Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jose Fonte - The King is Dead, Long Live the King

Jose Fonte baby, Jose Fonte Woaaaaah.

Three years or so of singing that and we were informed it was promounced ‘Font’ and not ‘Font-ay’.  Who cares…?

When José first signed for us from Crystal Palace, it was in our first season in League 1 and it was ridiculous as he was far too good for that level.  He absolutely strolled through games and no one could touch him and it was amazing that we’d managed to persuade him to drop down a division to play for us.  After a season and a half of partnering Radhi Jaidi in possibly the most intimidating centre back partnership that League 1 has ever seen, we were off to the Championship and José and Jos Hooiveld bossed the division and up we went again to the Premier League.  His prophecy of getting in the Premier League had come true but it was a struggle when we got there as all the defenders we had struggled like mad with the step up.

For the opening match of the first full season under Pochettino, it was a surprise when José was in partnership with first choice Dejan Lovren but it worked and we flourished.  Out the door went the manager and the captain and in came Ronald Koeman and made José the captain which was a brilliant move and made him a much better player.  A season with Toby Alderweireld and one with Virgil van Dijk under Koeman and he’s become a regular in the Portuguese national squad and was in the squad for the European Championships in 2016.  Portugal started slowly with José on the bench and let in a load of goals but scraped through the group and José got his chance, partnering Pepe and from then on in they were better and ended up winning the tournament. 

For the rest of the football world it was all about Cristiano Ronaldo but for Saints fans it was about José Fonte (with a little but if Cedric Soares thrown in).  It was the next best thing to England winning something or Saints winning something.  Our captain was holding the Euro 2016 trophy aloft.  It was one of the great international moments along with Rickie Lambert’s England debut…. but something had changed.  Getting himself a new ‘super’ agent gave the first inclination that something was amiss and and then his various social media accounts were still posting Portugal celebration pictures when the Saints season was about to start.  Cedric was back in Saints mode but José was not and the Captain was not giving interviews and not really giving any impression of leading.  In and out of the team all season, mainly due to player rotation rather than bad performances and then the Everton away game when he gave a goal away and looked like he didn’t care in the slightest.  A transfer request and a move to West Ham for £8 million.

United or Liverpool.... Errr!

There were rumours at the end of Euro 2016 was that he was coveted by Manchester United and their Portuguese manager Mourinho and our José even commented on it being flattering to be linked.  If that move had happened I don’t think anyone would have thought ill of him.  Maybe the interest was genuine or maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe a bid was knocked back or maybe there was no bid.  Come January, no clubs of that stature were interested and so he’s off to West Ham which in the context of José Fonte’s remaining years as a Premier League player, is a sideways move at best and I think that’s what grates.  With the Olympic Stadium they may push on in future years but that’ll be after he’s retired.  Yes he’ll have more money per week and yes he’s got an extra year on his contract which at 33 is a big deal.  He says Saints didn’t offer him a new deal whereas the club says it did.  I don’t really care but the past few years have left me very wary of believing a players or a managers side of the story.  At various points, I thought Lallana was ‘Saints for life’, I thought Alderweireld was an honourable bloke and I thought Koeman was different and honoured his contracts and laughably, I thought Lovren had a good attitude.  As a balance, I don’t believe Les Reed when he says contract talks are going well, either.

From a club point of view, £8 million for a 33 year old is decent but we have to get a replacement and now.  Les Reed recently said that no one leaves unless we have a replacement lined up and we need one.  We were one short in that position even with José and now we’re two short.

José - Something has happened and we’ll never know exactly what.  I’ve already aired my opinions but now is the time to look back and celebrate the player and what he meant to us for the years he was here.  Here’s some key José incidents as I wrote about them at the time.

17-1-2010 – Signing and Debut
The transfer window has opened and three new players have arrived : Jose Fonte, Dan Seabourne and Jon Otsemobor.

Fonte is an amazing signing when you consider he was a regular for Crystal Palace in the Championship. It’s remarkable what a bit of cash in a cash-strapped times can do. The CV (in the form of comments from Palace fans) seems very good and he’s the right age at 26. He of course had come into the squad in place of the departing Trotters and while I’m sure he’ll be a more than adequate replacement on the pitch, he will not provide us with nearly the same comedy value.

29-3-2010 JPT Final
Deflated, Carlisle resorted again to hoof and hope – Jaidi headed everything away and Fonte was so laid back he was in a deckchair.

30-5-2010 Review of first season
Jaidi is a colossus of a man and must have headed away thousands of aimless punts up the field this season as our opponents often used to work on the theory that he’ll miss one eventually. Yes he’s a bit limited on the floor and yes he’s knocking on a bit but it’s fine when he’s complimented with a skilful ball playing centre half like Jose Fonte who is quite simply, class. Pace, awareneness, distribution, strong in the tackle, good in the air… check. Different class and no more needs to be said. How on earth we managed to sign him is a mystery but hopefully his assertion that Saints would be his quickest way into the Premier League will be proved correct.

24/4/2011 Brighton Away
Saints get a free kick in their own half out on the left wing and the master of all creative free kicks, Kelvin Davis goes to take it. He booms it forward towards the back post to where Jose Fonte Baby, rises like Big Ron in his prime and heads it over Wankergren and drops it in at the far post. Off comes the shirt, round the running track in 40 seconds, across the long jump pit, over the steeplechase barrier and with a hop, skip and a jump he’s with the Saints fans who have all gone nuts and the advertising boards have fallen down.

As it was St.Georges Day, it would have been kind of poetic if an Englishman had scored but we’ll settle for St.Patrick and did you know that St.George was also at one time, the patron Saint of Portugal and then he was replaced by Jose Fonte…. Part of that’s true anyway.

16/5/2011 Promotion from League One End of Season Review
The first choice pairing have been JOSE FONTE and Radhi Jaidi.  Fonte has been imperious this season and is the best centre back in the league bar none.  It is still a total mystery to me why he came down to play in League 1 when he’s good enough to play in the Premier League.  Though he’s a big lad and more than capable of mixing it, he’s better off reading the game and sweeping up whilst letting a big ‘first knock’ centre half challenge for the ball.  Chipped in with about 7 goals this season as well and provided one of the best moments of the season with the goal in the last minute at the Withdean.  Will be linked with moves away, especially to Newcastle where Alan Pardew is manager.  The same media outlets who report that he’s off to Newcastle will be the same ones who reported that he and Pardew had fallen out.  This may come as a surprise to you but the media write a load of bollocks.

30/4/2012 Championship promotion Day v Coventry
As we built up down the right, Deano was slides in to retain possession and gets a kick in the back for his troubles and the move ended with Butters winning a corner on the right. Foxy went over to whip it in and José lost his marker and dived in to head it down, past the keeper and over the defender on the line for 2-0 to spark some big time José celebrations which were mainly about not being left with Jack Cork on zero goals for the season.

3/5/2012 Championship Season Player Review
José Fonte started the season a bit shakily, had a really good spell after Christmas after an injury lay off and then wobbled a bit towards the end.  In the last game though he showed how good he can be in both boxes.  I get the feeling he finds it all a bit too easy and switches off at times which he of course, will not be able to do next year.  With 100% concentration required at all times, I see him being a big player for us next year as he has it all in the locker, the intelligence, the  physicality, the ball playing skills and a bit of pace.  Having said he has intelligence – maybe he needs to be a bit more streetwise when wrestling with opposition forwards around the edge of the penalty area.

4/6/2013 1st Premier League Season Review
The season started with JOSE FONTE (6.5/10) and JOS HOOIVELD (6/10) as the centre back partnership, then it was Fonte and MAYA YOSHIDA (7/10), then Hooiveld and Yoshida and then back to Fonte and Hooiveld as we went full circle.  Jose at times looked like a rabbit in the headlights and Jos looked like a slightly bigger, more clumsy rabbit in the headlights

20/8/2013 – 1st choice under Mauricio
Mauricio looked unsurprisingly delighted with the result and I loved his (translated) answer when asked about the surprising choices of Fonte, Chambers and JWP.  He looked genuinely surprised at the question and said “why is it a surprise, they’re Southampton players aren’t they?”, basically saying that they’re in the squad, therefore they’re good enough to play.

Don't Even Think About Nutting Me

27/1/14 The Osvaldo Incident
There once was a time in the recent past, when I had nothing to write about in the build-up to games aside from positive stuff.  After all, it’s been a steady upward progression since this blog started in 2009.  Just recently though, it’s been a whirlwind of shite and this weeks instalment saw a statement from the club that Dani ‘The Prick’ Osvaldo had been banned by 2 weeks by the club for an incident on the training ground.  It turns out that the incident involved him kicking and head-butting Jose Fonte.  Who he nutted is largely irrelevant aside from the fact that the typical Italian coward picked on one of the seemingly more docile members of the squad.

6/6/2015 End of Season Review (1st Year as Skipper)
Being named as skipper at the start of the season seems to have helped add something extra to the game of JOSÉ FONTE.  It made me think that Nigel Adkins missed a trick when he names Lallana as his captain instead of José.  The new skipper has been different class all season and the outside world is now beginning to realise that he is the man who makes the defence.   If ever you needed proof of this then look at that shitbag who pissed off to Liverpool who has looked an absolute clown this season without José telling him what to do.  The Koeman influence has seen his play out of defence come on leaps and bounds and maybe the one mistake all year which led to a goal (van Persie backpass at SMS).  He won the players vote for Player of the Season… he won the supporters vote for Player of the Season… he should be in every team of the year from the Premier League.

12/7/16 - The moment it all changed – Portugal Euro 2016
It was a ‘tear in the eye’ moment to see José Fonte carrying the trophy around and giving it the big one.  He stepped down a division to join us in league 1, won the JPT, promotion from league 1 to Championship, promotion from Championship to Premier league, 14th, 8th, Captain, 7th, Europa league Qualifiers, 6th, Europa League Group Stages.  He was nowhere near the national team when he joined us and now look at him – holding up the second most prestigious trophy in World Football.  And the best bit is that he’s still a Saints player and he’s achieved more as a Saints player than any of those bastards who’ve left in that time.  Now that’s a legend.

‘Legend’ – interesting word, bandied about far too much these days in relation to footballers.  Is José Fonte a Saints legend?  I guess it depends on your age – if you’re in your 20s then he probably qualifies but for those a bit older, does he rank up there with Mick Channon, Matt le Tissier, Francis Benali and Rickie Lambert?  Not quite.  I think that if he’d stayed to the end of this season and then moved to a Portuguese club then he’d be on the list.

He’s not done the ‘full Lallana’ and trashed all his good work but it’s not been a satisfactory end to things which is a shame.  You hope for some loyalty in football and there is none aside from fans to their team.  José seems like a decent guy and he always has but no one was interested in him before Euro 2016 and it’s easy to be loyal when no one else is wanting you.  It’s another example of the issues Saints have when their players are successful in an international side.  Our players used to leave because they didn’t get picked for their countries, now they often leave because they do.

He’s been great for Saints and Saints have been great for him.  Farewell Captain – hope it works out.  It’s just a shame it had to be this way.

FA Cup 3rd Round Replay - Southampton 1 Norwich 0

Thank Fuck We Can Go Home

The game that no one wanted is upon us and Norwich in an FA Cup 3rd Round replay.  The last time I saw St.Mary’s this empty was when I was playing in a 5 a side tournament here as no one wanted to see a big fat bastard lumber about.  I can’t think why.  The Kingsland is shut, the Chapel is sparse, the home bit of the Northam is full and I can’t see how full the Itchen is cos I’m sat in it.  Norwich have brought a good crowd down and fair play to them for that.

We have Maya as captain today and it’s like a crèche day out with 6 Academy player son show in Lewis, McQueen, Stephens, Reed, JWP and Sims.  The rest of the team is made up of Shane and J-Rod, Clasie and Martina.  Norwich have rested players as well which I donl;t understand when you’re a manager under pressure like Alex Neil is.  If for example you get hammered then you’re going to get slaughtered for playing a weakened side and it’ll be another nail in your coffin.  If you get beat playing your best side then at least if you get sacked anyway you’ll be able to sleep knowing you put your best side out.

Claude revealed before the game that José Fonte was exploring opportunities (his favourite word) and it appears that these are offers from West Brom and West Ham.  Hardly big clubs are they?  Trouble is that I’m sure that if José knew that none of the big boys were interested, he’d have stayed at Saints happily but the bridges appear to have been burnt now and the ego and the new agent and Saints themselves won’t allow any way back.  It’s a shame but playing in the same team as Cristiano Ronaldo, doesn’t make you Cristiano Ronaldo… and £300k a week at Real Madrid or wherever.

Anyway, FA Cup and away we go and it’s fucking freezing.  The game starts and it’s crap.  Norwich are playing a 12-5-1 formation so it’s up to us to break them down and guess what – we don’t even look like we have any idea how to go about it.  We pass it slowly across and back and the massed ranks of Norwich defenders just crab across the pitch depending on where the ball is.  We knock it into Long or Rodriguez who lose it, it gets cleared, our defenders pick it up and we crab again.  The sum total of action in the first half are two openings, one for Sims and one for J-Rod and in both cases, the shots they hit are so weak that McGovern just picks the ball up.  It’s crap.  The bloke two to my left in the crowd drops his coffee on the floor which is a highlight because it took my attention away from what was happening on the pitch.

At half time in the kids relay around the pitch, both kids shoot from five yards and both miss.  Says it all.

The shooting master class in continued after the break as Sims tees up JWP who proves once again that he cannot kick a ball when it’s moving as he passes it straight to the keeper.  We should have a penalty after that as Sims breaks into the box from the right and Bassong grabs him round the shoulders before letting go.  Nothing given and the Claude does a little rage dance on the sideline.

Another backpass shot from Sims then Long actually gets us interested by cutting in from the left and shooting narrowly wide of the far post.  J-Rod is having a shithouse of a game but he does get on the end of a Martina cross which was aimed somewhere else but he hooks it across goal and there’s no one there.  The ‘Norwich in our half’ klaxon sounds as Murphy (one of them) breaks away on the right and fires over a good cross which is just in front of Lafferty and I remember that we have Harry Lewis in goal.

With 20 to go Claude removes Reed and J-Rod who have both been diabolical and on comes Redmond and Romeu.  JWP gets the chance to kick a ball that’s not moving and it’s decent free kick which curls into the side netting and everyone in the Itchen thought it was in but alas no and the probability of extra time was looming large.

We pick the tempo up now but it still doesn’t stop the backpass shooting and Clasie has a dribbler to the keeper as well.  A bad proper backpass gets intercepted by Long and he lays it back to Sims who chips over the keeper and over the bar by quite a long way.

All game, martina has been his usual useless self when it comes to getting good crosses in by suddenly he’s on fire, setting up Redmond for a decent effort which is clawed away and then again picking out JWP who adds ‘heading a moving ball’ to ‘kicking a moving ball’ to the list of things he can’t do very well.  McQueen who has been our best player by a mile, has a decent dig from the left which is well saved.  (0 minutes up.

As we started the dreaded count down to the final whistle and another half an hour, Redmond picks it up on the left and drove forwards.  He overhit the straight pass to pick up McQueen’s run but the Man of the Match just got there and knocked over a great first time cross.  Long meets it from 5 yards and unbelievably heads it straight at McGovern, a couple of players bundle in and it ends up apologising over the line.  The replay on the big screen showed that as he fell having missed his sitter, Shane had managed to swing a foot at it and poke it into the net.  It’s actually funny that such a shite game can be decided with the shittiest of shitty goals.  The cheer of relief when the ref decided ‘fuck this’ was most welcome.

Thank fuck that we scored.  Another half an hour in the freezing cold and drawing 0-0 on penalties will thankfully not happen.  What a shit game.  Bloody awful.  First off let me say that if Alex Neil gets sacked then he’ll deserve it – 7 defenders all game, no shots and hardly any attacks.  I know we’ve played like that at time this season but that’s against Spurs, Chelsea or Liverpool.  I actually felt sorry for Lafferty up front for them – he could have just fucked off for a pint and no one would have missed him.  On the Ball City – er, no.  Does ‘On The Edge of Your Own Penalty Area” fit in a terrace chant at all?

So, when confronted with a team playing for penalties from the first minute, Saints of course went about it in a totally clueless fashion.  Quick passing is what it’s all about but no, sideways, backwards, sideways, backwards, up to the strikers, nothing.  Is there a striker or midfielder anywhere in the Premier League with as little actual footballing ability as Shane Long.  We know he can be good but when he’s bad and has to fall back on basic technique; he has none.  It bounces off his shins, off his knee, off anything and the goal said it all – a totally free header from 5 yards and managing to hit the keeper and taking two efforts to get it over the line from practically in the goal.  Long and J-Rod were fucking dreadful and Sims overall was average at best. 

The midfield three of JWP, Clasie and Reed were quite frankly, rubbish.  Balls given away and no ability on the ball at all.  Why can’t JWP shoot when the ball is moving? – he can’t kick it.  Reed was worryingly bad and off the pace, always arriving late and usually fouling whichever Norwich midfielder we’d given the ball to.  The win was earned with the introduction of Romeu and Redmond for J-Rod and Reed in the last 20 as we dominated and created chances from then on in.

The defence did what they had to do defensively which was next to nothing.  I thought Jack Stephens did ok but on the rare occasion when Lafferty got near enough to put pressure on, Stephens wasn’t dominant or imposing at all.  The best player on the pitch was Sam McQueen who was excellent in both attack and defence.  He deserved the assist for the goal and was a constant threat down the left.  We have to find him a place in the league side, possibly playing in front of Ryan Bertrand on the left.  At the moment I’d play him ahead of Tadic on the left wing if he continues his post-broken nose form.  On the other side you had Martina who despite having loads of possession and crossing opportunities, delivered sod all of any quality.  He has no natural idea of when to go into the gap or when to cross it.  Usually he cuts back onto his left foot and skims it in five feet high to the first defender.  In goal, Harry Lewis had nothing to do and at 19, he’s already had the easiest clean sheet of his life.

I usually sit in the Chapel in the family bit but today I was in the Itchen, directly behind the Saints bench so I had a good view of Claude and he was going nuts which was quite reassuring.  He wasn’t happy, particularly in the first half when bad passing kept slowing down attacks.  He clearly wanted us to play with more tempo but the players seems incapable of doing it.  He also did a little dance and was yelling at the 4th official when the ref decided to let Bassong hold Sims back when he ran into the penalty area.  He’s definitely part of the problem with his formation and lack of players in the box but some of our players, especially in forward areas are just not good enough and he has to make do.

It was dreadful but we won and that’ll do and now we have Arsenal at home in the 4th Round.  Before that though we have Leicester in the league on Sunday and the Liverpool semi final 2nd leg on Wednesday.  I guess the result on Wednesday will dictate the line-up we put out against the Gunners. By the end of next week we could be in one final and well on our way to another or we could just been looking nervously and hoping that Sunderland, Swansea, Palace and Hull continue to be shite.

As I finish this, José Fonte has moved to West Ham for £8 million and no doubt a higher wage and an extra year on his contract.  It’s shame it had to come to this but there’s been an issue all season.  I thought there was an issue when we were three days from the start of the Premier League season and he was still posting photos of Portuguese celebrations from the Euro’s.  Cedric was posting training shots with the Saints boys.  I’ll possibly write this up fully after the Leicester game.  For now I’ll just say – what a shame it had to come to this. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Premier League Match 21 - Burnley 1 Southampton 0

Play, Rinse, Repeat, Play, Rinse, Repeat

After the Liverpool win in midweek there is of course another game just around the corner and it’s Burnley.  Despite being absolutely woeful when we beat them at St.Mary’s earlier in the season, they’ve made a much better fist of trying to stay in the Premier League than they did last time out a couple of years ago.  This has all been built on their home form as their away form is shocking – 1 point all season I think.  They are however, pretty shite and so we should take the momentum from Wednesday and get something here as long as Claude doesn’t fuck about with the team too much.

There’s been confirmation this week that José Fonte will not be considered for selection until after the transfer window has closed so he’s played his last game for us unless no one comes in for him.  This leaves us with Virgil and Maya as first choice and Jack Stephens as back up and this really isn’t good enough so as well as our chronic need for a striker, we also desperately need a centre back.  As far as I know we have that Florin Gardos chap but he may well have been deported for all we’ve heard about him recently.

Claude kind of rotated with Hojbjerg and JWP coming on for Davis and Clasie in midfield and Shane Long getting another chance to remember where the fuck the goal is in place of J-Rod.  The three players left out were the three who got substituted against Liverpool so I’m guessing they ran themselves into the ground.  Burnley have a very good keeper in Tom Heaton and they have Andre Gray who is not very good on Twitter but other than that they’re workmanlike and nothing exceptional.

It’s interesting to me that Burnley have such a good home record when their away form is crap and they were absolute dogshit when they played at our place.  Oh I’d forgotten about Ratboy George Boyd who just runs about and that’s it – his first involvement is to not track Ryan Bertrand who is away and bending a great cross in between defence and keeper.  Shane has made a good run and gets there first in front of Ward but misses the ball and it hits Ward and deflects for a corner. That’s poor and there’s no excuse for playing an airshot.  We capitalize on the corner in a big way as JWP plays it short to Redmond who crosses it four feet off the ground where it hits the first man.  We’ve got one of the best corner takers in the country and we play it short to play in a cross that Warwick Davis would have cleared.

The game is settling into a pattern of Saints possession and Burnley staying organized in exactly the kind of way that we struggle to score against.  Redmond has a header deflected over from a Tadic cross and Tadic has the best chance so far as Redmond finds hin on the left hand side and he does the right thing in going across the keeper but what a surprise, wide of the far post.

Following the ref giving us a break by not giving a clear foul by Hojbjerg on Hendrick, Long does pull out a great cross from the right which is met by JWP who heads it down and straight at Heaton who doesn’t have to move to block it.  And that’s it for the half – a half where we’ve been bad and they’ve been worse.

Burnley start the second half the brighter and Romeu bins Ashley Barnes to give them a free kick which is miles out but it doesn’t stop Defour from having a go which Fraser falls on easily.  For us, Redmond is showing a lack of quality both in crossing and shooting, firstly butchering a break with a crap ball to Hojbjerg and then shooting wide when Hojbjerg found him having retrieved the ball.  Well he didn’t really shoot wide as let it slide off his foot and keep going.

Tadic has produced his usual post-broken nose performance so he’s off with J-Rod coming on to play against his hometown club and we immediately look better as he finds Cedric on the right and his cross is met at the back post by Long but can he get the header on target?  Can he fuck and wide of the near post.

Joey Barton and Sam Vokes are on for Burnley and we win a free kick in midfield which JWP expertly delivers into the mixer.  Virgil gets a touch and there’s an almighty scramble but predictably it’s a Burnley boot and not a Southampton one that connects.

On 80 minutes, Ratboy Boyd cuts in from the right and Romeu goes to challenge and makes contact which is all Ratboy needs to buy a cheap free kick about 25 yards out.  Barton is over it and there’s a deep sense of inevitability.  Always one to write interesting scripts is Joey Barton and he hits it, not very well but our wall is shambolic and breaks up, it flicks off someone and Fraser is wrong footed and it skims into the corner.  For fuck sake.  On first look it seems that Fraser has lined up the wall and stood behind it and it’s his side but I think the wall has just totally failed to do it’s job.  Fraser has followed the ball but the little nick from the disintegrating wall has killed us.

Might as well blow the whistle now as we all know how this one ends.  Sims is on for Redmond.  I know he’s been shite but surely in the context of the team we have out on the pitch, we need one of the top scorers on the pitch.  We have a go to be fair – Bertrand has a volley which is well saved and from the corner, JWP finds Virgil who battles past three defenders but can only find Heaton with the header.

It’s taken 90 minutes but we finally produce some flowing football as via Bertrand and Virgil, J-Rod picks it up and runs at the defence before opening himself out and going for the far post – Heaton makes the save and Sims fires the rebound at the near post with Heaton getting down very well to make the save again.

The last few minutes are spent with us over-committing and nearly chucking in another one when Barton puts Ratboy away on the left but he makes a balls of it allowing us to get back.  The End.

Oh just fuck off!  Yet another game where we dominate, have a host of half chances, never really look like scoring and then concede and needless goal to their first decent effort.  Today it wasn’t even a decent effort – a pointlessly given away shite free kick which deflected in courtesy of a shit disintegrating wall.  Bollocks! Scored by Joey Barton who shouldn’t even be fucking playing.  Recently banned for placing bets on football matches while in Scotland, charged about 3 weeks ago with betting on over a thousand matches in England but the case hasn’t been heard yet for some fucking reason so he’s allowed to play in the mean time.  He’ll no doubt get banned for the rest of the season as of next week but we’ll let him play against Southampton and score a spawny fucking goal.  Fair play to Burnley for finding a way to win and that’s all that matters.  They were lucky bastards to win when it really should have been a 0-0 draw in what was a pretty piss poor game.

Joey Barton and Burnley isn’t the issue though.  It’s our inability to stick it in the net and the players we have who are shite in that regard.  We should have signed another striker at the start of the season and we should have been lining one up for January 1st as even when Austin was fit as we were hardly prolific.  Once Austin was injured we looked desperate and everyone knew we’d be shite until January 1st but surely we’d have a striker lined up…. but no.  Two weeks in and still nothing except Les Reed saying it’s a tough window to do business in – we fucking know that Les but it’s your job – to give the manager a squad to work with. 

That’s only part of the story though as on the goalscoring front, all of Tadic, Hojbjerg, JWP, Davis, Long, Rodriguez & Redmond are all under performing.  They have chances and miss them, we cross the ball in and there’s no bastard there.  Shane Long is the biggest let down – fuck me, zero goals from open play all season and just one headed goal from a corner in addition to not being able to control a football.

Claude gave his standard interview after the game which I read with subtitles as I couldn’t be arsed to listen to it.  It’s Groundhog Day, again, the same game, the same pattern, the same chances, the same misses, the same lack of runners, the same one chance for the opposition, the same knowing we won’t get back into it, the same flat resigned feeling at the final whistle, same manager interview.  Rewind, repeat, rewind, repeat. Fuck off.  There’s no real point in saying anything else – it’s the same every week.

Next up is the game we didn’t want against Norwich in the FA Cup which will definitely see appearances for Jack Stephens, Harrison Reed, Josh Sims, Sam McQueen and probably even Cuco the Clown.  I’ll be there… bring it on!

Friday, January 13, 2017

League Cup Semi Final 1st leg - Southampton 1 Liverpool 0

Out of My Way, Bitch!

With fear and trepidation and not much optimism, I’m not looking forward much to the League Cup EFL whatever Semi-Final first leg against Liverpool.  From the moment I was walking out of the Emirates after the last round and saw the draw on my phone, I’d not been very optimistic about it but maybe there’s a chance.  They’re irresistible attacking flair has been blunted somewhat by injuries to Coutinho and the AFCON absence of Sadio Mané.  That’s their most creative player and their quickest.  Counteracting that, is our loss of Sofiane Boufal who was supposed to be at the AFCON but is instead, out of the AFCON and recovering from an injury which will be healed by the time he should have been back from the AFCON.

It looks like whoever wins this tie will be playing Man United in the final as they won 2-0 against Hull at Old Trafford and there’s not a chance in hell that Hull will turn that round in the 2nd Leg.  They’ve even sacked old Moonface Phelan.  If we’re going to do anything today then we have to put their defence under pressure as the defence is the weak link.  It has potentially weak players like Milner and Klavan and also it has Mr.Arsehole himself, Dejan Lovren, a player with his head so far up his own arse that he couldn’t see what his wife was up to.  Jurgen Klopp seems to have toned down his act a bit this year and isn’t as much a knobhead on the touchline as last season.  It’s really annoying in that I want to hate him but he is a very entertaining bloke.

Liverpool's media department broke Rule 1 which is - don't wind up the oppostion.  They thought it would be amusing to use a graphic of four of the players who they signed from us to promote the game - even though one of them was never going to be playing.  Wankers.

On arrival in the ground, we go to our normal seats which are occupied by others and realise that there has been a bit of a fuck up.  I’d just clicked on the tickets that had been automatically allocated to us by the online system but on inspection, we were in Row MM and not row T.  Bollocks.  Up we go to MM with my 72 year old Dad wheezing and moaning like a bastard and once we got there, I realize we’re in the wrong block.  All the way down to pitch level, across to the left, all the way up again, looking along the Chapel goal line and one row from the back.  Not happy.  Dad has survived and through his panting he is calling me lots of names.   It’s actually quite a good view.

Anyway, our team news has already been made public by Claude during the week in that José Fonte is not in the squad following his transfer request.  I’m in two minds about this but the decision has been made and that shows strong leadership.  It also shows that the manager obviously doesn’t think José can put it aside and completely focus on the game, another indicator that maybe the captain has been discarding toys from his pram for a while.  So, Maya is in along with Virgil and Cedric and Ryan Bertand has mercifully been spared from rotation.  Romeu, Clasie and Davo make up the midfield and the attackers are the only three we really could have picked in J-Rod, Tadic and Bertrand. Liverpool’s team is a bit odd because a lot has been made this year of Lallana playing as the most advanced of three midfielders but it looks like he’s further forward with Sturridge and Firmino as the midfield three look like Wijnaldum, Lucas and Can.  There has to be an opportunity there as I don’t rate any of that midfield.  Wijnaldum has a goal in him but equally can go completely missing, Lucas is slow and not a player who’s going to open you up and Can is a candidate for my Overrated Player of the Season award as I really don’t see what the fuss is about or how the hell he has caps for Germany.  The back 4 has Clyne and the three amigos I mentioned earlier including Mr Arsehole.  Flapper Karius is in goal so lets do it.

From my lofted position I can see that the game starts with a period of Liverpool possession and we look terrified – so deep and not getting to the ball at all.  Pass, pass, pass – we’re nowhere, chasing shadows with Clasie in particular not touching the ball for the first 10 minutes.  Oh look, Redmond is at right back and we have the 6-3-fifty yards-1 formation again.  Is this what Claude meant when he said we needed to be in the game in the 2nd leg?  We’re obviously going to try and choke the shit out of it and got for a 0-0.  When are they going to score?  A ball is chipped in to Lallana who has got free and he heads down to Firmino who volleys from 10 yards but luckily Fraser is close enough to throw up a huge paw and push it away.

Neil Swarbrick is today’s ref and I’ve never really had an opinion of him before but he doesn’t make a good start as Milner loses the ball and Bertrand runs it out of defence before Mr Arsehole levers him to the ground – play on.  It takes 19 minutes for us to do anything as Cedric gets down the right and plays in Tadic whose cross misses everyone and arrives with Redmond at the back post but his sidefooted effort is blocked by the keepers boot.  If you want clinical then this was the opposite of that with a lack of conviction again.  It eventually falls to Bertrand whose long ranger is straight at Karius.

The miss does seem to have given us a bit of confidence and we push forwards again on the right.  Tadic tries to find J-Rod and Klavan should cut it out but he waves a boot at it and plays and airshot.  J-Rod pokes it across to Redmond who is through with just Karius to beat and this time there’s no mistake and he finds the corner of the net.  Get the fuck in.  Believe.  Klopp is going nuts on the sideline, I assume cos he thinks it’s offside.  He sits down when the goal is replayed on the big screens and Redmond is clearly miles onside.

A minute long round of applause - more on that later.

We’re a different team now, getting right in their faces with Romeu putting together a series of good challenges and Clasie even manages to touch the ball a few times.  Davo is having a stormer and chases the dodgy Liverpool defenders back into the corner and wins a throw.  In it goes to Bertrand who waltzes round Lallana and Lucas and Tadic takes over, squirted across and there is Redmond, 10 yards out with just the keeper to beat and he smashes it straight at him.  Fuck!  That simply has to go in.  He had loads of the bastard goal to aim at too.  It’s hard to be disappointed though as the half time whistle blows and we have a 1-0 lead that we all would have taken at the start and Dad begins the long trek down the stairs to have his half time piss.

It’s actually quite a lot quieter up here than even the Family centre behind the Chapel Goal.  There’s a bloke behind us who is desperately trying to chat up the girl he’s brought to the game and it’s fucking painful and he’s been at it for 45 minutes, talking about anything but the game.  Go to the pub, go anywhere or shut the fuck up.  He looks like that Dean Gaffney twat who used to be in BellEnders.  We are discussing them when Dad comes back and he says that their as bad as the Chuckle Brothers who sat behind us when we sat in the central Kingsland before my son started coming along.

Away we go in the second half and Liverpool have possession and one thing is clear.  Klopp wants his defenders to be footballers and be comfortable on the ball and both Klavan and Mr Arsehole look as clumsy as you like and we’ll let them have the ball all day long.  As soon as it goes into the midfield then Saints press and with players like Can (who is trying to do too much on the ball) and Lucas (not good enough), we are stopping them getting any rhythm.

Going forward we appear to be targeting Milner who is looking like a fish up a tree at left back.  Cedric runs at him and Milner has three goes before eventually succeeding in bringing him down.  Tadic’ free kick is headed over for a corner and the same player delivers and Karius gets lucky with a complete flap and everyone misses everything.  They are shit at the back – come on!  This is illustrated by Mr Arsehole passing the ball to Clasie and we build via J-Rod and Tadic before losing it in the corner.  Liverpool half clear it and Virgil picks it on the left wing and has a run.  Surprisingly Sturridge has bothered his arse to track back but amusingly, no one helps him so Virgil just runs down the left wing and cuts in.  it’s he’d scored or found someone other than the keeper with his cross then the media would have been wanking themselves into an even bigger ‘sell him’ frenzy.

Let’s take a second to appreciate the majestic force that is Oriol Romeu.  It was enough when he binned the very poncy Emre Can in the tackle but then he brought the house down with a real ‘get out of the way you little bitch’ tackle on Lallana.  Rub some Nivea on that you prick.  Liverpool are not threatening at all so on comes Coutinho for his first game in months and replaces Wijnaldum with Lallana dropping back to midfield.  Coutinho immediately makes things better but they are still relying on Sturridge further forward and he can’t be arsed.  He gets manshamed by Virgil in the penalty area and collapses in a heap appealing for a penalty.  Fair play to Swarbrick for not falling for it as he’s been pissing me off but giving Liverpool every 50-50 decision going.  I think we might have won a free kick at one point.

Romeu is having a huge game and beasts Emre Can again – you are shit.  Coutinho is a bastard who usually sticks on in the top corner against us and he weaves into the penalty area and is well dealt with by Yoshida.  Maya is concentrating well today and when he does that, he’s a good defender.  If he keeps things simple and just concentrates on defending then he’s decent.  I would be happy for him to just clear the ball for the rest of the game.

A Liverpool attack, a foot in and Redmond breaks.  Cedric underlaps him and Redmond finds him.  J-Rod is up too with one Liverpool defender and Cedric lashes at the near post and wide and shit.  J-Rod is not impressed but he’s not made an angle for him, just standing behind the defender.  It was a shit effort but Jay could have done more.  He’s been good today however, running his nuts off and with better ball retention than usual.

Clasie can see his name up in lights as the ball comes to him thirty yards out and he goes for the volley, plays a massive airshot and manages to collapse with cramp all in the same movement.  The fact that he still gets cramp really pisses me off but he’s been good for the last half an hour and is replaced with Hojbjerg who is soon followed onto the pitch by JWP replacing Davis.  I find it mildly amusing that Clasie has got injured in a tackle with fresh air.  Origi is on for the Scousers, he who scored a hat-trick against us when they dicked us 6-1 in this competition last year.   There’s a comedy moment when J-Rod gives away a free kick.  He is clearly out on his feet and Long is ready to come on but Liverpool want to take it quickly so Jay just boots the ball away so he can get off.  I expect he saw the yellow card as entirely worth it.

On comes Long and Lallana gives it away and our pass forward finds the Irishman who finds himself up against Lucas on the left and there’s only one winner there.  He steams past him and gets his head up and picks out Redmond on the right.  He gets there before Karius and has to chip it and it’s over the keeper, onto the underside of the bar and out via a lucky intervention from Mr Arsehole who didn’t know where it was.  How wonderful would that have been if it had hit the Arsehole and bounced in.

90 minutes are up and Coutinho picks it up, shoots, miles over, aaaaaaaaaahhhh…  At that moment, I realise that there’s a Scouser in the seat directly in front of me.  Fair play to him, that's the first sound he’s made all game.  I know he shouldn’t be in our end but he has at least shut his trap for the entire game.  Now fuck off you knob.

That, after the first 15 minutes, was a massive performance by Saints, played with a purpose and intensity which has been lacking too often this season and especially in the past few weeks.  Full marks to Claude on his team selection and his tactics tonight.  There will be some that say that we should have won by more and that’s probably true but I’d have snapped your hand off for this result before the game started so I’m not going to complain now.  We also kept a clean sheet which could come into the reckoning with away goal counting double after extra time in the 2nd leg.  We’ve got a chance up there.  Both team will still be without their African players and you would assume that Coutinho will be fit to start but tonight showed that we can definitely do something up there.  It sure as shit isn’t going to be easy and Liverpool will create a lot more than they did tonight but maybe we can make them look ordinary again.  Yes – we made them look ordinary which is not something you’re going to have read in the media since the game.  When I got back to the car I turned on talkSHITE and there was a post-mortem taking place about Liverpool’s problems.  You’d be hard pressed to find out who the team was who had beaten them.  Far from this situation changing it’s actually getting worse as everyone gets even more ‘big club’ focused.  Where’s the OFF button?

All the sections of the Saints team did their job superbly.  All of the back 4 were magnificent with Maya having the mistake free performance that was needed.  Virgil was just outstanding again – it’s the norm of course and performances of that stature against the big boys will mean those who get annoyed easily would do best to keep away from rumour and bullshit websites until January is over.

The midfield of course ran themselves to a standstill with Romeu being the stand out.  He would have been even if he hadn’t have smashed Nivea Twat but the fact that he did elevates him to God-like status.  Up front, Redmond will feel that he should have scored more but he put away the one that mattered and I must say that J-Rod was superb tonight, especially bearing in mind he was living off of scraps.

Burnley away is next and I’m sure that some players out there are going to be completely knackered but we should keep the same side if we can and try and build on today.  Everyone will be feeling pretty good about themselves so lets keep it going.  Burnley are decent at home but if we can go toe to toe with their energy levels, we’re better than them so it should be a good day.

We scored the goal tonight in the 20th minute which was fitting in the extreme as it was supposed to be in the 20th minute that we all clapped to celebrate the life of Jack Dowding, the Saints fan who passed away suddenly, aged 20 on Saturday morning due to complications with his Diabetes.  In the event, the applause started on 21 minutes and was well supported.  The Channel 5 highlights mentioned his name, as did the highlights on the Saints official website and both were good to hear.  

Jack and his Dad and Step-Mum have been my next door neighbours for the past 5 years.   I didn’t know Jack very well - a wave at the top of the drive and the occasional ‘hello’ – that was about it – and I have no idea whether he read any of this drivel I write and if he did, I don’t know if he knew it was the sad bugger next door who wrote it.  I spoke to his Dad and Step-Mum on Tuesday about how much they wanted to go and equally, didn’t want to go to this game today.  I haven’t spoken to them since as yet but I’m sure they’ll be glad that they went and the fact that the goal went in on 20 minutes will not be lost on them.  R.I.P Jack.