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Imagine being surprised that Southampton didn’t score today? To be honest there can’t have been a more easier fixture to predict in all of football today.
You know exactly what you are coming up against when you take on a side managed by Tony Pulis, they will be well organised and difficult to break down. What you definitely don’t want to do is go behind early and give them a lead to protect, especially if you are struggling to convert chances yourselves. 72 seconds. Well done lads.
As soon as Saido Berahino’s neat finish hit the back of the net, even the most optimistic Saints fan knew how this was going to pan out. The team looks absolutely bereft of ideas going forwards at the moment and today’s match could have gone on all night and no goal would…
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West Brom vs Southampton – Saturday 28th February, 15:00
West Brom will be looking to go a fifth game unbeaten this weekend when they face Southampton at home this Saturday. The Baggies are on a good run of form but will need to perform well to beat the Saints.
Saido Berahino, partnered with Brown Ideye, has picked up his performances to return to his early season form recently, and although he didn’t score last time out, the striker now sits on nine Premier League goals. He has scored from exactly a fifth of his shots and has put 48.9% of his shots on target, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Berahino has also played more minutes in the Premier League than any other player in the West Brom squad (1905). Berahino is 21/4 to score first with 888sport.com.
One of Berahino’s main suppliers is midfielder Stephane Sessegnon. The creative playmaker has completed more dribbles than any other West Brom player with 29 successful dribbles to his name, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He is second in the club rankings for assists with four, one behind Chris Brunt.
Craig Gardner has been a key cog in the West Brom midfield this season, both going forward and defensively. Although his contributions have largely been defensive, Gardner has the second most shots on target in the West Brom squad (12) behind Berahino. Defensively, Gardner has made the seventh most tackles in the entire division, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
Southampton have only won one of their last four games, scoring just one goal in the process, but they are still sat in fifth place, only two points off of Arsenal in third place, and will want to keep the pressure up and possibly leapfrog those above them by recording a win against West Brom.
Nathaniel Clyne has arguably been the outstanding player in the Southampton side this season. The England right back has made 88 successful tackles, the second highest total in the league, as well as the seventh greatest number of sprints, with 1458, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
Sadio Mané has also excelled under Ronald Koeman this year and the Senegalese winger is Southampton’s second top goalscorer. Mané has five goals so far this season and has recorded 51.9% of his shots on target, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Mané is 6/1 to score first with 888sport.com.
A big bonus for Southampton this weekend will be the return of Ryan Bertrand from suspension. Bertrand has missed the last three games but is likely to return to the start against West Brom. Bertrand has made the seventh highest number of successful crosses in the Premier League with 21, finding his man 27.6% percent of the time, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
Data supplied by the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Select and manage your own team of stars at http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ or with FIFA Ultimate team.
JUSTICE FOR JEFF ASTLE
Nine minutes into Saturday’s game a large banner will be unveiled in the Smethwick End (to the left of the Southampton supporters) reading ‘Justice for Jeff’ which starts a minute’s applause – nine being the famous shirt number our dad wore. The two big screens at The Hawthorns will also display a picture of Jeff with the words ‘If in doubt, sit them out’ which refers to the dangers of concussion in sport.
Southampton fans are more than welcome to join in with the applause if they choose, for which we would be very grateful for. If not, we would like to take this opportunity to make them aware of our campaign if they haven’t already seen it via the national media.
The Justice for Jeff banner has been at every West Bromwich Albion home and away game and will continue to be for the rest of this season. Hopefully by then, the promised research into the links between heading footballs and brain damage will be in its early stages and, just as importantly, the research into former players and instances of dementia will have commenced.
We would also like to respectfully ask that if you are aware of any other former players who may have died of, or are sadly living with Alzheimer’s or any other Degenerative Brain Disease please contact us by emailing email@example.com – this information is vitally important to forthcoming research. Our dad was the first British footballer to have been confirmed to die from CTE but he wouldn’t of been the first and certainly won’t be the last.
The Astle Family
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN
The ‘Justice for Jeff’ campaign is dedicated to our dad, Jeff Astle, the countless number of former football players who have died of degenerative brain disease (DBD), and former players and their families who are suffering from the consequences of DBD.
Jeff Astle died at the age of 59 on 19th January 2002. In November that year we attended the Coroners Court. A leading pathologist stood and described how badly damaged dad’s brain was. He found that there was considerable evidence of trauma to his brain that was similar to the brain of a boxer. He said the main candidate for the trauma was heading a heavy ball and it was the repeated trauma that appeared to be the problem. H.M Coroner, Andrew Haigh, ruled “Mr Astle’s type of dementia was entirely consistent with heading a ball and the occupational exposure has made at least a significant contribution to the disease which had caused his death”.
Verdict – INDUSTRIAL DISEASE
Following this landmark ruling the Football Association (FA) and Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) promised to conduct a ten-year joint study into DBD and the medical links associated with head trauma through heading footballs. Thirteen years on, this research has never been concluded or published.
After learning about the FA/PFA and their lack of, well, anything, we contacted a Consultant Neuropathologist based in Glasgow, called Dr. Willie Stewart. Dr. Stewart is one of the World’s Leading Experts in a disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). It’s not a new disease, it’s just got a new name. It’s “dementia pugilistica”, “punch drunk syndrome”, or “boxers brain”. The disease has actually been around for nigh on 100 years. CTE had been found in the brains of former NFL players. It is a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions or, as we now know, in dad’s case, low level repeated brain trauma.
Following his death, Dad’s brain was donated for brain research, it was something dad believed in. We gave Dr. Stewart permission to re-examine dad’s brain to look for evidence of CTE. Dad was originally diagnosed as having dementia/early onset Alzheimer’s. Could they have got it wrong? They had. Dad didn’t have Alzheimer’s. He was now the first ever British Professional Footballer to have died of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Dad died of repeated blows to the head, the type caused by heading a football… just as the Coroner had ruled over 12 years ago. The question is – how many others?
So what are our objectives?
On a personal level, acknowledgement from the game about what killed our dad.
Looking ahead – to create a legacy for past, current and future generations of footballers. We are establishing a charity in dad’s name, ‘The Jeff Astle Foundation’, with 3 principle aims…
We quite often get asked “what justice do you want”? Well justice is a powerful word, with many meanings and concepts. The administration of law, reward or penalty as deserved, impartiality, fairness, the quality of being right or correct, to name just a few. The concept of “Justice” in The Justice for Jeff Campaign is again, powerful yet simple. It’s fighting for what is right and fair and importantly, righting wrongs. And make no mistake there have been many wrongs or injustices following the death of our dad, and we make no apologies for doing whatever we can to fight for him, whenever we can, however we can.
We want acknowledgement of what happened to our dad so as to be able to make a difference for those, unlike dad, that it’s not too late for. Those already suffering as he did and those who are, or maybe, a ticking time bomb for the future. We want answers. We need to know. Football needs to know.
No amount of money or compensation can bring our dad back. It is NOT about that. Money may be the first language of modern football and its authorities, it’s not the be all and end all to everyone.
For too long this issue has been the silent scandal of sport, possibly thousands of former players and their families suffering grievously from damage caused by the game they loved.
As a footballer you can expect to get knocks, perhaps ligament damage and even trouble with arthritis later in life, you don’t expect to die of brain damage at 59.
Football should not, and must not, be allowed to shy away from confronting what is an uncomfortable and unsettling reality. The whole game should be united in wanting “Justice for Jeff”.
‘If we could leave you with one final thought it would be that our dad was an ordinary, working class man with an exceptional talent. He was a hero to many but more importantly he was a husband, a father and a grandfather.’
As Ronald Koeman and Saints set about rebuilding the squad ahead of the new Premier League season, we have been linked with a plethora of players across Europe, so the news that they had had a bid accepted for Shane Long seemingly came from nowhere.
A player who in the past has had, shall we say, minor disagreements with Saints fans might take his time to get the crowd behind him, but as a full Irish international and with bags of experience under his belt, Long is a player who certainly adds to the squad and in a position where the club lacks depth.
Personally I’ve never been overwhelmed by him, and his goal record isn’t great for a striker, but his work rate and ‘hassling’ of Saints defences in the past has been a nuisance. I thought I would get the thoughts of those that have seen him week in/week out as per the norm and caught up with Hull City fan Rick Skelton from Boothferry to Wembley and WBA fan and aspiring coach Ash Davies.
This one came a little out of the blue, were you surprised to see the news that Long was heading to St. Mary’s?
RS ‘ I was surprised. He wasn’t a player I’d expected any interest in given that he’s only been here seven months and I couldn’t see anyone coming up with enough money to tempt Hull CIty to sell.’
AD ‘At first yes, I think everyone was surprised, we had got a great fee for a player who’s contract was out this summer and he’d moved to a club he seemingly liked, although he didn’t want to leave WBA the lack of a good enough offer forced him out, however he has many strong bonds down south and on that front I am not surprised he is heading down your way, I didn’t expect it to be so soon after a move to Hull though.’
Does Long have any specific strengths and weaknesses we should be aware of?
RS ‘His pace is his biggest attribute. He has real acceleration and combined with his willingness to keep making runs, it wears down defenders. He has enough strength and a good enough touch that he’ll turn hopeful balls into good ones. His weakness is obvious in his goalscoring record. It was around 1 in 4 before he joined us and it hasn’t been that good since. He’s a hit and hope finisher rather than a taker of chances. Someone who gets in the positions he does should do far better.’
AD ‘Strengths; He’ll run all day for you, he’ll leave everything on the pitch and create a bond with the fans, that always helps when the going gets tough. I have to say his ability to win yards was a huge plus under Hodgson, he would win a throw in, free kick or corner from a long punt towards him at times and that gained us 60+ yards and put the pressure on the opposition, it was huge. He has a huge leap for a little(er) lad and really uses that to get at defenders, a great tool that’ll always give you hope on a heading battle. I like the way he can play channels, drift out wide and when we had him, Odemwingie and Lukaku he played well from wide areas getting balls into the box and combining with the other attackers, however I don’t think wing play is his game.
Weakness: Goals. Ultimately he never got enough over the time he played for us, he linked well, he had some great movements but when the finish came around he wasn’t consistent enough, just look at the last fixture he played for us, against you boys, he should have buried Boruc and didn’t. First touch has a tendency to let him down at times too, when it needed to stick it couldn’t and that was what frustrated many with him. His injury record also should be a major concern for you, he often praised us for the way we dealt with his Hamstring condition and said that the club needs to understand what he has, so you’ll find his Hamstrings are weaker than most and he will pick up knocks.’
He’s had run in’s with the Saints crowd before, and many have been upset by his tendency to ‘go down easily’, is this something we should get used to?
RS ‘Yes, he definitely “draws” fouls. He upset WBA fans in winning a penalty against them last season which was incredibly soft. As with most cheats in football though – no one seems to mind when they’re on your team.’
AD ‘Yes, something he’s added to his game over the past year and a side to his game us baggies were glad to see leave, he does love a dive, and to go down under pressure, it’s not a lack of strength it’s him falling down under the slightest touch. It’s diving and it’s something he will continually do, also expect some arm flapping and a bit of moaning to come along with that.’
How is Long best utilised from a tactical/formation perspective?
RS ‘He can play as a lone front man and will do a great job in games where discipline is the objective. If you want to take the game to the opposition – which Saints have tended to do – he needs to play in a pair or wide in a three because he won’t score the amount of goals required. He’s a selfless player though so he’ll play anywhere across the front and do the hard work for other people.’
AD ‘Difficult to say; He’s played many roles at WBA and I liked him as a lone forward when he arrived, pack the midfield and give him service down the sides and in behind where he can chase and harry defenders all day long, ultimately his pressure lead to WBA possession but as his time at WBA drew to a close we saw more of him in a 4-4-2 where he’d run channels and play into his fellow striker and try and create a partnership. Best way to utilise him would be a lone role with a number 10 getting around him, I’m not sure he likes running channels in a 2 and I am not sure he is specific enough as a striker to play in a two, he’s an all rounder which leads me to play him alone, but that would require goals coming from midfield and a supply line, he’ll give midfielders space by taking away defenders.’
What have you made of the situation at Saints this summer?
RS ‘I’ve been a bit surprised. Taking stupid money for Lallana and Shaw was a no-brainer really and no club could be criticised for that but some of the other sales have seemed unnecessary. It’s not like you need the money after the two big deals so all it does is give the impression that you are open for business. That then leads to difficult situations like the one with Schneiderlin. I think you should have put your foot down earlier and given the right impression to the likes of Lovren and Chambers.’
AD ‘Feel for you, to lose that many players and management hurts, we’ve had an eventful summer ourselves but you’ve outdone us on that score. I would question certain aspects of running the club at times but would also say if the player does want out then so be it, let them go, what needs to be done now is a rebuild and quickly. Need to get new, quality players in who want to be at the club, it’s more than do-able, but you need a reliable scouting network, a manager willing to speak their mind on who and want they want and a board wanting to back them with all their decisions. Personally feel you’ve taken quite a few backwards steps thus far and instead of looking at Europe you’re looking over your shoulders again vying to stay with the big boys. Very much like us on the season aspirations, survive this season and I think you could really kick on in 2015/16 when it’s all calmed a little/ What’s important for you fans now is to have a sense of perspective, you’ll never break into the top 6 because of financial reasons so the aim is always going to be below that in our mini league and staying up should always be the first aim for all of our mini league sides. Get to 40 and go from there.’
So there we have it, a signing many of us would not have chosen, but a valuable squad member no doubt. Perhaps not the marquee transfer some would have liked, but it’s not often Saints pry a first team player away from another Premier League club, and Long strikes me as one you would rather have for you than against you!
Daunting. ‘Baptism of Fire’. Tough….
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