Great South Run: Sponsor me and it could be you!

As I have mentioned previously, I will this year make my return to the streets of Portsmouth to take on the Great South Run for the second time. This is not my wisest decision and is against the advice of my Doctor as I am currently being treated for stress fractures in both shins, but, I am a firm believer in completing something once you have committed to it, and I may have to take it a little easier than I might have hoped.

I have decided to run it this time in aid of Saints Foundation and am looking to raise at least £250 to help them continue in the great work they do with disadvantaged kids and vulnerable adults.

I appreciate that times are tight for everyone these days, so I appreciate any donation, no matter how small. Every little helps.

This prompted a good opportunity though for me to give some prizes away and hopefully encourage people to give generously! To that end, I have three fantastic prizes that can be one simply by making a donation. two of them are Saints related, the other not so much, but still of interest to the anyone keen on football memorabilia.

Prize One:- THE FIRST EVER OFFICIAL GEORGEWEAHSCOUSIN.COM T-SHIRT!

That’s right folks. this is the opportunity to own the first ever official georgeweahscousin.com t-shirt. Recently the site has entered into a partnership with Cult Zeros to create a range of Saints related t-shirts and Hoodies (watch this space for designs), and they have kindly donated the first ever t-shirt (in a size of your choice) to the winner. And here it  is….

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All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this exclusive t-shirt is go to https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Rann1/, make a donation and put somewhere in the comments ‘t-shirt’.

Prize Two:-SIGNED SOUTHAMPTON SQUAD FOOTBALL CIRCA 1995

This is a football I won in the raffle on an official coach trip to Old Trafford I think in November 1995, but I might be mistaken.

Signatures include:- Matthew Le Tissier, Alan Neilson, Francis Benali, Dave Beasant, Christer Warren, Paul Tisdale, Bruce Grobbelaar, Tommy Widdrington, Mathew Robinson, Matthew Oakley, Ken Monkou, Neil Moss, Neil Shipperley, Barry Venison and several more I cannot identify.

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All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this classic piece of Saints history is  go to https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Rann1/, make a donation and put somewhere in the comments ‘Saints Ball’.

Prize Three- SIGNED EVERTON SQUAD FOOTBALL CIRCA  1989

This is a football that was kindly given to me by my cousin who was an apprentice at Goodison Park at the time. I’m pretty sure (but admittedly not 100%) that this is the squad that was FA Cup finalists in 1989.

Signatures include:- Kevin Ratcliffe, Wayne Clarke, Colin Harvey, Paul Power, Stuart McCall, Pat ven den Hauwe, Kevin Sheedy, Ian Wilson, Dave Watson, Tony Cottee, Neville Southall and several more I can’t identify.

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All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this classic piece of Everton history is  go to https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Rann1/, make a donation and put somewhere in the comments ‘Everton Ball’.

So there we have it, three decent prizes that could be yours for as little as a £1. Please give whatever you can. Winners will be selected completely at random and will be notified after the Great South Run (26th October 2014). Good Luck!

Chris

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Twenty Questions: Egil Østenstad

After relentless pursuing of Saints and Ex-Saints on twitter, I managed to get one of my favourites!

Former Saints striker Egil Østenstad wowed the Dell between 1996 and 1999, scoring some great goals and being part of that famous 6-3 victory over Manchester United in which he bagged a hat-trick (he doesn’t care what the dubious goals panel says, he’s got the match ball!).

So here it is 20 questions with Egil Østenstad!

Egil Østenstad. 109 Saints appearances. 33 Saints goals.

Egil Østenstad. 109 Saints appearances. 33 Saints goals.

1. Best Saints Memory?Among a lot of great ones; staying in the Premier League in my first season after being in desperate trouble. Great feeling. Also being voted Player of the season that same season, and scoring in front of the The Kop on my first visit to Anfield.’

2. Worst Saints memory? ‘Not being able to sort out a new and longer contract with Rupert Lowe.’

3. Favourite Manager?  ‘I will always be very grateful towards Graeme Souness for giving my the chance to come to Southampton and the Premier League. At Southampton, in his eyes, I never did anything wrong. At Blackburn I never did anything right…’

4. Least favourite Manager?Even though results were decent I thought Dave Jones had an old school approach to the game and a managerial outlook that I found difficult to like.’

5. Most talented team mate? ‘Le Tiss was the biggest British talent of his generation when it comes to pure football. His willingness to make the most out of his talent is a different story. Eyal Berkovic was a joy to play with.’

6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room?  ‘Jim Magilton. Busy man…’

7. The Dell or St. Mary’s?  ‘For me The Dell.  I only played against Southampton at St Mary’s.’

8. Which member of the current team impresses you most? ‘Adam Lallana. Not just because of his ability. More so because of his attitude, loyalty and being a great ambassador for Saints.’

9. Hardest team mate?  ‘Ulrich van Gobbel. Monster…’

10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘Loads whilst playing for Blackburn. Quite enjoyed that and scored the winning goal (0-1) on my first visit there. Great stuff!’

11. Derby Day memories? ‘Portsmouth were nearly as bad then as they are now when I was there.’

12. Toughest opponent? ‘Martin Keown.’

13. Favourite Away Ground?  ‘Anfield.’

14. Favourite Saints kit? ’97/98 season Home shirt.’

15. Ever had a Benali curry? Loads. Very good actually!’

16. Best friends from Saints days? ‘I appreciate the fact that I have met and occasionally spoken to Jason Dodd, Le Tiss, Franny Benali, Jim Magilton and Gordon Watson in the last years. I sometimes speak to Claus Lundekvam. It was a good group of players when I was there.’

17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game? ‘Too far. I really hope the rules of financial fair play will have the desired effect. Football is turning into too much of a toy for the wrong reasons.’

18. Pace or skill? ‘Average pace and average skill…’

19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘Top 10. Which is a great achievement!’

20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? Access to Spotify…’

….and a bonus question just for you as we have the same taste in music.

21. What song do you think best fits the Saints experience? ‘Smells like teen spirit…’

Many thanks to Egil for taking the time to answer these questions!

Chris

 

Twenty Questions: Gordon Watson

It’s been a while….

So apologies to those of you who follow the site. Life and work got a little hectic for a while there, but hopefully the content will start to flow a little more now, along with a redesign of sorts.

A new feature I have long wanted to add is that of 20 quick-fire questions to anyone associated with Saints. This has more than a little nod of appreciation to the classic ‘Hayling Island Discs’ series that ran in the Red Stripe fanzine in the 90’s, so thanks to them!

So here goes, our first ever interviewee is former Saints striker Gordon ‘Flash’ Watson! I hope you enjoy it.

Gordon 'Flash' Watson.  68 Saints appearances. 14 Saints goals.

Gordon ‘Flash’ Watson. 68 Saints appearances. 14 Saints goals.

1. Best Saints memory? ‘Scoring on Home debut v Newcastle 3-1.’
2. Worst Saints memory? Leaving in January ’97.’
3. Favourite Manager? ‘Alan Ball.’
4. Least favourite Manager? Mike Newell.’
5. Most talented team mate? ‘Matt Le Tissier /Chris Waddle/John Sheridan.’
6. Biggest prankster in the dressing room? ‘No comment.’
7. The Dell or St. Mary’s? ‘The Dell.’
8. Which member of the current team impresses you most? ‘Rickie Lambert.’
9. Hardest team mate? ‘Francis Benali.’
10. Any Fratton Park abuse while playing for other clubs? ‘None.’
11. Derby Day memories? ‘Setting up goal and winning against Pompey at the Dell 96.’
12. Toughest opponent? ‘Sol Campbell.’
13. Favourite Away Ground? ‘Hillsbrough.’
14. Favourite Saints kit? ‘2003/4.’
15. Ever had a Benali curry? ‘No.’
16. Best friends from Saints days? ‘Team mates weren’t best friends then.’
17. Money in football. Gone too far or great for the game? ‘Gone to far.’
18. Pace or skill? ‘Skill.’
19. Where will Saints finish this season? ‘9th.’
20. And finally, you are stranded on Hayling Island (Portsmouth) what luxury item would you like to keep you sane? ‘Gas Mask.’
Thanks to Gordon for taking the time to answer these questions!
Chris

Nicola Cortese: About to lose our rudder?

‘It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.’ – Nelson Mandela

It’s never ‘easy’ being a Saints fan. Having looked like Premier League safety was a given a few weeks ago, we still managed to play ourselves back into the battle and only secured it on Sunday with a laboured point against Sunderland.

Time to relax then surely? Nope.

Yesterday news broke that Chairman Nicola Cortese was considering his future at the club. The reaction amongst the social networking sections of Saints support was quite staggering. Since his arrival at the club in 2009 Mr. Cortese has built quite a reputation, and one that is often negative amongst our own supporters and worse amongst other clubs, yet yesterday the standard reaction of Saints fans was that of grief and nervousness about how the good ship Southampton might fare without the shrewd Italian at the helm. It is some turnaround, given that as recently as January, when he dismissed the hugely popular Nigel Adkins, Cortese was finding his sanity questioned and on the end of some hideous criticism. This wasn’t the first time either.

Behind the scenes Mr. Cortese has faced huge criticism from within and the club and outside it, something that has never appeared to faze him. He has had public fallouts (though he didn’t make them public) with ex-players and been accused of disregarding the history of the club. There have been several bizarre tales of strange behaviour away from the public eye revolving around toilets, teaspoons and an unapproachable personality. In fact, many would be more than happy to see the back of him.

But. From a professional point of view it is impossible to argue that he has done anything but a fantastic job. Brokering the takeover by Markus Liebherr in 2009 he spoke of a five year plan to get the club back into the Premier League. He completed that in three. He has at times made what would appear as ‘rash’ decisions, but you can look back at almost all of them and struggle to find fault retrospectively. He said himself that he wasn’t here to ‘make friends’ and just like he promised he achieved the goal of the Premier League and is now talking about the top 10 and Europe. His ambitions are clear, and they are built on the premise of building the club up from it’s foundations, overseeing big investment in our already World Class Academy.

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So what’s changed?

This summer sees a ‘natural’ contract break for the chairman, which leads the Liebherr Trust to negotiate a renewal. It would appear these talks have broken down (or didn’t even start). As far as I can see it there could be several reasons for this.

1. The ambitions of Mr. Cortese and the Liebherr Trust don’t match. This is the most worrying for me, Cortese has often spoke of the level achievement he wishes for the club, and he has proved that he will spend money to do it. If the Liebherr trust no longer want to spend that money and are happy at the current level then it is logical that Cortese would move on. It is also logical that Saints will no longer progress.

2. The Liebherr trust are not happy with the negative press about the Chairman. Markus Liebherr was a practising christian, and he often spoke about doing things the ‘right’ way. If his family are of the same ilk then they may have viewed some of the talk of Mr. Cortese’s behaviour uncomfortable.

3. Mr. Cortese would like a much improved contract financially to stay. There has been talk of interest of other clubs (AC Milan the standout) and given his achievements over the last few years it’s not exactly unreasonable of Cortese to expect a reward. Players do it, managers do it. Why not an extremely successful chairman?

4. The Liebherr trust are looking to sell the club. This has been rumoured pretty much since the day Markus sadly passed away. The club was only ever the dream of the late billionaire, not his family. They may feel that having restored the club to the Premier League they have fulfilled their obligation and can walk away. Nicola Cortese has often spoke of contingency plans and wealthy investors should this ever happen. Is this plan now about to come into effect, and he would need to leave as Chairman to launch his own takeover?

5. The Liebherr trust aren’t happy with the progress. Perhaps they have taken a leaf out of Cortese’s book a la Pardew/Adkins and decided that the club aren’t doing well enough and could do better under somebody esle? This seems unlikely, but everyone is under scrutiny in big business. Saints have spent money on several players who don’t play. Viewed as a failure?

This is of course all speculation. It could be a very simple contract wrangle that is easily resolved. As I said earlier some Saints fans are revelling in the news, and have long wanted rid of the Italian Chairman, but others (and I would say the majority) are rightly worried. Love him or hate him, Nicola Cortese has been the driving force behind the rise of Southampton Football Club over the last four seasons. He has fronted out all the abuse for his decisions, and bore the brunt of any unrest aimed at the running of the club. He has earned the right to be respected, and it could be a disaster for Saints should he move on. Cortese and Markus were friends, and that drives him on to reach Liebherr’s goals, a replacement may not have the same personal desire.

‘A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.’

Hopefully in the next few days we will hear that there has been some development and perhaps even a resolution. Nicola Cortese might never be a popular person amongst all sections of the crowd, but he has earned the right to lead this football club into this exciting new era.

Be careful what you wish for.

Chris

Mo When The Saints….

‘With Great Moustache Comes Great Responsibility.’

Hero is a strong word, and not one I would use lightly, but for me Francis Benali falls into that category rather comfortably.

Benali was the epitome of a dedicated footballer, and you knew that if Saints took to the pitch with eleven ‘shrinking violets’, there would be one uncompromising warrior. The hometown hero. The hardman.

Benali embodied everything that was the mid-90’s Saints. The underdog, the battler, never knew when they  were beaten.

And what separated Benali from others like him was his moustache. Benali had sported his pushbroom since the age of 15, and it made the man the cult hero that he was. Facial hair was a thing of the past as the Premier League era took off, but Benali, typically contemptuous wore his with a fervent pride.

Winner of the Red Stripe ‘Best Left Back in the World’ award circa 1995, beating Paolo Maldini (though the categories of moustaches, hardness and curries were rather in his favour).

Benali. Moustache wearer. Hardman. Hero.

For the first time this year I have decided to take part in ‘Movember’ to raise both money and awareness for men’s health issues. It seemed fitting to me that I should style my top lip hair attempt on that of Benali. No thrills, no nonsense, just a great tache.

My aim by the end of Movember is to be able to recreate this action pose (though I don’t have that shirt in a large, so any help with that would be appreciated):-

To support my efforts (please be aware the end result is likely to be poor) you can donate at:- http://mobro.co/chrisrann2 Every penny really does count.

You can follow the efforts of my OC Sport colleagues and I at:- http://uk.movember.com/team/629569 and on our MOC Sport Movember blog here:- http://mocsport.tumblr.com/

Thanks for your support!

Chris

Saints Academy: Talent Architects…

Hi all, I am pleased to introduce another new contributor to georgeweahscousin.com in the form of former Saints trainee Scott Gordon. Scott hails from the Emerald Isle, more specifically Lurgan, Co. Armagh. He is the husband to Joanna and soon to be father to a junior Saint.

He has been a Saints fan for nearly 16 years, which all started when the club plucked him from obscurity as a 13 year old playing in his local league. After a week’s trial he found himself signing a 5 year deal that would change his life forever. He might no longer be a Saints player, but he is still Northern Ireland’s number one fan!

Over to you Scott! – Chris

Saints Academy: Talent Architects…

Bridge. Baird. Bale. Walcott. Chamberlain. Five names from the modern day football world and all with one massive thing in common… they are all products of the fantastic Saints Academy. Skip back a few years and Mike Channon, Matthew Le Tissier, the Wallace brothers, Alan Shearer and Francis Benali are once again products of our enviable youth system.

The ‘Academy’ as we know it today came into formation in the 98/99 season. This marked the start of the new scholarships rather than the YTS system of old. In effect these scholarships were designed to safeguard the future of the young players, if and when, they did not manage to make it in football. As a product of this academy (class of 2001) I guess I am glad the scholarship was offered. I’m now a PE teacher back home in Northern Ireland and without the investment from the club and the FA, this may not have been a reality for me. But this was not exactly the remit of the club.

As with any smaller club the purpose of an academy is to produce fine young players to come through and represent the first team. The five players mentioned in the opening line of this piece all achieved this goal and I might add, performed admirably for the senior side. They do, however, have another thing in common… All sold by the Saints. For a total of £38million.

I guess that’s where I have a problem with our club and the way we handle our younger players. For too long we have been a selling club. You can add Brian Howard, Matthew Mills and Scott McDonald into the list of players that have moved on. I wonder now that we have returned to the Premier League will we still have the same attitude? If we still had the big 5 players with us, would we have gotten back to the promised land a lot sooner? Who knows. My only hope is that we become a keeping club and not sell on our best products. Lallana is still there and that is a good sign and there are many other players coming through (I’m told James Ward-Prowse and Corby Moore are two to look out for).

Premier League, Champions League, European Championships. Products of Southampton.

In my time, Crewe, West Ham and Coventry were the clubs with the supposed best academy set ups. I firmly believed then and now that we have the best. Back in 2000 we were defeated in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup 2-1 over two legs by a Coventry side that were then chinned 7-1 by an Arsenal side that contained Steve Sidwell. I can remember reading a quote from our then managers Stewart Henderson and John Sainty. They said that yes, we were on a great run in the competition, but this success did not guarantee any player a professional contract or a future at the club (a statement which was made abundantly clear one season later as I was shown the door).

When I left in 2001, two others came with me and only five (Alan Blayney, Ryan Ashford, Chris Baird, Scott McDonald and Brian Howard) went on to represent the first team. In total we had 25 players across our 1st and 2nd year scholars. None are with the club now and very few are still making a living from the game. It used to be said you had to be best in Europe to make it as a pro footballer. Our year changed that to be the best in the world. Players from all over Uk, Italy, Russia, Africa and Australia represented our youth team during my time with Southampton.

We are without doubt one of the best Academy setup’s in the country. My only hope is that we hold on to our talent and let the other teams be envious of us for a while.

Scott

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

You’ve got to And it to Anders…

The other night I was thinking about that most contentious of issues. The underrated player.

Mainly because, somebody who I have been hailing for some time now is seemingly getting the recognition that he deserves. That man is Richard Chaplow whose performances of late have showed why his £50k price tag and place in Preston’s reserves seems even more ludicrous now than it did at the time when we signed him.

I am a sucker for an underrated player. Those that some just don’t seem to get. I recently wrote a piece on Guly along the same lines, who has since put in a match winning performance at Coventry, yet I still saw comments from fans that other than score and have a hand in the other three goals, didn’t really do a lot…

I put the question to the Saints Twitter faithful on who was Saints most underrated player, and of course the opinions were varied. Suggestions ranged from Perry Groves to Agustin Delgado to Franny Benali to Jo Tessem and current players Ryan Dickson and Danny Butterfield also got mentions. The player that got the most votes was Chris Marsden, but as Sam Dobson pointed out and I am inclined to agree, Marsden is actually pretty highly regarded amongst Saints fans.

One player that didn’t register a single mention, but one that I always felt was sometimes misjudged by fans is likely to line up at Wembley against England on Tuesday for his 122nd or 123rd international cap.

Anders Svensson joined Saints in the summer of 2001 from Elfsborg for a fee of £750k by then caretaker manager Stuart Gray, the 24 year old Swede came in as a relative unknown to the fans, but already had sixteen international caps to his name.

Initially signed as an attacking midfielder to replace the outgoing Hassan Kachloul, Gray expected big things of the Swede “Anders can play off the front man or in midfield. He’s not an out-and-out striker but is certainly a forward-thinking midfield player who pops up in that area.”

Anders Svensson. Turning his opponents inside out.

Svensson was brought in to liven up a goal-shy Saints midfield that had netted just three goals between them in the previous season, and he provided that outlet with some success. Svensson got six goals in his first season, but more notably provided some much needed creativity that saw Marian Pahars race to fourteen goals for the season. As Saints turned their early season poor form around under new boss Gordon Strachan, Svensson was rapidly becoming a key player in the side. Mostly used in central midfield but sometimes on the left Svensson was never really used in his favoured position playing off of a front man, but nonetheless his contributions were notable.

He starred at that summers world cup, famously scoring the free kick that knocked Argentina out!

The 2002/03 season is one that will be forever engrained on every Saints fans mind. Anders played a key role in the side that finished 8th in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final. Although he started less games than he had the previous season, his starring role and brilliant individual goal against Spurs in the 3rd round of the cup was his stand out performance in a Saints shirt.

Often accused of inconsistency, he was regularly accused of not trying, and the 2003/04 season proved to be the beginning of the end for Anders in a Saints shirt. Gordon Strachan left in February 2004, and Paul Sturrock came in March. If anyone in the squad wasn’t a Sturrock type of player it was Svensson and he ended the season having played almost as many games from the bench as he had started. He didn’t find the net once.

2004/05 was another season that will never be forgotten, but for very different reasons. Under messrs Wigley and Redknapp, Svensson was used more frequently but as Saints bimbled to a sorry end to the season and relegation it was clear that the Swede’s future lie elsewhere.

Svensson battles the dutch to secure Euro 2012 qualification.

It was strongly rumoured that Svensson was offered a new contract by Saints, but he was a better player than the Championship, so it was no surprise to me that he decided to move on.  What did shock me was his destination, returning to his former club Elfsborg on a free transfer.

That move hasn’t hindered him at all from an international point of view, though I can’t help thinking there is a certain amount of wasted potential in Svensson. His move to Saints started promisingly but perhaps we, or at least the managers and coaches of the club are as guilty for that as anybody. I think that perhaps we had a very talented footballer at our disposal but weren’t prepared to change our formation or style to maximise his impact.

Now aged 35, he is still with Elfsborg and still playing a key role for his country. He is the Swedish vice-captain to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and second only to the great Thomas Ravelli in caps, ahead of such notable players as Olof Mellberg and Henrik Larsson.

He was part of the Sweden side that secured qualification for Euro 2012 with a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands last month and can hopefully look forward to appearing at a fifth major championship.

So look out for Anders at Wembley on Tueday night and wonder what might have been. Perhaps his time to arrive in the English game was a little too soon, and with the wrong managers…

Chris

p.s. Saints fans, don’t forget to check out our competition!