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/

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Spurs v Southampton: EA PPI Preview

White Hart Lane plays host to high-flying Southampton this Sunday, in what is set to be a tough test for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. Tottenham sit five points behind Southampton in the league and a win would allow them to close that gap and start to put pressure on the teams around them. Last season’s equivalent fixture saw Spurs clinch a last gasp 3-2 win, and this weekend’s encounter has the potential to be just as entertaining.

Tottenham’s Nacer Chadli has continued his prolific start to the season, scoring again against Arsenal in last weekend’s North London derby. Chadli now has 4 goals in 5 Premier League games, with a conversion rate of 36.4%, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Chadli is likely to start this weekend and there is no reason why he should not extend his run of goalscoring, should he produce similar performances to those he has displayed in recent weeks. Chadli is 17/2 with 888sport to be first goalscorer against Southampton.

The most involved player on the pitch so far this season has been Etienne Capoue. The majority of play has gone through the central midfield, and Capoue has made 417 successful passes thus far in the Premier League, the most of any Spurs player and fourth most in the division. The closest to him in the Tottenham squad is Christian Eriksen who has successfully completed 268 passes, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

Another midfielder who Pochettino seemingly rates highly is Nabil Bentaleb. The Algerian has shown a particularly good work ethic this season and has recorded an average speed of 7.4km/h this season, the highest of any Spurs player who has played a full 90 minutes, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

Throughout the summer, Tottenham were interested in Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, but the French midfielder is still lining up for Southampton this weekend, and his form so far this season vindicates the club’s decision to do all they could to hold on to him. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he has scored three goals, won more tackles than anyone else in the squad (25) and covered more ground than any other Premier League player, running a total of 72.4km this season – and has arguably been their player of the season so far.

One player who would rival Schneiderlin for this title is Graziano Pellè. The imposing striker has the second most shots on target in the Premier League so far this season with ten, and he has been rewarded with four goals, ranking him third in the top-scorers list for the season, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Pellè is 7/4 to score at any time with 888sport.

He, along with Dusan Tadic have been revelations this season. Tadic already has three assists in his debut season in the Premier League. The winger has made ten successful crosses, which has played a large part in Pellè’s goalscoring form this season. Only Stewart Downing has delivered more successful balls in to the box than Tadic in the Premier League and the Serbian should prove a huge threat to the Spurs defence this weekend.

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

Ryan, Like a Lion, In Bayern: Bertrand Signs for Saints!

While Liverpool are busy signing Johnstone Paint Trophy winners, Saints sprung the surprise of the summer with one the papers didn’t get hold of, bringing Champion’s League winner Ryan Bertrand to the club from Chelsea on a season long loan with the option of a permanent move. Interestingly the Merseyside club had been trying to secure a deal for the defender but couldn’t agree a fee.

With Luke Shaw gone to Man United, left back was clearly somewhere the club lacked depth and Bertrand who started for the Blues in their triumph over Bayern Munich in 2012 looks a solid signing.

As always, through the heady mixture of ignorance and laziness I have got two experts to give us the lowdown on the new man.

I caught up with Chelsea fan David Dickson and given that Bertand has spent most of his Stamford Bridge career on loan, Aston Villa fan, freelance football writer and Club Metro colleague Andrew Raeburn.

Bertrand started in Chelsea’s Champion’s League final win, but has never made it as a regular at Stamford Bridge. What did you make of him?

DD ‘Firstly, Bertrand will always, always receive a hero’s welcome back at Stamford Bridge, especially now he hasn’t been shipped off to Liverpool and had to perform the ‘biggest club in the world’ PR initiative in his first interview. I remember the slightly baffled/borderline stunned reaction to hearing his name in the starting line-up that night in Munich from all involved, and his outstanding performance against Bayern in his first ever European appearance for anybody is testament to the balls the guy has. He always struck me as a try-hard; far from a player likely to dislodge Ashley Cole from his throne but enough about him to carry on regardless, taking his opportunities when they arose.’

Bertrand spent some time at Villa last season. What did you make of him?

AR ‘Left-back had been a massive problem for us in the first half of the season, so when Bertrand came in we were all chuffed, considering his background and pedigree (starting in the CL final, etc). He was excellent on his debut in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool, and had several other good games early in his loan spell. But after having to sit out our 1-0 win over his parent club in March (when Joe Bennett came in and was excellent at left-back), Bertrand really struggled. Partly this was down to our own defensive naivety, which appeared to infect him too at times and partly it was down to being shunted between left-back, left midfield and left wing-back. But there were occasions when he was our weakest link. I’d say overall he was solid without ever being spectacular, but disappointed because he was never as good as his Chelsea background suggested he should be.’

What would you say are his significant strengths and weaknesses?

DD ‘As stated previously, Ryan seems to enjoy a complete lack of fear on the big occasion. Following Munich, he was thrown into some of the bigger games towards the end of the (sigh) Rafa Benitez era and performed with similar aplomb. He is quick, with the ability to go forward at pace, whilst also reading the game relatively well, but his defensive ability seems to suffer as a result. He never seemed particularly strong and, as a result, his ability to simply make a tackle never really stood out. He would, on occasion, be caught out of position too, but when pushing up in a good, attacking side, this may be expected and can be forgiven.’

AR ‘One of the real plusses of his loan spell was how well he got forward and linked up with Fabian Delph on the left hand side of Villa’s central three in midfield. His crossing can be hit and miss but he knows which passes to pick out. Defensively, he struggled when isolated one-on-one. Whereas on his debut at Liverpool he was excellent against Raheem Sterling, who runs straight at people, he was given a real examination a couple of weeks later by Everton’s Aiden McGeady, had problems with Ashley Young and got into all sorts of bother against Stewart Downing. Unlike Sterling, all three of those dared to cut inside and go outside to try and beat him. It may be he just needs more support defensively.’

Bertrand the winner.

Bertrand the winner.

Do you see him as a player that has yet to reach his full potential, having been backup at Chelsea for some time?

DD ‘Sad as it is to say, but I feel his potential may not extend beyond his exploits for Chelsea. He still has a decent ten years left in him, obviously, but Ryan seems to be caught between not being technically good enough for a top side, but not able to defend well enough for a less-than-top side. He was exceptionally popular at Norwich, Reading and Forest by the sounds of things, and has long outgrown being a Championship player, but it is hard to see him doing anything but bouncing between mid-table clubs unless someone devotes the time to getting the best out of him. In a Chelsea side with Ashley Cole and the resources to bring in more experienced and better overseas players after Cole’s departure, that role was never going to be taken up by Mourinho, Benitez, Di Matteo…etc. (I’m sure this article has a word limit, so I won’t list them all).’

AR ‘Very much so. Until his loan spell at Villa, he had never really been given a proper run of starts at Premier League level, which is what you need to develop. Obviously he’s had his path blocked by one of the best left-backs England has ever seen, so he’s been unlucky in that regard. Until Cesar Azpilicueta became Ashley Cole’s main backup, Bertrand could never be sent on loan so he had to bide his time. He started 14 PL games in 2012-13 but all in blocks of three or four, never enough to make a mark or develop your game. I actually saw his only Chelsea start last season as well, by sheer coincidence. I was covering the Chelsea-Cardiff game for West London Sport and in the player ratings described Bertrand’s display as: “Always keen, got up and down and provided solid support for Eden Hazard but lacks the self-assurance and attacking penetration of Ashley Cole.” Trouble is, after a half-season of regular games at Villa, I’ve seen no improvement on that. However, I do think he just needs to settle down somewhere, as a trusted, starting left-back and get a full season of regular games under his belt. The only time he’s done that was for Reading in the Championship five years ago.’

Bertrand the Saint.

Bertrand the Saint.

What do you make of the goings on at Saints this summer?

DD ‘I find it all relatively extraordinary. Yes, players from unexpectedly successful sides are regularly burgled (arf) by sides with larger budgets the following season, but the sheer extent to which Liverpool (and seemingly, Spurs) have pilfered every player with ability you have is far beyond anything I’ve seen since the great Leeds exodus of the early 2000s. Ronald Koeman has moved in, and shortly after someone has nicked his fridge, shed, boiler and roof. I am sure there are financial nuances (zzz) to this masterplan, but it is hard to see how any replacements could fill the gaps that have been left and this season could be a real struggle for you chaps, unfortunately. You’re quite nice when you’re not moaning about little smoke bombs…’

AR ‘It’s inevitable really, once the bigger clubs started circling. We got the same treatment after coming 6th three years in a row under Martin O’Neill (you were trifling with the likes of Exeter and Stockport at the time, how things change!). We couldn’t keep Gareth Barry (£12m) and James Milner (£26m) away from Man City, nor Ashley Young (£17m) from Man Utd, nor Stewart Downing (£20m) from Liverpool. The only difference was it didn’t happen all in the same summer. Sometimes that can be worse, as it appears to the fans the club won’t ever keep hold of their best players. But that’s the way football is these days – even Everton, who contend for the Champions League spots, wouldn’t be able to prevent their top talent leaving if the title challengers came knocking. The important thing is reinvesting the money you earn, otherwise you end up like us. I can see why some Saints fans may be angry – it seems, from the outside, that the club isn’t doing much to stop the top players moving on. But when players sense the grass is greener (or their agent convinces them it might be) then you can’t stop them. Speaking of which…’

 
Can we have some other Chelsea players? Please.

DD ‘Rickie Lambert’s gone. You need to replace him with another reliable goal-machine. We have this lad, Fernando… And I’ll bloody drive Ramires to you.’

Can we have Ron Vlaar? Please.

AR ‘No. Leave Concrete Ron alone, please. He’s got a phobia of the sea, anyway. Hopefully.’

So there we have it. Thanks to David and Andrew for their contributions. Let’s hope I need some more contributors soon!
Chris

Domino two is down! Graziano Pellè: The Lowdown

Someone said that once Tadic was signed it would be like dominoes in terms of incoming transfers. Well the first has fallen as Feyenoord forward Graziano Pellè has completed his move to the club.

It has hardly been a secret the Italian was on the verge of rejoining the coach who has overseen the two most successful seasons of his career in Holland, but what exactly is it that the club is investing in?

I caught up with what I think we can now consider ‘georgeweahcousin.com‘s Dutch correspondent’  Will Burns from totaldutchfootball.com and Feyenoord fan  Jacco van Keulen from wijzijnfeijenoord.nl (answers to follow) to see what they think Pellè can bring to St. Mary’s.

It’s taken a bit of time, but finally Pellè is a Saint. Is this the man to replace the talisman of the last five years (Rickie Lambert)?

WB ‘Pellè is a player I have admired for the past two seasons and I feel he is a perfect fit for the Premier League. At 6ft 4 inches, even though he is tall and physically strong, he is a delight to watch on the ball.’

There has been some talk of his hot temper. Given our experiences with Osvaldo, can this be tamed?

WB ‘I am unsure of Osvaldo as he is a player I have not followed but Pelle can be a hot head indeed. He has a great winning mentality and he can be explosive when things to do not go his way and has been known to sulk if his side are losing an important games.’

Welcome Graziano!

Welcome Graziano!

What are Pellè’s main strengths and weaknesses?

WB ‘He has a lot of strengths – excellent finishing, fantastic in the air, immense strength holding the ball up, great awareness. For weaknesses, the sulking and his temperament can be his only real downfalls.’

Forwards like Suarez and Bony have moved to the PL from Holland and been fantastic, van Wolfswinkel and Altidore not so much. Can Pellè make the transition?

WB ‘In my opinion, yes. A lot of strikers struggle with the pace and power of the Premier League – well the pace is faster in the Eredivisie and this guy is a massive 6ft 4 and immensely strong. Can he handle it, yes, if someone can get the ball crossed to him, he is beating that defender and the ball is ending up in the back of the net.’

Finally, both Tadic and Pellè have spoken of the ambition at Saints much like Koeman has. Are these players to take us up another level?

WB ‘Unsure about another level, as this is only two players in an eleven man team, and two players in a 20 man squad but they can certainly help out. If Southampton keep the ball on the ground, play football and do not resort to the long ball which many teams do here in England, Tadic will be a success. After watching Rickie Lambert, I know Pelle is a much classier striker and could surpass any successes the Scouser had for Southampton. The thought of Tadic and Pelle linking up is an exciting prospect, especially under Ronald Koeman. I will certainly focus on watching Southampton next year… when I find the time to watch the Premier League that is.’

So there we have it! Thanks to Jacco and Will for helping with this, make sure you check out wijzijnfeijenoord.nl and totaldutchfootball.com! Can’t wait for the next domino to fall…

Chris

GUEST POST: What would Fraser Forster bring to Southampton?

‘With lot’s of incoming transfer speculation surrounding Saints at the moment (and not a moment too soon) I thought it might be interesting to see what the rumoured new boy could bring to our squad. Thanks to Matthew Harris from Betfair for this guest contribution.’ – Chris

What would Fraser Forster bring to Southampton?

Reports emerging in the last few days suggest that Saints are ready to battle with Benfica for the signature of England goalkeeper Fraser Forster. The 26 year old has been with Celtic since 2010, signing permanently in 2012 after an initial loan period and he came to prominence last season after setting an SPL record for the longest period without conceding a goal.

Any full England international would be a welcome addition to the Southampton squad but does Ronald Koeman stand a chance of landing the player and what would he bring to St Mary’s?

A stable option?

Southampton are priced at 11/1 with Betfair for a top six finish at the end of 2014-15 but if we are to crash the European places, a consistent and injury free custodian is one of Koeman’s main priorities. Artur Boruc may be a controversial figure as far as other clubs are concerned but he quickly becomes a fans’ favourite with his respective employers. The main issue with the Pole is his appearances and a number 1 would preferably play more than 50 league games out of a possible 76 over two seasons.

Contrast that record with the clubs who finished just ahead of Southampton last season. Spurs, Everton and Manchester United all have reliable stoppers in Hugo Lloris, Tim Howard and David de Gea and their near ever-presence is a positive factor for each side.

No-one can guard against a freak injury but the first thing that Fraser Forster should bring to Southampton is a consistent option behind the back four.

Is Fraser Forster heading to St. Mary's?

Is Fraser Forster heading to St. Mary’s?

Quality

Forster’s record breaking exploits last season provide some remarkable statistics. The 26 year old claimed no less than 13 consecutive clean sheets and an incredible 1256 minutes without conceding before Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes finally found a way past him.

Naturally, any detractors will be quick to point out that the Scottish Premier League doesn’t contain quite the same threat that the English version will pose, should Forster make the switch. That may be a valid point but 13 clean sheets is an amazing achievement, no matter where the games are played.

So Fraser Forster would bring consistency and an improvement in technical ability to St Mary’s but what are Koeman’s chances of landing him?

The Contenders

Benfica are thought to have been monitoring Forster for at least a year now and have previously been warned by Celtic against tapping up their player. This summer, the Portuguese giants are expected to make it official with a £6m bid and there are obvious temptations in playing with such a prestigious club in a pleasant climate.

Southampton have at least two advantages here: Firstly, having made in excess of £60m in player sales already, the transfer fee should not be an issue. In fact, if it gets down to a bidding war, Koeman would, in theory, have money to work with.

The second factor may be the most crucial one however as Forster looks to build on his two England caps and potentially replace Joe Hart as Roy Hodgson’s first choice. In Portugal he would, in all probability, escape the manager’s radar but at St Mary’s he would be in front of Hodgson and his managerial team on a weekly basis.

Ironically, Artur Boruc praised Forster when he was named in England’s 2014 World Cup squad.

“I still watch Celtic games on TV so I saw him in the Champions League and I can see he is a good keeper. I’m not surprised he has been selected,” he said.

In a short space of time they could be joining up at St Mary’s and surely that would be good news for all Saints Fans?

Matthew Harris