What if? (Part One)

23rd April 2011. St. George’s day.

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

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

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

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

An unhappy ending for Adkins at the Withdean

An unhappy ending for Adkins at the Withdean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011/12 League One.

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

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

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

Guly's home hat trick in the 6-0 demolition of Wycombe Wanderers is the highlight leading up to Christmas.

Guly’s home hat trick in the 6-0 demolition of Wycombe Wanderers would be the Brazilian’s last contribution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goal.

dean hammond oct

To be continued…

Chris

The Three Year Swing….

28th November 2009.

Portsmouth were 20th in the Premier League.

Southampton were 20th in League One.

43 teams separated these great rivals.

28th November 2012.

Southampton are 18th in the Premier League.

Portsmouth are 20th in League One.

45 teams separate these great rivals.

A role reversal of immense proportions as their fortunes almost mirror each other perfectly. What does the future hold? Who knows.

Of that 2009 Premier League table, Birmingham City, Burnley, Blackburn, Hull, Bolton and Wolves are also now absent (is it me or does the league look a hell of a lot stronger now?).

Things can change so fast in football! That is why you must always take advantage of the ascendancies! I noticed some of the teams that now sit between us that were of particular interest:-

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Premier League Preview: Part 1

With the big kick off just three and a bit days away, I caught up with fans our our new Premier League opponents to get their thoughts on what lies ahead…

Arsenal:-

Name:- Andrew Mangan

Team:- Arsenal

Website:- http://arseblog.com

Twitter:- @arseblog

What can we expect from your club this season?

Nice, attacking football, short passing, a reluctance to shoot from distance, generous defending, late calamities, the tease of a trophy and balanced, considered expressions of opinion from online fans.

Who is your most important player?

At the moment, with some of the summer still to go and the future of Van Persie still to be decided, I’d say Mikel Arteta. He’s a calm, experienced professional who really makes the team tick. I think if Van Persie goes we might see him step up.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Top four, but I can’t really be any more exact than that.

Who might win the Premier League?

I never rule us out, despite it being so long since we’ve won it we have challenged some seasons so you never know. So, Arsenal, United, Chelsea, Man City.

Who definitely won’t?

Everyone else. I don’t think Liverpool have the squad, I’m not sure Sp*rs do either although they’re definitely top six material, and apart from that the financial side of things pretty much precludes anyone else from challenging.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Obviously the North London derbies but the rivalry with United for so long means I always look forward to those games.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

Man United v Man City. When United were winning everything I think there was a certain sympathy for City when they were being relegated and being cast under such a successful shadow. It shows how far things have come that this is a game I can’t wait to see and I want United to murder them.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

To be honest I haven’t seen much of Southampton since they were relegated but obviously there’s been a huge turnaround. When you consider how far you fell to have come back to the Premier League is a fantastic achievement. And the club seem to have the infrastructure and know-how to get up and stay up, which is the most important thing. It’s not at all unusual for a newly promoted team to have a fine first season, but it’s achieving the consistency over the next few years that will provide the real challenge.

You find yourself stuck in White Hart Lane. How do you escape unnoticed?

Hold my nose like that bloke out of Rent-a-ghost.

Aston Villa:-

Name:- Matt Turvey

Team:- Aston Villa

Website:- http://www.astonvillalife.com

Twitter:- @MatthewSTurvey for me, @AstonVillaLife for the site.

What can we expect from your club this season?

Some good, solid football.  Now that Paul Lambert is in charge, the club seem to be going in the right direction and most of our fans are appreciative of that.  Progress will take time, but I feel people will see more of our club’s potential this year.  I also expect our new signings to draw the attention of some of the big clubs – Karim El-Ahmadi and Brett Holman will do well this year I feel.

Who is your most important player?

Stephen Ireland – he may well have had a mixed start to his career in his first season, but last year he was rightly fan’s player of the year, and showed a fantastic determination to play for the team.  If he is on form, and signs seem to show he will be this season, he’s unplayable and, in my opinion, the most technically gifted player we have.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

A solid mid-table finish.  This might sound low in the eyes of some Aston Villa fans, but after the past two seasons and the need to change things, it is a good enough expectation.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t do better, just that I am not expecting us to do more.  You never know – we may end up surprising everyone like Newcastle did last year!

Who might win the Premier League?

It depends how you want me to answer.  The obvious candidates, such as the two Manchester clubs, and Chelsea are, well, obvious.  If you mean who could be a dark horse, then I think that it’s probably a stretch too far to pick one.  The most likely candidate would be Tottenham Hotspur I imagine, although a lot will hinge on both how Andre Villas-Boas does at the club, and whether they can keep hold of key players like Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart.

Who definitely won’t?

Sad as it is to say, probably about 16 teams in the league.  I know last season’s campaign was very competitive for the majority of the league members, but the title contenders were way ahead of even the Europa League places.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

It’s a strange pick from me in the eyes of some, but I’ll be interested to see the reaction our manager gets when we play Norwich away.  I imagine it will be mostly positive, but I’m sure there are some Norwich fans who didn’t appreciate him leaving the club.  Beyond that game, I just like teams who play football the right way, so I always like to see those kinds of games.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

The Manchester derbies –  It’s highly likely that the winner of the Premier League will come from those two teams this year.  Beyond those, any game that involves Manchester City.  I know they may well just be buying success, but they play good football, and their last game of the season against QPR had me out of my seat – I’ve never known a more exciting conclusion to the title race than that.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I think they will do well.  I’ve got a lot of time for Nigel Adkins and few can doubt the way he has taken the club to two successive promotions.  In that regard, he is much like our current manager.  My only concern for Southampton is that if they do well, I imagine bigger clubs will be looking at Adkins as a potential candidate for their clubs.  That’s no disrespect to Southampton as a club, rather the fact that you can be very proud of what your manager has achieved.

You find yourself stuck in St. Andrews. How do you escape unnoticed?

Ah, the lovely St Andrews, home ground of Birmingham City.  Assuming I was there for a match (there’s no real other reason why I’d be there), then I’d probably just try to fit in with their usual fan base by adopting a heavy Birmingham accent and looking constantly miserable.  If I kept that up, I’d fit in nicely and be able to escape.  I guess the only thing against me is that I write for one of the regional papers, so a fair number of them may well know my face!

Stephen Ireland could be a key man for Villa.

Chelsea:-

Name:- Denise Hope

Team:- Chelsea

Website:- http://thechelseablog.org/

Twitter:- @TheChelseaBlog

What can we expect from your club this season?

As ever with Chelsea, you can expect the unexpected. We haven’t had a particularly exciting pre-season although it’s worth bearing in mind the last time we had such an unspectacular pre-season we won the double. I’m not suggesting we’ll repeat that but I do think we’ll have a much more attack-minded side this season rather than the constant defensive displays that saw us defy some remarkable odds last season. I should mention we’re Champions of Europe here really (just because I can).

Who is your most important player?

Historically in this squad that probably has to be John Terry, just for his sheer contribution as a leader and motivator. However, if we’re talking about who will be a key player for us in the coming season, I can see Hazard, Mata and Marin all causing a few nerves in opposition defences but for me our success or failure could fall at the feet of Fernando Torres. If he has the sort of season we bought him for, we’ll be flying – if he doesn’t, we’ll be f***ed.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Top two for sure this season. Our final position in the Premier League last season was down to the damage done under AVB’s management (that’s not laying the blame squarely on his shoulders either). There was no real way back for Di Matteo from that and he was right to go for the Champions League instead. This season though, he’s already made his intention clear to address our Premier League standing, and I’ve every faith he’ll do that.

Who might win the Premier League?

We might! If not us, then United – they won’t take last season laying down, that has to have hurt everyone at Old Trafford and they’ll make sure they finish above City this time. Hopefully that’ll still leave them behind us though.

Who definitely won’t?

Spurs! Not that they’d have a hope in hell anyway but from some of the bitter stuff he’s already had to say in the press, it’s clear AVB’s more focused on Chelsea than anything else in the Premier League – never a good thing.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Of course our game against QPR will have even more added spice than previous meetings but to be honest, JT will undoubtedly have a camera rammed up his left nostril (with an obligatory microphone courtesy of some new FA ruling) and  it’ll be too much of a circus to get too excited about it. So, I’ll go with Spurs – these derbies are always much anticipated and it’ll be an interesting one against them having put them out of the Champions League, not to mention meeting our former manager as the opposition.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

After events on the final day last season, the Manchester derby should be well worth a watch shouldn’t it?

How do you think Southampton will fare?

If I’m honest, will you edit it out? Just kidding! I think you’ll have a honeymoon season, so you’ll do ok. Maybe a finish around 14th?

You find yourself stuck in The Emirates Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed?

To be honest, if I was stuck in Arsenal’s ground, escape wouldn’t be too difficult. I’d sneak out ten minutes before the end along with the rest of them – no-one would think that was unusual.

Everton:-

Name:- Phill Nuttall

Team:- Everton

Website:- www.evertonfc.com

Twitter:- @phillipnuttall

What can we expect from your club this season?

This season will see a more dynamic Everton in the premier league. We have let go of players who were not making the desired impact, eg Rodwell, Cahill & fringe players, and brought in more industrious players such as Gibson, Naismith & Jelavic, fans can expect to see Everton better in possession, defensively solid, and more free flowing in the goals department.

Who is your most important player?Jac

It’s a coin toss between Steven Pienaar and Maruane Fellaini.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

If we start the season how we finish it then top 6 for Everton this season.

Who might win the Premier League?

City/Chelsea

Who definitely won’t?

The other 18 teams.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Chelsea, always a great game between us.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

I’m looking forward to watching Chelsea v Arsenal given their signings.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I hope they stay up, robbed of many young talents in recent years but back where they belong, can’t see them.finishing top 10 – a season of consolidation for the saints.

You find yourself stuck in Anfield. How do you escape unnoticed?

Anfield – Go dressed as donkey from Shrek – people will just say “Hi Suarez”.

Everton will look to their midfield pair to chase the leading pack.

Fulham:-

Name:- Kyle Bonn

Team:- Fulham

Website:- FulhamsFinest.com

Twitter:- @FulhamsFinest

What can we expect from your club this season?

This question depends a lot on what happens in the final few weeks of the transfer window.  Martin Jol recently said that Fulham is far from done, and they haven’t spent a pound in the transfer market yet despite having brought in Hugo Rodallega, Mladen Petric, and Sascha Riether.  If Jol can find two more strikers and a midfielder like he said he’s looking for, this club has a ton of potential.

Fulham are a club that have flown entirely under the radar in the last few seasons, and without attracting the attention of much of the media and fans have grown up in the Premier League, making themselves a mainstay in the middle of the pack.  Not only that, but a few top-10 finishes in the last couple of years have the fan base buzzing with thoughts of Europa League qualifying dancing in their heads.  With the overhaul Martin Jol has brought to the squad this offseason and the mystery surrounding Clint Dempsey’s future, there may a settling-in period, but to expect another 9th place finish isn’t overestimating this squad by any means.

Who is your most important player?

The American Clint Dempsey, with the shroud covering his future, can almost be thought of as too much a distraction. However, he’s still no question the most well-rounded talent on the club who can strike at any time from the midfield.  The question is, where will he be when the window comes to a close? And if he’s still on the Fulham roster, what role will he play? He’s been locked out of all preseason action so far, with rumors of misgivings with management abound (although the club insists his fitness is the issue). Liverpool are the no-doubt frontrunners for his services at the moment, but with Fulham requiring £10 million to complete the deal, and Dempsey about to top 30 years of age, the Reds are reluctant to pull the trigger.

My prediction has always been for Dempsey leaving in the winter, and it’s looking more and more like that will be the case.  However, if Fulham do indeed find themselves in the race for a Europa League spot, they may find more value in his playing services than in the cold, hard cash they would receive from a team.  Letting him walk for free would hurt, but at the same time if he successfully helped the team to previously unreached heights, most would be content to overlook that.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Like I said earlier, 9th place is a realistic expectation this season, but the future is bright.

Who might win the Premier League?

I can’t bet against Manchester United, who with their successful acquisitions this offseason, and the lack of moves made by their derby rivals, they once again the upper hand.

Who definitely won’t?

I know this isn’t going out on much of a limb these days, but Arsenal’s struggles to secure hardware will continue this season.  As much as Wenger has figured out how to sign cheques and complete transactions once again, and has used that to his advantage to secure a number of excellent buys, they won’t have a major impact until the second half of the season, by which time it will be too late.  Next season, however, I would beware the Gunners.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

No doubt Fulham fans this season will be looking forward to both ends of the fixtures with Queens Park Rangers.  Fans have developed a fearsome hatred for each side, being fueled with QPR’s hiring of Mark Hughes, completing his traitorous departure from Craven Cottage. Fulham fans sat back last season with a wry smile while they watched their London rivals squirm their way out of relegation. The Cottagers thumped QPR 6-0 in the home fixture, and took another 3 points 1-0 across London, giving firm bragging rights to the banks of the Thames.  The first matchup will be much-anticipated, and fans will have to wait until December 15 for the rivalry to continue at Loftus Road.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

The Manchester derby has to be the most exciting fixture.  While I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone, these two clubs have to be considered once again the top two in the country.  They very well could decide the championship, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

Unfortunately I think Southampton will struggle to stay in the Premiership.  This isn’t to underestimate Southampton, but rather a number of teams that finished in the bottom quarter of the league last season have spent a great deal of money this offseason and unfortunately for Southampton this puts them at a disadvantage. Look at what clubs such as Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa, and even newly promoted sides West Ham and Reading have added this offseason, they may be distancing themselves from other more dormant clubs like Southampton.

Thanks to all the contributors for their input! Look out for the next three parts soon!

Chris

Rumours…

So the season is almost officially over, the players have gone on holiday and people are bemoaning another England manager’s tournament selection….

…that can only mean one thing. Silly season is upon us again!

Football wouldn’t be football without this period of crazy rumours, and over the next few weeks they will go from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The first type, are those that I find are characteristic of Saints fans, the paranoia rumour. The rumour that is born from that feeling of insecurity. Since the Liebherr family have taken over, things have gone pretty much consistently well, and as Saints fans we aren’t used to that, so we have to doubt it.

Since we secured promotion back to the Premier League these sort of rumours have started to flow again, just as they did last summer, and at various points since our dramatic rise back to prominence.

The first one came within 24 hours of promotion, and they have followed steadily since.

1. Nigel Adkins has fallen out with Nicola Cortese. This was seemingly based on a few throwaway comments by Adkins in the aftermath of the Coventry game, a time when he was elated and emotional. 2 + 2 = 5. The rumours spread quickly. Apparently Mr. Cortese wants a big name manager to lead us in the Premier League. Odd. Given the emphasis he put on appointing the right man at the time, and that he went for Adkins in the first place, a man who was hardly a name at the time. Also it has been reported that Nigel Adkins was in the stands for the Birmingham v Blackpool play off with our scouts. Looking for players at his next job?

2. The Liebherr family no longer want to invest in the club. This is where our inferiority complex really comes into play. Mr. Cortese rarely speaks publicly. The Liebherr family, to my knowledge have never spoken publicly about the club. So where does this come from? Are we frightened of the Premier League? Do we need to start making excuses now? Again this would be odd behaviour considering the development of the Academy that goes on as we speak, and that they recently wrote off their loan to the club as shares.

3. Rickie Lambert has fallen out with Nigel Adkins. This one is totally left-field. I saw this on twitter and fully LOL’d. How and what have they got to fall out about?

@Footie_Agent listens in on the deal to bring Sergio Aguero to St. Mary’s….

The second type of rumour is the dreaded transfer speculation. I love this. This is the opposite of the paranoia. These rumours are born out of optimism.

We have of course been linked to about 50 players already. Most of whom are “definitely” joining the club, because somebody knows somebody who saw somebody doing something. The Daily Echo have joined in with their Rumour Roundup which of course many fans chastise them for, but isn’t it their duty to keep abreast of these things?

Twitter is an amazing outlet. Everyone has a voice, and it is here where the rumour mill really comes into it’s own. Anyone can play out any character on twitter, as we see with some of the frankly brilliant parody accounts, but a new favourite is the account with the word “agent” in the title. These people proceed to tweet such things as “Meeting with Southampton today. Exciting times” and “such and such player is wanted by Saints” Really? You are an agent? Yet you would jeopardise any deal by publicly talking about it? Anyone who knows how we operate as a club will know we don’t do our business in the open. Beware of fools wearing cheap clothing.

I could go through each player linked and give my verdict on it, but hey, what do I actually know? No more than anyone else. So I thought I would give you my three personal favourites so far.

1. Michael Owen. This one is now an annual tradition for Saints, and I guess as we go up the divisions it get’s more and more likely. When Owen tweeted this yesterday, twitter erupted:-

Could it actually happen this time? Well who knows. Personally I am not sure we would be prepared to pay his wages, but with no transfer fee involved stranger things have happened. Would I sign him? Undoubtedly yes. It’s Michael Owen, but then if I was in control of transfers we would be lining up on the 18th August with Micky O up top, Owen Hargreaves in the middle and DBeck on the right.

2. Steven Pienaar. This one came from one of our friends the twitter agents. Basically it pretty much hangs on whether Modric stays at Spurs. Modric stays, Pienaar heads to the South Coast. Yeah right. As much as I would love a player of Pienaar’s quality at St. Mary’s, this one just doesn’t seem plausible. He is probably on a King’s Ransom at Spurs, he loves Everton and his list of suitors would be plentiful. Happy to be proved wrong on this one of course.

3. Matt Jarvis. There has been a lot of noise about this. It isn’t going away, and I see no reason why this one couldn’t be possible. Has he been “seen” at Staplewood? Probably not, unless he has got a hard hat on and is doing a bit of building for fun.

So there we have it, my mini-roundup of the crazy happenings so far. There is no doubt plenty more to come, Oliver Bierhoff will undoubtedly be seen at St. Mary’s, Rudi Skacel is looking for a club and nobody has spotted Gary Lineker in Ted’s fish and chip shop yet….

No matter what happens though, be thankful for where we are and who we have and trust Nicola and Nigel to make the right decisions. We are where we are on merit and it doesn’t matter who comes in and out of the door we’ll move on together!

Oh, and Joey Barton is likely to be available….

Chris

p.s. If you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past year, why not vote for us in the “Club Specific” category at the Football Blogging Awards? Either via Facebook here. Or, tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club

Southampton FC – End of Term Report

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

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

Student:- Southampton Football Club

School:- nPower Championship

Year:- 11/12

Art

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

English

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

French

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

Geography

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

History

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

Home Economics

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

A grade season for the Saints!

Mathematics

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

Music

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

Physical Education

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

Religious Studies

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

Science

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

Attendance

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

Behaviour

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

Overall

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

So that is our alternative view of the past season!

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Your continued support is always appreciated!

Chris

A Royal Visit…

No game this season has been or is likely to  be as big as this.

Just nine goals separate Saints and Reading, and both have a six point advantage over third placed West Ham. There is just four games left to play and on Friday night they face each other.

Realistically, both sides need seven points (six for Saints with their goal difference) from their remaining four fixtures to book a return to the big time so Friday’s match gives both an opportunity to both make a major dent in that and take the advantage in the race to be Champions.

Reading have been on staggering form after a shaky start, and Saints have been in the top two all season. This really is a case of “the unstoppable force against the immovable object”.

Reading have a few players either injured or recovering when they visit St. Mary’s, and Saints will be without playmaker Morgan Schneiderlin, but hopefully this game will live out to be the spectacle that it deserves.

I caught up with Dan from top Reading blog The Tilehurst End and asked him a few questions about the big match:-

So this is the big one, how do you feel it will go?

“It’s weird because for ages this is the game I’ve been most confident about. I thought we’d get a draw at West Ham and get beat at Brighton before nicking a win at your place. Now that we’ve got 5 more points than I thought I’m suddenly more nervous! 

While Tuesday night was a great win it was very much a backs to the wall effort (a bit like your win at Leeds a while back!) and we very much felt the impact of having our first, second and third choice central midfielders out injured (Cheers Colin & Leeds….) . Jem Karacan is out for the season while Mikele Leigertwood and Jay Tabb are both doubts for Friday’s game and without at least one of those back to partner Hayden Mullins we might well struggle to contain you.

Beyond that, with the likes of Lallana, Sharp and Lambert you’ve got the ability to punish us but our defence have risen to just about every challenge so far and I hope they will do again.

I wouldn’t rule out us going and winning 2-1… but my sensible head says 1-1.”

After a less than impressive start, your turnaround has been amazing, what changed?

“Losing at Wembley + No Money + Selling our captain & top goalscorer = a bad Reading side to start the season. 

Losing Matt Mills and Shane Long was always going to be difficult, especially when those are sales to survive rather than to generate funds for new signings. On top of that, some of the team that did so well at the end of the previous season came back injured or just plain out of form. Ian Harte, Jem Karacan and Mikele Leigertwood were all horribly out off the pace and there just seemed a malaise around the place. 

But before the end of the month Brian signed the likes of Kaspars Gorkss, Adam Le Fondre and Joe Mills and we slowly started to grind out some results. We were looking like staying in the play-off race at Christmas but a modest advance of funds from our prospective new owners allowed us to sign the likes of Jason Roberts in the January window and with him we’ve never looked back. Suddenly we had the striker we needed to play 4-4-2 effectively and him, a rejuvenated Ian Harte and rock solid back pair in Pearce and Gorkss have enabled us to be the best side in this league in 2012.”

Jason Roberts has proved a potent force as Reading charged up the table.

Who do you fear in the Southampton side?

“As mentioned it’s hard to look past Lambert, Lallana and Sharp. Some Reading fans have branded you as Lambert FC but it’s clear you’re capable of scoring from all over the pitch and can punish any lapse in concentration. The game at the Madejski last year was clear proof of that, as a Reading side seemingly in control was undone by switching off for a moment at a set peice. You’re top of the Championship for a reason and we won’t be underestimating anyone.”

Your the boss, how do you lineup the side to beat us?

“Without knowing who will and won’t be fit it’s a bit of a nightmare! Based on who MIGHT/HOPE will be fit I’d stick with the tried and tested 4-4-2 that has done us so well this year. 

          Federici

Cummings   Pearce  Gorkss    Harte

Kebe     Leigertwood   Tabb/Mullins   McAnuff

         Hunt        Roberts

Our gameplan is based on soaking up pressure, with our central midfielders sitting deep and winning the ball to release Kebe and McAnuff, or getting it up to Hunt or Roberts to flick on from one another. It’s quite scary to watch as often we’re happy to give the oppossition the ball in our half but we seem to have a lot of control and patience and even going behind doesn’t phase us.

Howevert, with the injuries we have we had to play a bit of a 4-5-1 on Tuesday night so you could well see Cywka, Mullins and McAnuff as the midfield trio with Kebe and Hunt winging it and Roberts up front Solo.”

How will the top 3 look after the last game of the season?

“Hoping it’s 1. Reading   2.  Southampton  3. West Ham.

If I wasn’t a Reading fan I’d have to fancy West Ham to totally implode. Their players looked as if they won the cup when they sneaked a late equaliser against Brum so it was great to knock the stuffing out of them with a win at the AMEX on Tuesday. If Friday ends in a draw as I’m predicting, Reading should hopefully dispatch Forest and Palace while I think Boro could nick a draw off you. That would mean a winner take all final day and in those circumstances I think we can beat a Brum side who will have 1 eye on the play-offs.”

I was happy to return the favour for Dan, read my responses to his questions here.

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Leeds United

Top of the table Saints head to West Yorkshire on Saturday to take on Leeds United in front of the cameras, and not only will there likely be a former Saints player on the Elland Road’s sides bench, but also a Saints fan….

Maik Taylor

The German born, Northen Ireland international goalkeeper Taylor started his semi-professional footballing career while still serving in the British Army. Stationed in Hampshire he represented Petersfield and Basingstoke Town’s respectively before joining Farnborough Town where he was part of the team that won the Southern League Premier Division in 1994.

It was while playing for the now defunct club that he was spotted by League Two Barnet and was given his first professional contract. His performances at Underhill soon meant he was destined for greater things, and just a season and a half later he was heading back to Hampshire and the Premier League.

Graeme Souness was the man who took the gamble on the lower league keeper, signing him in the January of 1997 for a fee of £500k. He replaced the ageing Dave Beasant and soon had the fans on his side with some impressive shot stopping, representing the club he had supported as a child. Saints fans finally felt like they had their replacement for Tim Flowers, albeit somewhat late.

Maik Taylor in international action.

Sadly for Taylor, Souness was to leave in the summer, and despite Taylor’s proficient displays the Scotsman’s replacement Dave Jones bought his namesake and number one from Stockport County with him.

Paul Jones was immediately installed as first choice and Taylor had to make do with a place on the bench, a victim of a rare season in Saints history where they had two good stoppers in one season! Taylor headed for Kevin Keegan’s Fulham on 17th November 1997 for £800k, surprisingly dropping to the second division. After nearly 200 appearances for the Cottagers and two league titles he moved on to Birmingham City. He also established himself as the first choice goalkeeper for Northen Ireland gaining 88 caps between 1999 and 2011.

He signed for Leeds United in Novemeber 2011 and recently had his contract extended to the end of the season, now aged 40.

Chris

Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)…

Since Sky television made it’s presence felt in the world of football broadcasting, the traditional Saturday three pm kick off time has become less set in stone. Particularly in the Premier League, but also in the Football League, fans will find their clubs kick off times changed to suit the demand for television viewing.

In the Football League they have an allocated slot of twenty past five on a Saturday afternoon, so Sky Sports can instantly hook the viewers of the ever popular Soccer Saturday straight into another ninety minutes of action.

Saints took part in one of the most entertaining of these fixtures on this weekend a year ago, Nigel Adkins’ men travelled to London Road to take on Peterborough United and played out a 4-4 draw in front of the cameras. Richard Chaplow, Rickie Lambert (2) and Dean Hammond giving Saints 0-2 and 2-4 leads before a second Posh equaliser deep into injury time.

Richard Chaplow celebrates his opener at London Road.

As fate would have it Saints head to a St. Andrews tonight (weather permitting) for the Sky evening fixture in what looks to be a difficult game against a Birmingham side in devastating form.

So how do Saints fare in these games? Better than you might think.

We have a notion that we are poor in front of the Sky camera’s, but our record in the Saturday 17:20 fixtures is pretty reasonable. Losing just two of their eight games since entering the Football League in 2005 (both coming in the ill fated 2008/09 Championship relegation season), what Saints do seem to guarantee at this kick off time is goals. Of those eight fixtures there has been an average of 3.25 goals in the game!

Saints in fact, opened their time in the Football League in one of these fixtures, a goalless stalemate with Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s on the 6th August 2005.

They didn’t feature again until the 27th October 2007, where goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips, Jason Euell and Stern John saw Saints beat Burnley at Turf Moor by three goals to two.

What followed was a disastrous season in Saints history and it coincided with the two 17:20 defeats. A crushing 1-4 loss at the Ricoh Arena was soon followed by a 0-1 home reverse by Bristol City. Not overly surprising in a season that saw Saints record just ten league wins.

Last years goalfest in Cambridgeshire was next and then in the following month Saints took to the St. Mary’s pitch for an evening kick off again for a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte securing the points.

Saints opened this season as they had their first in the Championship, at home in front of the cameras for the evening kick off. Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly netted to give Saints the best possible start, convincingly beating Leeds United 3-1.

Saints not shy for Sky on opening day.

Saints were less convincing at the Madejski Stadium in October, Steve de Ridder rescuing a point with a late leveller against Reading.

Southampton Saturday 17:20 kick off record:-

Played – 8

Won – 3

Drawn – 3

Lost – 2

Goals For – 14

Goals Against – 14

Incidentally today’s opponents Birmingham City’s record in these fixtures is P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 GF 5 GA 5.

What do these statistics prove? Well not a lot really, other than in terms of form they don’t make a hell of a lot of difference!

With West Ham playing in the other television spot, kicking off at half past twelve against arch rivals Millwall, Saints will get started at St. Andrews knowing what they have to do. Let’s hope they give the performance of the weekend! COYR!

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Blackpool

Saints host the Seasiders this Saturday and will be looking for a repeat of last season’s FA cup tie. While Saints home form has been the definition of consistency, the Tangerines have struggled on the road, with only a notable 0-5 victory over Leeds at Elland Road and an opening day defeat of Hull City in the win column.

With a few changes of personnel from their Premier League adventure last season, Blackpool will come to St. Mary’s with some familiar faces on board…

Stephen Crainey

Scottish international Crainey had a brief and unspectacular spell at St. Mary’s in 2004. Signed from Celtic by countryman Gordon Strachan shortly before the manager departed, the full back struggled to adapt to the Premier League. The full back made just five first team appearances in his time at St. Mary’s and left for Leeds on loan the following August which soon became a permanent arrangement.

Sadly, the lasting memory of Crainey for Saints fans will be his surprise selection (after Michael Svensson was injured during the warm up) and subsequent poor performance at Fratton Park in the March 2004 defeat.

Crainey joined Blackpool in the summer of 2007 and has been a regular at Bloomfield Road ever since.

Crainey at Saints.

Kevin Phillips

Evergreen striker Phillips’ association with Saints goes as far back as the early nineties when he was a youth player with the club and cleaned future England strike partner Alan Shearer’s boots!

Phillips didn’t make the grade at the Dell though and was released by the club where he had been used as a right back in 1992. Eleven years later, it cost Saints £3.5 million for Gordon Strachan to bring him back to the club after impressive goalscoring spells at Watford and Sunderland respectively.

Despite not quite hitting the same form as he did with his previous clubs Phillips still weighed in with an impressive amount of goals, especially considering the unrest at the club during a turbulent period in Southampton’s history. As Saints headed for the relegation trapdoor in 2004/05 Phillips still managed ten league goals, but never quite won the St. Mary’s fans over. Alleged comments in the media about the club and city following his departure to Aston Villa that summer make him an unpopular figure with the Saints crowd.

Phillips signed for Blackpool in July this year via West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City and now aged thirty eight already has five league goals this term.

Brett Ormerod

“They’ve got Brett Ormerod, They’ve got Brett Ormerod…”

In stark contrast to fellow striker Phillips, Lancashire born Ormerod was never heavily amongst the goals in a Saints shirt, but was very much loved by the fans.

After an impressive goalscoring record in his first spell at Bloomfield Road, Gordon Strachan bought the energetic forward for £1.75 million in December 2001. After taking a little while to establish himself Ormerod started to form a lethal partnership with James Beattie, his tenacity and energy complimenting Beattie’s ability to be in the right place at the right time.

It was this partnership that was tantamount to the 2003  FA Cup run that saw Saints reach the final. Ormerod’s man of the match performance in the Semi Final against Watford was a memorable highlight for both player and fans.

The arrival of Phillips the following summer saw Ormerod’s chances with the first team limited and he ended up going to Leeds on loan in 2004, and seven months later had another loan spell, this time with Wigan Athletic. The club’s relegation to the Championship saw Ormerod back in favour, but with goals hard to come by he eventually left the club for Preston North End in January 2006.

The scruffy but uncomplicated striker names his time at Southampton as the best of his career and left the club with as many fond memories as he left the fans.

Ormerod returned to Bloomfield Road in 2009 and back to the Premier League with them last season.

Ormerod the Saint.

Chris

Championship Preview Part 1…

Where better to get an all round overview of the thoughts of Championship fans on the coming season than the fantastic club specific blogs. I caught up with a contributor/tweeter from each of the twenty four Championship clubs and got their thoughts on the coming season…

Barnsley:-

Name:- Wilky

Club:- Barnsley FC

Twitter:- @onthepontyend

Website:- On The Ponty End

What can we expect from your club this season? Expect to see a far more resilient and united team at Oakwell this time out. What we may lack in stand-out names on our team sheet, we will more than make up for in our approach and ethic. Many have Barnsley FC as relegation certainties, I disagree. We feel the time may be arriving when our Academy and shrewd acquisition may just begin to bare fruit.

Who is your most important player? It’s a very fresh (expected first eleven) this season, but I would highlight Jacob Butterfield who has featured last season, but would expect to make it in to automatic selection this season. He has excellent skills and vision, which would make him our natural playmaker to link our attacking force together.

Your predicted finishing position? Mid table.

Who might win the Championship? Big Sam will sort it at West Ham United. 

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough United.

Most anticipated fixture? It would probably be Leeds United. Last term we took 4 points off our local rivals and love to destroy their so called mighty status. No Leeds fan would admit they were the weaker team last season and have attributed both results as a poor day at the office on their part. Let’s see!

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Champions League Final, to see if Barcelona really have re-written the football blueprint. Will Manchester United or any club overcome them soon? It’s an interesting situation.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Kevin Nolan will be different class in the Npower Championship. His willingness to compete and his goals mark him a class apart.

You find yourself stuck in Elland Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Wait until they score first, knowing that their demise will inevitably follow later in the game versus The Super Reds. Pride always comes before a fall and in this instance, there’s always so much smug self satisfaction going on, they would fail to see anything else happening … You only sing when you’re winning!

Birmingham City:-

Name:- Kevin Ball

Club:- Birmingham City

Twitter:- @joysandsorrows

Website:- Joys and Sorrows

What can we expect from your club this season? Err, good question. Things are very odd at the moment, not even sure if we have a full squad! I hope some entertaining football though under Chris Hughton.

Who is your most important player? Any who are left? 😉 Difficult to say, but I will be really pleased if we can keep Scott Dann. He is an amazing defender.

Your predicted finishing position? I’ll be happy to be in the play off mix as a minimum.

Who might win the Championship? Got to between Leeds, Forest, West Ham, Leicester and I hope us! (Well you never know!)

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough. Sorry Posh.

Most anticipated fixture? Probably v West Ham as there is no love lost between our present board and our previous board. Also the way we knocked them out of the Carling Cup last season.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Leicester v Forest I would have thought.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only) who would it be? This is tough, because I didn’t pay any attention to the Championship last year mainly because I didn’t think we would be in it this year! 😦

You find yourself stuck in The Ricoh Arena. How do you escape unnoticed? I would ask could they tell me where the other two Cathedrals were!

Blackpool:-

Name:- John Godwin

Club:- Blackpool Football Club

Twitter:- @goders

What can we expect from your club this season? Attacking, entertaining football with some heavy defeats and shock wins mixed in.

Who is your most important player? DJ Campbell, but depends if we keep him or not! If he goes I see Barry Ferguson leading the team with Matt Phillips adding lots of pace and flair.

Your predicted finishing position? 7th.

Who might win the Championship? West Ham.

Who definitely won’t? Barnsley.

Most anticipated fixture? Blackpool v Saints (at St Mary’s).

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Southampton v Pompey.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? West Ham – Kevin Nolan.

You find yourself stuck in Deepdale. How do you escape unnoticed? Dress in tracksuit and cap whist eating a Wigan kebab (meat pie).

The only way is up for Campbell and Blackpool?

Brighton & Hove Albion:-

Name:- Darren McKay

Club:- Brighton

Twitter:- @NorthStandChat

Website:- North Stand Chat

What can we expect from your club this season? More of the same. Gus Poyet is very definite in his views on how the game should be played: pass, pass and pass again. We have some exciting new players offering lots of attacking promise whilst we’ve yet to strengthen at the back. Maybe we’ll win every game 6-5.

Who is your most important player? That’s a tough one given our new blood. Craig Mackail-Smith is the big money big (and long) name but I have a sneaky feeling that Will Hoskins will turn out to be key for us this year. At the back we’ll be looking for Gordon Greer to lead by example, and that includes not picking up needless sending offs.

Your predicted finishing position? Hopes of ‘doing a Norwich’ are perhaps a tad optimistic, but I think we’ll have enough to ensure we remain free of relegation concerns. Mid-table mediocrity? Yes please!

Who might win the Championship? It’s an obvious answer, but West Ham or Leicester should be there or thereabouts with the squads they have.

Who definitely won’t? Crystal Palace. Woeful.

Most anticipated fixture? Crystal Palace at home. For the first time in a generation, we get to compete with our rivals on an even footing.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I really can’t think of one. I’m not sure there’s another Championship game I’d pay the entrance price to see. But, given the source of these questions, I’ll say that sampling a derby between those other 2 South Coast Championship clubs probably holds the most appeal.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Glenn Murray. It sounds like he needs a big hug already.

You find yourself stuck in Selhurst Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I’d pretend to be Glenn Murray – nobody will be noticing him in a few weeks time.

Bristol City:-

Name:- Chris Cooper

Club:- Bristol City

Website:- OTIB

What can we expect from your club this season? Hard to say with all the uncertainty still surrounding Nicky Maynard. He really is vital to any potential success we may have. After a turbulent (to say the least) season last time around, I’d expect us to improve upon that with a far more settled side. Mid-table finish after a short flirt with the play offs, maybe sneaking in should Mr Maynard stay the duration.

Who is your most important player? Maynard without doubt. Can produce something from absolutely nothing, something very few players in the Championship can do. If he leaves, then Albert Adomah who had a storming debut season on the right wing, and is on the verge of full honours for Ghana.

Your predicted finishing position? 11th.

Who might win the Championship? Hard to look past West Ham and Leicester at this stage.

Who definitely won’t? Barnsley are perennial top of the bottom 6 material.

Most anticipated fixture? With Swansea gone, our games with Cardiff should be reignited. West Ham at Upton Park will sure to be a popular one as well.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Couple of fantastic derby games this year. West Ham Vs Millwall being the obvious one. The two South coast clubs (Pompey and Saints) on even standings should be interesting as well.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? As our defence resembles the red sea in biblical times, Matt Mills would plug the hole I’m sure.

You find yourself stuck in the Memorial Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed? I hide myself in the large tent behind one goal (the away end) and wait untill the end of the season until its wheeled away to be used at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. I mean what sort of tinpot club has a temporary tent?

Nicky Maynard - The Key to Bristol City's Season?

Burnley:- 

Name:- Tony Scholes

Club:- Burnley

Twitter:- @clarets_mad

Website:- Clarets Mad 

What can we expect from your club this season? That’s a good question and right now it almost feels as if we are about to step into the unknown. Since the squad reported back for pre-season training no less than three of them have left with a further two, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears, expected to leave for Bolton at any time. To replace them we’ve signed two young defenders on loan from Manchester City and as yet, nothing else. There is time yet but it does feel as though we’ve wasted an opportunity by not getting the squad together early enough.

Who is your most important player? Hopefully all of them will be important but the stand out players are Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez who have both come through the youth system at Burnley. McCann is fit again after almost two years out of the game and at his best is as good a central midfield player as you will find in the Championship. He’s been so badly missed and it will be like having a new signing. Rodriguez, despite the name, is a real case of local boy makes good. He’s just enjoyed his first season in the first team and has become a crucial member of the side. He ended the season as leading goalscorer and not many players in the entire Championship scored more goals than he did. HIs 15 didn’t include a penalty and he could well step up towards 20 goals this coming season. He made an England debut last season at under-21 level and has an exciting future in front of him.

Your predicted finishing position? I would love to say first, but so would any supporter of any club. I’ll be realistic and I think if we could make a good start then we have a decent chance of making the play offs. In 2009 we finished 5th so I’ll go for that again.

Who might win the Championship? Not many eyes are looking too far beyond Leicester at the moment. Only today they have signed Manchester City’s Michael Johnson on loan and they are certainly putting a strong squad together. You know there’s money around once Sven Goran Eriksson shows his face, but for how long? Could it be another club where it all ends in tears? For now though they have to be favourites.

Who definitely won’t? I suspect there are a few who fall into that category. I think Peterborough will struggle and I don’t think there will be too many complaints if they do given they’ve got both Barry Fry and Darren Ferguson there.

Most anticipated fixture? Right now it’s Watford because it’s our first game. We’re stuck with hardly any local games this season with Blackpool as the only other North West club in the Championship. Personally I’m looking forward to going to Brighton and not having to suffer the Withdean but maybe Leeds will be the big games for us.

Most anticipate fixture that doesn’t involve your club? If that’s in the Championship then I’ve no real answer. Nothing stands out above anything else. Outside the Championship, and outside England, I’ll have the Barcelona v Real Madrid games marked in my diary.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club who would it be? It would have to be a goalscorer. They are the players who win the games for you. I’d have liked to have re-signed David Nugent so I’d go for someone like him or potentially Reading’s Shane Long.

You find yourself stuck in Ewood Park. How do you escape unnoticed? That’s easy. I’d just walk out. They’d be too busy tucking into their Venky’s chicken.

Part Two featuring Cardiff, Coventry, Palace, Derby, Doncaster and Hull coming soon…

Chris