I’m not sure I ever expected it to go this quick, but we really have reached the end of the ‘Five Year Plan’. It hardly seems fathomable that the club that lined up on the 8th August 2009 to play out a 1-1 draw with Millwall in League One, would mark the end of the ‘plan’ with a 1-1 draw with Champions of England Manchester United in the same stadium.
What a five years it’s been. Considering the original plan was to get Southampton into the Premier League, the fact that that has clearly been achieved (a year early), a trophy has been won along the way and the final season saw us break into the top eight, I would say we can consider it a complete success.
Three managers, Two promotions, One trophy and Seventy Seven Players! Can the next five years really live up to it?
Over the last twelve months there has been a complete reversal on popularity of two Saints players. This time a year ago Jason Puncheon’s name was mud in the stands of St. Mary’s, the problem that we couldn’t be rid of, the player who was continually loaned out to teams in higher divisions after a spell of indifference and a seemingly poor attitude for Saints. He had been the subject of crowd abuse and his time looked up on the South Coast, only a difference in opinion between Saints and the chairmen of several other clubs as to his value kept the player a Southampton asset (See this post from March 2011 ‘Puncheon Below His Weight’ for context). At the same time Guly do Prado was a regular in the Saints first team heading for Championship promotion, weighing in with 10 league goals as his role changed between striker and winger as to Adkins needs per game. He was always a crowd splitter though (See the post ‘Guly, or Not Guly’ from November 2011 for context.).
This season Puncheon has completed the ‘prodigal son’ return in full, and is now a crowd favourite, wowing the supporters with match winning performances and even prompting talk of England recognition. Guly on the other hand finds himself the victim of the boo boys, and even when he has yet to do anything wrong (he was booed on being introduced against Reading) he finds himself the target of hate.
For me I find it difficult to explain where this level of hatred has come from. It is perfectly acceptable to not like a player, or rate their ability, but Guly has been decent for us for two and a half seasons now. Whenever I watch Saints and he plays, he barely puts a foot wrong, yet those that decided he wasn’t good enough over a year ago, have moved from silent dislike to noisy disdain, and for me that isn’t fair. Firstly, you support the team, picking out a player for abuse is harsh at the best of times, but to do it before they have even kicked a ball is unfathomable.
Guly has split opinion from day one, and that is fair enough, but what is abundantly clear for anyone that has watched him play, is that in terms of comfort on the ball, he is one of our best. I often ask people what it is that makes them hate him so much, and the responses vary, from rumours of his unrest in England (decent enough reason for him not to be in the team, but to boo him?), his drink driving charge (you would have to boo nearly everyone in football if off the pitch activities are taken into account and remember club ‘hero’ Claus Lundekvam), to him being ‘lazy’ (he isn’t whenever I watch, in fact he is extremely busy), to him being ‘crap’ (this one simply isn’t true), to him being ‘Cortese’s signing’ (if true, still not HIS fault).
Similar reasons were given for the abuse Puncheon received at the time, and it makes me wonder what it is about them that makes people take a dislike to them. From what I can see, the main thing they have in common is that they can be a little nonchalant. Is that enough of a reason to vilify them? Fans should learn from the turnaround of Puncheon that they might not always be right.
One of the most common criticisms of Guly seems to be that he “gives the ball away too much”. Actually this season he has the best pass success rate in our entire squad (90.8%), this is relative with regards to pitch time etc. but clearly indicates that he is someone who rarely makes stray passes. Statistically he is also dispossessed less than once a game (0.8times), in comparison Gaston Ramirez and Adam Lallana are dispossessed 2.8 and 2.6 times per game respectively, and this is what I don’t get.
Guly plays in a similar way to those two. He tries things, he attempts the creative, sometimes it will go wrong, that is the pay off for when it goes right. So why aren’t they given the same treatment?
The fact is, Guly hasn’t made a massive contribution this season, he clearly isn’t first choice, but when he has been used he hasn’t done anything wrong. In the previous two seasons, he has made a massive contribution. So why the disdain?
During our indifferent run of games earlier in the season, I saw fans calling for the likes of de Ridder to be brought into the team and Billy Sharp brought back from loan, yet when Guly is given the nod (a player who has contributed more than those two in the past) it is met with a plethora of complaint from a section of the Saints fans. There comes a time when you have to sit back and say “look. Nigel knows what he is doing”, if he thinks Guly is good enough, then he is.
I’m not saying you have to like him, or think he is the best player around, but when he pulls on the shirt get behind him. The guy is owed at least that. With it looking like Lallana may be out for months, don’t be surprised to see Adkins turn to Guly to play in that role. Back him.
If his home sickness is true (the quotes seemed to suggest that he would like to end his career in Sao Paulo) and he leaves the club in the next couple of transfer windows, let’s hope he does so with his head held high and smile, his contribution over the last two fantastic seasons means he should be wished well.
I had a think about the Saints players that have been booed by their own since I have been watching. I can think of David Speedie, Kerry Dixon, Jermaine Wright, Jason Puncheon and Guly. That shows how spoilt we have been since the Liebherr takeover. Puncheon and Guly should never be categorised with those three for anything, and far worse have wore the shirt.
Back the maverick samba assassin, or at least stay silent when he is brought on if you can’t bring yourself to ‘support’ him.
This was the hyperbole and conjecture that greeted Saints fans on reveal of this season’s coming Premier League fixtures. I looked at it a slighty different way.
Exciting. ‘Back where we belong’. Challenging….
After all, there is no easy games in the Premier League, you have to play every team twice, and our fate will be sealed based on our performances in those games the same as it is for everybody else. Admittedly, having to play last season’s top three in our first four games isn’t ideal, but this lends itself to a plethora of speculation. It may be the best time to play them. They are likely to have new players, and be tinkering with new systems for example. But, actually what it has meant is that, should, God (or whichever fictional deity you choose to worship) forbid, we are in a scrap at the business end of the season, our last seven fixtures (on paper at least) couldn’t be kinder.
But there is that saying again. On paper, and that is all these fixtures are at the moment, a list. Nothing more, nothing less. There are only two teams we can really base our predictions on, those that joined us from the Championship, Reading and West Ham, the rest we haven’t played for at least two seasons.
But what if we took our head to head record (based on the last two competitive fixtures) against the rest of the clubs in the Premier League as a start point. How would we fare in the coming season?
First up we travel to the City of Manchester Stadium to take on the reigning champions. It was January 2007, the last time we made this trip, Kenwyne Jones found the net for Saints, but Man City ran away 3-1 winners with goals from Darius Vassell, Joey Barton and Damarcus Beasley. The last time City visited St. Mary’s it would end goaless in the Premier League fixture of October 2004. Points – 1.
Saints will open their Premier League home campaign with the visit of Wigan Athletic. It was January 1986 when the clubs last met on the South Coast, and in fact is the only competitive fixture between the two in their history! Glenn Cockerill and a brace by David Armstrong saw Saints through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. Points – 4 (A draw was allocated for the away game).
Manchester United will then make the trip to Southampton, despite a famous run of victories against the Red Devils, it will be 9 years and a day since we last beat them when we kick off on the 1st September. Our last meeting with Sir Alex and his men saw goals from Michael Owen and Javier Hernandez cancel out Richard Chaplow’s opener in the FA Cup 4th Round. Our last trip to Old Trafford ended in a 3-0 reverse at the hands of Scholes, Rooney and Ronaldo in December 2004. Points – 0.
An unlikely hero emerged on our last visit to Arsenal. Rory Delap got both goals in a two all draw, Henry and Van Persie on target for the Gunners! Peter Crouch scored at St. Mary’s in the same season to gain Saints a double of draws over the North London side. Points – 2.
Fans will want to forget the last time St. Mary’s hosted Aston Villa. Peter Crouch and Kevin Phillips gave Saints an early lead, only to lose 3-2. Carlton Cole, Nobby Solano and Steven Davis sealing the victory for Villa in April 2005. It was a 2-0 defeat at Villa Park, Carlton Cole and Darius Vassell getting the goals in an earlier game that season. Points – 0.
Everton were famed as a Saints “bogey team” for years, and in that same fateful final Premier League season, they were just as tight. A Leon Osman goal at the death decided matters at Goodison Park, while Saints managed a point at St. Mary’s with goals from Peter Crouch and Henri Camara cancelling out James “I definitely won’t celebrate” Beattie and Marcus Bent. Points – 1.
It was a goalfest the last time Saints hosted Fulham, a brace from Kevin Phillips and an own goal for the hosts, Radzinski, Malbranque and Bouba Diop for the visitors. The reverse fixture that season saw a victory for the cottagers through a solitary Tomas Radzinski strike. Points – 1.
West Ham are of course more recent opponents, Jos Hooiveld the scourge of East London, scoring the winner at St. Mary’s and then the equaliser at Upton Park last season. Points – 4.
After the trip to West Ham, Saints play host to their North London neighbours, the now Redknapp-less (shame) Spurs lost on their last visit, Nigel Quashie with the only goal of the game. It was a different story at White Hart Lane though, Saints put to the sword, losing 5-1. Jermain Defoe kept the match ball, Kanoute and Keane getting the other two, Peter Crouch got the consolation. Points – 3.
A trip to the Midlands follows, as Saints go to the Hawthorns. Saints last played WBA in the 2007/08 Championship season. Despite Albion going up as Champions that season and Saints needing last day heroics to stay up, it was the South Coast side that got the better of their two fixtures. Adam Lallana scored in the away leg in a 1-1 draw, while a double from Stern John and a Marek Saganowski strike secured all three points at home. Points – 4.
Swansea City will come to St. Mary’s in November, Saganowski earned Saints a point the last time this fixture happened in the 2008/09 Championship relegation season. The reverse game saw an easy run out for the Swans, Pratley, Gomez and Butler getting the goals in a 3-0 defeat for Saints. Points – 1.
In that same season, Saints suffered a heavy defeat at next opponents QPR. Ex-Saint Dexter Blackstock got a couple, Stewart and Ageymang also netted, Adam Lallana got Saints only reply. Later in the campaign, the two clubs played out a 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s. Points – 1.
Saints haven’t faced Newcastle United in a league game since 2004, going down 1-2 at home to goals from Alan Shearer and Titus Bramble, Peter Crouch almost inevitably being the Saints goalscorer in that season. The last time Saints visited St. James’ Park though is more recent. Keiron Dyer got the only goal in February 2006 in the FA Cup 5th round. Points – 0.
Saints and Norwich City both left the Premier League in the same season, so barring the past two seasons have been regular opponents. It was in the Johnstones Paint Trophy that the Canaries last came to St. Mary’s, A last minute Papa Waigo equaliser took the game to a penalty shootout which Saints won, subsequently lifting the trophy. A Lee Barnard brace saw Saints take all three points at Carrow Road that same season. Points – 6 (I know, I know, technically the JPT game was a draw after 90 minutes, but it’s my game and my rules).
A trip to Anfield beckons in December, just as it did in our last Premier League season. Florent Sinama-Pongolle scored the only goal of the game that time. Saints got their revenge over Liverpool at St. Mary’s just a month later, David Prutton and Peter Crouch ensuring a 2-0 victory. Points – 3.
In a reverse of last season, Saints will host Reading first. In the game that effectively conceded the title to their Berkshire rivals in April, Saints went down 3-1, Rickie Lambert on the scoresheet, but outdone by Jason Roberts and Adam Le Fondre. It was a 1-1 draw at the Madjeski, Steve de Ridder cancelling out Mikele Leigertwood’s opener. Points – 1.
The last time Saints went to Stamford Bridge, James Beattie scored at both ends, Frank Lampard sealing the points for Chelsea. Lampard scored again at St. Mary’s which coupled with an Eidur Gudjohnsen double meant Kevin Phillips’ goal was just a consolation. Points – 0.
Saints last faced Sunderland in the 2006/07 Championship season, going down 2-1 at home, after Gareth Bale had grabbed a last minute equaliser at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season. Points – 1.
The last club Saints will renew acquaintances with will be Stoke City. Tony Pulis and his merry band of ex-Southampton players will welcome Saints in the last game of 2012, and it was a 3-2 victory for the Potters in their last potteries encounter. It was an exact reverse of the scoreline in the same season at St. Mary’s, Drew Surman, Gregorz Rasiak and Jhon Viafara got the goals for Saints, Parkin and Fuller for Stoke. Points – 3.
So, if we can match those results, we will end on 36 points. Sounds bad doesn’t it? But, take into account that the majority of the games come from a terrible Premier League relegation campaign and consecutive horrific Championship seasons, it is surprisingly good.
Also, it is worth noting that 36 points would mean safety in six of the last ten Premier League seasons, though not the last two.
Of course, none of these teams look anything like the last time we played them, and neither do we. So this is all just speculation and conjecture. Of course it is, back where we started then….
You can see the full fixture list at the Saints Official Website here.
p.s. If you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past year, why not vote for us in the “Club Specific” category at the Football Blogging Awards? Either via Facebook here. Or, tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club
We decided to go with a slightly different format than most….
Student:- Southampton Football Club
School:- nPower Championship
Generally, Saints style was fluid and attractive, particular highlights were the games against Middlesbrough and Birmingham. However, when hanging round with the boys at the other end of the class, Saints had a habit of dropping to their level. They also found it hard to maintain a good standard of work during practical examinations. B.
Nigel Adkins, again provided the season with some useful soundbytes. While Dean Hammond let the side down with horrific use of profanity live in front of a full assembly. C.
Morgan Schneiderlin was one of the season’s stand out performers, deservedly winning “Most Improved Player” in the gwc.com awards. His confident playmaking from central midfield was sorely missed when he had a spell on the sidelines. A.
One of Saints weakest subjects. Taking 36 points from a possible 69, Saints away form so often looked like it could be their undoing. Must do better next year. D.
Nigel Adkins tenure as Saints boss has seen record breaking as an almost weekly occurrence. Saints completed their longest streak of league wins in a row in August (10) and home league wins in a row in November (19). Saints ended the season by breaking their attendance record too, 32,363 people watched Saints beat Coventry and secure promotion to the Premier League. A.
Superb. Losing just three games all season at St. Mary’s, Saints home form was top of the class. Taking 52 points from a possible 69 and boasting a staggering +31 goal difference, Saints showed that fortress St. Mary’s is a difficult place to come for any team. A+.
Towards the end of the season, mathematics played a crucial part. Saints managed to make final day with an equation so difficult for West Ham to solve, promotion was still in their hands. P = (S(pvCC) ≥ (WHU(pvHC). B.
Creativity really shone through during the tribulations of another pupil…. Sha la la la la la…. C.
One of the stand out pupils in this subject. Fitness so often saw other teams bullied into submission. Saints losing only one game in which they scored first. Notable mentions for Billy Sharp – Wrestling, Adam Lallana – Watersports, Guly do Prado – Maverick Samba Dance. A.
Saints found their way to the promised land of the Premier League with the help of several Gods and some divine intervention at Elland Road. B.
Nigel Adkins theory that “it’s about winning games of football” was put into practice and was a resounding success. In 26 out of 46 (56.5%) cases studied, it was found that winning equated to a better league placing. Biology – Physical specimens such as Jos Hooiveld (size) and Steve de Ridder (pace) showed great effort for the team, contributing to much success. Chemistry – Breathtaking link up play at times between full-backs, midfield, Lallana, Lambert, Guly and Sharp. Physics – Rickie Lambert defied the laws of Physics on more than one occasion with a staggering record of getting a spherical (changed from cylindrical, as pointed out by several eagle eyed readers. E grade for me. – Chris) object into a guarded net with numerous variables. A.
With an average of 26,419 Saints had the second best attendance of all pupils at home, and an average of 2,390 on the road, the third best of all pupils away. Notably, scoring considerably higher than “The bestest fans in the world” on both counts. B.
Generally behaviour was acceptable. Some boisterousness when arguing with the posh Berkshire head boy and the rough cockney troublemaker. Ongoing arguments with nearest neighbour. We’ve had to separate them. C+.
It has been a very good term for Southampton FC. Surprising many with their performance, it is with upmost confidence that they will go into the higher school next year. With continued improvement and application, Saints should find the step up challenging yet rewarding! A.
So that is our alternative view of the past season!
If you enjoyed this post or any other on the site, why not vote for us in the “Best Club Specific Blog” category of the Football Blogging Awards?
The phone lines are closed, the votes are in and a team of highly dedicated professionals have been counting them round the clock. georgeweahscousin.com is proud to announce the winners of the inaugural 2011/2012 end of season awards!
Player of the Year
Received Votes:- Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork, Frazer Richardson, Danny Fox, Kelvin Davis, Aaron Martin.
3rd:- Jos Hooiveld.
2nd:- Adam Lallana.
And the winner, capping off an amazing season, the Championship top goalscorer Rickie Lambert!
Most Improved Player
Received Votes:- Adam Lallana, Jos Hooiveld, Billy Sharp, Rickie Lambert, Danny Fox, Kelvin Davis, Danny Butterfield, Guly Do Prado, Dean Hammond, Aaron Martin, Jose Fonte, Richard Chaplow.
3rd Place:- Jack Cork.
2nd Place:- Frazer Richardson.
And the winner, whose importance to the side was shown when he was out injured for a while Morgan Schneiderlin!
Received Votes:- Jos Hooiveld, Billy Sharp, Frazer Richardson, Andy Crosby, Kelvin Davis, Danny Butterfield, Tadanari Lee, Guly Do Prado, Dean Hammond, Richard Chaplow, Jose Fonte, Nigel Adkins, Radhi Jaidi.
3rd Place:- Danny Fox.
2nd Place:- Morgan Schneiderlin.
And the winner, filling in all over the middle of the park and back four Jack Cork!
Signing of the Season
Received Votes:- Danny Fox, Tadanari Lee.
3rd Place:- Jack Cork.
2nd Place:- Billy Sharp.
And the winner is, the man who instantly became a cult hero on and off the pitch, with battling defensive displays and some midweek winners Jos Hooiveld!
Performance of the Season
Received Votes:- Leeds Away (Team), Fonte v Coventry (Home), Birmingham Home (Team), P’Boro Away (Team), Millwall Away (Team), Coventry Home (Team), Forest Away (Team), West Ham Away (Team), West Ham Home (Team), Guly Do Prado v Coventry (Away), Rickie Lambert v Watford.
3rd Place:- Ipswich Town Away (Team).
2nd Place (Joint):- Leeds Home (Team), Middlesbrough Home (Team).
And the winner, one of the most ridiculous clean sheets in football history, making save after save Kelvin Davis v Leeds (Away)!
The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment
Received Votes:- Performance against Leicester at home, Fonte Penalty v Brighton, Guly tripping over on TV, Dean Hammond F-Bomb on BBC, Lallana dive v Pompey, Billy Sharp Open Goal v West Ham, Jos Injuring himself celebrating, Leeds Attack v Davis, Billy Sharp celebrating v Pompey, Jos Boxhead campaign, Defending v Pompey, STEEEEEVE, Matt Taylor sending off v West Ham, Nigel’s Arousal Speech, Tadanari Lee goal celebration, Aaron Martin Open Goal v Forest, John Pantsil falling over trying to defend against Lallana, Jos Celebration v Coventry, Fat Sam Allardyce.
3rd Place:- Pompey’s Season/Relegation.
2nd Place:- Nigel Adkins tripping over the water bottles v Blackpool.
And the winner, something I’m sure he won’t be happy about, doing his best Massimo Taibi impression v Blackpool Bartosz Bialkowski!
Best Opposition Player at St. Mary’s
Recieved Votes:- Kevin Nolan, Billy Sharp, Ricardo Vaz Te, Robert Koren, Kevin Phillips, Stephan Dobbie, Nicky Maynard, Kasper Schmeichal, David Nugent, Chris Maguire, Robert Snodgrass, Scott Allen, Jamie Ashdown, Neill Danns, Liam Trotter, Wilfred Zaha, Darius Henderson, Joshua King, Jason Scotland, Peter Whittingham, Robert Green, Ian Harte.
3rd Place (Joint):- Adam Le Fondre, Adam Federici, Albert Adomah.
2nd Place:- Matt Phillips.
And the winner, very much part of Reading’s relentless pursuit of the Championship summit, and at his devastating best at St. Mary’s Jason Roberts!
Best Opposition Team at St. Mary’s
Received Votes:- Bristol City, Hull City, West Ham, Forest, Cardiff.
3rd Place:- Blackpool.
2nd Place:- Leicester City.
And the winners, taking all three points with a ruthless lesson for Saints in taking chances Reading!
Best Opposition Fans at St. Mary’s
Received Votes:- Leeds, Reading, Hull City, Millwall, Ipswich Town, Bristol City, Cardiff, Forest.
3rd Place:- West Ham United.
2nd Place:- Portsmouth.
And the winners, loudly supporting their team to the bitter end on final day and staying behind to enjoy the Saints celebrations Coventry City!
So that concludes the first gwc.com end of season awards! I shall look forward to compiling them again this time next season in what will be the first Premier League Edition!
Watch out on the site over the coming weeks for a Season review and a Premier League preparation special!
Since Sky television made it’s presence felt in the world of football broadcasting, the traditional Saturday three pm kick off time has become less set in stone. Particularly in the Premier League, but also in the Football League, fans will find their clubs kick off times changed to suit the demand for television viewing.
In the Football League they have an allocated slot of twenty past five on a Saturday afternoon, so Sky Sports can instantly hook the viewers of the ever popular Soccer Saturday straight into another ninety minutes of action.
Saints took part in one of the most entertaining of these fixtures on this weekend a year ago, Nigel Adkins’ men travelled to London Road to take on Peterborough United and played out a 4-4 draw in front of the cameras. Richard Chaplow, Rickie Lambert (2) and Dean Hammond giving Saints 0-2 and 2-4 leads before a second Posh equaliser deep into injury time.
As fate would have it Saints head to a St. Andrews tonight (weather permitting) for the Sky evening fixture in what looks to be a difficult game against a Birmingham side in devastating form.
So how do Saints fare in these games? Better than you might think.
We have a notion that we are poor in front of the Sky camera’s, but our record in the Saturday 17:20 fixtures is pretty reasonable. Losing just two of their eight games since entering the Football League in 2005 (both coming in the ill fated 2008/09 Championship relegation season), what Saints do seem to guarantee at this kick off time is goals. Of those eight fixtures there has been an average of 3.25 goals in the game!
Saints in fact, opened their time in the Football League in one of these fixtures, a goalless stalemate with Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s on the 6th August 2005.
They didn’t feature again until the 27th October 2007, where goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips, Jason Euell and Stern John saw Saints beat Burnley at Turf Moor by three goals to two.
What followed was a disastrous season in Saints history and it coincided with the two 17:20 defeats. A crushing 1-4 loss at the Ricoh Arena was soon followed by a 0-1 home reverse by Bristol City. Not overly surprising in a season that saw Saints record just ten league wins.
Last years goalfest in Cambridgeshire was next and then in the following month Saints took to the St. Mary’s pitch for an evening kick off again for a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte securing the points.
Saints opened this season as they had their first in the Championship, at home in front of the cameras for the evening kick off. Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly netted to give Saints the best possible start, convincingly beating Leeds United 3-1.
Saints were less convincing at the Madejski Stadium in October, Steve de Ridder rescuing a point with a late leveller against Reading.
Southampton Saturday 17:20 kick off record:-
Played – 8
Won – 3
Drawn – 3
Lost – 2
Goals For – 14
Goals Against – 14
Incidentally today’s opponents Birmingham City’s record in these fixtures is P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 GF 5 GA 5.
What do these statistics prove? Well not a lot really, other than in terms of form they don’t make a hell of a lot of difference!
With West Ham playing in the other television spot, kicking off at half past twelve against arch rivals Millwall, Saints will get started at St. Andrews knowing what they have to do. Let’s hope they give the performance of the weekend! COYR!
It is fouteen months since Guilherme Do Prado joined Saints on loan from Cesena and the Brazilian still seems to split opinion amongst the St. Mary’s faithful.
After a slow start to life in English football (not uncommon amongst new imports) many were questioning the reasoning behind signing him. He was even cited as part of the reason that Alan Pardew and Nicola Cortese had fallen out, many suggesting that Guly had been brought in by the chairman against the wishes of the manager and that he had to play whether Pardew liked it or not. Pardew’s decision to put Guly on the bench, in what proved to be his last game in charge at Bristol Rovers many suggested had been the final straw.
This of course turned out to be nonsense, Guly was again on the bench for the five games following Pardew’s departure as Saints went on a disastrous run of form, and it was Guly as much as anyone that became a scapegoat amongst supporters.
As Saints form turned around under new boss Nigel Adkins, so did Guly’s. He netted his first goal for the club in a scrappy affair away at Yeovil Town before really showing what he could do in a man of the match performance at home to Tranmere Rovers as the Saints fans started to see glimpses of why he had been brought to the club.
Guly ended the season with eleven goals and six assists in twenty seven starts and twelve sub appearances (most of them fleeting). A pretty good return for a player settling in to the English game and being employed mainly on the wing, occasionally partnering Rickie Lambert up front. But the supporters were still split, some suggesting Guly to be lazy, or sometimes drifting in and out of games away from home.
I was always surprised by this, Guly’s creativity and ability to change a game were plain to see, he may not be the kind of player to chase the ball all day long and track back (I actually think he does do this), but every team needs a good mix of water carriers and show ponies.
Guly has started this season as well as he ended the last, still playing some games on the wing and some up top, he has weighed in with six goals and is joint top assist maker for the club creating six goals for his teammates, all of this has come in seventeen starts and one substitute appearance, and this is perhaps the most important statistic as it highlights how important he is in Adkins eyes as the Brazilian is Saints most used player so far this term.
So why do some fans question his place in the team? Well perhaps the trip to Reading highlights that better than most. Guly has been known to be quiet on away games, but with some footballers you need to focus on what he does do rather than highlighting what you perceive that he should be doing. The Brazilian, having been selected in midfield seemingly didn’t have a massive impact on a game that Saints trailed 1-0 with eighty minutes gone. Cue a deft volleyed flick over the top to set Steve de Ridder free on the right, and a point rescued. Still some were more intent on discussing what he didn’t do. Creating something from nothing is a skill that most footballers don’t have, and often eighty nine minutes of anonymity can be forgiven for one of genius and a certain number seven sporting Guernseyman could be often guilty of that.
It is worth remembering that foreign footballers aren’t coached the same way as they are here and sometimes we might be guilty of expecting English tenacity from players that simply weren’t taught that way.
In fact I think Saints have uncovered a gem in do Prado. A maverick and with a touch that is perhaps stereotypically expected of his countrymen, we miss his creativity when he isn’t there. Much is made, in fact a certain amount of panic ensues when Lallana is out injured, but Guly’s attacking contribution has been as prominent this season and at times so evidently lacking once he is off the pitch.
For me, he is far more effective when he plays off of Lambert up front, and although he isn’t a bad winger, he is somewhat restricted there, but he is a must for the starting lineup in my opinion.
We may have signed Guly at just the right time, somewhat of a journeyman in the Italian game, we are already the club where he has played his most football and as he enters his thirties he is likely to be hungry to make his mark before it is too late. His last big chance came in 2005 with Seria A giants Fiorentina, but a serious injury meant he spent along time on the sidelines and the moment passed. He could have stayed with Cesena in 2010 and made it to the Italian top flight having helped them to promotion but for whatever reason, he chose St. Mary’s to ply his trade, and I for one am very glad he did.
One thing I am certain of, is that if he helps Saints to the Premier League, he is one of our squad that will definitely be ready. So I leave you with this, especially those that have questioned his place in the side. If we want Saints to carry on winning and doing so in some style, we could do a lot worse than a bit of Samba magic in the Red & White stripes….
The last time we played Watford, it was very much a game of mixed emotions.
Saints under Mark Wotte were struggling, the end of our Championship life seemed nigh. A far cry from our days as a Premier League mainstay, this once great club stood a shadow of it’s former self the amongst the mist and the cold of Vicarage Road on a Tuesday night. Yet two thousand and thirty two hardy souls, me amongst them, had made the trip from the South Coast, still clinging to the hope that survival was possible.
Without a win in six, Wotte’s men were picking up draws, but not converting those points into vital wins. Saints were 23rd in the Championship and crying out for a saviour.
An unlikely one emerged in Hertfordshire. Dutchman Jan-Paul Saeijs.
The centre half had been signed on loan in the previous January by countryman Wotte, Saeijs had come with no reputation to speak of, unheard of by the Saints fans when he arrived from JC Roda, but he soon proved himself to be the kind of player you would want on your side in a dogfight. Strong and determined the Dutchman would get stuck in, and was good in the air, shame the same can’t be said for a lot of his teammates.
With the crowd in full voice, it was Saeijs who opened the scoring at Watford. Rising above Scott Loach in the home side’s goal, he nodded the ball into the back of the net for his first goal in English football. Sadly, as was commonplace with Saints at the time, the lead wasn’t to last long. Just eight minutes in fact.
Saints battled with their hosts, Ryan Smith, having his best game for the club as I recall it, but inevitably after spurning several chances themselves, they fell behind. Former and now born again Saint Jack Cork flicking the ball on for Tamas Priskin to give the away support that same sinking feeling they seemed to have every week.
Desperate times called for desperate measures, and what followed I would usually not condone. In the dying seconds of the game, Saeijs made an uncharacteristic maizy run towards the Watford box, he was tackled, but went down pretty easily. The whistle blew, two thousand and thirty two mouths sighed collectively. There was no need for it, and the chance was gone. But wait. The referee had been suitably fooled. Freek kick Southampton. Proverbial last throw of the dice. Who would take it? Skacel? Lallana? Surman? Nope. The dutchman was dusting himself down and hovering over the ball. I don’t know what it was that made me feel so confident. Perhaps it was his confidence emanating on to me, perhaps it was nine months of emotional withdrawal and the final step into delusion, but I knew he would score.
The crowd bemoaned the ridiculousness of letting the centre back take it. Many were eyeing the exit, already, the quiet contemplation of the M25 in their minds. Another away trip, another defeat, another step closer to the dreaded trapdoor and third tier football. Saeijs kicked the ball. Silence. It sailed, bending majestically towards the top right corner. The keeper couldn’t get to it, I’m not sure he moved. I cared, neither then or indeed now. Goal. The cacophony and collective euphoria that accompanies a last minute goal will never be equalled by any moment watching any other sport. The embracing of strangers and the general outpouring of relief would be hard to explain to an alien.
We only had a point. In reality it wasn’t enough, but it still gave us hope. For that moment we were still alive, and still fighting.
Saeijs left the club in the summer and returned to Roda before becoming a teammate of Steve de Ridder’s at de Graafschap where he still plays. Saints face Watford again on Saturday. Top of the Championship.
It is an unusual position for a Saints fan to be looking down on the rest of the league after the opening two games. Notoriously slow starters, it is the first time Saints have won their opening two games for twenty three years.
But should we be surprised? Nigel Adkins’ tireless enthusiasm for the job, our relentless end to last season and the additions of some quality players in the transfer window screams of a professional and assured approach to the new campaign. On top of that Adkins focus on fitness, somewhere we seriously failed at the start of last season has clearly paid off, as our lean first team squad look sharp and hungry.
There will be a lot of talk about “momentum” and it definitely plays a part. Steve Grant pointed out on twitter today that Saints have dropped just four points from the last available fifty one, which is phenomenal form. Couple this with the fact that our promoted chums Brighton are keeping up so far, also winning both their games.
What we have at St. Mary’s though, that I believe to be the most important part is a “team” in the truest sense of the word. While Leicester spend big, buying lots of new players, Adkins approach has been to keep the core of last seasons successful side and add to it gradually. Jack Cork has come straight in, and his quality is clear for all to see, while the other new boys Steve de Ridder and Danny Fox look like they will have to be patient to break into what is, a so far this season, an excelling group. The loss of Alex Chamberlain to Arsenal, in the least shocking transfer move of the summer (although perhaps gazumped by Mr. Fabregas and Barca today) hasn’t had any negative effect whatsoever yet, and with de Ridder looking like a shrewd bit of business, there is a fair chance it won’t at all.
There is much talk of new Strikers and Centre halves that don’t look like dying down anytime soon, but with the assured performances of Aaron Martin against Leeds, and Dan Seaborne at Barnsley, coupled with the resurgence of David Connolly up front, I am not sure we are “desperate” for players in any position.
While we can enjoy our 100% start, it is natural as a Saints fan to look for the catch. We simply aren’t used to a good start, and I for one have already scanned the fixture list for the first “back to earth with a bump” outing, and actually tomorrow night’s trip to Portman Road could be it. They are my outside tip for promotion and it will no doubt be a tough place to go. Paul Jewell is no mug at this level, and the acquisitions of Lee Bowyer and Michael Chopra make them an exciting looking team.
The opening two game winning side of 1988, did go on and win their third match to, so we aren’t incapable, but if we are looking for omens, Chris Nicholl’s class of 1988/89, Neil Ruddock, Barry Horne and co finished up 13th in Division One, and I would like to think we are aiming slightly higher than that. In better news, that season, of our current opponents, only Forest, Derby, Coventry and Millwall finished above us.
West Ham United (h) 4-0
Queens Park Rangers (a) 0-1
Luton Town (h) 2-1
Leeds United (h) 3-1
Barnsley (a) 0-1
Ipswich Town (a) ?
Whatever happens, we have already sent a message to the Championship old guard, that we haven’t come here to make up the numbers, and our destination is up.
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