What a Load of Pirlo-ney!

Well yesterday was great. No sooner had I written this for ESPN:- ‘In the Know? Off you go…’ the greatest thing since the beginning of Twitter happened.

Somebody posted this picture (taken at Ocean Village) and posted it to twitter:-

Pirlo_Car

Cue Hysteria. Andrea Pirlo was coming to Southampton. Such was the frenzy that the fact that it was a GB registered plate was ignored, the fact that it was a right hand drive dismissed, one of the greatest players in world football was heading to St. Mary’s. What a coup. A signal of intent and the best transfer in British football since European Footballer of the Year Kevin Keegan made the same move.

Soon a search on the hashtag #saintsfc came with the handy ‘related search’ options of ‘Pochettino’, ‘Rickie Lambert’ and….. ‘Pirlo’.

Even Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri got in on the act.

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 08.53.25

Sadly a spoilsport was quick to tell us that the car belonged to a local namesake who owned a chain of hairdressers, and soon our dreams of Pirlo joined those about Bierhoff, De Pedro, Del Piero, Owen, Korneev and Lineker in the great Saints fantasy team in the sky.

What is great about such moments is the reaction of the fans, some believe, some mock and some (like me) go into pisstake overdrive!

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 08.57.31

All in all it was a fantastic day for all those that dare to dream! I don’t mind admitting that were Saints ever to sign Andrea Pirlo, I would weep uncontrollably for weeks.

Good Luck in the Premier League Andrea....

Good Luck in the Premier League Andrea….

Plenty more transfer hijinks to come….

Chris

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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

January Transfer Window: Should we bolt it shut?

Paul Smith

Stephen Crainey   Danny Higginbotham  Calum Davenport   Olivier Bernard

Ryan Smith   David Prutton  Nigel Quashie  Lee Molyneux

Jonathan Forte  Dany N’Guessan

The bad, the very bad, and the ugly.

Not a great team is it? What do they have in common? They are all master strokes by Saints in the fabled January transfer window. I challenge any club to come up with a worse lineup from January signings than that?

If you look at our entire signing history since the January window came about, it is ridiculously unimpressive.

2002/03

Danny Higgenbotham, David Prutton.

2003/04

Paul Smith, Stephen Crainey.

2004/05

Nigel Quashie, Jamie Redknapp, Olivier Bernard, Calum Davenport.

Hands up if you are a competent left back?

Hands up if you are a competent left back?

2005/06

Bartosz Bialkowski, Alexander Ostlund, Jim Brennan.

2008/09

Lee Molyneux, Ryan Smith.

2009/10

Jose Fonte, John Otsemobor, Dan Seaborne, Lee Barnard

2010/11

Jonathan Forte, Richard Chaplow, Dany N’Guessan

2011/12

Tadanari Lee, Billy Sharp

There are some clear exceptions, Jose Fonte, Dan Seaborne, Lee Barnard, Richard Chaplow and Billy Sharp have all made big contributions, and Tadanari Lee hasn’t had much of a chance to show us what he’s got, but when John Otsemobor isn’t making that eleven it shows just how poor it is.

January is the time when managers might panic buy, and looking at some of those names (Anyone seen a worse professional defender than Calum Davenport?) that must have been the case.

Undoubtedly we will strengthen again this season (though Nigel Adkins has surprised a few by saying there won’t be another keeper coming in), but let’s hope they are more the calibre of the last few seasons than the early 00’s!

More Jose Fonte’s, less Olivier Bernard’s please.

The players brought in in the summer look to have been pretty solid so far, so let’s hope the transfer policy continues in the same vein over the next 30 days. You can make or break your season with the acquisitions you make in this window. More quality needs to come in, but not at the expense of the team spirit and unity. Not an easy job.

No doubt we are in for some of the usual bonkers rumours, but we should remember to be patient.

p.s. If this hasn’t depressed you enough, have a butchers at the players that have LEFT us in January transfer windows….. Chris Marsden, Antti Niemi, James Beattie, Theo Walcott…

Chris

As featured on NewsNow: Southampton FC news

Where do Saints need to strengthen for the Premier League?

I decided to ask the question on twitter as to which positions Saints needed to strenghten for the coming Premier League season….

I used Storify to compile the answers:-

Click on the image to read the rest of the responses!

Chris

p.s. If you have enjoyed reading the blog over the past year, why not vote for us in the “Club Specific” category at the Football Blogging Awards? Either via Facebook here. Or, tweet the following:- @TheFBAs @crstig #Club

Silly season, only likely to get sillier…

The close season is boring. If there is no tournament that we can watch England showcase their spectacular level of mediocrity in, we have to rely on the snippets of transfer rumour for our summer injection of this football drug

Often referred to as silly season, mainly because the papers try and fill their sports pages with outrageous “done deals” and “likely to be finalised this week” stories, Manchester City having replaced Chelsea as the team that will be linked with every footballer that has kicked a ball with any degree of success last season.

High profile players will be linked with other clubs, they have no intention of moving too, engineered by their representative to get them a better deal at their current club(the Gerrard/Terry/Rooney model.)

It has always been like this. But it is getting worse.

Not just because of the stupid levels of money being spent on transfer fees and wages, but now because of technology too. Now we have Twitter. The rise in the usage of Twitter by professional footballers has seen the summer transfer rumour mill take a whole new direction. Gone are the days where I had to rely on Ceefax page 312 for a roundup of the days transfer stories(and I did check this every day, every summer), the frustrating wait as the pages changed, hoping that something was happening at Saints.

Contrary to Newsbiscuit's report the Isle of Wight did have Ceefax prior to 2009...

Now the fans can directly interact with the players on Twitter, and this should be openly encouraged in my opinion. You often hear people moan about the young millionaires who have lost touch with the fans, and Twitter is a brilliant way of them getting it back. The power of this interaction though increases the level of speculation, every club has fans who are “in the know” usually to be found on forums fuelling everybody’s desperate need for news, but now they are on Twitter too. An “in the know” fan of my club suggested earlier this week that we were in talks with Rohan Ricketts, a high twitter user. Rickett’s is clearly a clever cookie and  very good at interacting with people, so when on receipt of this rumour he had Saints fans asking him if it were true, he, rather obtusely replied with “I can’t say at the moment”.

We have also been linked by several papers with Jack Cork(as are several others). A player who had a successful loan spell with us last time we were in the Championship, Cork is also a “tweeter”. Cork has taken a differing approach to the questions now coming at him thick and fast, opting for a dignified silence. In my cynical opinion, this is probably because Cork does have offers on the table, whereas Ricketts is actively looking.

We can also look forward to the “such and such spotted in wherever” rumours, my personal favourites. The amount of managers and players that have been spotted at the De Vere hotel in Southampton would be enough to form a breakaway league.

The problem with transfer rumours is, that no matter how ridiculous, and no matter how sure you are that they aren’t true, you can’t help letting yourselves be taken in by them.

I don’t mind admitting that I have been taken in a couple of times. I knew how unlikely they were, but the majesty of them just made me hope. Firstly circa 1994, and the rumour was rife that Gary Lineker was to make a triumphant return to English football from Grampus Eight and lead Saints forward line. The “hope” involved in believing this one was fuelled by the previous season, having had to put up with the ridiculously bad Kerry Dixon and David Speedie, the thought of an English goalscoring legend coming to rescue us from our crap striker abyss was too much to ignore. Lineker was spotted in Ted’s fish and chip shop by the Dell and everything…..

Secondly, summer of 2001. Saints in their new stadium, and seemingly on the up, what better than a flagship signing? But German international superstar Oliver Bierhoff? Surely not. Correct. Not. We did sign an international goalscorer though. Agustin Delgado, so all’s well that ends well. Oh wait….

Bierhoff reacts badly to the news his move to Southampton has broken down...

So we can all look forward to another summer of speculation and hearsay. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you are taken it by any involving your club. Football is all about hopes and dreams. And sometimes nightmares.

Chris

p.s. I have it on very good authority that Michael Owen will definitely not be signing for Southampton.