Tag Archives: Saints

You’ve got to And it to Anders…

The other night I was thinking about that most contentious of issues. The underrated player.

Mainly because, somebody who I have been hailing for some time now is seemingly getting the recognition that he deserves. That man is Richard Chaplow whose performances of late have showed why his £50k price tag and place in Preston’s reserves seems even more ludicrous now than it did at the time when we signed him.

I am a sucker for an underrated player. Those that some just don’t seem to get. I recently wrote a piece on Guly along the same lines, who has since put in a match winning performance at Coventry, yet I still saw comments from fans that other than score and have a hand in the other three goals, didn’t really do a lot…

I put the question to the Saints Twitter faithful on who was Saints most underrated player, and of course the opinions were varied. Suggestions ranged from Perry Groves to Agustin Delgado to Franny Benali to Jo Tessem and current players Ryan Dickson and Danny Butterfield also got mentions. The player that got the most votes was Chris Marsden, but as Sam Dobson pointed out and I am inclined to agree, Marsden is actually pretty highly regarded amongst Saints fans.

One player that didn’t register a single mention, but one that I always felt was sometimes misjudged by fans is likely to line up at Wembley against England on Tuesday for his 122nd or 123rd international cap.

Anders Svensson joined Saints in the summer of 2001 from Elfsborg for a fee of £750k by then caretaker manager Stuart Gray, the 24 year old Swede came in as a relative unknown to the fans, but already had sixteen international caps to his name.

Initially signed as an attacking midfielder to replace the outgoing Hassan Kachloul, Gray expected big things of the Swede “Anders can play off the front man or in midfield. He’s not an out-and-out striker but is certainly a forward-thinking midfield player who pops up in that area.”

Anders Svensson. Turning his opponents inside out.

Svensson was brought in to liven up a goal-shy Saints midfield that had netted just three goals between them in the previous season, and he provided that outlet with some success. Svensson got six goals in his first season, but more notably provided some much needed creativity that saw Marian Pahars race to fourteen goals for the season. As Saints turned their early season poor form around under new boss Gordon Strachan, Svensson was rapidly becoming a key player in the side. Mostly used in central midfield but sometimes on the left Svensson was never really used in his favoured position playing off of a front man, but nonetheless his contributions were notable.

He starred at that summers world cup, famously scoring the free kick that knocked Argentina out!

The 2002/03 season is one that will be forever engrained on every Saints fans mind. Anders played a key role in the side that finished 8th in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final. Although he started less games than he had the previous season, his starring role and brilliant individual goal against Spurs in the 3rd round of the cup was his stand out performance in a Saints shirt.

Often accused of inconsistency, he was regularly accused of not trying, and the 2003/04 season proved to be the beginning of the end for Anders in a Saints shirt. Gordon Strachan left in February 2004, and Paul Sturrock came in March. If anyone in the squad wasn’t a Sturrock type of player it was Svensson and he ended the season having played almost as many games from the bench as he had started. He didn’t find the net once.

2004/05 was another season that will never be forgotten, but for very different reasons. Under messrs Wigley and Redknapp, Svensson was used more frequently but as Saints bimbled to a sorry end to the season and relegation it was clear that the Swede’s future lie elsewhere.

Svensson battles the dutch to secure Euro 2012 qualification.

It was strongly rumoured that Svensson was offered a new contract by Saints, but he was a better player than the Championship, so it was no surprise to me that he decided to move on.  What did shock me was his destination, returning to his former club Elfsborg on a free transfer.

That move hasn’t hindered him at all from an international point of view, though I can’t help thinking there is a certain amount of wasted potential in Svensson. His move to Saints started promisingly but perhaps we, or at least the managers and coaches of the club are as guilty for that as anybody. I think that perhaps we had a very talented footballer at our disposal but weren’t prepared to change our formation or style to maximise his impact.

Now aged 35, he is still with Elfsborg and still playing a key role for his country. He is the Swedish vice-captain to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and second only to the great Thomas Ravelli in caps, ahead of such notable players as Olof Mellberg and Henrik Larsson.

He was part of the Sweden side that secured qualification for Euro 2012 with a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands last month and can hopefully look forward to appearing at a fifth major championship.

So look out for Anders at Wembley on Tueday night and wonder what might have been. Perhaps his time to arrive in the English game was a little too soon, and with the wrong managers…

Chris

p.s. Saints fans, don’t forget to check out our competition!

A Saint Amongst Them: Coventry City

Saints head to the Ricoh Arena tomorrow to face struggling Coventry City.

The midlands side find themselves in the relegation zone, and Saints will be looking to avenge the last time they travelled to the Ricoh which resulted in a 4-1 defeat in October 2008. Ex-Saint Leon Best was the chief tormenter that day and netted the third Sky Blues goal, getting on the end of current Saint Danny Fox’s cross.

Hoping to be fit to face his old club this time round will be Best’s former Saints teammate Martin Cranie, although having suffered a rib injury against Barnsley at the start of October he hasn’t featured for the Sky Blues in the last five games.

Cranie. A young Saint.

Martin Cranie

Cranie never set the world alight in his brief spell in the first team at St. Mary’s, but he could be considered an unfortunate victim of circumstance.

The Somerset youngster joined the Saints Academy in 2003, and was part of the successful youth team that reached the 2005 FA Youth Cup Final but it couldn’t have been a worse time to get your chance with the first team…

Cranie had already had a disastrous start to his first team life at St. Mary’s, putting through his own net in a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea in 2004, but worse experiences were to come for the defender in the 2004/05 season. Having initially been loaned to Bournemouth the youngster was given a chance at Saints under new boss Harry Redknapp, but as Redknapp’s side meandered hopelessly towards Premier League relegation Cranie looked lightweight and out of his depth.

It may be harsh to judge the likes of Cranie, Best and Dexter Blackstock on that terrible season, young players very much thrown in at the worst possible time.

Things didn’t get much better for Cranie, as Saints started life in the Championship, Cranie was used sparingly in 2005/06 and then in the 2006/07 season he spent two spells on loan at hometown club Yeovil.

On the expiry of his contract in the summer of 2007, the eyebrows of most Saints fans were raised when he was signed by former boss Redknapp for Premier League Portsmouth.

Cranie never quite made the grade with the blue few either, and spent most of his time at Fratton Park on loan with Championship side QPR, and then in League One with Charlton Athletic before settling at the Ricoh in 2009 and becoming a regular in the Coventry side.

Cranie. Now shooting for Saints.

Chris

Guly, or Not Guly. That Is The Question….

….but one that I have never understood.

It is fouteen months since Guilherme Do Prado joined Saints on loan from Cesena and the Brazilian still seems to split opinion amongst the St. Mary’s faithful.

After a slow start to life in English football (not uncommon amongst new imports) many were questioning the reasoning behind signing him. He was even cited as part of the reason that Alan Pardew and Nicola Cortese had fallen out, many suggesting that Guly had been brought in by the chairman against the wishes of the manager and that he had to play whether Pardew liked it or not. Pardew’s decision to put Guly on the bench, in what proved to be his last game in charge at Bristol Rovers many suggested had been the final straw.

This of course turned out to be nonsense, Guly was again on the bench for the five games following Pardew’s departure as Saints went on a disastrous run of form, and it was Guly as much as anyone that became a scapegoat amongst supporters.

As Saints form turned around under new boss Nigel Adkins, so did Guly’s. He netted his first goal for the club in a scrappy affair away at Yeovil Town before really showing what he could do in a man of the match performance at home to Tranmere Rovers as the Saints fans started to see glimpses of why he had been brought to the club.

Guly ended the season with eleven goals and six assists in twenty seven starts and twelve sub appearances (most of them fleeting). A pretty good return for a player settling in to the English game and being employed mainly on the wing, occasionally partnering Rickie Lambert up front. But the supporters were still split, some suggesting Guly to be lazy, or sometimes drifting in and out of games away from home.

I was always surprised by this, Guly’s creativity and ability to change a game were plain to see, he may not be the kind of player to chase the ball all day long and track back (I actually think he does do this), but every team needs a good mix of water carriers and show ponies.

Guly. Not a traditional number 10.

Guly has started this season as well as he ended the last, still playing some games on the wing and some up top, he has weighed in with six goals and is joint top assist maker for the club creating six goals for his teammates, all of this has come in seventeen starts and one substitute appearance, and this is perhaps the most important statistic as it highlights how important he is in Adkins eyes as the Brazilian is Saints most used player so far this term.

So why do some fans question his place in the team? Well perhaps the trip to Reading highlights that better than most. Guly has been known to be quiet on away games, but with some footballers you need to focus on what he does do rather than highlighting what you perceive that he should be doing. The Brazilian, having been selected in midfield seemingly didn’t have a massive impact on a game that Saints trailed 1-0 with eighty minutes gone. Cue a deft volleyed flick over the top to set Steve de Ridder free on the right, and a point rescued. Still some were more intent on discussing what he didn’t do. Creating something from nothing is a skill that most footballers don’t have, and often eighty nine minutes of anonymity can be forgiven for one of genius and a certain number seven sporting Guernseyman could be often guilty of that.

It is worth remembering that foreign footballers aren’t coached the same way as they are here and sometimes we might be guilty of expecting English tenacity from players that simply weren’t taught that way.

In fact I think Saints have uncovered a gem in do Prado. A maverick and with a touch that is perhaps stereotypically expected of his countrymen, we miss his creativity when he isn’t there. Much is made, in fact a certain amount of panic ensues when Lallana is out injured, but Guly’s attacking contribution has been as prominent this season and at times so evidently lacking once he is off the pitch.

For me, he is far more effective when he plays off of Lambert up front, and although he isn’t a bad winger, he is somewhat restricted there, but he is a must for the starting lineup in my opinion.

Weighing in with another goal.

We may have signed Guly at just the right time, somewhat of a journeyman in the Italian game, we are already the club where he has played his most football and as he enters his thirties he is likely to be hungry to make his mark before it is too late. His last big chance came in 2005 with Seria A giants Fiorentina, but a serious injury meant he spent along time on the sidelines and the moment passed. He could have stayed with Cesena in 2010 and made it to the Italian top flight having helped them to promotion but for whatever reason, he chose St. Mary’s to ply his trade, and I for one am very glad he did.

One thing I am certain of, is that if he helps Saints to the Premier League, he is one of our squad that will definitely  be ready. So I leave you with this, especially those that have questioned his place in the side. If we want Saints to carry on winning and doing so in some style, we could do a lot worse than a bit of Samba magic in the Red & White stripes….

Ole, Ole Ole, Ole. Guly! Guly!

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Middlesbrough

Saints will be looking to make it eighteen straight home victories on Saturday when fellow high fliers Middlesbrough visit St. Mary’s.

Boro have looked an impressive outfit under returning local Tony Mowbray, playing nice flowing football and conceding goals has become a rare occurrence. Currently lying in third place, three points behind leaders Saints, the Teesside club have only lost once so far in the league, away at Nottingham Forest,

It is already looking like a key game, as both clubs will be hoping their good starts to the season will see them in the promotion shake up in May.

Amongst the visiting squad, will be one ex-Saint….

Scott McDonald

The Melbourne born forward started his career in his native Australia, playing for Gippsland Falcons and Cranbourne Comets before Saints snapped him up on a youth contract in 2000.

Despite some impressive performances at youth and reserve level, ‘Skippy’ struggled to force his way into the first team setup at the Dell. Battling with the likes of James Beattie, Kevin Davies, Brett Ormerod, Marian Pahars and errr Agustin Delgado, McDonald had to go out on loan to get regular football. Spells with Huddersfield Town and then AFC Bournemouth followed but he didn’t impress new Saints boss Gordon Strachan enough to retain him and he was released in the summer of 2003.

The tenacious frontman only made three appearances for the first team, and although he looked lively he lacked the quality required to sustain a Premier League place.

After Saints, he was ironically signed for his beloved Celtic by Strachan via spells with Wimbledon and Motherwell, and it was Strachan again who brought him to the North East. The Australian international was in impressive goalscoring form for Boro towards the end of last season, but has only scored once so far in this campaign at Barnsley in August.

Scott McDonald - Wizard of Oz

I was lucky enough to catch up with Scott Gordon, a former teammate of McDonald’s in the Saints Academy setup. Here is what Scott had to say about his namesake:-

‘I played alongside the ‘wizard from Oz’ about 10/11 years ago. Well when he was there I did. Scott Mc was a talent even at 17 when he first came to Saints, so more often than not he was jetting around the world playing for Australia in various Youth International games and tournaments.

Our first game was away to Charlton on a pitch hidden behind the corner of the Valley Stadium. We lost 1-0 and it was slim pickings that day for Maccers. 

Scott was and still is a fantastic player. Small but strong as a bull, he could hold off the biggest of defenders. A great first touch and lightning fast feet got him a few kicks from me in training. But as always he got up and on with it. He was never one for crying at the ref or taking a tumble at the slightest push. 

Around our digs he liked to show off his strong Scottish roots by proudly wearing his Celtic shirt. And maybe it was just me, but every now and then I could hear a wee Scottish brogue through his Aussie accent.

We could all tell he was going to make it, and along with Brian Howard and Chris Baird he went on to ‘bigger and better things’ away from St Marys. 

Every time he comes on the tv I do make a point of saying “I used to play alongside him you know”.’

Middlesbrough fan David McNally gave me his thoughts on the Antipodean striker:-

‘Scott could be a game and season changing player for Boro. Last seasons top scorer has hit a frustrating patch in front of goal but is still an important and hard working member of the team. 

Scott arrived with a big goal scoring reputation from SPL giants Celtic fleeing Tony Mowbray’s revolution to reunite with Gordon Strachan. Both managers failed and as Boro’s season nose dived so did Scott’s chances of making Australia’s world cup squad. Mowbray returned to Boro to rescue his home town club from relegation. Many assumed the players Mowbray had let go from Celtic and then inherited at Boro would be moved on again with Scott a prime candidate. 

This was not the case and Mowbray breathed new life in to the team and notably Scott.

Mowbray paired the rejuvenated Marvin Emnes with Scott McDonald. The pairing sparked as Boro destroyed Hull 4-2 away. As Leroy Lita departed Boro fans stayed calm and trusted in the pairs ability and as the start to the season proved the trust was repaid. Scott’s hard work, first touch and link up play has led to goals and chances for team mates while taking his focus off of goal scoring. He has earned himself a recall to the Australian squad since Mowbray’s arrival.’

Chris

15 years ago today…

A lot was made of Manchester United’s 6-1 reverse to their arch rivals City at the weekend, and it was the first time the Premier League giants had conceded six goals in a game in fifteen years.

Fifteen years to this very day in fact.

Then Saints manager Graeme Souness had had an indifferent start to the 1996/97 season, but headed into the game on the back of two straight home wins against Middlesbrough and Sunderland. These were the only victories of the season so far though. Both had been impressive, Saints scoring four and three goals against their North East opponents respectively without reply. The new look attacking lineup of Eyal Berkovic, Le Tiss and Egil Ostenstad proving potent.

The visit of the champions was likely to be a different prospect. United themselves came to the Dell having lost their last league game 5-0 at St. James Park, though they did have a midweek victory over Swindon Town inbetween.

Many feared a backlash from United, and the thought of Beckham, Scholes, Cantona et al taking on the likes of Richard Dryden and Alan Neilsen at the back, not to mention unproven new boy Claus Lundekvam was not one for the feint hearted.

Souness made his selections with the attacking prowess of the champions in mind, Jason Dodd, Ulrich Van Gobbel and Simon Charlton, all recognised defenders joined the aforementioned trio in the starting lineup, Matthew Oakley and Berkovic played in the middle, with Le Tissier supporting Ostenstad up front.

Alex Ferguson also named an interesting side, with Cantona the only recognised out and out forward in his lineup.

Having witnessed the 3-1 victory the previous season, I don’t think for a second it crossed my mind that we could win again, let alone what was about to unfold.

It will truly go down as one of the defining moments of the Premier League, and certainly one of the best ever games.

Amongst the furore of the aftermath of the City result at the weekend, it is worth noting, that United went on to retain the title in 1996/97 and by a clear seven points. It also interesting that the only player who could have played in both games fifteen years apart, United talisman Ryan Giggs played in neither.

It wasn’t the first, or last time Saints were a thorn in Ferguson’s side, let’s hope there is more to come….

Southampton:- Beasant, Dodd, Neilson, Dryden, Lundekvam, Van Gobbel, Charlton, Berkovic, Oakley, Le Tissier, Ostenstad Unused Subs:- Potter, Magilton, Watson

Man Utd:- Schmeichel, G. Neville, P. Neville, May, Pallister (Irwin), Keane, Butt (McClair), Scholes, Beckham, Cruyff (Solskjaer), Cantona

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Reading

Saints travel to the Madejski Stadium on Saturday for the Championship 17:20 kickoff, and will be looking to push on with their recent good form having established a five point gap the the top of the table.

The Berkshire club had an inconsistent start to this season but are now unbeaten in their last six games and will be looking to push on.

The Reading squad is a strong one, and in my opinion should be at least play off challengers this season. Amongst their squad, they boast three ex-Saints, two regulars who enjoyed first team football and one who, well didn’t…

Joseph Mills

‘Fish’ has he was affectionately know at St. Mary’s followed his brother Matt through the Southampton Academy, and is seemingly mirroring his older sibling’s career path.

Breaking into the first team in the 2008/09 season, Mills struggled to establish himself regularly, the likes of Andrew Surman, Rudi Skacel and latterly Lee Molyneux keeping the youngster out in Saints ill fated Championship relegation season. This eventually saw him head off to Scunthorpe United on loan, playing regularly under Nigel Adkins.

The drop to League One looked like it might have been the perfect tonic for a young left-back trying to establish himself, having already shown glimpses of what he could do. Sadly it was not to be, new signing Dan Harding came in and made an immediate impact leaving Mills to remain a bit part player in the 2009/10 campaign. He did make a surprise start at right-back in the Johnstones Paint Trophy final though, as Saints raised the cup with a 4-1 win over Carlisle at Wembley.

Mills found himself further down the pecking order at St. Mary’s in 2010/11 with Saints adding Ryan Dickson to their squad in the summer. Barely used, he was off on loan again, returning to the Championship with Doncaster Rovers. Mills proved himself a quality player at the Keepmoat which saw Reading convinced enough to make a move for him in the summer.

Mills was in the unfortunate position of never being a bad player in a Saints shirt, but always competing with someone better than him, always sharp going forward, I think it were some defensive frailties that saw four consecutive Saints managers not be willing to give him an extended run. At least he left Saints on friendlier terms than his brother!

Mills and Boon? Not that kind of Reading.

Opposition’s view:-

Dan from popular Reading blog The Tilehurst End gave his thoughts on Mills:-

“The jury’s still out on Mills at the moment, with the left-back having only joined the club at the back end of the transfer window for a nominal fee from yourselves. Ian Harte struggled through the first few games this season and Reading fans were clamouring for someone with a bit of pace to come in and Mills certainly ticked that box with agility that’s been lacking since Ryan Bertrand left after a loan spell in 2009/10. 

Mills certainly offers something going forward, as his crosses have been quite good and he’s even managed a few efforts on goal during his brief time in the team. Unfortunately his passing, set pieces and defensive positioning have failed to impress Royals fans. Already some are calling for Harte’s return to the starting XI and the Irishman was on the bench for our recent games with Boro & Burnley.

Still Mills has been part of a defence that’s gone four unbeaten so I can’t see a change happening in the short term but given McDermott’s preference for experienced players I wouldn’t be shocked to see a change if we have a dodgy result or two.

Long term he’s got a long way to go to fill the boots of Nicky Shorey, Chris Armstrong, Ryan Bertrand and Harte last season.”

Alex Pearce

The Scotsman joined Saints on loan from Championship rivals Reading in 2008 as we looked to shore up our leaky defence. In a rare occurrence for a centre half Pearce scored on his debut as Saints came from behind to beat Preston 3-2, but sadly that was the highlight of his St. Mary’s stay.  Saints would win just one other game during his loan spell, ironically against Reading when Pearce was ineligible to play. Saints kept two clean sheets in that spell, both 0-0 draws, both when Pearce was left out.

A player that always looked like an attacking danger from corners, but never looked convincing at the defensive job he was actually employed to do, Pearce returned to Reading at the end of 2008 and went on to establish himself as a first choice player at the Madesjski.

Pearce. Struggled to get ahead at St. Mary's.

Opposition’s view:-

Dan gave us his thoughts on Pearce:-

“Pearce is someone that still polarises opinion more than three years after making his debut for the first team. I’ve written a big piece about him here which covers most of his ups and downs at the club  http://thetilehurstend.co.uk/2011/07/18/the-ups-and-downs-of-alex-pearce/ 

This season has seen more of the same. Initially he seemed to struggle alongside Tottenham loanee Bongani Khumalo but the acquisition of Kaspars Gorkss has seen him improve and he’s looking back to the form that won him a lot of fans last season.  There will always be concerns about his pace and agility but if John Terry can get away with it, I’ve no reason to doubt that Pearce can establish himself as a good Championship defender, especially if complimented with the right partner.” 

Cedric Baseya

The giant striker (height is between 6’3″ and 6’5″ depending on where you read it) came through the Southampton youth system and made his first and last apperance for the first team in the 2007/08 season against Ipswich Town, coming on for the last minute and not touching the ball once.

Baseya had previously made his professional debut during a loan spell at Crewe Alexandra and was released by Saints in 2009. He joined French Ligue One side  Lille before heading to Le Harve on loan and then to AS Cherbourg.

Reading signed him last month and he his yet to make a first team performance, though he will be eager to impress having so far never scored in his professional career, an odd record for a forward.

Baseya. A tall order for goals?

Opposition’s view:-

Dan gave us his thoughts on Baseya:-

“We’ve not seen the Frenchman anywhere near the first team but that hasn’t stopped there being an 18 page thread on him on the popular Hob Nob Anyone? message boards! He hasn’t got a stellar scoring record… well he hasn’t scored at all, but Reading have worked wonders with cast-offs in the past and he’s managed a couple of goals in the reserves already, so some reasons to be optimistic.” 

Chris

A Message From Ray Wilkins…

Recently I was invited amongst other bloggers to attend a training day with Ray Wilkins courtesy of Nivea for Men and the Great Football Experiment.

Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, but England and Chelsea legend, and brother of Saints coach Dean had a message for the readers of this site.

Ray, former England and Liverpool keeper Ray Clemence, Ex-England manager Terry Venables and other professional FA coaches have spent the summer with Brentwood Sunday League First Division side Ivory FC from Billericay in Essex. The experiment aims to see if, with access to the right coaching, nutritional and fitness advice, an average Sunday league team can be turned into table toppers.

Catch up with the latest episode of the Nivea for Men Great Football Experiment where Ivory FC take on potential title challengers Lawns Park Rangers in the opening game of the league season.

Will star striker “Goggles” make it before kick off?

Follow the Great Football Experiment, and see how much proper coaching and professional expertise really helps…

Chris

Just About Enough of Clough…

“If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.”  – Brian Clough

Saints head to Pride Park this weekend to face Derby County in a top of the table clash which has already attracted a crowd of thirty thousand people.

Nigel Adkins will be pitting his wits against Nigel Clough. Both have had fantastic records so far this season, and have their teams playing the way football should be played. One stark difference for them though, is that for Clough, he will always be compared to “Old Big ‘Ead” himself, father Brian.

Clough Snr will always be regarded as one of the greatest managers this country has ever produced, bringing attention to himself, first with Saturday’s opponents Derby, before huge success with arch rivals Nottingham Forest, and it was in his Forest days that Clough Snr, proved to be somewhat of a spoilsport for Saints. Twice, the great man denied us in cup finals, some thirteen years apart.

The Clough's. Winning Mentality.

Firstly, in 1979 Southampton found themselves the underdogs for another Wembley final in the League Cup, taking on league champions and holders Nottingham Forest. Despite taking an early lead, Saints were eventually bossed by the class of Clough’s men. A valiant effort from the team in yellow though saw the final score at 3-2  in favour of the champions, with Saints goals coming from Nick Holmes and David Peach. Archie Gemmill the architect for Forest. Strike one to Clough.

1992 saw Saints and Forest meet again in the capital, this time for the Zenith Data Systems Cup final, Clough’s side may not have been the force they were thirteen years previously, but they were going well in the league, and had been in the previous season’s FA Cup final. Amongst their team were two sons of note, Nigel making a name for himself up front, and Scott the offspring of 1979’s chief tormenter Archie. Saints came back from a 2-0 deficit to take the game to extra time, Kevin Moore and Matthew Le Tissier getting the goals, but it was to be a Gemmill again that would have a definitive say in the outcome. Adding to his fifteenth minute opener, Gemmill won the match in the second period of extra time, for another 3-2 Forest victory. Strike two to Clough.

Clough Jnr. Hoping to point Derby in the right direction.

Son Nigel has followed a similar career path to his Dad so far, starting in the lower echelons of English Football with Burton Albion, and now overseeing things at Derby County. He hasn’t quite emulated Brian’s successes just yet (Clough Snr won the second division in his second season at the Baseball Ground), but signs this season are that he has what it takes to make the Rams Championship challengers.

What does look certain, is that the battle of the Nigel’s, could be both a fantastic spectacle and a meeting of two of this countries top up and coming managers. Saints will be hoping, that the Clough factor is a thing of the past, and that 2007 Pride Park playoff semi final memories can be banished forever. With no chance of Leon Best or Inigo Idiakez being on penalties, Saints will have more than a chance, but away performances haven’t been spectacular recently, and Derby smarting from a a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Leicester last time out will be looking to bounce back.

It is no surprise that this seems to be the Championship “Game of the Week” for many of the countries media outlets. First against third, Let’s hope it lives up to it.

COYR.

Chris

Best of the Bets…

I was recently approached by a new Sports betting and news site Best of the Bets about becoming their go to man for opinion on all things Saints.

As Saints look to defy the early season odds, by storming to the top of the table, I was interviewed by Championship correspondant  by Richard Greatorex about our fantastic start.

Check out the piece here:- http://bestofthebets.com/championship/features/saints-go-marching and see if you agree with my cautious optimism.

If you like a flutter, check out their comprehensive guide to the top bookies and betting advice, or simply logon for all the latest sports news.

Whether you are looking at a sure thing with thoroughbred’s like Saints or willing to take a chance on a knackered old nag like Pompey, Best of the Bets will be able to point you in the right direction! Check out their twitter feed:- @BestoftheBets for all the latest betting updates.

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