Blow me readers! georgeweahscousin.com is 5 years old!
What a five years it has been. Truly one of the greatest periods supporting Saints, and as this site has grown, so has the team (coincidence? Probably).
Much like the club, I set out with a ‘five year plan’, and that was to become the best and most popular Southampton blog on the internet and to sell the site for Millions, leading to eventual early retirement. Bugger. Better make it a ‘ten year plan’.
As has become as traditional as Saints not beating Tottenham or a Portsmouth family playing ‘Guess who’s in ya’ at Christmas, we celebrate our birthdays by awarding the ‘Ali Dia award for services to Southampton’ this year proudly sponsored by Forster Extra Strength Condoms.
You can see the previous recipients of the award here. But who will take this year’s crown? The wait is finally over.
As every year, the jury (myself, Ali Dia, Marco Almeida & Stig Johansen) found it extremely difficult. Amongst those nominated were Juanmi for arriving at the club as a Spanish international, having a tiny dog and struggling to make any impact whatsoever, Gaston Ramirez for his dreadful contribution to cost ratio and Liverpool Football Club for continuously contributing to our yearly improvement. But. When it came down to it there was one man who stood out amongst the rest.
We here at georgeweahscousin.com are delighted to announce that the fifth winner of the ‘Ali Dia award for services to Southampton’ sponsored by Forster Extra Strength Condoms, for selflessly realising that his ‘Jonah’ reputation had coincided with some terrible form for Saints, and sacrificing himself and heading to the place where Saints players go to die:- It’s Steven Caulker!
Saints form Post-Caulker:- P 5 W 4 D 1 L 0 F 7 A 0 PTS 13
Wow. What a day. I was expecting to publish this interview and welcome one person to the club. Instead I am welcoming two people and with a very heavy heart I am saying goodbye to another. Thank you Nigel Adkins, a proper tribute will be up soon. Welcome to the club Mauricio Pochettino. More about the new manager in another piece too, but back to the original plan.
As widely reported over the last few days, Saints today confirmed the signing of Norweigan international Vegard Forren on a three and a half year deal from Molde FK.
The 24 year old comes highly rated and is considered a great young prospect across Europe. He is twice a Norwegian league champion and has 5 caps for his national team. Welcome to Saints Vegard Forren.
As usual at georgeweahscousin.com we like to get the lowdown on all new people at the club from those that know them best so we caught up with Norwegian sports journalist Vegard Flemmen Vaagbø to get all the inside info on Saints new man.
It seems a lot of Premier League clubs were paying an interest in Forren, but then Southampton came from nowhere to win the race. Was this expected in Norway?
VFV:- ‘Everton were for a long time seen as favourites to sign Forren, but also Fulham – amongst others– were tracking him. He also declined an offer from Club Brugge. The Southampton-interest came as a bit of surprise when it was known late Monday night, but from that point they seemed to be in pole position.’
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer obviously rates him quite highly, as do the Norwegian fans. Is it a surprise that it has taken this long to get a move abroad?
VFV:- ‘Maybe a little, but Forren has had his opportunities early – he turned down Hoffenheim 3-4 years ago – and has never had a rush to leave Molde. He has matured as a player, especially the last year, and it seems like the perfect timing for him to leave now.’
Scandinavian players have a rich history with the Premier League, do you think that it is always a preferable destination based on the style of play?
VFV:- ‘I think that was more the case a few years ago. England will always be a very special place to play for Norwegian footballers, but it seems that the players leaving Norway now is as likely to go to Germany (as an example) as England.Yet, for Vegard Forren Premier League was the big dream.’
How will Forren fit into the Southampton lineup. Straight away or will he need time?
VFV:- ‘I think he will play quite a lot from the start, but he hasn’t played a competitive match since early December (against Stuttgart in the Europa League), so I would imagine he could need a few games to regain full fitness.’
What sort of defender is Forren, what can the fans expect?
VFV:- ‘He is a “modern” defender. He is very, very relaxed, confident with the ball, he’s good in the air and strong in the challenge. He’s weakness might be his tempo, but he disguises it well by clever positioning. He did some costly mistakes last season, but it seems like that’s in the past.’
Saints have had a good relationship with Norweigan players over the years. Jo Tessem and Egil Ostenstad were very good, and Claus Lundekvam is a club legend. (We won’t talk about Stig Johansen). Do you think Forren is a player who can be a success with the club too?
VFV:- ‘I think Forren has the ability to be a success, and what fascinates me the most about him is how he always seems to master every new level. He came to Molde from Norwegian third division (fourth tier) and very quickly was a regular, he did well for the Norwegian U21 straight away, he performed well in the Europa League and he was excellent in the World Qualifiers last season when coming on from the bench. He rarely gets nervous, and if he gets a good start I think he can be a valuable asset for many years for Southampton.’
Many thanks to Vegard for answering these questions, I for one am pretty excited about this signing!
“Never walk, away from home, ahead of your axe and sword. You can’t feel battle, in your bones, or foresee a fight.” – The Havamal (Book of Viking Wisdom)
In my time watching the Saints, we have had foreign players from all over the world don the famous Red & White stripes. One group in particular that have found themselves taken to the hearts of the fans so readily are the Scandinavians.
So following the succes of the keepers debate I decided to take a vote amongst the users of the #saintsfc hashtag on who has been the best of the many Scandinavian players in Saints history. I was worried that their might be some controversy with this, and as predicted, many did ask as to the non-inclusion of Antti Niemi, who could have been a contender for a second successive Twitter vote victory, but I did check, and had it confirmed to me by others, that Finland is not officially part of Scandinavia. Therefore only players from Denmark, Norway and Sweden could qualify for this highly unofficial title!
In keeping with the four player format, I picked the nominees based on the impact they had on my time watching Saints. Self indulgent? Of course. This is my site. I happily accepted votes in the “other” category though.
1. Claus Lundekvam. It is rare, especially these days, that a foreign player works his way to a testimonial with an English club, but captain Lundekvam did just that. Playing over three hundred and fifty times for Saints, Claus was there for the highs and the lows after joining in 1996. Premier League, Europe, FA Cup final, Relegation, in twelve years at the club, the one thing that was a constant positive were the performances of the centre half. Carried on the tradition of other Scandinavian Premier League stars Jan Molby and Peter Schmeichal, by adopting a local accent.
2. Michael Svensson. Killer was as solid as they come at the centre of defence. A quiet unassuming man off the pitch, but a warrior on it. It is no coincidence that the most successful period of Premier League life for Saints coincided with the Swede’s involvement and the 2004/05 relegation with his loss to injury. His cult hero status at the club would be confirmed a couple of seasons later though, as after being released, he defied his injury problems to return to the playing staff, sadly it wasn’t to be the comeback everyone was hoping for.
3. Egil Ostenstad. The Norweigan with an eye for goal joined Saints in 1996 and became a fan favourite with his slick finishing. He was the fans player of the season in 1996/97 and continued his good goalscoring form in a side struggling in the Premier League. Disappointingly moved on to Blackburn Rovers in a deal that saw Kevin Davies return to the club in 1999.
4. Ronnie Ekelund. In what must have been one of my most enjoyable periods watching Saints, the Dane (a gift from Johan Cruyff to friend Alan Ball) formed a sublime partnership with Matt Le Tissier as they terrorised Premier League defences in the 1994/95 season. His apparent refusal to have surgery on a back problem led to him not being signed permanently, a mistake on Saints part in my opinion. Still rated by Le Tissier as the best player he ever played with.
From over forty votes this was the final result:-
A close victory for the big Swede, it is telling that between them the quality defensive partnership of Svensson and Lundekvam dominated the voting, with most fans finding it difficult to choose between them.