Since Sky television made it’s presence felt in the world of football broadcasting, the traditional Saturday three pm kick off time has become less set in stone. Particularly in the Premier League, but also in the Football League, fans will find their clubs kick off times changed to suit the demand for television viewing.
In the Football League they have an allocated slot of twenty past five on a Saturday afternoon, so Sky Sports can instantly hook the viewers of the ever popular Soccer Saturday straight into another ninety minutes of action.
Saints took part in one of the most entertaining of these fixtures on this weekend a year ago, Nigel Adkins’ men travelled to London Road to take on Peterborough United and played out a 4-4 draw in front of the cameras. Richard Chaplow, Rickie Lambert (2) and Dean Hammond giving Saints 0-2 and 2-4 leads before a second Posh equaliser deep into injury time.
As fate would have it Saints head to a St. Andrews tonight (weather permitting) for the Sky evening fixture in what looks to be a difficult game against a Birmingham side in devastating form.
So how do Saints fare in these games? Better than you might think.
We have a notion that we are poor in front of the Sky camera’s, but our record in the Saturday 17:20 fixtures is pretty reasonable. Losing just two of their eight games since entering the Football League in 2005 (both coming in the ill fated 2008/09 Championship relegation season), what Saints do seem to guarantee at this kick off time is goals. Of those eight fixtures there has been an average of 3.25 goals in the game!
Saints in fact, opened their time in the Football League in one of these fixtures, a goalless stalemate with Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s on the 6th August 2005.
They didn’t feature again until the 27th October 2007, where goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips, Jason Euell and Stern John saw Saints beat Burnley at Turf Moor by three goals to two.
What followed was a disastrous season in Saints history and it coincided with the two 17:20 defeats. A crushing 1-4 loss at the Ricoh Arena was soon followed by a 0-1 home reverse by Bristol City. Not overly surprising in a season that saw Saints record just ten league wins.
Last years goalfest in Cambridgeshire was next and then in the following month Saints took to the St. Mary’s pitch for an evening kick off again for a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte securing the points.
Saints opened this season as they had their first in the Championship, at home in front of the cameras for the evening kick off. Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly netted to give Saints the best possible start, convincingly beating Leeds United 3-1.
Saints were less convincing at the Madejski Stadium in October, Steve de Ridder rescuing a point with a late leveller against Reading.
Southampton Saturday 17:20 kick off record:-
Played – 8
Won – 3
Drawn – 3
Lost – 2
Goals For – 14
Goals Against – 14
Incidentally today’s opponents Birmingham City’s record in these fixtures is P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 GF 5 GA 5.
What do these statistics prove? Well not a lot really, other than in terms of form they don’t make a hell of a lot of difference!
With West Ham playing in the other television spot, kicking off at half past twelve against arch rivals Millwall, Saints will get started at St. Andrews knowing what they have to do. Let’s hope they give the performance of the weekend! COYR!
“If we make sure we can get Rickie in the right areas and give the right supply to him then he will put the ball in the back of the net, his career shows you that.” – Nigel Adkins, September 2011.
“He stands just over six foot three Rickie, Rickie…”
When Rickie Lambert signed for Saints in August 2009 for a price of around £1 million, it raised a few eyebrows amongst the other League One clubs as a big amount of money to be spending on a player, so soon after the club had been in severe financial trouble.
It certainly signalled the intent of Markus Liebherr and the new regime, that they would outlay that amount on a player that had never played higher than the third tier. Was it a risk? Perhaps it was at the time, although Lambert’s record speaks for itself at that level. Hindsight of course shows us that it certainly wasn’t, and actually a million pounds would represent a significant bargain. Who could put a price on Lambert’s worth to Saints now?
Lambert completed his one hundredth league game for Saints last Saturday, where his brace of penalties against Watford took him to fifty nine league goals and a record of over a goal every other league game. There were some question marks over whether Lambert could make the step up in his first season at this level, and eight goals in the first ten games would suggest that he can.
Lambert is every bit a goalscorer, proving so everywhere he has been, certainly the Bristol Rovers fans thought they let him go too cheaply in 2009, and still haven’t got a bad word to say about him.
Actually Lambert is one of those players who has improved drastically with age, and bettered his goalscoring record with every transfer and move up. Proving that sometimes, playing in and around players of a higher quality and working with better facilities can bring out the best in those that are willing to work.
Having begun his career at Blackpool, things didn’t take off for the young scouser at Bloomfield Road, and his stuttering professional career could have almost ended before it started, when he struggled to get a new club after being released by the Tangerines. Thankfully, Macclesfield Town took a chance on him, and it was a signing that paid off for the Silkmen. Having scored ten goals for the club in the 2001/02 season Lambert had caught the eye of near neighbours Stockport County and ex -Saint Carlton Palmer, prompting them to pay three hundred thousand pounds for the striker, tripling the Cheshire side’s record transfer income.
Success on the pitch were in short supply at the County Ground, the club faltering under Palmer and then Sammy McIlroy, but Rickie showed his resolve, still netting twelve times as the club battled relegation in 2003/04. Despite this personal success, Lambert was faced with dropping a division in 2005, heading to Spotland.
Rochdale proved to be a good move for Lambert, as he hit his first twenty goal season in 2005/06 even though the club proved to be inconsistent, finishing mid-table in League Two, and he was soon on the move again. This time Rickie would venture outside of the North West for the first time, joining Bristol Rovers for two hundred thousand pound in the summer of 2006.
‘In all his time at Rochdale we always knew that we were lucky to have Rickie Lambert and that one day he’d go onto bigger and better things; we were just happy to have him for as long as we could. The fact that he played alongside Grant Holt too made it even more special – we were the envy of the majority of clubs in our league with probably the best attacking duo. We signed him from Stockport where surprisingly he’d failed to make that much of an impression as far as I can remember.
In the 05/06 season (his second at Rochdale) I believe he played every game and ended the season as the league’s top scorer. Anyone who knows Lambert’s style of play will know about his free-kicks and they became pretty much expected every game; it almost a dead cert that if we got a free-kick outside the area then Lambert would calmly and cooly pop it into the back of the net.
We sold Rickie Lambert to Bristol Rovers in his third season with us for £200,000; it was a huge loss to the club, team and fans alike. We went on to make a further £25,000 from sell on clauses after he helped take Bristol Rovers to the play offs and eventually promotion.
I always look back at his time at Rochdale (especially playing alongside Grant Holt) and think “what if we’d never sold him”.’
It was at the Memorial Ground that Lambert really came to prominence. Despite a slow goalscoring start, he was to become a cult hero of the Gas fans, and it was soon a seemingly weekly occurrence in the 2008/09 season on Soccer Saturday that Jeff Stelling would be lauding him as having scored again. Lambert hit twenty nine league goals that season, an impressive feat in any team, even more so in one stuck in mid table.
Rovers fan Henry Burridge gives his lowdown on Lambert’s time by the Avon:-
“Having forked out £200,000 for Rickie Lambert, a fair wedge for any League 2 club, Bristol Rovers held high expectations of the Scouse forward. It took the big man a while to settle but upon his departure to Southampton there was more than a twinge of sadness amongst the average Gashead.
The fierce strike past Bristol City’s Adriano Basso that gave Rovers victory over ‘the dark side’ was enough to make him a part of Rovers folklore alone, but the goals didn’t stop there. A superlative 40 yard half volley against Swindon and a late header against Hartlepool lead Rovers to the play-offs, eventually winning promotion to League 1 after years in the doldrums.
While those who had shined in winning promotion for the Pirates failed to make the step up Lambert took to the third tier like a duck to water. 15 goals were scored in the league with another four in the FA Cup to boot, helping Rovers to the quarter finals of the prestigious competition, including a free kick against Southampton.
If what was seen in that season was potential then next season would be the blossoming. It seems odd to use such a dainty word when referring to a hefty man of 6’1” but the technique Lambert possessed was that of a class higher than League 1. Great in the air and on the floor, a cerebral footballing brain and two feet like sledgehammers, the only thing lacking from Lambert’s game was a yard or two of pace, though if he had that in his locker then there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been a Premier League player.
In his final season at Rovers Lambert flirted with the 30 goal mark, eventually falling one short, but the summer months would be torture for a set of fans that were just waiting for the inevitable bid to come in. You could not argue with the departure of Lambert to Southampton, going to a club with excellent facilities and getting a much increased wage. At the time the deal looked good, having seen the man go from strength to strength since his move the £1,000,000 fee seems a pittance.
There is still far more to come from Lambert, now making the same impact in the Championship, I live in hope that there is a weighty sell on clause upon his next transfer.” Read more from Henry at his site:- HJB Sports.
“He’ll take us to the Premier League, Rickie, Rickie…”
When Alan Pardew made him his first signing at Saints the following summer, some suggested he might have been overpriced, but Saints plan to sign players that could perform both at League One level and in the Championship showed faith in Lambert to make the grade. Saints started poorly in their first League One season but finished 7th despite a points deduction and Lambert hit thirty league goals, as well as three on route to winning the Johnstones Paint Trophy.
Renamed “Southampton’s Goal Machine” by the St. Mary’s faithful, Lambert represented all that was good about the new Saints positive outlook. His second season saw some doubt creep in though, as Lambert found himself a victim of his own success. A slow start to the season for both Lambert and the team saw frustration set in amongst the fans, and as Alan Pardew moved on, Lambert found his role in the side change under new gaffer Nigel Adkins. Having been very much the target man under the more direct Pardew, Lambert proved himself as a goalscorer, under the more possession based Adkins, Lambert proved himself as a footballer. Adapting his game to suit that of the new manager, Lambert’s ability as a provider and an all round player came to the fore, amazingly his perceived lack of goals led some to suggest he was having a poor season, he still scored twenty one league goals as Saints gained promotion to the Championship.
It has been well documented that Lambert has worked considerably on his fitness under Adkins, and has never looked so svelte. Finally Saints have a number seven befitting that figure, stunning goals (like the screamer against MK Dons), and an ability from a dead ball situation befitting the great man himself.
But could Rickie make the step up to a level he has never played at before? Eight goals in ten Championship games so far would suggest he could. What’s more there have been murmurs of interest from Premier League clubs, most notably Newcastle United, now managed by Pardew.
So has he been worth the £1 million spent in 2009? I think anyone would find it difficult to suggest he hasn’t. If he and the team carry on as they are, he could well get the chance to prove himself at the highest level, but having just missed out on the nPower Championship Player of the Month for September, Rickie Lambert has nothing left to prove. I would love to know what price Saints fans would put on him now, for me he is priceless, his role in our team and the way we play would be exceptionally difficult to replace. Perhaps even impossible.
Great in the air, a physical presence who will give any centre half a hard time, a finisher and a footballer. What we might have is the epitome of a great forward. What is for certain is that the resurgence of this football club has come on the back of a lot of Rickie Lambert goals, and you can’t put a price on that.
“He gets the ball he takes the piss, He wears the shirt of Matt Le Tiss, Rickie Lambert Southampton’s Goal Machine.”
“A hero has faced it all: he need not be undefeated, but he must be undaunted.” – Andrew Bernstein
Without the likes of Matt Le Tissier we would have no history.
Without Nicola Cortese we would have no future.
Two men. Two passions. Both with a significant input into the fortunes of this football club, be it recently or in the past. Both deserving of respect from the Saints faithful.
Le Tissier will always be the hero. The maverick, who has put smiles on more Saints fans, more times than any of us could put a number on. His contribution to Southampton Football Club is well documented and indisputable. A man of unrivalled loyalty, choosing to stay at our relatively small club over fame and fortune at those more glamourous.
Cortese is still the new boy in town. The businessman overseeing a reversal in the fortunes of the club. His contribution to Southampton Football Club is recent, yet crucial. Without him we may not be here. The club has gone from deaths door to the prime of life, breaking on the pitch records on an almost weekly basis.
Yet, the two of them, and the personal issue that exists between them is causing unrest and bickering between fans, at a time when the club is sat at the top of the Championship and supporters should be enjoying a period of settled success and enjoyment.
Some fans have never warmed to the Chairman. Mainly because he has introduced financial policies, that mean, while the fans get a worse deal than they have in the past, the club is on a sound business footing. This never used to be the case for Le Tissier, he always had the fans on his side. All of them. The recent bickering with the chairman has seen that change though, with some fans questioning the great man, and his intentions. This is a sad state of affairs, and fans taking sides upsets me a lot.
I have no side in this argument. I back the Chairman, as his running of the club has impressed me greatly. At the same time, I am not going to turn my back on my footballing hero, a man whose signed photo sits proudly framed on my living room wall.
Le Tiss has never struck me as a man only in it for himself. His record as a player would suggest that not be the case, he clearly has a lot of friends in the game, and Mr. Cortese’s interview in The Sun newspaper even prompted Jeff Stelling to give a heart felt public defence of Matt on Soccer Saturday.
I have no first hand knowledge of whether Le Tissier, or for that matter any other ex-player have ever ‘expected’ freebies from the club. My opinion on the matter is that someone of his stature amongst the clubs history should always be treated as a guest of the club if he wants to attend a match, but at the same time shouldn’t be allowed to phone the club and ask for x number of tickets for friends.
Perhaps the bad blood is a hangover from Le Tissier’s involvement with a rival bidding consortium when Cortese was trying to buy the club. Perhaps it is some ticket confusion. Perhaps it is about an ex-players anniversary dinner. Perhaps it is because of comments by both men in the media. Perhaps we will never know.
It makes me wonder what might have been. Had Le Tissier not been involved with the Pinnacle consortium and was still in his ambassadorial role with the club, when Cortese and the Liebherr family took over, I wonder if we now be enjoying a united front from the two men. If only.
I just hope that one day we can see them watching a game together. No dispute is unresolvable, especially between two men whose ultimate goals for the football club should be of the same view. The chairman may need to accept that ex-players will always be spoken to about the club in the media, and are allowed to vent their opinion, and Le Tissier may need to accept that the chairman is in charge, he can run the club how he likes, and he is doing a good job. I would appeal to fans that to take sides isn’t necessary. To go against the Chairman, is to effectively go against the club and to go against Le Tissier is to stab a man who gave you everything in the back.
There is only one number I want to be in, the one we should all be in. When the Saints go marching in. Together.
Southampton football genius turned Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday telly pundit Matt Le Tissier admits that he’d rather talk nonsense than be a manager!
Being a Sky Sports pundit looks like a giggle…
“It’s brilliant. How can you not enjoy watching football matches with your mates? Jeff Stelling has a great sense of humour and I get on famously with Thommo [Phil Thompson], Charlie [Nicholas] and all the lads.”
There’s a fair bit of mickey-taking…
“And therein lies the fun! We usually meet up on a Friday night in the hotel, get drunk and talk all sorts of nonsense. Then we just carry that over to the show on a Saturday afternoon.”
Ever said anything on air you later regretted then?
“I did say that the referee was c**p once and producer said in my headphones: ‘I think the word you were looking for was rubbish.’ (laughs). It’s all part of the fun though and we enjoy stitching each other up.”
Tell us more…
“We tease each other about our accents, especially the Scottish lads. Charlie Nicholas pronounced the Wigan goalkeeper [John] Filan as feeling and said once” ‘It’s a yellow for feeling.’ I said: ‘I thought you only got a yellow for pushing and shoving Charlie.’ It tickled me anyway!”
As an ex-player do you tread softly when someone has a nightmare?
“A player knows if he’s had a shocker so there’s no need to rub it in. I usually say he’s had a miserable game but I’m sure he’ll be better next week. Some pundits can cross the line and turn their assessment into a character assassination. I’ll always give an honest opinion so if anyone doesn’t like it – tough.”
Reckon you could be England manager then?
“Ha ha. I thought about management briefly when Harry Redknapp left Southampton but I didn’t have any coaching qualifications. You need all that stuff now but I find it a load of bull.”
“I got three quarters of the way through level two coaching but it seemed pointless. It goes against everything I believe in – playing naturally and off the cuff. A guy who had never played the game was showing me how to pass the ball ten yards with the outside of the boot – but I’d been doing that on the pitch for 20 years. I was pulling my hair out…”
Are you annoyed that players put cash before their club now?
“I don’t blame them for that. If a player is going to get offered twice his salary to move clubs of course he’s going to consider it. It’s just a reflection of society in general.”
What about Chelsea’s millions?
“Their wealth inflates the whole transfer market and it makes players get greedy. I can’t quite comprehend why you have to negotiate a contract at Chelsea. When there’s that much money involved why argue the toss over £90,000 and £100,000. Not being funny, but how much can you spend?”
Do you miss your playing days?
“I don’t miss training one bit, especially pre-season. I miss walking out to a full stadium at five to three on a Saturday afternoon and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up with excitement. I can cope without it though.”
With Gareth Bale following Theo Walcott, are Saints becoming a conveyor belt for potential England stars?
“I trained alongside Theo a couple of years ago and thought: ‘This lad can play’. He left Southampton too early though and lost his way by not playing competitively. Gareth may be a defender but can really influence attacks with his set-pieces and foraging runs. I think he’s got every attribute to be a world-class full-back and I’d be very surprised if he didn’t go right to the top of the tree.”
This interview first appeared in Shoot Magazine and appears with permission of the publishers. You can now catch Shoot on line at www.shoot.co.uk
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