Unlike most clubs, Saints have not spent much money – do they need to invest in order to remain competitive?
KD ‘They need to and they haven’t been shy in the past of reinvesting the money they receive. In the past couple of years they’ve brought in something like £200m and they keep reinvesting it because they’ve got the scouting ‘black box’ model down there where they’re constantly scouring the planet for the best young players coming through. It almost feels like a stepping-stone club at times where they look to develop. It wouldn’t surprise me if they already have their targets in mind and negotiations are going on so they can wisely reinvest the money they get for van Dijk. They need competition for places and to keep adding to the strong if they want to push forward from what they achieved last year.’
What are your fondest memories of playing for Saints?
KD ‘The first year down there. I obviously made the move from Chesterfield where I’d been playing in League’s one and two so it was incredible to play in the Premier League at the age of 20. I still remember going down with the PFA and them negotiating the deal for me with Graeme Souness who was the manager at the time. He left that summer and Dave Jones took over. There was so much hype around the Premier League and to play with these legends like Zola and Bergkamp was so exciting for me. I loved the area and the club.’
November 4, 1997. Goodison Park. Talk to us about that solo goal against Everton, where does it rank in your best goals scored?
KD ‘That has to be the best one I scored. It was live on Sky and I loved playing at Goodison Park. I see it every now and again on those TV shows and I have a little laugh and a joke with my children saying ‘Have a look at this”. I got the ball and things opened up for me so had a little dribble up from the halfway line and it found the net.
It was a decent little goal and I’m sure if Messi had scored that one it would have been shown a few more times. We won the game 2-0 as well. It was an embarrassing celebration though.’
Do you feel you may have got a bit unlucky at Saints at times – looking back especially on that ankle ligament injury against Manchester United at The Dell?
KD ‘Leading up to that ankle injury I was absolutely flying at the time in January. I think it was ’98? We had a good team spirit and I loved living on the south coast. We had a good season that year barring my injury. You have ifs and buts and maybe that was a turning point for me because you wonder what could have happened. If I hadn’t got injured that summer was the World Cup. My ankle was never really the same again and that was a big turning point in my career. I went on to do alright but I was never quite the same player again.’
This week I was given the fantastic opportunity via 888sport.com to pose some questions to former Saints striker Kevin Davies.
Davies had two spells at the club sandwiching a big money move to Blackburn Rovers and can perhaps be credited for changing his style of play completely to earn him greater success as he matured.
From ‘that’ goal against Everton to cup final disappointment and what he makes of the van Dijk ‘situation’, Kevin gave us a frank and honest take on the club.
Kevin Davies, spoke exclusively to 888sport.
What do you expect to see from Saints next season, can they compete for a top eight place again for example?
KD ‘There needs to be more signings and it will be interesting to see what happens between now and the end of the transfer window and particularly whether Van Dijk goes and if they have the timescale to reinvest that money. I covered their games for BT last year and yes there was some fans a bit disgruntled with the style of play but I think when you play that many games in Europe, get to a cup final – which they were unlucky to lose – and finish in the top eight that’s a really good season.
You look at the sides above them and it’s going to be difficult to compete with them but they’ve got a really good manager in Pellegrino and they may well play a more attacking style of football now because he always wants his teams to play the right way.”
The fans need to believe in Les Reed and the model they have created down there. I’m a big fan of what they do where they plan for the future. You may question their ambition a little bit and want them to keep their better players but they have the model in place to be ahead of the game whether that is finding the right playing staff or managers. When you look at where they were seven or eight years ago and now they’re going to be in or around that cluster of top eight teams like West Brom, Stoke and Leicester. There is no danger of relegation and they will finish mid-table at least I think.’
Their biggest flaw last season was the lack of goals, how does Pellegrino bring back that spark up front?
KD ‘They’ve got enough options there. We saw flashes of what Gabbiadini is capable of and though he has never been prolific at previous clubs in Italy he looks a real fox in the box. All the strikers have different attributes with the likes of Shane Long and Charlie Austin. Both missed a lot of last season through injury but they’re different kinds of strikers who can cause different kinds of problems for defenders. There is Redmond in there as well so it comes down to the manager and what he sees in pre-season. Whether he plays three up or one or the old-fashioned 4-4-2 there are plenty of attacking options and it’s about settling on a system that clicks. There will be less rotation which is good because the best players want to player every week and that leads to frustration. Shane Long only made ten starts last season so there is frustration there but what that gives a manager is a clean slate. They will all be eager to impress and make that starting line-up and stay there.’
What is your view on the Virgil van Dijk situation?
KD ‘It just seems unsavoury. Clearly the player wants to go and Southampton are taking a stance which they have every right to do as he signed a new contract not so long ago. It needs to be resolved sooner rather later though because it looks inevitable that they’re going to sell him at some point. The club has done really well in the past bringing in players at the right time then selling them on but I know there are a lot of fans – including former players like Matt le Tissier – who would like those players to stay. That is so difficult when the big clubs come calling and maybe it’s the right move to sell him if they triple their money on him. With the model they have at Southampton they will have been planning this for months, years, and will know how best to reinvest that money.’
Back in 2011, prior to Saints return to the top flight I was asked by Shoot magazine to compile my ‘Premier League Dream Team’.
I thought it would be good to look back at it now, 5 years later and with some impressive Premier League campaigns under our belt to see where I might now change that team.
Goalkeeper (2011) – Antti Niemi
Goalkeeper (2016) – No change. The flying Finn was and still is the best keeper I’ve ever seen in a Saints shirt.
Left Back (2011) – Wayne Bridge
Left Back (2016) – No change. I was a big fan of Bridge, and though I think Luke Shaw might have stolen this had he stayed a bit longer and Ryan Bertrand is consistently immaculate, Bridge still gets the nod. Just.
Right Back (2011) – Jason Dodd
Right Back (2016) – Nathaniel Clyne. It’s not easy to drop Dodd who was such a fantastic servant to the club but Clyne’s performances in a Saints shirt were superb.
Centre Half (2011) – Dean Richards R.I.P.
Centre Half (2016) – Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman will go on to be know as one of Saints most impressive and important signings of all time in my opinion. Oozes class and is almost unbeatable in the air.
Centre Half (2011) – Michael Svensson
Centre Half (2016) – Jose Fonte. Another difficult decision but Fonte’s impact in the Premier League as the constant amongst several partners and the defensive performances that have stemmed from them have to be rewarded.
Central Midfield (2011) – Chris Marsden
Central Midfield (2016) – Morgan Schneiderlin. An all round brilliant midfielder and arguably is yet to be replaced (though PEH looks a decent bet).
Left Midfield (2011) – Hassan Kachloul
Left Midifeld (2016) – Adam Lallana. The homegrown Lallana may have left a sour taste in the mouths of many when he left, but his performances for Saints were a joy to watch.
Right Midfield (2011) – Ronnie Ekelund
Right Midfield (2016) – No change. Ekelund was at the club for such a short space of time that I feel sorry for those fans who didn’t get to see how good he was.
Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2011) – Matthew Le Tissier
Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2016) – No change. Pretty sure I don’t have to justify this one.
Striker (2011) – Marian Pahars
Striker (2016) – No change. I can’t drop the little Latvian, I simply can’t. He provided too much joy to my younger Dell going self.
Striker (2011) – James Beattie
Striker (2016) – Rickie Lambert. Very difficult to remove Beattie, but Lambert was much more than a brilliant striker, he was a superb footballer and a talisman too.
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?
It was with much anticipation that I first heard of Mark Sanderson and his upcoming biography of ’76 hero Bobby Stokes.
Aptly titled ‘The man from Portsmouth who scored Southampton’s most famous goal’, there is an air of mysticism about Stokes and how he bridged a gap between two cities so often at each other’s throats.
I asked Mark about whether anyone these days could become a hero in red and white stripes, but also maintain the respect and love of his rival home town?
MS ‘Bobby Stokes is one of several Pompey lads who have gone on to play for Saints – from Steve Mills to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Ward-Prowse. Far fewer have done the opposite. Perhaps the most notable example was Bitterne Park schoolboy Darren Anderton, who was part of the Pompey side that lost to Liverpool on penalties in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final. Although none of these players have had as much impact for either club as Bobby’s winning goal for Southampton in the 1976 FA Cup Final. Bobby remained a Pompey lad, but he had a special relationship with Southampton – his funeral was in Porchester, but his ashes were scattered at The Dell. ‘
If like me you spent your formative years in the early 1990’s you will be familiar with an incredibly funny duo whose collection of comic characters and sketches are fondly remembered by us all.
You will have swung your pants with The Singing Corner, wondered which hapless celebrity was going to enrage barbers Ken and Eddie Kennedy and enjoyed some Pot Fish sponsored rave nights all from the comfort of your living room on a Saturday morning. Though you may have watched them religiously every week like I did, you may, as I was be ignorant to the fact that Trevor Neal of ‘Trevor & Simon’ fame is a Saint just like us.
I read an article Trevor had written for the Huffington Post in which he spoke of meeting Paul Weller in Debenhams in the city during the 70’s and I wondered then if he might be red an white, this was later confirmed when I saw some tweets of his in which he mentioned Saints.
I was lucky enough to catch some time with Trevor and talk about his life as a Saint.
When did you know you were a Saints fan?
TN ‘I grew up in Southampton and lived there until I was 18 – it was the natural way of things to support The Saints (although before I was old enough to know better in 1972, aged 9 years old, I have to confess that I owned a Leeds United kit (sorry!) – but I think that was only because I liked the sock tabs with numbers on!). My dad was a police dog handler in Southampton and he was occasionally on duty at The Dell (ask your grandparents, kids!) so when I was very young he used to bring home team autographs, which was always very exciting. When I was about 12 years old I went to see the Saints play at the Dell with some school mates and we loved it. We started going regularly after that and used to go and stand in what they called “the chocolate boxes” because as I remember, that’s where families and younger supporters would watch the games. Later we joined the Milton Road end terrace where the main singing and chanting happened. I remember it being really good fun – but this was the 1970s – so being quite young and small it was a bit scary at times too. I remember things getting a bit “lively” at times – particularly when Man United visited.’
Who have been your favourite characters involved with the club over the years? Any you’d think would make good comedy performers?
TN ‘I have to admit I had a bit of a break following football from about 1977, when I discovered Punk Rock and girls, until about the year 2000 when a mate encouraged me to join a Fantasy Football league – so it would be dishonest to pretend I was anything but a part-time supporter really! Anyway I won the Fantasy Football League that season with my team – (which was called Treverton – nothing to do with Everton – just a daft pun) and my star striker was Marians Pahars. I also had Wayne Bridge in defence. The prize money for winning the league was £50 – but I never received it – otherwise I would definitely owe it all to those key Saints players! When I was a kid, players like Ron Davies, Terry Paine and Mick Channon were favourites. In 1976, following the FA cup win, I lined the streets of Southampton to congratulate the team with everyone else, holding a banner which I’d made out of an old bed sheet, proudly aloft which read “Laurie’s Miracle Men”. I think some other fans were a bit miffed that I was suggesting the win was a “miracle” and not through sheer skill and determination – which it obviously was as well – but I still think there was a hint of the miracle about the whole occasion! Bobby Stokes will always be a favourite for that reason. During that season I remember me and my mates used to think the substitute Hugh Fisher was a bit of a comedy performer – but we were just cheeky teenagers and I’m sure it was completely unfair!’
Having performed all over the country, has football and supporting Saints got you into any trouble on stage?
TN ‘Football has never really got me into any trouble at all – I’ve never taken it that seriously – but whenever I have performed in and around the Portsmouth area – I know how to wind up the audience!’
Do you get to St. Mary’s much?
TN ‘I’m ashamed to say that I have never visited St Mary’s. I live in Broadstairs now in East Kent, which is nearer to Belgium than Southampton, so I don’t visit my old home often these days. My son is an Arsenal supporter (don’t blame me!) so a friend arranged for me to take him to watch Saints play Arsenal at the Emirates a few seasons ago – it was a difficult day for me. I was surrounded by Gunners cheering and celebrating as they beat Saints 6-1. My son thought it was the best day ever.’
Do you think Saints can achieve European Football this season?
TN ‘Why not? They were more closely in the running a few months back maybe but I’d like to think it could still happen. Doesn’t look like anyone’s going to catch Chelsea but there’s still room for a bit of change below them. It would be fantastic if they can do it – like 1976. If they do I’ll pull the sheet off my bed and make another banner – “Ronald’s Miracle Men”’
I think Simon is a Manchester City fan, not many bragging rights for you at the moment, but both clubs have had some ups and downs over the years, did you console each other trough it or take the mick?
TN ‘We’re both similar in that we’ve come back to football late in life. Simon was a childhood City fan in the days of Mike Summerbee. He’s very passionate about City now but neither of us take it seriously enough to worry about any rivalry. We gently tease each other sometimes and occasionally we even back each other’s side but only when they’re playing against Chelsea or United!’
What would Ken and Eddie have made of Kevin Keegan’s haircut?
TN ‘When Roger Daltrey visited Ken and Eddie’s barber shop they were offended when he asked for a perm in reverse because of course they “don’t do perms” backwards or forwards – but I think a Reverse Perm is what Kevin would need.’
‘Kevin Keegan had the ultimate “footballer’s haircut” – his hair was shaped like a football.’
Trev & Simon, along with Sophie Aldred (Ace in Dr Who), are launching a new comedy sci-fi audio podcast called Strangeness in Space – full details at www.strangenessinspace.com, check it out!
A couple of years ago, I started making ‘notes’ on my life as a football supporter, in particularly my time following Saints. It was soon formed into chapters that could make a book, though I was never sure that anyone but me would be interested to read it.
I tentatively sent it to a couple of publishers and actually got some interest, though as writing is not my job I couldn’t commit to any time-scales or deadlines that would need to be met.
I toyed with the idea of self publishing, but again the nagging doubt crept in that actually, this is only a story that is relevant to me, my friends and family and perhaps those of a similar age who support Saints. It also dawned on me that I write this blog because I love talking about Saints. They are my passion and in no way do I feel any need to try and profit from that, I’ve had countless offers from bigger websites and organisations to take this site under their wing and make it into a money making venture, but it has never felt right and therefore I have kept it as it is, losing me money on a yearly basis (It’s a good year since I was sued by a photographer though, so fingers crossed!).
I have decided to take the same approach with this ‘book’ and publish the first chapter on here. If it get’s any interest then I will publish the rest as and when I see fit.
If you are a mid-thirties Saints fan who grew up in the eighties surrounded by people who support teams they have no emotional connection to, can appreciate the despair of watching text updates of a League One game at 4 AM in a Chinese hotel room or trying to get a signal to watch Manchester United v Aston Villa during an Iraqi insurgent rocket strike you might get something out of it….
After relentless pursuing of Saints and Ex-Saints on twitter, I managed to get one of my favourites!
Former Saints striker Egil Østenstad wowed the Dell between 1996 and 1999, scoring some great goals and being part of that famous 6-3 victory over Manchester United in which he bagged a hat-trick (he doesn’t care what the dubious goals panel says, he’s got the match ball!).
So here it is 20 questions with Egil Østenstad!
1. Best Saints Memory? ‘Among a lot of great ones; staying in the Premier League in my first season after being in desperate trouble. Great feeling. Also being voted Player of the season that same season, and scoring in front of the The Kop on my first visit to Anfield.’
2. Worst Saints memory? ‘Not being able to sort out a new and longer contract with Rupert Lowe.’
3. Favourite Manager? ‘I will always be very grateful towards Graeme Souness for giving my the chance to come to Southampton and the Premier League. At Southampton, in his eyes, I never did anything wrong. At Blackburn I never did anything right…’
4. Least favourite Manager? ‘Even though results were decent I thought Dave Jones had an old school approach to the game and a managerial outlook that I found difficult to like.’
5. Most talented team mate?‘Le Tiss was the biggest British talent of his generation when it comes to pure football. His willingness to make the most out of his talent is a different story. Eyal Berkovic was a joy to play with.’
6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room?‘Jim Magilton. Busy man…’
7. The Dell or St. Mary’s? ‘For me The Dell. I only played against Southampton at St Mary’s.’
8. Which member of the current team impresses you most?‘Adam Lallana. Not just because of his ability. More so because of his attitude, loyalty and being a great ambassador for Saints.’
9. Hardest team mate? ‘Ulrich van Gobbel. Monster…’
10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘Loads whilst playing for Blackburn. Quite enjoyed that and scored the winning goal (0-1) on my first visit there. Great stuff!’
11. Derby Day memories? ‘Portsmouth were nearly as bad then as they are now when I was there.’
12. Toughest opponent?‘Martin Keown.’
13. Favourite Away Ground? ‘Anfield.’
14. Favourite Saints kit?’97/98 season Home shirt.’
15. Ever had a Benali curry?‘Loads. Very good actually!’
16. Best friends from Saints days?‘I appreciate the fact that I have met and occasionally spoken to Jason Dodd, Le Tiss, Franny Benali, Jim Magilton and Gordon Watson in the last years. I sometimes speak to Claus Lundekvam. It was a good group of players when I was there.’
17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game?‘Too far. I really hope the rules of financial fair play will have the desired effect. Football is turning into too much of a toy for the wrong reasons.’
18. Pace or skill? ‘Average pace and average skill…’
19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘Top 10. Which is a great achievement!’
20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? ‘Access to Spotify…’
….and a bonus question just for you as we have the same taste in music.
21. What song do you think best fits the Saints experience?‘Smells like teen spirit…’
Many thanks to Egil for taking the time to answer these questions!
So apologies to those of you who follow the site. Life and work got a little hectic for a while there, but hopefully the content will start to flow a little more now, along with a redesign of sorts.
A new feature I have long wanted to add is that of 20 quick-fire questions to anyone associated with Saints. This has more than a little nod of appreciation to the classic ‘Hayling Island Discs’ series that ran in the Red Stripe fanzine in the 90’s, so thanks to them!
So here goes, our first ever interviewee is former Saints striker Gordon ‘Flash’ Watson! I hope you enjoy it.
1. Best Saints memory? ‘Scoring on Home debut v Newcastle 3-1.’
2. Worst Saints memory?‘Leaving in January ’97.’
3. Favourite Manager? ‘Alan Ball.’
4. Least favourite Manager?‘Mike Newell.’
5. Most talented team mate? ‘Matt Le Tissier /Chris Waddle/John Sheridan.’
6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room? ‘No comment.’
7. The Dell or St. Mary’s?‘The Dell.’
8. Which member of the current team impresses you most?‘Rickie Lambert.’
9. Hardest team mate? ‘Francis Benali.’
10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs?‘None.’
11. Derby Day memories? ‘Setting up goal and winning against Pompey at the Dell 96.’
12. Toughest opponent? ‘Sol Campbell.’
13. Favourite Away Ground? ‘Hillsbrough.’
14. Favourite Saints kit?‘2003/4.’
15. Ever had a Benali curry?‘No.’
16. Best friends from Saints days? ‘Team mates weren’t best friends then.’
17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game? ‘Gone to far.’
18. Pace or skill? ‘Skill.’
19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘9th.’
20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? ‘Gas Mask.’
Thanks to Gordon for taking the time to answer these questions!