Ryan, Like a Lion, In Bayern: Bertrand Signs for Saints!

While Liverpool are busy signing Johnstone Paint Trophy winners, Saints sprung the surprise of the summer with one the papers didn’t get hold of, bringing Champion’s League winner Ryan Bertrand to the club from Chelsea on a season long loan with the option of a permanent move. Interestingly the Merseyside club had been trying to secure a deal for the defender but couldn’t agree a fee.

With Luke Shaw gone to Man United, left back was clearly somewhere the club lacked depth and Bertrand who started for the Blues in their triumph over Bayern Munich in 2012 looks a solid signing.

As always, through the heady mixture of ignorance and laziness I have got two experts to give us the lowdown on the new man.

I caught up with Chelsea fan David Dickson and given that Bertand has spent most of his Stamford Bridge career on loan, Aston Villa fan, freelance football writer and Club Metro colleague Andrew Raeburn.

Bertrand started in Chelsea’s Champion’s League final win, but has never made it as a regular at Stamford Bridge. What did you make of him?

DD ‘Firstly, Bertrand will always, always receive a hero’s welcome back at Stamford Bridge, especially now he hasn’t been shipped off to Liverpool and had to perform the ‘biggest club in the world’ PR initiative in his first interview. I remember the slightly baffled/borderline stunned reaction to hearing his name in the starting line-up that night in Munich from all involved, and his outstanding performance against Bayern in his first ever European appearance for anybody is testament to the balls the guy has. He always struck me as a try-hard; far from a player likely to dislodge Ashley Cole from his throne but enough about him to carry on regardless, taking his opportunities when they arose.’

Bertrand spent some time at Villa last season. What did you make of him?

AR ‘Left-back had been a massive problem for us in the first half of the season, so when Bertrand came in we were all chuffed, considering his background and pedigree (starting in the CL final, etc). He was excellent on his debut in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool, and had several other good games early in his loan spell. But after having to sit out our 1-0 win over his parent club in March (when Joe Bennett came in and was excellent at left-back), Bertrand really struggled. Partly this was down to our own defensive naivety, which appeared to infect him too at times and partly it was down to being shunted between left-back, left midfield and left wing-back. But there were occasions when he was our weakest link. I’d say overall he was solid without ever being spectacular, but disappointed because he was never as good as his Chelsea background suggested he should be.’

What would you say are his significant strengths and weaknesses?

DD ‘As stated previously, Ryan seems to enjoy a complete lack of fear on the big occasion. Following Munich, he was thrown into some of the bigger games towards the end of the (sigh) Rafa Benitez era and performed with similar aplomb. He is quick, with the ability to go forward at pace, whilst also reading the game relatively well, but his defensive ability seems to suffer as a result. He never seemed particularly strong and, as a result, his ability to simply make a tackle never really stood out. He would, on occasion, be caught out of position too, but when pushing up in a good, attacking side, this may be expected and can be forgiven.’

AR ‘One of the real plusses of his loan spell was how well he got forward and linked up with Fabian Delph on the left hand side of Villa’s central three in midfield. His crossing can be hit and miss but he knows which passes to pick out. Defensively, he struggled when isolated one-on-one. Whereas on his debut at Liverpool he was excellent against Raheem Sterling, who runs straight at people, he was given a real examination a couple of weeks later by Everton’s Aiden McGeady, had problems with Ashley Young and got into all sorts of bother against Stewart Downing. Unlike Sterling, all three of those dared to cut inside and go outside to try and beat him. It may be he just needs more support defensively.’

Bertrand the winner.

Bertrand the winner.

Do you see him as a player that has yet to reach his full potential, having been backup at Chelsea for some time?

DD ‘Sad as it is to say, but I feel his potential may not extend beyond his exploits for Chelsea. He still has a decent ten years left in him, obviously, but Ryan seems to be caught between not being technically good enough for a top side, but not able to defend well enough for a less-than-top side. He was exceptionally popular at Norwich, Reading and Forest by the sounds of things, and has long outgrown being a Championship player, but it is hard to see him doing anything but bouncing between mid-table clubs unless someone devotes the time to getting the best out of him. In a Chelsea side with Ashley Cole and the resources to bring in more experienced and better overseas players after Cole’s departure, that role was never going to be taken up by Mourinho, Benitez, Di Matteo…etc. (I’m sure this article has a word limit, so I won’t list them all).’

AR ‘Very much so. Until his loan spell at Villa, he had never really been given a proper run of starts at Premier League level, which is what you need to develop. Obviously he’s had his path blocked by one of the best left-backs England has ever seen, so he’s been unlucky in that regard. Until Cesar Azpilicueta became Ashley Cole’s main backup, Bertrand could never be sent on loan so he had to bide his time. He started 14 PL games in 2012-13 but all in blocks of three or four, never enough to make a mark or develop your game. I actually saw his only Chelsea start last season as well, by sheer coincidence. I was covering the Chelsea-Cardiff game for West London Sport and in the player ratings described Bertrand’s display as: “Always keen, got up and down and provided solid support for Eden Hazard but lacks the self-assurance and attacking penetration of Ashley Cole.” Trouble is, after a half-season of regular games at Villa, I’ve seen no improvement on that. However, I do think he just needs to settle down somewhere, as a trusted, starting left-back and get a full season of regular games under his belt. The only time he’s done that was for Reading in the Championship five years ago.’

Bertrand the Saint.

Bertrand the Saint.

What do you make of the goings on at Saints this summer?

DD ‘I find it all relatively extraordinary. Yes, players from unexpectedly successful sides are regularly burgled (arf) by sides with larger budgets the following season, but the sheer extent to which Liverpool (and seemingly, Spurs) have pilfered every player with ability you have is far beyond anything I’ve seen since the great Leeds exodus of the early 2000s. Ronald Koeman has moved in, and shortly after someone has nicked his fridge, shed, boiler and roof. I am sure there are financial nuances (zzz) to this masterplan, but it is hard to see how any replacements could fill the gaps that have been left and this season could be a real struggle for you chaps, unfortunately. You’re quite nice when you’re not moaning about little smoke bombs…’

AR ‘It’s inevitable really, once the bigger clubs started circling. We got the same treatment after coming 6th three years in a row under Martin O’Neill (you were trifling with the likes of Exeter and Stockport at the time, how things change!). We couldn’t keep Gareth Barry (£12m) and James Milner (£26m) away from Man City, nor Ashley Young (£17m) from Man Utd, nor Stewart Downing (£20m) from Liverpool. The only difference was it didn’t happen all in the same summer. Sometimes that can be worse, as it appears to the fans the club won’t ever keep hold of their best players. But that’s the way football is these days – even Everton, who contend for the Champions League spots, wouldn’t be able to prevent their top talent leaving if the title challengers came knocking. The important thing is reinvesting the money you earn, otherwise you end up like us. I can see why some Saints fans may be angry – it seems, from the outside, that the club isn’t doing much to stop the top players moving on. But when players sense the grass is greener (or their agent convinces them it might be) then you can’t stop them. Speaking of which…’

 
Can we have some other Chelsea players? Please.

DD ‘Rickie Lambert’s gone. You need to replace him with another reliable goal-machine. We have this lad, Fernando… And I’ll bloody drive Ramires to you.’

Can we have Ron Vlaar? Please.

AR ‘No. Leave Concrete Ron alone, please. He’s got a phobia of the sea, anyway. Hopefully.’

So there we have it. Thanks to David and Andrew for their contributions. Let’s hope I need some more contributors soon!
Chris

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

So that is the end of another fantastic season following Saints! No season would be officially over though without a spate of reviews and awards.

This site is no different and yet again the response to this years Ali awards has been fantastic, and this is what is up for grabs:-

ali_trophy

 

So without further ado, here are YOUR winners….

Player of the Year

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

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

3rd Place:- Dejan Lovren (13%)

2nd Place:- Jay Rodriguez (18%)

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

Finally! Lallana has an Ali!

Finally! Lallana has an Ali!

Most Improved Player

The beauty of this award is that everyone interprets it differently. Some went for an overall improvement on last season, while others voted for those who improved over the course of the campaign.

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

3rd Place:- Calum Chambers (11%)

2nd Place:- Jose Fonte (31%)

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

Two times winner! Jay Rodriguez!

Two times winner! Jay Rodriguez!

Young Player of the Year

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

Received Votes:- Harrison Reed

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

2nd Place:- Calum Chambers (15%)

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

Shaw-ly off to Brazil?

Shaw-ly off to Brazil?

Unsung Hero

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

3rd Place:- Jose Fonte (7%)

2nd Place:- Jack Cork (17%)

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

sdavis

Signing of the Season

2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (8%)

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

dlovren

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

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

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

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

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

Anfield celebrations

The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment

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

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

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

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

dia-awards-Boruc

Best Opposition Team

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

3rd Place:- Arsenal (5%)

2nd Place:- Liverpool (31%)

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

willian

Best Opposition Player

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Opposition Fans

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

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

2nd Place:- Liverpool (16%)

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

palacefans

Best Saints related Tweeter

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

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

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

2nd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)

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

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

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

Chris

Will The Saints Go Marching On?

Everyone loves a stat don’t they? I know I do, and that is why I was chuffed when the guys from kickoff.co.uk offered to put together a season preview for me using their expertise. So dear reader, settle back and prepare to be dazzled by the numbers and enjoy!

Will the Saints go marching on?

‘Second season syndrome’ is a phrase regularly bandied around at Premier League level, with the perception being that promoted clubs are more vulnerable to relegation after their opponents have had a year to get used to facing them.

Southampton find themselves in that position ahead of the new campaign, so I thought I’d take a look back at their 2012/13 season and highlight both what they did well and any areas in which I feel they can improve.

POSITIVES

The Saints finished 14th in the final table, yet they were the tenth highest scorers in the division with 49 goals from their 38 matches. Rickie Lambert was responsible for 15 of these strikes, benefitting from being the focal point at the top of their attacking formation.

Both Mauricio Pochettino and Nigel Adkins before him encouraged a positive brand of football, with this being reflected by the fact that Southampton found the net in 29 (76%) of their top-flight fixtures. This achievement is furnished with additional kudos when you consider that this represented the best record outside of the top-seven.

Furthermore, the men from the South Coast scored in all eight of their meetings with the eventual Champions League qualifiers:

image007

As the chart above also shows, home wins were achieved against two of the top-three, whilst only late brilliance from Robin van Persie handed Manchester United victory at St. Mary’s.

This shows that Southampton can mix it with the big boys, on their own patch at least, but they also managed to remain unbeaten against teams finishing in their quarter of the final table:

image008

Although six of these games ended all-square, it is certainly worth noting that only Fulham picked up more points (13) from meetings between members of this quintet.

The Saints were similarly strong in matches in which they opened the scoring, winning eight, drawing six and losing four of these encounters. When you consider that half of these defeats came against the eventual champions, then that record starts to look even better.

NEGATIVES

Draws were undoubtedly a problem, with only Everton and Stoke managing more than the 14 picked up by Southampton. Although the team shone offensively, there was a lack of support for Lambert in the scoring stakes; no other player contributed in excess of six league goals.

Another major issue would have to be the defensive frailty displayed by the South Coast outfit. Just seven clean sheets were kept in 38 games, with four of these coming against the six sides that finished below them in the table.

Winning at the top clubs is never easy, but five draws and eight defeats from 13 trips to those that finished above them hints at fundamental flaws in the Saints’ approach to away matches. Could this be the result of some kind of mental block or is it the end product of an overly-positive tactical approach on the road?

Whatever the reason, it is hard to offer up anything other than complacency as an excuse for Southampton losing at home to three of the bottom-four last season:

image009

Alarm bells also start to ring when we take a look at results from games in which the men from Hampshire conceded first. Eleven of these 17 fixtures ended in defeat, with the 4-1 hammering of Aston Villa representing the only success achieved on the back of going 1-0 down.

Perhaps the most damning statistic of all, however, is just how easy opponents found it to convert their chances against the Saints:

image010

As you can see, nearly one in five of the shots that Southampton allowed resulted in a goal being scored against them. Only relegated Wigan fared worse in this category, and that by the narrowest of margins, whilst Newcastle were the nearest club in the other direction.

TRANSFERS

The incomings at St. Mary’s this summer should certainly provide the supporters with plenty of encouragement. Croatian international centre-back Dejan Lovren arrives from Lyon, whilst Victor Wanyama has won rave reviews for his performances at Celtic.

Although I have only seen Lovren in action once, in the Europa League at White Hart Lane last season, he comes highly-rated and has already won close to 20 caps for his country.

Young Wanyama has been far more on my radar, however, producing a string of top-class performances both domestically and on the Champions League stage from his natural position in the middle of the park.

These additions, along with the continued development of Luke Shaw, should help to address some of the aforementioned defensive issues, though the squad as a whole is an extremely young one:

image011

This perfectly feasible starting XI, for example, would boast an average age of just 24 years and nine months come the start of the season.

One more signing in a forward area could be made with a view to easing the burden on Rickie Lambert, but I don’t actually believe this to be necessary. Jay Rodriguez started to blossom when given a run in the team, albeit not in his preferred position, whilst Emmanuel Mayuka is a real talent. I would be interested to hear what Southampton supporters have made of the Zambian in his fleeting cameos, because he has impressed me greatly on the international stage.

FUTURE

If the previous campaign is anything to go by, then a difficult start awaits:

image012

If we exclude home games with the newly-promoted duo of Crystal Palace and Hull, then it becomes apparent that the Saints failed to win any of the equivalent 11 fixtures during 2012/13.

I must admit that I have my doubts about Pochettino and his high-pressing style, but I have a lot of faith in the group of players that has been assembled at St. Mary’s. This is a squad capable of pushing for a place in the top-ten, but whether or not they achieve that is open to debate.’

Thanks to Charles and Rob from kickoff.co.uk for compiling this!

Chris

The Winners of the 2012/13 Ali’s! The Results are in!

So that is the end of another topsy turvey season in the life of being a Saints fan, but no season would be complete without a spate of reviews and awards. This site is no different and yet again the response to this years Ali awards has been fantastic, and this is what is up for grabs:-

ali_trophy

So without further ado, here are YOUR winners…..

Player of the Year

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

Scored points:- Adam Lallana (0.0013%), Jason Puncheon (0.0013%), Steven Davis (0.4%), Jay Rodriguez (0.94%), Maya Yoshida (1.34%), Artur Boruc (2.42%), Luke Shaw (5.24%), Nathaniel Clyne (8.2%)

3rd Place:- Jack Cork (15.8%)

2nd Place:- Rickie Lambert (17.9%)

And the winner, making it a clean sweep in Player of the Season Awards, well deserved after an amazing system, with a whopping 47.37% of the points…..Morgan Schneiderlin!

MS_2012

Most Improved Player

The beauty of this award is that everyone interprets it differently. Some went for an overall improvement on last season, while others voter for those who improved over the course of the season.

Received Votes:- Rickie Lambert, Jose Fonte, Steven Davis, Jos Hooiveld, Nathaniel Clyne, Artur Boruc, Jack Cork, Maya Yoshida, Morgan Schneiderlin.

3rd Place:- Luke Shaw (16%)

2nd Place:- Jason Puncheon (18%)

And the winner, a young man who started his career at Saints with a lot of doubters, but in the second half of the season was undoubtedly one of our top performers with 29%  of the votes……Jay Rodriguez!

rodriguez-liverpool

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:-Puncheon at Loftus Road, Second Half at Stamford Bridge (Team), Gaston Ramirez v Villa at home, Team v Villa at home, Team v Newcastle at home, Jay Rodriguez v Liverpool at home, Boruc at Villa Park, Team v Arsenal at home, Team v West Ham at home, Second Half at Old Trafford (Team), First half at home v Everton (Team), Lambert v Chelsea at home, Cork v Chelsea at home, Boruc at Carrow Road, Team at Loftus Road, Cortese v Le Tissier, Cortese sacking Adkins.

3rd Place:- Team v Chelsea at home in the league (13%).

2nd Place:- Team v Liverpool at home (20%).

And the winner, a memorable day as the champions were made to look extremely ordinary with 31% of the votes….Team v Man City at home.

SaintsvManc

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Maya Yoshida, Mauricio Pochettino, Gaston Ramirez, Steven Davis, Vegard Forren.

3rd Place:- Jay Rodriguez (7%).

2nd Place:- Artur Boruc (24%).

And the winner, forming a formidable partnership with Jason Puncheon on the right and proving as asset both in defence and going forward with 62% of the vote….Nathaniel Clyne!

nClyne

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- That Fat Bloke in the glasses who hangs around outside the dressing rooms, MoPo’s interpreter, The Travelling Sains Support, Jos Hooiveld, Guly, Emmanuel Mayuka, Nigel Adkins, Artur Boruc, Jason Puncheon Jay Rodriguez, Morgan Schneiderlin, Nicola Cortese, Nathaniel Clyne.

3rd Place:- Steven Davis (16%).

2nd Place:- Maya Yoshida (22%).

And the winner is, a man who we missed in our terrible start to the season and made a massive contribution when he returned. He retains this award from last season! With 36% of the votes…..Jack Cork!

JCork

The Ali Dia Award For Comedy Moment

It says a lot about Saints fans, that this is always the award that comes the most varied answers. Great effort from everyone again! Brace yourselves….

Received Votes:- Arry Houdini, Jos Hooiveld Own Goal and Penalty King, Guly miss v Stoke, Boruc Juggling at Reading, Arsenal Away, Guly Skills v Spurs, WBA Away, WBA Home, MoPo’s skinny jeans, Danny Fox Tackle v WBA, Gazzaniga v Norwich, WBA Mexican Wave, Kelvin Davis Keeping, Steve de Ridder cameo’s, Puncheon substitution v Reading, Half Time Relay miss from 2 yards, Danny Fox, Defending in opening 10 fixtures, Boruc first couple of games, John Terry slips, Andy Carroll ‘You look like a horse’, Artur Boruc: Bottlegate, WBA ‘You’re going down on your sister’, JRod dive v Villa, Danny Fox v Arsenal, Nigel Adkins substitutions v Man Utd, Grant Holt cheating to win a penalty then missing it, Taunting West Ham ‘HOOOOF’, Ref tackled by Rodriguez, Boruc pushing Fonte after penalty save, Gazzaniga doing his boots up at goal kicks, Richardson and Seabourne defending against Stevenage, Half Time Relay – Split Trousers, Gangnam Style Sammy Saint, The amount of big clubs who had ‘off days’ against Saints, Mark Lawrenson’s predictions, Portsmouth FC – The gift that keeps on giving.

3rd Place:- Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox together is like ‘crossing the streams’, the own goal at Newcastle (7%).

2nd Place:- That Gareth Barry perfectly place side foot finish own goal (11%).

And the winner, it could only be, the unscheduled rest break at home against Everton. With 40% of the votes…….. Jason Puncheon, he shits when he wants.

JPshits

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Officials v West Ham, Norwich City, Swansea City, QPR, Liverpool, Everton, Wigan Athletic, Spurs, Man City, Chelsea.

3rd Place:- Arsenal (11%).

2nd Place:- Manchester United (21%).

And the winner, deservedly so after dismantling Saints both home and away, with 51% of the votes……West Bromwich Albion.

wbastm

Best Opposition Player

Received votes:- Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Paul Scholes, Demba Ba, Santi Cazorla, Jos Hooiveld, Danny Fox, Andy Carroll, Theo Walcott, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Robert Green, Marouane Fellaini, Sandro, Stephen Peinaar, Youssouf Mulumbu, Michu, Chris Samba, Antonio Di Natale.

3rd Place:- Gareth Bale (14%).

2nd Place:- Robin Van Persie (27%).

And the winner, after an immaculate performance in the Baggies’ demolition of Saints at St. Mary’s. with 39% of the votes…..Romelu Lukaku!

lukaku

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Sunderland, Reading, Newcastle, Liverpool, Man City, West Ham, Wigan, Swansea, Villa, Spurs, All Shit, QPR, Everton, Arsenal, Norwich, Ajax, Stoke. (The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that only Fulham didn’t register a single vote!).

3rd Place:- Chelsea (11%).

2nd Place:- Manchester United (12%).

And the winner, a clean sweep for the team from the Midlands, boinging there way to three awards, with 42% of the votes……West Bromwich Albion!

wbafans

Best Saints Related Tweeter

A lot of people voting for themselves here I suspect…..

Received Votes:- Connor Armstrong, Ollie Johnston, anthonydjames, Joner07, MatthewLeGod, stevegrant1983, Richard Chaplow, Radhi Jaidi, macdoodle, danbsfc, shaunthecabbie, pilchards, Not Nigel Adkins, DutchTom, colinjb84, Official Club Account, kellymauger, Anyone but aap3saints, aap3saints, Matt Le Tissier, S13SFC, Iwan Thomas, Jos Hooiveld, I Hate Twitter, MoPo parody account, talksaints, Luke Shaw’s mum, SamDobson1, megan_snedden, SaintsRumours, dubaisaints, Nicola Cortese, Billy Sharp, LewisTull, Wattyspics, Anyone but sridout92, jayrodfan2, GGalpin95, Sam Hoskins, Sean Gonzalez-Lambert, OnlyWayisSO14, crespino10.

3rd Place:- Luke Shaw (14%).

And in joint first place, the imaginary trophy will have to spend 6 months in each users mind, with 16% of the votes each, errrr, this is a little embarrassing…..Simon Peach and I!

So that concludes this year’s ‘Ali’s’, some truly deserving winners there I’m sure you will agree. Thank you to everybody who voted, and thank you all for a fantastic season. I actually think the atmosphere at St. Mary’s this season was the best it has ever been, and one of the best in the Premier League. As the club goes through some interesting times progress wise our support is more important than ever.

Keep the faith.

Chris

All the makings of a classic….

After reading some great buildup pieces yesterday, notably by Sam Dobson and Sean Gonzalez-Lambert, it got me thinking that the whole Adkins/Pochettino/Cortese situation read quite like a Shakespearean tragedy. What do you think?

5th November 2012. Southampton is mutinous. The citizens protesting at their rulers incompetence and a lack of points.

‘What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues,
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
Make yourselves scabs?’

8th December 2012. Senator Adkins has appeased the citizens, but rumours persist that behind the scenes that he is a puppet and speaking on behalf of another.

‘They threw their caps
As they would hang them on the horns o’ the moon,
Shouting their emulation.’

18th January 2013. Senator Adkins is banished from Southampton by the King and immediately replaced by Senator Pochettino.

‘His nature is too noble for the world:
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
Or Jove for ’s power to thunder.’

Blue tie? Weird.

Blue tie? Weird.

21st January 2013. Senator Pochettino arrives in Southampton, a small (very, very small) number of Southampton citizens protest with the waving of their white hankies (hankies? It’s 2013…).

‘You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcases of unburied men
That do corrupt my air,–I banish you.’

9th February 2013. Senator Pochettino’s men defeat the horde of Manchester, repelling them from the city.

‘Would you have me
False to my nature? Rather say I play
The man I am’

30th March 2013. Senator Pochettino’s men, having already defeated the Scouse army, successfully defend the city and points against the conquerers of Europe. The aggressive relentless style of his army gaining praise the land over.

‘Had I a dozen sons, each in my love alike and none less dear than thine and my good Marcius, I had rather eleven die nobly for their country than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.’

6th April 2013. Senator Pochettino will lead his men to Reading to face off against the army of former Southampton leader Senator Adkins. What will be the result?

‘Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.’

Ooooooooooh When the Saints...

Ooooooooooh When the Saints…

Whatever happens on Saturday, my own position on this is that, though as fans we have a lot to thank Nigel Adkins for there comes a time when the ‘period of grief’ has to stop. For me, MoPo has proved now that he is capable of the job and the football we are playing is impressive to the point of unbelievable. He should, no longer, have to fight for our affections with Nigel. He should have them fully.

The three points is vital on Saturday, we can put ourselves on the brink of safety, and that above all else is the most important thing. The club has moved on. We can show our appreciation for Nigel at the Madejski with polite applause when he walks out of the tunnel, but does there need to be anymore than that? And it should be followed by a rousing rendition of ‘Pochettino’s Red & White Army’. We have to live in the now.

Come the final whistle, should we have the three points be in the bag, then why not give Nigel a send off and let loose with ‘One Nigel Adkins’. Closure.

In an ideal world Saints and Reading could both stay up, but the world isn’t ideal, especially in football, and if our safety means condemning the man who brought us a lot of joy over the past couple of years then so be it. The King is dead, Long live the King.

‘What is the city but the people?’

Chris

p.s. All quotes from the brilliant Shakespeare play ‘Coriolanus’. Watch the film with Ralph Fiennes. It’s great.

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

Played For Both: Saints & Devils

Another ‘Played for Both’ team, another serious lack of defenders (or for that matter a complete team). You will have to excuse some poetic license in this one, with regards peoples positions and err.. questionable playing history. But believe me, no one would want to lineup with one at back, especially if that one was Danny Higginbotham….

Here goes:-

Team

Goalkeeper

Harry Moger

Local Southampton boy Harry Moger signed for his hometown club in 1900 but was never first choice at the Dell, Saints loss was Manchester United’s gain when they took him in 1903. He played over 240 times for the Red Devils and was a league winner twice and FA Cup winner once. He was also part of the United team that won the first ever Charity Shield in 1908. Passed away in Manchester in 1927. R.I.P.

Harry Moger

Harry Moger

Defender

Oshor Williams

Technically a midfielder, Teesider Williams played for local club Middlesbrough as a youth before signing a professional contract with United in 1976, he didn’t kick a ball in anger for the club though and was promptly released a year later. After a couple of seasons in non-league football he was given a second chance by Lawrie McMenemy, he was quickly loaned to Exeter City for experience before coming back to Saints. He made just 6 appearances at the Dell before leaving for Stockport County in 1979. Has the dubious honour of making one of the worst Saints XI’s in our previous feature:- ‘Saints in our Lives’. Now works for the PFA and is a youth coach for Wigan Athletic.

Oshor Williams

Oshor Williams

Defender

Danny Higginbotham

Manc Higginbotham realised his dreams when he signed a professional contract at Old Trafford in 1997 having been a youth player with the club. After being farmed out to Royal Antwerp and being involved in a controversial incident with a referee he returned to Manchester and played four times for the first team. It was clear he was never going to be a regular though and was sold to Derby County for £2 million in 2000. Having impressed with the Rams in both the Premier League and the Championship Saints made their move in January 2003. He was an unused sub in the 2003 cup final, unable to displace the duo of Lundekvam and Svensson, but played more regularly in the subsequent seasons. With Saints dropping to the championship in 2005, Higginbotham let his contract expire and left the club for Stoke City in the summer of 2006. Has since had a spell at Sunderland, a second at Stoke and brief stints with Forest and Ipswich before signing for Sheffield United this month.

Danny Higginbotham

Danny Higginbotham

Defender

Jim McCalliog

Another who isn’t really a defender, glaswegian McCalliog was a youth at Leeds United before signing for Chelsea in 1963. After highly successful periods with Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves, United paid £60,000 to take him to Old Trafford. He was part of the United side that were both relegated to the 2nd division, but also bounced straight back up again at the first attempt, but was sold to Saints for £45,000 in 1975. McCalliog came back to haunt United manager Tommy Docherty, playing a perfectly timed through ball for the onside Bobby Stokes to score the only goal of the ’76 cup final. McCalliog headed to the States in 1977 and had a brief stint as a manager with Halifax Town in 1990.

Jim_McCalliog
Midfield

Gordon Strachan

Errr…. Ok, I was struggling at this point, but he did play for Saints in Matthew Le Tissier’s 2001 testimonial. It counts. It’s my rules.

See....

See….

Midfield

Mark Hughes

Seeing as Hughes made the Everton side too, I will keep this brief. Illustrious career as a striker with United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, United again, Chelsea. Hideous spell as a midfielder for Saints.

Frank Sinclair having a vision of the future...

Eddie Newton having a vision of the future…

Winger

Andrei Kanchelskis

Kanchelskis left his Ukranian home to join United in 1991 for the princely sum of £650,000. It was money well spent as he terrorised Premier League full backs for four seasons, but after a rumoured fall out with Sir Alex Ferguson he was moved on to Everton in 1995. Via a spell at Fiorentina he ensured he would be the answer to the most asked football trivia question of all time by signing for Rangers in 1998. After a highly successful period at Ibrox and a brief loan at Manchester City he signed for Saints in 2002. It was an odd signing and a once great Premier League player was a shadow of his former self, making just two brief substitute appearances. Now the manager of FC Ufa in the Russian second division.

Andrei Kanchelskis

Andrei Kanchelskis

Winger

Danny Wallace

Londoner Wallace joined Saints as a youth player in 1977 and turned pro in 1980. Made his debut at Old Trafford aged just 16, coming off the bench to replace Kevin Keegan. This was a record broken since by only Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale. Wallace was a fans favourite at the Dell, his pace and skill complimented with some fantastic goals. He was joined in the Saints team for the 1988/89 season by brothers Ray and Rodney but was attracted to the Ferguson revolution at United and headed for Old Trafford in the summer of 1989. He had played over 300 times for Saints. Although he didn’t quite live up to his reputation at United he did rack up a few medals and played for the club 47 times before moving to Birmingham City. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996, Wallace has embarked on many charity ventures including the London Marathon. Makes the small list of players to have played just once for England, but scoring in that appearance.

Danny Wallace

Danny Wallace

Forward

Ron Davies

Welshman Davies is a legend at St. Mary’s, scoring 134 goals in 240 games after joining the club from Norwich City in 1965. He was considered the best striker around by Sir Matt Busby in 1967, a high accolade indeed. Unfortunately injures started to hamper Davies, the result of his physical combatant style and he lost his place in the Saints team. He crossed the South Coast divide in 1973 and signed for Portsmouth before heading to Old Trafford the following season. He made little impact at United and went on loan to Millwall before retiring in 1975.

Ron Davies

Ron Davies

Forward

Joe Jordan

After establishing himself as part of the fantastic Leeds team of the mid-70’s the Scotsman made the jump to Old Trafford in 1978. Scoring 37 goals in 109 games for United, Jordan was another physical striker and made the move from top English league player to top export when he moved AC Milan in 1981. He stayed at the San Siro for two seasons, and was highly regarded despite the club being relegated to Serie B in his second and last campaign. He moved to Verona that summer but the goals dried up and he headed back to Blighty and Southampton in 1984. Back on form Jordan scored 12 goals in 48 games for Saints before moving to Bristol City in 1987. After some questionable management periods he has become a mainstay of Harry Redknapp’s coaching team with Portsmouth, Spurs and now QPR. Oddly he didn’t follow Redknapp to Saints in 2004/05 and stayed at Portsmouth (perhaps he saw what was coming).

Joe_Jordan

Forward

Ted MacDougall

Journeyman MacDougall can name 18 clubs that he represented in his career including both United and Saints. Having started his career with Liverpool, he made a name for himself scoring plenty of goals for both York City and Bournemouth which led United to pay £200,000 for him in 1972. Despite scoring on his debut MacDougall didn’t last the season and was sold to West Ham. After not quite finding his feet at the Hammers either he found his scoring boots again at Norwich City, but soon found himself on the move again joining Saints for £50,000 in 1976. He helped Saints retain their place in the top division but MacDougall favoured staying in the lower leagues and returned to Bournemouth in 1978. Now a coach in the United States.

Ted_Macdougall

So there it is, I know I really pushed the acceptable boundaries this time, but amazing how few players there were post-war era. As usual, would love to hear of any other suggestions!

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Morgan Schneiderlin: Le temps est un grand maître

Saints fans can be forgiven for saying that they don’t owe much to former chairman Rupert Lowe, but on the 27th June 2008, Lowe made one of his wisest decisions.

Lowe agreed to pay a small fee (with possible rises to £1.2 million) to RC Strasbourg for 18 year old French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin. Although the name may have been alien to fans in English football, Schneiderlin was a young man turning the heads of several clubs.

From the Alsace region of northern France, one of the smallest, and more famed for it’s skiers than it’s footballers, Schneiderlin was already making a presence on the international scene having represented France at every level up to U18 when Saints came calling.

This was after countryman Georges Prost’s time at Saints, but you can’t help but think that the legendary French youth development coach may have had a hand it. With Chelsea and Arsenal both interested in Schneiderlin it eventually came down to a straight choice. Premier League Portsmouth or Championship Southampton, thankfully for us, Morgan chose club size, potential and facilities over temporary league superiority and joined Saints when perhaps they were at their lowest ebb.

Schneiderl-in

Schneiderl-in

To say it was a risky move for both the club and Schneiderlin would be an understatement. With the club in a difficult period financially and having just survived a Championship relegation battle on the final day of the season, this might not have been the best place for a young foreigner to take the next step in his career.

2008/09 was an even more difficult season. Off the field Saints were unravelling and on the pitch the amount of playing time Schneiderlin was getting in the first team would be a telling tale as to the quality on offer. In what was a very poor side, Schneiderlin, being young, in a foreign country and far from the finished article looked seriously exposed. Saints finished second from bottom and the fans weren’t sold on their new French midfielder. The strength of feeling can be seen in a thread from the most populated Saints internet forum ‘Saintsweb’ – ‘Schneiderlin – The biggest waste of cash ever?’ narrowly beating English lower league plodder Paul Wotton as the best option for central midfield.

I won’t lie, I also thought Schneiderlin was poor and not cut out to take part in a League One campaign. The phrase ‘lightweight French ponce’ was said to me by a friend and I can’t say I disagreed.

If we are being fair though that was a hideously poor Saints team, and Schneiderlin would have done well to shine in it. Rupert Lowe’s disastrous Dutch experiment with Jan Poortvliet at the helm, coupled with bad financial decisions meant that this was a difficult time to be a Southampton player. For many Schneiderlin was a write off, a waste of money and not good enough. Saints had had a brief upturn under Mark Wotte, and the former Saints coach had this to say about Schneiderlin ‘Intelligent player great basic skills,cool composed passer,perfect sitting and passing midfielder,could be a bit more dominant’.

‘Quand on a le droit de se tromper impunément, on est toujours sûr de réussir.’

The 2009/10 season was the start of Saints new dawn, and the same could be said for Schneiderlin. As Saints lived through an uncertain summer in administration it might have been a good time for Morgan Schneiderlin to make his escape, but whether it was down to a lack of interest (everyone was for sale) or a lack of enthusiasm on Morgan’s part the Frenchman was still a Saints player when the club was rescued by Markus Liebherr. Under new boss Alan Pardew Saints looked a much better prospect and Schneiderlin started to show his worth.

In a season that ended with a trophy (sadly Schneiderlin missed the Johnstones Paint Trophy final with a hamstring injury) and Saints just missing out on the playoffs despite a -10 point penalty, it was clear the club was embarking on a bright new period, and Schneiderlin was very much a part of it. The fans had started to see a different side of the player as his confidence started to blossom, both the good and the bad. As well as showing a calmness on the ball, so associated with the continental players, he also showed his combative side, losing his temper and picking up bookings and being sent off twice.

If fans weren’t sold on him at this point. The subsequent two seasons would complete his turnaround. Flourishing under Nigel Adkins, while the club continuously changed personell around him to plan for the Championship, Schneiderlin was a mainstay. As Saints pushed for promotion Schneiderlin was coming into his own in central midfield and was becoming one of the most vocal and passionate Saints players, often leading the chat in the pre-match huddle.

Saints made an impressive return to the Championship with Schneiderlin now one of the first names on the teamsheet playing in a defensive midfield role alongside Jack Cork. He had earned himself a new contract in the summer and now Saints fans were celebrating his stay rather than bemoaning it. Saints made it back to back promotions and the Premier League beckoned.

Schneider-win. Morgan celebrates as Saints secure promotion against Coventry.

Schneider-win. Morgan celebrates with team mates as Saints secure promotion against Coventry.

The Premier League has been the great leveller for many a player that has been ‘rated’ in the lower leagues. Saints were now three years into a five year plan to build a side to compete in the Premier League and Schneiderlin was still very much a part of that. Like his other top division shy teammates from the lesser tier era Jack Cork, Jose Fonte, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert he hasn’t failed to impress. The Frenchman, now an old stager and part of the furniture at St. Mary’s has been fantastic, mixing it up with some of the best in the world. Having perhaps been Saints best kept secret while his team mates are linked with moves elsewhere, people have started to sit up and take notice.

His progress since 2008 has been almost immeasurable, and it is hard to imagine Saints lining up without Schneiderlin in that anchor role between defence and attack, they would certainly be the weaker for it. The French often have a philosophical way with words, and when Eric Cantona described French captain Didier Deschamps as ‘nothing more than a water carrier’, Deschamps rightly retorted that ‘every team needs water carriers’ and that is undoubtedly true. To compare Schneiderlin to Deschamps would be frivolous at this stage of his career, but he certainly adds that sense of calm and consistency to Saints midfield. Breaking up play, taking control of the ball and moving it on productively. If I can be so bold, I would say that Schneiderlin is 50% Deschamps in style, and 50% that of another successful countryman Claude Makélélé. Again perhaps I am being a little over zealous but to date this season Schneiderlin has made 162 tackles and interceptions, more than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Couple that with an 85% pass success rate you can see that this is a man in control of midfield, despite facing the best there is.

Having become a key player for Saints, and a man that the media and pundits are starting to talk about, it seems crazy that he is just 23 years old, and has already amassed 172 first team appearances for the club.

Schneiderlin celebrates his goal against Manchester United

Schneiderlin celebrates his goal against Manchester United

It has been an up and down relationship between Morgan and Saints, who has suffered the recent lows and enjoyed the recent highs. He is now very much a part of Saints folklore. He has blossomed at the club and grown as the club has grown, and alongside Kelvin Davis is all that is left of the dark days of 2008. The sky really is the limit now for Morgan, and I for one would not be surprised to see Didier Deschamps give him a chance in his revamped French squad, he would certainly have deserved it.

As Saints are now in another exciting new era, Schneiderlin epitomises everything that ‘The Southampton Way’ is about, young, talented and growing from an 18 year old rough around the edges to leading the first team out as captain against the European champions. With Mauricio Pochettino coming in as head coach and renowned in Spain for working with and improving young players it will be interesting to see how good Schneiderlin can become. He himself was quoted this week saying about the new setup “I believe he will make us better players. He has a lot of new ideas.”.

Schneiderlin wearing the captain's armband as he beats Ramires.

Schneiderlin wearing the captain’s armband as he beats Ramires.

The shared journey of Southampton and Schneiderlin is hopefully far from over. Saints are insistent that they are no longer a club who develops talent then moves them on for a profit. Statistically he is currently one of the best defensive midfield players in the Premier League. That £1.2 million isn’t looking too bad now is it….

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

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