It is with a heavy heart that I report that one of my favourite ever Saints defenders has passed away.
Dean Richards signed for Saints on a free transfer in the summer of 1999 by then Manager Dave Jones from Wolves and quickly established himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet with his powerful and commanding performances at centre half.
He continued to flourish under Glenn Hoddle, and the departing coach paid out £8.1 million to take the defender to Spurs with him in 2001. It was tantamount to how much of an impact he had at Saints, that his move to Spurs provoked such an emotional response from Saints fans.
Dean sadly lost his battle with cancer today, aged just 36.
As Saints prepare to take on Swindon Town today, one of football’s strangest traditions is brought to prominence. The Bogey Team.
Saints have failed to beat the Robins since August 1993, alright there have only been five games since, but those have been five defeats, with Saints scoring just one goal! This kind of record brings out the pessimist in even the most “glass half full” type of supporter. Swindon have been on increasingly poor form this season, which has seen them plummet into a relegation battle, having not taken maximum points from a game for two months. This won’t stop the Southampton faithful fearing this game, more than any other.
In recent meetings, Charlie Austin has been the Saints “Tormenter in Chief”, solitary goals for the striker have been the deciding factor in two of the games. Austin also chipped in with a goal when the Robins turned Saints over 0-3 at St. Mary’s earlier this season as they weakly submitted to an early Johnstones Paint Trophy defeat. The result only made more painful by the performance of former Saints player Vincent Pericard, who scored the other two goals, two more than he scored in his whole Southampton stay!
Swindon, aren’t are only bogey team of course, for years Saints fans would have told you that Everton held that mantle. For obvious reasons, we haven’t played Everton too often recently, but back in the day the Toffees were the side we never seemed to beat.
The stand out defeat for Saints against the blue half of Merseyside would certainly be the 1996 7-1 demolition at Goodison Park. Saints lined up with former England man Chris Woods in goal, as the Toffees ran riot, going 5-0 up in the first thirty five minutes. In some sort of twisted irony, Woods was appointed goalkeeping coach at Goodison the following season, a position he has held ever since!
It isn’t all bad news for the Saints fan though, as we have also been a bogey team ourselves. Famously Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominant 90’s team had a mental block when it came to visiting the South Coast. Ferguson blamed the new grey away strip in 1996 for their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Dave Merrington’s men, but in less than six months later, United and their more striking Blue and White strip were despatched 6-3 in one of the Premier League’s most celebrated matches.
More recently, in times when sending the likes of Manchester United packing are behind us, we have become the bogey team for perhaps less glamorous sides. MK Dons would have hoped to have never seen the Saints again after last season. In Saints four defeats of the Dons, they racked up ten goals, conceding just two. That hoodoo was broken pretty quickly though. In the sides first meeting this season, the Dons ran out 2-0 winners in what was Nigel Adkins first game in charge. The Dons were also under new manager, Karl Robinson, so was it that Saints were MK Dons bogey team? Or perhaps more like Paul Ince’s?
Perhaps that would be answered at Meadow Lane back in October, Ince took charge of Notts County for the first time, and could be forgiven for hoping for different opposition. Predictably Saints ran out 1-3 winners, making it five defeats in five for Ince against the Saints. Ince has since got a draw in the return fixture at St. Mary’s, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to record a win. Should Saints get the promotion they desperately crave, it could be some time before they meet again.
So what have we learned, Bogey teams, definitely exist. I am sure of that, but they don’t last forever, and changes in circumstances change the dynamics of “bogey team law”, something I have just made up. It has been some time since Manchester United have lost to Saints, in fact they have won their last three games at St. Mary’s. Can Saints beat Swindon Town today? Of course. Like MK Dons, we have a new manager, one we haven’t played Swindon under and Charlie Austin has moved on. Chris Woods won’t be in goal, and we won’t be wearing grey.
Will I be putting my hard earned cash on a home win though? No chance.
It has often been said that being recognised as a talented footballer on the Isle of Wight, is not the easiest job in the world.
Down here off of the South Coast of England, it is hardly a footballing hotbed of talent, not that there isn’t talent, but for obvious reasons the opportunities for young Islanders to shine aren’t as readily available as it is for kids in London or the North West.
Links to the Island have traditionally come from the South Coast Clubs, Saints and Pompey have both run initiatives and scouting programs over the water and Bournemouth have also given many youngsters the chance to make a name for themselves, but still relatively few set the world alight.
Having said that several have made the grade and gone on to achieve great things in the professional arena. In fact we even now have a professional manager amongst our Island alumni. Lee Bradbury has had an impressive start to management after hanging up his boots and replacing the outgoing Eddie Howe at AFC Bournemouth, seven games in and Bradbury is yet to taste defeat as it becomes more of a case of Eddie Whoe at Dean Court!
Cowes born Bradbury is probably the most prominent of the Island pros, making the step up back in 1995 with Portsmouth. It was in 1996/97 season though that he really launched his career, his goal output in a struggling Pompey side was enough for Frank Clark to invest £3 million to take the Islander to Manchester City. While the move may not have worked out exactly as he would have liked, it was a monumental milestone for Island footballers, especially as it was soon followed by an England U-21 call up, and Lee wasn’t finished there. Going on to make over 500 football league appearances including spells for clubs as prominent as Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday before opting for the dugout at Dean Court this year, versatility played a key part in a long career, a player that started off very much a striker used his experience to perform in midfield and at full back in the latter stages.
While Bradbury was forging the early stages of his career another Islander was progressing in the youth team at Bournemouth. Sandown lad James Hayter used a loan spell at non-league Salisbury City to show the Dorset club what he could do, and soon found himself a first team regular.
His impression on Bournemouth manager Sean O’Driscoll was notable, as soon after he moved from Dean Court to Doncaster Rovers he broke the Yorkshire club’s transfer record to take Hayter with him. It was here that Hayter had his finest moment, when he headed Rovers into the Championship, scoring the solitary goal in the 2008 League One Playoff final at Wembley.
The year 2000 saw two Islanders hit the local headlines, Lewis Buxton from East Cowes and Shaun Cooper from Newport both signing professional terms with Portsmouth. Buxton made an almost instant impact, earning rave reviews while still a teenager in Graham Rix’s side. Unfortunately, both players were victims of a policy that didn’t involve the use of the clubs younger players when Harry Redknapp took over, both players spent spells away on loan before moving away permanently in 2005, Buxton to Stoke City, Cooper to Bournemouth.
Lewis’ stay in the potteries was interrupted by injuries, but he still managed to play 50 games before a loan spell at Hillsbrough became a permanent move, where now he is the first choice right back for Sheffield Wednesday.
Cooper made himself at home with the Cherries and captained the side through both the difficult points deduction season and the following promotion campaign.
It was also the youth system at Pompey that saw the emergence of another Islander, Gary Silk, now plying his trade for Blue Square Conference side Mansfield Town via Notts County.
Islanders have fared less successfully at the Southampton Academy, famed for it’s production of top players. As recently as the start of this season Island youngster Tom Dunford was released by the Saints, while Lake born Goalkeeper Simon Moore may have felt his chance of a career in the professional game may have passed him by after his time there. Moore though now finds himself on the books of League One Brentford after biding his time at Brading Town and Farnborough. Moore is now Wembley bound after the bees reached the final of the Johnstones Paint Trophy. While Cowes lad Aaron Martin had to “do it the hard way” via Non-League clubs before signing for Southampton last season.
Though not a born and bred Islander former Cowes High student Gary Rowett got as far as the Premier League with Everton in the mid nineties, matched by Jamie Lawrence who went from Westwood Park to the likes of Leicester City, all be it that his stay on the Island may not have been through choice……
From a county that boasts just 140,000 people, our contribution to the sports professional ranks isn’t really that bad. The biggest hurdle faced by Island footballers certainly isn’t the stretch of water that separates us from everyone else but the number of local clubs and the size of the local leagues which seem to dwindle year on year. Add to this the reduction in efforts of clubs like Portsmouth because of financial issues; it might be more difficult than ever to shine.
Hopefully all the names mentioned above will show talented kids that location can mean nothing if the dedication to succeed is there and certainly not to give up.
Well Sir Alex Ferguson did, by playing him on the wing in Manchester United’s FA Cup 5th round victory over non-league Crawley Town! And thanks go to him for that!
Bebe played so woefully bad, that he is being compared to the one and only Ali Dia(George Weah’s Cousin), and in the weekend I launched this site that couldn’t be better timing. Having witnessed both Dia and Bebe though, I have to say, he has a long way to go to reach those levels of incompetence, let’s see if he ends up on trial at Gateshead in the summer……
So, why does a man who rarely does any exercise, traditionally hates running, and now after a pretty inactive post army life weighs 15 stone want to do the Great South Run?
Well, firstly I have a clear need to be fitter, I would like to play more sport and most importantly lose some weight. Having done nothing for two and a half years, entering a ten mile road race, may seem a bit drastic, but I have always been somebody that needs a target and motivation. Running for the sake of it, is not my style at all.
The last time I did a ten mile run was in 2007 in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, while serving there in the British Army. I don’t remember my exact time, but I think it was around the 1:25 -1:35 mark, being that it was mountainous terrain, I think that this time area is a reasonable target for the flat surface of Southsea. The only problem is, that was achieved when I was at my peak of physical fitness. I was never the fittest squaddie, in fact I wasn’t even close, but my seven months in the former Yugoslavia provided me with enough time and opportunities to do more exercise than ever before(after the kick up the arse of failing a physical fitness test) and dare I say it, I actually began to enjoy it!
So I have set my targets, 10 miles, 1:25-1:35 time, Raise some money for the Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust, Lose weight, and hopefully enjoy it. All this in 8 months? Should be achievable.
How does somebody go about suddenly becoming a runner again? That bit is easy. Dig out the old army PT trainers? Check. Get a treadmill? Check. Download Runkeeper App for my iPhone? Check. Bought Muesli? Check. Make a motivational itunes playlist to include the theme from Rocky? Check.
There is an old army saying, “All the gear, no idea” which is pretty apt, but after a week into my training plan, I already feel like a “runner”, I’ve discussed it at work, I’ve shared my run information with my facebook friends and subscribed to “Runner’s World” magazine. Ok, that last one is a lie, I mean what would there be to actually read about? One foot after the other as fast as you can right?
Wrong. There is so much more to it than that, and even though I was aware how unfit I had become, I was still surprised by how much I struggled on that treadmill for the first time. Red faced and sweating like a racehorse after two miles, the dry retching started. Two miles? This wasn’t looking good. If the first treadmill run was a “back to earth with a bump” moment, the first road run went beyond the bump and full on choke slammed me back to earth.
Out I went, confident that “Gonna Fly Now(theme from Rocky)” and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem would get me through a nice jaunt along Cowes seafront. By the time I actually got to the seafront, I was yet again a sweaty mess. Realistically I was going quite well, and started to feel more comfortable, only for a silver fox in a 70’s tracksuit who was probably my age when I was born to overtake me at Egypt Point. Confidence Knocked. Eminem had kicked in, but he could stuff his 8 mile. I carried on for as long as I could, conscious of the fact that this was my first road run in over two years and finished a 2.2 mile route in 24 minutes. A pace of just under 11 minutes per mile. I was disappointed. I have since been reassured by people that this isn’t too bad, but patience has never been a quality of mine, and I couldn’t help being deflated.
Long way to go yet, and am sure I will improve. Now to the truly important part. The fund raising. I am not someone who does a lot for charity, so to be able to raise some money for the Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust makes me feel warm inside! I want to raise the most that I can, so have been trying to come up with some ideas to encourage people to part with their hard earned cash. Seeing as the event is run round the streets of Southsea and Portsmouth, my initial thought was, that if I could raise £2k I would run it in a Saints shirt with the name “Scummer” on the back. This could serve a double purpose, as I am pretty sure my pace would be significantly upped! Somebody else came up with the idea of having everybody who sponsors me could declare that they back Saints or Pompey, and whichever side donates the most money dictates which teams shirt I will wear during the race! The thought of wearing a Pompey shirt does not sit well with me at all, but in the name of charity I might take the risk. Thoughts?
For those of you that don’t know me, and haven’t bothered to read the header information or visited the About page, I’m Chris or Stig if you are from Cowes, I work in IT, I follow football, I’m pretty normal, not being able to sit and relax in rooms with the door open is normal right?
I already write blogs for Shoot Magazine and occasionally for Saintsweb on one particular subject that is close to my heart. The Pride of the South. The Saints. Southampton Football Club. I felt like I needed my own page so I could write on not just Saints, but football in general and other things that I feel passionate about.
The name of my site georgeweahscousin.com, spawns from my passion obsession for football and Saints. Back in 1996, then Saints manager Graeme Souness received a phone call apparently from world football superstar and legendary striker George Weah, who told the surprisingly naive moustachioued Scotsman that his cousin Ali Dia was a great player and immediately available to sign. Before you could say “How did you get this number” Graeme was getting the deal done and dusted. Dia made his debut for the Saints in the Premier League tie with Leeds United, replacing Matthew Le Tissier after 32 minutes, he was then taken off on 53 minutes after the worst performance in Premier League history, condemning Dia and Saints to laughing stock levels of infamy!
I will also be using this page to track my fitness progress. Much to the surprise of those closest to me, I recently signed up to do the Great South Run(10 mile road race round Southsea/Portsmouth). An odd decision for somebody who has done less exercise in the last two and a half years than Heather Mills left leg, so hopefully those that read this will be able to see just how much progress somebody who traditionally hates running and let’s face it, is a little bit portly at the moment can make in eight and a half months! On a serious note though I will be running for a good cause, the Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust so all support and donations(site will be up soon) will be greatly appreciated.
So sit back, and hopefully enjoy! Thanks for Reading!
The Southampton Football Club Blog that doesn't like to take itself too seriously!