Tag Archives: Virgil van Dijk

World Cup of Foreign Imports: And the winner is….

Well it’s all over.

The final was a tight affair, but after a strong start from Virgil van Dijk, the little Latvian bounced back and once he found himself in front he never looked back.

In what is a massive case of coincidence, but so fortunately fitting, today happens to be the anniversary of Marian’s first Saints goal!

https://twitter.com/SouthamptonFC/status/853881528815935488

Marian truly was a special player, not just because of his undoubted ability but also they way he embraced the club and the city.

Ladies and Gentlemen, officially our best ever foreign signing.

The one, the only! Marian Pahars!

 

Thanks to everyone that voted!

Chris

World Cup of Foreign Imports: Semi-Finals

If this meaningless, pointless little fun competition has taught us anything, it’s that when it come to foreign imports Saints fans have been the winners.

The final four shows how lucky we have been over the years and made for an interesting mix. Three quality, gargantuan centre halves, and like a rose amongst the thorns, a slight, nippy Latvian forward. Great memories.

But who will win? I don’t think many would argue that any of the final four would be a worthy winner.

Here are the results:-

SF1:-

SF2:-

So it was the end of the road for both halves of a fantastic defensive partnership.

Good luck to our finalists!

You have 24 hours to decide the winner!

Chris

World Cup of Foreign Imports: Quarter Finals

The nineties fights back!

After some suggestion that more recent players were dominating because of the twitter demographic, the quarter finals proved that there is life in the old dogs yet!

Inevitably some big names fell, but it was all about the centre halves as three made it to the final four.

Here are the results of the quarter finals:-

QF1:-

QF2:-

QF3:-

QF4:-

All pretty conclusive with the exception of Killer vs the saviour of Liverpool’s season!

Here is the draw for the semi-finals:-

That concludes the semi final draw! Tune in tomorrow!

Chris

World Cup of Foreign Imports: Round of 16

After some controversial results in the group stages, the interest in the ‘World Cup of Foreign Imports’ hotted up!

The draw for the Round of 16 did not disappoint providing us with certainly the tie of the competition so far with two potential winners Morgan Schneiderlin and Marian Pahars going head to head.

The general consensus is that using the medium of twitter means a much younger voting spectrum and thus the results favour the more recent players, but I remind people of two things, firstly anyone can vote (<1% of the followers of the club official account are voting.) and secondly it is just for fun!

Here are the results of the Round of 16:-

G1:-

G2:-

G3:-

G4:-

G5:-

G6:-

G7:-

G8:-

Some close affairs and some one sided encounters but we most importantly we are down to our last 8!

Here is the draw for the Quarter Finals:-

8. Oriol Romeu will play 1. Virgil van Dijk

6. Marian Pahars will play 2. Antti Niemi

7. Dusan Tadic will play 3. Claus Lundekvam

4. Michael Svensson will play 5. Sadio Mane

That concludes the Quarter Final draw. Tune in tomorrow!

Chris

The Saints Agenda…

Good morning/afternoon/evening wherever you may be readers! Yet again I’ve left it far too long to give some opinion on this site, and arrogantly it feels like I am denying you all my wisdom.

To that end I thought I would put together a list of discussion points of all things that have happened in the never dull world of Saints over the last few weeks and try and sum up how I’ve felt about it all.

Wembley

I’m not sure anything more really needs to be said, but what a day it was.

The whole thing felt a little surreal, from catching up with friends from all corners of the globe to entering the stadium itself. I’m not sure it ever felt ‘real’. Saints were superb in every aspect, from the cacophony of noise made by the supporters to the effort, desire and impetus of the players on the pitch. We didn’t win, but we deserved too, and in the most simplistic of terms, a player as good as Zlatan Ibrahimovic really can make the difference. Our players left everything on that pitch, and while the result wasn’t reflective of the standard of the two teams, every Saints fan, whether they were in Wembley or glued to their television sets in whichever country they reside was immensely proud of our club. There will be more finals for us.

Let’s not even talk about the ‘offside’ goal.

‘Barry’ Manolo Gabbiadini

I think I love him.

What an impact. Credit to the Saints team behind the scenes again. On the face of it, Gabbiadini was a striker with not a particularly amazing goal record in Italy, but he has been exactly what we needed. His movement in and around the box is superb, and if there has been something we have been lacking with the absence of Charlie Austin it is a front man with one focus. Score. Of course, he won’t be able to keep up this fantastic run for long, but his instinct in the box suggests he can end the season with a decent return.

Caceres/Boufal

Something that really bugged me this week. The U23’s played a home game against Chelsea and Saints fans generally over reacted about two players for two very different reasons.

A strong lineup included the first appearance of Martin Caceres and a run out for Sofiane Boufal.

Caceres acquitted himself well, and immediately there were calls for him to go into the first team. Boufal on the other hand didn’t have the best of games and looked to have a little temper tantrum, this was followed by suggestions that he isn’t good enough and should be moved on. Ridiculous. On both counts.

It was a reserve game. Let Caceres settle in, when he’s ready, he’ll play, and I’ve seen enough of Boufal to know he has a special talent and we’d be foolish to get rid of him. I’m not a fan of these games being televised to be honest, it provokes unnecessary discussion. Let’s not make Boufal the new scapegoat. You were wrong about both Wanyama and Mane.

Formation Change

And not a moment too soon….

I don’t know if it was the arrival of Gabbiadini or just experimenting on Puel’s part but the team seemed to slip back into 4-2-3-1 ridiculously easily and the suggestion that Saints are ‘boring’ is long behind us.

Nathan Redmond

I was desperate for us to sign Redmond in the Summer so it’s been frustrating to see so many get on his back  as the season has progressed. I’m not sure Puel’s comments comparing him to Thierry Henry did him any favours and it looked like he might be a flash in the pan.

But. If anyone has benefited from the formation change more than anyone else it is him. He has been fantastic in the last three games. He’s a winger and reverting him to that role is paying dividends. He is such a dangerous outlet on the break. Long may it continue.

Claude Puel

“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid”

A little tribute to the boss. Monsieur Puel.

Yes, he isn’t particularly animated in interviews. Yes, he might have rotated a bit too much. But.

Taking over at Saints is never an easy job. Another Summer of upheaval and with the added pressures of the Europa League group stages, Puel never really had the chance to settle in. He’s had injuries to his main striker, his best defender and let’s just call it ‘The Fonte situation’ thrust upon him and you know what? He’s done alright.

He took us to a cup final. We’re pushing for a top 10 league finish. Again. He’s used the Academy. As first seasons go, he shouldn’t be mis-judged on this one.

In the first real period with breaks where he has been able to experiment with the tactics and keep a settled side, we’ve been superb. Perhaps not as good defensively as we would like but with a makeshift central partnership it could have been a lot worse.

Chinese Investment?

If the media in the far East is to be believed Landers Sports have invested in the club. Who knows what to make of that?

Personally I prefer investment to takeovers. The Liebherr administration has been nothing but positive in my view, so there control is comfortable for me. If this investment means there is more money in the pot then great.

Any Other Business

I just wanted to send some love the way of our podcasters! For a long time Saints were starved of any podcasts. I had a go myself and I know how time consuming and difficult it is so I’m grateful to two that have come to the fore of late.

First of all there is the Southampton Dellivery run by Matt in California which I’ve enjoyed and will be a guest with soon and also the Saints FC Podcast who have had some fascinating interviews with ex players of late!

So that’s all from me again for a while! What a time to be a Saint!

Chris

Keep the faith.

Jose Fonte: Are Saints fans in danger of becoming bitter and twisted?

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.

Keep the faith.

Throwback – Saints Premier League Dream Team (2011)

Back in 2011, prior to Saints return to the top flight I was asked by Shoot magazine to compile my ‘Premier League Dream Team’.

I thought it would be good to look back at it now, 5 years later and with some impressive Premier League campaigns under our belt to see where I might now change that team.

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Goalkeeper (2011) – Antti Niemi

Goalkeeper (2016) – No change. The flying Finn was and still is the best keeper I’ve ever seen in a Saints shirt.

Left Back (2011) – Wayne Bridge

Left Back (2016) – No change. I was a big fan of Bridge, and though I think Luke Shaw might have stolen this had he stayed a bit longer and Ryan Bertrand is consistently immaculate, Bridge still gets the nod. Just.

Excuse the picture of Paul Telfer...
Excuse the picture of Paul Telfer…

Right Back (2011) – Jason Dodd

Right Back (2016) – Nathaniel Clyne. It’s not easy to drop Dodd who was such a fantastic servant to the club but Clyne’s performances in a Saints shirt were superb.

Centre Half (2011) – Dean Richards R.I.P.

Centre Half (2016) – Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman will go on to be know as one of Saints most impressive and important signings of all time in my opinion. Oozes class and is almost unbeatable in the air.

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Centre Half (2011) – Michael Svensson

Centre Half (2016) – Jose Fonte. Another difficult decision but Fonte’s impact in the Premier League as the constant amongst several partners and the defensive performances that have stemmed from them have to be rewarded.

Central Midfield (2011) – Chris Marsden

Central Midfield (2016) – Morgan Schneiderlin. An all round brilliant midfielder and arguably is yet to be replaced (though PEH looks a decent bet).

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Left Midfield (2011) – Hassan Kachloul

Left Midifeld (2016) – Adam Lallana. The homegrown Lallana may have left a sour taste in the mouths of many when he left, but his performances for Saints were a joy to watch.

Right Midfield (2011) – Ronnie Ekelund

Right Midfield (2016) – No change. Ekelund was at the club for such a short space of time that I feel sorry for those fans who didn’t get to see how good he was.

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Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2011) – Matthew Le Tissier

Attacking Midfielder/Free Role (2016) – No change. Pretty sure I don’t have to justify this one.

Striker (2011) – Marian Pahars

Striker (2016) – No change. I can’t drop the little Latvian, I simply can’t. He provided too much joy to my younger Dell going self.

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Striker (2011) – James Beattie

Striker (2016) – Rickie Lambert. Very difficult to remove Beattie, but Lambert was much more than a brilliant striker, he was a superb footballer and a talisman too.

Subs (2011) – Lundekvam, Oakley, Ostenstad, Palmer, Benali

Subs (2016) – M. Svensson, Wanyama, Mane, Beattie, Benali

So that’s my updated team, but what is yours?

Chris

United Saints of America

A mixed Southampton squad of established first team players and fringe players from the youth setup jetted out to Maryland, Baltimore this past week for the club’s first ever pre-season trip to the US.

Tying in nicely with the launch of the club’s new kit, developed by Maryland based brand Under Armour, it has been no secret that Saints are looking to expand their boundaries.

It was a great opportunity for the Southampton fans across the Atlantic to get a rare access to the players, as Claude Puel run the rule over his squad for the first time. Saints ran out 2-0 winners over DC United u23’s, travelled the sites of Washington DC during their stay, but perhaps most importantly hosted an open training session for the supporters. Bill Adlin, was one of the fans in attendance and he gave us this feedback.

‘Oh when the Saints came marching in to the University of Maryland’s Ludwig Field on Thursday, July 14 the fans couldn’t have been happier.  The players seemed to have a great time as well!

 

During the preseason, Southampton FC travelled to Baltimore, Maryland both in order to train and to meet their new partners, Under Armour.  On Thursday the Saints travelled to the University of Maryland for a training session.  Fans were invited to watch the session and to meet and greet the players after.

 

Fans got to witness a variety of drills on a blazing hot 98 degree day.  Corner kicks, possession drills and free kicks were among the skills that were practised.  They even played a game that looked like keep away…with their hands.   The crowd said “ooooohhhhhh” when one Saint was gated during a spectacular move on goal.  We won’t name him here!

 

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Fans were treated to a free Under Armour drawstring bag, complete with Southampton logo emblazoned on it, a very generous gesture by Southampton and Under Armour.

 

 After practice Saints fans formed a line and all players and coaches signed autographs, shook hands and took pictures with them.  They couldn’t have been more gracious.  Virgil Van Dyk and Dusan Tadic were among the favourites as were newcomers Nathan Redmond and last season transfer Charlie Austin.  Even new coach Claude Puel got in on the action.  Kelvin Davis, recently retired goalkeeper and new addition to the coaching staff graciously emerged from the bus after practice to greet a fan that missed him the first time through.

It was a brilliant event.  Thanks for Southampton and Under Armour for making it happen.  Good luck this season!  We’ll be pulling for you from across the pond.’

Thanks to Bill for reporting back! Sounds like everyone had a great time!

The winners of the 2015/16 Ali’s! The results are in!

Yet again, the voting response to these awards was fantastic, it genuinely surprises me every time, and grows every year!

This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-

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

Scored points:-  Lee Todd (<1%), Steven Caulker (<1%), Some Scummer (<1%), Cuco Martina (<1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jordy Clasie (<1%), Cedric (<1%), Graziano Pelle (<1%), Jose Fonte (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Fraser Forster(2%), Steven Davis (6%).

3rd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (8%)

2nd Place:- Shane Long (32%)

And the winner is……with a huge 44% of the points, after a stand out season at centre half……

VIRGIL

Most Improved Player

Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Oriol Romeu (1%), Steven Davis (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Alfie Jones (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Jordy Clasie (2%), Ryan Bertrand (2%).

3rd Place:- Matt Targett (11%)

2nd Place:- Cuco Martina (17%)

And the winner is…..in any other season he would have been ‘player of the year’…..

LONG

Young Player of the Year

Received Votes:- Lloyd Isgrove (1%), Josh Simms (1%), Jake Hesketh (1%), Jason McCarthy (1%), Jake Vokins (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Kelvin Davis (2%), Sadio Mane (2%), Olufela Olomola (2%), No One (3%).

3rd Place:- Alfie Jones (5%)

2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (15%)

And the winner is…..

TARGETT

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Steven Caulker (1%), Maya Yoshida (1%), Jordy Clasie (1%), Graziano Pelle (1%), James Ward-Prowse (1%), Dr. Barry Gale (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Some Scummer (1%), Shane Long (2%), Dusan Tadic (2%), Sammy Lee (2%), Jose Fonte (5%), Cuco Martina (5%).

3rd Place:- Oriol Romeu (10%)

2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (16%)

And the winner is….

DAVIS

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Juanmi (1%), Steven Caulker (1%), Cuco Martina (1%), Kenzie Benali (1%), Some Scummer (1%).

Joint 2nd:- Oriol Romeu & Charlie Austin (2%)

And the winner is….

VIRGIL

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Virgil van Dijk (1%), Shane Long (1%), Mane v Chelsea A (1%), Pelle v Chelsea A (1%), Susan Tadic? (1%), Team v Man Utd A (1%), Wanyama v Arsenal H (1%), Wanyama v Liverpool H (2%), Team v Spurs A (2%), Mane v Liverpool H (3%), Long v Arsenal H (3%), Davis v Spurs A (3%), Tadic v Man City H (4%), Team v Man City H (5%), Team v Chelsea A (6%).

3rd Place:- Forster v Arsenal A (10%)

2nd Place:- Team v Arsenal H (27%)

And the winner is……Team Performance/Comeback v Liverpool H.

Goal of the Season

Joint 2nd:- Ward-Prowse v WBA (1%), Mane v Liverpool (1%), Long v Newcastle (1%), Pelle v Liverpool (1%).

And the winner is….Martina v Arsenal!

MARTINA

Cuco Martina goal v Arsenal

Comedy Moment

Received Votes:- In the Box Jay Rod & k Davis (<1%), Yoshida’s Backpass (<1%), Pochettino chants at WHL (<1%), Spurs Title Bid (<1%), Koeman Out campaign (<1%),  Lovren bottlejob/subbed at HT (<1%), Wanker Spurs fan in blue at WHL (<1%), Austin sinking United (<1%), Davis 5mph goals at WHL (<1%), Liverpool fans after comeback (<1%), Antonio’s goal (<1%), K Davis flicking the security man’s balls (<1%), Lovren’s twitter sulk (<1%), Ronald’s injury (<1%), Long getting away with a foul in build up to goal v Arsenal (<1%), Any video with Maya (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Cuco clearance v Man City (<1%), Camera shots of Angry Juanmi (<1%), Lallana Pen miss (<1%),  Kid in crowd caught doing the v’s (<1%), Wanyama dummying three players by falling over (<1%), Cedric always bleeding (<1%), Brendan Rodgers fired (<1%), Juanmi (<1%), Wanyama’s red card (<1%), Adam Blackmore commentary on JWP goal (<1%), Sunderland playing it into the corners (<1%), Ex Saints celebrating at Liverpool game (<1%), Pompey’s play-offs (<1%), Mourinho Meltdown (<1%), When my mate shit himself on the way to West Ham away (<1%), Man City fan who let a flair off 5 minutes into the game and got himself and his son arrested on his son’s 13th birthday (<1%),  Drawing with Villa (<1%), Bertrand’s acceptance speech (<1%), Pelle doing the Haka (<1%), JWP panicing when clean through against Man City (<1%), Forster refusing to wave (<1%), Europa campaign (<1%), General officiating (<1%), Jon Moss (<1%), Dutch fans fighting each other (<1%), Spurs finishing 3rd in a two horse race (<1%), OctaFX goal hitting a steward (<1%),  Forster v Spurs (<1%), Stekelenburg (<1%),  Koeman linked to Everton (<1%),  Ronald v 4th Official in Arnhem (<1%), Pelle airshot (<1%), December (<1%), Joleon Lescott’s defending (3%), Wenger after the 4-0 blaming all the goals on the ref (4%), Cuco after his goal against Arsenal (6%), The comeback against Liverpool (7%).

3rd Place:- Ref taking the ball off Sadio Mane after his hat trick (8%)

2nd Place:- Various actions relating to Steven Caulker (9%)

And the winner is…..Ronald’s touchline run v Liverpool!

RON

http://georgeweahscousin.com/the-gwc-com-in-depth-and-analytical-end-of-season-review/

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Bournemouth (1%), Meh (1%), Midgetland (1%), Chelsea (1%), Villa (1%), West Ham (1%), Liverpool (4%), Man City (7%).

3rd Place:- Spurs (17%)

2nd Place:- Everton (20%)

And the winner is…..Just when they thought their season couldn’t get any better! Leicester City!

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Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Anthony Martial (<1%), Divok Origi (<1%), Ref at Leicester (<1%), Pione Sisto (<1%), Eden Hazard (<1%), Christian Eriksen (<1%), Kevin de Bruyne (<1%), Joe Hart (<1%), Toby Alderweireld (<1%), Martin Stekelenburg (<1%), John Stones (<1%), Andros Townsend (<1%), Hugo Lloris (<1%), Mezut Ozil (<1%), Sergio Aguero (2%), Willian (2%), Harry Kane (2%), Coutinho (2%), Ross Berkley (2%), Delle Ali (2%), Andy Carroll (2%), N’Golo Kante (3%), Dimitri Payet (3%), David de Gea (3%), Kelechi Iheanacho (6%), Daniel Sturridge (6%).

3rd Place:- Romelu Lukaku (10%)

2nd Place:- Riyad Mharez (12%)

And the winner is……

VARDY

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Man City (<1%), Coventry? (<1%), Couldn’t give a crap (<1%), Not the Scummers (<1%), Midgetland (<1%), Liverpool (<1%), Spurs (<1%), All shit (<1%), Everton  (<1%), Norwich (1%), Sunderland (1%), West Ham (2%), Bournemouth (2%), Sunderland (4%), Villa (6%), Newcastle (8%).

Joint 3rd:- Crystal Palace & Vitesse Arnhem (10%).

2nd Place:- Leicester City (24%)

And the winner is…..Manchester United!

Survey-reveals-manchester-United-and-Chelsea-have-ugliest-fans

Best Saints Related Tweeter

Received Votes:- ImagesofRonald (<1%), TheBarhoe (<1%), KristianSFCOake (<1%), Always_SFC (<1%), Toothy (<1%), KitmanForbsey (<1%), theuglyinside (<1%), MushBible (<1%), Wanyama (<1%), Vasco (<1%), sean_stroud (<1%), stevegrant (<1%), ryangregory (<1%), JGBLucas (<1%), Rubbish Award (<1%), DutchTom (<1%), Dunno (<1%), Hugo Scheckter (<1%), Twitter is for Mugs (<1%), Pellz19 (<1%), asiansaint (<1%), alexgbourne (<1%), ChrisIngram96 (<1%), danbsfc (<1%), benstanners (<1%), Alex Crook (<1%), chrs00 (2%), Oriol Romeu (2%), TractorSaint (2%), Florin Gardos (2%), SamDobson (2%), LeagueOneMinus10 (2%), What’s twitter? (2%), Ronald Koeman (3%), Simon Peach (3%), SaintsinFrance (3%), StMarysMusings (5%), Me (6%), OfficialSaints (6%).

3rd Place:- @crstig (12%)

2nd Place:- @ConnorArmstrong (13%)

And the winner is…….@bigadamsport!

So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted and massive congratulations to all the winners!.A big thank you to Alistair Downs for the Photoshop wizardry, check his work out at http://www.carlasam.com! Another great season! Keep the faith!

For previous years awards results see here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/awards-history/

Chris

The Long and the Short of it…

For some time now it feels like that as the end of the season approaches, there are numerous positives about Saints and their campaign that I could write about, and this is no exception.

One of the negatives this season, that I feel needs addressing, is that Shane Long might not be voted the player of the season.

In any other season he would have had it sewn up, but with the performances of Virgil van Dijk at the other end of the pitch catching the eye too, it is likely he’ll be a valiant runner up to the Dutchman.

The turnaround in the perception of Long in the eyes of Saints fans has been remarkable. Cast your minds back to August 2014, the 12 million pound transfer from Hull came with some unkind remarks about his perceived value in comparison to the fee paid, and I will not shirk the fact that I was one of those detractors.

This criticism was largely based on the fact that Long’s goal return wasn’t overly impressive for a ‘striker’, based largely on the fact that he had never hit double figures in any of his four previous Premier League campaigns with Reading, West Brom and Hull City respectively.

If the pressure was already on him in his early days as a Southampton player, it was compounded further by his number. Seven. The number that Matthew Le Tissier had worn, and had most recently been vacated by the just departed fan favourite Rickie Lambert. It sounds like a small detail, but people react to such decisions, and an a level of expectation is made.

Long’s first season at Saints was perhaps unremarkable, though it is easily forgotten that he weighed in to a record breaking debut by Ronald Koeman with five goals, despite being not a regular in the starting lineup (Long started 16 times).

It is this season that Long has come into his own though, so far starting 21 games, missing some through injury and has remodelled himself as a player who draws attention to when he isn’t in the team rather than when he is.

His effervescent displays this season, be it up front or as part of a support three have been dazzling at times, and though he might never be considered the most cultured player in the world, many an opposition defence will have felt relieved his constant hassling of them was over.

Relentless energy and supreme efficiency with the ball makes Long a valuable asset, but I shouldn’t fail to address his goal return or perceived lack of it.

Long has hit 10 Premier League goals this season, putting him joint top with Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle but there are further statistics that puts the Irishman out in front. Both Mane and Pelle have started more games than Long, but further still their goal to shot ratios are nowhere near as good. Both the Senegalese and the Italian have score their 10 goals having had 80 shots apiece. Long has achieved the same total from just 59 shots.

Goals are of course important, but I think Long’s contribution has been as much about the team dynamic as it has been the amount of times he has hit the back of the net. Ronald Koeman has built a style that utilises both the wide positions (and particularly the use of crossing) and often at pace. Long is ideal for it, and the added bonus that he is better in the air than you might expect means that he is comfortable in any of the forward positions.

Saints are at the culmination of another decent season, but this Summer you can add Shane Long to the list of the players fans will be anxiously hoping stays at St. Mary’s. He might not be Southampton player of the season, but he is a Southampton player for a reason.  Who saw that coming?

Chris