelsea game for us. If we pick up a result there I can see us winning it 1-0 or something similar, if we fall away after that game I think it’ll be 1-1 or 2-1 to the Cherries.’
cp ‘You’ll win. You always do. I’m sure it’s written in some bylaw somewhere. I don’t allow myself to get over-excited as I just get more let down. Happens every time. I’ll go 0-2 and hope that my reverse psychology will win the day.’
pb ‘That’s easy. The Cherries start confidently and look like world beaters only for Southampton to score from two set pieces and a breakaway to ruin our day again! 1-3 to those delightful chaps down the road. Obviously, I hope I am entirely wrong. Isn’t it about time that the Saints let us win a game to ensure there is a couple of south coast derby matches next season? You don’t need the points and playing in Europe is overrated – look what happened to you last time. Oops, I fear the rivalry is building.’
at ‘Bournemouth’s home form isn’t great at the moment, losing 3 out of the last 4, and Saints don’t look like they’ll concede anytime soon. Think Saints will win and keep a clean sheet. 0-2.’
So there we have it, the ‘Not a Derby Derby’ heat’s up, or rather doesn’t really. Thanks to everyone who answered questions!
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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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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