Friday, August 29, 2014

Capital One Cup - Millwall 0 Southampton 2

"I aimed at Row Z as usual...."

One of the main moans about last season was the performances in the cups and the teams selected.  In both cups we ended up playing Sunderland away and playing half a team and getting beaten without much of a fight as Pochettino prioritised an 8th placed finish.  Todays’ team selection would tell us a lot about how Ronald Koeman and and maybe the new board, think of things regarding cup competitions.  As it turns out, we only made 3 changes from the weekend whereas Millwall (managed by our old mate Ian Holloway) made 8.  Out to Bertrand, Morgan and Tadic and in come Matty Targett, Lloyd Isgrove and Shane Long.  I was a bit surprised not to see Gardos in the starting XI but I’m sure his time will come.  He’s on the bench along with Gaston Ramirez who once again is on his way beck from injury.

As we recover from our summer of players with questionable characters, for the sake of balance it’s worth noting that the Millwall side includes one of those shown the door as we moved up the leagues and I think it’s safe to say that Richard Chaplow would not have walked out of the club unless he was pushed.

The start of the game is reasonable and we are getting down the wings and Targett and Clyne are fizzing crosses over and Big Vic is passing behind our own players so normal service.  It then all goes to pot and turns into a midfield scuffling match which is going nowhere and it horrible to watch with neither team creating anything. On the half hour Isgrove goes down injured and has to go off to be replaced by Tadic so we’ve actually got stronger with a  substitution which in round 2 of the League Cup is more or less unheard of.

We have a half chance from a corner as Tadic’ delivery is flicked miles wide.  From the resulting goal kick we defend like 8 year olds and everyone leaves it and Gueye is 1 on 1 with Fraser but with glory in his eyes he slices wide in horribly shite fashion.  The rest of the first half is pitiful as well and Saints first team fails to show anything to trouble Millwall reserves.  I expect that a few Dutch swear words will be flying about at half time.

The shockingly bad first half has prompted a chance as Corky is on for Big Vic who can rest his neck muscles in preparation for watching West Ham hoof the ball over his head on Saturday.  There’s no immediate improvement though and Easter picks it up and runs at the defence and gets to the edge of the box before driving a shot across the goal and about two feet wide of the far post.

Suddenly, it’s a brilliant game as Saints remember that they are the Premier League side and they can play decent football as we carve our way up the right hand side. Eventually Clyne gets his head up and pulls the cross back to Tadic who hits it and Forde tips it over the bar.  Shane Long, his international team mate indicates that it was one for the cameras which is a bit harsh.

Millwall are contributing to a new spell of pressure for Saints by trying to play out of defence but Tadic nicks the ball off them about 30 yards out and tees up Pelle who turns his marker and thumps in a shot but it’s high and central and again and Forde tips it over the bar.  What happens next is a bit of Saints history and I’m sure that someone (not me) has put a quid on Jack Cork to score the first goal in every Saints game for the past 3 years…. Well today’s the day and Tadic swings over a left footed corner and Corky, totally unmarked, powers a header into the net.  Get in.  I’m actually listening to this game with Dave Merrington expert analysis which I haven’t done for a few years.  He describes Corky’s header as ‘a good connect’.  What the fuck is that about?

I have to say that im liking the way Millwall are playing with John Marquis up front playing well and Easter in midfield is decent.  Chappers is having a bit of a mare in his first game for 5 months and he lashes one miles over the bar in tired fashion when there were many better options, just before he gets substituted.

Another build up down the right from Saints, this time involving a bit of skill by Long by which he aims to cross it with his right foot but instead shoves it to Clyne with his standing foot.  England’s best right back produces and superb cross on the run and Pelle gets up well and heads back across the goal and it clips the post and wide with Forde nowhere.  The big Italian is now looking slightly pissed off with his failure to score as well as smouldering and swarthy for all the ladies.

Coky is having a great game in midfield and switches the play ance more to England’s number 2 who once more gets his head up and picks out JWP on the edge of the box who clips a right footed effort wide of the far post.  This is but a break from the Saga of Graziano.  This time Tadic picks him out in the box but the ball won’t come down for him to hit.  When it does he’s facing the wrong way and so improvises and back heels it but it squirts wide.

Having read a load of shite criticism of him after the Baggies game, it’s great to hear the away fans chanting his name.  Magnificent stuff and the fans are at it again as we build up down the left with Tadic again teeing up Pelle but this time he sidefoots just high and wide.  The mortified look on his face is getting more pronounced with every miss but the ‘Graziano’ chants are getting louder and louder.

Millwall, lest we forget are still in the game and Williams has a long range blast which is on target but Fraser casually punches it away from danger but this is just a break from Saints pressure and this time it’s Dusan Tadic who creates a yard for himself by shaping to shoot twice before eventually curling one at the far post and missing by not much.

91, 92 and it looks for all the world like 1-0 will be enough but a final break and Davis puts Pelle through on goal, a good connect…. 2-0 and the big man is very happy.  I am waiting for the offside flag to go up but it doesn’t and so Graziano has his goal and everyone is happy, except Ian Holloway who is a helmet and he always will be.

The second half performance was pretty good and we really should have wrapped it up long before Graziano’s goal but having capitulated horribly in cup competition last season, I’m not going to moan about a 2-0 win.  It’s a very important goal for the confidence of the big man and how nice too see Corky come on and make a massive deference.  He’s being challenged to make a case for his selection and for a new contract and he got given a chance and took it.  Fair play to him and he’ll be keeping JWP, Steve Davis and Big Vic on their toes.

As far as our league compaign is concerned, it’s important to remember that Millwall rested a few players so we can hardly be said to be the finished article as yet but we played well in the second half and looked decent.  However, as Ronald reminded everyone afterwards, we were desperately poor in the first half and this shouldn’t be forgotten and it certainly won’t be by him.  The fact that he picked such a strong team for this fixture augurs well for our cup campaigns this season and the draw for the next round has thrown us a really interesting one…. Arsenal away.   Wenger will no doubt field a team of reserves and will no doubt be hoping we do the same so he can work himself up into a frenzy afterwards.  I hate the fucking Child Catcher and the good news is that we’ll play a strong side and have a great chance of winning.

Next up we have a trip to Upton Park and West Ham.  They’ve started the season well but we have to be going there looking for a win.  Carroll and Nolan are both out injured and Fat Sam is their manager.  They’re still going to hoof the ball so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Florin Gardos come in for that one.  Hopefully Graziano can go on a run now and with the backing of the away fans, he will at least be encouraged.  Maybe 2 goals in 3 games will help the more unintelligent of our home fans to give him a chance as well.

PS – Roy Hodgson has successfully managed to kill off my interest in the England football team.  Not even Graham Taylor, Steve McLaren or Sven Goran Erikssen (or Adrian Chiles) managed that but Hodgson has.  Firstly, he’s taken a player who hasn’t had a meaningful good game for England in 10 years and made him captain.  Wayne Fucking Rooney… I ask you.  Yet more reward for a player who does not warrant it, yet more cementing of his undroppable status which he doesn’t deserve. 

Then there’s the issue of Calum Chambers getting called up as a right back.  He’s played 3 games for Arsenal at centre back and suddenly he’s better than he was before the World Cup?  Apparently Arsene has said he’s ready.  Does Hodgson only pick players when a club manager says it’s ok?  Senile old goat.  Meanwhile, Nathaniel Clyne doesn’t get picked but that’s a double edged sword.  He of course should be England’s first choice right back and should have been for the World Cup but if he was then no doubt Brendon fucking Rodgers would have started a whispering campaign in the press to get him to Liverpool. 

The rest of the squad is littered with examples that make you question Hodgson’s suitability and competence.  Fabian Delph and Jack Colback in the squad despite being as bang average as you could be?  Phil Jones still in the squad despite being shite this season and last? James Milner still in the squad despite not playing this season and not being able to kick a ball in a straight line? Andros Townsend recalled as he was in good form a year ago? Danny Welbeck still in the squad despite not playing for United except in a 4-0 defeat to MK Dons?  Rickie Lambert still in the squad despite hardly playing for Liverpool and only 4 minutes game time in the World Cup?  Hodgson has lost the plot – if he ever had it.  Well done Greg Dyke – give him another vote of confidence.

So – who could he have picked instead… I’ll have a look and let you know.

PPS – I’ll still watch the game…

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Premier League Game 2 - Southampton 0 West Brom 0


The week leading up to the first home game of the season against West Brom was reasonably quiet.  No one had tried to fuck us over in the transfer market and there had been no one incoming.  Ronald Koeman played a blinder in his press conference when asked about “the speculation regarding Schneiderlin which won’t go away” by replying “it has gone away, he’s not going.  You brought it up”.  I like the fact that Ronald has good English but not good enough to speak in football managerspeak bollocks.  Honesty is the name of the game.  Mind you, it was more amusing with our last Dutch manager as Jan Poortvliet made me want to kick the TV screen in every time he opened his mouth.

West Brom have had a bit of a shocker recently.  They only survived relegation due to other teams being more shit than they were and Pepe Mel was predictably sacked after less than half a season in charge.  They found themselves without a manager at the same time as us and whilst we got a unanimously well-received appointment, they got Alan Irvine which is one of those appointments that is a master stroke or a complete disaster.  My money is on the former.  They’ve made a couple of decent looking signings in Joleon Lescott and Brown Ideye but their squad is certainly on paper one of the weakest in the division and we really need to be winning this one today.  Hopefully, the decent performance at Anfield will fire us to a decent win today but I’m a bit concerned that the Baggies will park the bus and we’ll not be slick enough to break them down.

To the teams and we have the same starting XI as last week which is a bit of a surprise.  Shane Long is on the bench against one of his former employers and is joined by Florin Gardos for the first time.  Gaston Ramirez is again missing in keeping with his Saints career to date.  Every time there’s an opportunity for him to maybe make a mark, he gets injured.

Away we go and by the 4th minute there was a clear indication that this was a new West Brom as by the 3rd minute last year, they’d started time wasting.  The first incident of any note in the opposition penalty area came from Saints as Tadic burned the full back on the left and swung over a cross towards Pelle but though the big man got his head to it, it was a bit high and he couldn’t get it goalwards.

That was more or less it until the half hour mark when Steve Davis cushioned a good header down for Tadic in a crowded penalty area and his first time left footed strike was well kept out by Foster who got down well.  Foster was put into difficulty by Mulumbu who took time off from his usual pursuit of chasing round moaning at the referee to knock it past his own goalkeeper in the right back position, allowing Tadic to swing over a cross which was comfortably over Pelle’s head.  If ever there was an indicator of how shit the first half was, the fact that I’m talking about a cross over someone’s head is it.  Half time, 0-0 and boring shite.

Koeman sent on Shane Long for Steve Davis and just after half time, West Brom sent on Ideye for Anichebe which at least meant that they had 11 players on the pitch.  Tadic was still however proving to be our only bright spark and he did superbly to make a yard and dig out another cross from the left was this time headed over by Long.  The Baggies then had a chance as the Belgian full back with the unpronounceable name cross picked out Ideye at the back stick but he headed into the side netting as 26000 Saints fans mouthed swear words as it looked like it was in.  Well played Ryan Bertrand for giving him a nudge.  Ideye was in action again as he started his dive before Jose actually got to him but luckily the ref didn’t buy it.

Mulumbu can always be relied upon to give you a free kick or two and we can also be relied upon to go chasing the referee about it.  I guess he did play the ball, after first clearing Pelle’s leg out of the way as he tried to shield it.  Up stepped JWP and curled it over the wall and saw it ping off the out side of the post and away.

With 20 minutes to go, West Brom had the best chance to win it as Ideye turned Fonte inside out and created a great chance for himself but the big man in goal came flying out to block it with his foot.

You know that thing that always happens in games?  The big chance for one team or the other.  Well, not a chance today, it was that bad.  Dull and boring.  West Brom were happy with a point and by the end, we probably were too.  27,000 plus fans in theground were just pleased that it was finished.

Fucking hell that was dull.  People always talk about 0-0’s that were really entertaining but this wasn’t one of them.  It was shit.  We were one paced and lethargic in the first half and the same in the second which meant that it didn’t improve at all.  Therefore – shit.  Attack wise we are not getting enough players forward.  Pelle is still adapting but we need to get players round him.  The one bright spark is Tadic coming in from the left but in my opinion, in home games against average teams, we can’t afford to have a non-goal threat in the front three so Davis has to be in midfield three or nowhere.  The second half team should have started but in truth, we were no better after half time.  We are crying out for a winger on the right hand side as we are not going to get the best out of Pelle unless we get crosses in for him to attack.

On the subject of Graziano – I see the idiots are out in force and he’s getting slaughtered.  I think this season will prove to be a season where most fans who have half a brain and a memory which goes back pre-Markus will want to avoid Twitter and message boards.  We’ve been on a constant rise for the past 5 years so if you take the average Saints supporting 13 year old in 2009; he’s never known us have a season of transition or one where we basically haven’t improved.  He’s now 18 and a fully fledged Twitter warrior.  He’s like the fish in Finding Nemo who doesn’t have a memory.  If you can remember back to the start of this blog entry, you’ll see I mentioned Jan Poortvliet.  Have a look at that season’s record in 2008/2009, look at who our Chairman was, look at some of the players we had.

If you only have one of those short term memories then try and remember back to the start of last season when we couldn’t buy a goal from open play and our first home game was against Paolo Mussolini’s Sunderland who got twatted by everyone else but we scraped a draw with a last minute set piece goal from Fonte which should have been disallowed.  Whilst it’s undoubtedly a disappointing result today, 1-1 with Sunderland last year was also a disappointing result.  Let’s wait and see shall we.

We have the makings of a very decent side.  The full backs are excellent and the central defence of Jose and Maya is solid if not spectacular.  We still have Gardos to come in there and I reckon there’ll be another signing in that area as well.  The midfield 3 of Big Vic, Morgan and JWP looks strong.  JWP needs to produce more in the final third and I’ve every confidence that he will.  The front 3 is where the issues are.  Pelle of course needs to adapt and start scoring but Tadic already looks the real deal to me.  I’m not too sure where Shane Long fits into things unless we play 4-4-2 but he may well settle into that right sided attacking role.  He’s never going to be a prolific striker wherever he plays though which is why we need Pelle to start firing.  Somehow of course though, we need some pace in the side which has been the case since J-Rod got injured at the tail end of last season. 

Next up we have a League Cup game away at Millwall and in my opinion, Ronald needs to use the game to get the team to gel and maybe try few different combinations.  As a result, I expect to see Kelvin in goal, Florin Gardos in defence and Shane Long up front with Pelle and Tadic.  We really need to win that game to kickstart the league campaign.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Premier League Game 1 - Liverpool 2 Southampton 1

Behold, a Smug Tosser

As the Sky Gods decreed, Saints begin our season at Anfield to play a grudge match, not for the players but for the fans.  In increasing degrees of being a wanker – Lambert, Lovren and Billy Bigtime who used to be our captain are Liverpool players now and Brendan Rodgers is their manager.  I hate Brendon.  He’s a smug, smarmy tosser and he confirmed this with his pre-match interview where he basically said that he didn’t feel sorry for Saints and that the players want to better themselves.  Oddly enough he didn’t mention telling Gerrard to get in the ear of Lambert and Bigtime whilst on England duty and any mention of drip feeding news to the media, designed to unsettle other clubs players.  Enough of all that though.  Liverpool had a fantastic season last season before Gerrard slipped on his arse but of course have lost the main man in Luis Suarez who has chewed his last player in a Liverpool shirt.  They have to replace the goals he scored last season and my dream scenario for Brendon is that a proper big club, with a record of regular Champions League qualification comes and buys Daniel Sturridge before the window shuts, preferably by unsettling him through the media first.  With all these ice bucket challenges doing the rounds at the moment, I’d like to nominate Lovren and Lallana for a challenge with a difference.  Every Saints fan at Anfield to piss in a big bucket and then you tip it over your head.  Do that and we might forgive you.

To be honest I’m not really expecting too much from this game as we are a new side but you never know.  Ronald Koeman seems confident and it would be very nice to shat on Sky’s TV Dinner.  Of course, the powers that be who chose this fixture to televise, expect and want us to be hammered.  To the team and Ronald has declared that Morgan Schneiderlin is mentally ready to play which is good news and of the new players, only Florin Gardos is unavailable as he is a couple of weeks away with a hamstring injury.  The question of Morgan was answered when he took his place in the midfield alongside Big Vic and JWP with Steve Davis pushed forward to replace Lloyd Isgrove who dropped to the bench.   The subs bench contained Jack Stephens and it contained neither of Gaston Ramirez or King Artur.  Only Wanker Lovren of our ex-players has made the team with Lambert on the bench and the other wanker who used to be our captain in the stands injured.  I’m actually amazed he’s has the bottle to turn up to be honest.  It’s ironic that we were one of only two teams to beat them at Anfield last season and Brendon Rodgers must have sat through that game with a hard-on as he watched our players.

The summer of shite is officially over, Season 2014/15 is about to start – let’s fucking do it.

Liverpool produced their traditional fast start but all that came our way were long shots from Sturridge and the utterly shit Glen Johnson which flew miles over the bar.  Everyone’s favourite referee Twattenburg, who know what Adam Lallana is, was on the whistle and he didn’t give us a free kick when Bertrand got binned and then Maya left a leg out and fuled Sturridge and he didn’t give that one either.

We survived comfortably enough though and then Sterling got played in, the assembled media all began stiffening at the crotch but he leathered his shot straight at Fraser.   Tadic produced a really testing curling cross from the left and that Croatian wanker sliced it out of play as “wanker, wanker, wanker” rang out.  From the resulting corner, Mignolet had a flap and managed to claim the ball as it dropped when Big Vic really should have taken his head off with a big lash of his right boot.
Whilst we got away with Sterling’s last effort; full media climax was reached three minutes later.  Tadic lost the ball in the tackle to Henderson and Morgan should have picked up the loose ball but he was too powderpuff and Henderson went through him and threaded a beautiful ball between Fonte and Clyne and Sterling ran on to stroke it past Fraser who in truth, didn’t do much to prevent it.

The goal seemed to wake us up a bit and we suddenly attacked with more purpose.  JWP was finding space in his advanced midfield position and curled a right footed shot at the far post which had to be right in the corner to beat Mignolet and it unfortunately wasn’t.  Saints were now knocking Liverpool out of any stride they might have been in and Morgan very nearly had every sin he’d ever committed forgiven when he tried an identical shot to the one JWP had just attempted and this time it really was a decent save from Mignolet as we went in 1-0 down at half time but in truth, it had not been a bad performance.  Liverpool weren’t creating much due in the main to Big Vic and Morgan in the middle of the park.

It was an even opening to the second half but Saints were looking the more likely to score and 10 minutes in it happened.  Clyne burst forward from the back and fed Dusan Tadic who held it up before beautifully back-heeling it through that Croatian wanker, back to Clyne who lashed it past Mignolet at the near post.  Fucking brilliant goal… toss yourself off to that one Brendon you smug twat.

Liverpool are screaming for a penalty a few minutes later but it’s a fucking disgraceful dive by Coutinho but it’s all Saints now and a glorious chance comes to take the lead as JWP picks it up on the left, plays a wonderful unselfish ball across to Steve Davis and the one weakness in his game is demonstrated with a shitey half arsed finish which is straight at the keeper when he should have broken the fucking net and not given him an earthly.

Tadic and Clyne combined again but Skrtel read the 1-2 this time and blocked Clyne and the rebound went to Pelle who was also smothered by a Liverpool defender.  Shane Long came on for Tadic when in my opinion it really should have been Pelle who came off and Rodgers sent on Rickie Lambert for Coutinho and the big man got a deserved ovation from the Saints fans when he came on.  It looked for a horrible moment like he was to score with his first touch but Clyne got across to block.

With 10 minutes to go, Liverpool took an undeserved lead as a cross was half cleared up in the air, Sterling got up to head down and the markers had failed to go with Sturridge who flicked it into the net. Fuck.

Saints threw the sink at it for the last 10 with Isgrove on for Steve Davis.  JWP had a shot easily saved before Morgan Schneiderlin come very close to securing a deserved point as he lashed a Pelle knockdown goalwards but Mignolet threw up an arm to flick it up onto the bar. The rebound bounced down and Long, under pressure from flying Liverpool defenders, headed the rebound wide when he really should have scored.

You lucky bastard Brendon.  I would love to have seen you having to explain on TV how you signed 3 of our players and still couldn’t beat us but alas it was not to be.  I’m proud of our boys today.  You obviously never accept a defeat before the game but before the game, I’d have settled for a good performance and we got that and more.  We really should have got something out of the game and were very unlucky not to do so. 

As was predicted following the Leverkusen game, our problems are going to be up front.  Graziano Pelle will take a while to adapt to the English game and needs to sharpen up his movement if he’s going too get some goals for himself.  Dusan Tadic looks like a decent player going forward but we need more goal threat on the pitch than we had today with Steve Davis playing basically as a forward.  It was great to see JWP making a great start on delivering on his promise that this was going to be his season and it was of course, great to see Morgan Schneiderlin in a Saints shirt.  Those two and Big Vic are going to be huge for us this season.  Of the other new boys, Ryan Bertrand and Fraser Forster were solid enough and they will only improve.  Ronald Koeman was pleased with the performance but frustrated with the result.  He said we should have got something out of the game and he’s right and pointed to a lack of clinical finishing when compared to Liverpool.  Despite it being a defeat; it is a promising start.  I wonder if Robbie Savage and Phil Neville would care to revise their predictions about Saints getting relegated.

Next up we have the visit of West Brom.  Two years ago we had Man City as the opening game and the second game was a more winnable one against Wigan.  We were shit in that match and lost 2-0 and we cannot afford a repeat.  Shane Long will be up for the visit of one of his former clubs and I expect him to start and I expect us to win.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's the Opposite of a Meltdown?

£10 million for Schneiderlin.... let me think!

Good news was forthcoming with the signing of Ryan Bertrand who has reached 24, the age at which most English Chelsea youngsters realise that they are never going to get near the first team.  He’s signed on a ‘try before you buy’ loan deal which sounds like good news to me.  It means that Matt Targett can develop at his own pace, rather than being thrust straight into the team and be expected to be the next Luke Shaw.  Bertrand has always looked decent without being outstanding at every club he’s been loaned to but will be first choice here and get a run of games.  I expect him to do well and he was straight into the starting line up for the game against Brighton at The Amex.

Like the Bournemouth friendly, there could have been grudges held over from previous meetings but not a bit of it as we played well and beat a desperately poor Albion side 3-1 as we dominated possession and attempts on goal from start to finish.  Dusan Tadic made it 1-0 on 20 minutes with a smart turn and shot which caught the keeper out and Steve Davis made it two on half time as Pelle’s shot was blocked and the Irishman knocked in the rebound.  The 3rd goal was the pick of the bunch as JWP dispossessed a Brighton midfielder and advanced a bit before lashing on with the outside of his right boot which curled away from the keeper and into the top corner.  The starting line-up had an element of what the starting line-up would be if the season started tomorrow.  King Artur in goal, a back four of Clyne, Captain Fonte, Yoshida and Bertrand, a midfield three of Big Vic, Steve Davis and JWP with Tadic, Pelle and Lloyd Isgrove up front.  Fair play to Isgrove as he’s taken his chance in pre-season and even if he doesn’t make the starting line-up when the cavalry arrives, he’ll be a lot closer than last year,

Talking of the cavalry, Ronald Koeman hinted and 3 or so signings being nearly done and it looks like two of these are Saphir Taider and Eziquiel Schelotto from Inter as part of the deal taking Rock ‘n’ Roll pirate headcase nutjob Dani Osvaldo to Inter for a season on loan.  Taider is a promising Algerian midfielder who played in the World Cup.  As usual I have done some You Tube scouting and he looks like a decent all-round midfielder who can ut a foot in and can also pick a pass. Schelotto is another Argentinean-Italian long haired pirate looking chap who plays on the wing and has one cap for Italy at present.  His highlights reel includes lots of running beyond the left back and then crossing the ball in a hit and hope fashion.  One assumes that the signings of Fraser Forster and Virgil van Dijk moved a step further forward as Celtic got humped 4-1 by Legia Warsaw in the Champions League qualifiers.  They might rescue that in the home leg but I’d say the chances are against it and then manager Ronnie Delia certainly expects the players to move on.  

UPDATE: Taider joined, Schelotto didn't and Celtic were shite in the second leg, lost 2-0 and then got reinstated as Legia played an ineligible played for 2 minutes.

The media are having a rest from endless stories of who will leave and they’re now linking us with every player under the sun.  We are of course going to be active and numerous stories will be made up about us and agents will throw our name into the ring for their client.  Consequently, we are going to get linked with a lot of shockers.  I definitely think the best policy is to sit back and let it happen.  We are where we are and two weeks before the season starts is not the ideal time to sign 5 or 6 players but other teams will be doing the same so I’m quite ok with it at the moment.

The karma police have been out in force as well with Luke Shaw being declared unfit by van Gaal, Lallana being injured, Lovren not having a visa to having to train on his own and Rickie Lambert missing his first penalty since he played for Bristol Rovers.  The highlight though has been #asklovrenpart2.  This was a Twitter Q&A session whereby an egotistical twat sets himself up to get absolutely slaughtered by the fans of the club he disrespected and deserted.  It’s wrong and it’s childish and I should know better... but it was fun.

After the Brighton game there were a few quiet days when the only noise you could hear was impatient fans hammering the F5 refresh key on their keyboards.  Eventually the Osvaldo-Taider deal was done with a loan swap for a year with both teams having an option to buy.  If Saphir does well then I'm sure we'll buy him but I'd say that the chances of Osvaldo playing well and not being a cock are pretty small so I'm expecting us to to be in the same boat this time next year.  Still, it's another exit for Ben Smith to add to his next 'Meltdown' article.

He always has the Schneiderlin issue to fall back on and as the Leverkusen friendly arrived it was announced in Ronald's pre-match interview that Morgan was not in the right physical or mental shape to play. 'Mental' was highlighted which says to me that he's on strike.  One of my earliest childhood memories is not being able to get home from a holiday in France as the ports were blockaded by Frenchmen with a grudge and I'm pondering that here because the bastard is basically refusing to play.  It's absolutely beyond pathetic and despite Hockey Ralph's assertion that we don't over-react to situations, I hope we fine him two weels wages.  It's remarkable how the PFA always say absolutlely nothing in this situation.  The irony is that if Morgan had played for 45 minutes then he would probably have been forgiven but each perceived refusal to accept the situation is just going to make things worse for him.  Perhaps he's unlucky to be wanted by a club whose Chairman won't pay over the top for players or perhaps he's unlucky to be wanted by a club who are managed by a complete rat.  Rumour has it that they’ve only offered £10 million for Morgan.  Good luck with that.

It's odd how football gets you sometimes.  I have a strict 'no friendlies' policy but in a moment of weakness I decided to go to the Leverkusen game and check out how the boys were shaping up.  The only real surprise in the starting line-up was Lloyd Isgrove being preferred to Gaston Ramirez.  Leverkusen were decent without being outstanding and played the ball about well and closed us down well meaning that we didn’t create a great deal in the first half.  Maya Yoshida should have scored when a corner dropped to him about 5 yards out but he managed to hit the post and a German defender produced a decent sliced effort at his own goal from 20 yards which the keeper had to shovel over the bar.  The only goal came early in the second half as a corner was swung over, Steve Davis missed what should have been a routine clearance at the near post and the ball hit Graziano Pelle and spooned past King Artur who had no chance.  Bollocks.  Taider and Gaston came on for JWP and Isgrove and things picked up with Taider keeping things simple and getting stuck right in and Gaston drifting in from the right wing which allowed Dusan Tadic to play on his preferred left hand side.  Our best chance to equalize fell to Gaston who cut inside the full back and curled a shot just over the angle of post and bar from the edge of the box.  Mayuka came on as we went 4-4-2 in the last 10 minutes and he gave more evidence to what I believed all along – that he hasn’t got a clue.

As you always get in friendlies, there was a raft of positives and negatives.  Some players looked right on it like King Artur, Clyney, Jose, Big Vic and Steve Davis.  Others like JWP, Ryan Bertrand, Tadic and Pelle hinted at better things to come and Yoshida and Isgrove hinted at where the squad and team needs strengthening.  Yoshida was the biggest worry as he was tentative with everything that he did and was certainly responsible for a majority of the long balls from the back which were aimed up to Graziano.  Balls aimed at someone are fine but the slice straight up the air is not and we definitely need a centre back as we all knew, even before Lovren deserted.  Regardless of who plays at the back though, I think we may have to get used to a bit less playing out from the back this year.  There were many long balls up from the defenders but once Pelle had flicked it on or controlled it - then the football started.  He is excellent at the hold up play though and will win a lot more in the air than Sir Rickie used to, as he gets off the ground.  I just hope we don’t look for that option every time though.

Post-match is hit the news that Fraser Forster had joined from Celtic for the best part of £10 million.  I admit that I had a bit of a problem getting my head round this at first as we have an excellent first choice keeper and I'd have thought that spending £2m on a capable back up would be the sensible way to go.  Now though, I'm thinking that it can only be a good thing. There's a link with Dave Watson who is now our goalkeeping coach, having been with the England party in the World Cup and at 26, he's considerably younger than King Artur.  Having two excellent keepers is a good thing but only as both think they have a fair shot at being No.1.  I would have hoped therfore that King Artur is in goal for the Liverpool game as he's done absolutely nothing to warrant being dropped and Fraser's presence would certainly make him up his game further.  Ronald Koeman has come out and said though that Fraser is the No.1 keeper which is not surprising. Given that we were never going to pay that much money for a reserve keeper.  Koeman’s interview gave the impression that King Artur was definitely leaving at the end of the year so maybe he’s indicated that he’s quitting competitive football and moving back to Scotland.  Mind you, Artur has been shouting Legia Warsaw’s cause on Twitter over their expulsion from the Champions League and winding up a fair few Celtic fans as a result.  The big man certainly wears his heart on his sleeve and I love characters like that.

As a write, news has hit that we’ve agreed a fe of around £12 million to buy Shane Long from Hull.  Wow, I never saw that one coming.  My initial horrified reaction has given way to acceptance that he would be an asset for us and £12 million is probably about the going rate for a Premier league striker.  He can play wide or up the middle and is one of those who never lets a defender rest.  Here are a few things I’ve written about him down the years.  I think the amount of entries shows what a pain he’s been for us.

  • They have Anelka up front who must be about 45 now along with Shane Long who I watch in the warm up just to see if he practices diving around and whingeing as part of his pre-match routine

  • Shane Long has been quiet due to a lack of possession but he gets away down the right and Dejan goes over and launches him.  It’s a foul but it’s not that bad but Long arches his back and makes a big squealy noise and so the book comes out.  He tries to stand up but falls to the floor again and writhes around a bit more.  The West Brom physio is ambling around the back of the goal either because he knows Long is a faker or because he’s trying to waste time but the ‘injured’ party if off the pitch so they have to get on with it.

  • We are now in need of some Gaston magic more than ever and he sets off on a run from halfway with Shane Long in close attendance.  He’s clearly being held back which is not going to wash with anyone as an excuse if you elbow him in the face.  The only problem I have with the ref over this incident is that he was trying to play advantage but once Long has held onto him for a couple of seconds then there’s no advantage and he should have blown.  If he had, 2 players wouldn’t have got sent off.  He didn’t book Long for the holding either but I have no problem with the red cards.  They were both twats and deserved all they got.

  • Steve Bruce has defied my belief that he’s not a very good manager.  He does look like Mrs Doubtfire however but he’s managed his team well and in the recruitment of Nikica Jelavic and diving little moany cheat Shane Long, he’s shown that Hull are serious about survival. 

  • The ball is slipped to Shane Long on the left who cuts in and thankfully pulls it back behind everyone and we get away with it. 

  • Long then uses more conventional methods to hack down Luke Shaw.  There’s no booking from Webb though, just arm-waving childish petulance from Long who is just a wanker.  You’ve hacked him over, you’re nowhere near the ball, just get on with it.  Still smarting from having his tantrum, Long then lunged into Morgan and got the booking he deserved, just for being a complete knob really.

  • We were under pressure but not looking particularly threatened until the 89th minute when my mate Ridgewell got down the left and crossed it to Long (it must have been an accident) who was 6 yards out and all on his own.  His flicked and lazy sidefooted effort was kicked away by the large starfish shaped Polish legend in our Goal.  All Hail The King!

  • The Baggies have adapted to having 10 men better than us and straight away, a ball up the left results in Yoshida putting in a piss-weak challenge on Lukaku who turns him and plays in Long who fires underneath Artur to make it 3-0 and spark a fire-drill amongst the home sections because after all, supporting your team is just about when you’re winning.

  • Luke half clears it to Elmohamady who picks out Long with a cross who surprisingly, doesn’t dive on the floor and complain to the ref.  Time stands still as it flicks off his head, beats King Artur and pings off the post before it rebounds to Boyd who can’t get any power into his bouncing effort which King Artur just shovels over the bar.

  • The next highlight is Curtis Davies attempting a short pass and it went straight to a Saints player so the next time it gets launched into orbit and Long waits for Fonte to breathe on him before flopping down on the ground.  Fair play to the ref who on this occasion, is having none of it.  It’s so bloody predictable - on the ground or in the air, Long will receive the ball with his back to goal and just fall over.  He’s not a bad player but he is a horrible little shit.

  • Long makes the mistake of challenging King Artur in the air and it’s a bit like when a fly flies into an oncoming lorry on a motorway.

  • Easy as you like, Long turns onto his right foot and with Jose getting nowhere near him, booms over a ‘come and get me’ cross onto the head of Odemwingie who can’t miss and doesn’t to make it 2-0.  We’ll go home now then shall we.

The season starts on Sunday for us away at Anfield and I believe that this game is a free hit.  We are expected to get nothing so we therefore have nothing to lose.  If karma is smiling then we will pinch a 1-0 and Lovren can cry into his pile of money after the game and that smug tosser Rodgers will feel very uncomfortable in his post-match interview.  It’s unlikely but you never know.   Don’t be surprised though if we get beaten though and don’t be surprised if Lambert comes on and scores.  There are rumours of Romanian centre-back Florin Gardos joinging in time to play on Saturday so he may feature but Morgan Schneiderlin won’t as his head is wedged up his arse.   I hope we stand firm until he comes up for air.   I expect our team to be the same as against Leverkusen with Fraser in goal and Gaston in for Lloyd Isgrove.  Bring it on….