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

Hierarchy on the South Coast Explained

With today’s announcement of pre-season friendlies for Saints at both Bournemouth and Brighton, the usual ‘banter’ broke out on Social Media about South Coast supremacy.

It got me thinking. The relationships between the clubs on the South Coast are complicated and have a completely different outlook depended on which beach you choose to sunbathe. I thought I would write this blog post as a way of explaining to outsiders of our beautiful coastal wonderland just how relationships work and I thought I would do this through the medium of the popular kid’s TV show ‘Game of Thrones’.

If you’ve not seen Game of Thrones, it is about several houses of people living within close proximity in the fantasy realm of Westeros and relationships are strained to say the least…..

So where do the clubs of the South Coast sit in terms of hierarchy? I think this should clear it up.

I’ll start at the bottom.

Pompey. Pompey are Theon Greyjoy. To start with he was prosperous, but it was on the back of another house’s fortune. While things were going well his dick was well and truly overused and now it’s been cut off. At his lowest ebb now and the least threat of the entire kingdom. Fancies his sister. Hates the Lannisters.

Brighton. Brighton are House Tully. They’re in it, but no one really knows why. Slightly detached geographically from the rest and with little to no role to play in the grand scheme of things. Hates the Lannisters.

Bournemouth. Bournemouth are House Stark. Plucky, everyone’s favourite but ultimately toothless. Hates the Lannisters.

Southampton. Southampton are House Lannister. Hated by everybody else but without doubt the top dog. Sitting on the Iron Throne they draw venom from all of their neighbours.

Of course like the TV show, this is all stuff and nonsense but if that doesn’t clear it up then hopefully this helpful graphic will.

Red = Hate Purple = Indifference/Like Yellow = Mutual respect in hating the 'Scummers'

Red = Hate
Purple = Indifference/Like
Yellow = Mutual respect in hating the ‘Scummers’

 

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

Played For Both: Saints & Citizens

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

Team

Goalkeeper

Richard Wright

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

Richard Wright

Richard Wright

Defender

Kevin Bond

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

Kevin_Bond

Defender

Dave Watson

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

Dave Watson

Dave Watson

Defender

Wayne Bridge

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

Wayne Bridge

Wayne Bridge

Midfield

Peter Reid

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

Peter_Reid

Midfield

Graham Baker

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

Graham Baker

Graham Baker

Midfield

Djamel Belmadi

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

Djemal Belmadi

Djemal Belmadi

Attacking Midfield

Eyal Berkovic

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

Eyal Berkovic

Eyal Berkovic

Midfield

Ronnie Ekelund

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

Ronnie Ekelund

Ronnie Ekelund

Forward

Uwe Rosler

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

Uwe Rosler

Uwe Rosler

Forward

Mick Channon

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

Mick Channon

Mick Channon

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

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Concentrating on the league….

A phrase we hear relatively often, or at least we did the last time we were Premier League contenders. But what does it actually mean?

I would suggest there are two very different schools of thought on this saying, some might say that as a club in it’s first season back in the big time and finding it’s feet, we should perhaps not ‘waste’ any time and energy on a cup game. The other side of this argument, and the one that I certainly find myself on is that of the ‘winning breeds confidence’ brigade.

Saints prepare to face Chelsea in the FA Cup 3rd round tomorrow, and I have seen a few people say the dreaded ‘we should concentrate on the league’ line, now don’t get me wrong, were we talking about the Carling cup I might even agree with them, but this is the FA Cup, and we should be fielding a strong team tomorrow.

Does ‘concentrating on the league’ actually work and what does it mean?

Firstly, how many FA Cup winners have been relegated in the same season as they won it? Six teams have reached the final and managed to completely forget about their league campaign, seeing it end in relegation. Chelsea (1915), Manchester City (1926), Leicester City (1969), Brighton (1983), Middlesbrough (1997) and Portsmouth in 2010 (snigger). No team has actually focused so much on their cup run that they have lifted the famous trophy before realising that they have been demoted!

Kevin would rue the day he concentrated on the league.....

Kevin would rue the day he concentrated on the league…..

So of the 260 FA Cup finalists so far, just six have been absent minded enough to let it overshadow their league fixtures. That is pretty good odds no?

By ‘concentrating on the league’ I guess that means making the cup games not a priority, resting players and basically stitching up the people who pay at the turnstiles who dare to dream that they might, just might get to go to Wembley that year.

I do get it. As modern football has changed, retaining Premier League status has become far more valuable than a nice day out and a trophy, but can’t we have some romance left in the game?

We also have a seven day gap between playing Chelsea in the cup and then taking on Villa in the league. Seven days! Our players can recover in that time surely? We have prided ourselves on having one of the fittest teams around for the last few seasons, I don’t think two games in that period is too much to ask?

In previous Premier League seasons, when Saints were heading for a relegation battle how did our cup exits effect our league position? Well as a rule (but with exceptions) we did better in the FA Cup in years we finished higher in the league. That could be down to two reasons, either, that as I suggested might be the case, winning breeds confidence and success in one is very much reflected in the success of the other (only once has a cup final featured two teams outside the Premier League top four in countless seasons). Or. In the years we were particularly bad, it correlates that we would be poor in all competitions. Who knows? Football is never an exact science and the variables are countless but I for one will be hideously disappointed if we don’t go for it tomorrow.

The ticket prices are the same, the stadium is the same, the stage is one of the biggest in football. It deserves our full attention. Even if it is for just one weekend.

Concentrate on what boss?

Concentrate on what boss?

Saints Premier League Cup Record:-

1992/93

Final League Position:- 18th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1993/94

Final League Position:- 18th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1994/95

Final League Position:- 10th FA Cup exit:- 5th round. League concentration – Juggled Both.

1995/96

Final League Position:- 17th FA Cup exit:- 6th round. League concentration – Fail.

1996/97

Final League Position:- 16th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1997/98

Final League Position:- 12th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

1998/99

Final League Position:- 17th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Fail.

1999/00

Final League Position:- 15th FA Cup exit:- 4th round. League concentration – Non result.

2000/01

Final League Position:- 10th FA Cup exit:- 5th round. League concentration – Fail.

2001/02

Final League Position:- 11th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

2002/03

Final League Position:- 8th FA Cup exit:- Final. League concentration – Juggled Both.

2003/04

Final League Position:- 12th FA Cup exit:- 3rd round. League concentration – Win.

2004/05

Final League Position:- 20th FA Cup exit:- 6th round. League concentration – Epic Fail.

Of course, I can’t guarantee that any of our many managers was particularly trying to ‘concentrate on the league’ in any of these seasons, and I’m not going to dig out team lineups for each exit and see how ‘strong’ it was, but statistically it does show, that a cup run need not be a hinderance on league concentration.

Hopefully tomorrow Nigel will name our best team and we will give Chelsea a run for their considerable money, perhaps even turn them over and then we can dare to dream about Wembley. Premier League survival is crucial, of course it is, but right now we aren’t going down, and I see know reason why it won’t stay that way. A cup run would be a lovely little bonus.

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Premier League Preview: Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of our Premier League Preview!

QPR:-

Name:-  QPR Report

Team:- Queen’s Park Rangers (QPR)

Website:- Blog;  www.qprreport.blogspot.com and  Messageboard http://qprreport.proboards.com

Twitter:- @qprreport

What can we expect from your club this season?

A safe season, one without all the off-the-field drama of so many previous seasons.

Who is your most important player?

Cisse.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

10-12th.

Who might win the Premier League?

Sadly Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea.

Who definitely won’t?

Wigan

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Chelsea and Manchester United at Loftus Road.

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

Manchester United vs Chelsea.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

Stay up (15th) (made some good, early signings).

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

Wear my blue and white hooped scarf!

Reading:-

Name: Dan Wimbush

Team:-  Reading

Website:-  The Tilehurst End  http://www.thetilehurstend.com

Twitter:- @thetilehurstend

What can we expect from your club this season?

After last year’s unexpected title win we’ll be very happy to secure a second season back in the Premier League.  Brian McDermott has worked wonders at the club so far, despite having to sell the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Matt Mills and Shane Long and now that we’ve got new ownership it’s been great to see him able to strengthen the squad for once. Despite signing six players you won’t see that much of a difference style wise from us this year. We’ll still look to work very very hard closing down the opposition, allowing them long spells with the ball before breaking out wide through Kebe and McAnuff, or getting the ball up top to Roberts or Pogrebnyak. As Southampton fans know only too well Reading were the masters of counter attacking last season and given the jump in quality I can’t imagine we’ll suddenly start pressing from the front!

Who is your most important player?

It’s looking like being Pavel Pogrebnyak. Much as the signing of Jason Roberts helped win us the title last year, it’s going to be vital we get good production from the Russian if we hope to stay up. He’s shown his quality wherever he’s been and if we’re getting a striker anything like the one we saw at Fulham last year, we’ll be in for a good season.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Tough to call until you see how the other teams shape up. We’ve seen good teams relegated due to the strength of others and likewise weaker teams survive because there’s just been three awful sides. Right now if I had to gamble I’d say about 15th, but anything from 10th to 20th wouldn’t shock me.

Who might win the Premier League?

Hard to look past City again. The strength and depth they have at the Etihad is just staggering and while I think Chelsea and Manchester Utd will both be strong again, neither can match the power that City posses right now.

Who definitely won’t?

Liverpool, Arsenal, Reading or Southampton 😉     While Rodgers has been lauded for the job he’s done at Swansea, Reading fans will be able to tell you that he’s not infallible and can get things very badly wrong. When he came to Reading he tried to do too much too soon and left us in a relegation dogfight but landed on his feet at Swansea who were already playing a passing game when he arrived. Liverpool weren’t exactly playing like Swansea last season so it will take a while to turn it around. As for Arsenal well if Van Persie goes as expected its difficult to see them having the quality to really mount a decent challenge.  Can’t see anyone else gate-crashing the title picture either to be honest.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Wigan away obviously….  😉

Everyone has their favourites but for me, cliché as it sounds it’s got to be Manchester United away. I was unable to get to the games the last time we were a Premier League side so this time around I’m determined to see Reading take on England’s most successful side on their own patch next season. Trips to Anfield, The Emirates and White Hart Lane are also ones I’m anticipating while the home games against teams like yourselves, West Ham, Swansea and Norwich will be fun as we’ll actually be able to turn up knowing we’ve got a chance of winning.

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

City v United will once again be a tussle worth watching. I expect those two to finsh first and second and Fergie will be fired up more than ever before to put one over the noisy neighbours.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I’m really not sure to be honest. Like Reading, you’ve been quite active in the transfer market and I’ll be interested to see how Rodriguez makes the step up. If Sharp, Lambert and Rodriquez can translate Championship goals to the Premier League you’ll be laughing, while Lallana is another top player who I expect to do well. I do fear for Norwich, Swansea, Fulham and Wigan this year so I think the Saints will end up roughly around the same place we are so 12th-16th.

You find yourself stuck in The County Ground. How do you escape unnoticed?

‘Can you direct me around the magic roundabout please?’

Pave-ing the way for Reading success?

Southampton:-

Name:- Ben Stanfield

Team:- Southampton

Website:- http://www.saintsfc.co.uk/

Twitter:- @benstanners

What can we expect from your club this season?

I think, as ever being a Saints fan, we can expect a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. Saints have nothing to really lose this season. We are at least one, if not two, years ahead of where we’d thought we’d be as a Club but that doesn’t mean that we are going to give up the hard work of the last two years by being the whipping boys of the Premier League.

We have a young, astute and intelligent manager and a team that, to be honest, would die for each other on the pitch. The spirit in the Club is as good as I’ve ever known it in the 25 years I’ve supported and watched Saints and I really feel that we will shock a lot of people this coming season.

Who is your most important player?

Many would argue that it is a straight race between Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana. I’d agree!

For me, although Lallana is a class player who can turn defenders inside out and create goals for the team with almost every passage of play, Lambert is our most important player.

Pretty much all of our success over the last 2 seasons has come from building the team around Rickie Lambert, getting the ball up to him and then feeding off that. Not to mention his goals of course that have helped fire us to the Premier League.

Lambert proved people wrong last season by scoring goals consistently in the Championship and I feel he will score goals again this season, but obviously not to the level’s of 20’s and 30’s that he is used to!

He is the modern day “talisman” of the Saints team and we don’t look the same side when he’s not playing. So much will revolve around his presence up front and the ability to hold the ball up against the better teams to give our defenders a breather! Like Saints themselves, I don’t think Lambert has anything to lose this season but the importance of him being in the side and playing well will play a key role in our success.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

If I’m honest I’d take 17th place now! We have to be realistic, there are a lot of experienced Premier League teams in the league that have quality and know how to get results. But we also know that the brilliant thing about English football is that the teams at the bottom can beat the teams at the top on their day.

In my opinion the Premier League is very much two divisions in one. Saints need to aspire to get off to a good start if they can, although the fixture list hasn’t helped with doing that much, and then build on that. As long as we survive I will be happy but finishing higher up the bottom half of the Premier League is certainly not unrealistic, especially if some strong signings can be made between now and the end of the August transfer window.

Who might win the Premier League?

For me its a straight race between the two Manchester clubs. City have taken the pressure off of themselves by winning the title last season – they always say that the first one is the hardest – but that doesn’t mean that the fans or owners will accept second place this season! Mancini has probably the best squad of players in the World – as you’d expect for the amount of money he has spent – and really they should win it again.

Having said that you can never right off Fergie and there hasn’t been a Premier League season in the history of the competition where United haven’t been up their challenging. The signing of Robin Van Persie could be the difference between United finishing second and winning the title. His potential partnership with Wayne Rooney has me salivating even as a non-United fan.

I think City will nick it this season, but I think it will go to the wire again.

Who definitely won’t?

Tottenham and Arsenal I’m afraid. They’ve both huffed and puffed the last few season’s but realistically they don’t have the winning-mentality that United and City have. Several times last season both Clubs lost games against teams that City and United wouldn’t have. Arsenal and Spurs both put a lot of emphasis on their attacking play but defensively aren’t in the same league as City or United.

Arsenal losing Van Persie is key for me. He pretty much single handedly got them to third last season with his goals and although they have bought in Podolski and Giroud I can’t see them scoring 30 goals between them, let alone individually. Goals wins you league titles and I don’t think Arsenal have the fire-power to topple City or United.

With Andre Villas-Boas in charge at Spurs now it will be interesting to see how he does. He didn’t have a very successful time with Chelsea last season so the pressure and spotlight will be on him from the first game of the season. Spurs are a good side and they will finish in the top-6, I have no doubts but, again like Arsenal, I don’t think they have the mental belief to go that one step further to the title and dig results out regularly the way that United and City do.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Thats a good question! The last couple of seasons we’ve had local games against Portsmouth, Brighton and Bournemouth to look forward to, but not anymore. For me, just being back in the Premier League means that every game has to be an anticipated fixture now. When you look at the fixture list every single match gets you excited – OK, maybe not Wigan away!

But I guess, after the trial and tribulations of last season, playing against Reading and West Ham will be good. We certainly owe Reading a defeat this season after they pretty much won the title at St. Mary’s last season!

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

I think the two games between Manchester City and United are the fixtures that I will be looking forward to watching. The power has shifted from red to blue in Manchester now and I don’t think Fergie and everyone connected with Old Trafford are enjoying that much. I’ve no doubts that United will be looking for revenge this season and I think these two games will go along way to determining the title.

Traditionally they are cagey affairs although City did score six at Old Trafford last season. There is no love lost between the two managers or the sets of fans and, with arguably the two strongest squads in the Premier League, they should be cracking matches to watch.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

As stated above, I genuinely think that we will have a good season. I know there are going to be a few times we walk off the pitch having been given a lesson by players a lot more experienced than ours but I also know that Saints can play with little fear and have a go at sides as well. We’re expected to get relegated by all the pundits so what have we to lose?

We have the talent and commitment to win each time we go on the pitch, but the biggest issue for me will be taking our more limited chances at one end and stopping them going in at the other end An important factor for any football club!

Offer me 17th now and I’ll snap your hand off!

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

The thought of being stuck in Fratton Park is one that has probably woken me up a few times during the night in cold sweats! How do I escape unnoticed? Well as they hardly ever get that many people to watch Pompey anymore, as they only turn up when they’re doing well with a team of players they can’t afford to buy or pay, I’d probably walk to the end of the row (without having to ask anyone to get up!), up the stairs and then out the exit with them none the wiser……….

Stoke City:-

Name:- Hannah Burrows

Team:- Stoke City

Website:- Delilah’s Voice

Twitter:- @HBscfc

What can we expect from your club this season?

At the time of writing this, our lack of transfer activity is worrying. However, we’re well known for our late transfers so I’m not panicking, yet. With our current squad, I can’t see us finishing much above 12th. Having said that, if the likes of Sunderland, Fulham and the newly promoted teams fail to perform, we could find ourselves fighting near the top half. On the other hand, if the notoriously weaker teams have a decent season, it could be disaster, no chance of relegation though, I hope.

Who is your most important player?

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I’d love to say Wilson Palacios here. His new found fitness levels in pre-season could see him become a big, big player this season but right now I’d say Peter Crouch, although I still can’t believe he’s a Stoke player!

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

I’d like to think we can achieve a top 10 finish for the first time since promotion but whether we do or not hinges on our away form. Failure to improve it could be fatal but an added win here and there could shoot us up the league.

Who might win the Premier League?

I hope City manage to defend the title, that Aguero goal will live with me for a very long time to come and it’d be great to see another end to the season like that – basically, anyone but United and Arsenal.

Who definitely won’t?

West Ham – a ticking time bomb.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Arsenal at home simply because of the atmosphere. Arsene Wenger’s made his bed so to speak and now he has to lie in it every visit to the Britannia! His comments about our style of play and Ryan Shawcross will never, ever be forgotten and it always seems the players give a little extra effort in this one!

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

Probably the Manchester derby. With the clubs so evenly matched now it makes for mouth-watering clashes and a fixture I always look out for.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

It’s hard to say really, the transfer window seems yet to kick in and obviously one or two signings could be crucial. Compared with the other promoted teams though, West Ham will be their usual cocky selves so that could back fire and Reading seem to have made a few decent signings. I think Southampton’s fate will be determined by the weakness of current lower PL teams, the likes of Wigan, Swansea and perhaps even Stoke!

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

Put on a cockney accent and suggest the very long wait for a trophy will be over this year. Also, suggest Aaron Ramsey is a world beater and claim Cesc Fabregas has taken a step back in his career by signing for Barca!

The odds on Crouch being Stoke’s top scorer?

Sunderland:-

Name:- Mark Harrison

Team:- Sunderland AFC

Website:- www.seventy3magazine.co.uk

Twitter:- @harrmn

What can we expect from your club this season?

To build on the progress made since Xmas last season and with this a push for top half but our target should always be ‘winning’ the mini league of all those teams outside the top 6.

Who is your most important player?

Sessegnon was our star last season so if we can keep him away from a top four team I expect him to be prominent again, but for me the two centrebacks need to be an injury free partnership and be the backbone of the team. Attack from the back!

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

8th

Who might win the Premier League?

Man city to triumph again.

Who definitely won’t?

Spurs, I just don’t think AVB can handle the pressure and the players the way Harry did.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Arsenal away, the start of the season cannot come soon enough for me.

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

Man Utd v man City, I love a derby and Utd will not want to lose face to their neighbours again.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I am afraid to say they will struggle and relegation is a concern.

You find yourself stuck in St. James’ Park. How do you escape unnoticed?

I would struggle, I cannot make my face as bitter and twisted as the locals.

Thanks to all the contributors.

To read Part 1 (Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton & Fulham) click here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/2012/08/15/premier-league-preview-part-1/

To read Part 2 (Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Newcastle & Norwich) click here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/2012/08/17/premier-league-preview-part-2/

Chris

Football Blogging Awards: Shortlist Named…

Firstly, thanks to everyone who voted for this site, whether it was via Facebook or Twitter. The awards shortlists were announced last night, and I was chuffed to see georgeweahscousin.com in the four site group.

All eyes will  now be on the awards ceremony in Manchester on the 13th July, but it is fantastic to be named amongst three other great sites, and ahead of many others. Alongside us in the “Club Specific” category are:-

Famous CFC – A View from the Shed

Anything Palmeiras

We Are Brighton

I would just like to wish my fellow nominees all the best of luck, and although it is a cliche, that I am extremely happy to simply make the shortlist.

See you in Manchester….

Chris

2011/2012 GWC.com Awards results…

The phone lines are closed, the votes are in and a team of highly dedicated professionals have been counting them round the clock. georgeweahscousin.com is proud to announce the winners of  the inaugural 2011/2012 end of season awards!

Player of the Year

Received Votes:- Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork, Frazer Richardson, Danny Fox, Kelvin Davis, Aaron Martin.

3rd:- Jos Hooiveld.

2nd:- Adam Lallana.

And the winner, capping off an amazing season, the Championship top goalscorer Rickie Lambert!

2011/12 gwc.com Player of the Year – Rickie Lambert

Most Improved Player

Received Votes:- Adam Lallana, Jos Hooiveld, Billy Sharp, Rickie Lambert, Danny Fox, Kelvin Davis, Danny Butterfield, Guly Do Prado, Dean Hammond, Aaron Martin, Jose Fonte, Richard Chaplow.

3rd Place:- Jack Cork.

2nd Place:- Frazer Richardson.

And the winner, whose importance to the side was shown when he was out injured for a while Morgan Schneiderlin!

2011/12 gwc.com Most Improved Player – Morgan Schneiderlin

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Jos Hooiveld, Billy Sharp, Frazer Richardson, Andy Crosby, Kelvin Davis, Danny Butterfield, Tadanari Lee, Guly Do Prado, Dean Hammond, Richard Chaplow, Jose Fonte, Nigel Adkins, Radhi Jaidi.

3rd Place:- Danny Fox.

2nd Place:- Morgan Schneiderlin.

And the winner, filling in all over the middle of the park and back four Jack Cork!

2011/12 gwc.com Unsung Hero – Jack Cork.

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Danny Fox, Tadanari Lee.

3rd Place:- Jack Cork.

2nd Place:- Billy Sharp.

And the winner is, the man who instantly became a cult hero on and off the pitch, with battling defensive displays and some midweek winners Jos Hooiveld!

2011/12 gwc.com Signing of the Season – Jos Hooiveld.

 Performance of the Season

Received Votes:- Leeds Away (Team), Fonte v Coventry (Home), Birmingham Home (Team), P’Boro Away (Team), Millwall Away (Team), Coventry Home (Team), Forest Away (Team), West Ham Away (Team), West Ham Home (Team), Guly Do Prado v Coventry (Away), Rickie Lambert v Watford.

3rd Place:- Ipswich Town Away (Team).

2nd Place (Joint):- Leeds Home (Team), Middlesbrough Home (Team).

And the winner, one of the most ridiculous clean sheets in football history, making save after save Kelvin Davis v Leeds (Away)!

2011/12 gwc.com Performance of the Season – Kelvin Davis

The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment

Received Votes:- Performance against Leicester at home, Fonte Penalty v Brighton, Guly tripping over on TV, Dean Hammond F-Bomb on BBC, Lallana dive v Pompey, Billy Sharp Open Goal v West Ham, Jos Injuring himself celebrating, Leeds Attack v Davis, Billy Sharp celebrating v Pompey, Jos Boxhead campaign, Defending v Pompey, STEEEEEVE, Matt Taylor sending off v West Ham, Nigel’s Arousal Speech, Tadanari Lee goal celebration, Aaron Martin Open Goal v Forest, John Pantsil falling over trying to defend against Lallana, Jos Celebration v Coventry, Fat Sam Allardyce.

3rd Place:- Pompey’s Season/Relegation.

2nd Place:- Nigel Adkins tripping over the water bottles v Blackpool.

And the winner, something I’m sure he won’t be happy about, doing his best Massimo Taibi impression v Blackpool Bartosz Bialkowski!

2011/12 gwc.com Ali Dia Comedy Moment Winner – Bart Bialkowski

Best Opposition Player at St. Mary’s

Recieved Votes:-  Kevin Nolan, Billy Sharp, Ricardo Vaz Te, Robert Koren, Kevin Phillips, Stephan Dobbie, Nicky Maynard, Kasper Schmeichal, David Nugent, Chris Maguire, Robert Snodgrass, Scott Allen, Jamie Ashdown, Neill Danns, Liam Trotter, Wilfred Zaha, Darius Henderson, Joshua King, Jason Scotland, Peter Whittingham, Robert Green, Ian Harte.

3rd Place (Joint):- Adam Le Fondre, Adam Federici, Albert Adomah.

2nd Place:- Matt Phillips.

And the winner, very much part of Reading’s relentless pursuit of the Championship summit, and at his devastating best at St. Mary’s Jason Roberts!

2011/12 gwc.com Best Opposition Player at St. Mary’s Winner – Jason Roberts.

Best Opposition Team at St. Mary’s

Received Votes:- Bristol City, Hull City, West Ham, Forest, Cardiff.

3rd Place:- Blackpool.

2nd Place:- Leicester City.

And the winners, taking all three points with a ruthless lesson for Saints in taking chances  Reading!

2011/12 gwc.com Best Opposition Team at St. Mary’s Winner – Reading.

Best Opposition Fans at St. Mary’s

Received Votes:- Leeds, Reading, Hull City, Millwall, Ipswich Town, Bristol City, Cardiff, Forest.

3rd Place:- West Ham United.

2nd Place:- Portsmouth.

And the winners, loudly supporting their team to the bitter end on final day and staying behind to enjoy the Saints celebrations Coventry City!

2011/12 gwc.com Best Opposition Fans at St. Mary’s Winners – Coventry City.

So that concludes the first gwc.com end of season awards! I shall look forward to compiling them again this time next season in what will be the first Premier League Edition!

Watch out on the site over the coming weeks for a Season review and a Premier League preparation special!

Thanks,

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

There Are Downsides To Playing This Pretty: Why Fans Hate Us For Being Beautiful…

At a recent game in Millwall, we were delighted when the referee came along and gave us two penalties.

‘This is from the Football League – he wants to welcome you to the Den and hopes you have a good game today’ he explained.

You’re probably thinking ‘what a lovely surprise’. But while it was lovely, it wasn’t a surprise, at least not for us.

Throughout our Championship life, we’ve regularly had penalties given to us by men we barely know. Once a well-dressed chap standing behind us in the league table gave us a penalty when not even in the box and another occasion a charming gentlemen handed us three points not long after we stepped off the coach in Hull.

Another time as we walked through the defence at Vicarage Road, we were tapped on the ankles and presented with a lovely opportunity to settle the game from 12 yards.

Whenever we have asked what it is we have done to deserve such treatment, the donors of these gifts have always said the same thing: Our pleasing appearance and pretty play made their day.

While we’re no Barcelona, we’re fluid, attacking and clinical and so are often told we’re a good looking team. We know how lucky we are. But there are downsides to playing this pretty – the main one being that fans of other clubs hate us for no other reason than our pretty superiority.

Model Club?

If you are an opposition fan reading this, I’d hazard that you have already formed your own opinion about us – and it won’t be flattering.

We’re not smug, yet over the years countless opponents have felt threatened when we got near their halves.

You would think us fans would applaud each other for taking pride in our performance?

We work at ours – We train, EVEN when we don’t feel like it and very rarely succumb to hoofing it. Unfortunately fans find nothing more annoying than someone else being the most attractive team in the league.

So now we have played 41 games and are perhaps one of the few teams potentially entering the Premier League welcoming the decline of our success. I can’t wait for the defeats and the mediocrity to help us blend into the background.

Perhaps then the brotherhood will stop judging us harshly on what we play like, and instead accept us for who we are.

Chris