Tag Archives: #saintsfc

The Comprehensive Saints Summer Update: Part 1

It’s July. It’s unlikely that anyone has had as turbulent a Summer as Saints so far (Quelle surprise!), so I thought I would give my thoughts on some of the (it’s) happenings at St. Mary’s.

Outgoings

As common an occurrence at the South Coast’s premier club as a bottled North London title challenge, we are used to seeing our top assets walk out at the first sign of fluttered eye lashes from one of the Premier League’s oh so powerful ‘MASSIVE’ clubs. I have to admit though, the loss of Wanyama and Mane in quick succession was a tough one to take. I’ve made no bones that they were two of my ‘favourite’ players from recent squads, and both will be difficult to replace.

In Victor’s case, it was no real shock, I think he got the same treatment as Schneiderlin had previously and was told he could go in the Summer if he knuckled down and got on with it, which he did. Spurs are in the Champion’s League, and Wanyama is a much better player than a lot of Saints fans give him credit for. On the bright-side though Oriol Romeu’s performances were a massive credit to him when he played last season, and most would argue that he is a more than capable replacement. I personally think he is not ‘Victor level’ just yet, but the signs are positive and he is becoming a popular figure with the crowd.

Mane’s move to Liverpool struck me as a purely financial decision by the club. £34 million plus add-ons is a lot of money for a player who can blow hot and cold. Having said that, he is unplayable on his day and the club did the right thing holding out for a ‘silly’ offer before conceding. I can understand a player’s motivation for wanting to play for Liverpool, but it irks slightly that Mane has moved to a club who finished below us last season, and without European football, albeit on no doubt a much higher salary.

Nathan Redmond has already joined so technically Mane’s position is covered. I’m a big fan of Redmond, and believe he has huge potential, but like Romeu I think the issue could be that he isn’t at the same level as Mane yet.

Oh, and Juanmi left. *Shrugs*.

See you in Europe Sadio. No?
See you in Europe Sadio. No?

The New Boss

Claude Puel. What do I know about him? Very little in truth, but unlike some, who immediately wrote him off as ‘underwhelming’ or an ‘unambitious’ appointment, I did the due diligence and read all I could.

It’s fair to say his reputation in France is good. He has a good record with every club he’s been at, won the league with Monaco, got Lyon to the Champion’s League semi finals and Nice into the top four twice, but more importantly, he has a reputation for playing ‘the best’ football in the French league and promoting youth. A move back to the Southampton ideals a certain Dutchman was happy to ignore?

Since he joined I’ve been impressed with his cool persona. He’s as French as they come, and the nonchalant expression as he was shown round the club’s facilities was official Saints YouTube channel gold. In my head he was simply thinking ‘Ok, stadium and changing rooms, great. Show me where I can get a double espresso.’

He will be assisted by the superbly named Pascal Plancque and Eric Black. I know nothing about Plancque, but Black is a well respected coach who happens to be fluent in French (a shrewd move).

I look forward to seeing what this new coaching setup gets out of our talented squad.

Eric. Which one is Mane? Errr Boss...
Eric. Which one is Mane? Errr Boss…

The Kit

Announced yesterday after a series of teaser trailers, the new strip would appear to have been worth the wait.

In my opinion (abusive replies can be made in the comments section below) it is the smartest home kit we’ve had since the sash and the away strip is decent too.

As a long term admirer of Under Armour equipment (I used to use their cooling t-shirts literally under armour in my highly decorated military adventures in the Middle East) I was excited to see what they come up with and I think they have hit the nail on the head.

Some people are worried about sizing with the emphasis these days on designing for the elite athletes rather than the beer bellies in the crowd (seems misguided), but I ordered yesterday on the basis that I wear large UA coolswitch t-shirts for running and they fit me well. We’ll see.

The main complaints I saw from the terminally diagnosed naysayers were firstly ‘It looks like a bra at the top’, which was most brilliantly shot down by one of our female fans who questioned why a lot of our male fanbase seemed confused about the position of breasts in relation to the chest.

https://twitter.com/ChloeLN96/status/750324313715343360

Secondly, it seemed a lot of people wanted a Yellow away strip. Now this is going to be controversial (comments section) but I for one didn’t want a yellow kit. I get the tradition and the history, but yellow kits are consistently garish. Besides, last season was the 40th anniversary of the cup win, so that was the time to have yellow. The black shirt is smart.

Each of the new kits hanging in the St Mary's Satadium chaging room (L-R: GK Home, Away, Home, Away, GK Away) Southampton FC and global performance and innovation brand Under Armour have today revealed the first home and away match kits of their new seven-year partnership. Arriving today on England’s south coast, Saints super-fan Ed Powell oversaw delivery of the first kits to St Mary’s Stadium after winning a competition to learn more about the innovation behind each Under Armour-designed strip.

Incomings

Right now our squad is not as strong as it was last season, in fact I would say it is considerably weaker. But I think we can expect a few through the door once Claude has made his assessments of the current squad.

In my opinion we need another defensive midfielder, another striker/winger and perhaps another goalkeeper.

We’ve already been associated with pretty much anyone who has ever kicked a ball, so I am not going to comment on particular names, most of which are being also linked to much bigger parties anyway so seem unrealistic.

All I ask though, is that you try not to have a tantrum when other clubs sign somebody. We only need to worry about our own club, and in the last 5 years, with regards to incoming transfers they’ve (almost) always got it right.

Keep the faith.

Big Time Charlie, More like About time!

If there is one complaint that all Saints fans have had in common of late, it’s that we were in desperate need of a striker.

There was one name that was repeatedly on the lips of the supporters, an out and out goalscorer who had proved his point in the Premier League in the last campaign, and seemingly the ideal man to come in and lead the line at St. Mary’s.

It’s not often though that the supporters and the club find themselves on the same wavelength when it comes to transfer business so the breaking news on Saturday morning that on this occasion they actually were, was both perfectly timed and a pleasant surprise.

To seal such a sought after striker, whose record is prolific at every level at such a bargain price of £4 million, is staggering business for the club and the only thing left to ask is, what took so you long Charlie?

You see, ever since this site was in it’s infancy, and Saints were playing in League One, it’s always felt to me like destiny that Charlie Austin would one day turn out for us. As mentioned in a nostalgic piece here, the then Swindon Town forward was our ‘tormentor in chief’ at the time.

Having grown up on the South Coast, I remember feeling he might have been one that had slipped through Saints proverbial net, having caught the Robin’s eye while banging in the goals at Poole Town!

Austin was often the difference in games between us and Swindon, and he also notched against Saints in the Championship with Burnley, not to mention last season’s spectacular strike at St. Mary’s in the Premier League.

As Saints have progressed so has Austin at an equal rate, and now is the time for them to move on together!

Austin’s addition couldn’t be any more welcome, and with supporters starting to feel restless after a poor run of late, the return of Fraser Forster, two good wins on the bounce and the announcement of such a good goalscorer joining the squad has brought the confidence flooding back into the stands.

Saints fans love a goalscorer and it was perhaps fitting that Charlie Austin was sat in the stands watching his new team-mates while a former legendary front-man in Rickie Lambert returned with West Brom.

Graziano Pelle and Shane Long have been great in patches this season, but this added competition can only be a good thing, and in Austin it feels like we might have another talisman forward on our hands. Perhaps even the man to takeover from Lambert and join predecessors James Beattie, Le Tiss et al as the focal point in the team.

It feels like a move that makes perfect sense for all parties for a change. QPR got a fee before losing out altogether in the Summer, Saints got their goalscorer, and Charlie Austin has a six month crack at the England Euro 2016 squad.

It’s been a while since Saints made a transfer that inspired such confidence in the stands, and there was a buzz amongst the fans I was watching the WBA game with, while those St. Mary’s were clearly audibly lifted!

Just when it feels like Saints are getting us down again, they know just how to scoop us back up.

Acceptable to be excited again? I think so.

charlie-austin-signs-southampton-news148-2905726_478x359

 

Saints Disappointing Run? What’s Changed?

Saints ran out comfortable 2-0 winners over Watford on Wednesday night, in what will hopefully be the start of some better form for Ronald Koeman’s heavily criticised team of late. It was a much better performance than recent matches, and for once it seemed they were able to convert first half dominance into full time success.

But what has been the cause of this season’s perceived ‘under-performing’?

1. Transfer Policy?

In Koeman’s first Summer at the club, the doom-sayers were out in force as several of Saints’ top names departed for perceivably greener grass, yet the Dutchman’s cut price replacements filled the void admirably and Saints pushed on for their best ever Premier League season.

But what were the chances it would work so well two seasons’ in a row? It’s fair to say we might have got lucky with how quickly the signings of Summer 2014 settled in and gelled with the existing players, and this time it hasn’t quite gone to plan.

Jordy Clasie, who came with the impossible job of slotting in to the massive Schneiderlin shaped hole has been superb of late, but certainly didn’t hit the ground running in a Saints shirt. Cedric, brought in to replace Nathaniel Clyne has found himself in and out of the team, and Juanmi, well nothing more needs to be said.

 

Clasie had the 'impossible' job of replacing Schneiderlin.
Clasie had the ‘impossible’ job of replacing Schneiderlin.

 

2. Tactical Errors?

Perhaps signalling a reaction to poor form, Ronald has made some odd tactical moves of late. Failing several times with a back five.

Saints have had a flurry of games where they have looked comfortable in the first half, only to be undone in the second, the away fixture at West Ham, the perfect example of this. Slaven Bilic changed his team at half time to suit and Saints had no counter move to turn to, the hunter became the hunted and three points soon became none.

It could be a case of ‘second season syndrome’ and opposition manager’s being wise to Koeman’s style, but it is worrying that of the last 11 fixtures, we’ve only managed two wins. The Arsenal game was testament to the manager’s ability tactically. In what was an uncharacteristic performance at the time, Saints use of Shane Long destroyed Arsenal at the back.

3. Player Power?

Last season, two of the star performers were undoubtedly our African duo of Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane. Subsequent to that though both have been linked to big money moves to huge clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and err… Spurs.

This has coincided with a considerable dip in form for the pair, and Saints are notably worse for it. I’ve been Wanyama’s biggest cheerleader since he arrived from Celtic, but even I have struggled to defend his lacklustre performances of late.  Is he suffering without Morgan? Or his he simply sulking because of his denied to move White Hart Lane? Either way, he doesn’t warrant selection when he returns from suspension against WBA.

Mane has also gone well off the boil, a true game changer when he wants to be but has his head been turned by the thought of dulling it up with LVG at Old Trafford?

Saints duo need to find form again.
Saints duo need to find form again.

 

4. Squad Depth?

Come the end of the last campaign, Saints fans were hopeful that with European football (Bloody Hell. Remember that?) coming, the transfer window would be used to bolster the depth of the squad.

It looked like this had happened with some of the signings that were made, and we always have our brilliant youth system right?

Unfortunately some of the signings have looked weaker than what was already there and with Ronald publicly criticising the quality of the youth players coming through (perhaps backed by unsuccessful loan spells for Jack Stephens and Sam Gallagher in the Championship) there is an argument to say that the squad is no deeper than it was last year.

5. Other Clubs’ Transfer Policy?

With Saints finishing the last campaign in 7th place, and with the abundance of money coming in from the new TV deal, surely it would be us that push on in terms of improvement?

Perhaps not. While Saints stuck with their policy of bringing in lesser known/cheaper players, those just behind us went big.

With Stoke City signing Xherdan Shaqiri, West Ham bringing in Dimitri Payet and Palace splashing out on Yohan Cabaye, the St. Mary’s faithful were left wondering whether we shouldn’t be a little bit more ambitious in the transfer market.

Did Saints allow other clubs to overtake us in the Summer?

Did other clubs at Saints' level show more ambition in the Summer?
Did other clubs at Saints’ level show more ambition in the Summer?

 

6. Lack of Goals?

Last season, it appeared that Saints had shaken off the ‘All fart and no shit’ stigma of previous campaigns, but it would appear to be back with abundance.

With Graziano Pelle, clearly the club’s number one striker often blowing hot and cold and then out injured, Sadio Mane misfiring and not a lot of contribution elsewhere, the responsibility has fallen on Shane Long of late to bring home the bacon.

Now don’t get me wrong, Long on his day (see Arsenal on Boxing Day) is a decent Premier League player, but he is also incredibly frustrating at times, and fluffs more chances than he takes. He is a decent option for Saints, but in my opinion he shouldn’t be leading the line on a regular basis.

In addition to this, other players need to take on the responsibility of scoring more goals. The return from the likes of Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse and Jordy Clasie is poor.

Saints create plenty of chances, they don’t score anywhere near enough of them.

7. Goalkeeping/Defence?

Following on from the lack of goals, in 2014/15 when Saints weren’t converting their chances they were able to rely upon a miserly defence to mean they didn’t have to, but this season that has gone South as well.

While the loss of Clyne and Toby Alderweireld were no doubt felt, the addition of Virgil van Dijk has certainly proved a good move, but the jury is still out on Cedric and Cuco Martina. Steven Caulker will not be missed.

One other major disruption has been the absence of Fraser Forster. Was it a coincidence that his return on Wednesday saw a clean sheet and a visible growth in confidence in the defence in front of him?

The signing of Martin Stekelenburg was undoubtedly never seen as a long term decision, and he was always here to provide cover for Forster’s injury, but in hindsight was it the right move? A keeper already low on confidence from previous clubs, while he has by no means been a disaster I’ve often found myself wondering after conceded goals if Forster might not have saved them.

fraser-forster-post-watford-home-news148-2900518_478x359
A timely return?

 

8. Overweighted expectations?

‘WE USED TO BE IN LEAGUE ONE YOU KNOW?’ Yeah, yeah, blah, look how far we’ve come, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Fine, this sort of rhetoric is outdated now and fans have the right to expect a certain level of ambition/performance. We are now an established Premier League club again and shouldn’t be accepting of dropping like a stone down the table. But, we also have to accept that other clubs are allowed to progress too, and no one has the right to beat anyone else.

I actually think that it was last season that was an unfair reflection of where we are as a club, we overachieved and this season is balancing that out. We are still progressing, and evolving, let’s see how it plays out before scandalously accusing anyone of anything untoward.

9. Misuse of Dr. Barry Gale?

Two appearances, subsequently followed by a 6-1 victory over Aston Villa and a 4-0 drubbing of Arsenal. Just saying.

In Conclusion

This has been an extremely odd Premier League season so far. Leicester are flying, Chelsea are below us despite our perceived ‘disastrous’ season and both Manchester United and Liverpool are stuttering. Perhaps the gap between the elite and rest is closing, and that can only be a good thing can’t it?

Saints’ poor form could be down to any of the above factors, or likely a combination of all of them. They go into today’s home fixture with West Brom, nine points clear of the relegation zone and nine points behind the top four. Mid Table might well be where we are destined to be this season, but with the club working on a bringing in another striker things could get better than that.

Let’s face it, it’s always likely to be an interesting ride where Saints are concerned.

Malice in Sunder-Land

Saints head to the North East this weekend defending a superb unbeaten record on the road so far this season. Cause to be optimistic of a positive result then? Nope.

While this season’s travels may have been fruitful, it is hard to ignore Saints’ abysmal record on Wearside. Even after the mesmeric 8-0 home victory over the Black Cats last season, the trip to the Stadium of Light brought with it no more expectancy than usual. Why? Because we never win at Sunderland.

I say ‘never’, and that of course isn’t true, but it’s as near as dammit. Saints last won there in January 2003, James Beattie scored the only goal and Franny Benali was at left back! The win previous to that was also 0-1, Egil Ostenstad’s 1997 strike overcoming a Sunderland side containing Chris Waddle and still resident at Roker Park. Seriously.

The win previous to that? 1983 via a Steve Moran brace.

Sure, there have been a number of seasons in which the two clubs have not been in the same division, but three wins in 32 years is poor by anyone’s standards.

Traditionally Saints struggle in the North East (3 wins against Newcastle and 5 against Middlesbrough in the same 32 year period) and in return those sides struggle on the South Coast. This was long put down to the effects of travelling the distance, but in this modern age, that is surely no longer an excuse (although it might explain the FC Midtjylland debacle).

Right now Sunderland don’t have as good a team as Southampton. I don’t think even the most dedicated Mackem would argue that point but yet again it is a fixture that I symbolically write off in my head as a no hoper. Unsupportive? Sure. Pessimistic? Of course, but not without good reason.

As someone rightly pointed out on twitter to me today, historically for Saints ‘teams that are there for the taking’ (as Sunderland undoubtedly are right now) are usually our downfall. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the team that Ronald built is capable of beating anyone on their day, but there is just something about the North East that causes are soft Southern persona’s to freeze more often than not.

Perhaps it is the cold, or maybe the Smog, the often unintelligible accents or the fear of our beloved ponies (one for any skates that swim by) getting headbutted. I’m not sure. All I know is that I never expect anything from a trip to Sunderland.

Sam Allardyce’s side have won just one of their nine games this season, the North East derby, and have conceded seven goals in their four home games. Surely Saints, this is the year? Please?

I won’t get my hopes up.

Goals mean prizes as Saints take on Bournemouth!

Everyone wants Saints to score as many goals as they can this weekend against stand-in South Coast rivals Bournemouth, but what could make them even sweeter?

How about prizes to go with those goals!

That’s right, we here at georgeweahscousin.com in association with Paddy Power Bingo are giving six of you the chance to win a prize dependent on Saints scoring goals on Sunday.

To take part, all you have to do is to comment on this blog post, selecting one of the squares in former Saint Artur Boruc’s goal below and if you are the first person to select that letter you are in with the chance of a prize.

Boruc - Southampton - Bournemouth

The prizes are as follows:

If a goal lands in your square you will receive;

A £10 Amazon Voucher

Land two goals in your square and win:

Football Manager 2016 on Pre Order (Release date November)

Land three goals or more in your square and win:

A Saints Shirt (your choice which one)

If the score at the end of the game is 0-0 then the first person to comment on the post after the final whistle will received the booby prize:-

unnamed

Danny Dyer’s Funniest Football Foul-Ups on DVD.

Competition sponsored by bingo.paddypower.com

Here is a reminder of the rules of the game and those that can enter.

Rules:

  • Each player is only allowed one square, no multiples
  • Entries will not be accepted from blog owner, contributor or employees of Paddy Power
  • Squares will be allocated to the first 6 people to comment on available squares
  • The BBC’s definition of which square the ball went into is final, this can be found on BBC Football news http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/results
  • Prizes are subject to availability
  • Only one prize per square
  • Only the first 5 goals are counted
  • UK entries only
  • If the match score is 0-0 the first to comment on the original post will win the booby prize, a Danny Dyer Football Foul-Ups DVD

Good Luck!

Putting the Jerk in ‘Knee Jerk’!

Everyone is disappointed with the start to the Premier League campaign. Two largely lacklustre performances have left Saints fans baffled, but the reaction from some has been staggering.

Less knee jerk, than complete body convulsion.

I found myself embroiled in a twitter debate last night and was constantly amazed at the incredulous statements being made by some. Jordy Clasie, having played just one competitive game, was written off as ‘shit’ while Cedric, Juanmi and Stekelenburg were also given a going over by some so called ‘fans’.

Completely ignoring the fact that Saints have played four games so far, winning two, drawing one and losing just one, some of the clubs support have already started bemoaning the quality of transfers and decided that the club is more interest in bringing in revenue than maintaining progress.

Saints comprehensive defeat at home to Everton was of course disappointing, but for me it was more about only having one of last seasons back five playing than it was the quality of the new signings. Couple the lack of familiarity at the back with the loss of Morgan Schneiderlin and it is easy to see how goals have been shipped. There needs to be a period of grace.

This time last year the same people were telling me that Pelle was ‘shit’ and that the club had not replaced the outgoing players well enough. Those players proved them wrong, but they’ve seemingly not learned their lesson and are making the same level of ignorant noise about the class of 2015/16.

‘Progress’ for a club of Saints’ stature and pull has to be done at a steady rate, and so far those in control have proven to be very good at doing just that. The model of spending big on superstars is not Saints’ style and is no more a guarantee of success than anything else. The club, with very few exceptions, do their due diligence when it comes to incoming tranfsers, and in my opinion have earned the right to have our confidence.

To write off the likes of Clasie after so little playing time is actually ludicrous, and often I am surprised that those comments are coming from adults.

If the objective of the Saints owners was purely financially motivated, we wouldn’t be signing established Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese internationals, we would be raiding Hull for the likes of Tom Huddlestone. Saints’ pursuit of a sustainable yet progressive club should be admired not chastised because you feel the need for some instant transfer gratification, and two games into the Premier League season is not the time to be doing it.

To attack those at the club who have got a proven track record of gradual improvement is ungrateful at best.  Have some trust in them, support the team, and enjoy the ride, it’s been pretty good so far.

Saints will take the next logical step tonight!

This blog was born partly out of frustration. Football fans always have the most to say when times are hard and when I created georgeweahscousin.com in February 2011, Saints (though well on their way back up) were in League One for the second season. Little did I know then that 4 and a bit years later I would be sat here contemplating a Europa League opener against Vitesse Arnhem.

The way the club has embraced it’s entry into the secondary European club competition has been admirable. Cheap tickets will see a packed St. Mary’s tonight, and making the matchday programme (I refuse to call it magazine, we have to keep some traditions alive!) free is another great gesture from the owners who despite considerable public criticism in the last couple of years keep rewarding those who voice their concerns.

It is a breath of fresh air that the club is taking the competition seriously, and why not? Let’s be honest, European football has hardly been a mainstay in the history of being a Saints fan and though the Europa League might be considered a folly to some of our more prestigious friends from the Premier League this is a big deal to us.

The last time Saints made it into Europe, they were eliminated at the first attempt. At the time you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was to be the first of many forays on to the continent, but alas a lot of water has passed under the Itchen Bridge in the 12 years that followed. My career has taken me to considerably more countries than Saints have visited in that time but hopefully that is about to change.

Many, myself included long resisted the desire to be in Europe. Falling into the trappings that it can do damage to a club’s season due to fixture congestion, but isn’t it about time we stopped comparing ourselves to other clubs?

We aren’t Everton, and we certainly aren’t Wigan or Hull. We are Southampton, and we are building a reputation for destroying reputations. We also have a wealth of talent in our youth ranks, and we have to believe that we have a squad capable of fighting on four fronts. ‘Fortune favours the brave’, ‘He who dares wins’ and many other famous motto’s can be applied to the situation, but the one that should echo the most with the fans as they enter the turnstiles this evening is ‘Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try’.

There is still a tendency in the collective media to find fault in anything that happens at Saints, and they will be waiting with baited breath for a bad run of form so they can talk about a ‘stretched’ squad and lack of experience. If there is one thing that’s made the last few years even more enjoyable than it was anyway it is our constant proving these ‘experts’ wrong. So let’s do it again. Let’s take this competition seriously while maintaining a decent league position and let them damn with faint praise.

In fact, let’s win it. That would really piss them off.

Keep the faith.