Tag Archives: St. Mary’s

Spurs: Opposition View

Howdy Readers, this week I was approached by Spurs blog ‘SpursforLife’ for a crossover piece on this weekend’s coming fixture.

I asked Andy some questions and answered some in return. Enjoy!

GWC ‘It’s almost 5 years since Mauricio Pochettino left St. Mary’s for White Hart Lane, has he lived up to expectations?’

SFL ‘He’s gone way past expectations. You never know what to expect with managers from lower teams but we have genuinely challenged for the title, we are now contenders in the Champions League. I’m not sure I’d ever seen that as a possibility as a Spurs fan.’

GWC ‘Do you fear him running out of patience with a lack of squad investment, and jumping ship?’

SFL ‘Yes, every day. The difficulty isn’t spending money, it’s bringing in players that improve us. There aren’t many available and the ones that are can get double/triple the money elsewhere. I hope Poch sees that as a challenge.’

GWC ‘What happened to Victor Wanyama? He was a star for us and seems a bit part player with Spurs?’

SFL ‘He’s a weird one, just had loads of injuries I guess and never cemented a place. He had Dembele in front of him when he first came in, then Dier arrived on the scene. Now Winks and Sissoko of all people are ahead of him. Whatever happens I’ll always love Wanyama for the absolute thunderbastard he scored at Anfield.’

GWC ‘Do you look forward to playing Saints? We had a run of wins in the early 2000’s but since then we rarely even get a point against Spurs.’

SFL ‘I’m pretty neutral to be honest. Maybe the weirder thing of being a better team is that games mean less. We normally beat anyone outside the Top 6 home and away so it’s kind of expected and that brings a kind of weird nerves. Because the level at the top is so high you can’t drop points at all.

I do remember one rather depressing game at the end of the season where we were going for the title against Leicester and managed to lose to you guys at home where Steve Davis scored. I was in Brighton with the Mrs on a sunny day out and jumped in a pub to watch it. Ruined the day a bit. We ended up finishing third in a two horse race behind Arsenal!’

GWC ‘Do you look at anyone in the Saints squad as an option for Poch in the Summer?’

SFL ‘Having watched you play a few times this season. No. ; )’

GWC ‘Do you remember that weird period Post-Hoddle moving clubs where we had a very minor rivalry?’

SFL ‘All seems very petty now. I have blanked out my childhood memory of Spurs because we were so annoyingly rubbish. That said the classic Saints game is the one where Ronny Rosenthal scored a hattrick at The Dell in an FA Cup replay. And yeah, not sure there’s much of a rivalry!’

Thanks to Andy for answering the questions, make sure you check out my answers in return at http://spursforlife.com/saints-v-spurs-the-oppositions-view/

Keep the Faith

Monotony & Apathy

‘Live together in perfect harmony’

Well, after another long term hiatus I’m back again. It’s been a while. The whole WordPress backend has changed, I’ve turned 40, and I’m not sure if it’s a combination of the two, or one of those things in particular, but I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Do not fear though dear reader, I’ve never let such a trivial matter as incompetence stop me before and I’m not about to start now!

I return to you rejuvenated. For I do not mind admitting that the last two and half years supporting Saints had become a struggle, and Saturday afternoons had become more about a pint and a chinwag with the Dubai Saints, and less about the ‘football’. Those of you that follow our Facebook Page or Twitter will know that we have a tradition of a group photo and the hashtag #win when we win (not rocket surgery), and when I first moved here drunkenly posing for these celebratory shots was the norm, but until recently they had become as rare as a Dejan Lovren winner’s medal.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a ‘woe is me, we don’t win every week’ post. I started going to the Dell in 1992, I can handle watching a pile of crap week in week out. The issue was not about how good the players were, or even whether we won, lost or drew, though of course winning is always the preferred option. Somewhere along the way, we lost our identity. It became boring, and my feeling towards Saints became apathetic. So what changed?

As is usual, when the fortunes of a football club change, it is likely a combination of factors rather than any one particular person or event. Let’s start with the coaches. When Ronald Koeman left us for Everton he was the fourth manager in a row that had been a successful appointment for Saints. He was also the fourth to have a presence, a personality and an aura around them that inspired a confidence in the fans, and logically the players too.

Claude Puel was none of those things. Not a bad bloke, just an incredibly dull one, and he coupled a lack of charisma off the pitch with monotonous, uninspiring football on it. Baffling team selections (Inter Milan Away anyone?) and zero risk taking that might turn a draw into a win condemned him to being the most successful disliked manager in Southampton history. Saints fans were largely mocked by the nations media and ex pros for wanting the Frenchman sacked, despite finishing 8th place in the Premier League and reaching the League Cup Final, and now Leicester fans find themselves in the same position, with the same complaints and the same mockery from the same sources. Coincidence?

https://twitter.com/FcPuel/status/1085224470900555777

The end of the Puel season meant a fresh start. Surely, the appointment of such a man far removed from the recent ideals of the club was a blip. Nope. We literally went and got the Argentine equivalent. That might be a little harsh, Mauricio Pelligrino at least talked a good game when he arrived, but it’s staggering to think the same nation that produced Maradona, Messi, Bielsa and a whole host of other footballing characters also brought us ‘Senor Frijol’. The football wasn’t a lot better, the results were even worse, and relegation beckoned to the soundtrack of scoffing and hand wringing from the ‘Ridiculous to sack Puel, what do Southampton expect’ brigade.

Saints were sleepwalking to the Championship under Pellegrino, of that I have no doubt. A lack of goals, a weak backbone and an uncanny knack of throwing away a lead meant he had to go. At the time, I called for Saints to be pragmatic for once and agreed with them that Leslie Mark Hughes was the only viable option. This was based on nothing more than the requirement for top flight experience when you are staring into the abyss that is the football league. And I was right. Sort of.

Let us not change history. The fact of the matter is that ‘Sparkey’ did what looked impossible and kept us up. Whether or not you believe that is down to his management/coaching ability or that there were simply three teams even worse than us is for you to decide. I am happy to admit that I believed he had earnt his chance for the job full time. More fool me. My apathy perhaps even reached peak under the reign of the miserable Welsh custodian of proper hand shake etiquette.

Under the tutelage of these three charisma vacuums, the club I loved was transformed from the industry leading, innovative, academy pushing, supremely likeable, entertaining, big boy toppling, exciting unit that were a joy to watch, no matter the result into a turgid collection of hapless misfits that were a chore to endure. I, like many Saints fans found myself watching the games only out of some ridiculous sense of unenforced duty.

But were the managers the only problem?

Les Reed. Let this be the official stance of georgeweahscousin.com. I was never one to turn on Reed, and I am grateful to the man for the role he played in the best era of supporting Saints in my life. But, as the old saying goes, ‘Sometimes, a change is as good as a rest’. With two and a half poor managerial appointments in a row, it can only be fair to say, the magic had perhaps dried up. It certainly felt like things had gone stale behind the scenes, and the decision to remove Reed from his role when it came to it, was a long time coming. Not only did the coaching choices go downhill, but so did the recruitment of players. The time of unearthing gems like Mane, Van Dijk etc was gone, and what followed was a string of expensive failures. Sofiane Boufal, Wesley Hoedt and Garrido Carrillo all cost big money and are all now out on loan, likely on wages that make them difficult to move them on permanently. Jannik Vestegaard and Elyounoussi are the latest to struggle to make an impact on the first team.

Which brings me to the playing squad itself. Throughout this tough period, there was often the suggestion that the squad itself, simply wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, that it lacked the quality to succeed as it once had done. For me this was never the case, and while recruitment wasn’t necessarily improving the starting XI, we still had a top ten Premier League squad, they were just being poorly utilised and poorly motivated. Good players don’t become bad players overnight. But they can lose their way.

I don’t want to do an in depth analysis of every member of the squad, but by highlighting just a few I think I can make my point. The first is Oriol Romeu, in his first season with the club he was the impenetrable wall between midfield and defence, player of the season and hugely popular, his downward spiral coincides perfectly with that of the club, ending with him being a bit part player under Mark Hughes, who looked a shadow of his former self when used. Nathan Redmond has been the victim of some unsavoury over the top criticism, and somehow became the poster boy for our poor football at times. This blog was calling for Saints to sign Redmond long before they did, and never lost faith in his ability as a player, but it was often agonising to watch him take the blame from sections of the crowd for lacklustre team performances. Redmond is a dynamic attacking player, and it is almost criminal that three coaches almost managed to sap that out of him. Remember how upset we all got when Pep Guardiola weirdly berated him on the pitch for not using his attacking intent more effectively? Pep was right.

Ryan Bertrand is an odd one. Many people, myself included have bemoaned his perceived lack of interest and his unenthusiastic manner in games, but with retrospect was he just another victim of the monotonous chore being involved with Saints had become? He quickly took to his Instagram to comment on having a sense of direction under the new manager. Will we see the old Bertrand back soon?

When you look at the upturn in performances from Romeu & Redmond under the new manager, couple them with the resurgence of Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse. Danny Ings scoring goals. Two Goalkeepers making serious claims for the number 1 spot. Stuart Armstrong now showing us why we signed him, and PEH looking like the player that was so highly rated by Guardiola at Bayern; you realise that we shouldn’t be in a relegation battle. Our squad isn’t poor, it was simply in a self inflicted malaise. Neil Warnock said we had the best squad outside the top 8, and while he doesn’t always make sense (#ColinonBrexit), I agree we are there or thereabouts.

So what has Ralph Hasenhüttl done differently? Well, from a very basic point of view he has immediately got the fans onside. That sounds very simplistic, and obviously if performances and results improve then that comes naturally, but, he did it before a ball was kicked. His passionate and charismatic opening gambit as Saints boss brought a renewed hope to a beleaguered faithful and that small psychological tactic, whether it was intentional or not goes a long way. The man is a leader, and instantly we wanted to follow him. If we felt like that so quickly, it is not a huge leap of faith to suggest the players felt the same.

On the pitch, it feels very much like normal service has been resumed. His intensive high pressing dynamic system is entertaining and we look like we are enjoying our football again. There is a tactical shrewdness that saw us get fantastic away results at Chelsea and Leicester and #win photos are on the rapid increase. I could bore you with the statistical comparisons between him and previous managers, but I’m sure you are already aware of them. To summarise, he has improved us in every area already, considerably, and our pathway has been re-opened. If all this wasn’t enough, his passionate reaction to goals and victorious full time whistles endears him to us even further.

It’s early days, but the future looks bright again, and the manager hasn’t even brought any players of his own choosing yet. If our form continues, we can hopefully bring this season to a close without a nail biting finish and prepare for a much more entertaining and successful one. Soon we could be back to the Halcyon days when our only worries were when our top players would be poached or where the manager might jump ship to. Oh fuck.

Keep the faith.

Chris

Be in that number with a Saints Legend!

Ever fancied living out your dreams? Walking out on to the hallowed turf at the home of football perhaps? Playing the killer pass that allows Brett Ormerod to steer home? Getting on the end of a Jason Dodd cross? Maybe you’d like to be on the receiving end of a Benali tackle? Or simply fancy the perfect view of Le Tissier’s grace?

Well now you can, and what’s more, with the help of this site you can get 5% off of the cost of doing so!

Play at St Mary’s with Saints legends!

Matt Le Tissier, Jason Dodd, Francis Benali and Brett Ormerod will be lacing up their boots once again to take to the St Mary’s pitch for a one-off four team tournament, and you could be playing alongside them!

Play With A Legend, the events company which brings you closer to your footballing heroes, is running the event for the third year at St Mary’s. The organisation was co-founded by Perry Groves, best known for his time at Arsenal (and Saints too of course!), who wanted to give fans the chance to play on pitch with their favourite ex-players.

The four team tournament will take place on 14th May from 6pm, on the pitch at St. Mary’s where you can get either 45 or 90 minutes of action, plus your own personalised kit, enjoy post-match drinks with the legends and have your photo taken. Friends and family are invited to purchase audience tickets to cheer you on from the stands too.

Check out highlights from last year:
To find out more and book your place ‘in that number’ go here:- https://www.playwithalegend.com/southampton-2018

Don’t forget to use the code ‘WEAH’ at checkout for 5% off!

Hello darkness, my old friend

Saints are 18th in the Premier League with fourteen games to go.

‘Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again.’

We’ve been here before. We hoped we’d never be here again, but the ever growing competitive nature of the Premier League means that for a number of reasons 2017/18 is one that will not sit comfortably in the memory whatever the outcome, unlikely FA Cup win aside.

Before I proceed I want to make my position clear. Were I in an executive position on the board of Southampton Football club Mauricio Pellegrino would be out of a job by now, in fact he’d have gone immediately after the frankly embarrassing Leicester thumping at St. Mary’s. Having said that I am prepared to accept that while his tactical naivety is the overwhelming factor in our current decline, it isn’t the only variable that has seen us slip into a relegation battle like it’s the mid-90’s.

But let’s start with the manager. Like it or not, the manager’s one and only remit really is to get results and he isn’t doing that. Saints have a habit of starting games well, which suggests he isn’t so tactically unaware, the problem seems to come once we are in front. His immediate thought process seems to be to stop what was working and settle for what we have. Sitting back and inviting pressure has only gone one way so far, three points have rapidly evaporated.

Great goal Sofiane, but we did discuss holding out for a point. So…

My other concern on the manager is his response to changes by the opposition or lack thereof. The Watford game is a perfect example of this. Saints were two goals to the good and comfortable against a side themselves in disarray, but their introduction of Troy Deeney changed the dynamic and Saints were on the back foot. We didn’t react (one like for like sub in the 63rd minute) and although there was a huge element of fortune in the Hornet’s equaliser, it had been coming and their reading of the situation meant they gained a point, our misunderstanding of it meant we dropped two.

We have won just four league games all season, and barring an element of fortune against West Ham, a Forster masterclass at Selhurst Park and a moment of individual Boufal brilliance it could so easily be one. I know it’s not as simple as that, and we could analyse our draws and defeats and make a case for where we deserved more, but the fact of the matter is, our only truly convincing league win this season was a home thrashing of Everton, who themselves were in free-fall (something they have rectified with a new manager).

But. I think we have to accept that the manager isn’t going, if there was any chance he was under scrutiny by the board then surely they’d have made their move by now? So assuming it isn’t coming then we have to look at what else is going wrong.

I’ve seen many question the qualities of the squad, but to me this is poppycock and a compelling argument as to why the manager has failed. This is not a bottom three squad. No way. I will argue that with anyone. We have a better and more talented group of players than 5 or 6 clubs currently above us in the league. Is it as strong as it was in previous seasons, no I don’t think it is, but departures have weakened it, not destroyed it completely.

We do have an issue with a lack of depth. An injury to Charlie Austin (given his history, something that shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise) and our already lacking goals scored column becomes almost non-existent. A caveat to this though is that we do have a talented striker not getting game time? If we go down with Manolo Gabbiadini as unused sub we’ll be a laughing stock.

The same could be said for Mario Lemina. The lad looks like a real talent yet seems to be out of favour, if you add Sofiane Boufal to the mix that is three of our better players getting splinters.

The mis-use of Steven Davis is frustrating to see also. For me Davis is a consistently good performer in a Saints shirt, if he is played as part of the support three. He isn’t a defensive midfielder, and always plays poorly when asked to be one. The fact that he has been used there when Romeu, Lemina and Hojbjerg are available is baffling to say the least.

Decent. Team.

Football isn’t rocket science. Play your best players, and in the position they are most suited to play.

The biggest factor and the one that is effecting everybody is ‘the fear’.

‘And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains.’

There is a trepidation amongst the players, coaching staff and fans alike that is worrying to say the least, and the capitulations from winning positions reek of 2004/05 and the last time we dropped out of the top flight.

The atmosphere on and off the pitch is the same now as it was then. As most of you will know my physical presence at games is limited now due to my living abroad, but I did have the ‘pleasure’ of being at the Huddersfield game. Again Saints led and looked comfortable, but the Terriers equaliser was met with ‘the fear’, and we might consider ourselves lucky to have come away with a point. Immediately the players heads dropped and the attitude of the crowd changed, like the outcome was now a foregone conclusion.

Overcoming ‘the fear’ will be key to our survival this season, and that is where the crowd plays it’s part. We are Southampton, this isn’t our first relegation battle. We have to draw on that experience, and those of us who, like me, were there for the regular anxiety of the 90’s will tell you that one of the reasons we were very good at getting out of it was the backing of the crowd.

Nobody wanted to come to the Dell in that situation because the crowd backed it’s players and got on top of the opposition and we have to make sure St. Mary’s is the same. Especially when we entertain those around us. It’s all very well getting up for Spurs, but just like the players, we as fans have to take the same attitude into games against Brighton etc.

And please. Get off Nathan Redmond’s back. A promising player who was recognised by England looks a shell of his former self, and some of the abuse he has received while other under-performers seemingly get off scot-free is frankly disgusting.

I know it’s frustrating to watch at times, but to a point you are stuck with the manager and the players, so back them. Save your discontent for the end of the season come what may.

As fans our input is only vocal but it is important. Don’t let the players be faced with the sound of silence.

Keep the faith.

Eight ways to cure goal shy Saints….

It will not have escaped your attention dear reader, that Saints have for some time been a little goal shy. In fact the club’s hierarchy is said to be tempted to change the match-day host to Paul O’Grady† and Ben Elton is considering writing a book about us‡.

To that end I tasked myself with coming up with solutions to this issue, and hopefully see us not be subjected to another week of frustration in front of goal.

Disclaimer. If at this point you are expecting to read carefully thought out coaching suggestions, this isn’t the blog for you.

Still with me?

1. Running Man style exploding collars

I haven’t done the science, but basically invent an exploding collar that all the Saints players must wear. If they get within 25 yards of the opposition goal and the ball doesn’t cross the line (some sort of tie in with the existing goal line technology required here. Over to you Boffins) within the next 3 minutes the wearer’s collar explodes.

2, Pray to Le God

We all worship him, but perhaps our offerings of late haven’t been sufficient and he’s angry with us?

Let’s take it in turns to sacrifice our first born sons at the feet of the Ted Bates statue at midnight on the night before each game while collectively and repeatedly chanting the Le Tiss song under our breaths.

I know what you are thinking. This is easy for Chris to say, he doesn’t have any kids? Point taken, but I would be prepared to do it, and that counts.

Le God approves.

3. Play Home Games at Staplewood

As discussed this week on the Total Saints Pod, our players look superb in training. Banging shots in top bin every time, Ward-Prowse sinking free kicks like it’s the easiest thing in the world! But have we got a team of Willie Thorne’s?

4. Recycle the Clappers

Not my idea, but the brainchild of @saintsmadmomma, and it’s perfect. No one asked for the clappers, no one likes the clappers, so why not make use of them?

5. Hypnosis

Get McKenna in. It’s a cut and shut job for the master of minds. All he’s got to do is collectively hypnotise the squad and tell them that every time they hear the song ‘My Way’ or any bastardised version of it they will believe they are a combination of Le Tissier and Shearer.

As a bonus, while he’s got them under, we can ask Paul to also tell them that every time they hear the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ you suddenly become football’s answer to Frank Spencer. It worked on Lovren.

6. Change the Changing Room Music

Whenever the club releases a playlist of the squad’s choosing it is overrun with terrible R&B tracks. No one in the history of anything has been inspired by anything written or performed by Drake. No wonder half of them look like they’ve just had bad news when they are playing at the moment. Soul? Soul destroying.

Luckily I’ve created a pre-match playlist for them. You can find it here:- https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/saints-matchday/idpl.u-1V3F8keGYj

7. Play in Cartoon Format

Who misses those guys from the kit release cartoon? So accurate, yet Pellegrino has ignored them so far. Ridiculous.

8. Put an Instagram Frame Round the Goals

They love an Instagram post. Some might say they are over focused on posting dull updates on their lives in which they are inevitably wearing hideous clothes and listening to terrible music (refer to point 6). Put the frame up and they won’t be able to get there quick enough!

So there we have it. None of them are realistic or will likely work, but all I’m saying is they can’t do any harm.

Keep the faith,

† – Least famous presenter of Blankety Blank, but only one not dead.

‡ – Elton wrote a book about infertility.

5 minutes with…. Kevin Davies Part 1

This week I was given the fantastic opportunity via 888sport.com to pose some questions to former Saints striker Kevin Davies.

Davies had two spells at the club sandwiching a big money move to Blackburn Rovers and can perhaps be credited for changing his style of play completely to earn him greater success as he matured.

From ‘that’ goal against Everton to cup final disappointment and what he makes of the van Dijk ‘situation’, Kevin gave us a frank and honest take on the club.

Kevin Davies, spoke exclusively to 888sport.

What do you expect to see from Saints next season, can they compete for a top eight place again for example?

KD ‘There needs to be more signings and it will be interesting to see what happens between now and the end of the transfer window and particularly whether Van Dijk goes and if they have the timescale to reinvest that money. I covered their games for BT last year and yes there was some fans a bit disgruntled with the style of play but I think when you play that many games in Europe, get to a cup final – which they were unlucky to lose – and finish in the top eight that’s a really good season.

You look at the sides above them and it’s going to be difficult to compete with them but they’ve got a really good manager in Pellegrino and they may well play a more attacking style of football now because he always wants his teams to play the right way.”

The fans need to believe in Les Reed and the model they have created down there. I’m a big fan of what they do where they plan for the future. You may question their ambition a little bit and want them to keep their better players but they have the model in place to be ahead of the game whether that is finding the right playing staff or managers. When you look at where they were seven or eight years ago and now they’re going to be in or around that cluster of top eight teams like West Brom, Stoke and Leicester. There is no danger of relegation and they will finish mid-table at least I think.’

Their biggest flaw last season was the lack of goals, how does Pellegrino bring back that spark up front?

KD ‘They’ve got enough options there. We saw flashes of what Gabbiadini is capable of and though he has never been prolific at previous clubs in Italy he looks a real fox in the box. All the strikers have different attributes with the likes of Shane Long and Charlie Austin. Both missed a lot of last season through injury but they’re different kinds of strikers who can cause different kinds of problems for defenders. There is Redmond in there as well so it comes down to the manager and what he sees in pre-season. Whether he plays three up or one or the old-fashioned 4-4-2 there are plenty of attacking options and it’s about settling on a system that clicks. There will be less rotation which is good because the best players want to player every week and that leads to frustration. Shane Long only made ten starts last season so there is frustration there but what that gives a manager is a clean slate. They will all be eager to impress and make that starting line-up and stay there.’

Read the full 888sport interview with Kevin Davies, including his thoughts on where Southampton will finish this season. 

What is your view on the Virgil van Dijk situation?

KD ‘It just seems unsavoury. Clearly the player wants to go and Southampton are taking a stance which they have every right to do as he signed a new contract not so long ago. It needs to be resolved sooner rather later though because it looks inevitable that they’re going to sell him at some point. The club has done really well in the past bringing in players at the right time then selling them on but I know there are a lot of fans – including former players like Matt le Tissier – who would like those players to stay. That is so difficult when the big clubs come calling and maybe it’s the right move to sell him if they triple their money on him. With the model they have at Southampton they will have been planning this for months, years, and will know how best to reinvest that money.’

More to follow…..

 

Thanks to Kevin and 888sport.

Read the full 888sport interview with Kevin Davies, including his thoughts on where Southampton will finish this season.

Chris

We know what you did this Summer….

As usual Saints have entered the close season in their usual, quiet understated fashion.

When I was a kid there used to be ‘i-spy’ books. There were numerous subjects, ‘At the Seaside’ for example. The end goal being that you could take the kids on trips to the beach and they could take in some free Summer education in the handy form of checking things off a list in a book and trying to complete it (or translated, piss off and find things and stop bothering you while you crack into Bravo Two Zero and a serious case of sunburn). For instance, if you see a rockpool, tick it off, a starfish tick it off? A nice idea.

I wonder if Saints fans of a similar age to me would be thinking it would be nice if they release a ‘Southampton FC Summer’ version of this book to give to their kids.

The main flaw being that they would have completed the f*%king thing now and it’s only June 10th.

Key players linked to other clubs – Tick it off.

Managerial upheaval – Tick it off.

Star Player having social media sulk – Tick it off.

Liverpool – Tick it off.

Takeover rumours – Tick it off.

Let’s face it, it isn’t going to last the Summer Holidays.

So what do Saints do next? That’s the million dollar question. In fact that’s the billion dollar question. A million dollars is pocket change in football today.

If the stories coming out about Van Dijk meeting Jurgen Klopp are true, then the player, his agent, Klopp and Liverpool FC have behaved abysmally. We might expect that from the latter three but it is a very disappointing chain of events from our captain. All this was taking place while he was in rehabilitation from his injury, and while he chose not to attend the end of season awards. I’ve heard of bored housewives flirting with other men, but bored centre halves with other clubs?

Take me with you Adam…

Perhaps the armband is a curse. Predecessors Lallana and Fonte tarnished their status in Saints folklore by the way they behaved in forcing exits from the club, and the club’s perhaps over easy stance on that is a contributory factor in Virgil thinking he can do the same. This might explain the ‘enough is enough’ comments and the Premier League complaint.

The whole situation stinks and nobody comes out of it smelling like roses. What the club does next is key in maintaining any respect. If they still end up selling to Liverpool (even at the rumoured £75 million asking price) it would look weak, but if they were the only bidder perhaps understandable. If someone else now bids that then I would suggest accepting it and moving on.

So who should be the new Captain? There are many worthy candidates. Steven Davis? Oriol Romeu? Would be no complaints from me if either of these men got it, but in the spirit of election season let me put forward another name…. Maya Yoshida.

Maya’s performances last season were fantastic in VVD’s absence. He appears to be one player who is perfectly content with his life at St. Mary’s and he probably isn’t going to be having his head turned by bigger clubs anytime soon.

And what for our old friend Claude Puel? I’m of the opinion that he already knows his time is up and is playing ball regarding staying quiet about it as part of his compensation package. I’m sure once a successor is finalised we will be able to say adieu to one of the unluckiest managers in Premier League history. Don’t get me wrong, although I defended Claude for a long time I do think it is right that he moves on, the run in to the season was a frustrating watch, the football was dire and my hunch is that many of the players had lost interest in playing for him.

Who will be the new man in the hottest seat in football? Who knows? I’m desperately trying to not get my hopes up that it could be Thomas Tuchel but PLEASE LET IT BE THOMAS TUCHEL. That would represent a massive coup for the club and if we can couple that with not selling half our team we might even come out of this Summer with relatively positive attitudes?

Are you our new dad?

As for the takeover of the club by Chinese company Lander’s Sports, your guess is as good as mine as to what is going on. Reports in China say it is completed, reports in the UK say it isn’t, but there is a time difference, so you know?

Let’s face it nobody knows anything about them, so inevitably the first year will be a time of uncertainty. The Liebherr administration has insisted that the day to day running of the club won’t change and that is a deal breaker, we’ve no reason not to trust them on that. Changes in ownership can see fantastic improvements in some cases (Chelsea, Saints, Man City etc.) but also often come with disastrous consequences (Hull, Leyton Orient, Pompey etc.) It’s a gamble and one we can do little about.

As always we have to take a breath at this time of year and remind ourselves that players, managers, directors and owners are and always have been temporary. We (the fans) are Southampton Football Club. We are permanent.

Keep the faith.

 

The Saints Agenda…

Good morning/afternoon/evening wherever you may be readers! Yet again I’ve left it far too long to give some opinion on this site, and arrogantly it feels like I am denying you all my wisdom.

To that end I thought I would put together a list of discussion points of all things that have happened in the never dull world of Saints over the last few weeks and try and sum up how I’ve felt about it all.

Wembley

I’m not sure anything more really needs to be said, but what a day it was.

The whole thing felt a little surreal, from catching up with friends from all corners of the globe to entering the stadium itself. I’m not sure it ever felt ‘real’. Saints were superb in every aspect, from the cacophony of noise made by the supporters to the effort, desire and impetus of the players on the pitch. We didn’t win, but we deserved too, and in the most simplistic of terms, a player as good as Zlatan Ibrahimovic really can make the difference. Our players left everything on that pitch, and while the result wasn’t reflective of the standard of the two teams, every Saints fan, whether they were in Wembley or glued to their television sets in whichever country they reside was immensely proud of our club. There will be more finals for us.

Let’s not even talk about the ‘offside’ goal.

‘Barry’ Manolo Gabbiadini

I think I love him.

What an impact. Credit to the Saints team behind the scenes again. On the face of it, Gabbiadini was a striker with not a particularly amazing goal record in Italy, but he has been exactly what we needed. His movement in and around the box is superb, and if there has been something we have been lacking with the absence of Charlie Austin it is a front man with one focus. Score. Of course, he won’t be able to keep up this fantastic run for long, but his instinct in the box suggests he can end the season with a decent return.

Caceres/Boufal

Something that really bugged me this week. The U23’s played a home game against Chelsea and Saints fans generally over reacted about two players for two very different reasons.

A strong lineup included the first appearance of Martin Caceres and a run out for Sofiane Boufal.

Caceres acquitted himself well, and immediately there were calls for him to go into the first team. Boufal on the other hand didn’t have the best of games and looked to have a little temper tantrum, this was followed by suggestions that he isn’t good enough and should be moved on. Ridiculous. On both counts.

It was a reserve game. Let Caceres settle in, when he’s ready, he’ll play, and I’ve seen enough of Boufal to know he has a special talent and we’d be foolish to get rid of him. I’m not a fan of these games being televised to be honest, it provokes unnecessary discussion. Let’s not make Boufal the new scapegoat. You were wrong about both Wanyama and Mane.

Formation Change

And not a moment too soon….

I don’t know if it was the arrival of Gabbiadini or just experimenting on Puel’s part but the team seemed to slip back into 4-2-3-1 ridiculously easily and the suggestion that Saints are ‘boring’ is long behind us.

Nathan Redmond

I was desperate for us to sign Redmond in the Summer so it’s been frustrating to see so many get on his back  as the season has progressed. I’m not sure Puel’s comments comparing him to Thierry Henry did him any favours and it looked like he might be a flash in the pan.

But. If anyone has benefited from the formation change more than anyone else it is him. He has been fantastic in the last three games. He’s a winger and reverting him to that role is paying dividends. He is such a dangerous outlet on the break. Long may it continue.

Claude Puel

“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid”

A little tribute to the boss. Monsieur Puel.

Yes, he isn’t particularly animated in interviews. Yes, he might have rotated a bit too much. But.

Taking over at Saints is never an easy job. Another Summer of upheaval and with the added pressures of the Europa League group stages, Puel never really had the chance to settle in. He’s had injuries to his main striker, his best defender and let’s just call it ‘The Fonte situation’ thrust upon him and you know what? He’s done alright.

He took us to a cup final. We’re pushing for a top 10 league finish. Again. He’s used the Academy. As first seasons go, he shouldn’t be mis-judged on this one.

In the first real period with breaks where he has been able to experiment with the tactics and keep a settled side, we’ve been superb. Perhaps not as good defensively as we would like but with a makeshift central partnership it could have been a lot worse.

Chinese Investment?

If the media in the far East is to be believed Landers Sports have invested in the club. Who knows what to make of that?

Personally I prefer investment to takeovers. The Liebherr administration has been nothing but positive in my view, so there control is comfortable for me. If this investment means there is more money in the pot then great.

Any Other Business

I just wanted to send some love the way of our podcasters! For a long time Saints were starved of any podcasts. I had a go myself and I know how time consuming and difficult it is so I’m grateful to two that have come to the fore of late.

First of all there is the Southampton Dellivery run by Matt in California which I’ve enjoyed and will be a guest with soon and also the Saints FC Podcast who have had some fascinating interviews with ex players of late!

So that’s all from me again for a while! What a time to be a Saint!

Chris

Keep the faith.

Play at St. Mary’s alongside a Saints Legend!

Play at St Mary’s with Saints legends!

Matt Le Tissier, Jason Dodd, Francis Benali and Brett Ormerod will be lacing up their boots once again to take to the St Mary’s pitch for a one-off four team tournament, and you could be playing alongside them!

Play With A Legend, the events company which brings you closer to your footballing heroes, is running the event for the second year at St Mary’s. The organisation was co-founded by Perry Groves, best known for his time at Arsenal (and Saints too of course!), who wanted to give fans the chance to play on pitch with their favourite ex-players.

Check out how one amateur player got on at a similar event at Selhurt Park last year – think you can do better!?

The four team tournament will take place on 22nd May from 6pm, on the pitch at St. Mary’s where you can get either 45 or 90 minutes of action, plus your own personalised kit, enjoy post-match drinks with the legends and have your photo taken. Friends and family are invited to purchase audience tickets to cheer you on from the stands too.

Find out more and book here

Is there a lack of ambition at Saints?

Yet again I find myself apologising for a lack of posts of late, but I am currently working on a very exciting Saints related project and that is occupying my spare time.

Anyway, of late it seems that there are somewhat of a split amongst Saints fans, and the use of certain buzz words to describe each faction is commonplace in the corner of the internet that is associated with the club.

You’ve all heard them, ‘happy clapper’, used to describe someone who looks to the positive aspects of everything and ‘bed wetter’ aimed at those whose Saints mug from the club shop is permanently half empty.

Personally, I like to think I am in the middle, and am willing to see both sides of the coin, the trappings of which mean I have had both titles aimed at me.

I’ve debated with plenty on twitter about whether the club is being run well or not and there are many who have a different point of view to mine. A lot of them are incapable of having that debate without resorting to personal insults or aggressive posturing. In James George though I find that although we often (pretty much always) have an opposing take on things happening at St. Mary’s we are able to discuss it like adults. That’s why I invited him to put his thoughts online, and to each of his points I will make a retort, hopefully leading to us covering most bases and giving alternative views.

Over to you James….

JG  There is no doubt that since Markus Liebherr saved Saints in 2009, we have all been on an amazing journey. With the ambitious Nicola Cortese at the helm the 5 year plan to get to the Premier League was achieved in just 3 seasons! Yes Cortese had his faults and also some random ideas. (Banning the press, getting rid of the red and white stripes and sacking Nigel Adkins being just a few.) but he was the driving force behind the scenes. My inside information tells me Cortese had no control over the club’s finances and the signings of Ramirez and Osvaldo were two of the least successful over the last few years, but you could never doubt his ambition and his determination to get the club to as high as it could possibly go.’

CR ‘This is where we no doubt agree, although I’m not sure Cortese was the only reason the club was succeeding. Astute managerial appointments and transfer window moves that would have been committee based decisions (let’s not forget this was Cortese’s first ever role in football).

JG ‘Cortese obviously wanted full control of the club and when Markus passed away and Katarina took over, she was no longer willing to let him run wild. Whilst she obviously wanted to continue her Father’s legacy she also wasn’t willing to let Cortese have an open cheque book. Cortese left but the structure he had built lived on and the club has somehow continued to improve every season.

CR ‘I think the clash came because the Liebherr family wanted the club to be sustainable and Cortese wanted to borrow to push the club has hard as he could to success. So many clubs have gone belly up because of trying to be too much too soon, personally I can see why there was an air of caution. Somehow? It isn’t a coincidence, continued progression is down to the meticulous nature behind the scenes.’

JG ‘Cortese was a stubborn man and would never be pushed around by anyone, least of all the players and agents. He sold Oxlade-Chamberlain but it was for a good fee and there was no way of keeping a player of his quality whilst we were still in the lower leagues. But there was no way he would of allowed the club to sell so many of it’s best players over the last 3 years.’

CR ‘Arguably he was pushed around by Chamberlain’s father, and in modern terms £12 million for AOC doesn’t come across as a fantastic deal on Saints part. It’s easy to say he wouldn’t have let players leave, but actually we didn’t see him really tested.’

JG ‘In 2014 Ralph Krueger was installed as Chairman. An Ice Hockey coach who thought football involved wearing a helmet and the quarter back was the main man. I still remember his big speech in May 2014 when we made big claims that we were not a selling club and we would not be selling our best players.’

CR ‘Pure conjecture on your part there James, with regards to Ralph Krueger’s opinions on football. Some might say that he was more qualified than Cortese, given that he was from a sporting background. I agree on the ‘selling club’ speech, it was unwise, Saints have always been so and it is difficult to escape it.’

JG ‘Pochettino who replaced Adkins in bizarre circumstances was an amazing appointment by Cortese and was obviously destined for the top of the game. The players obviously respected him and letting him go to Tottenham was obviously a bad move.’

CR ‘It was an amazing appointment, though none of us thought it at the time. I take exception to the statement that he was obviously destined for the top of the game. That sounds like hindsight talking. None of us knew who he was, and he was just off the back of almost getting Espanyol relegated!’

JG ‘Since then we have sold every single one of our best players.’

CR ‘This is nothing new where Saints are concerned. It happened long before the Liebherr administration was involved. With the exception of Le Tiss, anyone who has ever played for us that you would consider top quality has moved on to bigger clubs for more money. It seems more prevalent now because, due to the success of the Liebherr era and the work behind the scenes, we have a higher percentage of great players!’

JG ‘That summer Lallana, Lovren, Chambers, Lambert, Shaw and even the mighty Guly all left. Yes, we got decent money for them but it was selling all of these players that has set a precedent for years to come. Morgan Schneiderlin wanted out. He had seen all of his friends move on to bigger clubs for more wages and so why would he and others want to stay?’

CR ‘It’s always difficult to take a spate of top players leaving, I agree, but let’s be pragmatic. Of that list, which of them starts for Saints now? It doesn’t take long. Lallana. Finished. I’m not saying they aren’t good players, I’m saying that the club has done a good job of recruiting when it let’s players go (don’t mention centre halves though at the moment) and actually improving the squad.’

JG ‘Then Southampton made a genius appointment. Ronald Koeman! One of the greatest players ever to have played the game walks through the door. Half the team had been sold and we were tipped for relegation. There’s no doubt the club had a great scouting network and bought some real gems. Under Koeman the club managed to improve once more but once again big name players left that summer.’

CR ‘Let’s be clear on something here. Koeman didn’t walk through the door of his own accord. He was offered the job after a recruitment drive and spell of due diligence by Les Reed and the board. The same people that are vilified for letting people go, are the same people who make these great managerial appointments and sign these players in the first place.’

JG ‘Koeman once again worked his magic and even with a dreadful run through November and December we managed to get our highest ever Premier League finish, sixth, only 3 points from qualifying for the Champions League. Yet again though the board let an amazing manager leave and more of our top players go that Summer! You can start seeing a pattern here.’

CR ‘It’s a long warn out argument, but Koeman left because he thought he could hold the board to ransom. He did a fantastic job for us, but when it came down to it, in modern football money talks, and a man who had talked of the Dutch national team and Barcelona ended up going to Everton, a club who have a very similar glass ceiling to us.’

JG ‘It seems as if the club is now only being run so that we maintain out Premier League status and the value of the club goes up. Very much like Newcastle. We only buy players with player sales and the hundreds of millions earned from TV money seems to be going in the owners back pocket. We fall in love with a player and the next summer they leave. The club claims it doesn’t want to buy too many players so we don’t block a route to first team football for youth players, but its seems they just want to play youth players to sell them on for a bigger profit. It just doesn’t feel as if the owners want the club to win so the fans can enjoy success. They just want us to win so the players value go up and we can sell them for more profit.’

CR ‘Where to start with this! I don’t think we are anything like Newcastle. They have a huge fanbase and still get it so wrong in terms of Managerial appointments and player recruitment. In fact we are the anti-Newcastle, punching well above our weight, while they play the roll of the well supported journeyman who occasionally gets put on his arse! I’m not sure there is any evidence that the owners are pocketing any money, in fact I’m pretty sure (but prepared to be corrected) that the club owes them money based on the last accounts? I’m not sure if the club is playing moneyball or if we are just victims of our own success but yes it is frustrating to see the top players leave. It is always to clubs with bigger resources than us though, and until we can compete with them on the pitch and in terms of numbers through the turnstiles I’m not sure how this could ever change. Player power is paramount.

JG ‘We are just a stepping stone for players now. They aren’t coming to the club to win things. Players are coming to the club to get first team football and get a bigger move. We had a group of players and a scouting network which had the potential to challenge and possibly win the league. But that opportunity was lost and now any player who is half decent is going to want to leave.’

CR ‘I’m afraid we always were. This says more about the attitudes of the modern player than it does the club for me. If the potential to win the league was there why didn’t they all stay and try and achieve it? If we win on the 26th February there will be a delicious irony that Steven Davis will have won a trophy before pretty much all of those that have left in recent years.’

JG ‘I will always support my club and the journey from League One was the best years of football in my lifetime, but I’m not sure when I will allow myself to fall in love with a Saints player again. I just know they will only break my heart and leave. I personally feel new owners are a must. Owners with the ambition of Cortese could take this club to the next step. Yes, I know we were in League One and Le Tissier single handedly kept us in the Premier League for years, but even now we have the potential to be something greater. We have potentially the best centre half in the world, a great left back and few other decent players too. There are some very good youth players and we have proven we can sign top class talent. So lets not sell everyone again this summer. Lets keep what we have and invest in top talent.’

CR ‘Glad to hear it! My tip is don’t fall in love with any player, they are in the main money motivated individuals, even if we won the league they would still be interested in doubling their wages at Man City. With regards to new owners, the interest from China is certainly intriguing, but be careful what you wish for. In terms of foreign ownership we hit the jackpot with Markus Liebherr. There are plenty of fans protesting against the way their clubs are being run due to numerous balmy initiatives taken by their foreign owners. 

JG ‘Why not aim for the sky and see where we finish, rather then just being happy with little old Saints.’

 CR ‘Amen brother. The main difference between me and you is, I think this is what the club is doing and so far so good! See you at Wembley!’

At the end of the day, we are all Saints fans, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Has this season been as exciting as previous ones in league terms, perhaps not, but we do have a cup final coming up! There is too much emphasis on ‘progress’ for me. Personally I would rather finish 15th this season and win that final than lose it and finish 6th, but each to their own.

Thanks a lot to James for sparing the time to put his thoughts across.

Keep the faith.

Chris