Dušan Tadić: Record Breaker!

Better than Ronaldo?

In Saturday’s 8-0 hammering of Sunderland, our very own Dušan Tadić made history after breaking the weekly points record on European fantasy football game Oulala.

With a points matrix sourced from Opta the midfielder picked up a remarkable 151 points thanks to an excellent performance that included a goal, four assists, creating three big chances and supplying five successful crosses. The record was previously held by Carlos Vela who netted four goals for Real Sociedad last season in a 4-3 victory over Celta Vigo.

DTinfo

To sum up just how special Tadić’s performance was, Ronaldo’s top score this season was 140 points after scoring four goals against Elche in a 5-1 win and Lionel Messi scored 130 points when he scored two and assisted two in a 6-0 win over Granada. That’s some company our new signing is mixing with.

DT_Ron

More effective than Ronaldo?

Oulala is a free to play, weekly European fantasy football game offering cool prizes to it’s top three managers every week. Oulala offers unique features such as a diverse scoring matrix and live in-play substitutions making it the closest fantasy football has ever got to reality. To register click here https://www.oulala.com/en/register

Chris

Southampton v Sunderland: EA PPI Preview

Southampton have had a fantastic start to the season and find themselves in third place in the Premier League, which is largely down to them having the best defensive record in the Premier League so far. They will look to maintain their defensive form this weekend with their fourth clean sheet of the season, whilst adding to their 11 goals scored.

One man who has hit good form for Southampton up top is Graziano Pelle, with the Italian striker bagging four goals for the club already. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index tells us that his secret is to not be shy in front of goal, with the Italian taking 19 shots at goal already this term. The 29 year old has also grabbed an assist and will be looking to lay on and score more goals in the Saints’ fourth home game of the season. He is 21/20 to score anytime with 888sport.com.

In the middle of the park, Morgan Schneiderlin has been in fantastic form so far this season, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He has covered 86.4km of ground already this campaign, which is more than anybody in the Premier League. It is this hard work that has seen the French international win 27 tackles and make a further 12 interceptions, whilst getting his name on the score sheet three times already this season.

Southampton’s good work has all stemmed from defensive stability, of which Jose Fonte is a prime example. The Portuguese defender has started the season in prime form, as illustrated by the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index statistics. He has won 88.23% of his tackles, made 30 clearances and also made 22 interceptions. He will hope to add to all of those statistics to ensure Southampton maintain third spot in the Premier League.

This week’s visitors to St. Mary’s will come into the game with confidence this weekend, having won their last match 3-1 at home to Stoke, prior to the international break. The Black Cats have lost only one game all season, and will not want that tally to get any higher this weekend, as a win could see them join Southampton in the top four.

In order to walk away with the three points, Sunderland will be relying on in form striker Steven Fletcher to deliver the goods. Fletcher has grabbed two goals already this season, scoring with 33.3% of his shots according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He has also laid on another goal, but his focus this weekend will likely be finding more goals for himself. He is 7/2 to score anytime with 888sport.com.

In the middle of the park, Sebastian Larsson will be looking to win the battle with Morgan Schneiderlin, to give the Black Cats a stronghold in the game. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, the Sunderland midfielder has covered 70.06km so far this season, the most of any Sunderland player. His hard work has seen him grab a goal and two assists, and he will pose a threat to the sturdy Southampton back line this weekend.

With Southampton looking so solid in defence so far this season, it is crucial that Sunderland remain equally as astute at the back, given that the Saints’ have concede an average of only 0.71 goals per game. For this to happen, former Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone will have to be on top form. The Italian has already made 23 saves so far this season, but will be looking for a clean sheet to leave Sunderland unbeaten in five games.

The Kingsland Roar Podcast is Live!

I am pleased to announce that the pilot episode of the all new Kingsland Roar Saints podcast is now live!

Please bear in mind that this was the first attempt, and is labelled as the ‘pilot’ intentionally. Dan and I would love to hear your feedback so that we can launch episode one proper with all the wrinkles ironed out!

kingslandroar

Several of our features involve interaction and participation with you the Saints fans so don’t be shy in getting touch either through twitter or by mailing kingslandroad@gmail.com!

I hope you enjoy it!

 http://podcastmachine.com/podcasts/17559/episodes/101062

We’ll be on iTunes soon!

Chris

COMPETITION: Win a Retro Saints or Koeman Shirt with Campo Retro!

georgeweahscousin and Campo Retro have come together to offer all our fans around the world a fantastic opportunity to win a unique Southampton or Holland retro shirt and free delivery. You can also use the code ‘GWC20’ to get 20% off any order.

Campo Retro have a wide range of retro shirts available and this competition is open to entrances from all over the world, so whether you live in St Mary’s or Sydney, you still have a great chance to win this fantastic prize. It couldn’t be simpler to enter this competition, all you have to do is go to this Tweet and RT and Follow @CampoRetro

It’s that simple. The competition closes Wednesday 15th October and the winner will be announced soon after. The winner will receive a notification from Campo Retro to request information on shirt, size and delivery address.

Take your pick from one of the retro style Saints shirts:-

Southampton

Or a classic Ronald Koeman Holland shirt from 1994:-

Koeman 94 F+B

If you cannot wait until then, use the discount code GWC20 to get 20% off any order now!

GOOD LUCK!

Chris

p.s. please remember to sponsor me:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/2014/10/09/great-south-run-sponsor-me-and-it-could-be-you/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

imgo

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

Prize Two:-SIGNED SOUTHAMPTON SQUAD FOOTBALL CIRCA 1995

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

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

IMG_2464

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

Prize Three- SIGNED EVERTON SQUAD FOOTBALL CIRCA  1989

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

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

IMG_2466

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

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

Chris

On the Mané: Sadio is a Saint!

…Well you’ve had the lowdown on Toby Alderweireld (http://georgeweahscousin.com/2014/09/02/alder-right-noises-toby-is-a-saint/) and now here it is on his new deadline day colleague Sadio Mané.

Unlike the Belgian, Mané is lesser known in the UK but has had high profile links to Arsenal in the past, and it is believed he was a target of some bloke called Pochettino at Spurs this Summer. A Senegal international, Mané has made his name in Austria playing for Red Bull Salzburg, scoring a hefty amount of goals for a winger.

With Saints crying out for some pace and natural width Mané looks to be just the kind of player we have been missing. I spoke to Josh Bloom a Red Bull Salzburg regular on what Sadio will bring to the team.

It’s came from nowhere, but this seems to be a very good signing for Saints. What can we expect from Mané?

JB ‘Mané is a pacey, exciting, wide right forward/winger – who will cause defences a few problems. It was always felt he had become too good to stay in the Austrian Bundesliga, he deserves his move. I watched him tear Bayern’s full strength back line to pieces in January in a friendly. Several clubs have been monitoring him for a long time.’

Any specific strengths and weaknesses?

JB ‘He’s very quick, and has a trick or two. He will be very exciting to watch and will rack up the assists. However he does go to ground easily, and for a man who breaks through the line often, he should score more than he does.’

If you listen carefully Sadio you can hear Ben Smith and Neil Ashton's bubble burst...

If you listen carefully Sadio you can hear Ben Smith and Neil Ashton’s bubble burst…

Do you think he will be able to adapt quickly to the Premier League?

JB ‘ I expect him to have an immediate impact, and will come up to speed quickly. He may need to bulk up a bit to deal with the physical nature of the Premier League, he can get knocked off the ball too easily. That said he is very, very fit. Salzburg play a high pressure, high tempo 4-2-4 system in which he runs his socks off.’

Is there another player in England you think he is similar to?

JB ‘He reminds me of Theo Walcott – when he’s on form, he’s unplayable, when he’s having a bad day you want to pull your hair out – not because he’s playing particularly poorly, but rather you know he could influence play more than he does.’

King of the Breakdance Tackle!

King of the Breakdance Tackle!

With the outgoings at Saints this Summer, many have suggested there is a lack of ‘ambition’ at the club. With Mané being linked to bigger clubs in the past, does this signing refute that?

JB ‘I think that’s his level actually. He needed to leave the Austrian Bundesliga, his only real tests were coming in European games. He’s still young – bigger teams will be keeping an eye on him to see if he sinks or swims in a decent league. Good signing for Saints, especially when he easily could have gone to a ‘bigger’ German club.’

So there we have it Sadio Mané marks the end of a brilliant turnaround at St. Mary’s this Summer, and for me it would seem Ronald Koeman has built a very good squad with his kitty. Thanks to Josh for the help.

Bring on Newcastle!

Chris

 

Alder right noises: Toby is a Saint!

It was a pretty eventful transfer deadline day for Saints with the club leaving it as late as possible to announce their new players.

The first through the door last night was Belgian international defender Toby Alderweireld on a season long loan with option to buy deal from Atletico Madrid.  Alderweireld was part of Atletico’s La Liga winning and Champion’s League runners up squad last season and it is somewhat of a coup to see him arrive at St. Mary’s.

Capable of playing at both centre half and right back he not only provides vital cover but also the ability to take the club up a level in defensive terms.

I spoke to Kristof Terreur from the website ‘One Man in England‘ and asked him for the lowdown on his countryman.

It’s came from nowhere, but this seems to be a very good signing for Saints. What can we expect from Alderweireld?
KT ‘Alderweireld is a strong, determined central defender with an excellent long pass. He can also play as a right back. Despite the fact that he’s not the tallest, he’s strong in the air and a threat on set pieces. He likes too tackle too. ‘

Any specific strengths and weaknesses?

KT ‘Strengths: His presence, his long ball, his tackle, his treat on attacking set-pieces.

Weakness: he’s not the quickest, and both at Atlético and Ajax he was sometimes caught out of position and made some errors. Although he has a good long ball, he’s not the most accurate passer either, like the other Belgian central defenders in the PL.’

Toby the Saint!

Toby the Saint!

 

Do you think he will be able to adapt quickly to the Premier League?

KT ‘With his determination and tackling he’ll win hearts easily. He has the capacities to turn his hand to the English game.’

With the outgoings at Saints this Summer, many have suggested there is a lack of ‘ambition’ at the club. Does this signing refute that?

KT ‘Well, it’s only a loan. Alderweireld was linked to Arsenal a lot, but the interest was never concrete. Neither with the other big teams. Because he’s Belgian everyone is jumping on the bandwagon as the next big thing. But as a central defender he will always be behind Kompany or Vermaelen in the national team.’

Alderweireld at the World Cup.

Alderweireld at the World Cup.

So there we have it. Saints first of two deadline day players sounds like someone with a big future in the game. Thanks to Kristof for his time. The lowdon on Sadio Mané coming soon…..

Chris

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

Way to Ro: Florin Gardos the lowdown

With echoes of the signing of Dejan Lovren last summer, Saints have moved to bring in his replacement now the Croatian’s body has been reunited with his head in Liverpool and it comes in the form of Romanian international Florin Gardos.

As painful as it was to hear Lovren’s desire to head to Anfield it was equally as nice to hear that Gardos is rumoured to have acted a bit Lovren-like in his desire to join Saints. One journalist even suggested the centre half had made his first trip to Southampton without the permission of his club Steaua Bucherest.

As is customary at georgeweahscousin.com we like to seek the advice of an expert, someone who has seen a new player play far more than us. In this case it would be someone who has seen Gardos play at all, as I will hold my hands up and say that I had never heard of him until the links last week.

I caught up with Radu Baicu from Scouting Romania to get the lowdown on Gardos.

Many Saints fans will know little of Gardos other than he is a central defender, what type of player is he?

RB ‘Well, you should all be familiar enough by now with Tottenham’s Chiriches, so I’ll relate to that: when Chiriches was still at Steaua, it was a bad period for Gardos, as he rarely managed to play ahead of him, having to settle for a place on the bench. And this is something that might not do him good in a competitive place/team – he might give up the fight… On the bright side, when Chiriches was sold he stepped up and filled his shoes without any effort-he was physically and mentally ready and he’s been doing very well ever since.
He’s somewhat similar to Chiriches in style – ball playing central defender, who’s comfortable in possession, steps up from the back, takes part in the build up. But from a physical point of view, he’s more equipped for the role/Premier League, as I don’t expect him to suffer in the air and in a more physical game.’

Does he have any specific strengths and weaknesses?

RB ‘So you’re getting a tall centre back who is reliable on the ball, but who seems to need the confidence / support of the manager. And who will also need to adjust quickly to the superior pace of the game!

Gardos in Champion's League action for Steaua! (NB, in this picture he has my 14 year old face - Chris)

Gardos in Champion’s League action for Steaua! (NB, in this picture he has my 14 year old face, but slightly better looking – Chris)

The first thing we were told was of a ban for breaking another players leg, is he hot headed or simply passionate and over excited?

RB ‘It’s an incident dated a few years back, whoever mentioned this must have a good, but selective memory. Yes, it was a nasty challenge from behind for which he had no excuse. He can toy with the accepted limit of aggression on the pitch, which is not a bad thing for a central defender, especially if episodes like the above mentioned don’t appear. His disciplinary record for Steaua, in 4 seasons, is 1 red and 27 yellow cards.’

Gardos (in yellow) in action for Romania! (NB - In this picture he has none of my faces - Chris)

Gardos (in yellow) in action for Romania! (NB – In this picture he has none of my faces – Chris)

Do you think he is ready for the Premier League?

RB ‘I think he has the quality to play there, but as mentioned before I also think he needs time to settle in a different game, let alone culture. I’d be surprised to see him step in right away, while I also fear for his habit of waiting too quietly for his turn on the bench, if the manager will not offer him quickly chances to start.’

Do you remember the games between Steaua and Saints in 2003?

RB ‘I had to refresh my memory and found the line-ups and results in the both legs. What can I say, Southampton fell to goals scored by Claudiu Raducanu, an ex-striker famous for his wisdom (interesting fact: Raducanu now plays for FC Romania, a team in the Essex Senior Premier League in England – Chris), who was once asked if he’d accept living in a bloc-notes (a notebook) and he was more than happy to give it a shot!’

So there we have it, it looks like Saints have signed a player from under the radar, something that could prove to be a huge benefit! All eyes on the next one now. The ‘Ronald Revolution’ is underway!

Chris

The Great Wall: Fraser Forster the not so lowdown

Well, it wasn’t quite as draw out a transfer saga as the ‘Victor Wanyama Episode’ last summer, but with Celtic’s Champion’s League reprieve it began to feel like it would never happen, but he is here and I think everyone involved is relieved!

Welcome to St. Mary’s Fraser Forster!

Linking up again with Goalkeeping coach Dave Watson from the England setup, Forster has built a formidable record as Celtic goalkeeper, breaking records along the way and now the stopper ranks at Saints look to have far more depth.

As is now tradition I spoke to those who know more about him than me and caught up with Celtic blogger Stephen Taylor from Drop of the Shoulder and Norwich City fan and Club Metro colleague Gary Gowers from My Football Writer to get the not so low (he’s 6’7″) down.

What can you tell us about Forster from his time with your club?

ST ‘Fraser has developed into a top goalkeeper during his time in Glasgow. He arrived at Celtic from Newcastle in the summer of 2010, initially on loan, having just been awarded the Norwich Players’ Player of the Year award the previous season (coming second in the Supporters’ award), and claimed the Macron Golden Gloves Award for keeping the highest number of clean sheets in League One, 18 in 38 appearances.At just 22 years old, some fans, myself included, were a bit wary that our new number one had played just one full season of first team football, especially with it being in League One. However, Forster displayed his capabilities that year, keeping 24 clean sheets from 44 appearances in all competitions. At times he looked his age though, he seemed quiet for a goalkeeper, often afraid to come off his line to claim the ball, and while he was a giant of a man, standing at 6 ft 7 in, he did not possess the commanding physique that he does now.In his second season with Celtic, again on loan from Newcastle, he continued in much the same vein, a very impressive shot stopper, this time earning 26 clean sheets from 47 games, but still culpable to high balls into the box.It wasn’t until Fraser was signed on a permanent basis in 2012 that I believe he really began to fulfil his potential. I don’t know whether it was the added confidence that being trusted with a four year deal had given him, or if it was merely because he had spent the past two seasons as Celtic’s number 1, but Forster seemed to have much more of a presence about him. The SPL is obviously the bread and butter of a Celtic players’ season, but it is the Champions League nights that the fans really crave, and this was where Forster stepped up to the plate. As fourth seeds in the group stage, and being drawn against Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow, we had no right to qualify for the Last 16, and without Forster in goal we would have had no chance. His performance in the famous 2-1 win over Barcelona at Celtic Park was inspired. He was like a man possessed with the Spanish press labelling him “La Gran Muralla” or “The Great Wall”. Messi and co. could not believe their luck as Forster denied them again and again. The stats from the game read that Barcelona had 14 shots on target, the fact that Fraser only finally succumbed to a stoppage time Lionel Messi rebound having pulled off yet another great save tells you all you need to know about his performance that day. It wasn’t just in the victory over Barcelona that Forster showed his class though. I was at both the Nou Camp and the Estadio da Luz for our away fixtures against Barca and Benfica where Fraser kept us in both games, almost clinching us a famous point in the Nou Camp with another majestic display.The season just past was not a great one for Celtic. We were outclassed and embarrassed at times in the Champions League, yet in that competition Forster was still our one shining light. Our solitary victory came at home to Ajax and once again Forster earned us that 3 points with some big saves, including a late one v one with the Ajax man looking certain to score.

In the league Forster kept a Scottish record 13 clean sheets in a row, culminating in 1256 minutes, just 55 short of Edwin van der Saar’s all-time UK record. I know people may think it is easy to keep clean sheets playing for Celtic, especially since Rangers demise has left the SPL a one team league, but if you have seen us play over recent years you will have noted how ropey our defending is at times, and on numerous occasions it has been left to Forster to bail them out.’

GG ‘Top goalkeeper. He was at City, on loan from Newcastle, during the 2009/10 season and was brilliant. Paul Lambert had a dabble in trying to keep him but, at that time, him and Tim Krul were vying for the no 1 shirt at St James’.Eventually they decided Krul was the man but by then John Ruddy had been acquired from Everton to be City’s no 1, and Fraser disappeared north of the border.But the ghost of Forster remained for some time and coupled with Ruddy’s slow start here, many fans yearned for Fraser – which was never going to happen.He’s still remembered very fondly in these parts.’

Does he have any particular strengths and weaknesses we should be aware of?

ST ‘Forster is a great shot stopper. He will always save the shots he should be saving, and more often then not pull out one of his giant paws to stop what had seemed a certain goal. He is also very good in one on one situations. I have countless memories of Fraser staying big to out fox the striker as they bare down on goal. Another major strength is he seems to rise to the occasion. The big games are when you can count on Forster to turn up. The Spanish press have been so impressed with him, in what seem to be our yearly meetings with Barcelona, that as well as dubbing him “La Gran Muralla” they also awarded him with the “El Oscar” award last season, which is a weekly prize given to a footballer for outstanding contribution to their team. I would also say Forster is very good at saving penalties. It seemed as though we waited about two years for him to save one, yet since then I can barely remember the ball going past him from the spot. In fact, even though we were granted a 3-0 victory over Legia Warsaw in the second leg of our Champions League qualifier following their fielding of a suspended player (thank you UEFA!), we would still have gone out were it not for Forster saving one of two missed penalties from Legia in the first game. Remember what I said about being a man for the big occasion?Regarding weaknesses, Forster still can be susceptible to crosses into the box, especially a quick, whipped in delivery, although I am not sure what goalkeepers are good at dealing with them. His kicking can also be a weakness at times. Since he first joined Celtic it is clear that he has been trained to use both feet when clearing the ball, often alternating between left and right foot for goal kicks. The only problem is where they go, when he strikes them cleanly he can send them to the opposite end of the field without any problems, and at times they can be pin point, but on the odd occasion with a striker chasing him down he has been known to scuff a clearance straight into the path of an opposing player. The worst part is it seems that once he has done a few poor clearances he can lose his head and begin lashing waywardly at the ball.’

GG ‘His all-round game is excellent and, as you would expect of someone of his stature, he commands his penalty area superbly. He is also a brilliant shot stopper. The only weakness I can recall is his kicking off the ground, which was a bit wayward. I’d expect that to have been rectified by now.’
Friends Reunited.

Friends Reunited.

Despite England recognition, having spent the majority of the career in the SPL, some are worried he might not have been tested. Do you think he is ready for the Premier League?

ST ‘Without a shadow of a doubt. As I have said previously, Forster rises to the occasion. He seems to relish the added pressure that the big games bring and I believe he will step up to the increased quality of opposition he will be facing without too much difficulty at all. I have witnessed him produce incredible displays against the best teams in the world over the past two seasons so have no worries about his ability to perform in the Premier League. If anything his worst displays at Celtic have come in games were he has not been involved much and has appeared disinterested or bored. ‘

GG ‘I don’t have even the slightest hesitation that he’s ready for the Premier League. In my view he was ready for the PL four seasons ago. If he pitches up at St Mary’s he’ll be brilliant. You’ll love him and wonder why he’s been so overlooked by England for so long.’

What have you made of Saints’ turbulent summer?

ST ‘I have felt for Southampton fans this summer. As a Celtic supporter I know all about what it’s like to lose your star players. The difference with Southampton though, is it appears you are going to reinvest the money you have brought in. Tadic and Taider look promising, exciting young players, and I believe Forster will be a great signing for you (does this mean we can have Boruc back?) As long as you continue to replace quality with quality I believe you will continue to progress.It was a shame to see Pochettino leave for Spurs but in Ronald Koeman you have a great footballing man who has managed some top clubs and won trophies along the way. I also have big expectations for another of your ex-Celtic contingent, Victor Wanyama, this year. I know he didn’t set the world alight last season, but fit and on form he can control a midfield with his sheer strength; I have witnessed him bully Xavi and Iniesta with my own eyes. You must continue to replace the key men you have lost, if you do that then I don’t see why it can’t be another great year for Southampton. ‘

GG ‘I really feel for you. To lose a couple is understandable for clubs the size of ours, but when it turns into a mass exodus that hurts. But Koeman is a shrewd operator and I expect him to spend the money wisely even if it’s occasionally on players you’ve barely heard of!To coin a phrase, you really have been victims of your own success but, if nothing else, it’ll make the visit of Liverpool a tasty one. I hope you batter them.’
 
Club & Country colleagues.

Club & Country colleagues.

There has been talk of Virgil van Dijk making the move from Celtic Park to Saints to. Has there been much talk at your end?

ST ‘Yes, there’s been a lot of talk in the Scottish press and the gossip column’s regarding van Dijk’s potential move to Southampton. He is one player I really do not want to see leave. van Dijk is a classy ball-playing centre half who alongside Forster and Commons stood out like a sore thumb in the SPL last season. He is young and hungry, and after being snubbed by van Gaal for the dutch World Cup squad I can see him leaving in order to gain international recognition. I just hope we can keep him for another year. If he is to go this summer though I suppose I wouldn’t mind seeing him joining Boruc, Forster and Wanyama on the south coast. I guess we owed you some good ones after Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox.’

There has been talk of Nathan Redmond making the move from Carrow Road to Saints to. Has there been much talk at your end?

GG ‘Hands off! Redmond has potential to be a fantastic player, although he’s a little way off at the moment. His final ball and decision making still need work, but the raw materials are there for a future England player.He’s a little like Raheem Sterling in his playing style but probably a year or two behind him in terms of his development.If he does come to St Mary’s he’ll both frustrate you and have you on the edge of your seat. He’s that type of player, but will one for day go on to play for a top six side in my opinion.’

So there we have it! Another new face at St. Mary’s and finally it would seem we have competition for the number one spot!
Chris