Tag Archives: Rupert Lowe

Twenty Questions: Egil Østenstad

After relentless pursuing of Saints and Ex-Saints on twitter, I managed to get one of my favourites!

Former Saints striker Egil Østenstad wowed the Dell between 1996 and 1999, scoring some great goals and being part of that famous 6-3 victory over Manchester United in which he bagged a hat-trick (he doesn’t care what the dubious goals panel says, he’s got the match ball!).

So here it is 20 questions with Egil Østenstad!

Egil Østenstad. 109 Saints appearances. 33 Saints goals.
Egil Østenstad. 109 Saints appearances. 33 Saints goals.

1. Best Saints Memory?Among a lot of great ones; staying in the Premier League in my first season after being in desperate trouble. Great feeling. Also being voted Player of the season that same season, and scoring in front of the The Kop on my first visit to Anfield.’

2. Worst Saints memory? ‘Not being able to sort out a new and longer contract with Rupert Lowe.’

3. Favourite Manager?  ‘I will always be very grateful towards Graeme Souness for giving my the chance to come to Southampton and the Premier League. At Southampton, in his eyes, I never did anything wrong. At Blackburn I never did anything right…’

4. Least favourite Manager?Even though results were decent I thought Dave Jones had an old school approach to the game and a managerial outlook that I found difficult to like.’

5. Most talented team mate? ‘Le Tiss was the biggest British talent of his generation when it comes to pure football. His willingness to make the most out of his talent is a different story. Eyal Berkovic was a joy to play with.’

6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room?  ‘Jim Magilton. Busy man…’

7. The Dell or St. Mary’s?  ‘For me The Dell.  I only played against Southampton at St Mary’s.’

8. Which member of the current team impresses you most? ‘Adam Lallana. Not just because of his ability. More so because of his attitude, loyalty and being a great ambassador for Saints.’

9. Hardest team mate?  ‘Ulrich van Gobbel. Monster…’

10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘Loads whilst playing for Blackburn. Quite enjoyed that and scored the winning goal (0-1) on my first visit there. Great stuff!’

11. Derby Day memories? ‘Portsmouth were nearly as bad then as they are now when I was there.’

12. Toughest opponent? ‘Martin Keown.’

13. Favourite Away Ground?  ‘Anfield.’

14. Favourite Saints kit? ’97/98 season Home shirt.’

15. Ever had a Benali curry? Loads. Very good actually!’

16. Best friends from Saints days? ‘I appreciate the fact that I have met and occasionally spoken to Jason Dodd, Le Tiss, Franny Benali, Jim Magilton and Gordon Watson in the last years. I sometimes speak to Claus Lundekvam. It was a good group of players when I was there.’

17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game? ‘Too far. I really hope the rules of financial fair play will have the desired effect. Football is turning into too much of a toy for the wrong reasons.’

18. Pace or skill? ‘Average pace and average skill…’

19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘Top 10. Which is a great achievement!’

20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? Access to Spotify…’

….and a bonus question just for you as we have the same taste in music.

21. What song do you think best fits the Saints experience? ‘Smells like teen spirit…’

Many thanks to Egil for taking the time to answer these questions!

Chris

 

Morgan Schneiderlin: Le temps est un grand maître

Saints fans can be forgiven for saying that they don’t owe much to former chairman Rupert Lowe, but on the 27th June 2008, Lowe made one of his wisest decisions.

Lowe agreed to pay a small fee (with possible rises to £1.2 million) to RC Strasbourg for 18 year old French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin. Although the name may have been alien to fans in English football, Schneiderlin was a young man turning the heads of several clubs.

From the Alsace region of northern France, one of the smallest, and more famed for it’s skiers than it’s footballers, Schneiderlin was already making a presence on the international scene having represented France at every level up to U18 when Saints came calling.

This was after countryman Georges Prost’s time at Saints, but you can’t help but think that the legendary French youth development coach may have had a hand it. With Chelsea and Arsenal both interested in Schneiderlin it eventually came down to a straight choice. Premier League Portsmouth or Championship Southampton, thankfully for us, Morgan chose club size, potential and facilities over temporary league superiority and joined Saints when perhaps they were at their lowest ebb.

Schneiderl-in
Schneiderl-in

To say it was a risky move for both the club and Schneiderlin would be an understatement. With the club in a difficult period financially and having just survived a Championship relegation battle on the final day of the season, this might not have been the best place for a young foreigner to take the next step in his career.

2008/09 was an even more difficult season. Off the field Saints were unravelling and on the pitch the amount of playing time Schneiderlin was getting in the first team would be a telling tale as to the quality on offer. In what was a very poor side, Schneiderlin, being young, in a foreign country and far from the finished article looked seriously exposed. Saints finished second from bottom and the fans weren’t sold on their new French midfielder. The strength of feeling can be seen in a thread from the most populated Saints internet forum ‘Saintsweb’ – ‘Schneiderlin – The biggest waste of cash ever?’ narrowly beating English lower league plodder Paul Wotton as the best option for central midfield.

I won’t lie, I also thought Schneiderlin was poor and not cut out to take part in a League One campaign. The phrase ‘lightweight French ponce’ was said to me by a friend and I can’t say I disagreed.

If we are being fair though that was a hideously poor Saints team, and Schneiderlin would have done well to shine in it. Rupert Lowe’s disastrous Dutch experiment with Jan Poortvliet at the helm, coupled with bad financial decisions meant that this was a difficult time to be a Southampton player. For many Schneiderlin was a write off, a waste of money and not good enough. Saints had had a brief upturn under Mark Wotte, and the former Saints coach had this to say about Schneiderlin ‘Intelligent player great basic skills,cool composed passer,perfect sitting and passing midfielder,could be a bit more dominant’.

‘Quand on a le droit de se tromper impunément, on est toujours sûr de réussir.’

The 2009/10 season was the start of Saints new dawn, and the same could be said for Schneiderlin. As Saints lived through an uncertain summer in administration it might have been a good time for Morgan Schneiderlin to make his escape, but whether it was down to a lack of interest (everyone was for sale) or a lack of enthusiasm on Morgan’s part the Frenchman was still a Saints player when the club was rescued by Markus Liebherr. Under new boss Alan Pardew Saints looked a much better prospect and Schneiderlin started to show his worth.

In a season that ended with a trophy (sadly Schneiderlin missed the Johnstones Paint Trophy final with a hamstring injury) and Saints just missing out on the playoffs despite a -10 point penalty, it was clear the club was embarking on a bright new period, and Schneiderlin was very much a part of it. The fans had started to see a different side of the player as his confidence started to blossom, both the good and the bad. As well as showing a calmness on the ball, so associated with the continental players, he also showed his combative side, losing his temper and picking up bookings and being sent off twice.

If fans weren’t sold on him at this point. The subsequent two seasons would complete his turnaround. Flourishing under Nigel Adkins, while the club continuously changed personell around him to plan for the Championship, Schneiderlin was a mainstay. As Saints pushed for promotion Schneiderlin was coming into his own in central midfield and was becoming one of the most vocal and passionate Saints players, often leading the chat in the pre-match huddle.

Saints made an impressive return to the Championship with Schneiderlin now one of the first names on the teamsheet playing in a defensive midfield role alongside Jack Cork. He had earned himself a new contract in the summer and now Saints fans were celebrating his stay rather than bemoaning it. Saints made it back to back promotions and the Premier League beckoned.

Schneider-win. Morgan celebrates as Saints secure promotion against Coventry.
Schneider-win. Morgan celebrates with team mates as Saints secure promotion against Coventry.

The Premier League has been the great leveller for many a player that has been ‘rated’ in the lower leagues. Saints were now three years into a five year plan to build a side to compete in the Premier League and Schneiderlin was still very much a part of that. Like his other top division shy teammates from the lesser tier era Jack Cork, Jose Fonte, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert he hasn’t failed to impress. The Frenchman, now an old stager and part of the furniture at St. Mary’s has been fantastic, mixing it up with some of the best in the world. Having perhaps been Saints best kept secret while his team mates are linked with moves elsewhere, people have started to sit up and take notice.

His progress since 2008 has been almost immeasurable, and it is hard to imagine Saints lining up without Schneiderlin in that anchor role between defence and attack, they would certainly be the weaker for it. The French often have a philosophical way with words, and when Eric Cantona described French captain Didier Deschamps as ‘nothing more than a water carrier’, Deschamps rightly retorted that ‘every team needs water carriers’ and that is undoubtedly true. To compare Schneiderlin to Deschamps would be frivolous at this stage of his career, but he certainly adds that sense of calm and consistency to Saints midfield. Breaking up play, taking control of the ball and moving it on productively. If I can be so bold, I would say that Schneiderlin is 50% Deschamps in style, and 50% that of another successful countryman Claude Makélélé. Again perhaps I am being a little over zealous but to date this season Schneiderlin has made 162 tackles and interceptions, more than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Couple that with an 85% pass success rate you can see that this is a man in control of midfield, despite facing the best there is.

Having become a key player for Saints, and a man that the media and pundits are starting to talk about, it seems crazy that he is just 23 years old, and has already amassed 172 first team appearances for the club.

Schneiderlin celebrates his goal against Manchester United
Schneiderlin celebrates his goal against Manchester United

It has been an up and down relationship between Morgan and Saints, who has suffered the recent lows and enjoyed the recent highs. He is now very much a part of Saints folklore. He has blossomed at the club and grown as the club has grown, and alongside Kelvin Davis is all that is left of the dark days of 2008. The sky really is the limit now for Morgan, and I for one would not be surprised to see Didier Deschamps give him a chance in his revamped French squad, he would certainly have deserved it.

As Saints are now in another exciting new era, Schneiderlin epitomises everything that ‘The Southampton Way’ is about, young, talented and growing from an 18 year old rough around the edges to leading the first team out as captain against the European champions. With Mauricio Pochettino coming in as head coach and renowned in Spain for working with and improving young players it will be interesting to see how good Schneiderlin can become. He himself was quoted this week saying about the new setup “I believe he will make us better players. He has a lot of new ideas.”.

Schneiderlin wearing the captain's armband as he beats Ramires.
Schneiderlin wearing the captain’s armband as he beats Ramires.

The shared journey of Southampton and Schneiderlin is hopefully far from over. Saints are insistent that they are no longer a club who develops talent then moves them on for a profit. Statistically he is currently one of the best defensive midfield players in the Premier League. That £1.2 million isn’t looking too bad now is it….

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Saints & Pompey: A Fine Line Between Love & Hate

As Pompey got what was in my opinion, a fantastic result for them in the courtrooms of London yesterday, there was a certain case of mixed feelings from the fans on both sides of Hampshire.

Pompey could have left their administration hearing yesterday, either facing a winding up order on Monday or yet again in the hands of Balram Chanrai’s financial puppet Andrew Andronikou, but they didn’t. The judge’s decision to appoint an independent administrator can only be good news, and a spell in administration and a ten point deduction has to have been the best possible outcome.

The reaction from fans was as expected. The sensible skates knew they had come out bruised but breathing, others were still bemoaning the points deduction (which fans of Leeds, Bournemouth and Luton may be thinking was actually very lenient).

On the red side of Hampshire it was a mixture of mockery and in my opinion misplaced disappointment.

I am a Saints fan, and by default I want Pompey as a football club to suffer in every way imaginable, but to want them to die is incomprehensible to me. A true sadist wants to see the infliction of pain not death. In an ideal world, this bout of administration will see them slide into League One and footballing obscurity. But to disappear completely? No thanks.

Derby Day. Nothing quite like it.

In my relatively short time as a fan of Saints, I am on the cusp of seeing a full 360 circle in fortunes of my two “local” professional clubs. Isn’t that the beauty of rivalry? I have taken as much stick as I have given out. I have seen us within touching distance of the top and at rock bottom, likewise I have seen both of these situations for our poor relations down the road, and often when one is experiencing the ultimate highs, the other is having their major lows. I have argued passionately with Pompey fans I consider friends and I have laughed and joked with them over a beer about the often ridiculous goings on at our respective loves.

Don’t get me wrong, it took me all of about 30 seconds after the administration announcement to text my skate mates “Now you have been in administration three times, do you get to keep it?”

In fact I was pretty proud of myself that I managed to avoid the ridiculously overused:- Sunny in [Insert Home Town], -10 in [Insert recently placed into admin Rival]

Where would we be without this?

No matter how much success either club has, no matter what trophies they win or how many times they are relegated. Two things will remain constant for both. The fans and each other. We will still hate them, and they will still hate us.

We may be a far cry from 1939 and the Pompey players parading the FA Cup at the Dell to rapturous applause, but I would like to think we haven’t reached such depths of hatred that either group of fans would hope to never see the other again. Besides there is a very thin line between hate and love.

Due to our recent ascendancy it is perhaps easy to forget that we have been in this position ourselves, and while it might not have been to the level of destruction that has happened at Fratton over the past couple of years, it also came down to the financial mis-dealings of dodgy owners.

The problem in these situation is, that the fans will always be the victims, for us it was at the hands of an upper class English hockey fan, while for Pompey it has come at the hands of a string of mysterious foreigners. Either way in no way were any of these people fans of the clubs themselves and the situation both clubs found themselves in could easily happen to anyone.

Saints and Pompey are enemies but they are enemies with a mutual interest, like a bickering married couple who were once in love but lost their way and now have irreconcilable differences, neither quite able to shake the other one off. Mainly because they don’t really want to. Each flirting with other women (Bournemouth, Brighton etc.) but never quite getting that same undeniable high you get in each others presence.

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won’t grow,
And we’re changing our ways,
Taking different roads,

Love, Love will tear us apart. Again.

Come the summer we will be shortly and temporarily reunited in support of the Hampshire cricket team, and the England national team at Euro 2012, although the almost certain appointment of a mutual former manager may see us reconciled in our opinions even more fervently on that note!

Who is Sherlock Holmes without Professor Moriarty? Be careful what you wish for.

See you on the 7th April.

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Leicester City…. Take 2.

Just before Saints went down 3-2 to Leicester at the King Power Stadium at the end of August I looked at the ex-Saints among their squad (check it out here), playing staff wise not a lot has changed. Matt Oakley has had a loan spell with Exeter City, while Matt Mills has been a regular as the Foxes who have been in indifferent form.

It was perhaps this indifferent form that saw manager Sven Goran Eriksson leave the club by mutual consent at the end of October.

This saw the return of another ex-Saint to Leicester, in the shape of former boss Nigel Pearson.

Nigel Pearson

Pearson joined Saints in February 2008 after the side had suffered poor form under the caretakership of John Gorman following George Burely’s defection to the Scottish national team.

Coming in off the back of just one full time managerial role at Carlisle United in the late nineties, many fans were sceptical about his appointment.

He arrived at St. Mary’s when the job was somewhat of a poisoned chalice. Saints were 18th in the Championship and the soon-to-be well publicised financial issues were bubbling under behind the scenes.

The former England U-21 coach got off to a shaky start, not winning in his first five games, although only one of those (his first in charge) ended in defeat. His first victory, came rather ironically, at home to Leicester City. Stern John scoring an acrobatic volley from Mario Licka’s flick to get a precious three points against their fellow strugglers.

Pearson the Saint.

Saints would only go on to win twice more that season, but the supporters were encouraged by the battling performances that Pearson’s rejuvenated men were putting in.

Saints went into the final day of the 2007/08 season in 22nd place, and staring relegation to League One in the face. Needing to both win at home to Sheffield United (who could grab themselves a play off place) and hope that at least one other above them slipped up.

Saints came from behind to lead 2-1 before being pegged back again, but it was Stern John who converted the winner and Leicester’s stalemate at Stoke meant Pearson had escaped the drop.

After a truly dreadful season, Saints fans were optimistic that with a transfer window at his disposal, and the encouraging performances at the end of 2008 that Pearson would be capable of building a decent side at St. Mary’s. That wasn’t to be though and at the end of May that year Rupert Lowe sacked Pearson and replaced him with Dutchman Jan Poortvliet, a move that would be proved to be both purely financial and ultimately disastrous.

Pearson was appointed manager of Leicester City and led them to the League One title, while Saints car crash couple of seasons spiralled out of control.

Stern John celebrates THAT goal.

Saints welcome back Pearson to St. Mary’s, now in his second spell at Leicester City on Monday night.

Chris