The Great Wall: Fraser Forster the not so lowdown

Well, it wasn’t quite as draw out a transfer saga as the ‘Victor Wanyama Episode’ last summer, but with Celtic’s Champion’s League reprieve it began to feel like it would never happen, but he is here and I think everyone involved is relieved!

Welcome to St. Mary’s Fraser Forster!

Linking up again with Goalkeeping coach Dave Watson from the England setup, Forster has built a formidable record as Celtic goalkeeper, breaking records along the way and now the stopper ranks at Saints look to have far more depth.

As is now tradition I spoke to those who know more about him than me and caught up with Celtic blogger Stephen Taylor from Drop of the Shoulder and Norwich City fan and Club Metro colleague Gary Gowers from My Football Writer to get the not so low (he’s 6’7″) down.

What can you tell us about Forster from his time with your club?

ST ‘Fraser has developed into a top goalkeeper during his time in Glasgow. He arrived at Celtic from Newcastle in the summer of 2010, initially on loan, having just been awarded the Norwich Players’ Player of the Year award the previous season (coming second in the Supporters’ award), and claimed the Macron Golden Gloves Award for keeping the highest number of clean sheets in League One, 18 in 38 appearances.At just 22 years old, some fans, myself included, were a bit wary that our new number one had played just one full season of first team football, especially with it being in League One. However, Forster displayed his capabilities that year, keeping 24 clean sheets from 44 appearances in all competitions. At times he looked his age though, he seemed quiet for a goalkeeper, often afraid to come off his line to claim the ball, and while he was a giant of a man, standing at 6 ft 7 in, he did not possess the commanding physique that he does now.In his second season with Celtic, again on loan from Newcastle, he continued in much the same vein, a very impressive shot stopper, this time earning 26 clean sheets from 47 games, but still culpable to high balls into the box.It wasn’t until Fraser was signed on a permanent basis in 2012 that I believe he really began to fulfil his potential. I don’t know whether it was the added confidence that being trusted with a four year deal had given him, or if it was merely because he had spent the past two seasons as Celtic’s number 1, but Forster seemed to have much more of a presence about him. The SPL is obviously the bread and butter of a Celtic players’ season, but it is the Champions League nights that the fans really crave, and this was where Forster stepped up to the plate. As fourth seeds in the group stage, and being drawn against Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow, we had no right to qualify for the Last 16, and without Forster in goal we would have had no chance. His performance in the famous 2-1 win over Barcelona at Celtic Park was inspired. He was like a man possessed with the Spanish press labelling him “La Gran Muralla” or “The Great Wall”. Messi and co. could not believe their luck as Forster denied them again and again. The stats from the game read that Barcelona had 14 shots on target, the fact that Fraser only finally succumbed to a stoppage time Lionel Messi rebound having pulled off yet another great save tells you all you need to know about his performance that day. It wasn’t just in the victory over Barcelona that Forster showed his class though. I was at both the Nou Camp and the Estadio da Luz for our away fixtures against Barca and Benfica where Fraser kept us in both games, almost clinching us a famous point in the Nou Camp with another majestic display.The season just past was not a great one for Celtic. We were outclassed and embarrassed at times in the Champions League, yet in that competition Forster was still our one shining light. Our solitary victory came at home to Ajax and once again Forster earned us that 3 points with some big saves, including a late one v one with the Ajax man looking certain to score.

In the league Forster kept a Scottish record 13 clean sheets in a row, culminating in 1256 minutes, just 55 short of Edwin van der Saar’s all-time UK record. I know people may think it is easy to keep clean sheets playing for Celtic, especially since Rangers demise has left the SPL a one team league, but if you have seen us play over recent years you will have noted how ropey our defending is at times, and on numerous occasions it has been left to Forster to bail them out.’

GG ‘Top goalkeeper. He was at City, on loan from Newcastle, during the 2009/10 season and was brilliant. Paul Lambert had a dabble in trying to keep him but, at that time, him and Tim Krul were vying for the no 1 shirt at St James’.Eventually they decided Krul was the man but by then John Ruddy had been acquired from Everton to be City’s no 1, and Fraser disappeared north of the border.But the ghost of Forster remained for some time and coupled with Ruddy’s slow start here, many fans yearned for Fraser – which was never going to happen.He’s still remembered very fondly in these parts.’

Does he have any particular strengths and weaknesses we should be aware of?

ST ‘Forster is a great shot stopper. He will always save the shots he should be saving, and more often then not pull out one of his giant paws to stop what had seemed a certain goal. He is also very good in one on one situations. I have countless memories of Fraser staying big to out fox the striker as they bare down on goal. Another major strength is he seems to rise to the occasion. The big games are when you can count on Forster to turn up. The Spanish press have been so impressed with him, in what seem to be our yearly meetings with Barcelona, that as well as dubbing him “La Gran Muralla” they also awarded him with the “El Oscar” award last season, which is a weekly prize given to a footballer for outstanding contribution to their team. I would also say Forster is very good at saving penalties. It seemed as though we waited about two years for him to save one, yet since then I can barely remember the ball going past him from the spot. In fact, even though we were granted a 3-0 victory over Legia Warsaw in the second leg of our Champions League qualifier following their fielding of a suspended player (thank you UEFA!), we would still have gone out were it not for Forster saving one of two missed penalties from Legia in the first game. Remember what I said about being a man for the big occasion?Regarding weaknesses, Forster still can be susceptible to crosses into the box, especially a quick, whipped in delivery, although I am not sure what goalkeepers are good at dealing with them. His kicking can also be a weakness at times. Since he first joined Celtic it is clear that he has been trained to use both feet when clearing the ball, often alternating between left and right foot for goal kicks. The only problem is where they go, when he strikes them cleanly he can send them to the opposite end of the field without any problems, and at times they can be pin point, but on the odd occasion with a striker chasing him down he has been known to scuff a clearance straight into the path of an opposing player. The worst part is it seems that once he has done a few poor clearances he can lose his head and begin lashing waywardly at the ball.’

GG ‘His all-round game is excellent and, as you would expect of someone of his stature, he commands his penalty area superbly. He is also a brilliant shot stopper. The only weakness I can recall is his kicking off the ground, which was a bit wayward. I’d expect that to have been rectified by now.’
Friends Reunited.

Friends Reunited.

Despite England recognition, having spent the majority of the career in the SPL, some are worried he might not have been tested. Do you think he is ready for the Premier League?

ST ‘Without a shadow of a doubt. As I have said previously, Forster rises to the occasion. He seems to relish the added pressure that the big games bring and I believe he will step up to the increased quality of opposition he will be facing without too much difficulty at all. I have witnessed him produce incredible displays against the best teams in the world over the past two seasons so have no worries about his ability to perform in the Premier League. If anything his worst displays at Celtic have come in games were he has not been involved much and has appeared disinterested or bored. ‘

GG ‘I don’t have even the slightest hesitation that he’s ready for the Premier League. In my view he was ready for the PL four seasons ago. If he pitches up at St Mary’s he’ll be brilliant. You’ll love him and wonder why he’s been so overlooked by England for so long.’

What have you made of Saints’ turbulent summer?

ST ‘I have felt for Southampton fans this summer. As a Celtic supporter I know all about what it’s like to lose your star players. The difference with Southampton though, is it appears you are going to reinvest the money you have brought in. Tadic and Taider look promising, exciting young players, and I believe Forster will be a great signing for you (does this mean we can have Boruc back?) As long as you continue to replace quality with quality I believe you will continue to progress.It was a shame to see Pochettino leave for Spurs but in Ronald Koeman you have a great footballing man who has managed some top clubs and won trophies along the way. I also have big expectations for another of your ex-Celtic contingent, Victor Wanyama, this year. I know he didn’t set the world alight last season, but fit and on form he can control a midfield with his sheer strength; I have witnessed him bully Xavi and Iniesta with my own eyes. You must continue to replace the key men you have lost, if you do that then I don’t see why it can’t be another great year for Southampton. ‘

GG ‘I really feel for you. To lose a couple is understandable for clubs the size of ours, but when it turns into a mass exodus that hurts. But Koeman is a shrewd operator and I expect him to spend the money wisely even if it’s occasionally on players you’ve barely heard of!To coin a phrase, you really have been victims of your own success but, if nothing else, it’ll make the visit of Liverpool a tasty one. I hope you batter them.’
 
Club & Country colleagues.

Club & Country colleagues.

There has been talk of Virgil van Dijk making the move from Celtic Park to Saints to. Has there been much talk at your end?

ST ‘Yes, there’s been a lot of talk in the Scottish press and the gossip column’s regarding van Dijk’s potential move to Southampton. He is one player I really do not want to see leave. van Dijk is a classy ball-playing centre half who alongside Forster and Commons stood out like a sore thumb in the SPL last season. He is young and hungry, and after being snubbed by van Gaal for the dutch World Cup squad I can see him leaving in order to gain international recognition. I just hope we can keep him for another year. If he is to go this summer though I suppose I wouldn’t mind seeing him joining Boruc, Forster and Wanyama on the south coast. I guess we owed you some good ones after Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox.’

There has been talk of Nathan Redmond making the move from Carrow Road to Saints to. Has there been much talk at your end?

GG ‘Hands off! Redmond has potential to be a fantastic player, although he’s a little way off at the moment. His final ball and decision making still need work, but the raw materials are there for a future England player.He’s a little like Raheem Sterling in his playing style but probably a year or two behind him in terms of his development.If he does come to St Mary’s he’ll both frustrate you and have you on the edge of your seat. He’s that type of player, but will one for day go on to play for a top six side in my opinion.’

So there we have it! Another new face at St. Mary’s and finally it would seem we have competition for the number one spot!
Chris

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GUEST POST: What would Fraser Forster bring to Southampton?

‘With lot’s of incoming transfer speculation surrounding Saints at the moment (and not a moment too soon) I thought it might be interesting to see what the rumoured new boy could bring to our squad. Thanks to Matthew Harris from Betfair for this guest contribution.’ – Chris

What would Fraser Forster bring to Southampton?

Reports emerging in the last few days suggest that Saints are ready to battle with Benfica for the signature of England goalkeeper Fraser Forster. The 26 year old has been with Celtic since 2010, signing permanently in 2012 after an initial loan period and he came to prominence last season after setting an SPL record for the longest period without conceding a goal.

Any full England international would be a welcome addition to the Southampton squad but does Ronald Koeman stand a chance of landing the player and what would he bring to St Mary’s?

A stable option?

Southampton are priced at 11/1 with Betfair for a top six finish at the end of 2014-15 but if we are to crash the European places, a consistent and injury free custodian is one of Koeman’s main priorities. Artur Boruc may be a controversial figure as far as other clubs are concerned but he quickly becomes a fans’ favourite with his respective employers. The main issue with the Pole is his appearances and a number 1 would preferably play more than 50 league games out of a possible 76 over two seasons.

Contrast that record with the clubs who finished just ahead of Southampton last season. Spurs, Everton and Manchester United all have reliable stoppers in Hugo Lloris, Tim Howard and David de Gea and their near ever-presence is a positive factor for each side.

No-one can guard against a freak injury but the first thing that Fraser Forster should bring to Southampton is a consistent option behind the back four.

Is Fraser Forster heading to St. Mary's?

Is Fraser Forster heading to St. Mary’s?

Quality

Forster’s record breaking exploits last season provide some remarkable statistics. The 26 year old claimed no less than 13 consecutive clean sheets and an incredible 1256 minutes without conceding before Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes finally found a way past him.

Naturally, any detractors will be quick to point out that the Scottish Premier League doesn’t contain quite the same threat that the English version will pose, should Forster make the switch. That may be a valid point but 13 clean sheets is an amazing achievement, no matter where the games are played.

So Fraser Forster would bring consistency and an improvement in technical ability to St Mary’s but what are Koeman’s chances of landing him?

The Contenders

Benfica are thought to have been monitoring Forster for at least a year now and have previously been warned by Celtic against tapping up their player. This summer, the Portuguese giants are expected to make it official with a £6m bid and there are obvious temptations in playing with such a prestigious club in a pleasant climate.

Southampton have at least two advantages here: Firstly, having made in excess of £60m in player sales already, the transfer fee should not be an issue. In fact, if it gets down to a bidding war, Koeman would, in theory, have money to work with.

The second factor may be the most crucial one however as Forster looks to build on his two England caps and potentially replace Joe Hart as Roy Hodgson’s first choice. In Portugal he would, in all probability, escape the manager’s radar but at St Mary’s he would be in front of Hodgson and his managerial team on a weekly basis.

Ironically, Artur Boruc praised Forster when he was named in England’s 2014 World Cup squad.

“I still watch Celtic games on TV so I saw him in the Champions League and I can see he is a good keeper. I’m not surprised he has been selected,” he said.

In a short space of time they could be joining up at St Mary’s and surely that would be good news for all Saints Fans?

Matthew Harris

The Winners of the 2013/14 Ali’s! The Results are in!

So that is the end of another fantastic season following Saints! No season would be officially over though 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 for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.

Scored points:- Rickie Lambert (< 1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jose Fonte (<1%), Artur Boruc (<1%), Nathaniel Clyne (<1%), Morgan Schneiderlin (2%), Jack Cork (5%), Steven Davis (6%), Luke Shaw (7%).

3rd Place:- Dejan Lovren (13%)

2nd Place:- Jay Rodriguez (18%)

And the winner, making it a clean sweep in all Player of the Season awards, and about to find out for certain that he is off to Brazil! With a whopping 46% of the points……Adam Lallana!

Finally! Lallana has an Ali!

Finally! Lallana has an Ali!

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 voted for those who improved over the course of the campaign.

Received Votes:- Whole Squad, Victor Wanyama. Sam Gallagher, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jack Cork, Dejan Lovren, Steven Davis, Luke Shaw.

3rd Place:- Calum Chambers (11%)

2nd Place:- Jose Fonte (31%)

And the winner, retaining the same award that he one last season, after a fantastic season in which he finished top scorer. With 37% of the votes…..Jay Rodriguez!

Two times winner! Jay Rodriguez!

Two times winner! Jay Rodriguez!

Young Player of the Year

A new award this season, though why, considering how good this club’s youth system is, I haven’t done it before is beyond me!

Received Votes:- Harrison Reed

3rd Place:- James Ward-Prowse & Sam Gallagher (2% each)

2nd Place:- Calum Chambers (15%)

And the winner, having broken into the England squad in time for the World Cup and turning the heads of the big clubs, it could only be. With 80% of the votes….Luke Shaw!

Shaw-ly off to Brazil?

Shaw-ly off to Brazil?

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Mauricio Pochettino, Guly, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Morhan Schniederlin, Victor Wanyama.

3rd Place:- Jose Fonte (7%)

2nd Place:- Jack Cork (17%)

And the winner is, after a season in which he has proved crucial to the way Saints play. With 60% of the votes…..Steven Davis!

sdavis

Signing of the Season

2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (8%)

And the winner with a ridiculous 92% of the votes is the ever dependable centre half and absolute bargain ant £8.5 million….Dejan Lovren!

dlovren

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Team v Everton (h), Team v Man City (h), Team v Arsenal (h), Team v Fulham (a), Team v Hull (h), Pochettino’s season, Wanyama v WBA (a), Lovren v Liverpool (a), Back Four all season, Clyne v Everton (h), Schneiderlin v Arsenal (h), Team v Man Utd (a), Lallana v Newcastle (h), Team v Palace (a), Team v Fulham (h), Guly v Yeovil, The Groundsmen, Chambers v Man City (h).

3rd Place:- Lallana v Hull (h) (9%)

2nd Place:- Team v Newcastle (h) (22%)

And the winner is, a memorable day early in the season in which a team that hammered plenty this season were made to look very ordinary. With 29% of the votes……Team v Liverpool at Anfield!

Anfield celebrations

The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment

It says everything about the gallows humour of being a Saints fan that this award always comes with most varied answers. Brace yourselves….

Received Votes:- #Scarfgate, Boruc’s headstand against Arsenal, Linesman missing David Silva offside at Man City, Jason Puncheon’s poo break (last season but still funny to someone), Pochettino’s interview after Man City, #lovrenlive tweets, Hooiveld & Fox v Spurs, Boat capsizing in the Thames at HT v Fulham, Pochettino’s interview after Everton game, Newcastle fans video after St. Mary’s mauling, Jack Wilshire bouncing off Wanyama, MELTDOWN, Asimir Begovic Goal at Stoke, Dani Osvaldo, Dani Osvaldo on the touchline at Newcastle, Training nutmeg videos, Ref getting slapped in the face at Newcastle, Lovren’s injured testicles, Rodriguez scoring on his arse at Palace, Boruc and the waterbottle (again last season), Lambert’s goal v Swansea, Paul Lambert claiming Villa deserved their victory at St. Mary’s, Fulham, Mark Clattenburg (take your pick), Lovren’s tweet about Peter Crouch, Americans watching Saints because of Jozy Altidore, Villa fans ‘We pay your benefits’, Toni Jiminez kicking off, Lambert’s miss at Sunderland, Team selection for FA Cup at Sunderland, Masks at Swansea, Schneiderlin dumping Yaya Toure on his arse, Lovren getting spanked.

2nd Place:- Wanyama’s disallowed goal celebration against Swansea & Everton’s double O.G. at St. Mary’s (Both 12%).

And the winner, with 24% of the votes, not so funny at the time but hard not see the amusing die now…..Artur Boruc’s ‘Cruyff turns’ at Arsenal!

dia-awards-Boruc

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton, Sunderland.

3rd Place:- Arsenal (5%)

2nd Place:- Liverpool (31%)

And the winner is, the only team that outplayed Saints twice this season. With 57% of the votes……Chelsea!

willian

Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Nathan Redmond (Norwich City), Oscar (Chelsea), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Willian (Chelsea), David Elliott (Newcastle United), Officials, Emmanuel Adebayor (Spurs), David Silva (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jussi Jaskeleinan (West Ham United), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Nathan Dyer (Swansea City), Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Fabio Borini (Sunderland), Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham), Yaya Toure (Manchester City).

3rd Place:- Fernando Torres (Chelsea) (6%)

2nd Place:- Eden Hazard (Chelsea) (20%)

And the winner is, the man everybody loves to hate but is simply an unbelievable footballer. With 22% of the votes…Luis Suarez!

He missed out on the title, but this is some consolation!

He missed out on the title, but this is some consolation!

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Newcastle United, Swansea City, Hull City, Manchester City, Portsmouth (?), Fulham, Arsenal, Sunderland, None stood out, Everton, Yeovil Town, Manchester United, Don’t Care, Spurs, Norwich City, Burnley, West Ham.

3rd Place:- Cardiff City & Chelsea (6% each)

2nd Place:- Liverpool (16%)

And the runaway winners and certainly my choice after their constant and varied noise at St. Mary’s. With 42% of the votes…Crystal Palace!

palacefans

Best Saints related Tweeter

As always this award is just a bit of fun and plenty of people vote for themselves!

Received votes:- crstig, James Price, Sridout92, Jim Lucas, mgnsnddn_, Dejan Lovren, dictateplay, danbsfc, Luke Shaw, Artur Boruc, Max_Sopel, Radhi Jaidi, TalkSaints,Matthew Le Tissier, TractorSaint, jamie_benjamin1, Saints Media Team, BigAdamSport, TacoAli, Kelly Mauger, Saints News&Views, L1minus10, uglyinside, gulydopradonaat, Mike1617, SamDobson1, saintsfc, Not going to blow smoke up your arse, Sirvoodoo, SaintsArg, Me, SaintsRelated, MatthewLeGod, Most are mongs, You’re all miserable, Glasgow_Saints, Victor Wanyama, Rich Robertson, markreeves999, Anyone but Chris Rann.

3rd Place:- Club’s Official Account (7%)

2nd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)

And the winner is with 9% of the votes the Peter Crouch of the Saints micro-blogging fraternity….@ConnorArmstrong!

S0 that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted. A big thank you to Dan Tiller for the Photoshop wizardry! It’s been a great season! Here’s to a great summer watching more Saints boys than ever competing at a major tournament and then it will be time to look forward to another campaign following the South Coast’s top club!

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

Chris

10 games in…

Over the summer I was privileged enough to be invited to be a beta tester for a new football scouting website Inscouts.com. The idea is that users having watched any game across the European Leagues & Champion’s League can login and rate the players out of six (six the highest) provoking discussion and opinion on the performances of individuals.

As part of the testing, I have been rating players in every game I watch which of course includes all of Saints Premier League games so I thought I would use the average scores to see just how well I (and the other Inscouts beta users) have thought Saints players have been doing…

Artur Boruc:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.10

Nathaniel Clyne:- Games – 8 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4

Dejan Lovren:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4.58

Jose Fonte:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.8

Luke Shaw:- Games – 8 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4.4

Callum Chambers:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 4.3 Lowest Rating – 3.5 Rating – 3.8

Danny Fox:- Games – 2 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.35

Dejan Lovren - Standout defender.

Dejan Lovren – Standout defender.

Morgan Schneiderlin:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.1

Victor Wanyama:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.1

Steven Davis:- Games – 6 Highest Rating – 4.3 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.75

Adam Lallana:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 4 Average Rating – 4.52

James Ward-Prowse:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.5 Average Rating – 4.19

Jack Cork:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 3.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.46

Gaston Ramirez:- Games – 5 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.42

Captain leading by example this season.

Captain leading by example this season.

Rickie Lambert:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.9

Jay Rodriguez:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.8

Dani Osvaldo:- Games – 7 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.9

Guly do Prado:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 3.3 Average Rating – 3.7

The thing that immediately jumps out with these ratings is that not a single Saints player thus far, has been seen to be playing below average. As far as I am aware I am the only Saints fan to be beta testing the site, and one of very few English supporters, so it gives a good reflection on what fans from Germany, France, Italy etc. are making of us.

I will update this again after 20 games and see who has improved or dropped off.

Chris

Mad About the Bhoy….

So, it’s been a saga, it’s been painful and it’s caused friction between clubs, representatives and fans, but barring a medical disaster it would seem Celtic’s Kenyan international midfielder Victor Wanyama will become a Saint in the next 48 hours. The Chairman looks to have won his battle with the agents and MoPo looks to have secured his second signing.

With a fee believed to be around £12 million, Saints fans will expect a lot from a player Celtic fans told us was too good to ever play for us.

I caught up with Joseph Ruddy from Celtic Journal to get the lowdown on the big man.

We are hearing great things about Wanyama, but from someone who has seen him week in/week out for the last 2 years, just how good is he?

‘In one word? Phenomenal. What a fantastic individual he is, he bosses the midfield, he makes that position his. Before we signed Wanyama, we had Kayal playing in his position (playing the best football he has for Celtic), and then Wanyama basically came in and said “this position is mine, sorry Kayal”. He is one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe at the moment, without question.

Seeing him week in week out he was always a standout performer. He is good in the air, he has unreal strength for his age, and he has some shot on him from long distance. We now have a huge hole in our team, something in which Southampton will have when he moves on again.’

Where will he fit into the Southampton team, and what are his greatest strengths and weaknesses?

‘Wanyama will play from game number one for Southampton. He will literally walk into the team and it will kill off another’s chances. I know coming from a Celtic fan, I will ‘big’ him up, but I’m being as honest as I can here with all bias comments aside. Victor has many strengths and very little weaknesses. His strength and aggression are certainly standouts. Honestly, once you see him play you will be shocked at the strength he has. He is good in the air, has a good bit of pace about his and he is a very determined player. When he wants to play, he will play. He is good at marking and picking up his man. His work rate is second to none and he even has a bit of dribbling ability! I’d probably say his main strengths are his stamina and leadership.

We’d have been lost in some games without his leadership. He has shot power, which is good for long range efforts. His long throw ins are another strength. Weaknesses? I’m struggling here to name any, but every player has them. His concentration? Sometimes he looked miles away in games, as if he wasn’t interested. Other than that, I can’t honestly name anymore!’

Our game is all about possession and I have heard Wanyama isn’t the best on the ball. Should that be a major worry?

‘This is a tricky question. Wanyama is extremely good at the short range passing, sort of Barca passing style, but his long range passing is woeful. Obviously I’m a bit lacking in knowledge of what sort of style Southampton play, but if it is to try and replicate that of Barca then you have nothing to worry about. If it is long ball possession play, then yeah, you won’t get very much contribution from Wanyama here! Possession is usually always about the short direct passes anyway, so you have nothing to worry about.’

Victor grabs the right move at last?

Victor grabs the right move at last?

Celtic fans have reacted negatively to this move as they see it as a step down. Is this a mark of his popularity or a misunderstanding of Saints ambition?

‘If there is one Celtic fan out there who is angry at Victor Wanyama moving to Southampton because of his popularity among us, then he is no fan of Celtic. Wanyama will always be thought of very highly among Celtic fans, even though his spell was somewhat short. That’s nobody’s fault though, none of us knew just how good he would turn out to be. I’d say it’s down to the misunderstanding of Southampton’s ambition. I’ve heard a lot of fans mentioning this, but look at QPR last season! I’m not for one minute saying the same will happen at Southampton, but it’s always something to keep in mind when buying significantly in the transfer market.’

On the flipside some Saints fans are worried about paying such a price (a Scottish record) for an SPL player as often they flop in the Premier League. Fair point or overly negative view of the SPL?

100% overly negative view towards the SPL. Often players move to England from Celtic, or any club in Scotland in that matter. I think I can honestly say though that it’s not down to ‘winning a better league’ or ‘doing well in England’. It’s chasing the wage. Every player does it now; they are more interested in the wage on offer than what trophies they could win. It’s the sad day and age we are in at the moment. You only have to look at Falcao to confirm this.’

We have a growing army of Ex-Bhoys now, will there be any soft spots developing for Saints with Boruc and Wanyama likely to be regular starters?

‘You’ve forgotten Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox! Truth be told, I like to see how all ex Celtic players are getting on. There’s a frightening amount of ex-players going around the now who’ve been at Celtic. Wigan, Southampton and Aberdeen are the main suspects, and then you have Swansea with Ki. I must admit, I like to watch Swansea play more than anyone elsein England, the football they play is outstanding! But back to the point, yeah not just myself but all Celtic fans will always keep a lookout for ex-players. Whenever one scores we go mental about it on Twitter! I’d like to quickly touch on one of your players, Luke Shaw. I love this boy, a wonderful left back with bags of potential. I predict a move to Arsenal next year!’

So there we have it, all in all this looks to be an extremely positive signing for Saints, and one that I get the feeling will become a fans favourite pretty quickly!

All eyes on the official twitter account tomorrow!

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

2012/2013 GWC.com End of Season Awards!

As we approach the end of another season, it is time to highlight those who have stood out in what has been a rollercoaster first season back in the Premier League (hopefully the first of many)….

Who will win one of our coveted ‘Ali’s’?*

One of the coveted 'Ali's'. Who will get there hands on one?

One of the coveted ‘Ali’s’. Who will get there hands on one?

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!

* – There is no actual physical trophy. This site is non-profit and always being sued by photographers. Sorry.

Chris

Good Friday, Very Good Saturday…

Now I’m not a religious man, I consider myself a man of science and logic, but when you support a club that was formed from a young men’s church association, their ground is called St. Mary’s, their nickname is the Saints, were graced for a years by ‘Le God’ and now they even have a ‘Holy Goalie’, you begin to wonder if divine intervention has ever helped our cause.

Holy Goalie - Good with crosses.

Holy Goalie – Good with crosses.

The Easter weekend is upon us, and Saints welcome European Champions Chelsea to St. Mary’s and it got me thinking. The Easter bank holiday fixtures are a tradition in English football and with Saints christian links, surely this is a fruitful time of year for the club?

And, actually, it is.

I had a look at Saints Easter weekend fixtures over the last 10 seasons (please don’t research their Easter results prior to this period, they are very dull and irrelevant) and found quite a remarkable success rate.

Saints record since the 02/03 season on Easter Weekend actually reads:- P – 10 W – 7 D – 2 L – 1 Pts – 23 GF – 17 GA – 9. You actually have to go as far back as 2004 to find the only defeat, a 1-3 reverse at Middlesbrough. Two of Boro’s goals came from devout Catholics Juninho and Massimo Maccarone. Coincidence?

Last season Saints hosted bitter rivals Pompey on Easter weekend, which accounts for one of the two draws, David Norris stealing a point deep into injury time. Religious people tell me that ‘God moves in mysterious ways’, and there wasn’t much more mysterious than that.

BS

Billy, shall I put a picture of Norris’ goal in?

In the previous season, Saints fans will remember Jose Fonte’s winner at the Withdean, and then Saints made it a 6 point double header with victory over Hartlepool in the same weekend. What’s that readers? That means that in one of the previous seasons we can’t have had an Easter weekend fixture? That’s right we didn’t, 2005/05 the Premier League relegation season. Punishment for having Judas Iscariot himself at the helm? (One of Judas’s main weaknesses seemed to be money (John 12:4–6).)

Fonte christens the net.

Fonte christens the net.

So are Rafa Benitez’ Chelsea ready to be crucified tomorrow? Are we going to see the second coming of the messiah (in my mind this will be presented to us in the form of a Guly do Prado finish)? Can Saints peform a miracle?

Who knows, with God as our co-pilot anything can happen and probably will.

Happy Easter to all of our readers from everyone at georgeweahscousin.com!

Chris

Never Mind The Turnstiles, Here’s The Bloggers…

Seeing as Saints cleverly thought ahead, and knowing that Mauricio Pochettino’s impending high pressing game was going to require some serious energy, rolled over for Chelsea and got themselves a rest this weekend, I thought I would tackle some general Saints worries and get the feelings of the other great Saints bloggers out there.

No matter how well things are going for Saints we can always find something to worry about, it’s in our nature, so this is a mixture of positives and negatives…

Thanks to all the Saints bloggers for taking the time to answer these questions! They are, in no particular order Ali Iveson from Saints Corner, Glen de la Cour from League One Minus 10, Sean Gonzalez-Lambert from And It’s All Southampton FC , Will Turner from OWhentheSaints, Ben Stanfield from The South Coast Brazil, Sam Dobson from The Saints Hub and Edward Kilby from SFC Player Stats.

How long have you been supporting Saints?

AI – ’12 years.’ GdlC – ’44 years.’ SGL – ’14 years.’ WT –  ’16 years.’ BS – ’28 years.’  SD – ’16 years.’ EK – ’15 years.’

How long have you been blogging about Saints?

AI – ‘2 years.’ GdlC – ‘3 and a half years.’ SGL – ‘1 year.’ WT –  ‘3 years.’ BS – ‘5 years.’  SD – ’18 months.’ EK – ‘7 months.’

How has the season been so far by your standards and expectations?

AI – ‘Not quite as well as I’d expected.’

GdlC – ‘It’s about how I expected in terms of league position.  We are playing better football than I expected though.’

SGL – ‘I think this season has been a pretty decent showing in our return to the Premier League. Our first 10 fixtures didn’t help us. However, the players have coped with the demands of the top flight and we have shown everyone that we can compete against England’s elite. I would have expected us to have a few more points though.’

WT – ‘I’d say as expected. Expected us to be battling relegation and we are.’

BS – ‘I think, as expected by most, Saints are in a relegation battle with 17th being the minimum target for the end of the season. They have however shown throughout the season (except Arsenal away) that they can compete with anyone in the league, home or away, but the amount of points thrown away from winning positions has been both regular and disappointing.’

SD – ‘We’re about where I thought we’d be. I did think we’d pick up a few more points at the start, even with that awful run of fixtures, but our recent form has made up for that somewhat. I didn’t expect anything other than a struggle to be honest, so as long as we stay up this season I’ll be satisfied. I think the teams at the bottom of the table are slightly stronger than they have been in recent Premier League seasons, so it was always going to be difficult to establish ourselves at first.’

EK – ‘I would put us on course of exactly where I thought we would be, although the last four games under Pochettino has been a wake up call and there is a real optimism that we can progress well and challenge the teams above us.’

Who has been your player of the season so far?

AI – ‘Nathaniel Clyne. Consistently excellent at right-back, contributing in defence and attack. Should be in the England squad.’

GdlC – ‘Morgan Schneiderlin, honourable mentions to Jack Cork, Sir Rickie and Luke Shaw.  By the end of the season it will be Artur Boruc.’

SGL – ‘For me, either Rickie Lambert or Morgan Schneiderlin.’

WT – ‘Morgan Schneiderlin’ 

BS – ‘No doubt about it for me – Morgan Schneiderlin! Lambert’s goals have been important but Morgan’s energy, commitment, tackling and even his goals this season have been very consistent. As a young player who has been with the Club nearly 10 years now its great to see how far he has come and he must be one of the first names on the team sheet each week!’

SD – ‘Nathaniel Clyne has been unbelievably consistent at right-back, while Jason Puncheon has done better than anyone could have imagined, but for me you can’t look beyond Morgan Schneiderlin. I’ve always been a fan, but for me he’s improved immeasurably every year. He’s pretty much the total package now. His reading of the game is top class, as is his tackling and passing. He’s even added goals to his repertoire this season.’

EK – ‘Morgan Schneiderlin by an absolute mile, we all knew he had it in him. But he’s excelled in every area and it’s great to see him enjoying his football with Saints, not to mention he’s the top tackler in the Premier League!’

Schneiderlin just in front of Nathaniel Clyne...

Schneiderlin just in front of Nathaniel Clyne…

Will Saints stay up?

AI – ‘Yes.’

GdlC – ‘Yes – 3 from Wigan, Reading, QPR and Villa will go.’

SGL – ‘Absolutely! Before the season started, I stated that Saints would finish between 12th and 15th in the table. It is still possible to achieve this!’

WT – ‘Yes. Well they should do.’

BS – ‘Yes – just! Saints have lacked the ability to close off games this season and its already cost them 24 points! They can’t keep doing it! Performances have been good but Saints need to be more clinical at both ends or they will be in trouble! Luckily for us it seems that there may be 3 ‘worse’ teams than us.’

SD – ‘I’m cautiously optimistic that we will. I’m pretty satisfied with the squad we’ve got, and I’m confident that there are at least three teams worse than us. Having said that, I’m concerned about us throwing away so many points in games we really should have won. We could really be in trouble if a few key players come down with injuries, but that could be said of any team. I predict we’ll be in the mix until near the end, but survive with a late rally. ‘

EK – ‘Yes, I’ve always had faith in this team and I believe with Pochettino leading us we will be a Premier League team next year.’

Adkins/Pochettino. Still hurting or looking forwards?

AI – ‘Looking forward to a bright future- no point dwelling on the past.’

GdlC – ‘Looking forwards – no point doing anything else.  Nigel’s done well out of us and he’ll move on to good things.’

SGL – ‘Hmmm. I was disgusted with the circumstances of Adkins’ sacking and thoroughly deserved more time. I will never forget the job he has done for the club though. I wasn’t sure about Pochettino at first. However, his style of football was really appealed to me.’

WT – ‘Still can’t watch/listen to ‘The Man in the Glass’ but Pochettino is an exciting appointment.’

BS – ‘I was thoroughly disappointed about Saints treatment of Nigel. Disgusted! To have never thanked him for his achievements at Saints was not in the spirit of the Club I love! He was a great character at Saints and we will always owe him a lot BUT I will always support Saints whoever is stood on the touch line – so for me it’s a case of the king is dead, long live the king!’

SD – ‘Like everyone else I was very shocked when it all happened, but the more I read and see about Pochettino, the more optimistic I feel about the future. Time will tell if it was the right decision, but the early signs are good. The players seem to genuinely like him and already look to be buying into his ideas. I will never have a bad word said about Adkins, but if Pochettino delivers I will be glad we made the change.’

EK – ‘Still hurts the way Adkins was treated at the end, but these last few games we have played some quite outstanding football and the future looks to be a bright one under Pochettino.’

Will Redknapp keep QPR up?

AI – ‘No.’

GdlC – ‘No.  Will he take any responsibility? No.’

SGL – ‘I don’t think he will. QPR’s problem is that they have too many individual players instead of team players.’

WT – ‘The million pound question if the contract rumours are true. Think it’s too steep a challenge even for Mr Houdini.’ 

BS – ‘Nope! They’ve been the worst team in the Premier League all season, bought in far too many players in the summer and prayed that they all ‘gelled’ but they haven’t! They also have failed to get another striker in in January to cover Loic Remy, who is injured – again! Whilst they’ve tightened up at the back I simply can’t see them scoring the goals they need to to stay up!’

SD – ‘I don’t think so. Granted they have improved recently, but if you stick eleven men behind the ball, you’re always going to pick a few 0-0 draws. It’s still a hell of a gap they have to make up. Sooner or later they are going to have to start attacking teams. I’m just not sure where the goals are going to come from. You’d think they’ll need a minimum of six wins from their remaining thirteen games, and even that might not be enough. It’s a big ask for a team who have only won twice all season.’

EK – ‘No.’

This little piggy went to High Court, this little piggy lost at home...

This little piggy went to High Court, this little piggy lost at home…

Le Tiss/Cortese. Damaging the club or irrelevant squabbling?

AI – ‘Pretty irrelevant, but certainly can’t help the club.’

GdlC – ‘Gives the media a negative stick to hit us with.  For me it’s very, very boring.’

SGL – ‘It is depressing to see the pair as it doesn’t help whatsoever. Without Liebherr and Cortese, there would be no Southampton Football Club. It seems to me they’re out to score points as if they’re on the Jeremy Kyle Show! Le Tiss hasn’t helped by going to the media about it all but, on the other hand, the fans might know what is actually going on.’

WT – ‘Petty but not irrelevant. I find it quite sad.’

BS – ‘A bit of both! Cortese runs the Club and Le Tiss needs to appreciate that! It’s his rules now! I don’t agree with Cortese’s ‘dictator style’ rule setting all the time but whilst Matt is, and probably always will be, the greatest player I’ve ever seen in the beloved red and white, he isn’t the smartest when it comes to speaking his mind publicly re Cortese!’ 

SD – ‘It is what it is. In an ideal world they would get on, but they don’t. Not a big deal, at the moment at least. I love Matt as much as the next fan, but sometimes I don’t think he helps himself by constantly sniping at Cortese so publicly. The meeting thing was a bit of a farce. I doubt either man had any intention of ever going through with it, both we’re playing a childish game. It was so predictable how it turned out. Matt has made his point countless times, and while he may be justified in some of the things he says, most fans have already decided which side of the fence they are on. There is very little he could say now to make people change their minds. Fans will only turn on Cortese if the team stop delivering on the pitch. Rightly or wrongly most supporters will turn a blind eye to pretty much everything as long as the team is winning. If things turn sour then people will be ready to attack, and Cortese might wish he hadn’t made so many enemies. Personally I think he’s a very shrewd guy, and I’m confident we will continue to be successful under his guidance.’ 

EK – ‘Damaging their reputations with the fans more than the club, but I personally think it’s pretty irrelevant.’

Pompey. Sympathy or Satisfaction?

AI – ‘Sympathy. The majority of their fans don’t deserve it.’

GdlC – ‘Bit of both.  I have kids in the U9 team I help run who wear Skates shirts to training cos Dad supports them and that’s fine.  I’d rather that than Man U/Chelsea to be honest.  Would hate to explain to my lad that his team had gone. However, they are a cess-pit and should have been thrown out of the league 2 years ago.  There are some special people on Twitter who deserve the worst to happen.’

SGL – ‘I have never seen a club in such a worse state than Pompey in my lifetime as yet. I have sympathy for the fans as we all know how they feel as we were in administration four years ago. There is some satisfaction as they simply used money that they didn’t have and the previous owners have ruined the club completely.’

WT – ‘Can’t say I haven’t enjoyed sniggering at the results and numerous has beens they keep signing up. I have sympathy for some of the fans though.’

BS – ‘Unfortunately I have no sympathy for them! Forget their fans, the Club actively cheated the system by winning a Cup with a team they couldn’t afford to buy, achieved European football through this and therefore revenues that a more deserving Club should have had, left charities out of pocket through non-payments and mistreated local businesses as well – potentially the most important ‘fans’ to any Club! Compared to some other Clubs like Aldershot, Luton, Rotherham, who in similar positions suffered sever consequences, Pompey have managed to get off very lightly so far! No Club in British Football history has been so mismanaged by people clearly selfish in their desire to win! History will show that they achieved great things in a short space of time but the reality is that they did it dishonestly and their upcoming comeuppance will be very satisfying for many people!’

SD – ‘I’m pretty indifferent to the whole situation to be honest. Between 2005-2009 I was very bitter about their success. It hurt to see them doing do well, while we were struggling. I would have given anything to see them crash and burn, but now that natural order has been restored I’m content again. I don’t really take much notice of what they are doing anymore.’

EK – ‘Both, I know a lot of Pompey fans so anything to do with the performance on the field I can have a little laugh, but everything off it isn’t particularly nice.’

Jermain, did you hear the one about the unpayed bonuses?

Jermain, did you hear the one about the unpayed bonuses?

Any Niggling worries about Saints?

AI – ‘That we’re not clinical enough in front of goal.’

GdlC – ‘If we stay up we’ll be fine and push on. Relegated and we lose Boruc, Clyne, Shaw, Morgan, Cork, Ramirez, Lambert and have to virtually start again – oh, and I expect we’d need a new manager. On the pitch, an injury to Sir Rickie would still kill us and the central defence needs to sort itself out.’

SGL – ‘I’m slightly worried at the fact that we can’t hold onto leads in games. The statistic of losing 27 points from winning positions doesn’t look good. However, I’m sure we can get the points to stay up.’

WT – ‘Only with the way former players seem to be treated. Le Tiss and co paying for tickets is disgusting in my opinion.’

BS – ‘Just their inability to cut out the niggling defensive mistakes and close off games when they’re leading! They must be more ruthless when leading and get ‘wise’ to seeing out Premier League games.’

SD – ‘The obvious worry is that our star players will eventually be picked off by bigger clubs. Jason Puncheon is worthy of a new deal, but I’m concerned he may not be given one because of his history with Cortese. Schneiderlin’s contract is up in 2014, so that’s another issue that needs addressing soon. If he were to move it would leave a huge whole in the team. He seems very happy at Southampton, but I doubt his recent form has gone unnoticed. He wouldn’t look out of place at any Premier League club in my opinion.’

EK – ‘Relegation is always on my mind despite the confidence I have in the team, as well as potential injuries to big players.’

Guly. Got to go or does a job?

AI – ‘Does a job. The majority of the criticism he gets is totally unfair as people look for a scapegoat.’

GdlC – ‘Does a job when needed as a squad player.  Not a starter and forgive the Brazilian stereotype but away from home on a freezing cold day – leave him at home.’

SGL – ‘Difficult as we don’t know which Guly will turn up! I have to be honest in that I wasn’t his biggest fan but I’d never boo him. At times, he does do a job. I don’t think he is Premier League quality. Although, he has put in some respectable performances recently. I have no idea whether he will move on in the summer though.’

WT – ‘Definitely does a job. The abuse he receives is ridiculous, we have far worse players than him.’

BS – ‘Any player who wears a Saints shirt should be cheered not booed! Guly is not one of my favourite players but he certainly does a job and, bearing in mind the continual abuse he gets from the uneducated section of the Saints fan base, I think he should be applauded for that!’

SD – ‘It annoys me how so many people ignore all the good things he does, and then barrack him every time he makes the slightest mistake. Sometimes he has bad games, but who doesn’t? Most other players can get away with the odd poor showing, but with Guly it’s always a massive scandal. I have no idea what the new coaching staff thinks of him, but I know for a fact he was very highly regarded by Adkins. I’ve heard from more than one player that his teammates think very highly of him too. Ultimately they are the people who really matter, and if Guly is good enough for them then he’s good enough for me. I wouldn’t start him every week, and I suspect he’ll be gradually phased out over the next 18 months, but for now he still has an important role to play.’

EK – ‘Does the job, I’ve never understood the hate towards him, he is the one who helps Saints retain possession of the ball and can on his day change the game with a little bit of his Brazilian magic…although that has been pretty limited so far this season.’

...and then the other nun said "It does doesn't it?"

…and then the other nun said “It does doesn’t it?”

If everyone is fit. Best XI?

AI – ‘(4-2-3-1) Gazzaniga; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork; Lallana, Ramírez, Puncheon; Lambert.’

GdlC – ‘Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Cork, Schneiderlin; Puncheon, Ramirez, Lallana; Lambert.’

SGL – ‘(4-2-3-1): Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, Puncheon, Ramírez, Lallana, Lambert.’

WT – ‘Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Puncheon, Cork, Schneiderlin, Lallana; Ramirez; Lambert.’

BS – ‘Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Forren, Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, Puncheon, Lallana, Ramirez (in the hole), Lambert.’

SD – ‘Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork; Puncheon, Ramirez, Lallana; Lambert.’

EK – ‘(4-2-3-1) Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Puncheon, Lallana, Ramirez and Lambert.’ 

Thanks again to those that took part! Some differing opinions, but credit to the players who have made some very consistent looking starting XI’s, and with recent performances, I think it would be fair to say that Jay Rodriguez is giving Mr. Pochettino some nice selection problems!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

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