What If? (Part Two)

…continued from Part One.

2012/13 The Championship

7th July 2012. Saints sign David McGoldrick from Nottingham Forest for £775k

9th July 2012 .David Connolly and Radhi Jaidi are released.

18th July 2012. Ryan Dickson is sold to Swindon Town for £375k

Saints open their first campaign back in the Championship with a trip to title favourites Cardiff City, they lose 1-0, but put in an impressive performance. They lineup:- Davis, Butterfield, Seaborne, Martin, Shaw, Ward-Prowse, Hammond (c), Ritchie, Chaplow, Barnett, McGoldrick.

Youngsters Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse make their league débuts and suitably impress.

The team take confidence from their decent start and go on a six game unbeaten run, ending September in 6th place and prompting talk of successive promotions.

Young left back Luke Shaw impressed in the new season...

Young left back Luke Shaw impressed in the new season…

A couple of injuries to key players take their toll and Saints form dips, culminating in a dreadful run of 12 games without a win, leaving them 18th as the end of the January transfer window neared. Saints fans were hoping that the board would strengthen the squad so as to prevent a relegation battle.

21st January 2013. Luke Shaw is sold to Arsenal for £4 million.

Saints form is erratic for the rest of the season as they struggle to cope with the rigours of the Championship with a young inexperienced squad. They find themselves in the relegation zone with three games to go but rally enough to win the first two. They go into the final game of the season knowing that a point will save them, but could go down with a defeat due to their poor goal difference. They draw 2-2 with Barnsley at St. Mary’s and finish 19th.

1st June 2013. Jason Dodd is relieved of his duties as Southampton manager. Assistant Paul Williams also leaves.

Jason Dodd couldn't do enough to keep his job.

Jason Dodd couldn’t do enough to keep his job.

18th June 2013. James Ward-Prowse is sold to newly promoted Cardiff City for £1.2 million.

20th June 2013. Kelvin Davis announces his retirement.

30th June 2013. Saints sign Newcastle United goalkeeper Rob Elliot on a season long loan.

14th July 2013. The Saints board make a statement saying that the past seasons have taken a toll on the club financially and it is now up for sale.

16th July 2013. Martin Hunter is promoted from U21’s coach to first team manager.

2013/14 The Championship

Saints open the season with defeat at Nottingham Forest, lining up Elliot, Chambers, Seaborne, Martin, Targett, Chaplow, Hammond (c), Ritchie, McQueen, Barnett, McGoldrick. Despite the poor feeling around the club and the coming season, Saints start well and are 9th by the start of October.

A run of defeats sees them drop to 15th and with strong rumours that the board are looking to cash in on the performances of youngsters Calum Chambers and Sam McQueen, relegation seems a very real possibility.

Calum Chambers looks to be the next young star out of St. Mary's.

Calum Chambers looks to be the next young star out of St. Mary’s.

As the club hit January they sit in 13th and the board reiterate their stance that the club is for sale.

4th January 2014. Calum Chambers is sold to Liverpool for £2.8 million.

16th January 2014. Saints announce that the club has been sold to an American investor.

28th January 2014. Saints sign Danny Ings from Burnley as the first player under the new regime for £1.8 million.

Saints see out the remainder of the season in indifferent form that quickly turns to poor form culminating in a 10 game streak without a win, but with the goals from Ings and a unified more confident squad under the new owners, they find themselves safe from relegation with two games to play and would spend the summer preparing for a third season in the Championship.

It’s worth remembering that in reality the last four seasons have been pretty good…

Chris

 

 

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5 Year Plan. Done.

I’m not sure I ever expected it to go this quick, but we really have reached the end of the ‘Five Year Plan’. It hardly seems fathomable that the club that lined up on the 8th August 2009 to play out a 1-1 draw with  Millwall in League One, would mark the end of the ‘plan’ with a 1-1 draw with Champions of England Manchester United in the same stadium.

What a five years it’s been. Considering the original plan was to get Southampton into the Premier League, the fact that that has clearly been achieved (a year early), a trophy has been won along the way and the final season saw us break into the top eight, I would say we can consider it a complete success.

Three managers, Two promotions, One trophy and Seventy Seven Players! Can the next five years really live up to it?

5 Year Plan Players

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

World at their feet: Saints in Brazil?

Seeing as though it was Southampton Football Club that effectively introduced the beautiful game to Brazil (Ref: Charles William Miller) it would be fitting that at this summer’s World Cup in the country, if the Saints were well represented.

Speculation is already rife as to who will and won’t make it to the finals, and here at georgeweahscousin.com we are no different!

So which of the Saints talented squad will be on the proverbial plane?

England

It seems fitting to start with our own nation, burdened with the usual over expectant feeling of entitlement, England could well be the squad with the most Saints in it.

Adam Lallana

Let’s put it this way, if Lallana isn’t in the twenty three man squad then he will either be injured or the victim of the most ridiculous tragedy in English footballing history up there with Matthew Le Tissier’s lack of caps and not building a team around Paul Scholes (confounded by playing him on the left wing).

Lallana is skilful, technically gifted and creative. He shouldn’t be English really, as he has defied the poor coaching standards here and become a talent worthy of Spain or Brazil.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

Lallana, a shoe in for the squad for anyone with the right number of chromosomes...

Lallana, a shoe in for the squad for anyone with the right number of chromosomes…

Rickie Lambert

England at the World Cup will need different options if they are to succeed, and in Lambert they could well have that. Good with the ball at his feet and an ability to hold the ball up, Lambert has proven his critics wrong time and time again, scoring and creating goals at every level he’s played at.

The worry is that Roy Hodgson may revert to type and turn to Andy Carroll.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 3.5

The moment Rickie showed the rest of the country what the Saints fans already knew...

The moment Rickie showed the rest of the country what the Saints fans already knew…

Jay Rodriguez

Didn’t enjoy the best of debuts, but Rodriguez grows with confidence game by game and has emerged as Saints top scorer this season. ‘JRod’ is another one who has the technical ability to try something different. It feels like this might not be his year England wise though with the media turning on him after the game against Chile.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2

Just how many Saints will lineup for England this summer?

Just how many Saints will lineup for England this summer?

Luke Shaw

Uncapped so far, but with his stock rising and his mature performances both defensively and going forward for Saints, coupled with the recent decline of Ashley Cole, Luke will surely get the chance to show what he can do in the friendlies prior to the tournament.

With rumours that Man City want to make him the most expensive full back in the world, it is only a matter of time before his country calls. Undoubtedly the natural and long term successor to Cole.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 3.5

Shaw thing to be first choice England left back in the future....

Shaw thing to be first choice England left back in the future….

Nathaniel Clyne

In what is distinctly England’s weakest area it is surprising to me that Clyne hasn’t already been given a chance by Roy Hodgson. While the distinctly mediocre Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker both look unimpressive in an England shirt, Clyne has gone about his business at Saints with great success, consistently performing to a high standard.

Deserves a chance.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2.5

While all the media talk was of getting Kosovan Januzaj to play for England, Englishman Clyne was giving him a lesson at Old Trafford...

While all the media talk was of getting Kosovan Januzaj to play for England, Englishman Clyne was giving him a lesson at Old Trafford…

James Ward-Prowse

Probably the longest shot, and almost certainly this World Cup has come too soon for the Saints midfielder. With his ability to deliver a ball now being likened to David Beckham though, England honours will surely follow at some point….

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1

JWP bends it like Beckham into the San Marion net for England U21's...

JWP bends it like Beckham into the San Marion net for England U21’s…

Italy

It seems right to follow the potential England players with their Group D opponents. England v Italy at the World Cup will always be a special occasion and it might just be laden with Saints players.

Dani Osvaldo

Argentinian born Osvaldo opted to play for Italy, and recently has been a regular for the Azzuri. Although he has taken his time to adapt to the Premier League the skill he has shown for Italy was replicated with his amazing strike against Manchester City.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4

Osvaldo celebrates his recent goal against Denmark...

Osvaldo celebrates his recent goal against Denmark…

Uruguay

Gaston Ramirez

Sporter of awful barnet’s, splitter of fan opinion and creator of occasional magic, Ramirez has been in and out of the Saints first team, but is a regular in the Uruguay squad.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

Opponents in the summer?

Opponents in the summer?

Croatia

Dejan Lovren

The Croatian has been an absolute steal for Saints and has made his way into many ‘top players in the Premier League this season’ lists. A regular for his country, he should be on his way to Brazil.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.5

World Class defender Lovren who will be in Brazil and some other fella who won't...

World Class defender Lovren who will be in Brazil and some other fella who won’t…

France

Morgan Schneiderlin

Perhaps the biggest crime in international football from a Saints perspective is the lack of recognition for Morgan Schneiderlin. Having had a brilliant first season and a half in the Premier League, Schneiderlin would walk into any other top flight side and most international teams. Come on Didier. You know it makes sense.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 2

Could France's loss be England's gain?

Could France’s loss be England’s gain?

Japan

Maya Yoshida

Having fallen down the pecking order at Saints, Yoshida is having to take what he can, and it has led to talk of a move back to Japan. He will undoubtedly be in Brazil though, barring an injury as a stalwart of their defence.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 4.75

Maya will be on the plane.

Maya will be on the plane.

Tadanari Lee

Forward Lee is well and truly out of the picture as far as the Saints first team is concerned, and perhaps his move to England two years ago has killed any chance of a World Cup place. A loan move back to Japan might revive his hopes though.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1

Can Lee get out of the international wilderness in time?

Can Lee get out of the international wilderness in time?

Portugal

Jose Fonte

A long shot, but Jose Fonte has really come into his own for Saints this season and has been part of the formidable back five that was at the top of the European defensive charts. Sadly, when I met Joao Pinto (Now a high level official in the Portuguese FA) in the summer he had never heard of Jose.

Chances of being in Brazil (out of 5):- 1.5

Part of the furniture at St. Mary's, but deserving of international recognition?

Part of the furniture at St. Mary’s, but deserving of international recognition?

So there we have it. Do you agree with their chances? Is there anyone else in the Saints squad who might sneak in somewhere? As ever let us know!

Chris

 

 

 

10 games in…

Over the summer I was privileged enough to be invited to be a beta tester for a new football scouting website Inscouts.com. The idea is that users having watched any game across the European Leagues & Champion’s League can login and rate the players out of six (six the highest) provoking discussion and opinion on the performances of individuals.

As part of the testing, I have been rating players in every game I watch which of course includes all of Saints Premier League games so I thought I would use the average scores to see just how well I (and the other Inscouts beta users) have thought Saints players have been doing…

Artur Boruc:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.10

Nathaniel Clyne:- Games – 8 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4

Dejan Lovren:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4.58

Jose Fonte:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.8

Luke Shaw:- Games – 8 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.7 Average Rating – 4.4

Callum Chambers:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 4.3 Lowest Rating – 3.5 Rating – 3.8

Danny Fox:- Games – 2 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.35

Dejan Lovren - Standout defender.

Dejan Lovren – Standout defender.

Morgan Schneiderlin:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.1

Victor Wanyama:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 4.1

Steven Davis:- Games – 6 Highest Rating – 4.3 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.75

Adam Lallana:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 4 Average Rating – 4.52

James Ward-Prowse:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.3 Lowest Rating – 3.5 Average Rating – 4.19

Jack Cork:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 3.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.46

Gaston Ramirez:- Games – 5 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.42

Captain leading by example this season.

Captain leading by example this season.

Rickie Lambert:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.9

Jay Rodriguez:- Games – 10 Highest Rating – 5.7 Lowest Rating – 2.7 Average Rating – 3.8

Dani Osvaldo:- Games – 7 Highest Rating – 4.7 Lowest Rating – 3 Average Rating – 3.9

Guly do Prado:- Games – 3 Highest Rating – 4 Lowest Rating – 3.3 Average Rating – 3.7

The thing that immediately jumps out with these ratings is that not a single Saints player thus far, has been seen to be playing below average. As far as I am aware I am the only Saints fan to be beta testing the site, and one of very few English supporters, so it gives a good reflection on what fans from Germany, France, Italy etc. are making of us.

I will update this again after 20 games and see who has improved or dropped off.

Chris

2012/2013 GWC.com End of Season Awards!

As we approach the end of another season, it is time to highlight those who have stood out in what has been a rollercoaster first season back in the Premier League (hopefully the first of many)….

Who will win one of our coveted ‘Ali’s’?*

One of the coveted 'Ali's'. Who will get there hands on one?

One of the coveted ‘Ali’s’. Who will get there hands on one?

If you want to have your say on who should be honoured, just fill out the following form, all votes will be anonymous and collated with the winners revealed at the end of the season!

* – There is no actual physical trophy. This site is non-profit and always being sued by photographers. Sorry.

Chris

Young, Talented and Back….

As the Premier League season approaches I have been asked by a few places to submit a preview for Saints. As I write them, there is a recurring theme that I can’t help but get excited about. How young our squad is.

Humour me if you will, it is unlikely that we will lineup in this respect against City on the 18th August, but still, this is a potential starting XI for Saints:-

Gazzaniga (20)

Clyne (21) Stephens (18)  Cork (23)  Shaw (17)

Chambers (17)  Ward-Prowse (17)  Schneiderlin (22)  Lallana (24)

Rodriguez (23)  Sharp (26)

Is it misplaced loyalty that I think that this is a pretty good Premier League team?

Luke Shaw. International future?

The future is bright and with Premier League experience the likes of Clyne, Lallana and Rodriguez are going to get better and better. I get the impression that both Ward-Prowse and Shaw will feature heavily this season, while Callum Chambers has had an efficient pre-season without being in the spotlight. In fact it has been the highlight of pre-season so far how well the youth players have performed. How comfortable these players are on the ball will be key to their future development, and their quest for international honours, which many of them will achieve.

In Nigel Adkins I think we have the man to nurture them too, his abundance of positivity enough to give any kid confidence.

If we can stay in the Premier League, and keep this team together, who knows what they will achieve? But remember, ‘You don’t win anything with kids…’

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