The FA Cup Wining One, The Europa League Qualifying One and The Imploding One
The Monday after the last game of the season saw the England squad announcement for Euro 2016 and Hodgson named 26 players, 3 of whom will be omitted at the deadline. From a Saints point of view, both Ryan Bertrand and Fraser Forster are in and as there are only 3 keepers and 7 defenders named, they will be in the final 23. Assuming there are no injuries, you would assume the three to be left out would be three from Henderson, Delph, Drinkwater and Rashford. Out of the midfielders in the 26, I’d say Wilshere, Alli, Dier, Milner, Townsend, Lallana, Sterling and Barkley are nailed on, along with Kane, Vardy, Sturridge and Shrek up front. If Roy doesn’t have Drinkwater in the squad somewhere then he needs his head testing.
Tuesday night saw Kelvin Davis’s Testimonial and it ticked all the boxes that it needed to tick with approximately 20,000 people turning up to pay respects to the man and to the players who did so much to make Southampton the success it’s been over the past 7 years. Every player who was there has contributed something to the story and it was great to see them all out there enjoying themselves. The managers were there too with the ridiculously popular Nigel Adkins in charge of the Promotions XI and even Pochettino turned up which (gritted teeth) was a nice touch by him and a very good photo emerged of the last three Saints managers along with Katharina Liebherr.
The first half was between the ‘best’ teams available and though played at the traditional testimonial walking pace, it was fun trying to see who ‘still had it’ out of the old boys. I enjoyed seeing Radhi Jaidi thumping the ball half the length of the pitch with his head and Dean Hammond trying desperately hard not to kick people. It was good of Punch to turn up given that he had the FA Cup Final to play in on Saturday and it was amusing when he went off after 10 minutes, accompanied by a toilet roll. Sir Rickie was desperately trying to score but Stekelenburg was having none of it and pulled off a string of really good saves.
The penalty competition at half time was the predictable win for Sir Rickie that I thought it would be but I didn’t expect Matty to miss the target. One of the few advantages of being 47 is that I’m the same age as Matt and so I saw practically his whole career. Back in the day, you never ever felt that he was going to miss but even though that’s years ago, it was still a shock when he did. It was a nice touch to wear the old shirt though. I’ve got that one and it doesn’t fit me either.
The second half was a bit flat but some highlights were Kelvin’s boy coming on, scoring a penalty and Sadio Mané and Shane Long taking turns in running at Francis Benali on the wing. All in all it was a great evening with a very emotional Kelvin addressing the crowd at the end. You could tell he was emotional even though the PA was so shite you couldn’t hear anything if you were in the Kingsland like I was. It was strange being back there – I’ve been 3 years in the family section of the Chapel Stand and all that was missing was the Chuckle Brothers who used to sit directly behind me.
What kept occurring to me throughout the game was that the players in the Promotions XI were such good characters. No prima donnas who thought they were too good for the club. It’s often forgotten that clubs give players contracts and then sells them on if they feel like it. We only get the hump about it when it happens the other way round but a quick look round today and you see Frazer Richardson, Danny Butterfield, Dan Harding, Richard Chaplow, Dean Hammond, Billy Sharp and Lee Barnard – all players who contributed massively and all had time left on their contracts when we moved them on. That team that got us promoted had no shitheads, though Lallana turned into a shithead later on.
Some of the pictures and videos that emerged afterwards were interesting. One who turned up was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who Saints have been linked with and José Fonte has openly admitted to tapping up. Seeing him in a video shaking hands with the players he had as team mates when he was 17 made me think how cool it would be if he came back. With Chambers and Schneiderlin seeing their careers stall, how good would it be for a player who left to come back to relaunch his career to really hammer home that the grass isn’t always greener.
The serious football of the evening was being played at Old Trafford following the postponement on Saturday and Bournemouth totally failed to help out and got stuffed 3-1, so we finished 6th in the end, meaning that we have to want United to win the FA Cup so we can go straight into the Group Stages of the Europa League. There was more serious football on Wednesday when Liverpool managed to surrender a half time lead and lost 3-1 to Sevilla in the Europa League Final which means no Europe for Liverpool next year which is a nice poke in the eye for Lovren, Lallana and Clyne who I assume will all be looking for a move to a team that plays in Europe. Wankers. The only downside is that they’ll do better in the league next season as a result or it may be that they’ll have absolutely no excuses next year. I appear to be one of the view who has not bought all the hype about Klopp. As Pochettino has learned, you have to have something other than pressing like a bunch of lunatics for 90 minutes and 50+ games.
Bournemouth’s capitulation left us in the uncomfortable position of needing Manchester United to win the FA Cup. It was so hard watching the game because a) it was shite and b) wanting that bunch of wankers to win. The first half was fucking dreadful, only serving to highlight what a shite referee Twattenburg is as he twice stopped a Palace break when they had a clear advantage, to give Palace the free kick and book a United player. The second half was equally shite and then ex-Saint Punch came on and smashed in a superb goal as de Gea seemed to forget to cover his near post. So, 1-0 to Palace with 10 minutes to go and Pardew is dad dancing at the side and within 3 minutes he’s sat down again as Mata equalizes. Extra time and Smalling gets sent off a rugby tackle having already been booked but Palace seem to lack a bit of belief that they can win it and fair play, Lingard smashes in a superb volley to win the cup for United, send Saints into the Europa League group stages, send West Ham into the Europa League qualifying rounds. Within two hours of him lifting the cup, the news was breaking that Mourinho was replacing Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford next season. The very definition of classless, both from the media and from United themselves in that they couldn’t even reward the manager who has won them their first trophy in 3 years, with one night of celebration. Absolute scumbags. We can only hope that LVG won’t have a non-disclosure agreement in his severance package because he’s a gobshite so some interviews might get very interesting. Now we can all get back to hating United again – the most detestable club, now with one of the most detestable managers.
Talking of detestable managers, Brendan Rodgers has got another job in the non-League of Scotland as Celtic manager. True to form he said it’s not a step down from the Premier League. I wonder if he listens to his own interviews and realises what a fuckwit he is. I hope we sign whoever their highest rated player is and loan him to Rangers just for the irony. I gather Brendan had ambitions to be a manager in a big league but clearly that has changed etc.
So, Europa League Group Stages for Saints and we’ll be much better prepared this time. Last year, the qualifiers were pre-Virgil. Maya and Caulker were in the team and Bertrand, Forster and J-Rod were injured. Now we have the media rumour-mongering to put up with. Guess what… I’m not going to read it and I certainly won’t be commenting on it on here, certainly not on outgoing runours… incoming perhaps. We’re the 6th best team in the country and players might want to join us. It’s Euro 2016 time and that’ll no doubt give us all a lot to get angry about as Hodgson gets the least out of a good collection of England players.