Tag Archives: West Ham United

Will The Saints Go Marching On?

Everyone loves a stat don’t they? I know I do, and that is why I was chuffed when the guys from kickoff.co.uk offered to put together a season preview for me using their expertise. So dear reader, settle back and prepare to be dazzled by the numbers and enjoy!

Will the Saints go marching on?

‘Second season syndrome’ is a phrase regularly bandied around at Premier League level, with the perception being that promoted clubs are more vulnerable to relegation after their opponents have had a year to get used to facing them.

Southampton find themselves in that position ahead of the new campaign, so I thought I’d take a look back at their 2012/13 season and highlight both what they did well and any areas in which I feel they can improve.

POSITIVES

The Saints finished 14th in the final table, yet they were the tenth highest scorers in the division with 49 goals from their 38 matches. Rickie Lambert was responsible for 15 of these strikes, benefitting from being the focal point at the top of their attacking formation.

Both Mauricio Pochettino and Nigel Adkins before him encouraged a positive brand of football, with this being reflected by the fact that Southampton found the net in 29 (76%) of their top-flight fixtures. This achievement is furnished with additional kudos when you consider that this represented the best record outside of the top-seven.

Furthermore, the men from the South Coast scored in all eight of their meetings with the eventual Champions League qualifiers:

image007

As the chart above also shows, home wins were achieved against two of the top-three, whilst only late brilliance from Robin van Persie handed Manchester United victory at St. Mary’s.

This shows that Southampton can mix it with the big boys, on their own patch at least, but they also managed to remain unbeaten against teams finishing in their quarter of the final table:

image008

Although six of these games ended all-square, it is certainly worth noting that only Fulham picked up more points (13) from meetings between members of this quintet.

The Saints were similarly strong in matches in which they opened the scoring, winning eight, drawing six and losing four of these encounters. When you consider that half of these defeats came against the eventual champions, then that record starts to look even better.

NEGATIVES

Draws were undoubtedly a problem, with only Everton and Stoke managing more than the 14 picked up by Southampton. Although the team shone offensively, there was a lack of support for Lambert in the scoring stakes; no other player contributed in excess of six league goals.

Another major issue would have to be the defensive frailty displayed by the South Coast outfit. Just seven clean sheets were kept in 38 games, with four of these coming against the six sides that finished below them in the table.

Winning at the top clubs is never easy, but five draws and eight defeats from 13 trips to those that finished above them hints at fundamental flaws in the Saints’ approach to away matches. Could this be the result of some kind of mental block or is it the end product of an overly-positive tactical approach on the road?

Whatever the reason, it is hard to offer up anything other than complacency as an excuse for Southampton losing at home to three of the bottom-four last season:

image009

Alarm bells also start to ring when we take a look at results from games in which the men from Hampshire conceded first. Eleven of these 17 fixtures ended in defeat, with the 4-1 hammering of Aston Villa representing the only success achieved on the back of going 1-0 down.

Perhaps the most damning statistic of all, however, is just how easy opponents found it to convert their chances against the Saints:

image010

As you can see, nearly one in five of the shots that Southampton allowed resulted in a goal being scored against them. Only relegated Wigan fared worse in this category, and that by the narrowest of margins, whilst Newcastle were the nearest club in the other direction.

TRANSFERS

The incomings at St. Mary’s this summer should certainly provide the supporters with plenty of encouragement. Croatian international centre-back Dejan Lovren arrives from Lyon, whilst Victor Wanyama has won rave reviews for his performances at Celtic.

Although I have only seen Lovren in action once, in the Europa League at White Hart Lane last season, he comes highly-rated and has already won close to 20 caps for his country.

Young Wanyama has been far more on my radar, however, producing a string of top-class performances both domestically and on the Champions League stage from his natural position in the middle of the park.

These additions, along with the continued development of Luke Shaw, should help to address some of the aforementioned defensive issues, though the squad as a whole is an extremely young one:

image011

This perfectly feasible starting XI, for example, would boast an average age of just 24 years and nine months come the start of the season.

One more signing in a forward area could be made with a view to easing the burden on Rickie Lambert, but I don’t actually believe this to be necessary. Jay Rodriguez started to blossom when given a run in the team, albeit not in his preferred position, whilst Emmanuel Mayuka is a real talent. I would be interested to hear what Southampton supporters have made of the Zambian in his fleeting cameos, because he has impressed me greatly on the international stage.

FUTURE

If the previous campaign is anything to go by, then a difficult start awaits:

image012

If we exclude home games with the newly-promoted duo of Crystal Palace and Hull, then it becomes apparent that the Saints failed to win any of the equivalent 11 fixtures during 2012/13.

I must admit that I have my doubts about Pochettino and his high-pressing style, but I have a lot of faith in the group of players that has been assembled at St. Mary’s. This is a squad capable of pushing for a place in the top-ten, but whether or not they achieve that is open to debate.’

Thanks to Charles and Rob from kickoff.co.uk for compiling this!

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

Played For Both: Saints & R’s

Firstly I apologise for the lack of Newcastle team, I ran out of time. I did have a final XI, but I think it could be improved on, so I am going to save it for another time.

I have managed to beat any time delays and present you a QPR side. It’s pretty poor, and up there for worst team so far. But anyway here it is…

654672_SouthamptonGoalkeeper

Paul Jones

Welshman Jones, joined Saints in 1997, following namesake Dave from Stockport County. He installed himself as first choice and went on to make nearly 200 appearances for the club before being displaced by Antti Niemi. He became the first goalkeeper in FA Cup history to come off the bench in a final when Niemi was injured in 2003, and gained 50 Welsh caps. He had a loan spell at Liverpool in 2004 before re-joining his first club Wolves after seven years as a Saint. He played for Watford and Millwall before joining QPR in 2006. He played 26 times for the R’s before heading into non-league football and retirement.

Paul Jones
Paul Jones

Defender

Fitz Hall

‘One Size’ only left Loftus Road this past summer having spent four season’s at the club and falling out of favour with Mark Hughes. Hall played the best part of 100 games for Rangers having signed in 2008. Previously had one season at St. Mary’s in 2003/04 but failed to nail down a starting position. Now playing for Watford, Hall also made the Saints v Latics side.

Fitz Hall
Fitz Hall

Defender

Neil Ruddock

Larger than life (in more ways than one) Londoner Ruddock joined Saints in 1989, having started his career at Spurs and then with Millwall. He was a firm favourite with the fans at The Dell, with his ‘no nonsense’ defensive style, bags of character and the ability to put a penalty away (though it was a couple of misses that led to Le Tissier being put on pens). He rejoined Spurs in 1992 and played a season there before moving to Liverpool. He headed to Loftus Road for a loan spell in 1998 before playing for West Ham, Crystal Palace and Swindon Town. He is now forging a career on the reality television circuit!

Neil_Ruddock

Defender

Mark Dennis

The original ‘Psycho’ Londoner Dennis began his career with Birmingham City, before moving to The Dell in 1983. Dennis was and still a highly popular figure amongst Saints fans, who appreciated his combatant style of play. Despite numerous sending’s off and suspensions, Dennis played over 120 times for Saints and made into ‘cult hero’ status, for his antics on and off the pitch. Dennis signed for QPR in 1987, having fallen out with Saints boss Chris Nicholl, he stayed a season at Loftus Road playing just over 20 times. Dennis then moved to Crystal Palace before retiring in 1990. Now the Director of Football at Winchester City.

Mark Dennis
Mark Dennis

Midfield

Nigel Quashie

Perhaps one of the biggest victims of Saints disastrous 2004/05 campaign, Quashie is often unfairly described by Saints fans despite some decent and certainly committed performances. Quashie began his career with QPR in 1995, staying three seasons before moving to Nottingham Forest. He stayed in the East Midlands until 2000 when he joined Portsmouth and became a key figure for the club as they rose to the Premier League. In January 2005 he crossed the divide, and followed Harry Redknapp to Saints. Quashie captained the side and led from the front, but the club were relegated, and he subsequently moved to West Brom the following January. Since 2007 Quashie has played for West Ham, MK Dons, Wolves and QPR again before heading to Iceland where he currently plays for BÍ/Bolungarvík.

The only way is up.... Oh wait...
The only way is up…. Oh wait…

Midfield

Inigo Idiakez

Spaniard Idiakez arrived in England with Derby County in 2004 having forged a career in La Liga with Real Sociedad, Oveido and Rayo Vallecano. He played at Pride Park for two seasons, building an impressive reputation as an attacking midfielder. When George Burley took over at Saints in 2005 it didn’t take him long to go back to former club Derby for Idiakez and Gregorz Rasiak. The Spaniard couldn’t quite recreate his Derby level performances and ended up going on loan to QPR in March 2007, he stayed at Loftus Road a month and was back in the Saints side on his return. Ironically he missed the decisive penalty to send his former club Derby to the final in the 2006/07 Championship playoffs. Rejoined George Burley as his assistant at Apollon Limassol in 2011.

Inigo Idiakez
Inigo Idiakez

Winger

Jason Puncheon

Current Saints winger Puncheon has had a turbulent time at St. Mary’s, having gone from zero to hero in his two years at the club. He signed for Saints in January 2010 from Plymouth having played for MK Dons and Barnet as well as the Devon side. He made an immediate impact to the Saints side, but soon took exception to being dropped for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. During his fall out with the management of the club he had loan spells with Millwall, Blackpool and then Premier League QPR but he couldn’t seal a permanent move away from St. Mary’s. Puncheon swallowed his pride, returned and has been one of Saints best performers this season in the Premier League, scoring in the reverse fixture with QPR earlier in the season. Saints fans are now sweating on him being offered a new contract!

Puncheon silences Loftus Road
Puncheon silences Loftus Road

Winger

Frank Saul

Essex forward Saul played for hometown club Canvey Island as a youth before signing for Spurs in 1960. Saul started his career at White Hart Lane in style, as part of the 60/61 double winners and went on to make well over 110 appearances for the North London side, before they used him as part of the deal to sign Martin Chivers from Saints. His career never took off at Saints, scoring just two goals in 46 appearances and he moved back to London and QPR in 1970. He scored four goals for the R’s and ended his career at Millwall.

Frank_Saul

Forward

Iain Dowie

Dowie started his career playing for various non-league clubs before being spotted by Luton Town in 1988. He spent three seasons with the Hatters before earning a move to West Ham. Things didn’t quite go to plan at Upton Park and Dowie joined Saints in September 1991. The Northern Ireland forward had four seasons at the Dell scoring 30 goals. He was sold to Palace in January 1995 and only stayed until the end of the season, returning to West Ham. He signed for QPR in 1998 and ended up playing in defence. He had a brief spell as caretaker manager at Loftus Road in 1998, and was given the job permanently ten years later in 2008, but lasted just 15 games.

Iain Dowie
Iain Dowie

Forward

Peter Crouch

Many expected Crouch to make a return to Loftus Road this January and link up with Harry Redknapp again but it wasn’t to be. Crouch’s career effectively took off when he signed for QPR in 2000 from Spurs. His performances for the R’s in the 2000/01 season saw Pompey pay £1.5 million for him, and his season at Fratton park earned him a big money move to Aston Villa. Something didn’t go to plan at Villa and he was labelled a flop, lasting just two seasons before heading to St. Mary’s. Crouch was a revelation for Saints, but his goals couldn’t keel them up and he was on the move again in 2005, heading to Liverpool for £7 million. He lasted three seasons at Anfield and subsequently played for both Pompey and Spurs again, and now Stoke City.

The only way is up... Oh wait...
The only way is up… Oh wait…

Forward

Dexter Blackstock

Blackstock was signed from Oxford United and put into the Saints Academy in 2003 when he was 17. He was given a baptism of fire in the 2004/05 season starting games during an injury crisis. Blackstock did well and even got on the scoresheet in the local derby against Portsmouth, but as other strikers were brought in, his chances became limited and he moved to QPR in 2006. Blackstock had three seasons at Loftus Road, before heading to Nottingham Forest where he still plays now.

Dexter Blackstock
Dexter Blackstock

So there it is, probably not the best team you are ever likely to see, or one that will play particularly nice football, but with Puncheon crossing for the three big lads up front there is goals in it!

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

Played For Both: Saints & Citizens

Another relativley simple team to compile, and I am sure there are many more players who could have made the final team, with a few exceptions, I managed to pick a team of players who I particularly enjoyed at Saints. So here it is:-

Team

Goalkeeper

Richard Wright

Current City keeper Wright signed at the Etihad in the summer last year as cover for Joe Hart and Costel Pantillimon. The highly rated young keeper made a big money move to Arsenal from Ipswich Town in 2001, and had spells at Everton and West Ham before a highly successful loan spell at Saints in 2008. Has had three spells with hometown club Ipswich before signing for City. Also made the Played for Both: Everton side.

Richard Wright
Richard Wright

Defender

Kevin Bond

Cockney Bond, began his career on the South Coast with AFC Bournemouth, playing for his dad John. He followed his dad to Norwich City in 1974 and played over 160 games for the Canaries before heading to the North American Soccer League in 1981, playing for Seattle. His dad bought him back to England with City where he played over 100 times, before Lawrie McMenemy prized him away from his family ties and brought him to the Dell in 1984. Bond was well regarded at Saints, playing over 120 times in four seasons. He returned to Dean Court in 1988 and linked up with former boss Harry Redknapp on the backroom staff at Portsmouth. He followed Redknapp to Saints in 2005 and subsequently back to Portsmouth, Spurs and now QPR with a brief stint as Bournemouth boss in between.

Kevin_Bond

Defender

Dave Watson

Centre half Watson was already an England international when he signed for City in 1975, having made a name for himself at Sunderland. He won the League Cup with the club in 1976, and was eventually made captain. He stayed at Maine Road until 1979 when he was sold to Werder Bremen. He failed to settle in Germany though, and he soon returned to England, signing for Saints for £200,000. Although now into his 30’s, Watson was a decent performer for Saints, and continued his England career. He stayed at the Dell until 1982 when he moved on to Stoke City. His career started to wind down and he retired in 1986.

Dave Watson
Dave Watson

Defender

Wayne Bridge

When Southampton boy Bridge signed for City in 2009 he joined Sean Wright-Phillips as one of the two players to be signed by both ‘New Money’ clubs. Bridge graduated from the Saints Academy having joined his hometown club in 1996. He made his first team debut in ’98 and never looked back, ending his Saints career by playing in the 2003 FA Cup final. He went on to be a League and Cup winner with Chelsea before making the move up North. Has since been loaned to West Ham and Sunderland, and is currently on loan ar Brighton.

Wayne Bridge
Wayne Bridge

Midfield

Peter Reid

Another who made the Played for Both: Everton side, Reid started to wind his playing career down (having already come out of retirement) with Saints in the 1993/94 season having recently been sacked as City’s player-manager.

Peter_Reid

Midfield

Graham Baker

Local lad Baker signed for Saints in 1973, and was promoted to first team duties in 1977. He made over 100 energetic performances in Saints midfield before he was sold to City for £350,000 in 1982. He stayed at Maine Road for five seasons, suffering two relegations and experiencing one promotion. By this time he was out of favour and returned to the Dell on a free transfer in 1987. He had later spells with Fulham and Aldershot before retiring in 1992. Definitely a hint of Karl Pilkington about him…

Graham Baker
Graham Baker

Midfield

Djamel Belmadi

French born Algerian Belmadi was a veteran of the French league, having played for the likes of PSG, Marseille and Cannes. He had a loan spell in Spain with Celta Vigo before City took him on a temporary basis in 2003, and he played eight times for the club, including being part of the side that lost to Saints in the last ever game at Maine Road. On his return to Marseille he was released and spent two years playing in Qatar before Harry Redknapp signed him for Saints in 2005. Belmadi was a popular player at Saints, putting in some accomplished performances at Championship level. Sadly he was another victim of the financial issues at the club and left for France in 2007. He became manager of Qatari side Lekhwiya in 2010, and led them to the league title in his first season (the first in their history), also losing in the cup final. They won the league again in his second season, but Belmadi resigned soon into the third season after a poor start.

Djemal Belmadi
Djemal Belmadi

Attacking Midfield

Eyal Berkovic

Outspoken Israeli Berkovic was brought to the Premier League by Saints in 1996 from Maccabi Haifa and was an instant hit on the South Coast, with his neat skill and inventiveness he was instrumental in several great Saints performances. Rumours of dressing room unrest soon followed (something that would become commonplace in his career) and a falling out with Saints boss Graeme Souness meant his Saints career would likely end before it had really started. He signed for West Ham the following summer, and despite lasting two seasons will mainly be remembered for being kicked in the head by John Hartson in training. He was offloaded to Celtic, but again he proved unpopular and went on loan to Blackburn. Kevin Keegan signed Berkovic for City in 2001, but was in and out of the team with injury, soon falling out with Keegan and criticising the manager publicly. He was signed for a second time by Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth in 2004, and stayed for a season before returning to Maccabi Haifa. Retired in 2006, and made the headlines again in 2007, after assaulting his son’s coach who had just substituted junior Berkovic! Eyal was given 100 hours community service.

Eyal Berkovic
Eyal Berkovic

Midfield

Ronnie Ekelund

Sigh. What might have been? The Dane who was signed by Alan Ball in 1995 as a favour from old friend and then Barcelona boss Johan Cruyff was a sensation in partnership with Le Tissier. With the two leading the attacks, Saints played breathtaking football and in Ekelund Saints had found a player who loved the club and that love was reciprocated. Sadly, due to a niggling back injury that Ekelund didn’t want to be operated on, he never signed permanently for the club. Ekelund joined up with Ball again at City the following season, but failed to have the same impact. Brief spells at Coventry, back in Denmark, France and Wallsall followed but Ekelund never settled anywhere before he went to the US. He became a legend at San Jose Earthquakes and went on to be a technical advisor for the club after retirement  We will always have 1994/95.

Ronnie Ekelund
Ronnie Ekelund

Forward

Uwe Rosler

East German international Rosler arrived in England in 1994 after signing for City from FC Nuremberg. He became a fans favourite at Maine Road, scoring 50 times for the club in his five seasons. He returned to Germany and Kaiserslautern in 1998 and returned to England with Saints in 2000 on a free transfer from Tennis Borussia Berlin. Despite not scoring a single league goal for Saints, he was a popular figure and did score once in a cup game. He also scored the last ever (unofficial) goal at the Dell in the celebratory friendly against Brighton, and also scored (twice) in the first ever game at St. Mary’s against Espanyol!  After a spell on loan at WBA, Rosler left England for a spell playing and coaching in Norway. He battled lung cancer and made a return to football as manager of Lillestrom. Now manager of Brentford.

Uwe Rosler
Uwe Rosler

Forward

Mick Channon

Saints legend Channon played over 500 times for the club, and is the it’s record goalscorer with 228. He had two highly successful spells at The Dell with a two season period with City in between. Channon played over 70 times for City and scored 24 goals as he tried to establish himself in the first division. FA Cup winner with Saints in 1976.

Mick Channon
Mick Channon

So there is another team, plenty of goals in it I reckon! As always, be great to hear some other suggestion!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Played For Both: Saints & Devils

Another ‘Played for Both’ team, another serious lack of defenders (or for that matter a complete team). You will have to excuse some poetic license in this one, with regards peoples positions and err.. questionable playing history. But believe me, no one would want to lineup with one at back, especially if that one was Danny Higginbotham….

Here goes:-

Team

Goalkeeper

Harry Moger

Local Southampton boy Harry Moger signed for his hometown club in 1900 but was never first choice at the Dell, Saints loss was Manchester United’s gain when they took him in 1903. He played over 240 times for the Red Devils and was a league winner twice and FA Cup winner once. He was also part of the United team that won the first ever Charity Shield in 1908. Passed away in Manchester in 1927. R.I.P.

Harry Moger
Harry Moger

Defender

Oshor Williams

Technically a midfielder, Teesider Williams played for local club Middlesbrough as a youth before signing a professional contract with United in 1976, he didn’t kick a ball in anger for the club though and was promptly released a year later. After a couple of seasons in non-league football he was given a second chance by Lawrie McMenemy, he was quickly loaned to Exeter City for experience before coming back to Saints. He made just 6 appearances at the Dell before leaving for Stockport County in 1979. Has the dubious honour of making one of the worst Saints XI’s in our previous feature:- ‘Saints in our Lives’. Now works for the PFA and is a youth coach for Wigan Athletic.

Oshor Williams
Oshor Williams

Defender

Danny Higginbotham

Manc Higginbotham realised his dreams when he signed a professional contract at Old Trafford in 1997 having been a youth player with the club. After being farmed out to Royal Antwerp and being involved in a controversial incident with a referee he returned to Manchester and played four times for the first team. It was clear he was never going to be a regular though and was sold to Derby County for £2 million in 2000. Having impressed with the Rams in both the Premier League and the Championship Saints made their move in January 2003. He was an unused sub in the 2003 cup final, unable to displace the duo of Lundekvam and Svensson, but played more regularly in the subsequent seasons. With Saints dropping to the championship in 2005, Higginbotham let his contract expire and left the club for Stoke City in the summer of 2006. Has since had a spell at Sunderland, a second at Stoke and brief stints with Forest and Ipswich before signing for Sheffield United this month.

Danny Higginbotham
Danny Higginbotham

Defender

Jim McCalliog

Another who isn’t really a defender, glaswegian McCalliog was a youth at Leeds United before signing for Chelsea in 1963. After highly successful periods with Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves, United paid £60,000 to take him to Old Trafford. He was part of the United side that were both relegated to the 2nd division, but also bounced straight back up again at the first attempt, but was sold to Saints for £45,000 in 1975. McCalliog came back to haunt United manager Tommy Docherty, playing a perfectly timed through ball for the onside Bobby Stokes to score the only goal of the ’76 cup final. McCalliog headed to the States in 1977 and had a brief stint as a manager with Halifax Town in 1990.

Jim_McCalliog
Midfield

Gordon Strachan

Errr…. Ok, I was struggling at this point, but he did play for Saints in Matthew Le Tissier’s 2001 testimonial. It counts. It’s my rules.

See....
See….

Midfield

Mark Hughes

Seeing as Hughes made the Everton side too, I will keep this brief. Illustrious career as a striker with United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, United again, Chelsea. Hideous spell as a midfielder for Saints.

Frank Sinclair having a vision of the future...
Eddie Newton having a vision of the future…

Winger

Andrei Kanchelskis

Kanchelskis left his Ukranian home to join United in 1991 for the princely sum of £650,000. It was money well spent as he terrorised Premier League full backs for four seasons, but after a rumoured fall out with Sir Alex Ferguson he was moved on to Everton in 1995. Via a spell at Fiorentina he ensured he would be the answer to the most asked football trivia question of all time by signing for Rangers in 1998. After a highly successful period at Ibrox and a brief loan at Manchester City he signed for Saints in 2002. It was an odd signing and a once great Premier League player was a shadow of his former self, making just two brief substitute appearances. Now the manager of FC Ufa in the Russian second division.

Andrei Kanchelskis
Andrei Kanchelskis

Winger

Danny Wallace

Londoner Wallace joined Saints as a youth player in 1977 and turned pro in 1980. Made his debut at Old Trafford aged just 16, coming off the bench to replace Kevin Keegan. This was a record broken since by only Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale. Wallace was a fans favourite at the Dell, his pace and skill complimented with some fantastic goals. He was joined in the Saints team for the 1988/89 season by brothers Ray and Rodney but was attracted to the Ferguson revolution at United and headed for Old Trafford in the summer of 1989. He had played over 300 times for Saints. Although he didn’t quite live up to his reputation at United he did rack up a few medals and played for the club 47 times before moving to Birmingham City. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996, Wallace has embarked on many charity ventures including the London Marathon. Makes the small list of players to have played just once for England, but scoring in that appearance.

Danny Wallace
Danny Wallace

Forward

Ron Davies

Welshman Davies is a legend at St. Mary’s, scoring 134 goals in 240 games after joining the club from Norwich City in 1965. He was considered the best striker around by Sir Matt Busby in 1967, a high accolade indeed. Unfortunately injures started to hamper Davies, the result of his physical combatant style and he lost his place in the Saints team. He crossed the South Coast divide in 1973 and signed for Portsmouth before heading to Old Trafford the following season. He made little impact at United and went on loan to Millwall before retiring in 1975.

Ron Davies
Ron Davies

Forward

Joe Jordan

After establishing himself as part of the fantastic Leeds team of the mid-70’s the Scotsman made the jump to Old Trafford in 1978. Scoring 37 goals in 109 games for United, Jordan was another physical striker and made the move from top English league player to top export when he moved AC Milan in 1981. He stayed at the San Siro for two seasons, and was highly regarded despite the club being relegated to Serie B in his second and last campaign. He moved to Verona that summer but the goals dried up and he headed back to Blighty and Southampton in 1984. Back on form Jordan scored 12 goals in 48 games for Saints before moving to Bristol City in 1987. After some questionable management periods he has become a mainstay of Harry Redknapp’s coaching team with Portsmouth, Spurs and now QPR. Oddly he didn’t follow Redknapp to Saints in 2004/05 and stayed at Portsmouth (perhaps he saw what was coming).

Joe_Jordan

Forward

Ted MacDougall

Journeyman MacDougall can name 18 clubs that he represented in his career including both United and Saints. Having started his career with Liverpool, he made a name for himself scoring plenty of goals for both York City and Bournemouth which led United to pay £200,000 for him in 1972. Despite scoring on his debut MacDougall didn’t last the season and was sold to West Ham. After not quite finding his feet at the Hammers either he found his scoring boots again at Norwich City, but soon found himself on the move again joining Saints for £50,000 in 1976. He helped Saints retain their place in the top division but MacDougall favoured staying in the lower leagues and returned to Bournemouth in 1978. Now a coach in the United States.

Ted_Macdougall

So there it is, I know I really pushed the acceptable boundaries this time, but amazing how few players there were post-war era. As usual, would love to hear of any other suggestions!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Jos Hooiveld: Illustrated…

After the popularity of Jos Hooiveld’s ‘Square Head’ competition, in which supporters competed for a signed shirt by taking pictures of themselves in amusing locations with cardboard box heads, see the storify for clearer details, I began to wonder what Jos would actually look like as a Comic style Superhero with a box for a head…..

With the help of friend and fantastic illustrator/designer Tom Ayliffe that dream has come true……

Presenting……

Jos Hooiveld.

On Saturdays, he is just a regular (but awesome) central defender, but on midweek evenings he becomes…..

BOXHEAD. The scourge of East London, midweek cowboy, vowing to smash the back of floodlit nets everywhere!

Click the image for a larger version with no background.

Thanks to Tom for his amazing work! Check out his other illustrations at http://www.tomayliffe.com/

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

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

Saints Academy: Talent Architects…

Hi all, I am pleased to introduce another new contributor to georgeweahscousin.com in the form of former Saints trainee Scott Gordon. Scott hails from the Emerald Isle, more specifically Lurgan, Co. Armagh. He is the husband to Joanna and soon to be father to a junior Saint.

He has been a Saints fan for nearly 16 years, which all started when the club plucked him from obscurity as a 13 year old playing in his local league. After a week’s trial he found himself signing a 5 year deal that would change his life forever. He might no longer be a Saints player, but he is still Northern Ireland’s number one fan!

Over to you Scott! – Chris

Saints Academy: Talent Architects…

Bridge. Baird. Bale. Walcott. Chamberlain. Five names from the modern day football world and all with one massive thing in common… they are all products of the fantastic Saints Academy. Skip back a few years and Mike Channon, Matthew Le Tissier, the Wallace brothers, Alan Shearer and Francis Benali are once again products of our enviable youth system.

The ‘Academy’ as we know it today came into formation in the 98/99 season. This marked the start of the new scholarships rather than the YTS system of old. In effect these scholarships were designed to safeguard the future of the young players, if and when, they did not manage to make it in football. As a product of this academy (class of 2001) I guess I am glad the scholarship was offered. I’m now a PE teacher back home in Northern Ireland and without the investment from the club and the FA, this may not have been a reality for me. But this was not exactly the remit of the club.

As with any smaller club the purpose of an academy is to produce fine young players to come through and represent the first team. The five players mentioned in the opening line of this piece all achieved this goal and I might add, performed admirably for the senior side. They do, however, have another thing in common… All sold by the Saints. For a total of £38million.

I guess that’s where I have a problem with our club and the way we handle our younger players. For too long we have been a selling club. You can add Brian Howard, Matthew Mills and Scott McDonald into the list of players that have moved on. I wonder now that we have returned to the Premier League will we still have the same attitude? If we still had the big 5 players with us, would we have gotten back to the promised land a lot sooner? Who knows. My only hope is that we become a keeping club and not sell on our best products. Lallana is still there and that is a good sign and there are many other players coming through (I’m told James Ward-Prowse and Corby Moore are two to look out for).

Premier League, Champions League, European Championships. Products of Southampton.

In my time, Crewe, West Ham and Coventry were the clubs with the supposed best academy set ups. I firmly believed then and now that we have the best. Back in 2000 we were defeated in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup 2-1 over two legs by a Coventry side that were then chinned 7-1 by an Arsenal side that contained Steve Sidwell. I can remember reading a quote from our then managers Stewart Henderson and John Sainty. They said that yes, we were on a great run in the competition, but this success did not guarantee any player a professional contract or a future at the club (a statement which was made abundantly clear one season later as I was shown the door).

When I left in 2001, two others came with me and only five (Alan Blayney, Ryan Ashford, Chris Baird, Scott McDonald and Brian Howard) went on to represent the first team. In total we had 25 players across our 1st and 2nd year scholars. None are with the club now and very few are still making a living from the game. It used to be said you had to be best in Europe to make it as a pro footballer. Our year changed that to be the best in the world. Players from all over Uk, Italy, Russia, Africa and Australia represented our youth team during my time with Southampton.

We are without doubt one of the best Academy setup’s in the country. My only hope is that we hold on to our talent and let the other teams be envious of us for a while.

Scott

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

Southampton FC – End of Term Report

So here is the georgeweahscousin.com end of season review.

We decided to go with a slightly different format than most….

Student:- Southampton Football Club

School:- nPower Championship

Year:- 11/12

Art

Generally, Saints style was fluid and attractive, particular highlights were the games against Middlesbrough and Birmingham. However, when hanging round with the boys at the other end of the class, Saints had a habit of dropping to their level. They also found it hard to maintain a good standard of work during practical examinations. B.

English

Nigel Adkins, again provided the season with some useful soundbytes. While Dean Hammond let the side down with horrific use of profanity live in front of a full assembly. C.

French

Morgan Schneiderlin was one of the season’s stand out performers, deservedly winning “Most Improved Player” in the gwc.com awards. His confident playmaking from central midfield was sorely missed when he had a spell on the sidelines. A.

Geography

One of Saints weakest subjects. Taking 36 points from a possible 69, Saints away form so often looked like it could be their undoing. Must do better next year. D.

History

Nigel Adkins tenure as Saints boss has seen record breaking as an almost weekly occurrence. Saints completed their longest streak of league wins in a row in August (10) and home league wins in a row in November (19). Saints ended the season by breaking their attendance record too, 32,363 people watched Saints beat Coventry and secure promotion to the Premier League. A.

Home Economics

Superb. Losing just three games all season at St. Mary’s, Saints home form was top of the class. Taking 52 points from a possible 69 and boasting a staggering +31 goal difference, Saints showed that fortress St. Mary’s is a difficult place to come for any team. A+.

A grade season for the Saints!

Mathematics

Towards the end of the season, mathematics played a crucial part. Saints managed to make final day with an equation so difficult for West Ham to solve, promotion was still in their hands. P = (S(pvCC) ≥ (WHU(pvHC). B.

Music

Creativity really shone through during the tribulations of another pupil…. Sha la la la la la…. C.

Physical Education

One of the stand out pupils in this subject. Fitness so often saw other teams bullied into submission. Saints losing only one game in which they scored first. Notable mentions for Billy Sharp – Wrestling, Adam Lallana – Watersports, Guly do Prado – Maverick Samba Dance. A.

Religious Studies

Saints found their way to the promised land of the Premier League with the help of several Gods and some divine intervention at Elland Road. B.

Science

Nigel Adkins theory that “it’s about winning games of football” was put into practice and was a resounding success. In 26 out of 46 (56.5%) cases studied, it was found that winning equated to a better league placing. Biology – Physical specimens such as Jos Hooiveld (size) and Steve de Ridder (pace) showed great effort for the team, contributing to much success. Chemistry – Breathtaking link up play at times between full-backs, midfield, Lallana, Lambert, Guly and Sharp. Physics – Rickie Lambert defied the laws of Physics on more than one occasion with a staggering record of getting a spherical (changed from cylindrical, as pointed out by several eagle eyed readers. E grade for me. – Chris)  object into a guarded net with numerous variables. A.

Attendance

With an average of 26,419 Saints had the second best attendance of all pupils at home, and an average of 2,390 on the road, the third best of all pupils away. Notably, scoring considerably higher than “The bestest fans in the world” on both counts. B.

Behaviour

Generally behaviour was acceptable. Some boisterousness when arguing with the posh Berkshire head boy and the rough cockney troublemaker. Ongoing arguments with nearest neighbour. We’ve had to separate them. C+.

Overall

It has been a very good term for Southampton FC. Surprising many with their performance, it is with upmost confidence that they will go into the higher school next year. With continued improvement and application, Saints should find the step up challenging yet rewarding! A.

So that is our alternative view of the past season!

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Your continued support is always appreciated!

Chris