Tag Archives: Wembley

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.

Our 6th Birthday!

Blow me readers! georgeweahscousin.com is 6 years old!

Here we are just 6 days away from a major final, as yet again the Saints journey becomes even more of a fairy tale! Where have 6 years gone?

As has become as traditional as Saints making at least 5 changes per game, we celebrate our birthdays by awarding the ‘Ali Dia award for services to Southampton’ this year proudly sponsored by Fonte’s Face spiting Nose biters!

You can see the previous recipients of the award here. But who will take this year’s crown? The wait is finally over.

As every year, the jury (myself, Ali Dia, Kleber Chala & Graham Potter) found it extremely difficult. Amongst those nominated were Stuart Taylor for turning up and milling about as the figure head of the ever growing Southampton Goalkeeper farm, Jose Fonte for spurning ‘Legend status’ and heading to the London Stadium to ‘win trophies’ and Juanmi for well being Juanmi. But. When it came down to it there was one man who stood out amongst the rest.

We here at georgeweahscousin.com are delighted to announce that the sixth winner of the ‘Ali Dia award for services to Southampton’ sponsored by Fonte’s face spiting nose biters, for providing the icing on the cake to an already memorable semi final against Liverpool with the perfect screenshot:- It’s Dejan Lovren!

Ever since Lovren’s head decided to part company with his neck and head (pun intended) to Anfield early, the Croat and his performances as part of the ever hapless Liverpool defence have provided us with much amusement. From being nutmegged by Tadic, going to pieces under the abuse at St. Mary’s to this perfectly captured shot of his gormless face realising some of his former Saints team mates might pick up Silverware before him no one can say Dejan isn’t a sport!

Cheers Dejan!

What if? (Part One)

23rd April 2011. St. George’s day.

Southampton travelled to the Withdean Stadium to face League One’s already crowned champions Brighton & Hove Albion.

A win would put them in second place and put the pressure on Huddersfield Town who weren’t playing. A tall order for Nigel Adkins side who were under intense pressure themselves to gain promotion.

Adkins’ entered the Withdean to a chorus of abuse after comments he made about Brighton having to ‘keep up’ with Southampton. This was the biggest game of the season.

Ashley Barnes put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half time. Saints created a flurry of chances in the final 10 minutes but to no avail. They’d lost 1-0. A Jose Fonte header at the death ruled out for a foul in the box the closest they came to snatching a point.

An unhappy ending for Adkins at the Withdean
An unhappy ending for Adkins at the Withdean

Despite overcoming Hartlepool United at home in the next game, Saints were drained of confidence and went down at Brentford. Main rivals for automatic promotion Huddersfield Town kept on winning, they even succeed where Saints failed, beating Brighton 2-3 at the Withdean to leapfrog us into second place. Saints win their game in hand at Plymouth but go into the final day needing to beat Walsall and hope that the Terriers lose at home to Brentford. Saints see off their Midlands rivals, but Huddersfield secure a thrilling 4-4 draw sealing automatic promotion. Saints face the lottery of the playoffs.

Saints face local ‘rivals’ Bournemouth in their semi-final and overcome them after extra time in the second leg at St. Mary’s to setup a final with Peterborough United at Old Trafford. Saints fail their final test and lose the playoff final on penalties. Jonathan Forte missing the decisive spot kick.

Nigel Adkins applauds the Saints fans for the last time at Old Trafford.
Nigel Adkins applauds the Saints fans for the last time at Old Trafford.

10th June 2011. Nigel Adkins and his backroom staff are relieved of their duties with immediate effect.

16th June 2011. The club release a statement from Katherina Liebherr announcing that as of today the club is for sale.

1st July 2011. Southampton Football Club is bought by a consortium of local businessmen. They talk of consolidation and rebuilding. Nicola Cortese is relieved of his duties as chairman.

4th July 2011. Rickie Lambert is sold to Brighton & Hove Albion for £1.2 million.

6th July 2011. Jose Fonte is sold to Crystal Palace for £850k.

9th July 2011. Adam Lallana and Lee Barnard are sold to Leicester City for a combined £2.8 million.

11th July 2011. Jason Dodd is appointed first team manager.

2011/12 League One.

As the new owners look to settle the club and clear what they call a ‘difficult financial situation’ they ensure fans that they have every confidence in the current squad and will be hoping for another promotion push.

Saints open the season at home to Bury and lineup like so:- Davis, Richardson, Seaborne, Martin, Dickson, Guly, Hammond (c), Schneiderlin, Chaplow, Connolly, Forte.

They secure a 1-1 draw and start the campaign with three consecutive ties. Dodd’s side look like the summer upheaval hasn’t effected them too much and they go on an unbeaten run in the league that lasts 19 games and takes them to the end of November. Although they are yet to be beaten they still trail Charlton Athletic by five points having drawn a lot of those games.

Guly's home hat trick in the 6-0 demolition of Wycombe Wanderers is the highlight leading up to Christmas.
Guly’s home hat trick in the 6-0 demolition of Wycombe Wanderers would be the Brazilian’s last contribution.

Saints suffer their first defeats of the season away at leaders Charlton and then at home to Bournemouth before getting back on track going into the January transfer window.

11th January 2012. Top scorer Guly do Prado is sold against his wishes to Birmingham City for £700k.

18th January 2012. Morgan Schneiderlin is sold to Reading for £1.5 million.

20th January 2012. Southampton announce the double signing of Matt Ritchie from Swindon Town and Tyrone Barnett from Crawley Town for undisclosed fees.

Saints find their form again despite supporter unrest given the transfer dealings of the club in January. The club’s owners move to reassure the fans that no business was done without the best interest of the club at heart.

With eight games to go, Saints are still within three points of automatic promotion, sadly those eight games would see them have their worst run of the season, losing four and eventually finishing 4th, twelve points adrift of 2nd placed Sheffield Wednesday.

Saints overcome Milton Keynes Dons in the playoff semi finals before facing Sheffield United in the final at Wembley. The game ends 0-0 after extra time and goes to penalties. With the scores at 7-7, the captain Dean Hammond steps up knowing if he scores Saints are back in the Championship.

Goal.

dean hammond oct

To be continued…

Chris

Concentrating on the league….

A phrase we hear relatively often, or at least we did the last time we were Premier League contenders. But what does it actually mean?

I would suggest there are two very different schools of thought on this saying, some might say that as a club in it’s first season back in the big time and finding it’s feet, we should perhaps not ‘waste’ any time and energy on a cup game. The other side of this argument, and the one that I certainly find myself on is that of the ‘winning breeds confidence’ brigade.

Saints prepare to face Chelsea in the FA Cup 3rd round tomorrow, and I have seen a few people say the dreaded ‘we should concentrate on the league’ line, now don’t get me wrong, were we talking about the Carling cup I might even agree with them, but this is the FA Cup, and we should be fielding a strong team tomorrow.

Does ‘concentrating on the league’ actually work and what does it mean?

Firstly, how many FA Cup winners have been relegated in the same season as they won it? Six teams have reached the final and managed to completely forget about their league campaign, seeing it end in relegation. Chelsea (1915), Manchester City (1926), Leicester City (1969), Brighton (1983), Middlesbrough (1997) and Portsmouth in 2010 (snigger). No team has actually focused so much on their cup run that they have lifted the famous trophy before realising that they have been demoted!

Kevin would rue the day he concentrated on the league.....
Kevin would rue the day he concentrated on the league…..

So of the 260 FA Cup finalists so far, just six have been absent minded enough to let it overshadow their league fixtures. That is pretty good odds no?

By ‘concentrating on the league’ I guess that means making the cup games not a priority, resting players and basically stitching up the people who pay at the turnstiles who dare to dream that they might, just might get to go to Wembley that year.

I do get it. As modern football has changed, retaining Premier League status has become far more valuable than a nice day out and a trophy, but can’t we have some romance left in the game?

We also have a seven day gap between playing Chelsea in the cup and then taking on Villa in the league. Seven days! Our players can recover in that time surely? We have prided ourselves on having one of the fittest teams around for the last few seasons, I don’t think two games in that period is too much to ask?

In previous Premier League seasons, when Saints were heading for a relegation battle how did our cup exits effect our league position? Well as a rule (but with exceptions) we did better in the FA Cup in years we finished higher in the league. That could be down to two reasons, either, that as I suggested might be the case, winning breeds confidence and success in one is very much reflected in the success of the other (only once has a cup final featured two teams outside the Premier League top four in countless seasons). Or. In the years we were particularly bad, it correlates that we would be poor in all competitions. Who knows? Football is never an exact science and the variables are countless but I for one will be hideously disappointed if we don’t go for it tomorrow.

The ticket prices are the same, the stadium is the same, the stage is one of the biggest in football. It deserves our full attention. Even if it is for just one weekend.

Concentrate on what boss?
Concentrate on what boss?

Saints Premier League Cup Record:-

1992/93

Final League Position:- 18th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1993/94

Final League Position:- 18th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1994/95

Final League Position:- 10th FA Cup exit:- 5th round. League concentration – Juggled Both.

1995/96

Final League Position:- 17th FA Cup exit:- 6th round. League concentration – Fail.

1996/97

Final League Position:- 16th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1997/98

Final League Position:- 12th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

1998/99

Final League Position:- 17th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1999/00

Final League Position:- 15th FA Cup exit:- 4th round. League concentration – Non result.

2000/01

Final League Position:- 10th FA Cup exit:- 5th round. League concentration – Fail.

2001/02

Final League Position:- 11th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

2002/03

Final League Position:- 8th FA Cup exit:- Final. League concentration – Juggled Both.

2003/04

Final League Position:- 12th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

2004/05

Final League Position:- 20th FA Cup exit:- 6th round. League concentration – Epic Fail.

Of course, I can’t guarantee that any of our many managers was particularly trying to ‘concentrate on the league’ in any of these seasons, and I’m not going to dig out team lineups for each exit and see how ‘strong’ it was, but statistically it does show, that a cup run need not be a hinderance on league concentration.

Hopefully tomorrow Nigel will name our best team and we will give Chelsea a run for their considerable money, perhaps even turn them over and then we can dare to dream about Wembley. Premier League survival is crucial, of course it is, but right now we aren’t going down, and I see know reason why it won’t stay that way. A cup run would be a lovely little bonus.

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Crossing The Divide: Bobby Stokes

“Whoever it was really shouldn’t have thrown that coin at Mark Dennis.”  – Steve Moran talking about his last gasp winner at Fratton Park in 1984. Time had been added on because of treatment to Dennis who had been hit by a coin from the Pompey crowd.

Bobby Stokes

30th January 1951, a hospital in Paulsgrove on the Portsmouth to Southampton Road, a boy is born who would have unwanted fame heaped upon him as the unlikely hero of a famous cup upset.

Robert William Thomas Stokes was a talent at school and county level in Hampshire (he scored fifty three goals in one season for Hillside Junior School and played seven times for England Youth) and it was fully expected that he would sign for his boyhood heroes at Fratton Park. Legend has it though that he failed a trial with Pompey and was forced to look elsewhere, others believe he chose Saints over Pompey because of their youth team (or lack thereof) at the time.

Either way, Stokes would start his career with the arch rivals of his hometown team. He had a modest start to his life at the Dell, but did score on his first team debut against Burnley in 1969. He wouldn’t become a regular until the 1971/72 season and was considered an important member of the team from then on. Despite never being a prolific goalscorer and being relegated with the club in 1974, he will always be regarded as a Southampton hero. @MiltonRoadEnd was a fan “Underrated, probably because he was playing alongside the likes of Davies, Channon, Paine & Osgood. Always gave 100%.”

When he struck gold for Saints in the eighty second minute of the 1976 FA Cup final,  it was to be both the highlight of his career and perhaps the beginning of the end of it. Famously a shy man, Stokes would never need buy a drink again, and the spotlight that he was suddenly in was not suited to him. The reward for scoring the first goal in the final was a car, and legend has it, that Bobby who couldn’t drive booked lessons for after the final just in case.

Stokes struggled for form in the subsequent season after cup success and made just eleven appearances for the first team, scoring just one goal.

Stokes and the Cup!

Upon leaving the Dell Stokes would find himself in familiar surroundings, back in his hometown. Stokes would make twenty nine appearances for Pompey and score three goals (though by now he was playing more in midfield) as the blues ended a shocking season bottom of Division Three.

Stokes Pompey career was over almost as soon as it started with the Fratton crowd not taking to the man who had left their town and performed heroics for “scum”. Pompeydiehard remembers “Bobby was a great shy lad ,we grew up together played in the same school side and at Hants level. He went to Saints instead of Pompey as they never had a youth policy in those distant days. I spoke to him when he joined Pompey in the seventies, he said Dickinson came in for him and his own club didn’t seem to want him to stay. Think he couldn’t really settle at the Park after being at yours for so long. Never really worked out for him here.”

Stokes the Blue.

Stokes left Fratton Park the following summer and joined a growing list of European players who headed to the United States and the evolving North American Soccer League. He signed for Washington Diplomats and became a team mate of Johan Cruyff’s. He played four seasons in Washington before heading back to Hampshire and signing for Waterlooville. He would further play for Cheltenham Town and Chichester City before calling it a day in 1981.

1980 Washington Diplomats

Stokes ran a pub in Portsmouth before working in the Harbour View cafe. He was often tracked down by journalists, usually around cup final time, and despite his modest earnings, never charged a penny for his time. A regular in the stands at both the Dell and Fratton Park he was granted a testimonial year with Saints in 1994, but after a lengthy battle with drink Stokes passed away in 1995 of bronchial pneumonia aged just 44.

“I don’t wear my medal around my neck but I’ll happily recall every detail of the match with anyone who has 90 minutes to spare. It was the best day of my life.” – Bobby Stokes February 1995.

R.I.P. Bobby Stokes
Pompey boy, Saints star.
1951 – 1995

Chris

You’ve got to And it to Anders…

The other night I was thinking about that most contentious of issues. The underrated player.

Mainly because, somebody who I have been hailing for some time now is seemingly getting the recognition that he deserves. That man is Richard Chaplow whose performances of late have showed why his £50k price tag and place in Preston’s reserves seems even more ludicrous now than it did at the time when we signed him.

I am a sucker for an underrated player. Those that some just don’t seem to get. I recently wrote a piece on Guly along the same lines, who has since put in a match winning performance at Coventry, yet I still saw comments from fans that other than score and have a hand in the other three goals, didn’t really do a lot…

I put the question to the Saints Twitter faithful on who was Saints most underrated player, and of course the opinions were varied. Suggestions ranged from Perry Groves to Agustin Delgado to Franny Benali to Jo Tessem and current players Ryan Dickson and Danny Butterfield also got mentions. The player that got the most votes was Chris Marsden, but as Sam Dobson pointed out and I am inclined to agree, Marsden is actually pretty highly regarded amongst Saints fans.

One player that didn’t register a single mention, but one that I always felt was sometimes misjudged by fans is likely to line up at Wembley against England on Tuesday for his 122nd or 123rd international cap.

Anders Svensson joined Saints in the summer of 2001 from Elfsborg for a fee of £750k by then caretaker manager Stuart Gray, the 24 year old Swede came in as a relative unknown to the fans, but already had sixteen international caps to his name.

Initially signed as an attacking midfielder to replace the outgoing Hassan Kachloul, Gray expected big things of the Swede “Anders can play off the front man or in midfield. He’s not an out-and-out striker but is certainly a forward-thinking midfield player who pops up in that area.”

Anders Svensson. Turning his opponents inside out.

Svensson was brought in to liven up a goal-shy Saints midfield that had netted just three goals between them in the previous season, and he provided that outlet with some success. Svensson got six goals in his first season, but more notably provided some much needed creativity that saw Marian Pahars race to fourteen goals for the season. As Saints turned their early season poor form around under new boss Gordon Strachan, Svensson was rapidly becoming a key player in the side. Mostly used in central midfield but sometimes on the left Svensson was never really used in his favoured position playing off of a front man, but nonetheless his contributions were notable.

He starred at that summers world cup, famously scoring the free kick that knocked Argentina out!

The 2002/03 season is one that will be forever engrained on every Saints fans mind. Anders played a key role in the side that finished 8th in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final. Although he started less games than he had the previous season, his starring role and brilliant individual goal against Spurs in the 3rd round of the cup was his stand out performance in a Saints shirt.

Often accused of inconsistency, he was regularly accused of not trying, and the 2003/04 season proved to be the beginning of the end for Anders in a Saints shirt. Gordon Strachan left in February 2004, and Paul Sturrock came in March. If anyone in the squad wasn’t a Sturrock type of player it was Svensson and he ended the season having played almost as many games from the bench as he had started. He didn’t find the net once.

2004/05 was another season that will never be forgotten, but for very different reasons. Under messrs Wigley and Redknapp, Svensson was used more frequently but as Saints bimbled to a sorry end to the season and relegation it was clear that the Swede’s future lie elsewhere.

Svensson battles the dutch to secure Euro 2012 qualification.

It was strongly rumoured that Svensson was offered a new contract by Saints, but he was a better player than the Championship, so it was no surprise to me that he decided to move on.  What did shock me was his destination, returning to his former club Elfsborg on a free transfer.

That move hasn’t hindered him at all from an international point of view, though I can’t help thinking there is a certain amount of wasted potential in Svensson. His move to Saints started promisingly but perhaps we, or at least the managers and coaches of the club are as guilty for that as anybody. I think that perhaps we had a very talented footballer at our disposal but weren’t prepared to change our formation or style to maximise his impact.

Now aged 35, he is still with Elfsborg and still playing a key role for his country. He is the Swedish vice-captain to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and second only to the great Thomas Ravelli in caps, ahead of such notable players as Olof Mellberg and Henrik Larsson.

He was part of the Sweden side that secured qualification for Euro 2012 with a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands last month and can hopefully look forward to appearing at a fifth major championship.

So look out for Anders at Wembley on Tueday night and wonder what might have been. Perhaps his time to arrive in the English game was a little too soon, and with the wrong managers…

Chris

p.s. Saints fans, don’t forget to check out our competition!

A Saint Amongst Them: Reading

Saints travel to the Madejski Stadium on Saturday for the Championship 17:20 kickoff, and will be looking to push on with their recent good form having established a five point gap the the top of the table.

The Berkshire club had an inconsistent start to this season but are now unbeaten in their last six games and will be looking to push on.

The Reading squad is a strong one, and in my opinion should be at least play off challengers this season. Amongst their squad, they boast three ex-Saints, two regulars who enjoyed first team football and one who, well didn’t…

Joseph Mills

‘Fish’ has he was affectionately know at St. Mary’s followed his brother Matt through the Southampton Academy, and is seemingly mirroring his older sibling’s career path.

Breaking into the first team in the 2008/09 season, Mills struggled to establish himself regularly, the likes of Andrew Surman, Rudi Skacel and latterly Lee Molyneux keeping the youngster out in Saints ill fated Championship relegation season. This eventually saw him head off to Scunthorpe United on loan, playing regularly under Nigel Adkins.

The drop to League One looked like it might have been the perfect tonic for a young left-back trying to establish himself, having already shown glimpses of what he could do. Sadly it was not to be, new signing Dan Harding came in and made an immediate impact leaving Mills to remain a bit part player in the 2009/10 campaign. He did make a surprise start at right-back in the Johnstones Paint Trophy final though, as Saints raised the cup with a 4-1 win over Carlisle at Wembley.

Mills found himself further down the pecking order at St. Mary’s in 2010/11 with Saints adding Ryan Dickson to their squad in the summer. Barely used, he was off on loan again, returning to the Championship with Doncaster Rovers. Mills proved himself a quality player at the Keepmoat which saw Reading convinced enough to make a move for him in the summer.

Mills was in the unfortunate position of never being a bad player in a Saints shirt, but always competing with someone better than him, always sharp going forward, I think it were some defensive frailties that saw four consecutive Saints managers not be willing to give him an extended run. At least he left Saints on friendlier terms than his brother!

Mills and Boon? Not that kind of Reading.

Opposition’s view:-

Dan from popular Reading blog The Tilehurst End gave his thoughts on Mills:-

“The jury’s still out on Mills at the moment, with the left-back having only joined the club at the back end of the transfer window for a nominal fee from yourselves. Ian Harte struggled through the first few games this season and Reading fans were clamouring for someone with a bit of pace to come in and Mills certainly ticked that box with agility that’s been lacking since Ryan Bertrand left after a loan spell in 2009/10. 

Mills certainly offers something going forward, as his crosses have been quite good and he’s even managed a few efforts on goal during his brief time in the team. Unfortunately his passing, set pieces and defensive positioning have failed to impress Royals fans. Already some are calling for Harte’s return to the starting XI and the Irishman was on the bench for our recent games with Boro & Burnley.

Still Mills has been part of a defence that’s gone four unbeaten so I can’t see a change happening in the short term but given McDermott’s preference for experienced players I wouldn’t be shocked to see a change if we have a dodgy result or two.

Long term he’s got a long way to go to fill the boots of Nicky Shorey, Chris Armstrong, Ryan Bertrand and Harte last season.”

Alex Pearce

The Scotsman joined Saints on loan from Championship rivals Reading in 2008 as we looked to shore up our leaky defence. In a rare occurrence for a centre half Pearce scored on his debut as Saints came from behind to beat Preston 3-2, but sadly that was the highlight of his St. Mary’s stay.  Saints would win just one other game during his loan spell, ironically against Reading when Pearce was ineligible to play. Saints kept two clean sheets in that spell, both 0-0 draws, both when Pearce was left out.

A player that always looked like an attacking danger from corners, but never looked convincing at the defensive job he was actually employed to do, Pearce returned to Reading at the end of 2008 and went on to establish himself as a first choice player at the Madesjski.

Pearce. Struggled to get ahead at St. Mary's.

Opposition’s view:-

Dan gave us his thoughts on Pearce:-

“Pearce is someone that still polarises opinion more than three years after making his debut for the first team. I’ve written a big piece about him here which covers most of his ups and downs at the club  http://thetilehurstend.co.uk/2011/07/18/the-ups-and-downs-of-alex-pearce/ 

This season has seen more of the same. Initially he seemed to struggle alongside Tottenham loanee Bongani Khumalo but the acquisition of Kaspars Gorkss has seen him improve and he’s looking back to the form that won him a lot of fans last season.  There will always be concerns about his pace and agility but if John Terry can get away with it, I’ve no reason to doubt that Pearce can establish himself as a good Championship defender, especially if complimented with the right partner.” 

Cedric Baseya

The giant striker (height is between 6’3″ and 6’5″ depending on where you read it) came through the Southampton youth system and made his first and last apperance for the first team in the 2007/08 season against Ipswich Town, coming on for the last minute and not touching the ball once.

Baseya had previously made his professional debut during a loan spell at Crewe Alexandra and was released by Saints in 2009. He joined French Ligue One side  Lille before heading to Le Harve on loan and then to AS Cherbourg.

Reading signed him last month and he his yet to make a first team performance, though he will be eager to impress having so far never scored in his professional career, an odd record for a forward.

Baseya. A tall order for goals?

Opposition’s view:-

Dan gave us his thoughts on Baseya:-

“We’ve not seen the Frenchman anywhere near the first team but that hasn’t stopped there being an 18 page thread on him on the popular Hob Nob Anyone? message boards! He hasn’t got a stellar scoring record… well he hasn’t scored at all, but Reading have worked wonders with cast-offs in the past and he’s managed a couple of goals in the reserves already, so some reasons to be optimistic.” 

Chris

Just About Enough of Clough…

“If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.”  – Brian Clough

Saints head to Pride Park this weekend to face Derby County in a top of the table clash which has already attracted a crowd of thirty thousand people.

Nigel Adkins will be pitting his wits against Nigel Clough. Both have had fantastic records so far this season, and have their teams playing the way football should be played. One stark difference for them though, is that for Clough, he will always be compared to “Old Big ‘Ead” himself, father Brian.

Clough Snr will always be regarded as one of the greatest managers this country has ever produced, bringing attention to himself, first with Saturday’s opponents Derby, before huge success with arch rivals Nottingham Forest, and it was in his Forest days that Clough Snr, proved to be somewhat of a spoilsport for Saints. Twice, the great man denied us in cup finals, some thirteen years apart.

The Clough's. Winning Mentality.

Firstly, in 1979 Southampton found themselves the underdogs for another Wembley final in the League Cup, taking on league champions and holders Nottingham Forest. Despite taking an early lead, Saints were eventually bossed by the class of Clough’s men. A valiant effort from the team in yellow though saw the final score at 3-2  in favour of the champions, with Saints goals coming from Nick Holmes and David Peach. Archie Gemmill the architect for Forest. Strike one to Clough.

1992 saw Saints and Forest meet again in the capital, this time for the Zenith Data Systems Cup final, Clough’s side may not have been the force they were thirteen years previously, but they were going well in the league, and had been in the previous season’s FA Cup final. Amongst their team were two sons of note, Nigel making a name for himself up front, and Scott the offspring of 1979’s chief tormenter Archie. Saints came back from a 2-0 deficit to take the game to extra time, Kevin Moore and Matthew Le Tissier getting the goals, but it was to be a Gemmill again that would have a definitive say in the outcome. Adding to his fifteenth minute opener, Gemmill won the match in the second period of extra time, for another 3-2 Forest victory. Strike two to Clough.

Clough Jnr. Hoping to point Derby in the right direction.

Son Nigel has followed a similar career path to his Dad so far, starting in the lower echelons of English Football with Burton Albion, and now overseeing things at Derby County. He hasn’t quite emulated Brian’s successes just yet (Clough Snr won the second division in his second season at the Baseball Ground), but signs this season are that he has what it takes to make the Rams Championship challengers.

What does look certain, is that the battle of the Nigel’s, could be both a fantastic spectacle and a meeting of two of this countries top up and coming managers. Saints will be hoping, that the Clough factor is a thing of the past, and that 2007 Pride Park playoff semi final memories can be banished forever. With no chance of Leon Best or Inigo Idiakez being on penalties, Saints will have more than a chance, but away performances haven’t been spectacular recently, and Derby smarting from a a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Leicester last time out will be looking to bounce back.

It is no surprise that this seems to be the Championship “Game of the Week” for many of the countries media outlets. First against third, Let’s hope it lives up to it.

COYR.

Chris

35 years ago today….

Channon, nice touch again, McCalliog, oh look at this, Bobby Stokes, did well, Oh and it’s there…

1st May 1976,  Wembley Stadium, The greatest day in the history of Southampton Football Club, when Larie McMenemey’s second division side downed the might of Manchester United’s star laded team with Bobby Stokes 82nd minute goal. The Queen clearly knew she would never see the likes again and hasn’t attended an FA Cup final since!

R.I.P. Bobby and Ossie

Saints:- Turner, Rodrigues(c), Peach, Holmes, Blyth, Steele, Gilchrist, Channon, Osgood, McCalliog. Stokes.

War Horses 2 Show Ponies 1

If Carling made cup finals…….

Well yesterday they did, and what a cup final it was! While I am neither a supporter of Arsenal or Birmingham City, I did find myself favouring the team in blue. Why? Well the terrible decision by the linesman early on instantly made me get behind them, but also the contrasting styles of the teams.

What we had was a clear case of War Horses versus Show Ponies, and I have always been a War Horse fan. Maybe it says something about my own natural lack of footballing talent, that while other kids were being Gazza and Chris Waddle, I was always Stuart Pearce or Terry Butcher on the hallowed concrete of the playground. I tried being Matt Le Tissier a couple of times, but I knew I wasn’t doing him justice so went back to being Glenn Cockerill, in case I somehow did the reputation of the mercurial Saints weaver some unintentional damage.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate a bit of skill, I like the odd stepover, the odd back heel, but like everything in life you need balance and for me watching a “water carrier” like Claude Makalele or Didier Deschamps control the play in midfield with simplicity, energy and efficiency is every bit as majestic as a Messi or a Ronaldo cutting in and sending one home. The importance of the “water carrier” was not lost on the great Eric Cantona who himself coined the phrase based on the influence of Deschamps on the success of the late 90’s French team. Cantona is perhaps one example of a player who managed to be both show pony and war horse!

When I talk about “War Horses” though, I don’t just mean the efficient holding midfielder, but also the do or die player, the man who would put his head where a “Show Pony” wouldn’t put their feet. Is there anything more inspirational to an England fan than the infamous sight of Terry Butcher smothered in his own claret, or Stuart Pearce screaming at the Wembley crowd in Euro 96? Men that lead by example, that inspire confidence in their team-mates and grab the bull by the horns.

War Horses.

This is where the two sides differed on Sunday. Arsenal are the epitome of a show pony side. Full of talent and flair, the likes of Nasri and Arshavin light up the Premier League on a regular basis, and of course recently out-Barca’d Barcelona, the ultimate show ponies. But perhaps what they lack is War Horses, or even a War Horse. It is no surprise to me, that in a game like that, the best player in an Arsenal shirt was Jack Wilshire, a lad who looks to me like finally being the man to fill Bryan Robson’s boots in an England shirt and certainly the closest thing they have to a war horse at the moment.

In comparison, look at the Birmingham team. Nothing shows the contrast more than the names Bowyer and Ferguson in the Blues midfield. Combative and committed to the end these two are unlikely to shy any challenge, especially in a cup final. Alex McLeish has built up a side that works hard and is extremely efficient with the ball. They would never have competed with Arsenal if they tried to play like Arsenal, but by constantly pressing and never saying die, they showed that the gap in skill level could be overcome.

Show Pony.

Is it a coincidence that Arsenal haven’t won anything since Patrick Vieira left? A man who is without a doubt a war horse. While Arsenal play breathtaking football at times, even the flair riddled Barcelona line up with a Carlos Puyol at the back, is there anyone taking on that role for Arsenal?

All the truly great sides have a balance of players types. AC Milan in the 80’s owed as much to Franco Baresi as they did to Marco Van Basten, even the Brazilians have relied on a Dunga and what might have been in 1966 without a Nobby Stiles?

The game has certainly changed over the years that I have watched it, but it was refreshing to see that there is still a role to play for the combative battler alongside the pretty ball jugglers.

Chris