Tag Archives: World Cup

England’s Saints? Who will go to Brazil?

If anyone was still doubting the credentials of the potential England World Cup players at Saints, surely they were put to bed in Saturday’s emphatic victory over Newcastle United?

Saints put in an immaculate attacking performance, mainly due to the superb play of the attacking three, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez.

Adam Lallana is a shoe-in for the squad, I’m sure of that, and people are just starting to believe that not only should he be guaranteed his place on the proverbial plane, but that Roy Hodgson should be finding a place for him in the starting eleven. If there is an English player around at the moment playing as well as Lallana in the support role, ripping defences to shreds with intricate skill and footballing brain, then I haven’t seen them.

Lallana celebrates with scorer Sturridge after his assist.
Lallana celebrates with scorer Sturridge after his assist.

I’m fed up of bigging up Luke Shaw. He is the best left back in the Premier League right now, coupling immaculate defensive performances with attacking runs that scare defences to death. He is consistently superb and England have already seen a 45 minute glimpse of how good he is. I have a feeling he will make the final squad, and it will be a surprise to everybody but Saints fans.

Attacking intent. Shaw is the future.
Attacking intent. Shaw is the future.

In terms of the two Saints forwards I’m not quite so confident that they will make the cut, though it will be criminal if they don’t.

Despite his excellent all round play, ability on the ball, superb passing, team focus and a Premier League assist record this season that is only bettered by Luis Suarez, Rickie Lambert still can’t shake the constant comparison with Andy Carroll, and some, particularly the English press believe it is a 50/50 shout between the two. What planet are these people on? If all those qualities I’ve listed aren’t enough, you can throw in the added bonus of goals. Lambert is twice the footballer Carroll is, and if the West Ham forward is preferred it will say everything about the progression, or lack thereof in English football.

Jay Rodriguez, has had a superb season, infinitely better than Danny Welbeck’s, sadly though I think he will always find himself behind the Man Utd forward in the pecking order. Rodriguez can do all the things that Welbeck can do, with the added bonus of goals. Surely the England manager will go with form?

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Forming a great understanding, but can it benefit England?
Forming a great understanding, but can it benefit England?

If Roy Hodgson doesn’t see the individual qualities of the Saints players perhaps their team dynamic might attract him. I’ve long been an advocate of using successful club partnerships to the advantage of the national team. An England team with John Terry and Gary Cahill at centre half with Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park and Lallana, Rodriguez and Lambert playing a support three to Daniel Sturridge in his rightful position up top doesn’t sound bad does it? We could do a lot worse, and so often do.

Hopefully the England manager will see sense and utilise players from clubs like Liverpool and Southampton as much as he can. These are the clubs playing football in the way we should be aiming to as a national team, so it makes sense to bring them in. Surely we won’t go to Brazil, the home of ‘sexy football’ and lump it up to Andy Carroll?

Keep the Faith.

World at their feet: Saints in Brazil?

Seeing as though it was Southampton Football Club that effectively introduced the beautiful game to Brazil (Ref: Charles William Miller) it would be fitting that at this summer’s World Cup in the country, if the Saints were well represented.

Speculation is already rife as to who will and won’t make it to the finals, and here at georgeweahscousin.com we are no different!

So which of the Saints talented squad will be on the proverbial plane?

England

It seems fitting to start with our own nation, burdened with the usual over expectant feeling of entitlement, England could well be the squad with the most Saints in it.

Adam Lallana

Let’s put it this way, if Lallana isn’t in the twenty three man squad then he will either be injured or the victim of the most ridiculous tragedy in English footballing history up there with Matthew Le Tissier’s lack of caps and not building a team around Paul Scholes (confounded by playing him on the left wing).

Lallana is skilful, technically gifted and creative. He shouldn’t be English really, as he has defied the poor coaching standards here and become a talent worthy of Spain or Brazil.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

Lallana, a shoe in for the squad for anyone with the right number of chromosomes...
Lallana, a shoe in for the squad for anyone with the right number of chromosomes…

Rickie Lambert

England at the World Cup will need different options if they are to succeed, and in Lambert they could well have that. Good with the ball at his feet and an ability to hold the ball up, Lambert has proven his critics wrong time and time again, scoring and creating goals at every level he’s played at.

The worry is that Roy Hodgson may revert to type and turn to Andy Carroll.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 3.5

The moment Rickie showed the rest of the country what the Saints fans already knew...
The moment Rickie showed the rest of the country what the Saints fans already knew…

Jay Rodriguez

Didn’t enjoy the best of debuts, but Rodriguez grows with confidence game by game and has emerged as Saints top scorer this season. ‘JRod’ is another one who has the technical ability to try something different. It feels like this might not be his year England wise though with the media turning on him after the game against Chile.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2

Just how many Saints will lineup for England this summer?
Just how many Saints will lineup for England this summer?

Luke Shaw

Uncapped so far, but with his stock rising and his mature performances both defensively and going forward for Saints, coupled with the recent decline of Ashley Cole, Luke will surely get the chance to show what he can do in the friendlies prior to the tournament.

With rumours that Man City want to make him the most expensive full back in the world, it is only a matter of time before his country calls. Undoubtedly the natural and long term successor to Cole.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 3.5

Shaw thing to be first choice England left back in the future....
Shaw thing to be first choice England left back in the future….

Nathaniel Clyne

In what is distinctly England’s weakest area it is surprising to me that Clyne hasn’t already been given a chance by Roy Hodgson. While the distinctly mediocre Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker both look unimpressive in an England shirt, Clyne has gone about his business at Saints with great success, consistently performing to a high standard.

Deserves a chance.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2.5

While all the media talk was of getting Kosovan Januzaj to play for England, Englishman Clyne was giving him a lesson at Old Trafford...
While all the media talk was of getting Kosovan Januzaj to play for England, Englishman Clyne was giving him a lesson at Old Trafford…

James Ward-Prowse

Probably the longest shot, and almost certainly this World Cup has come too soon for the Saints midfielder. With his ability to deliver a ball now being likened to David Beckham though, England honours will surely follow at some point….

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1

JWP bends it like Beckham into the San Marion net for England U21's...
JWP bends it like Beckham into the San Marion net for England U21’s…

Italy

It seems right to follow the potential England players with their Group D opponents. England v Italy at the World Cup will always be a special occasion and it might just be laden with Saints players.

Dani Osvaldo

Argentinian born Osvaldo opted to play for Italy, and recently has been a regular for the Azzuri. Although he has taken his time to adapt to the Premier League the skill he has shown for Italy was replicated with his amazing strike against Manchester City.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4

Osvaldo celebrates his recent goal against Denmark...
Osvaldo celebrates his recent goal against Denmark…

Uruguay

Gaston Ramirez

Sporter of awful barnet’s, splitter of fan opinion and creator of occasional magic, Ramirez has been in and out of the Saints first team, but is a regular in the Uruguay squad.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

Opponents in the summer?
Opponents in the summer?

Croatia

Dejan Lovren

The Croatian has been an absolute steal for Saints and has made his way into many ‘top players in the Premier League this season’ lists. A regular for his country, he should be on his way to Brazil.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

World Class defender Lovren who will be in Brazil and some other fella who won't...
World Class defender Lovren who will be in Brazil and some other fella who won’t…

France

Morgan Schneiderlin

Perhaps the biggest crime in international football from a Saints perspective is the lack of recognition for Morgan Schneiderlin. Having had a brilliant first season and a half in the Premier League, Schneiderlin would walk into any other top flight side and most international teams. Come on Didier. You know it makes sense.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2

Could France's loss be England's gain?
Could France’s loss be England’s gain?

Japan

Maya Yoshida

Having fallen down the pecking order at Saints, Yoshida is having to take what he can, and it has led to talk of a move back to Japan. He will undoubtedly be in Brazil though, barring an injury as a stalwart of their defence.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.75

Maya will be on the plane.
Maya will be on the plane.

Tadanari Lee

Forward Lee is well and truly out of the picture as far as the Saints first team is concerned, and perhaps his move to England two years ago has killed any chance of a World Cup place. A loan move back to Japan might revive his hopes though.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1

Can Lee get out of the international wilderness in time?
Can Lee get out of the international wilderness in time?

Portugal

Jose Fonte

A long shot, but Jose Fonte has really come into his own for Saints this season and has been part of the formidable back five that was at the top of the European defensive charts. Sadly, when I met Joao Pinto (Now a high level official in the Portuguese FA) in the summer he had never heard of Jose.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1.5

Part of the furniture at St. Mary's, but deserving of international recognition?
Part of the furniture at St. Mary’s, but deserving of international recognition?

So there we have it. Do you agree with their chances? Is there anyone else in the Saints squad who might sneak in somewhere? As ever let us know!

Chris

 

 

 

Soka Afrika: The Story Many Europeans Won’t Want To Hear

African players in the Premier League have been commonplace now for many years, wowing crowds with their often combatant style with great technique and skill, they have established themselves as household names in Europe’s top leagues, earning riches they could only ever have dreamed of. But for every Drogba and Eto’o there are hundreds that don’t make the grade. There is nothing strange about that, it is the same for all players, no matter where in the world they are from. But ‘Soka Afrika‘ explores the seedy side of African football, that us European fans are naive to.

1soka title

A documentary set in the build up to the 2009 FIFA World U20 Cup, focuses on two young African footballers, Kermit Erasmus from South Africa and Ndomo Julian Sabo from Cameroon. Both our chasing their dream, but take very different paths.

Soka Afrika follows Kermit as he establishes himself at Excelsior in Holland and with his national team, and Ndomo whose family is conned by an ‘agent’ to sell their possessions and send him to Europe with promise of trials and contracts. Ndomo ends up homeless and starving on the streets of Paris, miles from home and in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Soccer Trafficking is sadly commonplace, with would be agents exploiting the dreams of young African footballers (often as young as 15) living in poverty with promises of fortunes to be earned. For every one that makes it, hundreds are cast aside, alone in a foreign country.

The documentary, also follows Jean Claude Mbvoumin, a former Cameroon international who plied his trade in France as a pro. He and other fellow former African players setup ‘Culture Foot Solidaire’ to raise awareness and offer help to those like Ndomo who find themselves stranded.

Soka Afrika is a fantastic documentary, and is a real eye opener to those of us who have often bemoaned ‘pampered footballers’, it is hard hitting and tragic in places, but also leaves you feeling buoyant at the attitude and smiles of the young players wronged but still fighting to live their dream.

As an aside there is a also a quick look at the legacy of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and it isn’t pretty….

A must watch for anyone who has watched African stars in European Leagues, and never given a second thought to how they might have got here!

Chris

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England Oxpexts…

Like all Saints fans, I am immensely proud of our Academy. For years now it has competed with the best in the country, and many believe with the current improvements being made it may well take the title of “the best”.

So when Roy Hodgson announced his England squad for this summer’s European Championships it filled me with pride to see a certain double-barrelled youngster amongst the big names.

Make no mistake, this is no “surprise” to me, and no risk on Roy’s part, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has it all, pace, skill, technique, awareness with an added dash of infectious youthful enthusiasm. In fact I would go as far as to say he is everything we don’t usually look for in traditional English coaching sessions.

When Chamberlain made his debut for Saints aged 16 years and 199 days against Southend United at the end of the 2009/10 season it was with great anticipation, we had been blessed with the baby faced bows of Walcott and Bale after all. Chamberlain did not disappoint. Scoring on his first competitive start against Bournemouth the following season and ending it with a return of 10 goals and 8 assists arguably he had a bigger impact than his predecessors, making the League One Team of the Year, the icing on the cake.

While I rate Walcott, a player who seems to get a lot of uncalled for stick despite consistently scoring and providing goals for Arsenal, Chamberlain was always going to eclipse him for me, but who knows, should Roy decide to go that way maybe they will play on either side of a forward three this summer. You could do a lot worse.

England Expects. Chamberlain Delivers.

The number of ex-Saints academy players in the Premier League is ever growing, and with two in this England squad I think this could definitely be a sign of the future. Three in the 2014 World Cup squad? Maybe more. While we keep producing players who play the game the right way, the club can only progress. The big challenge is keeping them away from North London.

I offer massive congratulations to Alex on his call up, and to Southampton Football Club for spotting and nurturing another talent. It is on merit, and when he steps on to that training pitch with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney he can be confident that he is good enough to be there. Let’s hope this call up isn’t like Theo in 2006. You had the conviction to put the Ox in your squad Roy, now have the nerve to unleash him….

Chris

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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

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Dedication’s what you need…..

…if you want to be a record breaker.

That is what Nigel Adkins is, on more than one occasion, and at a startlingly regular occurrence. Since taking the helm at Southampton, the history writers and record keepers have had their work cut out.

Currently on a run of ten consecutive league victories, dropping just four points from the last possible fifty seven, Saints under his leadership have won their first four league games for the first time in their football league history, and he simultaneously became the quickest Saints manager to reach one hundred points. He is currently on a 70% win ratio from his fifty games in charge, a staggeringly high number. So why when Adkins was appointed last year were Saints fans sceptical and underwhelmed?

Well, Adkins wasn’t and perhaps still isn’t a “name” and often us Saints fans can be guilty of thinking we are still a Premier League club who should be bringing in someone big, but also, Adkins footballing background lacks glamour, or for that matter much credentials. In terms of education, Adkins would seem well equipped, holding a degree in Sports Psychology from Salford University, but in football, rather ignorantly, bits of paper are often disregarded in favour of playing reputation.

Adkins, has a little known playing reputation. A goalkeeper for his local club Tranmere Rovers from 1983 to 1986 and then at Wigan Athletic until 1993, apart from a solitary season in the second division, he spent his entire football league career in the bottom two divisions. In 93, he moved on to Bangor City and the Welsh league, and was soon given the position of player/manager. Adkins led Bangor to two Welsh titles before changing tact in his career and pursuing his physiotherapy qualifications.

Adkins took the role of Physio at Scunthorpe United before eventually becoming their manager and the rest as they say is history. So why the scepticism from Saints fans, he has already proved it to be premature and won the Saints faithful round, but actually a look at some other managers should have taught us that football playing pedigree isn’t necessarily a key requirement to be a good manager.

A young Nigel Adkins heading for a bright managerial career. Picture courtesy of Tranmere Rovers Football Club.

In fact, we as Saints fans should feel pretty silly about our snobbery, as the manager who brought us the only major trophy in our history, Lawrie McMenemy had an even less remarkable playing career.

There is an argument that actually the top managers have come from the back of less successful playing careers. To be a good coach, you don’t need to have the the physical ability, but the ability to convey ideas, tactics and strategy. Whether you can play a ball to the right place at the right time, doesn’t mean you can’t instruct someone who does have that skill to do so. Some fantastic players have also had disastrous managerial stints, Bryan Robson, a great example. Of course there is no set rule to what makes a good manager and what doesn’t, but it is of course easier to get a head start in management after a high profile playing career, so for me it is, far more of an achievement for somebody that has to work their way up to be successful than someone who is handed a top job on a plate because of their playing days.

The most recent example of someone with big success in the coaching arena is Jose Mourinho, who along with the two other managers that have dominated the English Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, don’t have an international cap between them. The self titled “Special One” worked as an interpretor and backroom coach for years before bursting on to the scene with Porto.

Vanderlei Luxemburgo is widely regarded as the most successful coach in Brazilian football, and even found himself the manager of the national team, whom he led to Copa America triumph in 1999 and later as boss of Real Madrid, all this despite a non-eventful playing career.

Franz Beckenbaur and Mario Zagallo are in the minority amongst the World Cup winning managers, having also achieved such a feat as players. Take these two out of the World Cup winning alumni though, and the rest have less than one hundred international playing caps between them.

So why do some of the less successful players make such good coaches? Perhaps it is an added drive to succeed after not reaching the heights they might have liked in their playing days. There is definitely a case, that someone who has done everything they could as a player may have less hunger when that career ends, but like I said earlier, there is no set rule. Some players, successful or otherwise, just become students of the game, while others, no matter how well they can play it, don’t.

In Nigel Adkins, we very much have someone who became a student of the game, and now it is paying dividends, perhaps the next time we look to appoint a less glamourous named manager we will think twice before doubting them…

Chris