What if? (Part One)

23rd April 2011. St. George’s day.

Southampton travelled to the Withdean Stadium to face League One’s already crowned champions Brighton & Hove Albion.

A win would put them in second place and put the pressure on Huddersfield Town who weren’t playing. A tall order for Nigel Adkins side who were under intense pressure themselves to gain promotion.

Adkins’ entered the Withdean to a chorus of abuse after comments he made about Brighton having to ‘keep up’ with Southampton. This was the biggest game of the season.

Ashley Barnes put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half time. Saints created a flurry of chances in the final 10 minutes but to no avail. They’d lost 1-0. A Jose Fonte header at the death ruled out for a foul in the box the closest they came to snatching a point.

An unhappy ending for Adkins at the Withdean

An unhappy ending for Adkins at the Withdean

Despite overcoming Hartlepool United at home in the next game, Saints were drained of confidence and went down at Brentford. Main rivals for automatic promotion Huddersfield Town kept on winning, they even succeed where Saints failed, beating Brighton 2-3 at the Withdean to leapfrog us into second place. Saints win their game in hand at Plymouth but go into the final day needing to beat Walsall and hope that the Terriers lose at home to Brentford. Saints see off their Midlands rivals, but Huddersfield secure a thrilling 4-4 draw sealing automatic promotion. Saints face the lottery of the playoffs.

Saints face local ‘rivals’ Bournemouth in their semi-final and overcome them after extra time in the second leg at St. Mary’s to setup a final with Peterborough United at Old Trafford. Saints fail their final test and lose the playoff final on penalties. Jonathan Forte missing the decisive spot kick.

Nigel Adkins applauds the Saints fans for the last time at Old Trafford.

Nigel Adkins applauds the Saints fans for the last time at Old Trafford.

10th June 2011. Nigel Adkins and his backroom staff are relieved of their duties with immediate effect.

16th June 2011. The club release a statement from Katherina Liebherr announcing that as of today the club is for sale.

1st July 2011. Southampton Football Club is bought by a consortium of local businessmen. They talk of consolidation and rebuilding. Nicola Cortese is relieved of his duties as chairman.

4th July 2011. Rickie Lambert is sold to Brighton & Hove Albion for £1.2 million.

6th July 2011. Jose Fonte is sold to Crystal Palace for £850k.

9th July 2011. Adam Lallana and Lee Barnard are sold to Leicester City for a combined £2.8 million.

11th July 2011. Jason Dodd is appointed first team manager.

2011/12 League One.

As the new owners look to settle the club and clear what they call a ‘difficult financial situation’ they ensure fans that they have every confidence in the current squad and will be hoping for another promotion push.

Saints open the season at home to Bury and lineup like so:- Davis, Richardson, Seaborne, Martin, Dickson, Guly, Hammond (c), Schneiderlin, Chaplow, Connolly, Forte.

They secure a 1-1 draw and start the campaign with three consecutive ties. Dodd’s side look like the summer upheaval hasn’t effected them too much and they go on an unbeaten run in the league that lasts 19 games and takes them to the end of November. Although they are yet to be beaten they still trail Charlton Athletic by five points having drawn a lot of those games.

Guly's home hat trick in the 6-0 demolition of Wycombe Wanderers is the highlight leading up to Christmas.

Guly’s home hat trick in the 6-0 demolition of Wycombe Wanderers would be the Brazilian’s last contribution.

Saints suffer their first defeats of the season away at leaders Charlton and then at home to Bournemouth before getting back on track going into the January transfer window.

11th January 2012. Top scorer Guly do Prado is sold against his wishes to Birmingham City for £700k.

18th January 2012. Morgan Schneiderlin is sold to Reading for £1.5 million.

20th January 2012. Southampton announce the double signing of Matt Ritchie from Swindon Town and Tyrone Barnett from Crawley Town for undisclosed fees.

Saints find their form again despite supporter unrest given the transfer dealings of the club in January. The club’s owners move to reassure the fans that no business was done without the best interest of the club at heart.

With eight games to go, Saints are still within three points of automatic promotion, sadly those eight games would see them have their worst run of the season, losing four and eventually finishing 4th, twelve points adrift of 2nd placed Sheffield Wednesday.

Saints overcome Milton Keynes Dons in the playoff semi finals before facing Sheffield United in the final at Wembley. The game ends 0-0 after extra time and goes to penalties. With the scores at 7-7, the captain Dean Hammond steps up knowing if he scores Saints are back in the Championship.

Goal.

dean hammond oct

To be continued…

Chris

#GoodbyeGuly

Players come and players go. By their very definition the playing and coaching staff at a football club are temporary. But sometimes they leave a mark on that club and become more than just a member of staff.

We’ve had plenty at Saints over the years and it is always sad to see them go. Today, though it has long been expected, we got the official news that Guly do Prado’s time with the club has come to an end.

Guly drew mixed opinions at time amongst the support and often was the centre of unfair criticism, but love him or not, he was a good player who gave his all for the club and a key part of our ascent back to where we belong. I’ve never hidden my affections for the smiling Brazilian. Far more skilful than most give him credit for, and scorer of some important goals, Saints never lost when Guly was on the scoresheet! Truly a maverick samba assassin!

I’ll never forget being sat in my Chinese hotel room at 4 in the morning watching text updates of Saints important home game with Bristol Rovers.

81:29 Goal! – Guly Do Prado – Southamp’n 1 – 0 Bristol R

My room-mate still reminds me of my anti-social celebrations!

guly

A legend and in my eyes a true Saints cult hero!

#GoodByeGuly

Chris

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

Our 3rd Birthday!

Blow me readers! georgeweahscousin.com is three years old!

This site has successfully made the transition from a League One site with fewer readers but plucky enjoyable output to Premier League site with far more readers (most of which have only just got interested) and far more commercially pleasing output.

As has become as traditional as Saints not trying in the FA Cup, we celebrate this occasion with the awarding of the ‘Ali Dia award for services to Southampton’ sponsored by Orgran Egg Substitute.

This is an award unlike any other. It is not awarded to the best player or the longest serving but anyone who has done something that has caught our eye in their duty as a Saints. The first year it was awarded to Oscar Gobern and last year the prize was taken by Billy Sharp but who would add their name to this illustrious list?

The jury (Myself, Ali Dia, Alaeddine Yahia and Kleber Chala) found it extremely difficult this year. It almost went to Dani Osvaldo, who in just six months managed to be fined and banned for kicking a Newcastle coach, have several injuries, be fined and banished for attacking Jose Fonte and score a spectacular goal against Manchester City (thanks to Adam Priestly for the summary). When it came to it though only one man really warranted this award based on the last 12 months.

We here at georgeweahscousin.com are delighted to announce that the third winner of the ‘Ali Dia award for services to Southampton’ sponsored by Orgran Egg Substitute, for showing the level of testicular fortitude that only a maverick samba assassin can is:- Guly do Prado for his penalty against Yeovil Town.

gdp

 

In what looks to be Guly’s last season at Saints it has to be said that he has suffered some unnecessary criticism at times, yet still loves the club and has been a great servant to it. To ask Jay Rodriguez for the ball and to step up in front of the Northam and take that penalty took nuts. Congratulations Guly!

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the last year!

Chris

Latter Day Saints….

So, seeing as the summer of discontent is well and truly upon us, I thought about introducing a nice historical feature about past Saints players, be they superstars, sinners, (p)sychopaths or true Saints.

But to make it more interesting I thought I would open the floor to you, beloved readers, as to who you would like to hear about. To add another twist the options won’t be named so it is up to you to vote for the most ‘intriguing option’.

Here goes….

Would you like to hear about:-

The poll will close on Wednesday and the winner will be focused on in the first ‘Latter Day Saints’ post.

Enjoy!

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.

nc

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

Good Friday, Very Good Saturday…

Now I’m not a religious man, I consider myself a man of science and logic, but when you support a club that was formed from a young men’s church association, their ground is called St. Mary’s, their nickname is the Saints, were graced for a years by ‘Le God’ and now they even have a ‘Holy Goalie’, you begin to wonder if divine intervention has ever helped our cause.

Holy Goalie - Good with crosses.

Holy Goalie – Good with crosses.

The Easter weekend is upon us, and Saints welcome European Champions Chelsea to St. Mary’s and it got me thinking. The Easter bank holiday fixtures are a tradition in English football and with Saints christian links, surely this is a fruitful time of year for the club?

And, actually, it is.

I had a look at Saints Easter weekend fixtures over the last 10 seasons (please don’t research their Easter results prior to this period, they are very dull and irrelevant) and found quite a remarkable success rate.

Saints record since the 02/03 season on Easter Weekend actually reads:- P – 10 W – 7 D – 2 L – 1 Pts – 23 GF – 17 GA – 9. You actually have to go as far back as 2004 to find the only defeat, a 1-3 reverse at Middlesbrough. Two of Boro’s goals came from devout Catholics Juninho and Massimo Maccarone. Coincidence?

Last season Saints hosted bitter rivals Pompey on Easter weekend, which accounts for one of the two draws, David Norris stealing a point deep into injury time. Religious people tell me that ‘God moves in mysterious ways’, and there wasn’t much more mysterious than that.

BS

Billy, shall I put a picture of Norris’ goal in?

In the previous season, Saints fans will remember Jose Fonte’s winner at the Withdean, and then Saints made it a 6 point double header with victory over Hartlepool in the same weekend. What’s that readers? That means that in one of the previous seasons we can’t have had an Easter weekend fixture? That’s right we didn’t, 2005/05 the Premier League relegation season. Punishment for having Judas Iscariot himself at the helm? (One of Judas’s main weaknesses seemed to be money (John 12:4–6).)

Fonte christens the net.

Fonte christens the net.

So are Rafa Benitez’ Chelsea ready to be crucified tomorrow? Are we going to see the second coming of the messiah (in my mind this will be presented to us in the form of a Guly do Prado finish)? Can Saints peform a miracle?

Who knows, with God as our co-pilot anything can happen and probably will.

Happy Easter to all of our readers from everyone at georgeweahscousin.com!

Chris

Played For Both: Saints & Latics

Well after the debacle that was the Manchester United team, I have surprisingly fared a little better with a shared Wigan Athletic team, even getting people in the right positions and players that have been registered players with both clubs.

Considering the two clubs share very little history it was relatively easy to pick a team and I even had a spare keeper (Dave Beasant)!

Here goes:-

TeamGoalkeeper

Eric Nixon

Born in Manchester Nixon began his professional career in 1983 at Maine Road with City, while at the club he earned the feat of playing for a club in every English division in one season, while on loan at Wolves, Bradford, Saints and Carlisle in 1986/87. He made four appearances at The Dell in that season, providing cover for Peter Shilton. He eventually joined Tranmere Rovers and made over 340 appearances for the Wirral club before several loan moves in the mid-90’s. He signed for Wigan in 1998 (initially on loan) and played three times before heading back to Tranmere. Nixon retired in 2004 and went into coaching and Elvis-impersonating!

Eric Nixon

Eric Nixon

Defender

Jeff Kenna

Dubliner Kenna joined the Southampton youth academy in 1987 and turned pro in 1989. He was a highly rated right full back during his time at the Dell and played in the defeated ZDS final team. Having played over 110 times for Saints he was sold to new money Blackburn Rovers for £1.5 million in 1995. He played over 150 times for Rovers but fell down the pecking order and was sent out on loan moves in 2001. One of those was to the DW Stadium. He played six times for Wigan before heading to Birmingham City. He returned to Ireland in 2008 and became player/manager of Galway United, he quit to take over the reigns at St. Patrick’s Athletic in 2009 but lasted less than a year and now coaches in the United States.

Jeff_KennaDefender

Fitz Hall

‘One Size’ started his career in his native London with West Ham, but was released as a youth player, he signed for Barnet but it didn’t work out there either and he dropped into non-league football. He was managed at Chesham United by Bob Dowie, brother of former Saints striker Iain who took him to Oldham Athletic in 2002. His fantastic first season in Greater Manchester saw him propelled to the Premier League in 2003 with Saints. Though Hall didn’t perform badly for Saints, he couldn’t force his way past Lundekvam and Svensson at the heart of Saints defence, having played just 11 times for the club he rejoined Dowie at Crystal Palace. It was 2006 when he made his way to the Latics, but his time at the DW seemed to be littered with injuries, own goals and suspensions. Once Peter Taylor moved on Hall was out of favour and left for QPR in 2008. Now playing at Watford.

Fitz Hall

Fitz Hall

Defender

Chris Makin

Makin began his career at Boundary Park playing nearly 100 games for Oldham between 1991 & 1996. During the early days of his spell he was loaned to Springfield Park and played 15 times for Wigan in the 92/93 season. He arrived at Southampton in 2006 at the end of his career via Marseille, Sunderland, Ipswich, Leicester, Derby and Reading and little was expected of him. To many fans surprise he proved to be a decent acquisition for Saints and played 27 times before retiring through injury in 2008.

Chris_Makin

Winger

David Lee

Right winger Lee was born in the North, and but for a short spell with Saints spent his entire career in the North. Having started his career at Bury he was given a chance in the top flight by Saints in 1991, but he would last just a season. Having played 20 games he was loaned to Bolton and joined them permanently soon after. He played over 150 games for Wanderers before signing for Wigan in 1997 and played over 80 times for the Latics, later had spells with Blackpool, Carlisle and Morecambe before returning to the DW stadium as a youth coach. Now the assistant academy director at Bolton.

David_LeeMidfield

Alan McLoughlin

Having been a trainee at Manchester United McLoughlin made a name for himself with Swindon Town. His performances were enough for Saints to take a punt on him in 1990 for £1 million. He didn’t establish himself at the higher level and played only 24 times for Saints in two seasons. He crossed the M27 divide that summer for £400,000 and became a Pompey legend. Playing over 300 times for the club, his performances earned him a place at the 1994 World Cup with Ireland. As injuries hampered his later career he joined Wigan in 1999 for £260,000 and made 22 appearances for them before leaving for Rochdale in 2001. Having retired in 2003 McLoughlin has been a commentator on local radio in Pompey and also worked with the club as a coach. Sadly battling cancer, McLoughlin had a kidney removed in October last year. Everyone at georgeweahscousin.com wishes him a speedy recovery.

Alan McLoughlin

Alan McLoughlin

Midfield

Tommy Widdrington

A graduate of the famous Wallsend Boys Club in the North East, geordie Widdrington joined Saints as a youth scholar in 1987, he turned pro in 1990 and soon became popular with the crowd with his combative style. Although never truly first choice he played nearly 100 times for Saints in five seasons. In his early days as a young pro Widdrington was sent on loan to Wigan (1991) playing six times for the Latics. After he left Saints he played for Grimsby, Port Vale, Hartlepool, Macclesfield and Port Vale before heading back south with Salisbury City. Now manager of Eastbourne Borough.

Tommy_Widdrington

Winger

Harry Penk

Local lad Penk joined Wigan in the early 1950’s and was given the chance to turn pro with Portsmouth in 1955, things didn’t work out for Penk at Fratton Park and he joined Plymouth in 1957. He lasted three season’s with Argyle playing over 100 times and joined Saints in 1960. Penk made over 50 appearances for the club between ’60 and ’64 before moving to Salisbury City.

Harry_PenkForward

Henri Camara

Senegalese forward Camara came to England via France and Switzerland to sign for Wolves in 2003. He endeared himself to the fans by refusing to play for them in the Championship following relegation and was loaned to Celtic. He was signed on loan by Saints in January 2005 and was without doubt the most succesful of Redknapp’s dealings while at the club. Camara’s energetic performances couldn’t stop Saints being relegated though and he headed to one of their Premier League replacements Wigan. Camara played over 70 games for the Latics, chipping with 20 goals. Later played for West Ham, Stoke and Sheffield United before heading to Greece.

Hands up who has been a decent signing...

Hands up who has been a decent signing…

Forward

Brett Ormerod

Fondly remembered at St. Mary’s, scruffy striker Brett Ormerod’s relentless hard work complimented James Beattie’s more technical nonchalance perfectly. In what was a great period for Saints fans Ormerod played over 100 times for Saints between 2001 and 2006 including the 2003 cup final (having a blinder in the semi). As he fell down the pecking order he was loaned to Wigan in 2005 scoring twice in six games. Now playing for Wrexham.

Brett Ormerod

Brett Ormerod

Forward

David Connolly

Irishman Connolly began his career in 1994 with Watford, before heading to Holland with Feyenoord and subsequently played for several more English clubs, scoring goals everywhere he went before arriving at Wigan in 2005, injuries effected his time at the DW (soon to be a recurring theme) and he scored just one league goal for the Latics. He moved to Sunderland in 2006 before joining Saints in 2009. Part of the Saints side that was promoted from League One in 2011, the Championship in 2012 and that won the Johnstones Paint Trophy in 2010. Took a break from football on his release from Saints, but returned at Pompey in December.

David Connolly

David Connolly

So there it is, another team, and a slightly balanced one for once! As always let me know of anymore that I have missed!

Cheers,

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Morgan Schneiderlin: Le temps est un grand maître

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

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

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

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

Schneiderl-in

Schneiderl-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schneiderlin celebrates his goal against Manchester United

Schneiderlin celebrates his goal against Manchester United

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

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

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

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

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

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Nigel Adkins: A Tribute

It was the 12th September 2010, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the day, but little did we know that our journey as Saints supporters was about to change  forever. He was tanned, he wore spectacles and his silvery brown hair was waxed into a quiff. Most Saints fans knew little of who he was or what he stood for. Some were bemused as to why this chirpy Scouser with the permanent smile was being given the reigns at our club. His record was that of a lower league manager who could get teams promoted but also relegated again. Was this a ‘big’ enough appointment for Saints?

Soon, the results started to come, and those who had been furious at the removal of Alan Pardew started to come round. Not only were Saints starting to win, they were doing it with a panache, a team spirit and a belief young Saints fans had never previously experienced.

Nigel Adkins was no longer a stranger, and his vision and his passion was inspiring us all. That permanent smile became infectious, his enthusiasm and almost exclusive positivity were worn like an armour in the face of any (though there were few) adversity. We had a team, a team that worked for each other, that stood ‘together as one’ and excited an often melancholy Saints crowd.

It took us a while to get used to it. We were too long perennial losers to find success too comfortable, but Adkins achieved it. His effect on our fanbase probably surpasses that of any other manager, certainly in my lifetime, and the strength of feeling shown at his dismissal will surely offer him some comfort.

na_smile

It is usually the supporters who end a managers tenure. Not this time. This is the last thing we wanted. It feels like we have lost a relative, a friend and a leader all at the same time.

This has been two and a half of the best seasons in my time as a Saints supporter, and perhaps the only time I went into every game believing we could win.

I am sure Nigel will walk straight into another job, and he will be a success. He is a winner, a believer and perhaps a dreamer, but most importantly at all he is a gentleman and a note left for the players at the training ground said it all.

‘Keep Smiling

Have faith & belief that you are doing the right thing.

Keep looking to improve

:-)’

Right back at you Nige.

Thank you Nigel Adkins. Thank you ‘the man in the glass’. You will go down in Saints history as a legend. Time to draw a blue line under it, move on, and control the controllables.

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news