Everybody loves a trier, someone who simply won’t quit.
We have been blessed with a few of these over years at the Dell and St. Mary’s, and one that particularly stands out for me is Michael Svensson. I was shocked to see this week that the towering Swede is about to embark on a playing comeback, two and a half years since he last took to the field. This is remarkable anyway, but even more so, when you realise, it isn’t the first time Svensson has done it.
The powerful centre half arrived at St. Mary’s in the summer of 2002, a relative unknown quantity, from French side Troyes. “Killer”, as he was soon to be nicknamed took to the Premier League like the proverbial “duck to water” continuing a strong tradition of Scandinavian success in the English arena. Strong, uncompromising in the air, and fierce in the tackle Svensson became the scourge of many a striker as he played an integral part in Gordon Strachan’s successful 2003 side. Andy Cole was famously on the end of Svensson’s fierce intensity, in a 2-0 Southampton defeat of Blackburn Rovers in 2005. Svensson declaring to the assembled guests in the Mick Channon suite afterwards in true Scandinavian deadpan “Cole was annoying me throughout the game. So I hit him”.
Svensson became a cult hero with Saints, and the downturn in form of the club’s performances on the pitch coincided with his knee problems. Killer missed the entire 2004-05 relegation season, his replacements, the like of Andreas Jakobsson and Callum Davenport were never going to fill the gap. Svensson went on to play just a handful more games for Saints until the club, with heavy hearts released him in 2007, and seemingly a great career had been cut short……
……in August 2008 Michael Svensson, aged 32 and having not been with a club for over a year, re-signed for Southampton and was installed as Captain. People were naturally sceptical, but “Killer” completed the full 90 minutes in the opening game of the 2008/09 season, some twenty-one months since his last competitive game. Sadly, it wasn’t to last, and he played just three more full games before joining Mark Wotte’s backroom team, and surely now this was the end of Svensson’s playing career.
But. Perhaps not. Svensson headed back to Sweden and former club Halmstads BK as assistant manager in 2009, having seemingly officially retired, but now he has his sights firmly set on leaving the technical area and getting back amongst it again.
I doubt there is a Saints fan around that won’t be hoping this latest attempt at a return goes to plan for Killer, I for one will be looking out for Halmstads team lineups from now on. Just one glimpse of the red haired man with the ice cold stare doing what he does best and scathing down(ball first) an onrushing attacker could get the blood pumping and the crowd going. What would we give for a “Killer” now?
So I thought it was about time I gave you an update on my training exploits.
As the title suggests, I have learned some valuable lessons as I start to push myself a bit further. Interestingly, I have already come a long way. The last time I wrote about my running, I was struggling over a couple of miles. Now, I am pretty comfortable at that distance and am regularly running around the four mile mark.
I am still struggling with the dreaded stitch, anyone got a good preparation suggestion to prevent these? They always seem to strike when I am at my most comfortable.
Anyway the things I have learned that I have well and truly taken onboard are the following.
1. Don’t run past Eegons on a Saturday Morning. The smell of a big, greasy fry up is not the best motivational idea. I wonder if I tied a sausage to some sort of headpiece….
2. Don’t when approaching a friend(who is a seasoned long distance runner) coming the other way, speed up in some shameful show of male bravado. Yes, everybody likes a Top Gun style, mid run High Five, but you will pay for it, for the rest of your run.
3. Do play Basketball for the works team on a Tuesday night. Sweating, doesn’t even do it justice. Dripping. My feeble attempts to even get close to the monster on the other team counted for three days workout in one.
4. Don’t run in front of early morning seafront photographers. Thankfully I had the dulcet tones of Gary Numan and “Cars” in my ears, so I had to rely on my lipreading skills to let you know what he said. “Muddy Lick”, not sure what he was getting at….
5. Do go running after Saints drop points. You will look like a lunatic to other people you encounter with your angry grumblings, but your pace will considerably improve!
Sometimes, you start something and you know it isn’t quite finished! That is how I felt after the first “Kids are all Wight” article.
The feedback I had to it was astonishing, and now I have a much broader appreciation of Island pros, pre my generation. To that end, I thought it only fitting and fair that I write a follow up, celebrating the talents of those Islanders that made the grade long before my time, and in an era that would have made it even harder for a young man from the Isle of Wight to be snapped up by the professional clubs.
Ferry travel, was not as regular as it is now for the youngsters of the Island, making it tough for them to attend trials, the last ferries home often way too early, not to mention the expense, this coupled with a non-existent scouting setup meant talented lads had to shine for the bigger Island clubs and hope for the best.
The first to defy this and “make the grade” and perhaps the most well known of Island footballers was Roy Shiner.
Shiner, a carpentry apprentice from Seaview first caught the eye of Birmingham City while playing for East Cowes Vics during the Second World War, but was persuaded from attending a trial by his father(a brief top level player himself, so perhaps aware of the pitfalls) who urged him to continue with his trade. Shiner did however attend trials with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Portsmouth, neither of which were successful, before signing for Ryde Sports.
Shiner was prolific up front for Ryde, notably smashing 50 goals in the 1947/48 Hampshire League Season, big things were not far away for Roy. In fact just two seasons later, after starring in a match for the Isle of Wight representative team against Gloucestershire, Shiner was signed part time by Southern League side Cheltenham Town. Roy couldn’t have had a better start, scoring the only goal in his Southern League debut in October 1949.
Roy spent just two seasons at Whaddon Road, before a pre-season friendly against Wolves in 1951 made his dream a reality. Huddersfield Town had a representative in the crowd and Roy was on his way to Division One!
Shiner didn’t made his top flight debut until Christmas Day of that year, and first team appearances were few and far between as he struggled to adapt at this new level. After just twenty one games and six goals in three years at Leeds Road he moved on, signing for Division two club Sheffield Wednesday.
This turned out to be the best decision of Roy’s career. Roy scored goals for fun in the blue and white stripes of Hillsbrough. In a four year spell from 1955 to 1959, he found the net 93 times in 153 league appearances, and established himself as a top level goalscorer. He was part of the Wednesday side that twice won the Division Two championship, all be it coupled with two relegations, and became a terrace favourite for the Owls.
A now 34 year old Roy moved on again in 1959, even further North to Hull City, but despite scoring eight goals, he was only to last one season. Injuries began to take their toll and Shiner accepted that his football league career was finished. Roy went back to Cheltenham and had a spell as player/manager, before completing the circle of his career and returning to the Island in 1962, taking the managerial reigns at Seaview and later those of Newport, East Cowes Vics and St Helens Blue Star.
A true shining light in the arena of Island footballers, Roy sadly passed away in 1988, but his legacy and impact on Island football will never be forgotten.
Another name that was mentioned to me several times was that of Wes Maughan. From Cowes, 19 year old Maughan signed for Southampton in 1958 and over a four year spell played six times for the Saints first team and scored one goal before moving on to Reading. He had a bigger impact at Elm Park, scoring three times in sixteen games before heading to Chelmsford City in 1963 and eventually returning to the Island.
Jim Watts from Cowes spent a season with Gillingham in 1956/57, playing in twelve games and scoring one goal in Division Three(South), where he went from there, though, I cannot find out.
Wayne Talkes was the next to hit the professional game. From Brading, although originally London, Talkes signed for Southampton in 1969, a long locked midfielder, Talkes stayed at the Dell until 1974 despite only playing nine first team games. He was loaned to Doncaster Rovers before becoming the first in the long line of Islanders to play for Bournemouth.
It was the eighties before another Islander could make the step up. 20 year old Cowes lad Gareth Williams found his way to the heady heights of Villa Park and the first division via East Cowes Vics and Gosport Borough in 1987. Williams racked up an impressive 225 football league appearances over a thirteen year professional career that ended at Hull City in the year 2000. As well as Aston Villa and Hull, he had spells at Barnsley, Bournemouth, Northampton Town and Scarborough before playing for a few Non-League sides, eventually becoming player/manager of Matlock Town.
So we come back full circle to where I started in the first article, the 90’s to the 00’s. I did do a couple of Island players from that era a disservice, by not mentioning them.
Aaron Cook from Cowes, was signed by Portsmouth in 1998 and had a loan spell at Crystal Palace after impressing Terry Venables, but it didn’t quite work out for him. Since then though, he has forged a distinguished Non-League career, notably with Havant & Waterlooville and Salisbury City.
Danny Hatcher had a spell with Leyton Orient between 2000/03 playing sixteen games for the London club before returning to play for his hometown team Newport.
So there we have it, another instalment, but perhaps not the last? There may be more from the past, that we know little about, and hopefully there will be more in the future, what is clear to me now, is that while we may not be the hotbed of footballing talent that bigger, more dense areas of the country are, for a place of our size and population we are certainly making ourselves heard!
Many thanks go to Brian Greening, Brian Marriott, Nick Reed and Mike Payne for their help and information on this.
It was with little surprise to Saints fans, when Jason Puncheon scored the consolation goal in Blackpool’s 1-3 defeat by Premier League Champions Chelsea last night.
You see, Puncheon has become somewhat of a phenomenon amongst the St. Mary’s faithful this season. I am not sure if he is the first and only player to go on loan from a League One side to a Premier League team, but I am sure there can’t be many?
So how does a League One player end up on loan in the promised land? He must have been having a cracking season for Saints right? Wrong.
Puncheon signed for Saints in January 2010, and came with warnings to me from fans of both Plymouth Argyle, his parent club and MK Dons where he had been on loan, that he was very much an enigma, a natural talent no doubt, but often lacking the required attitude. I often take the opinions of fans on an outgoing player with a pinch of salt, as they may come with a drop of bitterness, and I thought this was the case when Puncheon hit the ground running in a Saints shirt.
Puncheon quickly established himself as the first choice on the right wing, producing mesmerising energetic performances and chipping in with the odd goal, as Saints made a late push for promotion. Firmly becoming a fans favourite, it looked like alongside Jose Fonte, then Saints boss Alan Pardew had signed one of the crucial final pieces of the Saints jigsaw.
As has been well documented something, somewhere didn’t go to plan in the summer. Saints had a poor start to a season, in which expectation was high. Puncheon was one of those who didn’t look himself, his performances looked lethargic and unenthusiastic. The crowd began to get on his back and to make matters worse for Puncheon, his drop in form coincided with the emergence of talented teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Saints parted company with Alan Pardew at the end of August last year, and this spelled the beginning of the end for Puncheon. New boss Nigel Adkins found less and less requirement for Puncheon to start games due to the impressive and match winning performances of Chamberlain. Rumours spread of a training ground bust up, and it was with little pre-warning that Puncheon joined Championship side Millwall on loan in November. After his lacklustre performances at League One level this season, Saints fans couldn’t believe their eyes as Puncheon scored the winning goal on his debut for the Lions and went on to help himself to five goals in seven games at the higher level. He looked like a completely different player, in fact he looked like the 2009/10 Puncheon as he terrorised the Championship’s defences.
Several comments in the media by Puncheon made it pretty clear that he wanted to stay at Millwall, including remarks about being at a club where he felt loved and wanted. He even mentioned being prepared to take a paycut. Unfortunately for Millwall and the player, it was pretty obvious that they wouldn’t be able to meet Saints asking price for the player or for that matter match his wages.
Puncheon returned to Saints in January, and found himself in the starting lineup for the FA Cup victory over Premier League Blackpool and the draw with Notts County but after far from Millwall level performances, it was rumoured that he was back on the bench for the trip to Tranmere, but refused to travel. This was speculation of course, but I don’t think many were surprised when Puncheon left on loan again at the end of January. This time though his destination was the Premier League, could it be that a player that that couldn’t hold down a place in a League One side was going to play regularly at the highest level?
Puncheon hasn’t necessarily nailed down a place as first choice at Bloomfield Road, but when called upon his performances have been again energetic and eye catching. His goal last night against the reigning champions was his second in just three games for the Lancashire outfit.
I think it is clear that Puncheon’s differing performance standards have nothing to do with ability or the level he is playing at, but more about desire. Something about his time at Saints went wrong and his desire to play for the club had gone in my opinion. His almost instant success at two other clubs playing at higher levels would seem to prove this.
Some players need to be first choice, and need to have an arm put round them, it certainly isn’t that Puncheon isn’t “good enough” to get in the Saints team, but his drop in desire and form coinciding with the mercurial rise of Chamberlain meaning he had to fight with a 17 year old(all be it a 17 year old being coveted by some of Europe’s top clubs), which may have been difficult for Puncheon to swallow.
I have always had a hard line in my opinion with players who have temper tantrums and attitude issues, as no player should be bigger than or dictate their position to the club, therefore if the rumours of Puncheon’s outbursts are true, particularly the refusal to travel, then for me he should have played his last game for the club. I think he made it clear during his time at Millwall that he didn’t want to be here, and by proving himself at Premier League level, would suggest a permanent move won’t be far away.
The worrying thing for Puncheon is, that if he doesn’t settle somewhere soon he is in danger of being labelled a journeyman. Ten different clubs already in a relatively short career is pretty high, and it makes you wonder if settling in is his biggest problem.
I for one shall be watching the rest of his career with great interest, and hope he doesn’t become another wasted potential.
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