Tag Archives: Villa Park

Ryan, Like a Lion, In Bayern: Bertrand Signs for Saints!

While Liverpool are busy signing Johnstone Paint Trophy winners, Saints sprung the surprise of the summer with one the papers didn’t get hold of, bringing Champion’s League winner Ryan Bertrand to the club from Chelsea on a season long loan with the option of a permanent move. Interestingly the Merseyside club had been trying to secure a deal for the defender but couldn’t agree a fee.

With Luke Shaw gone to Man United, left back was clearly somewhere the club lacked depth and Bertrand who started for the Blues in their triumph over Bayern Munich in 2012 looks a solid signing.

As always, through the heady mixture of ignorance and laziness I have got two experts to give us the lowdown on the new man.

I caught up with Chelsea fan David Dickson and given that Bertand has spent most of his Stamford Bridge career on loan, Aston Villa fan, freelance football writer and Club Metro colleague Andrew Raeburn.

Bertrand started in Chelsea’s Champion’s League final win, but has never made it as a regular at Stamford Bridge. What did you make of him?

DD ‘Firstly, Bertrand will always, always receive a hero’s welcome back at Stamford Bridge, especially now he hasn’t been shipped off to Liverpool and had to perform the ‘biggest club in the world’ PR initiative in his first interview. I remember the slightly baffled/borderline stunned reaction to hearing his name in the starting line-up that night in Munich from all involved, and his outstanding performance against Bayern in his first ever European appearance for anybody is testament to the balls the guy has. He always struck me as a try-hard; far from a player likely to dislodge Ashley Cole from his throne but enough about him to carry on regardless, taking his opportunities when they arose.’

Bertrand spent some time at Villa last season. What did you make of him?

AR ‘Left-back had been a massive problem for us in the first half of the season, so when Bertrand came in we were all chuffed, considering his background and pedigree (starting in the CL final, etc). He was excellent on his debut in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool, and had several other good games early in his loan spell. But after having to sit out our 1-0 win over his parent club in March (when Joe Bennett came in and was excellent at left-back), Bertrand really struggled. Partly this was down to our own defensive naivety, which appeared to infect him too at times and partly it was down to being shunted between left-back, left midfield and left wing-back. But there were occasions when he was our weakest link. I’d say overall he was solid without ever being spectacular, but disappointed because he was never as good as his Chelsea background suggested he should be.’

What would you say are his significant strengths and weaknesses?

DD ‘As stated previously, Ryan seems to enjoy a complete lack of fear on the big occasion. Following Munich, he was thrown into some of the bigger games towards the end of the (sigh) Rafa Benitez era and performed with similar aplomb. He is quick, with the ability to go forward at pace, whilst also reading the game relatively well, but his defensive ability seems to suffer as a result. He never seemed particularly strong and, as a result, his ability to simply make a tackle never really stood out. He would, on occasion, be caught out of position too, but when pushing up in a good, attacking side, this may be expected and can be forgiven.’

AR ‘One of the real plusses of his loan spell was how well he got forward and linked up with Fabian Delph on the left hand side of Villa’s central three in midfield. His crossing can be hit and miss but he knows which passes to pick out. Defensively, he struggled when isolated one-on-one. Whereas on his debut at Liverpool he was excellent against Raheem Sterling, who runs straight at people, he was given a real examination a couple of weeks later by Everton’s Aiden McGeady, had problems with Ashley Young and got into all sorts of bother against Stewart Downing. Unlike Sterling, all three of those dared to cut inside and go outside to try and beat him. It may be he just needs more support defensively.’

Bertrand the winner.
Bertrand the winner.
Do you see him as a player that has yet to reach his full potential, having been backup at Chelsea for some time?

DD ‘Sad as it is to say, but I feel his potential may not extend beyond his exploits for Chelsea. He still has a decent ten years left in him, obviously, but Ryan seems to be caught between not being technically good enough for a top side, but not able to defend well enough for a less-than-top side. He was exceptionally popular at Norwich, Reading and Forest by the sounds of things, and has long outgrown being a Championship player, but it is hard to see him doing anything but bouncing between mid-table clubs unless someone devotes the time to getting the best out of him. In a Chelsea side with Ashley Cole and the resources to bring in more experienced and better overseas players after Cole’s departure, that role was never going to be taken up by Mourinho, Benitez, Di Matteo…etc. (I’m sure this article has a word limit, so I won’t list them all).’

AR ‘Very much so. Until his loan spell at Villa, he had never really been given a proper run of starts at Premier League level, which is what you need to develop. Obviously he’s had his path blocked by one of the best left-backs England has ever seen, so he’s been unlucky in that regard. Until Cesar Azpilicueta became Ashley Cole’s main backup, Bertrand could never be sent on loan so he had to bide his time. He started 14 PL games in 2012-13 but all in blocks of three or four, never enough to make a mark or develop your game. I actually saw his only Chelsea start last season as well, by sheer coincidence. I was covering the Chelsea-Cardiff game for West London Sport and in the player ratings described Bertrand’s display as: “Always keen, got up and down and provided solid support for Eden Hazard but lacks the self-assurance and attacking penetration of Ashley Cole.” Trouble is, after a half-season of regular games at Villa, I’ve seen no improvement on that. However, I do think he just needs to settle down somewhere, as a trusted, starting left-back and get a full season of regular games under his belt. The only time he’s done that was for Reading in the Championship five years ago.’

Bertrand the Saint.
Bertrand the Saint.
What do you make of the goings on at Saints this summer?

DD ‘I find it all relatively extraordinary. Yes, players from unexpectedly successful sides are regularly burgled (arf) by sides with larger budgets the following season, but the sheer extent to which Liverpool (and seemingly, Spurs) have pilfered every player with ability you have is far beyond anything I’ve seen since the great Leeds exodus of the early 2000s. Ronald Koeman has moved in, and shortly after someone has nicked his fridge, shed, boiler and roof. I am sure there are financial nuances (zzz) to this masterplan, but it is hard to see how any replacements could fill the gaps that have been left and this season could be a real struggle for you chaps, unfortunately. You’re quite nice when you’re not moaning about little smoke bombs…’

AR ‘It’s inevitable really, once the bigger clubs started circling. We got the same treatment after coming 6th three years in a row under Martin O’Neill (you were trifling with the likes of Exeter and Stockport at the time, how things change!). We couldn’t keep Gareth Barry (£12m) and James Milner (£26m) away from Man City, nor Ashley Young (£17m) from Man Utd, nor Stewart Downing (£20m) from Liverpool. The only difference was it didn’t happen all in the same summer. Sometimes that can be worse, as it appears to the fans the club won’t ever keep hold of their best players. But that’s the way football is these days – even Everton, who contend for the Champions League spots, wouldn’t be able to prevent their top talent leaving if the title challengers came knocking. The important thing is reinvesting the money you earn, otherwise you end up like us. I can see why some Saints fans may be angry – it seems, from the outside, that the club isn’t doing much to stop the top players moving on. But when players sense the grass is greener (or their agent convinces them it might be) then you can’t stop them. Speaking of which…’

 
Can we have some other Chelsea players? Please.

DD ‘Rickie Lambert’s gone. You need to replace him with another reliable goal-machine. We have this lad, Fernando… And I’ll bloody drive Ramires to you.’

Can we have Ron Vlaar? Please.

AR ‘No. Leave Concrete Ron alone, please. He’s got a phobia of the sea, anyway. Hopefully.’

So there we have it. Thanks to David and Andrew for their contributions. Let’s hope I need some more contributors soon!
Chris

The Winners of the 2012/13 Ali’s! The Results are in!

So that is the end of another topsy turvey season in the life of being a Saints fan, but no season would be complete without a spate of reviews and awards. This site is no different and yet again the response to this years Ali awards has been fantastic, and this is what is up for grabs:-

ali_trophy

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 as a vote for runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.

Scored points:- Adam Lallana (0.0013%), Jason Puncheon (0.0013%), Steven Davis (0.4%), Jay Rodriguez (0.94%), Maya Yoshida (1.34%), Artur Boruc (2.42%), Luke Shaw (5.24%), Nathaniel Clyne (8.2%)

3rd Place:- Jack Cork (15.8%)

2nd Place:- Rickie Lambert (17.9%)

And the winner, making it a clean sweep in Player of the Season Awards, well deserved after an amazing system, with a whopping 47.37% of the points…..Morgan Schneiderlin!

MS_2012

Most Improved Player

The beauty of this award is that everyone interprets it differently. Some went for an overall improvement on last season, while others voter for those who improved over the course of the season.

Received Votes:- Rickie Lambert, Jose Fonte, Steven Davis, Jos Hooiveld, Nathaniel Clyne, Artur Boruc, Jack Cork, Maya Yoshida, Morgan Schneiderlin.

3rd Place:- Luke Shaw (16%)

2nd Place:- Jason Puncheon (18%)

And the winner, a young man who started his career at Saints with a lot of doubters, but in the second half of the season was undoubtedly one of our top performers with 29%  of the votes……Jay Rodriguez!

rodriguez-liverpool

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:-Puncheon at Loftus Road, Second Half at Stamford Bridge (Team), Gaston Ramirez v Villa at home, Team v Villa at home, Team v Newcastle at home, Jay Rodriguez v Liverpool at home, Boruc at Villa Park, Team v Arsenal at home, Team v West Ham at home, Second Half at Old Trafford (Team), First half at home v Everton (Team), Lambert v Chelsea at home, Cork v Chelsea at home, Boruc at Carrow Road, Team at Loftus Road, Cortese v Le Tissier, Cortese sacking Adkins.

3rd Place:- Team v Chelsea at home in the league (13%).

2nd Place:- Team v Liverpool at home (20%).

And the winner, a memorable day as the champions were made to look extremely ordinary with 31% of the votes….Team v Man City at home.

SaintsvManc

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Maya Yoshida, Mauricio Pochettino, Gaston Ramirez, Steven Davis, Vegard Forren.

3rd Place:- Jay Rodriguez (7%).

2nd Place:- Artur Boruc (24%).

And the winner, forming a formidable partnership with Jason Puncheon on the right and proving as asset both in defence and going forward with 62% of the vote….Nathaniel Clyne!

nClyne

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- That Fat Bloke in the glasses who hangs around outside the dressing rooms, MoPo’s interpreter, The Travelling Sains Support, Jos Hooiveld, Guly, Emmanuel Mayuka, Nigel Adkins, Artur Boruc, Jason Puncheon Jay Rodriguez, Morgan Schneiderlin, Nicola Cortese, Nathaniel Clyne.

3rd Place:- Steven Davis (16%).

2nd Place:- Maya Yoshida (22%).

And the winner is, a man who we missed in our terrible start to the season and made a massive contribution when he returned. He retains this award from last season! With 36% of the votes…..Jack Cork!

JCork

The Ali Dia Award For Comedy Moment

It says a lot about Saints fans, that this is always the award that comes the most varied answers. Great effort from everyone again! Brace yourselves….

Received Votes:- Arry Houdini, Jos Hooiveld Own Goal and Penalty King, Guly miss v Stoke, Boruc Juggling at Reading, Arsenal Away, Guly Skills v Spurs, WBA Away, WBA Home, MoPo’s skinny jeans, Danny Fox Tackle v WBA, Gazzaniga v Norwich, WBA Mexican Wave, Kelvin Davis Keeping, Steve de Ridder cameo’s, Puncheon substitution v Reading, Half Time Relay miss from 2 yards, Danny Fox, Defending in opening 10 fixtures, Boruc first couple of games, John Terry slips, Andy Carroll ‘You look like a horse’, Artur Boruc: Bottlegate, WBA ‘You’re going down on your sister’, JRod dive v Villa, Danny Fox v Arsenal, Nigel Adkins substitutions v Man Utd, Grant Holt cheating to win a penalty then missing it, Taunting West Ham ‘HOOOOF’, Ref tackled by Rodriguez, Boruc pushing Fonte after penalty save, Gazzaniga doing his boots up at goal kicks, Richardson and Seabourne defending against Stevenage, Half Time Relay – Split Trousers, Gangnam Style Sammy Saint, The amount of big clubs who had ‘off days’ against Saints, Mark Lawrenson’s predictions, Portsmouth FC – The gift that keeps on giving.

3rd Place:- Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox together is like ‘crossing the streams’, the own goal at Newcastle (7%).

2nd Place:- That Gareth Barry perfectly place side foot finish own goal (11%).

And the winner, it could only be, the unscheduled rest break at home against Everton. With 40% of the votes…….. Jason Puncheon, he shits when he wants.

JPshits

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Officials v West Ham, Norwich City, Swansea City, QPR, Liverpool, Everton, Wigan Athletic, Spurs, Man City, Chelsea.

3rd Place:- Arsenal (11%).

2nd Place:- Manchester United (21%).

And the winner, deservedly so after dismantling Saints both home and away, with 51% of the votes……West Bromwich Albion.

wbastm

Best Opposition Player

Received votes:- Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Paul Scholes, Demba Ba, Santi Cazorla, Jos Hooiveld, Danny Fox, Andy Carroll, Theo Walcott, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Robert Green, Marouane Fellaini, Sandro, Stephen Peinaar, Youssouf Mulumbu, Michu, Chris Samba, Antonio Di Natale.

3rd Place:- Gareth Bale (14%).

2nd Place:- Robin Van Persie (27%).

And the winner, after an immaculate performance in the Baggies’ demolition of Saints at St. Mary’s. with 39% of the votes…..Romelu Lukaku!

lukaku

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Sunderland, Reading, Newcastle, Liverpool, Man City, West Ham, Wigan, Swansea, Villa, Spurs, All Shit, QPR, Everton, Arsenal, Norwich, Ajax, Stoke. (The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that only Fulham didn’t register a single vote!).

3rd Place:- Chelsea (11%).

2nd Place:- Manchester United (12%).

And the winner, a clean sweep for the team from the Midlands, boinging there way to three awards, with 42% of the votes……West Bromwich Albion!

wbafans

Best Saints Related Tweeter

A lot of people voting for themselves here I suspect…..

Received Votes:- Connor Armstrong, Ollie Johnston, anthonydjames, Joner07, MatthewLeGod, stevegrant1983, Richard Chaplow, Radhi Jaidi, macdoodle, danbsfc, shaunthecabbie, pilchards, Not Nigel Adkins, DutchTom, colinjb84, Official Club Account, kellymauger, Anyone but aap3saints, aap3saints, Matt Le Tissier, S13SFC, Iwan Thomas, Jos Hooiveld, I Hate Twitter, MoPo parody account, talksaints, Luke Shaw’s mum, SamDobson1, megan_snedden, SaintsRumours, dubaisaints, Nicola Cortese, Billy Sharp, LewisTull, Wattyspics, Anyone but sridout92, jayrodfan2, GGalpin95, Sam Hoskins, Sean Gonzalez-Lambert, OnlyWayisSO14, crespino10.

3rd Place:- Luke Shaw (14%).

And in joint first place, the imaginary trophy will have to spend 6 months in each users mind, with 16% of the votes each, errrr, this is a little embarrassing…..Simon Peach and I!

So that concludes this year’s ‘Ali’s’, some truly deserving winners there I’m sure you will agree. Thank you to everybody who voted, and thank you all for a fantastic season. I actually think the atmosphere at St. Mary’s this season was the best it has ever been, and one of the best in the Premier League. As the club goes through some interesting times progress wise our support is more important than ever.

Keep the faith.

Chris

Relegation Ramblings: The Opposition’s View

No matter how well we might be playing it is difficult to get away from the fact that we are 6th from bottom, with just 12 games to play (at the time of writing this humble blogger expected us to get nothing from the City game, and is now feeling suitable guilty. Hence no Newcastle fan – Chris). Four points are all that separate Saints from the drop zone, and everyone will have their own opinion as to who will suffer the ultimate disappointment.

I asked a blogger of each of the four clubs below us to see how they see the battle for survival panning out. Here they are in league position order:-

15th Southampton

Points:- 27

Name:- Chris Rann

Blog:- George Weah’s Cousin

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘I thought we might be a bit further up than this, but knew it was also a distinct possibility  I still think our league position reflects our dreadful start rather than our true standing.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘A mixture of terrible defending, a crazy amount of goalkeeping errors and most importantly not being able to defend a lead. Our performances aren’t being reflected in results, we are playing like a side who are much higher in the table.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘I’m sure at least one will, I have been saying all season that West Ham would, as if you look at their squad it looks very poor, but they are continuing to prove me wrong. Norwich look vulnerable too I think.’

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

‘I will be amazed if Villa don’t finish rock bottom, they just look like a truly dreadful team, lacking in ability and experience. They seem to be relying on Benteke too much, who looks very hit and miss to me. I think this season will be one too many for Wigan and they will finish 19th, and despite the hoards of money, I think after a stint of improvement ‘Arry will get found out again and QPR will finish 18th’

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘As I said, we are playing incredibly well, and although we aren’t converting that to as many wins as we would like, we are improving with every game. We have   a squad that is more talented than it gets credited for and we have a goalscorer. The next two games could be crucial for us, we have Newcastle and QPR (both winnable) while those around us have some tough fixtures. We could pull away.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

 ‘Julio Cesar. Without doubt. Although Boruc has been great recently for us, Cesar has already rescued QPR a number of times. A goalkeeper as good as him, who can be relied upon at all times could be crucial in a relegation battle.’

17th Aston Villa

Points:- 24

Name:- Matt Turvey

Blog:- Aston Villa Life

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘I think many fans expected a little more than what happened last season, especially given the stature of Paul Lambert but, truth be told, I don’t think many fans can be too surprised given the past two seasons before this one have been spent close to or in the relegation zone.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘Set pieces – for some reason, Villa have been atrocious at both defending and attacking set pieces. The amount we concede at present is frankly ridiculous, and you only need to have a basic grasp of probability to know that if you concede 16 corners (as we did against Everton), then sooner or later, you are going to concede goals. Not only that but Villa can’t seem to take advantage of scoring from set pieces either. Couple that with the lack of ability to defend, and it is hardly a surprise the club are where we are.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘I think most of the club around the drop zone are, in one way or another, already in the fight. For example, Newcastle are away from immediate danger – so to speak – but they are far from “safe”.’

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

‘I’ll start at the bottom where I think it’ll be QPR. Harry Redknapp may well be seen as an excellent manager (he isn’t – Chris 😉), but he has been relegated before. Couple that with this strange, constant state of flux that the club seems to be in due to their swathes of transfers, and it seems likely that they are going to fail to survive.

After QPR, it gets very hard. Reading seem to be having a mini-renaissance in the past few weeks, epitomised by the fact that Villa fans were having to keep track of their results to see if we would be in/escape the drop zone during matches. However, with all that said, I’m not sure they can keep it up for the whole season. Sure, they are doing progressively better than they were earlier in the season but, let’s be frank, it would be hard to do much worse.

As for the last place, it is really difficult. Truth be told, this place could include any one of Wigan, your good selves (Southampton), and us. I’d like to think that given our ability to play football (when it goes well), that we’d be able to finish above 18th. The choice comes between newly promoted team with a new manager with Southampton, comparatively hardened relegation battlers in Wigan, and us.

It’s really close to call at present so I’ll go with who I’d prefer to go down – Wigan. Why? Truth be told, I’ve never got the hype surrounding Roberto Martinez. Sure, he did well at Swansea as part of the Martinez-Sousa-Rodgers-Laudrup progress they have made, but I’ve seen nothing that puts him up at the top of the tree that Dave Whelan keeps talking about. He does play attractive football, yes, but is a commitment to style over substance genius or idiocy? A lot of the time it seems like the latter when contrasted with how Stoke have developed, or even Swansea – Martinez’s old club.’

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘As stated above, it is far from clear cut in terms of us staying up. If I had to give a reason, it would be that we have more gears we can go through, but we are just playing badly at present. Look at the comparative teams and you’ll see that we should, on paper at least, dodge the drop, even if it isn’t by many points.

I know that is far from a watertight argument but, in my eyes at least, I think – whether from hope or logic – that we can survive if, and this is a big if, we rise to the challenge.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

‘I’d go for Christopher Samba. Now, I know that sounds quite crazy when I’ve said about the belief I have that QPR will finish rock bottom, but Samba has been, and is, a fantastic player. Villa could do with that kind of solidity in defence alongside Ron Vlaar. However, due to the (lack of) money available in the January transfer window, the club are playing a dangerous game not investing back there.’

Chris Samba - QPR's big money man.
Chris Samba – QPR’s big money man.

18th Reading

Points:- 23

Name:- Dan Wimbush

Blog:- The Tilehurst End

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘Sadly so, though I didn’t think we’d be quite in this much trouble. I thought we’d have picked up 3 or 4 more points by now but I knew we were in for a long season, so having a chance of survival with 12 games to go is fine.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘Before Christmas it was a mixture of poor signings, under-performing players, injuries and bad tactical choices… so just about everything really! In the main a poor start and midfield injuries forced us to play 4-4-2 and while it was entertaining (think of the 7-5 & 5-2 with Arsenal, 4-3 with United, 3-3 with Fulham) it wasn’t getting us results and we were looking cut adrift. Thankfully players returned to fitness and Brian went back to 4-5-1, sacrificing entertainment for staying in games as long as possible and effectively trying to turn matches in 25 minute contests at the end of play, when we’d bring on Adam Le Fondre. So far the change has worked and a run of 14 points from a possible 24 has lifted us right back into the right and given us a real chance of survival.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘At the time of writing it’s looking very much 3 from 4, or 3 from 6 if you think QPR have a chance of survival and that Saints and Newcastle are still in the mix. Other than those six then I still don’t think Norwich are totally safe but they should have enough in the tank to stay clear.’

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

’20. QPR  19. Wigan  18. Reading

I think Reading have got a great chance to stay up but I just think we’ll come up slightly short as Villa somehow sneak out of trouble. Reading have left themselves with a set of fixtures that are either six pointers or relative no-hopers against top 8 sides that you can’t realistically hope to get things from. With that in mind anything less than 10-12 points from home games against Wigan, Villa, Saints and QPR will send us down and I don’t know if we’ve got the quality to ensure we get three wins and a draw. I’d love to be proved wrong and I’m naturally a pessimist but I just can’t imagine a survival party taking place this season. I’ll never be happier to be wrong though!

QPR seem doomed, particularly if Remy doesn’t make a very, very swift return. They too have big games against all of their fellow strugglers but clawing back six points when you’ve only won two games all season seems too much to ask, particularly when you’re a team trying to gel and with little momentum.

Wigan could also survive but I think this is just one season to far for Roberto Martinez and after eight drop-defying years, it’ll be time up for Dave Whelan’s club.

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘I suppose I should mention why Saints, Villa and Newcastle will stay up! Newcastle have obviously added great quality in January and I think they’ll have enough at home to stay up comfortably. Southampton have also invested heavily and have a real ability to score goals, something that’ll always keep you in games and pick up points. Your back five finally seems to be coming together and you’ve just got so many weapons that you’ll be fine. With Villa I’m really torn because while it’s a young side, they do have really quality players such as Benteke, that the three I’ve tipped to go down don’t seem to have. I’ve also got a nasty feeling Darren Bent might come in from the wilderness and score some key goals. If any team does replace Reading in those relegation places, it will be Paul Lambert’s side.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

‘Maybe Adam Lallana to add that creative player we’ve been missing behind the front man.’

Adam Lallana - Creativity could keep Saints up.
Adam Lallana – Creativity could keep Saints up.

19th Wigan Athletic

Points:- 21

Name:- Alan

Blog:- This Northern Soul

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘Now, I seem to spend half my time preaching to that we should expect to be in a relegation battle each and every year we’re in the top flight but, if truth be told, I did get drawn in by the finish to last season.  Up until that point Roberto Martinez’ Wigan always seemed to be an ounce of confidence or a dash of je ne sais quoi away from doing well and everything seemed to click running into the final stretch last year, it wasn’t a case of us fighting with our backs to the wall, we were making great strides and playing with a style and confidence that was more befitting of a top-six side.  Which could only lead to one thing…

… High expectations and a massive crash to the ground.  I wasn’t on my own in thinking that we’d pick up somewhere near where we left off, but I really should have known better.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘Our biggest problem has been a tendency to give teams a two goal start.  Underneath that lie injuries to two key players, Ramis and Alcaraz.  Apart from during the first ten minutes of the season against Chelsea, Ramis has looked a class above and Alcaraz was a massive player for us last year, had we been able to keep them together then who knows where we would be.  After all they would still have a proverbial vampiric goalkeeper behind them (he doesn’t like crosses, geddit?) and be supported by wing backs who are ten times more comfortable in the attacking final third than their defensive one.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘Last Friday, I thought that there were seven or eight teams in it, but with your win against Man City, I’m starting to feel the pressure.  In terms of the overall battle, then maybe that figure is still the same, with Sunderland and Norwich, in particular, looking over their shoulders.

For us though, I’m only interested in getting back above Aston Villa.  That’s the only realistic target for us right now, and then let’s see what happens.  We’ve got a massive game against Reading in a couple of weeks and after that it could be all over bar the shouting for Latics (of which there’ll be plenty as the Wigan Wide Web eats itself whole).’ 

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

’18. QPR

19. Reading

20. Wigan’

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘Simply put, because we can’t defend.  No team can keep conceding like we do and win games.  It wouldn’t be so bad if you could see changes that could be made that would make the team more solid, but with Ramis out until next year, Alcaraz permanently two weeks from a return, Boyce joining them on the sidelines and all hopes pinned on Paul Scharner we’re not only restricted with personnel, we’re also tied tactically

There are clear changes that could be made that could strengthen us at the back (a change in left wing back and goal keeper being the most obvious ones) but the manager has seemed reluctant up until now.  The manager needs to pull something out of the bag akin to last season’s switch to 3-4-3, but the nearest we’ve had is a flirtation with the 1930s in a W-M line up.  There’s probably some social commentary based witticism I could throw in at this point (30’s depression vs 2010’s recession, austere football for austere times) but, frankly, I’m too depressed.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

‘After all I’ve said, I should be after a defensive king pin, or a top notch goalie, but I’d have to go for Charles N’Zogbia.  Not only does he know the club and the situation we’re in, but he’d bring a bit of panache that we’ve sadly missed this season.  More so, I reckon his loss would weaken Villa more than the loss of other players would hurt other teams and maybe more than Villa fans realise.  He’s a real man for the moment and when given the stage can really turn it on.’

Charles N'Zogbia - They'd love him back at Wigan!
Charles N’Zogbia – They’d love him back at Wigan!

20th QPR

Points:- 17

Name:- Tony Gibson

Blog:- Lofty Heights

Did you expect to be in this position when the season kicked off?

‘Certainly not.’

What has been your biggest problem and why are you not picking up as many points as you would hope?

‘Simple, Mark Hughes and his team of overpaid mercenaries that he assembled. Also the lack of firepower, Cisse off form and now of course gone, major, long term injuries to Johnson and Zamora. The same could be said of new signing, Loic Remy, who is now also, injured. The simple fact that our stand our player was a 34 year old Kiwi says it all. That of course is Ryan Nelsen, who has also now, sadly left us.’

Are there any other teams from above you think could get dragged into it?

‘Anyone from Fulham downwards really.’

Colours to the mast. Who will go down and in what order?

‘After last weekend, I think there is every chance now we may go, we are just not picking up the points, other teams are starting too and the games are running out. Will be Reading, Villa and Ourselves bottom.’

Why will you stay up ahead of those chosen (unless you chose yourself then why them ahead of you)?

‘I travel home and away with QPR and this prediction is simply what I have seen from the other sides. Reading and Villa are simply the worst I have seen this season.’

If you could take one player from the other relegation battle sides who would it be?

‘Tough one, seeing as it goals that is the problem, your own Rickie Lambert or Benteke from Villa.’

So there we have it, a mixture of views there from inside our rival camps! Thanks to Lasse Burri Gram-Hansen who mailed us to suggest the article and theme. If one thing is clear it is going to be an interesting final 12 games!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Saints & Villains: Played For Both

This is a brand new feature for georgeweahscousin.com, so hopefully it will be a welcome change! All feedback is of course appreciated!

I have decided to come up with a starting XI of players that have featured for both clubs in the build up to a game. They won’t always be the most popular or the most famous, they may have never had much of an impact at one or either of the clubs, but hopefully they will be the most interesting.

So here goes with the first ever ‘Played for Both’ XI for today’s visit to Aston Villa.

team

Goalkeeper

John Burridge

The man of a million (33) clubs, ‘Budgy’ made brief stops at both Villa Park in the mid-seventies and The Dell in the late-eighties, making just over 60 appearances for both clubs.

John Burridge
John Burridge

Right Back

Stephen O’Halloran

The Republic of Ireland international came to Saints on loan from Villa in 2008 with talk of fantastic potential. He made one appearance from the bench. He was awful. Saints fans will not be surprised to hear that he now plays for Nuneaton Town.

Stephen O'Halloran
Stephen O’Halloran

Centre Back

Chris Nicholl

Highly regarded at both clubs, Nicholl made over 200 appearances for Villa between 1972 and 1977  including two League Cup final wins (check out his goal in the 1977 replay with Everton) before becoming part of one of the best Saints teams of all time between 1977 and 1983. Went on to manage Saints from 1986 – 1991.

Chris Nicholl
Chris Nicholl

Left Back

Stuart Gray

Gray signed for Saints in 1991 having spent the previous four seasons at Villa Park. Gray was considered good business for Saints, but injury hampered his time at the Dell and he was restricted to just 12 appearances in two seasons. Later had a disastrous spell as manager of Saints.

Stuart Gray
Stuart Gray

Defensive Midfield

Lew Chatterley

Local Birmingham boy Chatterley fulfilled his dreams when he signed for the club he supported in 1960. He stayed at Villa Park until 1971. It was in ’71 where he met Lawrie McMenemy for the first time at Doncaster Rovers. He followed McMenemy to Grimsby Town and then Southampton in 1974. He had one season as a Saints player before returning in ’79 as McMenemy’s assistant. He had a five year break from the Dell when he followed his friend to Sunderland in 1985, but returned in 1990 and stayed until 1996 occupying various backroom roles from youth development officer to assistant manager to Alan Ball.

Lew Chatterley
Lew Chatterley

Right Midfield

Mark Walters

Winger Walters was another Birmingham native who joined Villa as an apprentice. He spent seven years at Villa Park from 1980 – 1987 and was a European Super Cup winner before becoming a pioneer for black players in Scottish football, joining Graeme Souness’ English revolution at Rangers. Signed for Saints 1996 and despite showing flashes of brilliance was clearly at the tail end of his career.

Mark Walters
Mark Walters

Centre Midfield

Andy Townsend

Townsend got his big break from non-league football when he was signed by Lawrie McMenemy for Saints in 1985. He spent three years at the Dell before joining Villa in 1993 via Norwich and Chelsea. He was twice a League Cup winner for Villa in 1994 and 1996 and earned 70 caps for the Republic of Ireland.

Andy Townsend
Andy Townsend

Centre Midfield

Mark Draper

Draper was a big money signing for Villa in 1995 having starred for Leicester City, and was another part of Villa’s 1996 League cup winning team. Saints paid £1.5 million for his signature in 2000 but it was another case of injury plagued disappointment and Draper retired in 2003 having played just 23 times for the club. He is now the kitman at first club Notts County.

Mark Draper
Mark Draper

Left Midfield

Hassan Kachloul

Moroccan international Kachloul came to England and Southampton in 1998 and became a cult hero at the club. Despite frustrating some fans, he had undoubted skill and ability but often blew hot and cold. He dampened his hero status at Saints somewhat when he left for Villa on a free when his contract expired in 2001. His career never took off at Villa Park and he played for Villa just 22 times. Still one of my favourite ever Saints players.

Hassan Kachloul
Hassan Kachloul

Striker

Paul Rideout

Forward Rideout was brought to Villa Park in 1983 from Swindon Town and he became a regular in the side. It earned him a move to Italy and Bari in 1985. His spell abroad lasted three seasons before Saints brought him back to England. Rideout was a good performer a the Dell and stayed until 1991. Came back to haunt Saints in the famous Tranmere Rovers cup tie in 2001.

Paul Rideout
Paul Rideout

Striker

Kevin Phillips

Perhaps a disappointment for both clubs Phillips signed for Saints in 2003 and stayed until relegation in 2005, despite a decent goal return he was never a fans favourite at St. Mary’s and joined Villa in the summer after demotion. He never found his feet at Villa and only lasted one season. Will be fondly remembered for scoring the winner for Saints against Pompey in 2004 and for Villa against Birmingham in 2005.

Kevin Phillips
Kevin Phillips

So that’s that, a mixture of successes and failures at one club or both! There are some who didn’t make the lineup, Peter Crouch and current Saint Steven Davis for example but I was looking for the cult and the obscure!

Hope you enjoyed it!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Premier League Preview: Part 1

With the big kick off just three and a bit days away, I caught up with fans our our new Premier League opponents to get their thoughts on what lies ahead…

Arsenal:-

Name:- Andrew Mangan

Team:- Arsenal

Website:- http://arseblog.com

Twitter:- @arseblog

What can we expect from your club this season?

Nice, attacking football, short passing, a reluctance to shoot from distance, generous defending, late calamities, the tease of a trophy and balanced, considered expressions of opinion from online fans.

Who is your most important player?

At the moment, with some of the summer still to go and the future of Van Persie still to be decided, I’d say Mikel Arteta. He’s a calm, experienced professional who really makes the team tick. I think if Van Persie goes we might see him step up.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Top four, but I can’t really be any more exact than that.

Who might win the Premier League?

I never rule us out, despite it being so long since we’ve won it we have challenged some seasons so you never know. So, Arsenal, United, Chelsea, Man City.

Who definitely won’t?

Everyone else. I don’t think Liverpool have the squad, I’m not sure Sp*rs do either although they’re definitely top six material, and apart from that the financial side of things pretty much precludes anyone else from challenging.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Obviously the North London derbies but the rivalry with United for so long means I always look forward to those games.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

Man United v Man City. When United were winning everything I think there was a certain sympathy for City when they were being relegated and being cast under such a successful shadow. It shows how far things have come that this is a game I can’t wait to see and I want United to murder them.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

To be honest I haven’t seen much of Southampton since they were relegated but obviously there’s been a huge turnaround. When you consider how far you fell to have come back to the Premier League is a fantastic achievement. And the club seem to have the infrastructure and know-how to get up and stay up, which is the most important thing. It’s not at all unusual for a newly promoted team to have a fine first season, but it’s achieving the consistency over the next few years that will provide the real challenge.

You find yourself stuck in White Hart Lane. How do you escape unnoticed?

Hold my nose like that bloke out of Rent-a-ghost.

Aston Villa:-

Name:- Matt Turvey

Team:- Aston Villa

Website:- http://www.astonvillalife.com

Twitter:- @MatthewSTurvey for me, @AstonVillaLife for the site.

What can we expect from your club this season?

Some good, solid football.  Now that Paul Lambert is in charge, the club seem to be going in the right direction and most of our fans are appreciative of that.  Progress will take time, but I feel people will see more of our club’s potential this year.  I also expect our new signings to draw the attention of some of the big clubs – Karim El-Ahmadi and Brett Holman will do well this year I feel.

Who is your most important player?

Stephen Ireland – he may well have had a mixed start to his career in his first season, but last year he was rightly fan’s player of the year, and showed a fantastic determination to play for the team.  If he is on form, and signs seem to show he will be this season, he’s unplayable and, in my opinion, the most technically gifted player we have.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

A solid mid-table finish.  This might sound low in the eyes of some Aston Villa fans, but after the past two seasons and the need to change things, it is a good enough expectation.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t do better, just that I am not expecting us to do more.  You never know – we may end up surprising everyone like Newcastle did last year!

Who might win the Premier League?

It depends how you want me to answer.  The obvious candidates, such as the two Manchester clubs, and Chelsea are, well, obvious.  If you mean who could be a dark horse, then I think that it’s probably a stretch too far to pick one.  The most likely candidate would be Tottenham Hotspur I imagine, although a lot will hinge on both how Andre Villas-Boas does at the club, and whether they can keep hold of key players like Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart.

Who definitely won’t?

Sad as it is to say, probably about 16 teams in the league.  I know last season’s campaign was very competitive for the majority of the league members, but the title contenders were way ahead of even the Europa League places.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

It’s a strange pick from me in the eyes of some, but I’ll be interested to see the reaction our manager gets when we play Norwich away.  I imagine it will be mostly positive, but I’m sure there are some Norwich fans who didn’t appreciate him leaving the club.  Beyond that game, I just like teams who play football the right way, so I always like to see those kinds of games.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

The Manchester derbies –  It’s highly likely that the winner of the Premier League will come from those two teams this year.  Beyond those, any game that involves Manchester City.  I know they may well just be buying success, but they play good football, and their last game of the season against QPR had me out of my seat – I’ve never known a more exciting conclusion to the title race than that.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I think they will do well.  I’ve got a lot of time for Nigel Adkins and few can doubt the way he has taken the club to two successive promotions.  In that regard, he is much like our current manager.  My only concern for Southampton is that if they do well, I imagine bigger clubs will be looking at Adkins as a potential candidate for their clubs.  That’s no disrespect to Southampton as a club, rather the fact that you can be very proud of what your manager has achieved.

You find yourself stuck in St. Andrews. How do you escape unnoticed?

Ah, the lovely St Andrews, home ground of Birmingham City.  Assuming I was there for a match (there’s no real other reason why I’d be there), then I’d probably just try to fit in with their usual fan base by adopting a heavy Birmingham accent and looking constantly miserable.  If I kept that up, I’d fit in nicely and be able to escape.  I guess the only thing against me is that I write for one of the regional papers, so a fair number of them may well know my face!

Stephen Ireland could be a key man for Villa.

Chelsea:-

Name:- Denise Hope

Team:- Chelsea

Website:- http://thechelseablog.org/

Twitter:- @TheChelseaBlog

What can we expect from your club this season?

As ever with Chelsea, you can expect the unexpected. We haven’t had a particularly exciting pre-season although it’s worth bearing in mind the last time we had such an unspectacular pre-season we won the double. I’m not suggesting we’ll repeat that but I do think we’ll have a much more attack-minded side this season rather than the constant defensive displays that saw us defy some remarkable odds last season. I should mention we’re Champions of Europe here really (just because I can).

Who is your most important player?

Historically in this squad that probably has to be John Terry, just for his sheer contribution as a leader and motivator. However, if we’re talking about who will be a key player for us in the coming season, I can see Hazard, Mata and Marin all causing a few nerves in opposition defences but for me our success or failure could fall at the feet of Fernando Torres. If he has the sort of season we bought him for, we’ll be flying – if he doesn’t, we’ll be f***ed.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Top two for sure this season. Our final position in the Premier League last season was down to the damage done under AVB’s management (that’s not laying the blame squarely on his shoulders either). There was no real way back for Di Matteo from that and he was right to go for the Champions League instead. This season though, he’s already made his intention clear to address our Premier League standing, and I’ve every faith he’ll do that.

Who might win the Premier League?

We might! If not us, then United – they won’t take last season laying down, that has to have hurt everyone at Old Trafford and they’ll make sure they finish above City this time. Hopefully that’ll still leave them behind us though.

Who definitely won’t?

Spurs! Not that they’d have a hope in hell anyway but from some of the bitter stuff he’s already had to say in the press, it’s clear AVB’s more focused on Chelsea than anything else in the Premier League – never a good thing.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Of course our game against QPR will have even more added spice than previous meetings but to be honest, JT will undoubtedly have a camera rammed up his left nostril (with an obligatory microphone courtesy of some new FA ruling) and  it’ll be too much of a circus to get too excited about it. So, I’ll go with Spurs – these derbies are always much anticipated and it’ll be an interesting one against them having put them out of the Champions League, not to mention meeting our former manager as the opposition.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

After events on the final day last season, the Manchester derby should be well worth a watch shouldn’t it?

How do you think Southampton will fare?

If I’m honest, will you edit it out? Just kidding! I think you’ll have a honeymoon season, so you’ll do ok. Maybe a finish around 14th?

You find yourself stuck in The Emirates Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed?

To be honest, if I was stuck in Arsenal’s ground, escape wouldn’t be too difficult. I’d sneak out ten minutes before the end along with the rest of them – no-one would think that was unusual.

Everton:-

Name:- Phill Nuttall

Team:- Everton

Website:- www.evertonfc.com

Twitter:- @phillipnuttall

What can we expect from your club this season?

This season will see a more dynamic Everton in the premier league. We have let go of players who were not making the desired impact, eg Rodwell, Cahill & fringe players, and brought in more industrious players such as Gibson, Naismith & Jelavic, fans can expect to see Everton better in possession, defensively solid, and more free flowing in the goals department.

Who is your most important player?Jac

It’s a coin toss between Steven Pienaar and Maruane Fellaini.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

If we start the season how we finish it then top 6 for Everton this season.

Who might win the Premier League?

City/Chelsea

Who definitely won’t?

The other 18 teams.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Chelsea, always a great game between us.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

I’m looking forward to watching Chelsea v Arsenal given their signings.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I hope they stay up, robbed of many young talents in recent years but back where they belong, can’t see them.finishing top 10 – a season of consolidation for the saints.

You find yourself stuck in Anfield. How do you escape unnoticed?

Anfield – Go dressed as donkey from Shrek – people will just say “Hi Suarez”.

Everton will look to their midfield pair to chase the leading pack.

Fulham:-

Name:- Kyle Bonn

Team:- Fulham

Website:- FulhamsFinest.com

Twitter:- @FulhamsFinest

What can we expect from your club this season?

This question depends a lot on what happens in the final few weeks of the transfer window.  Martin Jol recently said that Fulham is far from done, and they haven’t spent a pound in the transfer market yet despite having brought in Hugo Rodallega, Mladen Petric, and Sascha Riether.  If Jol can find two more strikers and a midfielder like he said he’s looking for, this club has a ton of potential.

Fulham are a club that have flown entirely under the radar in the last few seasons, and without attracting the attention of much of the media and fans have grown up in the Premier League, making themselves a mainstay in the middle of the pack.  Not only that, but a few top-10 finishes in the last couple of years have the fan base buzzing with thoughts of Europa League qualifying dancing in their heads.  With the overhaul Martin Jol has brought to the squad this offseason and the mystery surrounding Clint Dempsey’s future, there may a settling-in period, but to expect another 9th place finish isn’t overestimating this squad by any means.

Who is your most important player?

The American Clint Dempsey, with the shroud covering his future, can almost be thought of as too much a distraction. However, he’s still no question the most well-rounded talent on the club who can strike at any time from the midfield.  The question is, where will he be when the window comes to a close? And if he’s still on the Fulham roster, what role will he play? He’s been locked out of all preseason action so far, with rumors of misgivings with management abound (although the club insists his fitness is the issue). Liverpool are the no-doubt frontrunners for his services at the moment, but with Fulham requiring £10 million to complete the deal, and Dempsey about to top 30 years of age, the Reds are reluctant to pull the trigger.

My prediction has always been for Dempsey leaving in the winter, and it’s looking more and more like that will be the case.  However, if Fulham do indeed find themselves in the race for a Europa League spot, they may find more value in his playing services than in the cold, hard cash they would receive from a team.  Letting him walk for free would hurt, but at the same time if he successfully helped the team to previously unreached heights, most would be content to overlook that.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Like I said earlier, 9th place is a realistic expectation this season, but the future is bright.

Who might win the Premier League?

I can’t bet against Manchester United, who with their successful acquisitions this offseason, and the lack of moves made by their derby rivals, they once again the upper hand.

Who definitely won’t?

I know this isn’t going out on much of a limb these days, but Arsenal’s struggles to secure hardware will continue this season.  As much as Wenger has figured out how to sign cheques and complete transactions once again, and has used that to his advantage to secure a number of excellent buys, they won’t have a major impact until the second half of the season, by which time it will be too late.  Next season, however, I would beware the Gunners.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

No doubt Fulham fans this season will be looking forward to both ends of the fixtures with Queens Park Rangers.  Fans have developed a fearsome hatred for each side, being fueled with QPR’s hiring of Mark Hughes, completing his traitorous departure from Craven Cottage. Fulham fans sat back last season with a wry smile while they watched their London rivals squirm their way out of relegation. The Cottagers thumped QPR 6-0 in the home fixture, and took another 3 points 1-0 across London, giving firm bragging rights to the banks of the Thames.  The first matchup will be much-anticipated, and fans will have to wait until December 15 for the rivalry to continue at Loftus Road.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

The Manchester derby has to be the most exciting fixture.  While I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone, these two clubs have to be considered once again the top two in the country.  They very well could decide the championship, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

Unfortunately I think Southampton will struggle to stay in the Premiership.  This isn’t to underestimate Southampton, but rather a number of teams that finished in the bottom quarter of the league last season have spent a great deal of money this offseason and unfortunately for Southampton this puts them at a disadvantage. Look at what clubs such as Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa, and even newly promoted sides West Ham and Reading have added this offseason, they may be distancing themselves from other more dormant clubs like Southampton.

Thanks to all the contributors for their input! Look out for the next three parts soon!

Chris

Permanent Fixtures?

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.

Chaplow and co celebrate the opener v Man Utd.

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.

Jos Hooiveld heads Saints to three points.

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.

Saints on the up.

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.

Chris

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

Championship Preview Part 1…

Where better to get an all round overview of the thoughts of Championship fans on the coming season than the fantastic club specific blogs. I caught up with a contributor/tweeter from each of the twenty four Championship clubs and got their thoughts on the coming season…

Barnsley:-

Name:- Wilky

Club:- Barnsley FC

Twitter:- @onthepontyend

Website:- On The Ponty End

What can we expect from your club this season? Expect to see a far more resilient and united team at Oakwell this time out. What we may lack in stand-out names on our team sheet, we will more than make up for in our approach and ethic. Many have Barnsley FC as relegation certainties, I disagree. We feel the time may be arriving when our Academy and shrewd acquisition may just begin to bare fruit.

Who is your most important player? It’s a very fresh (expected first eleven) this season, but I would highlight Jacob Butterfield who has featured last season, but would expect to make it in to automatic selection this season. He has excellent skills and vision, which would make him our natural playmaker to link our attacking force together.

Your predicted finishing position? Mid table.

Who might win the Championship? Big Sam will sort it at West Ham United. 

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough United.

Most anticipated fixture? It would probably be Leeds United. Last term we took 4 points off our local rivals and love to destroy their so called mighty status. No Leeds fan would admit they were the weaker team last season and have attributed both results as a poor day at the office on their part. Let’s see!

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Champions League Final, to see if Barcelona really have re-written the football blueprint. Will Manchester United or any club overcome them soon? It’s an interesting situation.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Kevin Nolan will be different class in the Npower Championship. His willingness to compete and his goals mark him a class apart.

You find yourself stuck in Elland Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Wait until they score first, knowing that their demise will inevitably follow later in the game versus The Super Reds. Pride always comes before a fall and in this instance, there’s always so much smug self satisfaction going on, they would fail to see anything else happening … You only sing when you’re winning!

Birmingham City:-

Name:- Kevin Ball

Club:- Birmingham City

Twitter:- @joysandsorrows

Website:- Joys and Sorrows

What can we expect from your club this season? Err, good question. Things are very odd at the moment, not even sure if we have a full squad! I hope some entertaining football though under Chris Hughton.

Who is your most important player? Any who are left? 😉 Difficult to say, but I will be really pleased if we can keep Scott Dann. He is an amazing defender.

Your predicted finishing position? I’ll be happy to be in the play off mix as a minimum.

Who might win the Championship? Got to between Leeds, Forest, West Ham, Leicester and I hope us! (Well you never know!)

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough. Sorry Posh.

Most anticipated fixture? Probably v West Ham as there is no love lost between our present board and our previous board. Also the way we knocked them out of the Carling Cup last season.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Leicester v Forest I would have thought.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only) who would it be? This is tough, because I didn’t pay any attention to the Championship last year mainly because I didn’t think we would be in it this year! 🙁

You find yourself stuck in The Ricoh Arena. How do you escape unnoticed? I would ask could they tell me where the other two Cathedrals were!

Blackpool:-

Name:- John Godwin

Club:- Blackpool Football Club

Twitter:- @goders

What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking, entertaining football with some heavy defeats and shock wins mixed in.

Who is your most important player? DJ Campbell, but depends if we keep him or not! If he goes I see Barry Ferguson leading the team with Matt Phillips adding lots of pace and flair.

Your predicted finishing position? 7th.

Who might win the Championship? West Ham.

Who definitely won’t? Barnsley.

Most anticipated fixture? Blackpool v Saints (at St Mary’s).

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton v Pompey.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? West Ham – Kevin Nolan.

You find yourself stuck in Deepdale. How do you escape unnoticed? Dress in tracksuit and cap whist eating a Wigan kebab (meat pie).

The only way is up for Campbell and Blackpool?

Brighton & Hove Albion:-

Name:- Darren McKay

Club:- Brighton

Twitter:- @NorthStandChat

Website:- North Stand Chat

What can we expect from your club this season? More of the same. Gus Poyet is very definite in his views on how the game should be played: pass, pass and pass again. We have some exciting new players offering lots of attacking promise whilst we’ve yet to strengthen at the back. Maybe we’ll win every game 6-5.

Who is your most important player? That’s a tough one given our new blood. Craig Mackail-Smith is the big money big (and long) name but I have a sneaky feeling that Will Hoskins will turn out to be key for us this year. At the back we’ll be looking for Gordon Greer to lead by example, and that includes not picking up needless sending offs.

Your predicted finishing position? Hopes of ‘doing a Norwich’ are perhaps a tad optimistic, but I think we’ll have enough to ensure we remain free of relegation concerns. Mid-table mediocrity? Yes please!

Who might win the Championship? It’s an obvious answer, but West Ham or Leicester should be there or thereabouts with the squads they have.

Who definitely won’t? Crystal Palace. Woeful.

Most anticipated fixture? Crystal Palace at home. For the first time in a generation, we get to compete with our rivals on an even footing.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I really can’t think of one. I’m not sure there’s another Championship game I’d pay the entrance price to see. But, given the source of these questions, I’ll say that sampling a derby between those other 2 South Coast Championship clubs probably holds the most appeal.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Glenn Murray. It sounds like he needs a big hug already.

You find yourself stuck in Selhurst Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I’d pretend to be Glenn Murray – nobody will be noticing him in a few weeks time.

Bristol City:-

Name:- Chris Cooper

Club:- Bristol City

Website:- OTIB

What can we expect from your club this season? Hard to say with all the uncertainty still surrounding Nicky Maynard. He really is vital to any potential success we may have. After a turbulent (to say the least) season last time around, I’d expect us to improve upon that with a far more settled side. Mid-table finish after a short flirt with the play offs, maybe sneaking in should Mr Maynard stay the duration.

Who is your most important player? Maynard without doubt. Can produce something from absolutely nothing, something very few players in the Championship can do. If he leaves, then Albert Adomah who had a storming debut season on the right wing, and is on the verge of full honours for Ghana.

Your predicted finishing position? 11th.

Who might win the Championship? Hard to look past West Ham and Leicester at this stage.

Who definitely won’t? Barnsley are perennial top of the bottom 6 material.

Most anticipated fixture? With Swansea gone, our games with Cardiff should be reignited. West Ham at Upton Park will sure to be a popular one as well.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Couple of fantastic derby games this year. West Ham Vs Millwall being the obvious one. The two South coast clubs (Pompey and Saints) on even standings should be interesting as well.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? As our defence resembles the red sea in biblical times, Matt Mills would plug the hole I’m sure.

You find yourself stuck in the Memorial Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed? I hide myself in the large tent behind one goal (the away end) and wait untill the end of the season until its wheeled away to be used at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. I mean what sort of tinpot club has a temporary tent?

Nicky Maynard - The Key to Bristol City's Season?

Burnley:- 

Name:- Tony Scholes

Club:- Burnley

Twitter:- @clarets_mad

Website:- Clarets Mad 

What can we expect from your club this season? That’s a good question and right now it almost feels as if we are about to step into the unknown. Since the squad reported back for pre-season training no less than three of them have left with a further two, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears, expected to leave for Bolton at any time. To replace them we’ve signed two young defenders on loan from Manchester City and as yet, nothing else. There is time yet but it does feel as though we’ve wasted an opportunity by not getting the squad together early enough.

Who is your most important player? Hopefully all of them will be important but the stand out players are Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez who have both come through the youth system at Burnley. McCann is fit again after almost two years out of the game and at his best is as good a central midfield player as you will find in the Championship. He’s been so badly missed and it will be like having a new signing. Rodriguez, despite the name, is a real case of local boy makes good. He’s just enjoyed his first season in the first team and has become a crucial member of the side. He ended the season as leading goalscorer and not many players in the entire Championship scored more goals than he did. HIs 15 didn’t include a penalty and he could well step up towards 20 goals this coming season. He made an England debut last season at under-21 level and has an exciting future in front of him.

Your predicted finishing position? I would love to say first, but so would any supporter of any club. I’ll be realistic and I think if we could make a good start then we have a decent chance of making the play offs. In 2009 we finished 5th so I’ll go for that again.

Who might win the Championship? Not many eyes are looking too far beyond Leicester at the moment. Only today they have signed Manchester City’s Michael Johnson on loan and they are certainly putting a strong squad together. You know there’s money around once Sven Goran Eriksson shows his face, but for how long? Could it be another club where it all ends in tears? For now though they have to be favourites.

Who definitely won’t? I suspect there are a few who fall into that category. I think Peterborough will struggle and I don’t think there will be too many complaints if they do given they’ve got both Barry Fry and Darren Ferguson there.

Most anticipated fixture? Right now it’s Watford because it’s our first game. We’re stuck with hardly any local games this season with Blackpool as the only other North West club in the Championship. Personally I’m looking forward to going to Brighton and not having to suffer the Withdean but maybe Leeds will be the big games for us.

Most anticipate fixture that doesn’t involve your club? If that’s in the Championship then I’ve no real answer. Nothing stands out above anything else. Outside the Championship, and outside England, I’ll have the Barcelona v Real Madrid games marked in my diary.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club who would it be? It would have to be a goalscorer. They are the players who win the games for you. I’d have liked to have re-signed David Nugent so I’d go for someone like him or potentially Reading’s Shane Long.

You find yourself stuck in Ewood Park. How do you escape unnoticed? That’s easy. I’d just walk out. They’d be too busy tucking into their Venky’s chicken.

Part Two featuring Cardiff, Coventry, Palace, Derby, Doncaster and Hull coming soon…

Chris