The Long and the Short of it: Shane is a Saint!

As Ronald Koeman and Saints set about rebuilding the squad ahead of the new Premier League season, we have been linked with a plethora of players across Europe, so the news that they had had a bid accepted for Shane Long seemingly came from nowhere.

A player who in the past has had, shall we say, minor disagreements with Saints fans might take his time to get the crowd behind him, but as a full Irish international and with bags of experience under his belt, Long is a player who certainly adds to the squad and in a position where the club lacks depth.

Personally I’ve never been overwhelmed by him, and his goal record isn’t great for a striker, but his work rate and ‘hassling’ of Saints defences in the past has been a nuisance. I thought I would get the thoughts of those that have seen him week in/week out as per the norm and caught up with Hull City fan Rick Skelton from Boothferry to Wembley and WBA fan and aspiring coach Ash Davies.

This one came a little out of the blue, were you surprised to see the news that Long was heading to St. Mary’s?

RS ‘ I was surprised. He wasn’t a player I’d expected any interest in given that he’s only been here seven months and I couldn’t see anyone coming up with enough money to tempt Hull CIty to sell.’

AD ‘At first yes, I think everyone was surprised, we had got a great fee for a player who’s contract was out this summer and he’d moved to a club he seemingly liked, although he didn’t want to leave WBA the lack of a good enough offer forced him out, however he has many strong bonds down south and on that front I am not surprised he is heading down your way, I didn’t expect it to be so soon after a move to Hull though.’

Does Long have any specific strengths and weaknesses we should be aware of?

RS ‘His pace is his biggest attribute. He has real acceleration and combined with his willingness to keep making runs, it wears down defenders. He has enough strength and a good enough touch that he’ll turn hopeful balls into good ones. His weakness is obvious in his goalscoring record. It was around 1 in 4 before he joined us and it hasn’t been that good since. He’s a hit and hope finisher rather than a taker of chances. Someone who gets in the positions he does should do far better.’

AD ‘Strengths; He’ll run all day for you, he’ll leave everything on the pitch and create a bond with the fans, that always helps when the going gets tough. I have to say his ability to win yards was a huge plus under Hodgson, he would win a throw in, free kick or corner from a long punt towards him at times and that gained us 60+ yards and put the pressure on the opposition, it was huge. He has a huge leap for a little(er) lad and really uses that to get at defenders, a great tool that’ll always give you hope on a  heading battle. I like the way he can play channels, drift out wide and when we had him, Odemwingie and Lukaku he played well from wide areas getting balls into the box and combining with the other attackers, however I don’t think wing play is his game.

Weakness: Goals. Ultimately he never got enough over the time he played for us, he linked well, he had some great movements but when the finish came around he wasn’t consistent enough, just look at the last fixture he played for us, against you boys, he should have buried Boruc and didn’t. First touch has a tendency to let him down at times too, when it needed to stick it couldn’t and that was what frustrated many with him. His injury record also should be a major concern for you, he often praised us for the way we dealt with his Hamstring condition and said that the club needs to understand what he has, so you’ll find his Hamstrings are weaker than most and he will pick up knocks.’

...and some say their training facilities are the best in England.

…and some say their training facilities are the best in England.

He’s had run in’s with the Saints crowd before, and many have been upset by his tendency to ‘go down easily’, is this something we should get used to?

RS ‘Yes, he definitely “draws” fouls. He upset WBA fans in winning a penalty against them last season which was incredibly soft. As with most cheats in football though – no one seems to mind when they’re on your team.’

AD ‘Yes, something he’s added to his game over the past year and a side to his game us baggies were glad to see leave, he does love a dive, and to go down under pressure, it’s not a lack of strength it’s him falling down under the slightest touch. It’s diving and it’s something he will continually do, also expect some arm flapping and a bit of moaning to come along with that.’

How is Long best utilised from a tactical/formation perspective?

RS ‘He can play as a lone front man and will do a great job in games where discipline is the objective. If you want to take the game to the opposition – which Saints have tended to do – he needs to play in a pair or wide in a three because he won’t score the amount of goals required. He’s a selfless player though so he’ll play anywhere across the front and do the hard work for other people.’

AD ‘Difficult to say; He’s played many roles at WBA and I liked him as a lone forward when he arrived, pack the midfield and give him service down the sides and in behind where he can chase and harry defenders all day long, ultimately his pressure lead to WBA possession but as his time at WBA drew to a close we saw more of him in a 4-4-2 where he’d run channels and play into his fellow striker and try and create a partnership. Best way to utilise him would be a lone role with a number 10 getting around him, I’m not sure he likes running channels in a 2 and I am not sure he is specific enough as a striker to play in a two, he’s an all rounder which leads me to play him alone, but that would require goals coming from midfield and a supply line, he’ll give midfielders space by taking away defenders.’

Long after scoring against England last year.

Long after scoring against England last year.

What have you made of the situation at Saints this summer?

RS ‘I’ve been a bit surprised. Taking stupid money for Lallana and Shaw was a no-brainer really and no club could be criticised for that but some of the other sales have seemed unnecessary. It’s not like you need the money after the two big deals so all it does is give the impression that you are open for business. That then leads to difficult situations like the one with Schneiderlin. I think you should have put your foot down earlier and given the right impression to the likes of Lovren and Chambers.’

AD ‘Feel for you, to lose that many players and management hurts, we’ve had an eventful summer ourselves but you’ve outdone us on that score. I would question certain aspects of running the club at times but would also say if the player does want out then so be it, let them go, what needs to be done now is a rebuild and quickly. Need to get new, quality players in who want to be at the club, it’s more than do-able, but you need a reliable scouting network, a manager willing to speak their mind on who and want they want and a board wanting to back them with all their decisions. Personally feel you’ve taken quite a few backwards steps thus far and instead of looking at Europe you’re looking over your shoulders again vying to stay with the big boys. Very much like us on the season aspirations, survive this season and I think you could really kick on in 2015/16 when it’s all calmed a little/ What’s important for you fans now is to have a sense of perspective, you’ll never break into the top 6 because of financial reasons so the aim is always going to be below that in our mini league and staying up should always be the first aim for all of our mini league sides. Get to 40 and go from there.’

So there we have it, a signing many of us would not have chosen, but a valuable squad member no doubt. Perhaps not the marquee transfer some would have liked, but it’s not often Saints pry a first team player away from another Premier League club, and Long strikes me as one you would rather have for you than against you!

Chris

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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

2011/2012 GWC.com Awards results…

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

Player of the Year

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

3rd:- Jos Hooiveld.

2nd:- Adam Lallana.

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

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

Most Improved Player

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

3rd Place:- Jack Cork.

2nd Place:- Frazer Richardson.

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

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

Unsung Hero

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

3rd Place:- Danny Fox.

2nd Place:- Morgan Schneiderlin.

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

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

Signing of the Season

Received Votes:- Danny Fox, Tadanari Lee.

3rd Place:- Jack Cork.

2nd Place:- Billy Sharp.

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

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

 Performance of the Season

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

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

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

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

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

The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment

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

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

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

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

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

Best Opposition Player at St. Mary’s

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

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

2nd Place:- Matt Phillips.

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

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

Best Opposition Team at St. Mary’s

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

3rd Place:- Blackpool.

2nd Place:- Leicester City.

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

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

Best Opposition Fans at St. Mary’s

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

3rd Place:- West Ham United.

2nd Place:- Portsmouth.

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

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

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

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

Thanks,

Chris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Model Club?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Blackpool

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

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

Stephen Crainey

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

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

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

Crainey at Saints.

Kevin Phillips

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

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

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

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

Brett Ormerod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ormerod the Saint.

Chris

A Saint Amongst Them: Middlesbrough

Saints will be looking to make it eighteen straight home victories on Saturday when fellow high fliers Middlesbrough visit St. Mary’s.

Boro have looked an impressive outfit under returning local Tony Mowbray, playing nice flowing football and conceding goals has become a rare occurrence. Currently lying in third place, three points behind leaders Saints, the Teesside club have only lost once so far in the league, away at Nottingham Forest,

It is already looking like a key game, as both clubs will be hoping their good starts to the season will see them in the promotion shake up in May.

Amongst the visiting squad, will be one ex-Saint….

Scott McDonald

The Melbourne born forward started his career in his native Australia, playing for Gippsland Falcons and Cranbourne Comets before Saints snapped him up on a youth contract in 2000.

Despite some impressive performances at youth and reserve level, ‘Skippy’ struggled to force his way into the first team setup at the Dell. Battling with the likes of James Beattie, Kevin Davies, Brett Ormerod, Marian Pahars and errr Agustin Delgado, McDonald had to go out on loan to get regular football. Spells with Huddersfield Town and then AFC Bournemouth followed but he didn’t impress new Saints boss Gordon Strachan enough to retain him and he was released in the summer of 2003.

The tenacious frontman only made three appearances for the first team, and although he looked lively he lacked the quality required to sustain a Premier League place.

After Saints, he was ironically signed for his beloved Celtic by Strachan via spells with Wimbledon and Motherwell, and it was Strachan again who brought him to the North East. The Australian international was in impressive goalscoring form for Boro towards the end of last season, but has only scored once so far in this campaign at Barnsley in August.

Scott McDonald - Wizard of Oz

I was lucky enough to catch up with Scott Gordon, a former teammate of McDonald’s in the Saints Academy setup. Here is what Scott had to say about his namesake:-

‘I played alongside the ‘wizard from Oz’ about 10/11 years ago. Well when he was there I did. Scott Mc was a talent even at 17 when he first came to Saints, so more often than not he was jetting around the world playing for Australia in various Youth International games and tournaments.

Our first game was away to Charlton on a pitch hidden behind the corner of the Valley Stadium. We lost 1-0 and it was slim pickings that day for Maccers. 

Scott was and still is a fantastic player. Small but strong as a bull, he could hold off the biggest of defenders. A great first touch and lightning fast feet got him a few kicks from me in training. But as always he got up and on with it. He was never one for crying at the ref or taking a tumble at the slightest push. 

Around our digs he liked to show off his strong Scottish roots by proudly wearing his Celtic shirt. And maybe it was just me, but every now and then I could hear a wee Scottish brogue through his Aussie accent.

We could all tell he was going to make it, and along with Brian Howard and Chris Baird he went on to ‘bigger and better things’ away from St Marys. 

Every time he comes on the tv I do make a point of saying “I used to play alongside him you know”.’

Middlesbrough fan David McNally gave me his thoughts on the Antipodean striker:-

‘Scott could be a game and season changing player for Boro. Last seasons top scorer has hit a frustrating patch in front of goal but is still an important and hard working member of the team. 

Scott arrived with a big goal scoring reputation from SPL giants Celtic fleeing Tony Mowbray’s revolution to reunite with Gordon Strachan. Both managers failed and as Boro’s season nose dived so did Scott’s chances of making Australia’s world cup squad. Mowbray returned to Boro to rescue his home town club from relegation. Many assumed the players Mowbray had let go from Celtic and then inherited at Boro would be moved on again with Scott a prime candidate. 

This was not the case and Mowbray breathed new life in to the team and notably Scott.

Mowbray paired the rejuvenated Marvin Emnes with Scott McDonald. The pairing sparked as Boro destroyed Hull 4-2 away. As Leroy Lita departed Boro fans stayed calm and trusted in the pairs ability and as the start to the season proved the trust was repaid. Scott’s hard work, first touch and link up play has led to goals and chances for team mates while taking his focus off of goal scoring. He has earned himself a recall to the Australian squad since Mowbray’s arrival.’

Chris

Championship Preview Part 2…

Continuing from Part One, fans of the next six clubs preview the coming 2011/12 Championship season.

Cardiff City:-

Name:- Jordan Jones

Club:- Cardiff City FC

Twitter:- @jordanjonesy 

What can we expect from your club this season? A play-off fight I expect, we’ve had a lot of outgoings but Malky as brought in the right players.

Who is your most important player? Peter Whittingham.

Your predicted finishing position? 6th.

Who might win the Championship? Leicester.

Who definitely won’t? Peterborough.

Most anticipated fixture? Cardiff vs Leeds.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? West Ham vs Millwall.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Andy King from Leicester.

You find yourself stuck in Ashton Gate. How do you escape unnoticed? I run ASAP, and try and get on the coaches early, if a supporter approaches I ignore them.

Coventry City:-

Name:- Stuart Baxter

Club:- Coventry City

Twitter:- @StuartGBaxter

Website:- Shoot Magazine

What can we expect from your club this season? Hard working, resilient, high spirited performances with the determination to prove our doubters wrong (hopefully).

Who is your most important player? Every single player at our club is important. However, the most important man at our club at present is manager, Andy Thorn.

Your predicted finishing position? Difficult to say, mid-table obscurity at best.

Who might win the Championship? It pains me to say, but both Birmingham and Leicester are clear favourites although my outsiders will be Hull and Ipswich to be up there.

Who definitely won’t? We definitely won’t.

Most anticipated fixture? First game of the season against Leicester and pretty much every fixture after that.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I’ll be interested to see how Blackpool do this season following relegation, so let’s say Holloway going back to Leicester to pick his wits against Sven.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? I could give you a list as long as my arm but I think us City fans are still bitter about the Marlon King scenario so if we could turn back time and make him stay that would be nice.  Although I also think Jonathan Greening will be a big signing for Forest this season.

You find yourself stuck in the King Power Stadium (formerly Walkers Stadium), Leicester. How do you escape unnoticed? I would dress up as a £20 note and sneak out without anybody noticing, the amount of money going out of that club surely nobody will notice an extra £20?

Andy Thorn. Hoping to point Coventry City in the right direction.

Crystal Palace:-

Name:- Nick Reay

Club:- Crystal Palace

Twitter:- @nickreay

What can we expect from your club this season? Expect us to be a surprise package this season. We’ve been written off by the bookies already to go down and from other team’s message boards, it seems like we’ll be hovering the bottom quarter of the league again. We’ve signed three internationals and one of League One’s top scorers last season so far. Although I’m not saying we will win the league, or even finish in the top half, I’m saying that I think we will be an improvement to the team that won one game away from home all season.

Who is your most important player? Our most important player is Nathaniel Clyne. The young full back has sparked interest from a lot of Premier League clubs lately. He’s an England U19 international and it’s only a matter of time before he’s called up the U21s. The lad has bags of quality and kept a lot of high profile players quiet including Gradel and Bellamy. His pace plus his great defensive work makes him my most important player.

Your predicted finishing position? I predict we will finish 15th this season. The last two seasons we have survived by the skin of our teeth, and from the outside they may see a young amateur manager with some young players, but with a legend having the best interests of the club at heart and one of the country’s top academies, I think we will succeed in our goal of mid table mediocrity.

Who might win the Championship? No idea who will win the Championship, that’s what makes this league great. Look at the three teams that came down last season, none of them went back up. Blackpool were relegation favourites at the start of 2009/10 and they got promoted too. Leicester have got a great team coming together, but as Cardiff, Middlesbrough (and us, to an extent) can tell you, you can’t buy this league. I’m going to have a guess at West Ham as they have Parker and Nolan. That is a great combination.

Who definitely won’t? Cardiff will not. Their financial problems off the field seem too much. They relied heavily on getting promoted last season and pretty much threw away the clubs financial security to reach the Prem ala Portsmouth with the FA Cup. I can’t see Cardiff finishing top half this season.

Most anticipated fixture? Obviously for me I’m looking forward to Brighton v Palace at their new wonky stadium as it’s been a few years since we played them and they’re looking a lot stronger this time around (as much as it pains me to say it).

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? West Ham v Millwall has to be the most anticipated fixture due to the history between them. Both very working class clubs with similar fans, and there is nothing but pure hatred between them. You only have to look at the Carling Cup tie to see what an entertaining fixture this will be.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? If I could take one club’s player it would be Scott Parker. The guy is a machine and really passionate about playing football. If West Ham stayed up last season, Scott Parker would have done it on his own. The team around him were not very good at all compared to him. I’d be surprised if he played in the NPC this season.

Derby County:-

Name:- Ollie Wright

Club:- Derby County

Twitter:- @derbycountyblog

Website:- Derby County Blog

What can we expect from your club this season?  Modest investment in players is not enough to guarantee a play-off spot in an increasingly competitive division.  Despite the club’s stated aim of a top six finish, mid-table is probably about as far as the current squad can go. A poor start to the season may well trigger serious unrest amongst the supporters and it’s conceivable that Nigel Clough could be sacked before the end of 2011/12, the final season of his current contract.  A meaningful improvement on the embarrassments of last season is required to see off Clough’s detractors and earn him an extension from our American owners.

Who is your most important player? Weirdly, it could be the former Notts Forest forward Nathan Tyson.  I say weirdly because a fair percentage of Rams fans would rather Tyson was anywhere but Pride Park, due to that infamous afternoon in August 2009 when he taunted us with a Forest corner flag at the City Ground. Many fans will get behind him regardless of the corner flag incident.  However, if Tyson has a bad start to the season, it could get a bit hot for him at Pride Park, where the fans have previous for rejecting ex-Forest strikers (Stern John was basically booed out of the club in 2005).  On the other hand, if the undeniably fleet-footed frontman gets off to a flying start, he has the potential to become the most unlikely of Derby County cult heroes.  

Your predicted finishing position? 12th.

Who might win the Championship? West Ham United.  They’ve made a canny managerial appointment in Sam Allardyce – would Matt Taylor and Kevin Nolan have dropped into the Championship for anyone else?

Who definitely won’t? Coventry City are amongst my favourites for relegation this season. They are owned by SISU, a hedge fund who tried to buy Derby from since-disgraced fraudsters ‘The Three Amigos’ in 2006.  Anybody tainted by association with the criminal Amigos is probably best avoided.  Coventry have lost three key players this summer without signing any replacements and, under an unproven manager, are seemingly set for a season of struggle.

Most anticipated fixtures?  Forest home and away.  Both Leeds United games, but especially at home on Boxing Day. This season, West Ham United away also takes on added significance – probably the last chance to visit Upton Park before the Hammers move to an athletics stadium…

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? The play-off final, probably.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Billy Sharp from Doncaster Rovers.  We haven’t had a talismanic striker for a long time and the fans would love him.  Unfortunately, the board aren’t putting in the sort of money that would buy us a player of that calibre. 

You find yourself stuck in the City Ground. How do you escape unnoticed?  That’s simple.  Just put up my brolly, whistle ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ and have a quick promenade in front of the dugouts, before disappearing down the tunnel at full time. They’ll think I’m the manager…

Nathan Tyson. Now "Flagged" as a key man for Derby County.

Doncaster Rovers:-

Name:- Lewis Ward

Club:- Doncaster Rovers

Twitter:- @wardiddly / @vikingsbloggen 

Website:- Vikingsbloggen 

What can we expect from your club this season? A better season than last time. Hopefully we’ll have better luck with far less injuries. Despite being the bookies favourite for relegation I think we’re going to prove them wrong yet again. 

Who is your most important player? There’s two in our squad really. I’d have to say the obvious Billy Sharp as well as James Coppinger. Both had spells out last year through injury and it’s clear how much we missed them. 

Your predicted finishing position? I think mid table so around 14th but if we can improve our squad even more, and we’re luckier with injuries there is a possibility of pushing for the play offs. I don’t think that can ever be ruled out. But we’ll definitely be safe by May. 

Who might win the Championship? I think there’s the obvious like West Ham but with the money being spent throughout the Championship it’s quite open. I know Southampton have made some big changes so you definitely can’t rule them out. 

Who definitely won’t? Crystal Palace have struggled in the past couple of seasons and with an inexperienced manager it seems very unlikely. Peterborough struggled last time they were here too so I’d have to rule them out too. 

Most anticipated fixture? Our opener away at Brighton is one we’re all looking forward to because of the history between the clubs and also the new surroundings. Leeds is always one of the first to look for when the fixtures are released too so that should be an exciting encounter. 

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Millwall against West Ham will be a huge game definitely anticipated by both sets of fans. I’m not sure when they last faced each other so that could definitely be a tasty one!

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Jason Shackell. He was a great addition when on loan here and was missed when he’d left. Signing for Barnsley made it even worse for us Donny fans and we still haven’t found anyone as good. 

You find yourself stuck in Oakwell.  How do you escape unnoticed?  With great difficulty! Keep your head down and maybe add a limp lol. I’m not one for offending the opposition so that’s as far as I’ll go, I bet they say worse about us!

Hull City:-

Name:- Nikita Alden

Club:- Hull City A.F.C

Twitter:-  @nikitaalden

What can we expect from your club this season? After watching them in pre-season friendlies some nice flowing football… Manchester United style!!! Also hopefully plenty of goals and a push for promotion.

Who is your most important player? Cameron Stewart as he is quick and terrorised defences last season. He will be cruicial in open play for assists.

Your predicted finishing position? 4th.

Who might win the Championship? It’ll be a close one between West Ham United or Leicster City as they both have very good players.

Who definitely won’t? Birmingham, even though they have a very good and experienced squad I think they will struggle.

Most anticipated fixture? Most probably a Yorkshire derby however with both West Ham and Hull pushing for promotion back into the Premier League the last game of the season (West Ham v Hull) will be cruicial depending on points.

Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Either West Ham v Milwall or Southampton v Portsmouth. Both have very big rivalries.

If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be?  Scott Parker as he is a strong midfielder and has the experience.

You find yourself stuck in Elland Road . How do you escape unnoticed?  There is no where to get stuck in Elland Road as the ground is falling down, there is probably a hole you can escape through!!!!

Cameron Stewart. Vital for a Hull City promotion push?

Part Three featuring Ipswich Town, Leeds, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Millwall and Nottingham Forest coming soon…

Chris

The Worst Manager England (Almost) Never Had…

The other night, I decided to run a little competition to get myself to 500 followers on twitter, the reward for being my 500th follower (other than a daily intake of my wittiest and fascinating 140 character world insights) was that I would write a piece on here that would revolve around the supported club of the new follower.

Unfortunately, rather like Chris Iwelumo on an international debut, I took my eye off the ball. This meant I wasn’t sure if Brighton fan @Mareschappie or Southend fan @CallumReavelll was number 500, so I sensibly did, the only thing I could do, I bravely declared that I would write a piece that involved both clubs. Now, I wanted this piece to have a positive spin for both clubs, otherwise, what kind of prize is that?

This proved to not be easy. The two clubs, while both rich with individual history don’t seem to have any mutual heroes, neither do they share any years where both achieved something of note. Then I hit upon somebody who achieved something with both clubs, and what’s more, a man who is well known throughout English football and in my opinion, the worst manager England never had….

You often hear Brian Clough described as “The greatest manager England never had”, his achievements in club football are as well known as they are remarkable, and the decision not to employ him as the boss of the national team after interviewing him in 1977 is one that often makes people wonder what might have been. Clough’s assistant Peter Taylor was also revered for the job he did with Derby County and could have followed “Ol big head” to Lancaster Gate had the FA seen differently. Another Peter Taylor came even closer to the three lions dugout, in fact he was in it once, but what now seems implausible, he was also interviewed for the England job full time in 2006, and not just as assistant.

Peter John Taylor started his career at Southend United, near to his home town of Rochford, Essex. A winger by trade, Taylor was a pivotal part of the Shrimpers side that won promotion from the fourth division in 1971/2, and was soon catching the eye of bigger clubs. Taylor went on to play for Crystal Palace and Spurs at the peak of his career and gained four England caps, the first of which he gained while still playing in the third division at Selhurst Park, but it is as a manager that Taylor is mainly remembered.

Peter Taylor as an England Player

Taylor did his managerial apprenticeship in non-league football with Dartford, where he spent four years with much success. Southern cup winners twice (denied a third in the 1990 final) and two Southern league championships saw Taylor sought after by his former club Southend. Taylor took the reigns at Roots Hall in 1993 and would last just sixty six games. He suffered that unfortunate turn of fortunes, going from fans favourite for his exploits on the pitch to hate figure for his fortunes off it. For further examples see Souness, Graeme and Gunn, Bryan. Taylor’s Southend tenure was described in the clubs own history records as “disastrous” and he was soon on his way back to the non-league with Dover Athletic.

In what must have been a bizarre turn of events for the Southend fans, Taylor was only with the Kent club for two months, before being appointed as manager of the England U21’s as part of Glenn Hoddle’s new staff. It was the subsequent period with Englands “young lions” that for me, Taylor’s reputation and all future job offers were based on. He carved a persona as good man manager who the players liked and had a decent record, losing just twice in nineteen competitive games during his time at the helm. The likes of Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen and Emile Heskey were brought into the setup by Taylor, and became four of the eleven to make the step up to the full squad under his guidance. Actually his replacement by Howard Wilkinson in June 1999 was controversial at best, and for seemingly no reason other than moving Hoddle’s men out.

In what was now becoming a commonplace feature of Taylor’s managerial career he yo-yo’d all the way down to the second division with Gillingham, proving his England U21 succeses were no fluke, taking the Gills to playoff glory at the first attempt. Leicester City, hot from several years of success under Martin O’Neill, including a League Cup win and european football decided to appoint Taylor in 2000. For many people this is where he got found out. He started well, but soon the performances tailed off. Dressing room unrest amongst senior players Steve Walsh and Tony Cottee coupled with a poor start to the 2001/02 season and gaining a reputation with the Filbert Street faithful for poor transfer dealings (Taylor spent £23 million in his time at Leicester, including £5 million for Ade Akinbiyi, £3 million for James Scowcroft and £1.5 million for Trevor Benjamin) saw Taylor sacked and destined never to manage in the top flight again (to date).

During his spell at Leicester, Taylor did however have perhaps his finest hour. After the resignation of Kevin Keegan as England manager in October 2000, the FA needed someone to take the reigns for a friendly against Italy in Turin. Taylor didn’t mess around and decided to use his opportunity to put his own stamp on proceedings, turning to many of his U21 stalwarts, Rio Ferdinand, Gareth Barry, Jamie Carragher, Seth Johnson, Emile Heskey and Keiron Dyer. He also handed David Beckham the England captaincy for the first time. England lost the tie 1-0, but it would be the start of a long international career for many of those players and notably a renaissance for the newly crowned skipper.

For keeps....

Taylor, wounded from his experiences at Leicester, but also strangely bouyed by his chance with the national team, ended up on the South Coast with Brighton & Hove Albion. Here he proved again, that getting a club promoted from one of the lower divisions was not difficult for him, as he guided the Seagulls to top spot in the second division. This may have been the start of something special for Taylor, but he left at the end of the season, claiming “lack of financial resources” as his reason. He was soon back in football though, back in the basement division with Hull City. An attractive prospect for Taylor, soon to be moving into their new stadium and serious financial backing meant he could soon work his promotion magic, getting the Tigers from Division three to Division one in three seasons.

During his time at the KC stadium, the FA came calling again, and Taylor took on the U21’s as a part time role. It didn’t go quite as well in his second spell, though competitively results were good. James Milner was the young star, as England again came close in the European championships. Taylor’s achievements at Hull had been noted by his former club Crystal Palace and they took him on to lead them to promotion from the Championship and around the same time, Sven Goran Eriksson left his role as England manager. Taylor confirmed in an interview with the Independent that he had been interviewed for the vacant position and life must have seemed pretty rosy. Unfortunately for him, he did not get the job, and the shake up meant he was relieved of his duties with the young lions too. If that wasn’t a bad enough chain of events, form at Palace dipped dramatically and with the possibility of relegation a very real one, Taylor was sacked.

Unsuccessful spells at conference side Stevenage Borough and League Two Bradford City sandwiched another lower league promotion with Wycombe Wanderers.

So is Taylor the worst manager England never had? Despite being the one of the most qualified coaches in the country, his managerial record is up and down. Somewhat of an expert at getting sides promoted from the lower divisions, quite what the FA saw in him as a top level manager is beyond me. A man manager? His 96-99 U21 side would say yes, his 2000 Leicester side would beg to differ. A tactician? Supporters of his lower league promotion sides would say so, those of his higher level clubs would not.

Luckily for us, the FA chose not to employ the Englishman with no great success record behind him, and opted for Steve McClaren, and we all know how that turned out….

Swings & Roundabouts?

Chris

The kids are all Wight Part 2……..

Sometimes, you start something and you know it isn’t quite finished! That is how I felt after the first “Kids are all Wight” article.

The feedback I had to it was astonishing, and now I have a much broader appreciation of Island pros, pre my generation. To that end, I thought it only fitting and fair that I write a follow up, celebrating the talents of those Islanders that made the grade long before my time, and in an era that would have made it even harder for a young man from the Isle of Wight to be snapped up by the professional clubs.

Ferry travel, was not as regular as it is now for the youngsters of the Island, making it tough for them to attend trials, the last ferries home often way too early,  not to mention the expense, this coupled with a non-existent scouting setup meant talented lads had to shine for the bigger Island clubs and hope for the best.

The first to defy this and  “make the grade” and perhaps the most well known of Island footballers was Roy Shiner.

Shiner, a carpentry apprentice from Seaview first caught the eye of Birmingham City while playing for East Cowes Vics during the Second World War, but was persuaded from attending a trial by his father(a brief top level player himself, so perhaps aware of the pitfalls) who urged him to continue with his trade. Shiner did however attend trials with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Portsmouth, neither of which were successful, before signing for Ryde Sports.

Shiner was prolific up front for Ryde, notably smashing 50 goals in the 1947/48 Hampshire League Season, big things were not far away for Roy. In fact just two seasons later, after starring in a match for the Isle of Wight representative team against Gloucestershire, Shiner was signed part time by Southern League side Cheltenham Town. Roy couldn’t have had a better start, scoring the only goal in his Southern League debut in October 1949.

Roy Shiner - Sheffield Wednesday FC. Picture courtesy of Mike Payne.

Roy spent just two seasons at Whaddon Road, before a pre-season friendly against Wolves in 1951 made his dream a reality. Huddersfield Town had a representative in the crowd and Roy was on his way to Division One!

Shiner didn’t made his top flight debut until Christmas Day of that year, and first team appearances were few and far between as he struggled to adapt at this new level. After just twenty one games and six goals in three years at Leeds Road he moved on, signing for Division two club Sheffield Wednesday.

This turned out to be the best decision of Roy’s career. Roy scored goals for fun in the blue and white stripes of Hillsbrough. In a four year spell from 1955 to 1959, he found the net 93 times in 153 league appearances, and established himself as a top level goalscorer. He was part of the Wednesday side that twice won the Division Two championship, all be it coupled with two relegations, and became a terrace favourite for the Owls.

A now 34 year old Roy moved on again in 1959, even further North to Hull City, but despite scoring eight goals, he was only to last one season. Injuries began to take their toll and Shiner accepted that his football league career was finished. Roy went back to Cheltenham and had a spell as player/manager, before completing the circle of his career and returning to the Island in 1962, taking the managerial reigns at Seaview and later those of Newport, East Cowes Vics and St Helens Blue Star.

A true shining light in the arena of Island footballers, Roy sadly passed away in 1988, but his legacy and impact on Island football will never be forgotten.

Roy Shiner(left) in his managerial days at Newport. Picture courtesy of Brian Marriott.

Another name that was mentioned to me several times was that of Wes Maughan. From Cowes, 19 year old Maughan signed for Southampton in 1958 and over a four year spell played six times for the Saints first team and scored one goal before moving on to Reading. He had a bigger impact at Elm Park, scoring three times in sixteen games before heading to Chelmsford City in 1963 and eventually returning to the Island.

Jim Watts from Cowes spent a season with Gillingham in 1956/57, playing in twelve games and scoring one goal in Division Three(South), where he went from there, though, I cannot find out.

Wayne Talkes was the next to hit the professional game. From Brading, although originally London, Talkes signed for Southampton in 1969, a long locked midfielder, Talkes stayed at the Dell until 1974 despite only playing nine first team games. He was loaned to Doncaster Rovers before becoming the first in the long line of Islanders to play for Bournemouth.

It was the eighties before another Islander could make the step up. 20 year old Cowes lad Gareth Williams found his way to the heady heights of Villa Park and the first division via East Cowes Vics and Gosport Borough in 1987. Williams racked up an impressive 225 football league appearances over a thirteen year professional career that ended at Hull City in the year 2000. As well as Aston Villa and Hull, he had spells at Barnsley, Bournemouth, Northampton Town and Scarborough before playing for a few Non-League sides, eventually becoming player/manager of Matlock Town.

Gareth Williams - Scarborough FC

So we come back full circle to where I started in the first article, the 90’s to the 00’s. I did do a couple of Island players from that era a disservice, by not mentioning them.

Aaron Cook from Cowes, was signed by Portsmouth in 1998 and had a loan spell at Crystal Palace after impressing Terry Venables, but it didn’t quite work out for him. Since then though, he has forged a distinguished Non-League career, notably with Havant & Waterlooville and Salisbury City.

Danny Hatcher had a spell with Leyton Orient between 2000/03 playing sixteen games for the London club before returning to play for his hometown team Newport.

So there we have it, another instalment, but perhaps not the last? There may be more from the past, that we know little about, and hopefully there will be more in the future, what is clear to me now, is that while we may not be the hotbed of footballing talent that bigger, more dense areas of the country are, for a place of our size and population we are certainly making ourselves heard!

Many thanks go to Brian Greening, Brian Marriott, Nick Reed and Mike Payne for their help and information on this.

Chris