It’s the 7th December. We are still 25 days away from the opening of the transfer window, yet par for the course the papers are awash with talk of the ever widening St. Mary’s exit door.
Speculation on the whole surrounds the centre half pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte, and as usual it is causing disruption and unrest when we should be talking about a win or bust Europa League game on Thursday night.
In the case of van Dijk, his near immaculate performances since joining from Celtic in 2014 have seen him gather an army of admirers. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Dutchman is one of the best in the league at what he does, if not the best. To see him linked with the usual suspects at the top of the table should be, and isn’t, of no surprise. As usual we are the club that took the risk on a player, blooded him, improved him, and now the vultures are circling
Jose Fonte on the other hand is an altogether more curious case. His superb displays for 8 years at the club have largely gone under the radar. Fonte has quietly gone about his job, while a succession of partners seem to attract all the praise. Dejan Lovren, Toby Alderweireld and now van Dijk are lauded as the key member of the central defence club. While Jose is overlooked as the constant, the variables are enjoying the plaudits and so far managed to secure bigger contracts with ‘bigger’ clubs.
That might just have changed in the Summer though when Fonte was a key member of Portugal’s European Championship winning team. His profile was raised and rightly so, and with it came some wanted and unwanted attention. Speculation has been rife ever since, with Manchester United and Everton both supposedly keen to improve an area they are poor in. Unfortunately that speculation has led to fan unrest and now we have an unnecessary and unwanted public PR battle between club and player as talk of a ‘new’ contract has divided opinion.
Let’s look at it from both points of view.
Should Jose Fonte, returning from a hugely successful Summer, and having given the club eight successful years feel deserving of a contract extension? Sure, that doesn’t seem to much to ask.
Should Southampton FC feel obliged to extend the contract of a player who is 33 this month? Not at all, that is fully dependent on the long term plan of the club. As we know, for everyone at the club there is already a replacement in mind. If that replacement is already inbound, would it be financially prudent to extend Fonte’s contract?
What we don’t know is what the demands of a new contract are? With the likes of Jose Mourinho and Ronald Koeman interested and in charge of cash rich clubs, perhaps Fonte is looking for a considerably lucrative new deal. It would be naive to suggest ‘super’ agent Jorge Mendes wouldn’t be pushing for it, and will be using the interest of others as a deal breaker.
It is reported, and confirmed by Fonte himself that he was offered a pay rise in the Summer, but it didn’t come with an extension. Did the club do enough?
Given his age, and the fact that he is now entering the twilight of his career would anyone begrudge him a move to a Manchester United sized club? It would be hard to justify any anger in that situation, especially if Saints have no interest in extending his deal and were to get a decent fee. You could argue that this is all ‘perfect timing’ from a business point of view.
However, it would be a sad end to a journey that Jose Fonte has very much been a part of, and with the propaganda and the sniping that appears to be commonplace with such speculation, are fans in danger of becoming bitter and twisted about departures? It’s football right, but the business model of the club, successful as it has been, brings with it a sense of anxiety when our players are seemingly hand picked by those we are competing with.
It feels like only a matter of time before Saints fans have somebody to boo in every fixture they play, and that level of negativity isn’t required.
If Jose Fonte leaves in January (and personally I hope he doesn’t) then his contribution over the years will be outweighing of any unpleasantness over the last six months. He should leave with our blessing and be given a Rickie Lambert-esque reception on his return.
The fact of the matter is, that none of us really know what has gone on behind closed doors and perhaps never will. As a Saints fans we have to roll with the punches. We should be used to it by now.
Last night was the first time I had a vested interest in who won a major international final.
Portugal lined up with both of their Saints, Cedric and Jose Fonte. I’m that kind of person. If there are Saints in the team then I want them to win, and though the likes of Pepe and Ronaldo promote ill feeling amongst many football fans the love I have for our players and in particular our captain outweighs any dislike I have for anyone else.
I found myself bickering on twitter the other day with someone who took exception to somebody else referring to Jose Fonte as a ‘Southampton Legend’. Their argument was that he isn’t as worthy of that title as the likes of Peter Shilton amongst others. Isn’t he?
Jose Fonte made a drop in division to join Saints in League One, and although we were clearly a club rejuvenated, that kind of move represents a risk no matter what the circumstances.
Fonte was part of the team that won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in his first season and followed it with promotion from League One in the following year.
En route to that promotion it was Fonte that struck a dramatic winner at the Withdean at the death and showed his passion for the club, sparking wild celebrations at the Saints end.
Fonte by this point was a stalwart in the centre of Saints defence and carried on his superb form in conjunction with a second successive promotion and the Premier League beckoned, Fonte again finding the vital touch in the final game against Coventry to seal their destiny.
Many Saints fans (myself included) questioned whether Jose might be one of the players to make way as the squad was strengthened for the top flight, but luckily Saints procession of manager saw otherwise.
Fonte stayed as the constant amongst a plethora of variables. Dejan Lovren and Toby Alderweireld both benefited from his partnership, perhaps taking the credit for some of Fonte’s work as they got ‘big’ moves away, while Jose quietly and consistently got on with his job.
As each season has passed since we got back to the promised land, it has become somewhat of a Southampton tradition to lose a glut of our key players and rebuild, but always there, at the heart of it all is still our constant.
Taking the captain’s armband from one of the many ingrates who walked, Jose Fonte has led us into the Europa League twice, overseen a cacophony of records broken and forced is way into the Portuguese national setup.
While those that have left for ‘ambition’ or to win trophies were sitting with their feet up watching it unfold on the television, Jose Fonte was playing out a clean sheet for his team and being crowned a Euro 2016 champion.
Only in 2012, I was working on a sporting event in Porto and one of the guests was former Portugal player, and now Sporting Director Joao Pinto. I asked him if he had taken a look at Fonte of Southampton. He said he’d never heard of him. He has now.
Fonte’s rise in such a short space of time has been remarkable and is parallel with our own as a club. He’s grown with us and shown that you don’t have to leave to achieve your goals.
Jose Fonte has been a consistent positive since he arrived at St. Mary’s. He’s more than just our captain. He’s our constant, and he is a legend.
With @SouthamptonFC announcing that voting was open for this year’s ‘Player of the Season’ award, it became pretty clear on social media that this would be a contest with only two contenders.
So who will join an illustrious list that includes Kevin Keegan, Mick Channon, Peter Shilton, Alan Shearer, Rickie Lambert and of course three time winner Matt Le Tissier.
Will current captain Jose Fonte be the first person to equal Le God’s feat? Will Fraser Forster become only the fifth goalkeeper to take the crown? The answer to both is almost certainly no.
So here are the clear front runners:-
In the Red corner….
….hailing from Breda in Holland, the two time Scottish Premier League winner and undisputed ‘in the box’ champion. Virgil van Dijk.
Undoubtedly, van Dijk has been one of the signings of the season, and not just for Saints, but for any club, his immaculate displays at the heart of the defence have often been spell binding. Having barely put a foot wrong, the Dutchman has filled the Alderweireld shaped hole that appeared last Summer nicely and winning this award could eclipse his predecessor’s achievements. A monster in the air, yet delicate with the ball at his feet, Saints have unearthed another star, and he would be a worthy addition to the list of winners.
In the White corner….
….from Gortnahoe in Ireland, the former Football Association of Ireland Young Player of the Year, Reading Player of the Year and Munster Minor Hurling Championship winner. Shane Long.
Not many would have predicted Long being such a clear favourite this time last year, but his performances in a Saints shirt this season have been superb. Often bemoaned as a striker who doesn’t score enough goals, Long’s input in this campaign has been crucial. The Irish forward has netted 11 times this term (so far), many of which were part of match winning turns. Long’s tireless effort and attitude whether playing up top or as part of a support three is breathtaking and given the indifference from Saints fans and the scoffing from Scousers when he was linked to Anfield in January, a Player of the Season award would be a fitting end to a point proving campaign!
Somebody’s 0 has got to go.
Also remember that georgeweahscousin.com will also be hosting it’s own prestigious awards as always, so keep an eye out for the voting form come the end of the season!
Saints ran out comfortable 2-0 winners over Watford on Wednesday night, in what will hopefully be the start of some better form for Ronald Koeman’s heavily criticised team of late. It was a much better performance than recent matches, and for once it seemed they were able to convert first half dominance into full time success.
But what has been the cause of this season’s perceived ‘under-performing’?
1. Transfer Policy?
In Koeman’s first Summer at the club, the doom-sayers were out in force as several of Saints’ top names departed for perceivably greener grass, yet the Dutchman’s cut price replacements filled the void admirably and Saints pushed on for their best ever Premier League season.
But what were the chances it would work so well two seasons’ in a row? It’s fair to say we might have got lucky with how quickly the signings of Summer 2014 settled in and gelled with the existing players, and this time it hasn’t quite gone to plan.
Jordy Clasie, who came with the impossible job of slotting in to the massive Schneiderlin shaped hole has been superb of late, but certainly didn’t hit the ground running in a Saints shirt. Cedric, brought in to replace Nathaniel Clyne has found himself in and out of the team, and Juanmi, well nothing more needs to be said.
2. Tactical Errors?
Perhaps signalling a reaction to poor form, Ronald has made some odd tactical moves of late. Failing several times with a back five.
Saints have had a flurry of games where they have looked comfortable in the first half, only to be undone in the second, the away fixture at West Ham, the perfect example of this. Slaven Bilic changed his team at half time to suit and Saints had no counter move to turn to, the hunter became the hunted and three points soon became none.
It could be a case of ‘second season syndrome’ and opposition manager’s being wise to Koeman’s style, but it is worrying that of the last 11 fixtures, we’ve only managed two wins. The Arsenal game was testament to the manager’s ability tactically. In what was an uncharacteristic performance at the time, Saints use of Shane Long destroyed Arsenal at the back.
3. Player Power?
Last season, two of the star performers were undoubtedly our African duo of Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane. Subsequent to that though both have been linked to big money moves to huge clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and err… Spurs.
This has coincided with a considerable dip in form for the pair, and Saints are notably worse for it. I’ve been Wanyama’s biggest cheerleader since he arrived from Celtic, but even I have struggled to defend his lacklustre performances of late. Is he suffering without Morgan? Or his he simply sulking because of his denied to move White Hart Lane? Either way, he doesn’t warrant selection when he returns from suspension against WBA.
Mane has also gone well off the boil, a true game changer when he wants to be but has his head been turned by the thought of dulling it up with LVG at Old Trafford?
4. Squad Depth?
Come the end of the last campaign, Saints fans were hopeful that with European football (Bloody Hell. Remember that?) coming, the transfer window would be used to bolster the depth of the squad.
It looked like this had happened with some of the signings that were made, and we always have our brilliant youth system right?
Unfortunately some of the signings have looked weaker than what was already there and with Ronald publicly criticising the quality of the youth players coming through (perhaps backed by unsuccessful loan spells for Jack Stephens and Sam Gallagher in the Championship) there is an argument to say that the squad is no deeper than it was last year.
5. Other Clubs’ Transfer Policy?
With Saints finishing the last campaign in 7th place, and with the abundance of money coming in from the new TV deal, surely it would be us that push on in terms of improvement?
Perhaps not. While Saints stuck with their policy of bringing in lesser known/cheaper players, those just behind us went big.
With Stoke City signing Xherdan Shaqiri, West Ham bringing in Dimitri Payet and Palace splashing out on Yohan Cabaye, the St. Mary’s faithful were left wondering whether we shouldn’t be a little bit more ambitious in the transfer market.
Did Saints allow other clubs to overtake us in the Summer?
6. Lack of Goals?
Last season, it appeared that Saints had shaken off the ‘All fart and no shit’ stigma of previous campaigns, but it would appear to be back with abundance.
With Graziano Pelle, clearly the club’s number one striker often blowing hot and cold and then out injured, Sadio Mane misfiring and not a lot of contribution elsewhere, the responsibility has fallen on Shane Long of late to bring home the bacon.
Now don’t get me wrong, Long on his day (see Arsenal on Boxing Day) is a decent Premier League player, but he is also incredibly frustrating at times, and fluffs more chances than he takes. He is a decent option for Saints, but in my opinion he shouldn’t be leading the line on a regular basis.
In addition to this, other players need to take on the responsibility of scoring more goals. The return from the likes of Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse and Jordy Clasie is poor.
Saints create plenty of chances, they don’t score anywhere near enough of them.
Following on from the lack of goals, in 2014/15 when Saints weren’t converting their chances they were able to rely upon a miserly defence to mean they didn’t have to, but this season that has gone South as well.
While the loss of Clyne and Toby Alderweireld were no doubt felt, the addition of Virgil van Dijk has certainly proved a good move, but the jury is still out on Cedric and Cuco Martina. Steven Caulker will not be missed.
One other major disruption has been the absence of Fraser Forster. Was it a coincidence that his return on Wednesday saw a clean sheet and a visible growth in confidence in the defence in front of him?
The signing of Martin Stekelenburg was undoubtedly never seen as a long term decision, and he was always here to provide cover for Forster’s injury, but in hindsight was it the right move? A keeper already low on confidence from previous clubs, while he has by no means been a disaster I’ve often found myself wondering after conceded goals if Forster might not have saved them.
8. Overweighted expectations?
‘WE USED TO BE IN LEAGUE ONE YOU KNOW?’ Yeah, yeah, blah, look how far we’ve come, yadda, yadda, yadda…
Fine, this sort of rhetoric is outdated now and fans have the right to expect a certain level of ambition/performance. We are now an established Premier League club again and shouldn’t be accepting of dropping like a stone down the table. But, we also have to accept that other clubs are allowed to progress too, and no one has the right to beat anyone else.
I actually think that it was last season that was an unfair reflection of where we are as a club, we overachieved and this season is balancing that out. We are still progressing, and evolving, let’s see how it plays out before scandalously accusing anyone of anything untoward.
9. Misuse of Dr. Barry Gale?
Two appearances, subsequently followed by a 6-1 victory over Aston Villa and a 4-0 drubbing of Arsenal. Just saying.
This has been an extremely odd Premier League season so far. Leicester are flying, Chelsea are below us despite our perceived ‘disastrous’ season and both Manchester United and Liverpool are stuttering. Perhaps the gap between the elite and rest is closing, and that can only be a good thing can’t it?
Saints’ poor form could be down to any of the above factors, or likely a combination of all of them. They go into today’s home fixture with West Brom, nine points clear of the relegation zone and nine points behind the top four. Mid Table might well be where we are destined to be this season, but with the club working on a bringing in another striker things could get better than that.
Let’s face it, it’s always likely to be an interesting ride where Saints are concerned.
There has been much made of whether or not Saints have had a ‘successful’ Summer transfer window or not, and on the face of it, losing Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne was always going to make it difficult to convince a lot of the fanbase that it could be anything other than a failure.
Lots of people have raised concerns recently about the clubs policy of replacing the outgoing players with cheaper alternatives, and this coinciding with a poor start on the pitch meant people’s worries were seriously heightened. I don’t pretend to be completely comfortable with it myself but talk of relegation and impending doom is way too early. With the confirmation on deadline day that Saints had ended the window as the Premier League’s ‘net spend’ winners you have to say that if Ronald Koeman can get his team back to form and have another decent showing come the end of the campaign, then we perhaps have the shrewdest owners in football.
It is still too early to tell just how good or bad the incoming players are, but for me these three signings give Saints fans good reason to be optimistic.
I was a little put out by the lack of fuss the English media made of this signing, and in my opinion it was somewhat of a coup. Let’s be honest, if Koeman wasn’t in charge, Saints are never signing this player. You can’t take too much notice of supporter born superlatives, but the ‘Dutch Xavi’ is highly regarded in Holland and was long the subject of interest from Manchester United. Many people have said that they don’t see him as an adequate replacement for Schneiderlin, well let me put it to you that he isn’t here to be that. I think he is seen as a replacement for Steven Davis, sitting in front of the defensive midfield two and dictating play. Davis has done little wrong in a Saints shirt, but I see Clasie as a step up and it was gutting to see him pick up an injury so early into the campaign.
2. Oriol Romeu
If we are talking about Schneiderlin replacements, Spaniard Romeu is the man with that huge task on his hands in my opinion. The former Barcelona youth/B teammate of Messi, Fabregas et al looked to have made his breakthrough at Chelsea under Andre Villas-Boas but proved less popular with subsequent managers in West London and found himself one of the many victims of the Stamford Bridge Footballer borrowing library. Romeu has already proved to be a competent and combatant competitor in defensive midfield and could prove to be a steal at just £5 million. If Victor Wanyama can get over himself and forge a partnership with Romeu it will likely be one of the toughest in the division.
3. Virgil van Dijk
When the fallout of the farce involving Toby Alderweireld was that the Belgian had proved himself to be just another of football’s snakes, Saints fans were rightly worried about the lack of options at centre half. With many still untrusting of Maya Yoshida (though in my opinion he has been outstanding of late) and Florin Gardos both untested and then joining the long term injury list there was a clear gap in the squad. With all due respect to him, the loaning of Steven Caulker did little to appease that feeling, so the drawn out abut ultimately successful pursuit of Dutchman van Dijk was a nice way to round off the Summer window. I have high hopes for this transfer.van Dijk is a classy ball playing centre half and although there are no guarantees in football I think he will successfully make the step up. The lure of the Premier League has already improved his international prospects, having been called into the Dutch squad on Thursday and the incentive for him to stay there is to prove a hit in a better league.
‘It’s always nice to give new bloggers a platform to start on, and we here at georgeweahscousin.com are always open to anyone who wants to have their say be it as a one off or a regular thing, so don’t hesitate to contact us. To that end we are pleased to give a debut to Josh Richards…. Enjoy!’ Chris
“ I told you so.”
A phrase I heard a lot when the final whistle sounded shortly after 14:30pm on Saturday 15th August. The outcry of emotions from a section of Southampton Fans was at the time, in my opinion completely justified.
Everton were a team that had finished four places and thirteen points below Saints in the previous season. They were a team that had laboured to a draw in their opening match against newly promoted Watford, and a team that had one new addition in their ranks, the much criticized; Tom Cleverley. Once you add in the fact that Everton have a miserable record on the South Coast then you can understand the confidence and the almost arrogance among Saint fans that we should be “beating” Everton at home.
However, football has the tendency to “tear up the script”. Everton came to the fortress St. Mary’s and produced a dominant away performance and came away with a deserved 3-0 victory.
What followed and what I saw after, especially on social media, mainly twitter was a real sense of anger from the fans directed at the club. Anger at not spending the money we have generated, anger at the signings we have made, anger for letting our best players go. I’m ashamed to admit it but I was one of those fans. In the aftermath of the Everton defeat I tweeted:
“ Break the bank to get Virgil in”
I was angry at how our rock solid defence had easily shipped 3 goals, I was angry at how Saints had been smashed at home. Like a large section of fans I had also been less than impressed by the new signings.
On the 12th of August I tweeted:
“ After all the class midfielders we have been linked with… sorry but i’m a bit negative”
This was in reference to Saints signing Oriol Romeu.
I was in complete agreement with many other fans, that our summer spending and our recruitment hadn’t altered the fact that our squad is no stronger than it was at the end of last season.
The focus of my anger was purely that I perceived Saints to be going backwards. After making such a stellar start last season, I was frustrated at how things at Saints were looking now.
But seriously, How Naive was I being, and how desperate did I sound?
Six years ago, on August 18th 2009 Southampton FC had just lost 1-0 to Swindon at the County Ground, which made it a less than impressive start to life in League One. Yet here I am, with Saints on the cusp on reaching the group stages of the Europa League and as an established Premier League club and I am complaining.
Every Fan has the right to get annoyed at losing our best players and while we will always want to get one over on Liverpool and Spurs for the obvious reasons, they are simply bigger clubs than us. Toby Alderwerird is a prime example of this, he chose Spurs because they are a bigger club, and anyone thinking that Spurs are not a step up from Saints is frankly delusional. Our own incredible success over the last 12 months has made us as fans believe that we should be going toe to toe with these clubs and here I think is where the problem lies.
The success over the last 6 years has heightened expectations, and fans want to immediate improvement. Our unbelievable season last time out has fans wanting instant rewards and to finish even higher again. However, lets not forget where we have come from and lets not forget that our business plan has got us this far.
I realised I had been acting much the ‘fickle’ fan. How do I have the right to question Southampton FC? A club that with an astute business plan and model that has taken us from League One football in 2009 to flirting with the Champions League in 2015. How can I question the club when it had £90 million worth of players ripped out of it last Summer and yet still managed to overcome the odds and finish in 7th. The rise has been remarkable and the business model has been immaculate. Yes, i was getting annoyed at the other clubs making “big signings” Firstly Swansea signed Ayew, Palace picked up Cabaye and then Stoke brought in Shaqiri, but this is not in Southampton’s Business model and this is not how we do things. I had let my frustration and negativeness cloud my judgement over Southampton’s transfer policy.
How many clubs have over-invested in the last 8-10 years in search of the holy grail of Champions League football and failed? How many clubs have run out of money and had all their assets stripped?
How do you really think the fans feel down at the other end of the M27?
Did their business model work? I seem to remember them chucking money at “big” players in a scatter gun approach to instant improvement.
Should Saints really abandon their principles just because of a bad start?
I, like any fan hate the fact we sell our best players, I also hate any game in which Southampton lose, I also getting frustrated when things aren’t going well, but these are knee jerk reactions, reactions because I care but ultimately born out of frustration than logic. I need to have an open mind and put things into perspective.
Do I think the squad is stronger than last season? Do I think we have a better starting 11?
The answer to both is no, but the fact is that Southampton and more importantly Ronald Koeman has earned the right not to be questioned.
Southampton’s clever strategic method has got us to where we are today. We have a well respected manager and a talented squad full of internationals. We should not be moaning, we should be embracing the fantastic challenge we have to face this season safe in the knowledge that Southampton Football club is well looked after.
Lets not forget where Southampton have came from and what we stand for. We should be flattered by the interest from the bigger clubs, it is a statement of how far we have come and it is testament of the great work that Southampton continue to do.
If memory serves me well, we saved the best two transfers of last season to the last day of the window.
I am really looking forward to the rest of the season for Southampton, and hopefully being able to say…
Amongst the many previews out on offer as we approach the (official) start of a new season, none bring together many as many of the voices of those who give up their time to talk about their club. I gathered together the Saints blogging fraternity to see what they expect from the new season.
Which new signing are you most excited about?
Me ‘Cedric has looked impressive in pre-season so far, and looks like he will offer even more going forward than Clyne did. We shall see if he can recreate that level of form in the Premier League.’
Glen de la Cour (from League One Minus Ten) ‘Cedric Soares looks an exciting addition especially as it fits our ethos of selling big and replacing with better quality for less money. The most important though is Jordy Clasie because of the boots he has to fill.’
Connor Armstrong (from All of the websites) ‘For me it’s probably Cédric, so far. It looks like he’ll give us great balance when Bertrand is back too, as well as another genuine attacking threat.’
Sam Dobson (from The Saints Hub) ‘Excited is probably the wrong word, but Cedric Soares looks the most impressive so far’
George Galpin (from St. Mary’s Musings) ‘I’m really excited about Jordy Clasie. Morgan Schneiderlin was a fantastic player for Saints, and will be remembered as an icon of the club’s recent rise. But people move on, and the Utd move is something that not many would be able to say no to.’
Ben Stanfield (from Teamtalk Fanzone) ‘Cedric Soares. I think he looks like a really bright young talent who, in glimpses against Vitesse, showed he will thrive in getting forward to create opportunities for Saints. He looks physically strong, is quick and seems to have an experienced head on young shoulders. The acid test, which hasn’t really been seen yet, is his defending – particularly against Premier League attackers..’
Ben (from Go Marching In) ‘Cédric Soares – Has looked very assured already despite only playing a few games in a Saints shirt. I like his positivity going forward and have a feeling he could bag a couple of goals in his first season.’
Ben McQuaide (from McQuaide’s Musings and SportsPulse) ‘Without a doubt, Jordy Clasie. I’ve wanted him at Southampton for quite a while now and after watching him a fair bit in the Eredivisie I’m convinced he’ll be a hit in the Premier League.’
Which Saints player do you think will have the biggest impact (secure move to United/Liverpool/Spurs) on the Premier League this season?
Me ‘Sadio Mane. He is such an exciting player and already making a name for himself. Still only 23 I think he is destined for the top sooner rather than later.’
GdlC ‘Sadio Mane- he will hopefully be better equipped in his 2nd season to keep a high level of performance right through.’
CA ‘It’s going to be Sadio Mané. He’s gonna tear it up. Big Vic will keep being Big Vic too, so he’s another who will have a big impact. Let’s hope that Jay Rodriguez makes his mark too.’
SD ‘Sadio Mane. He will win us games single-handedly .’
GG ‘I really think this is Sadio Mané’s year. He’s settled into the team well, but it was noticeable how much physically he had grown and looks frighteningly quick. He could become a real superstar this season.’
BS ‘Sadio Mane. I’m really looking forward to seeing Sadio have a full season with Saints. He was one of the more consistent performers across last year and has already shown in pre-season that he is ready to go. I think he should, and will, be targeting 20 goals for Saints this season. He could well be the key to us winning a few close games.’
B ‘Sadio Mane – One the most fouled players in the Premier League last season. Feel that if he has another impressive season we’ll be fighting off some big offers for him next summer.’
BM ‘Sadio Mane, if he can maintain or better his form from the second half of last season for a whole season he’s gonna tear teams apart and I think he could score 15+ goals this season.’
How do you rate our transfer business out of 10?
Me ‘So far I would say it is a 7-8, add another centre half, and in my opinion an out and out striker and then it would be higher.’
GdlC ‘Hard to tell until they’ve adapted (or not)…. on the face of it, it looks like an 8 or 9 out of 10. A top quality centre back in addition to Caulker will make it even better.’
SD ‘6 or 7. Difficult to argue that we won’t be worse off without Clyne and Schneiderlin, but the players that have replaced them aren’t THAT much worse, so we should still be competitive.’
GG ‘If Saints can get the CB to replace Alderweireld, 10 for me. The players who had left all had understandable reasons for going, but once again the transfer committee seem to have brought in the right replacements.’
BS ‘I’d say a 7. We seemed well prepared for any departures but, unlike last year, we didn’t need wholesale changes this summer anyway. If we can get a top-class CB in, like Van Dijk for example, then that 7 can become an 8/9 and I think we’re ready to go!’
BM ‘Probably a 6, the replacements look pretty solid for those that departed but I think we may be slightly weaker than last season, starting XI wise. ‘
Morgan Schneiderlin. Impossible to truly replace?
Me ‘Not impossible but incredibly difficult. I hope the Wanyama/Clasie partnership hits the ground running, if it does then we are going to be fine.’
GdlC ‘Maybe hard to immediately replace but you have to give time for a player to grow into the role. Once Clasie gets used to English football, he may well be that man. He has roughly the same number of caps for Holland as Morgan has for France – all he doesn’t have is the English football experience.’
CA ‘Probably, but we’ve given it a very good go.’
SD ‘He will definitely be missed, but we’re still pretty strong in that area of the pitch. Victor Wanyama is one of the best midfielders around and if Jordy Clasie doesn’t cut it, Harrison Reed will be ready to step up.’
GG ‘In all honesty, he is not impossible to replace, because no one is for a club the size of Southampton. He was an incredible player, but like I said earlier; people move on. Le Tissier retired, Channon left, Nick Holmes, Terry Paine, Rickie Lambert.. They all stopped playing for Saints, but the club is still there.’
BS ‘No player is ever truly irreplaceable. Morgan was a class act, no doubt about that, but I really feel Wanyama can step up to the same level Morgan was playing at each week and become the star of our Midfield. I wish Morgan well but we will survive without him.’
B ‘I think so. The ability to win the ball back, control the game with his distribution and an engine to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. A lot of players only specialise in one of those areas but Morgan was capable of them all. In Jordy Clasie we have a player who can certainly tick a lot of those boxes, but I think he’ll need time to find his feet in the Premier League. But at 24 there’s plenty of time for him to become as integral to Southampton as Morgan was.‘
BM ‘Wouldn’t say irreplaceable, top class player but I think Clasie will replace him well.’
Who will win the Premier League?
Me ‘Chelsea, but not as easily as they did last season.’
GdlC ‘Vitesse Arnhem’s feeder club.’
CA ‘Chelsea. Manchester United will push them but the Blues have got the knack.’
SD ‘Man United.’
GG ‘In my opinion, it’ll take a lot to stop Utd if they can add another attacker. ‘
BS ‘If United ‘click’ then I think they could go close – which they should do after the ridiculous amounts of money they’ve spent over the last two years – but I think it’ll be Chelsea’s to lose again. They are generally the epitome of consistency.’
BM ‘Chelsea, again. Despite concerns over Diego Costa’s hamstring.’
Who will go down?
Me ‘Bournemouth, Sunderland & Norwich.’
GdlC ‘Tottenham, Liverpool and I don’t really care who else.’
CA ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Sunderland.’
SD ‘Aston Villa, Leicester and Bournemouth.’
GG ‘Bournemouth, Leicester and Norwich’
BS ‘Watford, Leicester and Norwich.’
B ‘Leicester, Norwich and Watford.’
BM ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Leicester.’
Who do you most want to beat this season?
Me ‘Whoever we get in the cup final.’
CA ‘Liverpool. For obvious reasons. Chelsea and Tottenham are others, but only because I have mates who support them.’
SD ‘Tottenham, we must be due a win against them by now.’
GG ‘Everybody… ;-). For me, I’d like Saints to beat Tottenham, purely because they’re the only team in the top six clubs that I haven’t seen Saints claim all three points from since promotion.’
BS ‘Liverpool and Tottenham. Both for obvious reasons of course!’
B ‘Probably Liverpool. Tottenham was a close second but the scousers win because they have more ex Saints players in their team. It’s got a lot to do with showing that we’re not weaker without them.’
BM ‘Liverpool, without a doubt. You know the reasons. ‘
Chips. Mayonnaise or No Mayonnaise?
Me ‘No. Total Dutch nonsense I’m afraid. HP Sauce (now made in Holland) is your standard chip affair.’
GdlC ‘I am determined to try the mayonnaise option soon! Will get back to you.’
CA ‘Mayonnaise, and lots of it. ‘
SD ‘No Mayonnaise. Sorry Ronald.’
GG ‘I tried chips with mayonnaise in Rotterdam for the Feyenoord friendly, and can see why they love it there. But for me, salt, pepper and vinegar is a winner. So is Reggae Reggae sauce.’
BS ‘I’m afraid this is (probably) the only thing in life that Ronald and I don’t agree on. Chips for me can only ever have one condiment on them – tomato ketchup!! So no mayonnaise for me. Sorry Ron!’
B ‘Mayonnaise. Lots of it.’
BM ‘Mayonnaise, obviously.’
You wake up suddenly and find yourself in Fratton Park for a Pompey home game. How do you escape unnoticed?
Me ‘There is a scene in the US zombie drama ‘The Walking Dead’ where the heroes smother themselves in zombie blood and guts and then act brain-dead to blend in and walk freely amongst the zombies. Like that. But using fish guts.’
GdlC ‘Grow an extra finger on each hand, an extra toe on each foot and an eye in the middle of my forehead, sing ‘Amarillo’ and shout ‘I HATE FACKING SCUMMAHS’and then (most importantly) blame the owners for everything. Now that I’m fully blended in… I can leave.’
CA ‘Fratton Park? Isn’t that where the big Tesco’s is now?’
SD ‘Reckon it’ll be pretty easy for me to navigate my way through rows of empty seats.’
GG ‘Stick on a thick coat, and casually walk towards the exit. If they say I can’t get back in, I’ll say I’ve left my car unlocked. Simple!’
BS ‘I’d turn to the only other guy in attendance and advise that I think I’ve left my car unlocked and will be right back….’
B ‘Scary thought. I would probably go for some sort of diversion tactic, saying loudly, “Isn’t that guy over there from HMRC?” and then walk briskly in the other direction.’
BM ‘I think you mean the Portsmouth Dockland Stadium (See below). ‘
Cheers to all those who took the time to answer questions. We’ll all meet back here in May and see how right (or wrong) we got it!
Better late than never! The results of this years ‘Ali’s’ are in.
Given the short notice the response was fantastic and it serves as a good reminder about how good a season Saints had that there were so many varied answers for each award and a couple of the result ran very close.
This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-
So without further ado, here are YOUR winners…
Player of the Year
This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.
Scored points:- James Ward-Prowse (<1%), Sam Gallagher (<1%), Saphir Taider (<1%), Dani Osvaldo (<1%), Artur Boruc (<1%), Steven Davis (1%), Dusan Tadic (1%), Nathaniel Clyne (1%), Fraser Forster (2%), Graziano Pelle (4%), Toby Alderweireld (5%), Victor Wanyama (8%), Ryan Bertrand (10%).
3rd Place:- Morgan Schneiderlin (12%)
2nd Place:- Sadio Mane (13%)
And the winner is……with a huge 43% of the points, proving that some people are born to be leaders…..Jose Fonte!
Young Player of the Year
An award of particular interest given the reputation the club has built for producing talent. A strong field would have to produce a strong winner!
Received Votes:- Sam Gallagher (1%), Paulo Gazzaniga (1%), Saphir Taider (1%), Ryan Seager (4%), Sadio Mane (6%).
3rd Place:- Matthew Targett (18%)
2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (21%)
And the winner is……with 47% of the votes a player who truly made the jump from backup to regular first team squad member…..Harrison Reed!
Received Votes:- Kelvin Davis (1%), Sammy Saint (1%), Morgan Schneiderlin (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Paulo Gazzaniga (1%), Jack Cork (1%), Sapher Taider (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Jose Fonte (2%), Les Reed (2%), Graziano Pelle (3%), Frazer Forster (7%), Steven Davis (10%), Shane Long (12%).
3rd Place:- Maya Yoshida (13%)
2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (20%)
And the winner is….with 21% of the votes, breaking back into the England squad after an impressive debut season on the South Coast….Ryan Bertrand!
Joint 3rd Place:- Frazer Forster & Graziano Pelle (12%)
2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (24%)
And the winner is….with 41% of the votes the World Record breaking Senegalese…..Sadio Mane!
Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)
Received Votes:- Fonte at Old Trafford (1%), Team v Newcastle at St. Mary’s (1%), Taider v Bayer Leverkusen (1%), Long v Leicester at St. Mary’s (1%), Team v Everton at St. Mary’s (1%), Team at Stamford Bridge (2%), Long v Villa at St. Mary’s (3%), Forster at the Emirates (4%), Team v Arsenal at St. Mary’s (5%), Tadic v Sunderland at St. Mary’s (7%), Mane v Villa at St. Mary’s (13%).
3rd Place:- Team v Villa at St. Mary’s (14%)
2nd Place:- Team at Old Trafford (22%)
And the winner is…..with 24% of the vote I’m not sure it could really have been anything else but…..Team v Sunderland at St. Mary’s!
The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment
It says everything about the gallows humour of being a Saints fan that this award always comes with most varied answers. Brace yourselves…
Received Votes:- Villa’s Defence, ‘Fucking Weather’, Long’s ‘dummy’ cross, Pompey’s season, Mane falling over, Any of Alex Crook’s articles, Lovren & Lallana’s agent’s work, Steward’s ‘Rock Bottom’ on a Liverpool fan, Goal conceded at Newcastle, Tadic assist past Lovren, Pelle’s anger when others score, Saphir Taider, Long pole axing Leicester player during goal celebration, Fonte constantly getting away with stonewall penalties, Swansea at home, Kevin Friend, Gus Poyet, Wanyama’s goal at Hull, Mane’s 3 minute hat trick ignored by the press, Dr. Barry Gale, Relegation predictions of the collective media, #GoodLuckTim, MELTDOWN, Sunderland fans celebrating a corner, Wanyama’s skill against Arsenal, Dejan Lovren’s fall from grace.
3rd Place:- ‘Chips without mayonnaise is not chips’ (12%)
2nd Place:- Smug Ronald after the Sunderland game (14%)
And the winner is…..with 31% of the vote, the more you watch it, the more hapless it gets….Santiago Vergini’s own goal!
Best Opposition Team
Received Votes:- Manchester United, Sunderland, Leicester City, Swansea City.
3rd Place:- Arsenal (4%)
2nd Place:- Chelsea (35%)
And the winner is…..with 54% of the vote, they may not have won the title but they were comprehensive in their victory at St. Mary’s…..Manchester City!
Best Opposition Player
Received Votes:- Oscar (Chelsea), Ashley Williams (Swansea), Guly, Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Nabil Bentaleb (Spurs), David Silva (Man City), Ron Vlaar (Villa), Frank Lampard (Man City), Yaya Toure (Man City), Coutinho (Liverpool).
3rd Place:- Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) (8%)
2nd Place:- Sergio Aguero (Man City) (13%)
And the winner is…with 59% of the vote without doubt the standout player in the Premier League over the last 12 months….Eden Hazard!
Best Opposition Fans
Received Votes:- West Brom, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Spurs, West Ham, Swansea, Liverpool, Man City, Ipswich, Burnley, Sunderland, Villa.
3rd Place:- Leicester City (11%)
2nd Place:- Manchester United (15%)
And the winner is….with 35% of the vote and retaining their title from last season….Crystal Palace!
Best Saints related Tweeter
Just a bit of fun as always, and pleasing to see so many people vote for themselves again!
Received Votes:- DeppoInExile, KitmanForbsey, JoeBlakey9, mattsmirk, Saint_Alpine, Matt Le Tiss, YoshidaPics, jayrodfan2, Graziano Pelle, leesfcmyers, SamDobson1, nathizzle, uniquesaints, EthanESFC, Ugly Inside, Jim Lucas, L1Minus10, gwcdotcom, GGalpin95, Images of Ronald, Alex Crook, RupertAspden, Benstanners, TalkSaints, Official Club Account, Ronald Koeman.
3rd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)
And the joint winners are….with 17% of the vote each, retaining from last year……Connor Armstrong! and embarrasingly…..crstig!
So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted. A big thank you to Kristian Oake for the Photoshop wizardry! It was another great season, and we are on the verge of another one! Keep the faith!
Sometimes I scroll through the #saintsfc twitter feed and wonder how some of our fanbase might have coped with the mid-90’s.
With only newspapers to go on and the odd snippet of a rumour (taken from that day’s papers) coming round approximately once every 100 seconds on the ceefax ‘other transfer news’ page the need for updates on new signings was fulfilled on fairly irregular basis. The fans of the 70’s of course would scoff at that as a ‘luxury’ .
The twitter era has given anyone with a voice a public platform to speak, even if they’ve got nothing worthwhile to say. So called ‘in the know’ accounts are getting the attention they crave and the tabloids are finding their oh so gullible audience even faster than ever before. The journalists have an instant echo too and some of them only use it when they know they are right, and it gives them an exclusive in every meaning of the word. Others feed off the scraps of their peers regurgitating what they have already seen elsewhere, piecing together nonsense in the hope of looking knowledgeable and taking a ‘scattergun’ approach to hitting the nail on the head. It’s a risky game, and while they lap up the praise when they blindly hit a bullseye (usually with someone else’s dart) they become incredibly precious when there is nowhere to hide when they get it wrong.
All of this just fuels the need for transfer news that the modern fan requires. The medium is instant, so therefore the business should be too right? Wrong.
It’s the panicking I find so frustrating, like whether or not a new world class player is brought in is a matter of life or death. To read some tweets you would think that this was the most important thing in some people’s lives. The period between Toby Alderweireld’s big ‘F*%k You’ and the signing of Jordy Clasie was almost unbearable. Constant whinging about how the club was ‘missing out on it’s top targets’. The evidence for this? Crystal Palace had signed Yohan Cabaye and Aston Villa had signed Idrissa Gueye, two players that the tabloids had linked with a move to St. Mary’s. There is no evidence whatsoever that the club were ever in for the players and arrogantly I would suggest had they been, they would have got them. The club’s main target in midfield was unsurprisingly Koeman’s former protege at Feyenoord and despite the need for about 23 medicals over the course of about 5 days, Les Reed got his man.
You’d think that the signing of a highly rated midfielder, in addition to the Portuguese and Spanish internationals that had already been brought in, oh and the World Cup finalist goalkeeper would mean we would get some respite from the bed wetting and for a few days we did. Football (remember that?) was a timely distraction with Saints looking impressive on their tour of Holland, but then the unfortunate news of an injury to Florin Gardos came to pass. With the club having already confirmed they were looking for a centre half that need suddenly became the focus of the gathered digital masses. Our friends in the media played their part with the use of the words ‘frantic’ in their description of Saints search for a defender and ‘crisis’ to describe the situation.
Now call me crazy, but with a proven proficient Premier League centre back in Maya Yoshida to partner Jose Fonte and the emergence of Jason McCarthy, Jack Stephens and Jordan Turnbull (Swindon rave about the performances of the latter two after their loan last season) I’m not sure ‘crisis’ is the right word. Do I think we should bring another experienced player in that position in? Yes, but only if they are better than we already have, and I do not see the point in panic buying the first one that becomes available.
Bizarrely the press insist on continuously throwing Ron Vlaar’s name into the hat despite his announcement that he has a long term injury and the fact that he is pants, something we saw first hand in our demolition of Villa at the end of last season. Other names that have appeared are Virgil van Dijk from Celtic and James Chester from Hull City (feels good that they are still City doesn’t it?) but they come with varying reviews from the online experts.
The interest level of the average supporter can be measured over the length of time the club has been without a late night announcement. This week for instance many met the news of apparent interest in James Chester with veritable disdain. ‘Not good enough’ and ‘You’ve got to be joking’ to ‘We need someone world class’ and ‘Les needs to get his arse into gear’ could be seen in black and white alongside the numerous complaints about tickets. Give it a week or so though and when Chester is pictured holding the famous shirt aloft the same people will be tweeting ‘Great signing #WeMarchOn’ and ‘Welcome to the club #SaintChester’ and the like. You see the perceived level of the player is completely irrelevant, this is the age of the instant and the signing isn’t the issue, it’s the furore that surrounds it that is important.
I’m as guilty as anyone. It’s easy to get dragged along in the excitement and the package of photographs and videos that come with it from the excellent club media team mean that even the most modest of signings #WelcomeVegard #SaintBignall etc. come with an air of romance.
I’m not asking people to not be excited about transfers, I’m just asking that people show a little restraint. If Saints don’t sign a centre half (I’m pretty sure they will) or they don’t sign one who is world renowned (I’m pretty sure they won’t) perhaps have some faith in the people running the club. They’ve very rarely let us down in the past *cough* OSVALDO *cough* and they know what they are doing.
Bill Shankly famously once said ‘Some people believe football is a matter of life or death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’ He was wrong. Saints will be fine this season, they might not finish as high in the table again, they might not challenge for honours but they will be there or thereabouts and it will be another cracking season. Try to enjoy it.
p.s. If your season ticket hasn’t arrived yet. It will. I promise.