Tag Archives: Football

Monotony & Apathy

‘Live together in perfect harmony’

Well, after another long term hiatus I’m back again. It’s been a while. The whole WordPress backend has changed, I’ve turned 40, and I’m not sure if it’s a combination of the two, or one of those things in particular, but I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Do not fear though dear reader, I’ve never let such a trivial matter as incompetence stop me before and I’m not about to start now!

I return to you rejuvenated. For I do not mind admitting that the last two and half years supporting Saints had become a struggle, and Saturday afternoons had become more about a pint and a chinwag with the Dubai Saints, and less about the ‘football’. Those of you that follow our Facebook Page or Twitter will know that we have a tradition of a group photo and the hashtag #win when we win (not rocket surgery), and when I first moved here drunkenly posing for these celebratory shots was the norm, but until recently they had become as rare as a Dejan Lovren winner’s medal.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a ‘woe is me, we don’t win every week’ post. I started going to the Dell in 1992, I can handle watching a pile of crap week in week out. The issue was not about how good the players were, or even whether we won, lost or drew, though of course winning is always the preferred option. Somewhere along the way, we lost our identity. It became boring, and my feeling towards Saints became apathetic. So what changed?

As is usual, when the fortunes of a football club change, it is likely a combination of factors rather than any one particular person or event. Let’s start with the coaches. When Ronald Koeman left us for Everton he was the fourth manager in a row that had been a successful appointment for Saints. He was also the fourth to have a presence, a personality and an aura around them that inspired a confidence in the fans, and logically the players too.

Claude Puel was none of those things. Not a bad bloke, just an incredibly dull one, and he coupled a lack of charisma off the pitch with monotonous, uninspiring football on it. Baffling team selections (Inter Milan Away anyone?) and zero risk taking that might turn a draw into a win condemned him to being the most successful disliked manager in Southampton history. Saints fans were largely mocked by the nations media and ex pros for wanting the Frenchman sacked, despite finishing 8th place in the Premier League and reaching the League Cup Final, and now Leicester fans find themselves in the same position, with the same complaints and the same mockery from the same sources. Coincidence?

https://twitter.com/FcPuel/status/1085224470900555777

The end of the Puel season meant a fresh start. Surely, the appointment of such a man far removed from the recent ideals of the club was a blip. Nope. We literally went and got the Argentine equivalent. That might be a little harsh, Mauricio Pelligrino at least talked a good game when he arrived, but it’s staggering to think the same nation that produced Maradona, Messi, Bielsa and a whole host of other footballing characters also brought us ‘Senor Frijol’. The football wasn’t a lot better, the results were even worse, and relegation beckoned to the soundtrack of scoffing and hand wringing from the ‘Ridiculous to sack Puel, what do Southampton expect’ brigade.

Saints were sleepwalking to the Championship under Pellegrino, of that I have no doubt. A lack of goals, a weak backbone and an uncanny knack of throwing away a lead meant he had to go. At the time, I called for Saints to be pragmatic for once and agreed with them that Leslie Mark Hughes was the only viable option. This was based on nothing more than the requirement for top flight experience when you are staring into the abyss that is the football league. And I was right. Sort of.

Let us not change history. The fact of the matter is that ‘Sparkey’ did what looked impossible and kept us up. Whether or not you believe that is down to his management/coaching ability or that there were simply three teams even worse than us is for you to decide. I am happy to admit that I believed he had earnt his chance for the job full time. More fool me. My apathy perhaps even reached peak under the reign of the miserable Welsh custodian of proper hand shake etiquette.

Under the tutelage of these three charisma vacuums, the club I loved was transformed from the industry leading, innovative, academy pushing, supremely likeable, entertaining, big boy toppling, exciting unit that were a joy to watch, no matter the result into a turgid collection of hapless misfits that were a chore to endure. I, like many Saints fans found myself watching the games only out of some ridiculous sense of unenforced duty.

But were the managers the only problem?

Les Reed. Let this be the official stance of georgeweahscousin.com. I was never one to turn on Reed, and I am grateful to the man for the role he played in the best era of supporting Saints in my life. But, as the old saying goes, ‘Sometimes, a change is as good as a rest’. With two and a half poor managerial appointments in a row, it can only be fair to say, the magic had perhaps dried up. It certainly felt like things had gone stale behind the scenes, and the decision to remove Reed from his role when it came to it, was a long time coming. Not only did the coaching choices go downhill, but so did the recruitment of players. The time of unearthing gems like Mane, Van Dijk etc was gone, and what followed was a string of expensive failures. Sofiane Boufal, Wesley Hoedt and Garrido Carrillo all cost big money and are all now out on loan, likely on wages that make them difficult to move them on permanently. Jannik Vestegaard and Elyounoussi are the latest to struggle to make an impact on the first team.

Which brings me to the playing squad itself. Throughout this tough period, there was often the suggestion that the squad itself, simply wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, that it lacked the quality to succeed as it once had done. For me this was never the case, and while recruitment wasn’t necessarily improving the starting XI, we still had a top ten Premier League squad, they were just being poorly utilised and poorly motivated. Good players don’t become bad players overnight. But they can lose their way.

I don’t want to do an in depth analysis of every member of the squad, but by highlighting just a few I think I can make my point. The first is Oriol Romeu, in his first season with the club he was the impenetrable wall between midfield and defence, player of the season and hugely popular, his downward spiral coincides perfectly with that of the club, ending with him being a bit part player under Mark Hughes, who looked a shadow of his former self when used. Nathan Redmond has been the victim of some unsavoury over the top criticism, and somehow became the poster boy for our poor football at times. This blog was calling for Saints to sign Redmond long before they did, and never lost faith in his ability as a player, but it was often agonising to watch him take the blame from sections of the crowd for lacklustre team performances. Redmond is a dynamic attacking player, and it is almost criminal that three coaches almost managed to sap that out of him. Remember how upset we all got when Pep Guardiola weirdly berated him on the pitch for not using his attacking intent more effectively? Pep was right.

Ryan Bertrand is an odd one. Many people, myself included have bemoaned his perceived lack of interest and his unenthusiastic manner in games, but with retrospect was he just another victim of the monotonous chore being involved with Saints had become? He quickly took to his Instagram to comment on having a sense of direction under the new manager. Will we see the old Bertrand back soon?

When you look at the upturn in performances from Romeu & Redmond under the new manager, couple them with the resurgence of Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse. Danny Ings scoring goals. Two Goalkeepers making serious claims for the number 1 spot. Stuart Armstrong now showing us why we signed him, and PEH looking like the player that was so highly rated by Guardiola at Bayern; you realise that we shouldn’t be in a relegation battle. Our squad isn’t poor, it was simply in a self inflicted malaise. Neil Warnock said we had the best squad outside the top 8, and while he doesn’t always make sense (#ColinonBrexit), I agree we are there or thereabouts.

So what has Ralph Hasenhüttl done differently? Well, from a very basic point of view he has immediately got the fans onside. That sounds very simplistic, and obviously if performances and results improve then that comes naturally, but, he did it before a ball was kicked. His passionate and charismatic opening gambit as Saints boss brought a renewed hope to a beleaguered faithful and that small psychological tactic, whether it was intentional or not goes a long way. The man is a leader, and instantly we wanted to follow him. If we felt like that so quickly, it is not a huge leap of faith to suggest the players felt the same.

On the pitch, it feels very much like normal service has been resumed. His intensive high pressing dynamic system is entertaining and we look like we are enjoying our football again. There is a tactical shrewdness that saw us get fantastic away results at Chelsea and Leicester and #win photos are on the rapid increase. I could bore you with the statistical comparisons between him and previous managers, but I’m sure you are already aware of them. To summarise, he has improved us in every area already, considerably, and our pathway has been re-opened. If all this wasn’t enough, his passionate reaction to goals and victorious full time whistles endears him to us even further.

It’s early days, but the future looks bright again, and the manager hasn’t even brought any players of his own choosing yet. If our form continues, we can hopefully bring this season to a close without a nail biting finish and prepare for a much more entertaining and successful one. Soon we could be back to the Halcyon days when our only worries were when our top players would be poached or where the manager might jump ship to. Oh fuck.

Keep the faith.

Chris

A Star is Born, A Chris is Bored…

Recently I had the pleasure (opportunity) to watch the Blockbuster movie ‘A Star is Born’.  It wasn’t my choice so to speak, so much as a demand from she who must be obeyed.

The most interesting thing I found about this movie, was that it acts as a really good metaphor for the Premier League exploits of one Southampton Football Club, If you squint a bit, and not take this blog too seriously, not get bogged down in ‘facts’ and take a monumental leap of faith.

Act 1

The movie starts well, and tells the tale of a talented but unfancied singer getting plucked from obscurity and into the limelight, doing so with a style and grace that brings the attention of the world upon them. Much like the arrival of Saints in the Premier League back in 2012. It’s fair to say that the initial exploits of our beloved club in the top flight were thrilling, unexpected and downright rude to the established elite. Under Pochettino and then Koeman, we made unprecedented leaps of improvement, propelling us into the limelight, and we did so with an exciting mix of youthful enthusiasm, a disregard for the establishment and an exciting style of in your face attack minded football.

Many stars were born, and like in the movie their heads were soon turned for ‘better’ things, while the creator refused to move on.

Act 2

The middle of the movie, and frankly the part where it lost me. When I wasn’t close to sleep, I was witnessing the mediocre section of the story, the bit where not a lot happens, where they have decided the story doesn’t need to excite anymore, it just needs to be there.

Very much what it feels like to be a Saints fan at the moment. For every star that went, the ability to replace them for better/as good as seems to have gone, a string of drab characters have come in and made no improvement on the man before them. It’s dull to watch and expectation weakens week by week, Saints are less challenging in the Premier League, they are merely existing (just).

Our identity as a club has gone. We used to be giant slayers, fantastic recruiters and promoters of youth. We are none of those things anymore. When was the last time we beat one of the big teams? When was the last time we brought in a player with the star quality of a Mane or a Pelle? When was the last time an Academy player got an extended run in the first team?

Act 3

The End, and a pretty harrowing one at that. As one star moves on and shines, the ones left behind stagnate and rot, and ultimately burn out.

For Saints, you wonder what the future is? Last season was a disaster and one you would have hoped the club would do all in their power to prevent happening again, but here we are, worse off points wise than this time last year. It feels like the club is stagnating, and being left to die. Is it the manager’s fault? Perhaps, but perhaps not, he can only work with what he is given. In Danny Ings, we have improved in one area that was poor last year, but defensively we look as bad as we have been in our Premier League history. What are Armstrong, Elyanoussi and Vestegaard bringing to the table? I’m of the opinion this is our weakest Premier League squad so far, and the interest level of fans is waning. Where has the excitement gone?

Something needs to change at executive level for me, the support for the manager no longer exists, though of course, they are an easy target for blame.

The End

If Saints don’t heed the warnings of previous experiences, the only way is down, and the most frustrating thing, like the movie, it’s a remake. We’ve been here before.

A Star is Born/Southampton Football Club 2/5 stars. Not worth the popcorn.

Chris

p.s. Bugger. I’ve just realised this works better with ‘A Christmas Carol’, so just read it again, with the Ghost of Christmas Past, Future etc. You get the idea.

 

 

20 up for Saints!

We are one week away from the new Premier League season, the 27th of it’s kind since the financial revolution surrounding the ‘people’s’ game changed football forever.

It also happens to be the 20th Premier League campaign for Southampton Football Club. An achievement to be proud of for a club that has never been level in terms of resources with the giants of the era. Even more so when you realise that of the previous 19 campaigns, 7 have resulted in top 10 finishes. A club once synonymous with relegation battles actually has more mid to top half Premier League league finishes. Our average league position in the Premier League is 12.8th which given the restrictions placed on us by the Dell, the perennial harvesting of our best talent,  the infliction of messrs Branfoot, Wigley, Gray, Redknapp, Pellegrino and Puel, a financial meltdown and a self inflicted long term hiatus can truly be seen as a decent return.

In that time we’ve provided one of the most entertaining players ever to grace the modern game who dominated the goal of the season competition, continuously produced exciting young British talent who have become mainstays in the best league in the world, masterminded accumulator busting shocks, pulled off breathtaking great escapes in the face of impossible odds, won 8-0, consistently taken advantage of Liverpool’s desperation for a title, gambled on players and managers others wouldn’t, #greykitgate, and of course, gave the world the Ali Dia affair and mocked ourselves ever since.

Say what you like about Saints, but the Premier League is always richer with us in it than without. Always a conundrum, constantly written off, proudly representing South of London in the top flight.

The ‘Premier’ club on the South Coast in name and stature. How will the 20th Premier League campaign go? Who knows? With Saints we could easily be pushing for 7th or praying for 17th. The one thing that can be guaranteed, is that with the exception of 2016/17, it will never be boring.

Strap in & keep the faith!

World Cup 2018 – Meme’s, Dreams and Penalty Appeals

“I think people should recognise that I am also one of the best bloggers in the world and not just talk nonsense.”

For Southampton fans, this World Cup maybe best remembered as the time our Dejan Lovren schadenfreude went global. After the calamitous Croat made the ridiculous claim of being one of the best defenders in the world, you just kind of knew it would be followed by a 4th defeat in 4 finals for the hapless head wanderer.

I mean, the best defenders in the world don’t say in interviews ‘I’m one of the best defenders in the world. It’s the same as when a bloke in the pub says they used to be in the SAS. By the very nature of the fact that they are telling you… They weren’t.

We should have moved on from this Lovren hate to be honest, but the bloke doesn’t make it easy. The arrogance and delusion mixed with his prolific record of losing makes him a sitting duck for mockery.

Credit where it’s due though, he achieved something I didn’t think he could. He managed to have me cheering against a rather likeable Croatia team in favour of France. FRANCE. I wanted drastically overrated walking meme Paul Pogba to walkaway with a World Cup winners medal, trophy dab and all, more than I wanted to see glee on the face of little Luka Modric. Remarkable.

But what was better than one of the best defender’s in the world conceding four goals in the final?

The ‘It’s Coming Home’ Movement.

I, like many others lost faith in the England team a long time ago, and it’s difficult to describe what actually happened, but Harry Kane’s last minute winner against Tunisia seemingly turned everything on it’s head. I haven’t experienced English support like this since France ’98. Pubs in full swing, singing and a real sense of unison. The type of support was even different, less ‘Ten German Bombers’ and more Atomic Kitten.

On the pitch, we had players we could believe in again, and off it we had one of the greatest meme takeovers the internet has ever seen. The ‘It’s coming home’ memes were fantastic, and obviously only ever a subtle dig at ourselves, yet of course it was construed as arrogance by the ‘Anyone but England’ brigade. Divs.

We got to the semi final. That was far beyond our expectations, yet at that point you have to start believing you have a chance of winning it right? Arrogance again apparently.

Ultimately, football didn’t come home, but a restored sense of national pride did. It really was a fantastic few weeks to be a football supporter, even an English one.

Now when does the Premier League start?

THE WINNERS OF THE 2017/18 ALI’S! THE RESULTS ARE IN!

This is always one of the most fun and interesting times of the year for me. Reading through the voting forms is always a funny experience, and captures the melancholy/terrace humour of being a Saints fan perfectly.

Again, the response has been great, so thank you to everybody who took the time, especially after a torrid season.

Everyone associated with Saints covets one of these precious trophies*:-

And now we find out who has go their hands on one!

Here are YOUR winners…

Player of the Year

This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.

Scored points:- Nobody, Sam McQueen, Mario Lemina, Olufela Olomola. Jan Bednerak, Shane Long, Cedric, Manolo Gabbiadini, Wesley Hoedt, Les Reed, Fraser Forster, Mauricio Pellegrino, U15’s kid & The Kitman (<1%), Oriol Romeu, Sofiane Boufal & Jeremy Pied (1%), Ryan Bertrand, Matt Targett, Charlie Austin & Jack Stephens (2%), James Ward-Prowse (5%), Dusan Tadic (6%)

3rd Place:- Maya Yoshida (7%)

2nd Place:- Pierre Emile Høijbjerg (18%)

And the winner is…..with a dominant 46% of the points with his impressive displays in the run in of the season….

Most Improved Player

Received Votes:- Nathan Redmond & Fraser Forster (1%), Matt Targett & Maya Yoshida (3%), James Ward-Prowse (5%), Jack Stephens (8%)

3rd Place:- Alex McCarthy (15%)

2nd Place:- Jan Bednarek (17%)

And the winner is…..

Young Player of the Year

Received Votes:- Enzo Robise, Stuart Taylor, Did we play any kids?, James Ward-Prowse, Sam McQueen & Jake Vokins (2%), Michael Obafemi (4%), Matt Targett (5%),  Pierre Emile Høijbjerg (8%)

3rd Place:- Jan Bednarek (15%)

2nd Place:- Jack Stephens (21%)

And the winner is….

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Manolo Gabbiadini, David in Sweden, Whoever got rid of ‘My Way’, Jack Stephens, Jeremy Pied & Mauricio Pellegrino (1%), Nathan Redmond, Alex McCarthy, Dusan Tadic, Forbsey & Kelvin Davis (3%), Stuart Taylor, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, Jan Bednarek, Ryan Bertrand & Shane Long (4%), The Fans (7%)

3rd Place:- Cedric (9%)

2nd Place:- Pierre Emile Høijbjerg (14%)

And the winner is…..

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Sure for Men (2%), Wesley Hoedt, Guido Carrillo & All shit (3%), Quincy Promes (10%)

3rd Place:- Jan Bednarek (12%)

2nd Place:- Mark Hughes (30%)

And the winner is…..

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Gabbiadini v Swans (A), Boufal v WBA (H), van Dijk v Leicester (H), Team v Fulham (A), Team 1st 60 v Chelsea (H), Long v Swans (A) & Media Team Taylor Announcement (1%), McCarthy v Bournemouth (H) & Team v Bournemouth (H) (7%), Lemina v Palace (A) (10%)

3rd Place:- Tadic v Bournemouth (H) (12%)

2nd Place:- Team v Everton (H) (14%)

And the winner is…….Team v Swansea (A)

Goal of the Season

Received Votes:- Nathan Redmond & We scored? (1%), Boufal v West Ham (3%), Yoshida v Stoke (4%)

3rd Place:- Lemina v WBA (9%)

2nd Place:- Gabbiadini v Swansea (17%)

And the winner is…..for that ridiculous solo run and finish v WBA….

Comedy Moment sponsored by Marriott Hotels

Received Votes:- Bournemouth getting stage fright at St. Mary’s. Again., Pompey Owner publicly praising Gareth Bale’s South Coast development, Lemina’s air shot, Mark Hughes saying how nice the stay in Cardiff was, Ralph Krueger’s five pledges, Champion’s League final schadenfreude, Carrillo calling Pellegrino ‘The Master’, Summer Scouse meltdown over van Dijk, Liverpool’s public apology, Scoring four against Everton, Alonso’s challenge on Long, Mark Hughes marching the team to the Liberty, WBA Taxi chants, Swansea Ball Boy, There were three teams worse than us, Tadic striptease, Ralph Krueger saying Pellegrino is the perfect coach, Boufal’s sulk & Austin accepting McCarthy’s man of the match award (1%), Ralph Krueger’s interviews, Tadic’s celebration at 5-2 down, All the injury time goals conceded, The Watford handball & Puel beating us 4-1 (2%), Hoedt’s defending, Pellegrino’s claim about playing attacking football, Bertrand time wasting v Bournemouth & Signing Carrillo (4%), WBA defending v Boufal (7%)

3rd Place:- Hiring Pellegrino (8%)

2nd Place:- Swansea’s failed sabotage attempts (13%)

And the winner is….Pierre Emile Høijbjerg kicking Jack Stephens in the groin during his goal celebration at Wigan!

Best Opposition Team

Received Voted:- West Ham, Referees & Southampton A (2%), Watford (3%), Leicester (4%), Chelsea (7%)

3rd Place:- Spurs (11%)

2nd Place (becoming a habit):- Liverpool (22%)

And the winners are…..The Champions.

Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- John Moss, David de Gea, N’Golo Kante, Kenedy, Officials, Jack Cork & Mike Dean (1%), Raheem Sterling (3%), Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez & Harry Kane (4%), Eden Hazard (12%)

3rd Place:- Mo Salah (17%)

2nd Place:- Kevin de Bruyne (20%)

And the winner is…..

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Swansea & Liverpool (1%), Watford, WBA, Chelsea & Newcastle (3%), Wigan & Burnley (5%), Bournemouth (7%), Manchester United & Manchester City (8%)

3rd Place:- Leicester City (12%)

2nd Place:- Crystal Palace (16%)

And the winners are……Huddersfield Town!

Best Saints Related Tweeter

Received Votes:- Official Club Account, Shirley Mush, Nobody, Yershida, Lucy Highnett, TalkSaints, Swansea, ArchersRoadEnd, OilySailor, chrs00, Max Sopel, Rauschgiftsucht, benstanners, Liam Coward, Marriott Hotels, Billy Fingers (1%), DavidC00k, Tadic, Sam Dobson, Luke Osman, Simon Peach & SFC_Dellivery (3%) SaintsinFrance & crstig (6%)

3rd Place:- @mattletiss7 (12%)

2nd Place:- @AdamBlackmore (14%)

And the winner is……@L1minus10

Usually that would be the end of the Ali’s, but I realised today that i had forgotten to award the Ali Dia services to Southampton Award this year to mark the site’s 8th birthday. So to that end here is your winner (explanations not really necessary):-

The 2018 Ali Dia Services to Southampton Award goes to……

Gareth Bale.

So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted and massive congratulations to all the winners!.A big thank you to Alistair Downs for the Photoshop wizardry! Keep the faith!

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

Chris

*- There is no actual physical trophy. Soz.

 

2017/18 GWC.COM END OF SEASON AWARDS!

A difficult season for Saints, another decent cup run, but an undeniably disastrous league campaign that was almost fatal. But. It’s that time of year again and I have made the decision to do the awards anyway, if only due to the tough competition for comedy moment!

Forget the ‘official awards’  now it’s time for the only ones the real fans have any interest in! The Ali’s.

Who has stood out? Who will win one of these coveted trophies?

You decide.

If you want to have your say on who should be honoured, just fill out the following form, all votes will be anonymous and collated with the winners revealed at the end of the season!

For the ‘Player of the Year’ award, a winner vote get’s the player 2 points. A runner up vote gets them 1 point. The player with the highest combined total will get the ‘Ali’.

For previous winners see here:- Awards History

* – There is no actual physical trophy.

Chris

Have Saints found pragmatism too late? Or will Hughes Spark them into life?

So, the Saints board finally caught up with the rest of us and lost patience with the Argentine Branfoot and gave him his marching orders (#youmarchon) after the frankly diabolical display at Newcastle. Too little too late? Perhaps, but the last couple of days has felt like a fresh start, and for the first time in a long time there would appear to be hope.

Now he is gone, I wish Mr. Pellegrino no ill will, seems like a (too) nice bloke, just wildly out of his depth. I did ‘celebrate’ his sacking though, and I feel no guilt in doing so. This isn’t a bloke on £15k a year who has just been made redundant from the local factory as the result of some Tory inflicted austerity scheme, who now has to worry about how he pays his rent and feed his kids. This is a highly paid man (no doubt already comfortably off from his playing career) who showed incompetence from day one. Worse than that, he didn’t learn and was loyal to the end to his turgid style and failing system. What’s more he didn’t even have the decency to resign when it was plain to see he was taking us down. He will have received a handsome pay off for his trouble and will now be having a lovely holiday in a luxurious resort. With respect Mauricio, I wish you luck in your future endeavours, but I am glad you were fired, please don’t ever darken our door again.

This current Saints board had never been more under pressure. They left the sacking of el confundido far too late, he should have gone after the Leicester debacle and in not removing him sooner have left us staring into the abyss with a very difficult run in. This is self inflicted pressure, and meant the job of replacing him was not an easy one. You could argue the logic behind the appointments of both Pellegrino and Claude Puel, both were employed in pre-season, and both looked like long term options, sadly both failed. Employing someone with 8 games to save the season is a different kettle of fish altogether. Premier League experience is absolutely essential, we aren’t in a position to be letting someone learn as they go, and in Mark Hughes we got the best available.

While Pellegrino floundered on the touchline, it cannot escape attention that the players were not performing to their ability, and that may have been a question of motivation. What we have now in Hughes is someone who knows this league, knows how to organise a team and won’t accept dropping standards of his squad.

To those who I’ve seen complaining about the appointment, I always ask the same question? Who would you have brought in? You can rule out the currently employed. Why would they risk it, when they can wait until the end of the season and see if Saints are still interested, and more importantly what division they are in?

That leaves the unemployed, and risking someone without experience of the Premier League would be one risk too far. The current Saints board are 1 for 2 when it comes to appointing foreign first timers, 1 for 3 would be relegation and their own positions untenable.

Hughes’ record in the Premier League is decent, there is no doubt about that, and despite a poor spell at car crash club QPR and this season with Stoke he would firmly be considered a middle tier manager, and here’s a newsflash. We aren’t a middle tier club at the moment, we are lower tier and in danger of being out of the top flight.  Lest we forget, that in removing Hughes, Stoke have ended up with Paul Lambert. A fate worse than death in my opinion. The point is right now we don’t have a ‘project’ to sell to a fashionable foreign manager like we have had in the past, we are in a desperate situation. We should be grateful Hughes has put his reputation (never having been relegated) on the line for us.

Yesterday’s press conference gave everyone a lift. A football man, talking a good game and not the riddle messr’s Puel and Pellegrino gave us. We need grit and we need fight from our squad, they have the talent. Hughes is the man to get it.

It’s time for the fans to stop the infighting and the ‘woe is me’ attitude to go. This is what being a Saints fan is all about. We had it far to easy for far too long and we got comfortable and we got entitled and we got lazy. On Sunday Mark Hughes will start his reign with a trip to league one Wigan and the potential to take us to an FA Cup Semi-Final and as we know from last season once you get a semi anything can happen. Then it is 8 cup finals.

Get behind the manager, get behind the team and as always keep the faith.

With apologies to Madonna…

Steve Wigley and Poortvliet
Mark Wotte and Dave Bassett
Alan Pardew, Wilkins Dean
On the cover of a cheap fanzine.

Stuart Gray; Puel, Claude
Picture of a coaching fraud.
Paul Sturrock and Souness.
Pellegrino, what a mess.

They had no style, had no grace,
Harry Redknapp twitchy face.
Gorman, Wise, Sturrock too.
Ian Branfoot we hate you.

Manager’s without a clue.
Fellows that weren’t in the mood.
Don’t just stand there let’s get to it
Strike the pose there’s nothing to it.

Coach.

The Weekly Rannt: Ex Infatuations

Yesterday Saints beat Watford 1-0. Perhaps not the most inspiring or dominating victory, but a victory nonetheless, and passageway into the 5th round of the FA Cup.

I opened up Twitter this morning to see what the assembled masses had made of our performance, the manager’s tactical decisions, maybe even an honest appraisal of the striker that was promised and how he will save our season.

But no. The first so many tweets I saw were all melancholy teenage angst surrounding the performance of Jay Rodriguez for West Brom. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it was an impressive showing from the former Saints forward,  as he bagged a brace and duly put a van Dijk inspired (snigger) Liverpool defence to the sword and out of the cup, but should it be the primary focus of the Southampton support?

It’s an odd phenomenon amongst our fanbase, especially the social media wing of it that certain players are elevated to the status of deity when they move on.

If you read the words of our fans on twitter today, with no previous knowledge of Rodriguez and his time with Saints you would form the impression that he had left the club against it’s wishes on the back of a goalscoring season the likes of which could barely be believed. The reality of course is that he never looked the same after his horrific injury against Man City and scored just five league goals in the three and a bit years that followed it.

It’s called Jack Cork syndrome. Cork, like Rodriguez was a good player for Saints and a decent servant, but as the club moved on in terms of the quality of player it attracted his playing time reduced and at what was the right time for both him and the club he was moved on. Both Cork & Rodriguez went to clubs where they were more likely to play and neither pulled up any trees. Yet, every time they put in a decent shift for their new clubs, the Saints fans unite in their bemoaning of ‘the one that got away’ and how shortsighted the club were in letting them go.

The fact is the club have improved on both those players. Several times.

If you stop being blinkered and analysing one off games you will see that they aren’t actually being consistently brilliant for their new clubs either and there was a reason Saints let them go. Despite a considerably higher amount of game time for West Brom, Jay Rod has scored just four league goals for the Baggies, Austin has six for Saints in a third of the minutes on the pitch!

I don’t have an issue with still liking those players, or appreciating what they did in their time at the club, but do we need the constant outpouring of support every time they have a good game? We don’t put as much energy into supporting the players that are currently at the club!

I don’t know what it is about them that makes them so universally popular still, perhaps it is because they are clean cut young English lads? I don’t know. But the time for them to go was right.

Move on. They have.

Keep the faith.

 

Hello darkness, my old friend

Saints are 18th in the Premier League with fourteen games to go.

‘Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again.’

We’ve been here before. We hoped we’d never be here again, but the ever growing competitive nature of the Premier League means that for a number of reasons 2017/18 is one that will not sit comfortably in the memory whatever the outcome, unlikely FA Cup win aside.

Before I proceed I want to make my position clear. Were I in an executive position on the board of Southampton Football club Mauricio Pellegrino would be out of a job by now, in fact he’d have gone immediately after the frankly embarrassing Leicester thumping at St. Mary’s. Having said that I am prepared to accept that while his tactical naivety is the overwhelming factor in our current decline, it isn’t the only variable that has seen us slip into a relegation battle like it’s the mid-90’s.

But let’s start with the manager. Like it or not, the manager’s one and only remit really is to get results and he isn’t doing that. Saints have a habit of starting games well, which suggests he isn’t so tactically unaware, the problem seems to come once we are in front. His immediate thought process seems to be to stop what was working and settle for what we have. Sitting back and inviting pressure has only gone one way so far, three points have rapidly evaporated.

Great goal Sofiane, but we did discuss holding out for a point. So…

My other concern on the manager is his response to changes by the opposition or lack thereof. The Watford game is a perfect example of this. Saints were two goals to the good and comfortable against a side themselves in disarray, but their introduction of Troy Deeney changed the dynamic and Saints were on the back foot. We didn’t react (one like for like sub in the 63rd minute) and although there was a huge element of fortune in the Hornet’s equaliser, it had been coming and their reading of the situation meant they gained a point, our misunderstanding of it meant we dropped two.

We have won just four league games all season, and barring an element of fortune against West Ham, a Forster masterclass at Selhurst Park and a moment of individual Boufal brilliance it could so easily be one. I know it’s not as simple as that, and we could analyse our draws and defeats and make a case for where we deserved more, but the fact of the matter is, our only truly convincing league win this season was a home thrashing of Everton, who themselves were in free-fall (something they have rectified with a new manager).

But. I think we have to accept that the manager isn’t going, if there was any chance he was under scrutiny by the board then surely they’d have made their move by now? So assuming it isn’t coming then we have to look at what else is going wrong.

I’ve seen many question the qualities of the squad, but to me this is poppycock and a compelling argument as to why the manager has failed. This is not a bottom three squad. No way. I will argue that with anyone. We have a better and more talented group of players than 5 or 6 clubs currently above us in the league. Is it as strong as it was in previous seasons, no I don’t think it is, but departures have weakened it, not destroyed it completely.

We do have an issue with a lack of depth. An injury to Charlie Austin (given his history, something that shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise) and our already lacking goals scored column becomes almost non-existent. A caveat to this though is that we do have a talented striker not getting game time? If we go down with Manolo Gabbiadini as unused sub we’ll be a laughing stock.

The same could be said for Mario Lemina. The lad looks like a real talent yet seems to be out of favour, if you add Sofiane Boufal to the mix that is three of our better players getting splinters.

The mis-use of Steven Davis is frustrating to see also. For me Davis is a consistently good performer in a Saints shirt, if he is played as part of the support three. He isn’t a defensive midfielder, and always plays poorly when asked to be one. The fact that he has been used there when Romeu, Lemina and Hojbjerg are available is baffling to say the least.

Decent. Team.

Football isn’t rocket science. Play your best players, and in the position they are most suited to play.

The biggest factor and the one that is effecting everybody is ‘the fear’.

‘And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains.’

There is a trepidation amongst the players, coaching staff and fans alike that is worrying to say the least, and the capitulations from winning positions reek of 2004/05 and the last time we dropped out of the top flight.

The atmosphere on and off the pitch is the same now as it was then. As most of you will know my physical presence at games is limited now due to my living abroad, but I did have the ‘pleasure’ of being at the Huddersfield game. Again Saints led and looked comfortable, but the Terriers equaliser was met with ‘the fear’, and we might consider ourselves lucky to have come away with a point. Immediately the players heads dropped and the attitude of the crowd changed, like the outcome was now a foregone conclusion.

Overcoming ‘the fear’ will be key to our survival this season, and that is where the crowd plays it’s part. We are Southampton, this isn’t our first relegation battle. We have to draw on that experience, and those of us who, like me, were there for the regular anxiety of the 90’s will tell you that one of the reasons we were very good at getting out of it was the backing of the crowd.

Nobody wanted to come to the Dell in that situation because the crowd backed it’s players and got on top of the opposition and we have to make sure St. Mary’s is the same. Especially when we entertain those around us. It’s all very well getting up for Spurs, but just like the players, we as fans have to take the same attitude into games against Brighton etc.

And please. Get off Nathan Redmond’s back. A promising player who was recognised by England looks a shell of his former self, and some of the abuse he has received while other under-performers seemingly get off scot-free is frankly disgusting.

I know it’s frustrating to watch at times, but to a point you are stuck with the manager and the players, so back them. Save your discontent for the end of the season come what may.

As fans our input is only vocal but it is important. Don’t let the players be faced with the sound of silence.

Keep the faith.