We love a Moroccan on the South Coast, so it was with some excitement that the news Saints were close to sealing the signing of Sofiane Boufal from Lille was met.
Boufal is some talent, and was linked with moves to Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Barcelona this Summer!
A Moroccan playmaker is just what we need, and the news took me back to watching Hassan Kachloul in a Saints shirt. Kachloul was one of my favourite players (in fact he made it into my Saints Premier League Dream Team) and in my opinion was vastly underrated by other fans. A maverick certainly, and hideous dress sense (leather trousers on Soccer AM and strange suede jacket on Cowes High Street while enjoying the international sailing regatta with countryman Mustapha Hadji), Kachloul was a creative player who could turn a game and made a huge contribution to the Saints team that finished 8th in the Premier League in 1999.
Kachloul wasn’t our only previous Moroccan though, Youssef Safri did an admirable job as a defensive midfielder in the Championship survival season that went to the wire in 2008….
…and who could forget centre half Tahar El Khalej (affectionately known as El Carnage by some fans), the man who kept Keiron Dyer (no loss) out of the 2002 world cup after a horror tackle on the final day of that Premier League Season.
We will all be hoping that Boufal has more of a Kachloul level of impact than a Tahar, and the signs are all there that he will surpass that of all his compatriots.
It’s been a month since I brought you part one so it was about time I stopped being lazy and rounded up the rest of Saints’ Summer. It seems unreal to me that the Football League have started and we are just days away from the Premier League opener, but here we are.
Arrivederci Graziano Pelle. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of massive clubs coming along and taking our players, but at this stage in his career could anyone deny him a move to Shandong Lueng?
Let’s face it, never has a transfer been more about money, but it leaves Saints with a serious concern about goals. With the exit’s of both Pelle and Mane we’ve lost our two top scorers, and the majority of our assists, and that is making people nervous.
There have been no other notable outgoings in the last month, and the only real concern at the moment is the future of Jose Fonte. Let’s not talk about it and hopefully the nasty rumours will go away. I bet they don’t, and I’m prepared for the worst.
Despite the ongoing annual meltdown, Claude Puel’s team have gone through the entire pre-season fixtures unbeaten. Four wins and one draw, conceding just two goals the signs are good that the players are fitting into the style that Puel wants.
Results in pre-season rarely mean anything though, and there is still room for improvement. Saints have been blessed with a good home opener against Watford and it will be interesting to see how they start.
In Part One I suggested that the club still needed to invest in another defensive midfielder, a goalkeeper and a strike/winger.
Since then we’ve seen three arrivals in the form of ‘box to box’ midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and utility man Jeremy Pied.
The acquisition of Højbjerg is particularly exciting, and many people have suggested that he is one of the players with the highest potential in Europe and this move is somewhat of a coup.
Alex McCarthy is a keeper who has somewhat lost his way since being so highly rated at Reading. Frustrating spells at QPR and Crystal Palace means he will feel he has something to prove and should provide decent backup for Fraser Forster.
In Pied we have a player that we don’t know much about, but Claude Puel knows him and it looks like he can be used in several positions.
Much to my disappointment the paper stories linking us to Bastian Schweinsteiger did not come to pass.
We still need another attacking option. Be it a ‘Number 10’ or a striker, it is plain to see. There are still a couple of weeks of the transfer window left and it will be mildly disappointing if we have finished our business.
Obviously we will be waiting with baited breath over news of new contracts for Cedric, Dusan Tadic and particularly Jose Fonte. A departure for Fonte could be a devastating end to the Summer.
The key is not to worry about anything negative until it actually happens. Focus on Saturday and the start of the season.
A mixed Southampton squad of established first team players and fringe players from the youth setup jetted out to Maryland, Baltimore this past week for the club’s first ever pre-season trip to the US.
Tying in nicely with the launch of the club’s new kit, developed by Maryland based brand Under Armour, it has been no secret that Saints are looking to expand their boundaries.
It was a great opportunity for the Southampton fans across the Atlantic to get a rare access to the players, as Claude Puel run the rule over his squad for the first time. Saints ran out 2-0 winners over DC United u23’s, travelled the sites of Washington DC during their stay, but perhaps most importantly hosted an open training session for the supporters. Bill Adlin, was one of the fans in attendance and he gave us this feedback.
‘Oh when the Saints came marching in to the University of Maryland’s Ludwig Field on Thursday, July 14 the fans couldn’t have been happier. The players seemed to have a great time as well!
During the preseason, Southampton FC travelled to Baltimore, Maryland both in order to train and to meet their new partners, Under Armour. On Thursday the Saints travelled to the University of Maryland for a training session. Fans were invited to watch the session and to meet and greet the players after.
Fans got to witness a variety of drills on a blazing hot 98 degree day. Corner kicks, possession drills and free kicks were among the skills that were practised. They even played a game that looked like keep away…with their hands. The crowd said “ooooohhhhhh” when one Saint was gated during a spectacular move on goal. We won’t name him here!
Fans were treated to a free Under Armour drawstring bag, complete with Southampton logo emblazoned on it, a very generous gesture by Southampton and Under Armour.
After practice Saints fans formed a line and all players and coaches signed autographs, shook hands and took pictures with them. They couldn’t have been more gracious. Virgil Van Dyk and Dusan Tadic were among the favourites as were newcomers Nathan Redmond and last season transfer Charlie Austin. Even new coach Claude Puel got in on the action. Kelvin Davis, recently retired goalkeeper and new addition to the coaching staff graciously emerged from the bus after practice to greet a fan that missed him the first time through.
It was a brilliant event. Thanks for Southampton and Under Armour for making it happen. Good luck this season! We’ll be pulling for you from across the pond.’
Thanks to Bill for reporting back! Sounds like everyone had a great time!
Last night was the first time I had a vested interest in who won a major international final.
Portugal lined up with both of their Saints, Cedric and Jose Fonte. I’m that kind of person. If there are Saints in the team then I want them to win, and though the likes of Pepe and Ronaldo promote ill feeling amongst many football fans the love I have for our players and in particular our captain outweighs any dislike I have for anyone else.
I found myself bickering on twitter the other day with someone who took exception to somebody else referring to Jose Fonte as a ‘Southampton Legend’. Their argument was that he isn’t as worthy of that title as the likes of Peter Shilton amongst others. Isn’t he?
Jose Fonte made a drop in division to join Saints in League One, and although we were clearly a club rejuvenated, that kind of move represents a risk no matter what the circumstances.
Fonte was part of the team that won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in his first season and followed it with promotion from League One in the following year.
En route to that promotion it was Fonte that struck a dramatic winner at the Withdean at the death and showed his passion for the club, sparking wild celebrations at the Saints end.
Fonte by this point was a stalwart in the centre of Saints defence and carried on his superb form in conjunction with a second successive promotion and the Premier League beckoned, Fonte again finding the vital touch in the final game against Coventry to seal their destiny.
Many Saints fans (myself included) questioned whether Jose might be one of the players to make way as the squad was strengthened for the top flight, but luckily Saints procession of manager saw otherwise.
Fonte stayed as the constant amongst a plethora of variables. Dejan Lovren and Toby Alderweireld both benefited from his partnership, perhaps taking the credit for some of Fonte’s work as they got ‘big’ moves away, while Jose quietly and consistently got on with his job.
As each season has passed since we got back to the promised land, it has become somewhat of a Southampton tradition to lose a glut of our key players and rebuild, but always there, at the heart of it all is still our constant.
Taking the captain’s armband from one of the many ingrates who walked, Jose Fonte has led us into the Europa League twice, overseen a cacophony of records broken and forced is way into the Portuguese national setup.
While those that have left for ‘ambition’ or to win trophies were sitting with their feet up watching it unfold on the television, Jose Fonte was playing out a clean sheet for his team and being crowned a Euro 2016 champion.
Only in 2012, I was working on a sporting event in Porto and one of the guests was former Portugal player, and now Sporting Director Joao Pinto. I asked him if he had taken a look at Fonte of Southampton. He said he’d never heard of him. He has now.
Fonte’s rise in such a short space of time has been remarkable and is parallel with our own as a club. He’s grown with us and shown that you don’t have to leave to achieve your goals.
Jose Fonte has been a consistent positive since he arrived at St. Mary’s. He’s more than just our captain. He’s our constant, and he is a legend.
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.
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*.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t you just love a nice quiet Southampton Summer?
I’ve not been around for a while, so let me just give you a quick update on what’s happened. Manager has gone, majority of the coaching staff have gone. Juanmi has gone (but no one really noticed), Victor has finally found his way to Spurs and Sadio has left for the great ex-Southampton player career cemetery on Merseyside.
I shall take this opportunity to say the following to those who have left and to any more who may do so in the coming weeks. Ta da.
Amongst the annual meltdown though there was some positive news. Having long been an admirer of the player, I was personally delighted to see Saints bring in Nathan Redmond.
Recruiting a young, English talent seems like a revert to type move for the club, and perhaps one that wouldn’t have happened with the Dutch Asshat at the helm? Either way I think this is an exciting transfer. Fresh from success at the Toulon tournament alongside James Ward-Prowse, Matty Targett and Jack Stephens, it feels like we have brought in a player who is both ready now, but with the potential to be even better.
Can you give me a brief overview of Redmond’s Strengths and Weaknesses?
GG‘First up, I’ll be sad to lose him but there are some City fans who’ll be offering to drive him to Southampton. He divides opinion, no question.
His strengths are obvious: tricky, skillful, quick, an eye for goal and when ‘on it’ he can be the proverbial match-winner. He has appeared on both flanks for City and, occasionally, as the ‘number 10′ but invariably he ends up back on the right wing where he is at his best. His ability to cut in from then left flank on to his right foot has yielded a goal or two but has been more of a threat to anyone sitting in row Z. His chance at ’10’ have been limited mainly due to the fact he was competing with Wes (Hoolahan) for that position but I’ve often wondered if further down the line it’s somewhere he could be effective.
But, and it’s a sizeable but, he can (and possibly will) frustrate for England. He can also infuriate and enrage. In archetypal winger fashion he can go from hero to zero in a flash, and if it’s a wide-man who offers good protection to a full-back he’s definitely not your man. His greatest asset, which is running at defenders and beating them, is something he uses sparingly and all too often he takes the easy option of going sideways or backwards, and he’s exasperated many with his half-hearted approach to his defensive duties and back-tracking.
Yet, in my opinion, he’ll be badly missed at City. We’re not overly blessed with creativity and he was one of the few who has invention in his armoury. We were a better side with him in it – that’s the bottom line.’
What would you consider being his best position? Can he play other roles?
GG ‘Have mainly covered this above. He’s at his best when being utilised as an out-and-out right winger in the traditional mould but is skillful and clever enough to have an impact both at ‘number 10′ and wide on the left.’
He had a great Toulon tournament, and Saints fans are hoping this is a sign that we will be moving back to utilising young British talent. How much potential does he have?
GG ‘He does have potential to improve but he had that exact same potential when he joined us from Birmingham. It’s fair to say he hasn’t progressed at the rate that we – and most pundits – expected and it’s hard to discuss him without tripping over ‘stagnate’. A new challenge is probably what he needs and surrounded by players of higher quality may well be what’s needed to unlock said ‘potential’.’
Do you see him as a future full international?
GG ‘No, not really – it’s almost impossible to imagine him getting into the full squad as things stand. But, as mentioned above, a new challenge and some new faces around him may be just be what’s needed to take him to the next level. Stranger things…’
As an outsider, how do you see Saints coping with (as expected) yet another big Summer?
GG ‘You’ll be fine, I’m convinced of it. A summer upheaval seems to be the norm for you guys, yet every season you bounce back regardless of having to embed new personnel both on and off the pitch. The ‘Southampton way’ is so well ingrained, providing the club keeps faith in its ability to recruit within those parameters it’s almost a given you’ll continue your charge as being the best of the rest.
I hope so anyway… seeing the Saints succeed offers hope for the rest of us.’
Thanks to Gary for his time, and here’s to another fun filled transfer window!
Now the season is officially over, and the frustrating rumour mill has already started turning with regards to the future of our players and manager, many will be waiting in anticipation for the reveal of the new Saints kit for next season, especially as it will be the first manufactured by Under Armour. But what have been the best Saints kits over the years?
‘This simple late 90s club designed shirt was famous for closing the final two seasons at the Dell where the club had played since 1898. With subtle touches including special ‘The Dell 1898-2001′ embroidery and a suitably 90s collar this design provides a stylish end to the decade.’
9. 2006-07 Away Shirt
‘Stylish black number (first ever all largely black away shirt) famous for when a fresh-faced Gareth Bale broke into the Southampton side at the tender age of 16. With some eye-catching performances from the young Welshman the side reached the Championship Play-Off Semi-Finals in ’07. With the classy red and gold Bale #22 Football League printing, this shirt has become something of a collectors piece over the years.’
8. 2013-14 Home Shirt
‘Adidas debuted their first Saints shirt with this controversial all red number in 2013. The design followed on from the 2012 home shirt which was the first all red design (barring some white pinstripes) since the 1985 Patrick design. Despite the calls of many fans who asked ‘where are our stripes’, added gold detail to the badges and sponsor make this one of the classiest designs in recent years.’
7. 2001-03 Home Shirt
‘Simple design club-produced home shirt which welcomed in a new era for the side at St Mary’s when James Beattie fought Henry and van Nistelrooy for the golden boot after bagging 23 Premier League goals. The design however is most famously remembered for being worn the day the side said goodbye to the Dell when legendary midfielder Le Tissier scored a late minute volley to secure a stunning 3-2 win against champions elect Arsenal. It doesn’t get more classic than that.’
6. 1995-97 Home Shirt
‘This mid-90s number was far more straightforward than its Pony predecessor, with a classic simple stripe design and a retro collar. Matters were anything but straightforward on the pitch when amateur footballer Ali Dia convinced then-manager Graeme Souness that he was George Weah’s cousin which led to him signing a one month contract. After making just one appearance for the side in this shirt, he was released. Le Tissier later commented, “He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very embarrassing to watch”.’
So there we have it, a nice selection of strips with some great memories attached, but what will make the top 5? Find out soon….
Check out some classic Southampton shirts here bit.ly/1NGtSxI and tell us which is your favourite?
Yet again, the voting response to these awards was fantastic, it genuinely surprises me every time, and grows every year!
This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-
So without further ado, here are YOUR winners….
Player of the Year
This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.
Scored points:- Lee Todd (<1%), Steven Caulker (<1%), Some Scummer (<1%), Cuco Martina (<1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jordy Clasie (<1%), Cedric (<1%), Graziano Pelle (<1%), Jose Fonte (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Fraser Forster(2%), Steven Davis (6%).
3rd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (8%)
2nd Place:- Shane Long (32%)
And the winner is……with a huge 44% of the points, after a stand out season at centre half……
Most Improved Player
Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Steven Davis (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Alfie Jones (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Jordy Clasie (2%), Ryan Bertrand (2%).
3rd Place:- Matt Targett (11%)
2nd Place:- Cuco Martina (17%)
And the winner is…..in any other season he would have been ‘player of the year’…..
Young Player of the Year
Received Votes:- Lloyd Isgrove (1%), Josh Simms (1%), Jake Hesketh (1%), Jason McCarthy (1%), Jake Vokins (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Kelvin Davis (2%), Sadio Mane (2%), Olufela Olomola (2%), No One (3%).
3rd Place:- Alfie Jones (5%)
2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (15%)
And the winner is…..
Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Maya Yoshida (1%), Jordy Clasie (1%), Graziano Pelle (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Dr. Barry Gale (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Shane Long (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Sammy Lee (2%), Jose Fonte (5%), Cuco Martina (5%).
3rd Place:- Oriol Romeu (10%)
2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (16%)
And the winner is….
Signing of the Season
Received Votes:- Juanmi (1%), Steven Caulker (1%), Cuco Martina (1%), Kenzie Benali (1%), Some Scummer (1%).
Joint 2nd:- Oriol Romeu & Charlie Austin (2%)
And the winner is….
Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)
Received Votes:- Virgil van Dijk (1%), Shane Long (1%), Mane v Chelsea A (1%), Pelle v Chelsea A (1%), Susan Tadic? (1%), Team v Man Utd A (1%), Wanyama v Arsenal H (1%), Wanyama v Liverpool H (2%), Team v Spurs A (2%), Mane v Liverpool H (3%), Long v Arsenal H (3%), Davis v Spurs A (3%), Tadic v Man City H (4%), Team v Man City H (5%), Team v Chelsea A (6%).
3rd Place:- Forster v Arsenal A (10%)
2nd Place:- Team v Arsenal H (27%)
And the winner is……Team Performance/Comeback v Liverpool H.
Goal of the Season
Joint 2nd:- Ward-Prowse v WBA (1%), Mane v Liverpool (1%), Long v Newcastle (1%), Pelle v Liverpool (1%).
Received Votes:- In the Box Jay Rod & k Davis (<1%), Yoshida’s Backpass (<1%), Pochettino chants at WHL (<1%), Spurs Title Bid (<1%), Koeman Out campaign (<1%), Lovren bottlejob/subbed at HT (<1%), Wanker Spurs fan in blue at WHL (<1%), Austin sinking United (<1%), Davis 5mph goals at WHL (<1%), Liverpool fans after comeback (<1%), Antonio’s goal (<1%), K Davis flicking the security man’s balls (<1%), Lovren’s twitter sulk (<1%), Ronald’s injury (<1%), Long getting away with a foul in build up to goal v Arsenal (<1%), Any video with Maya (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Cuco clearance v Man City (<1%), Camera shots of Angry Juanmi (<1%), Lallana Pen miss (<1%), Kid in crowd caught doing the v’s (<1%), Wanyama dummying three players by falling over (<1%), Cedric always bleeding (<1%), Brendan Rodgers fired (<1%), Juanmi (<1%), Wanyama’s red card (<1%), Adam Blackmore commentary on JWP goal (<1%), Sunderland playing it into the corners (<1%), Ex Saints celebrating at Liverpool game (<1%), Pompey’s play-offs (<1%), Mourinho Meltdown (<1%), When my mate shit himself on the way to West Ham away (<1%), Man City fan who let a flair off 5 minutes into the game and got himself and his son arrested on his son’s 13th birthday (<1%), Drawing with Villa (<1%), Bertrand’s acceptance speech (<1%), Pelle doing the Haka (<1%), JWP panicing when clean through against Man City (<1%), Forster refusing to wave (<1%), Europa campaign (<1%), General officiating (<1%), Jon Moss (<1%), Dutch fans fighting each other (<1%), Spurs finishing 3rd in a two horse race (<1%), OctaFX goal hitting a steward (<1%), Forster v Spurs (<1%), Stekelenburg (<1%), Koeman linked to Everton (<1%), Ronald v 4th Official in Arnhem (<1%), Pelle airshot (<1%), December (<1%), Joleon Lescott’s defending (3%), Wenger after the 4-0 blaming all the goals on the ref (4%), Cuco after his goal against Arsenal (6%), The comeback against Liverpool (7%).
3rd Place:- Ref taking the ball off Sadio Mane after his hat trick (8%)
2nd Place:- Various actions relating to Steven Caulker (9%)
And the winner is…..Ronald’s touchline run v Liverpool!
Received Votes:- Bournemouth (1%), Meh (1%), Midgetland (1%), Chelsea (1%), Villa (1%), West Ham (1%), Liverpool (4%), Man City (7%).
3rd Place:- Spurs (17%)
2nd Place:- Everton (20%)
And the winner is…..Just when they thought their season couldn’t get any better! Leicester City!
Best Opposition Player
Received Votes:- Anthony Martial (<1%), Divok Origi (<1%), Ref at Leicester (<1%), Pione Sisto (<1%), Eden Hazard (<1%), Christian Eriksen (<1%), Kevin de Bruyne (<1%), Joe Hart (<1%), Toby Alderweireld (<1%), Martin Stekelenburg (<1%), John Stones (<1%), Andros Townsend (<1%), Hugo Lloris (<1%), Mezut Ozil (<1%), Sergio Aguero (2%), Willian (2%), Harry Kane (2%), Coutinho (2%), Ross Berkley (2%), Delle Ali (2%), Andy Carroll (2%), N’Golo Kante (3%), Dimitri Payet (3%), David de Gea (3%), Kelechi Iheanacho (6%), Daniel Sturridge (6%).
3rd Place:- Romelu Lukaku (10%)
2nd Place:- Riyad Mharez (12%)
And the winner is……
Best Opposition Fans
Received Votes:- Man City (<1%), Coventry? (<1%), Couldn’t give a crap (<1%), Not the Scummers (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Liverpool (<1%), Spurs (<1%), All shit (<1%), Everton (<1%), Norwich (1%), Sunderland (1%), West Ham (2%), Bournemouth (2%), Sunderland (4%), Villa (6%), Newcastle (8%).
So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted and massive congratulations to all the winners!.A big thank you to Alistair Downs for the Photoshop wizardry, check his work out at http://www.carlasam.com! Another great season! Keep the faith!
For some time now it feels like that as the end of the season approaches, there are numerous positives about Saints and their campaign that I could write about, and this is no exception.
One of the negatives this season, that I feel needs addressing, is that Shane Long might not be voted the player of the season.
In any other season he would have had it sewn up, but with the performances of Virgil van Dijk at the other end of the pitch catching the eye too, it is likely he’ll be a valiant runner up to the Dutchman.
The turnaround in the perception of Long in the eyes of Saints fans has been remarkable. Cast your minds back to August 2014, the 12 million pound transfer from Hull came with some unkind remarks about his perceived value in comparison to the fee paid, and I will not shirk the fact that I was one of those detractors.
This criticism was largely based on the fact that Long’s goal return wasn’t overly impressive for a ‘striker’, based largely on the fact that he had never hit double figures in any of his four previous Premier League campaigns with Reading, West Brom and Hull City respectively.
If the pressure was already on him in his early days as a Southampton player, it was compounded further by his number. Seven. The number that Matthew Le Tissier had worn, and had most recently been vacated by the just departed fan favourite Rickie Lambert. It sounds like a small detail, but people react to such decisions, and an a level of expectation is made.
Long’s first season at Saints was perhaps unremarkable, though it is easily forgotten that he weighed in to a record breaking debut by Ronald Koeman with five goals, despite being not a regular in the starting lineup (Long started 16 times).
It is this season that Long has come into his own though, so far starting 21 games, missing some through injury and has remodelled himself as a player who draws attention to when he isn’t in the team rather than when he is.
His effervescent displays this season, be it up front or as part of a support three have been dazzling at times, and though he might never be considered the most cultured player in the world, many an opposition defence will have felt relieved his constant hassling of them was over.
Relentless energy and supreme efficiency with the ball makes Long a valuable asset, but I shouldn’t fail to address his goal return or perceived lack of it.
Long has hit 10 Premier League goals this season, putting him joint top with Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle but there are further statistics that puts the Irishman out in front. Both Mane and Pelle have started more games than Long, but further still their goal to shot ratios are nowhere near as good. Both the Senegalese and the Italian have score their 10 goals having had 80 shots apiece. Long has achieved the same total from just 59 shots.
Goals are of course important, but I think Long’s contribution has been as much about the team dynamic as it has been the amount of times he has hit the back of the net. Ronald Koeman has built a style that utilises both the wide positions (and particularly the use of crossing) and often at pace. Long is ideal for it, and the added bonus that he is better in the air than you might expect means that he is comfortable in any of the forward positions.
Saints are at the culmination of another decent season, but this Summer you can add Shane Long to the list of the players fans will be anxiously hoping stays at St. Mary’s. He might not be Southampton player of the season, but he is a Southampton player for a reason. Who saw that coming?
smm‘Used to like them. Would remember at The Dell and the annoucer would always give us the Portsmouth and Bournemouth results in addition to the top flight results (snigger, snigger) and we would always cheer when Bournemouth won and boo when Portsmouth won. I always looked out for their results and hoped they would win. So it was a complete shock to me when I started my first day at the Bournemouth Echo (back in 2001) when I was speaking to the librarian and life-long Cherry fan who almost imploded when I said I was from Southampton and a Saints supporter. The vitriol I was greeted with really surprised me. When i was called a scummer, I was almost offended on behalf of Portsmouth and said: ‘You can’t call me that, only Portsmouth people can call me that.’ Since then I’ve met a few more Bournemouth ST holders who look at me as if I’m a bad smell under their nose. They’re not interested that I’m actually from Southampton and a long-line of generations of Sotonions – they just see another ‘glory hunter’ (I kid you not) living in Dorset that supports the Saints. So thanks to the vitriol of a handful, I’m not so fond of Bournemouth and am rather satisfied when we beat them. The main thing I have learned from living in these parts is that most people couldn’t give a toss about football. For 10 years I’vve been quite happily driving around in my Saints emblazoned car without a mutter or look of disgust (I wouldn’t chance it in Portsmouth). In my experience most people who do like football in Bournemouth are armchair supporters of the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea etc and many of those are now helping to fill out Dean Court now they’re in the Premier League. I’ve actually come across more Bournemouth fans in Poole than I ever did in Bournemouth. My guestimate is Bournemouth have a hardcore of 5,000 fans – it’s not a football town.’
ah ‘Having always been the bigger team in terms of fan base and league position, I’ve never seen Bournemouth as a real rival. Obviously the team to the East in blue have and will always be the main rivals even though in my time we’ve only bumped into them (mostly disastrously from memory!) in the league for a few seasons. Saints v P*mp*y will always be the real rivalry. For that reason I’ve never had any bad feeling towards Bournemouth and have always wanted them to do well. This did change slightly though when I was the only fan in the pub when we played in the 2003 FA Cup final when there was A LOT of vitriol coming at me and us on the screens from a few of the Bournemouth fans.’
sb ‘Love the beaches… they are great in the summer. But in terms of the football club, I can’t say I’m too bothered about them to be honest. It is the same sort of feeling I have for Reading or Poole Town.’
km ‘I quite like them, and remember the days of their results being cheered at the Dell and have always thought well of them. I also lived in Bournemouth for a bit and have many friends that are Cherries fans and like to see them do well.
That said in reality for 99% of the time i’m pretty indifferent to them, i never check their results or pay any real attention to them and it’s only the fact they’re relatively close that gives me any interest in them (in the same way as Brighton, Swindon or Reading).’
How do you feel about Southampton?
cp ‘I’ve mellowed a lot with age towards Saints. When I was a kid, you didn’t say Southampton, it was always Scumhampton. But that was at primary school, I had no idea that Bournemouth even had a football club and it was more in a jokey name-calling way. I guess it was the nearest big city in a neighbouring county so kids needed somewhere to see as a rival. Then when I started going to games I realised it was an opinion bigger than that of the small town I grew up in and people were quite passionate about it. And there were a few years of hate, admittedly, but I’ve grown up since and these days it’s not really that much of an issue for me – I think the games in League 1 helped to end that. We’d goaded each other for years without any chance of being on the same pitch but by 2011 we’d been in the same league, played each other for the first time in 13 years and we’d lost all 3 games that season (typically after all that time, we got each other in the League Cup that year as well) and could go our separate ways as far as I was concerned, I was off sulking with my tail firmly between my legs. Now, for me, it’s more of a friendly goading, nothing malicious. I just can’t be bothered. And I have many Saints friends who are – SHOCK HORROR – decent human beings. And I love Ronald Koeman.
However, when Saints came to Brentford in 2011 and Rickie Lambert took a free kick that hit me at full force in the crowd behind the goal, I did have a few choice words for him, the club and the general area of Southampton. I wasn’t very ladylike. Apologies.’
pb ‘My mood has probably changed over the years. I used to dislike them in every way as they have always been the bigger team 🙁 but that has changed to grudging respect as I think Southampton have produced some great players and AFCB could learn a thing or two in how they have managed to establish themselves in the Premier League. I was actually rooting for the Saints when they beat Man Utd in the cup in 1976 as well, so sometimes the southerner support can stretch up past the New Forest with me.’
at ‘It’s difficult, because my loyalties are somewhat split. I would probably say I’d favour a Bournemouth win, mainly because they’re my hometown club, but also because they need the points to survive.
When I was about 5, my dad used to take me to watch both teams. First Saints game I can remember is when I watched Saints 4-3 Norwich. Kevin Phillips played a blinder if I remember correctly! I was also a mascot for Bournemouth on my 8 birthday.‘
Fans on both sides seem desperate to claim that it isn’t a ‘derby’, but surely it would be great for everyone if it became one?
smm ‘I disagree – I think Bournemouth fans are desperate to claim it’s a derby and a lot of Saints fans are probably protesting too loudly that it isn’t. It’s a local rivarly without doubt and the Bournemouth fans see us as their nearest rivals. There is a lot of spite because they live and work with so many Saints fans, but not so much the other way round. Summing up my own feelings I’d be delighted to beat them but not feel like the world is coming to an end if they beat us (which I would feel if we lost to you know who). It’s not THE derby but as we’re unlikely to experience that one for a while, let’s enjoy this one.’
ah ‘Given what’s happened to the blue team, in terms of a practical point of view, this is the only derby we’re going to have for the foreseeable future (unless you want to classify Reading as a rival and they make it back up – I don’t BTW) I guess from my exposure to Bournemouth fans, I would say that they see it much more of a derby then we do. They don’t have anyone closer than us as a team whereas we have ‘them’. And to me derby’s are more about history than necessarily locale. I don’t know the differences but I’m sure there are lots of teams close to say, Man Utd who would say they have a local rivalry with them (e.g. Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton etc) but Utd wouldn’t see it like that so they aren’t really derby’s in the sense that there is a lack of animosity between both sets of fans.’
sb ‘Technically I think it is a derby. I get loads of abuse from Bournemouth/UTD fans when games come up giving me banter. It would be good for the clubs as well. The media obviously see it as a derby as they have put both games on TV. I look forward to the games in the same way I used to look forward to playing against my younger brothers team in a tyro pre-season friendly. We know we will win but it is nice to see how they have grown up from last year.’
km ‘I think the issue is that from our side – Saints – it isn’t a derby and we have no interest in the slightest in it becoming one. The problem comes with the reactions that follow from our opinion. Our lack of interest or desire for it to be judged so gets deemed arrogance, when in fact it’s a statement of fact, there’s one team, one city and one group of inbreds that we care about, the dirty skates.
As for would it be good? I don’t really see why it would be anything, it’s a local game and an a decent away day (Bournemouth is a great place for a drink despite the stupidly early last train back!).
Personally i’d much rather people stopped referring to it as a derby and just got on with it. It holds little to no importance in Southampton and never has in my lifetime. I often attribute the need to call it a derby to the Soccer AM generation that were brought up thinking every club needed one. But not every club has a derby.
If anything the need to make this a derby turns me off the game, it becomes boring to deal with Cherries fans that want it to be that way and i have to be honest I didn’t bother going to the cup game against them despite being a season ticket holder as i found the entire thing boring and uninteresting.’
cp ‘The very fact that everyone is so desperate to go to great lengths to constantly state that it’s not a derby to me surely means it’s more than just another game?! Not sure I’d go so far as to say a rivalry, but the fact that Premier League clubs are quite sparse on the south coast (oh look – there’s only two of us) means that as Prem neighbours (my mind is still boggled at saying that) it’s a derby by location if nothing else?! Either way, the competition of who cares less about who will rage on till the end of time, I’m sure. But, then again, I don’t care. And I definitely care less than you, ok?’
pb ‘Eddie Howe said last time the two clubs played that AFC Bournemouth have to start winning some of these clashes if they want it to truly become a derby game and I tend to agree with that. There is no real grudge against the Saints as there have not been many matches between the two clubs and when they have met Southampton have usually come out on top. I’d like to think that it will become a south coast derby that both clubs can look forward to for a few years to come, but I feel that fans of both sides probably dislike some other clubs more than each other. I know a few Saints fans that, believe it or not, are pleased to see the Cherries in the Premier League – at least we are both guaranteed at least one short travel away game as season.’
at ‘I don’t see why it’s a bad thing. I’ve not seen that much animosity between the two fanbases, certainly not to the same extent as Saints and Pompey! With Pompey now languishing in the lower leagues, surely a new, less fierce rivalry would be welcomed by saints fans?’
Saints fans often have a ‘soft spot’ for Bournemouth. Has that changed since they were promoted to the Premier League? And will that change with continued success?
smm ‘I think it began to change for some Saints fans when we were both in League One – I think a lot of Saints fans felt that shock I experienced on my first day working at the Bournemouth Echo that a lot of Bournemouth fans really hate us. I suspect a few more fans’ fondness has also waned since the promotion, particularly for those of us active on social media. My instinct is that a majority of Saints fans are indifferent or hold Bournemouth with a degree of fondness. If we are to remain in the same league for years to come I’m sure the rivalry will increase.‘
ah ‘I’m not sure it has, not yet anyway. I still think the general feeling from most of my mates and people in my office is that we still want them to do well. Perhaps I know a lot of nice people but I don’t think we quite believe they will stick around for any length of time to be classified as rivals and I’m sure the more realistic Bournemouth fans will think the same. What Eddie and the team have done is pretty incredible so personally I wish them all the best… for now! I’m more concerned about our own future (keeping Ronald, Fraser, what happens to Pelle/Vic etc) than worrying about them.’
sb‘As I have just said it is like watching a younger sibling grow up. I think if they become more successful, there will be a change in the way we view them. If they ever finish above us in the league (and God i hope it never happens) then that will change everything.’
km ‘Not really, for the most part I’ve been oblivious to their season as I’ve been concentrating on ours. That said i want them to stay up as it’d be good for the south coast and a nice break to the general Premier League status quo.’
ab ‘I think it’s changed a little bit. It’s easier to have a soft spot for clubs in different divisions, but when those clubs become competitors, it changes the dynamic. I also things Saints quick rise up the leagues has somewhat been overshadowed by Bournemouth’s remarkable story. Are they stealing Saints limelight?’
How do you feel about people from Dorset (especially Bournemouth) who support Saints?
cp ‘For years, Southampton have been the more successful team in the area and have naturally attracted a lot of glory hunters from the Bournemouth area. And a lot of people are very aggrieved by that. I, personally, quite liked the fact that I supported my local team and was prepared to go through the grief and heartache that brought, rather than go the easy route and support the big team down the road. Many times I’d be stood on the platform at Poole or Dorchester station, waiting for trains to various League 1/2 fixtures to join about 200 others, while the blokes stood next to me in shirts that looked like deckchairs were off to some swanky Prem fixture in That Lundin. I felt like I was the proper fan, one of the few hardy souls, and they were just Premier League customers, a few out of thousands of faceless others.
After recent events, I’m currently revising that theory.’
pb ‘The only reason I can see for a person in Bournemouth or the wider Dorset area travelling up to St. Mary’s to watch football is that they can’t get a ticket at Dean Court. Some will have family roots that have always been with the Saints so fair enough to them, but the Cherries are after attracting as many new fans as they can and being the only Dorset club in the Premier League there is a fair chance that the fan base will grow in the next few seasons with the promised ground improvements at Dean Court.’
Why do Bournemouth and Pompey fans love each other so much? A mutual hatred of Saints?
cp ‘One of the funniest things at a game is when supporters of both sides join in together, to sing about a team that aren’t anything to do with that game. Bizarre. I think a lot of Pompey and Bournemouth fans think they have found kindred spirits through a mutual dislike of Saints, but there are a lot of Bournemouth fans I know who have a distinct dislike of Pompey as well. Of course, when we played them in the FA Cup a few weeks ago, they were at great pains to point out that it “wasn’t a derby” as were we.
Whatever it was, we won (just). So ner.’
pb ‘Absolutely. In the recent game against Pompey there was much mutual singing aimed at the Saints and while Bournemouth is not a port, we know why Pompey hate the Saints so much which harks back to the Southampton dockers carrying on working past the picket lines when the dockers in Portsmouth went on strike in the 1950’s. Pompey have good reason to hate the Saints, while AFCB fans are working on it.’
Editor’s comment‘The dockers strike is a total myth, perpetuated by so many Pompey fans over the years it even gets mentioned in recent books about their club. There is no record of it. Ironically, when the Southampton dockers went on strike in the 1890’s, it was workers from Portsmouth that were brought in to do their jobs.’
Why aren’t Bournemouth fans grateful that Saints played fund raising games for them? They owe us right?
smm ‘I don’t think they owe us anything but now that we know how much they ‘love us’ they can kiss goodbye to any future bucket collections if it all goes belly up when the Russian leaves.’
ah ‘Football rarely works on that logic does it? If there is a local neighbour to hate then you’re going to hate them regardless of what they’ve done. Not that it’d ever happen, but if we were to help out P*mp*y with their situation, would that stop them hating us? No. I’m sure there are a lot of reasonable Bournemouth fans who will be slightly thankful for what we did but let’s be honest, it was one game and won’t ever come into any sort of emotional or rational reasoning.’
sb ‘100% yes. As a token of their appreciation they should have refused the Lallana money.’
km ‘Not sure they owe us anything and I’m also not sure why (or if) they’re ungrateful either. I did actually go to one of those friendlies and don’t remember there being any animosity at all, in fact the first time I was ever aware that there was even a consideration of it being a derby was when I was well into my late twenties and a Cherry said that we were “Scummers” after I wished him luck in their in promotion battle at the time.
That confused the hell out of me to be honest and I think I actually laughed when he said it as I didn’t think he was being serious, which probably annoyed him more!’
cp ‘The fact that it gets brought up at every possible opportunity makes it all a bit sour. A lot of Saints fans have been overly condescending about this over the years and it was very kind, yes, and it helped, yes, thank you very much, but Saints didn’t save us and it wasn’t what ensured our existence as many like to claim.’
pb ‘I don’t think AFC Bournemouth fans were ungrateful but they have some pride and whoever wants to be in a position to need a handout? I actually felt sorry for Southampton when they fell on hard times. I don’t think any fan wants to see any club in financial trouble.’
at ‘It was definitely a nice gesture on Saints part, and I’m sure if it was the other way round, Bournemouth would’ve done the same!’
I’ve found something we can truly fall out about. Harry Redknapp is a c**t. Discuss.
smm ‘Without doubt. They love that saggy faced fraudster in these parts – it’s vomit inducing. In fact, at my son’s football presentation evening last year, I did vomit in my mouth when ‘Arry was the guest of honour and walked past me and touched my arm. Bleuurgggghhhhh.’
ah ‘Yes, most definitely but I’d rather not waste my energy on him. My friend once described him as having a face like a mixed grill. I think that’s all I want to say on the matter.’
sb ‘The guy is a massive knob. Would love to have a beer with him though!’ Editor’s comment ‘Why? Would definitely be a round dodger.’
km ‘Now that statement can’t be denied by anyone, even the Skates must admit that!’
cp ‘I can’t hate Harry. I’m sorry, I just can’t. I’m not as fond of him as I used to be but I wouldn’t go that far. For years, he was our most successful manager. Obviously, this has all been well & truly surpassed now. By someone with much better hair. And my Harry Redknapp impression has gone down a storm at work over the years. You wouldn’t have to ask too many Bournemouth fans before you found one to agree with you, though.’
pb ‘Yeah, you got me. Harry Redknapp will always be highly regarded around AFC Bournemouth as he was the manager to put us on the map in recent times before the boy genius Eddie Howe arrived. Harry did okay as a player for us as well. I suppose it is becoming harder for any manager to move from one club to another and always leave with his head held high and at least we might be able to agree that Harry loves the south, even if West Ham is probably his biggest love after Sandra!’
at ‘He’s certainly a character! I mean I don’t personally hate him, how could I after all he did for Bournemouth? Although, saying that, his increased involvement with the club does rather coincide with them being promoted to the Premier League.’
How do you see the game going? Score prediction?
smm ‘History and form says we should win – but Bournemouth are due a result against us at some point and it’s most likely to be at their place – but I’ll still go for a 2-1 win to us.’
ah ‘It will be a cracking atmosphere and I’m sure it will descend into a usual derby in terms of lots of intensity and flying tackles in the first 20 minutes. If we can ride out the initial period and get our foot on the ball I’m sure that our midfield will work their way into the game and unpick their defence. I’ve heard several times about how slow their CBs are so whilst we don’t have bundles of pace, we’ll get a few chances and hopefully stick one or two away. I’ll opt for a 0-2 scoreline to help our push for that 5th spot.’
sb ‘2-1 Saints…. they will break the clean sheet duck.’
km ‘It’s going to be very close and very tight, I think a lot depends on the Chelsea game for us. If we pick up a result there I can see us winning it 1-0 or something similar, if we fall away after that game I think it’ll be 1-1 or 2-1 to the Cherries.’
cp ‘You’ll win. You always do. I’m sure it’s written in some bylaw somewhere. I don’t allow myself to get over-excited as I just get more let down. Happens every time. I’ll go 0-2 and hope that my reverse psychology will win the day.’
pb ‘That’s easy. The Cherries start confidently and look like world beaters only for Southampton to score from two set pieces and a breakaway to ruin our day again! 1-3 to those delightful chaps down the road. Obviously, I hope I am entirely wrong. Isn’t it about time that the Saints let us win a game to ensure there is a couple of south coast derby matches next season? You don’t need the points and playing in Europe is overrated – look what happened to you last time. Oops, I fear the rivalry is building.’
at ‘Bournemouth’s home form isn’t great at the moment, losing 3 out of the last 4, and Saints don’t look like they’ll concede anytime soon. Think Saints will win and keep a clean sheet. 0-2.’
So there we have it, the ‘Not a Derby Derby’ heat’s up, or rather doesn’t really. Thanks to everyone who answered questions!
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