Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Premier League Match 8 - Southampton 3 Burnley 1

Charlie and Jay Playing for Their School Team

Burnley at home is the first game in our next sequence of 7 matches in 3 weeks before the next international break.  They’ve been promoted, relegated, promoted in the last 3 seasons and still have Sean Dyche in charge, trying to make a better fist of the Premier League than last time.  On the face of it they seem to have a better squad this time around as long as Andre Gray deletes all his old tweets and doesn’t get banned again.

There are many connections between the two clubs with the most obvious being Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin who were once their forward line.  There’s also a connection with good old Dave Merrington who will be displaying Merringtitus on Radio Solent as a Saints co-commentator whereas he was a fierce centre half for Burnley back in the black and white TV days.

We’ve just had an international break and what fun it was.  Gareth Southgate was the interim England manager and the two performances England put in reflected their manager in their uninspiring and boring manner.  His first squad was at least a bit interesting but not really for the right reasons.  Oxlade-Chamberlain got back in on the back of doing precisely fuck all for Arsenal since Fat Sam dropped him.  He gave an interview when he said that being dropped was the kick up the backside he needed.  Surely you are dropped because you’re level isn’t high enough at that time but a month later when the level hasn’t risen, you’re selected again.  Jesse Lingard was also included and I actually didn’t mind this.  He’s become almost a regular with Man United so he’s bound to be there or thereabouts and he’d always been decent for Southgate in the Under 21s.  Lingard made the starting eleven which is fine because we’re playing Malta at home.  Today’s position to shoehorn Rooney into the side was defensive midfield alongside Jordan Henderson Football Genius.  Ryan Bertrand got a start but Fraser Forster didn’t.  I must have imagined Hart being complete shite for England in the summer, being bombed out of Manchester City and flapping around like budgie for Torino and I also must have imagined Fraser keeping five clean sheets in a row.  Away we go and Malta are shite, some neat passing in midfield aside.  They’re best player used to play for Coventry in the Championship so that tells you that this is a League 1 or League 2 level side apart from the goalkeeper who is decent.

England huff and puff and are generally one paced and directionless – sound familiar?  Amazingly, the player who raises the tempo is Henderson and he puts over a great cross which Sturridge expertly guides into the corner with his head for 1-0.  Henderson again then tees up Alli to take two attempts and make it 2-0.  From a Saints point of view it’s a fucking nightmare as Ryan Bertrand picks up a hamstring injury and has to go off and the rest of the first half is shite…. Followed by the whole of the second half.  Half arsed, shite and the commentators and pundits are doing my fucking head in.  If you can’t do your fucking job and tell it as it is then fuck off.  Ryan Giggs – what a boring fucker, someone in a coma would wake up after ten years asleep just to get out of the room he was in.  No wonder he can’t get a job.  How the hell did he chat up his brothers wife… just threw money at her I guess.

Rooney – no one on TV said it but he was fucking dreadful.  Slowed every move down, usually passed it sideways.  Whenever he tried to pass it forwards then he overhit it and not just by a little bit but by fucking miles and he had the touch of someone with two prosthetic legs.  After the 25th overhit pass straight out of play, there are a few boos in the crowd and all the pundits are up in arms about it.  I’m not a fan of booing your own players but in this case, admit that it’s at least understandable.  He was shite.  Then there was a debate about his role with the team. 

The Slovenia game was notable for the fact that Rooney got dropped and that was it. Credit to Southgate for dropping him but then the performance was shithouse and the most boring 0-0 draw ever.  The only excitement was provided by shit England back passes.  First Dier had a go, Hart and the post to the rescue, then Henderson, Hart to the rescue again.  Cahill then decided not to jump and Dandruff Boy made one of the best saves I’ve ever seen by clawing it out of the top corner.  Fair play to him, he’s been shite but he was brilliant tonight which will mean Fraser on the bench for at least another two years.

Over the two games, I can say that Sturridge is a lazy cunt who makes no runs at all which at least prevents him getting the ball and being a greedy bastard with it. Walcott was shite and didn’t beat his man once, Cahill was given a few moments by a fucking postman or brickie or whoever he was up against, Kyle Walker added attacking to the things he can’t do to go alongside defending which he of course didn’t have to do.  The single most damning thing is that Henderson was probably our best player in the first game and fuck me, he got made captain in the second– Henderson – a bang average midfielder who stood out simply because he injected a bit of urgency on a couple of occasion in the first half of the Malta match.  Alli was pretty decent in both games and Lingard had a good first half against Malta before fading to nothing for the rest of the week.

One final thought – Southgate is not the man.  Ever.

And we’re back at St Mary’s thank Christ… Today is of course about the three points but it’s also about the homecoming of Francis Benali after his lunatic running and cycling effort around the 44 grounds on the Premier League and Championship to raise money for Cancer Research.  The man is a legend.  With Bertrand being injured, I guess it was too much for Franny to put a kit on and play at left back so Matt Targett was in, with Cuco replacing the injured Cedric on the right.  The only other slight surprise was Clasie being preferred to Hojbjerg on the right of the midfield diamond and a slight disappointment that Sofiane Boufal wasn’t even on the bench.  That news was softened by the fact that Shane Long was after picking up an injury with the Republic.

Saints make a good positive start and the left side of Burnley’s team looks very suspect and the I realise that it’s two players who both beg the question ‘how the fuck are they playing in the Premier League?’.  One is Stephen Ward at left back, an agricultural donkey who gives agricultural donkeys a bad name.  On the left wing is rat faced little twat George Boyd who we came across playing for Peterborough in League 1.  Fair play to him for kidding a few people that he’s good enough to be here.

It’s down the other side that the first chance comes from as Targett fastens onto Romeu’s crossfield ball and totally unimpeded by full back Lowton (Villa reject), slings over a great cross which Austin meets and heads down and goalwards.  It’s in… it’s definitely in and we’re 1-0 up… no we’re not as Heaton has got down and made a ridiculous save flipping the ball wide as it bounced up off the ground.  There is mass head holding and applause for the keeper.  Unreal save.  Bastard.

It’s all us with Burnley struggling to get out of their half and then Targett sits down and obviously isn’t getting back up again.  Claude immediately summons Sam McQueen from the bench and on he goes.  It’s refreshing in the extreme as our previous manager, the Lying Dutchman, would have put Yoshida on and played him out of position.  The injury and subsequent break has made it all a bit disjointed though and the game becomes a mess and our next chance comes from an underhit backpass from Virgil which Fraser has to react to and launch forward.  Such is the lead-footedness of Ward that it goes over him and Tadic is through but he knocked it too far and though he got to his touch first, Heaton was right on him to smother it.

Burnley make an appearance in our penalty area as chip forward causes confusion.  It looks like it’s going over Virgil so Jose covers round but Virgil then reaches it and falls over José behind him.  Meanwhile the ball falls to Gudmundsson who crashes down amongst the wreckage of our centre backs.  There’s an appeal but not a full one and amazingly, Mike Dean waves play on and a long ball finds Austin clean through.  As Heaton comes out he tries to chip him and makes a total bollocks of it.

We have one more chance before half time as Redmond twists and shoots, Heaton flaps it out and Austin, who has not had a great half, almost falls over the ball as he fails to force it in at the back post.

Half time is all about the appearance of Francis Benali to rapturous applause from the whole stadium.  What a guy.  I’ll forgive him the fact that he hasn’t mentioned once that he played against me in a match when we were 15.  McQueen is looking decent for us but Franny would certainly get a game ahead of Stephen Ward if I was picking the team.

It’s all us again at the start of the second half and it takes five minutes for Davo to win a corner.  Over it comes from Tadic, won at the back post by Virgil and there’s Austin to take two attempts and force it over the line but over the line it is and 1-0.

Almost straight from the kick off we win the ball and a great break down the left (Lightning McQueen anyone?) and Redmond feeds Tadic who digs out a shot and another corner as Heaton tips over.  Davis swings it in, everyone in the middle misses it but Redmond has peeled off and drills it first time past the defender and keeper to make it 2-0 and you would think, game over.

Burnley respond with nothing and they’re all over the place, allowing Tadic to dissect the right back and centre back and put McQueen in.  Over he goes as he cuts across the defender, penalty.  It’s the first penalty with both Tadic and Austin on the pitch since the infamous squabbling children episode but no arguments this time.  Charlie, Heaton the wrong way, 3-0.

There will be no hat-trick against his former club as ex-Claret J-Rod is on for Austin.  Burnley make another appearance in our half and from the second of two successive corners, Dean points to the spot for what looks like nothing.  Later replays proved it was actually for nothing and Vokes rolls it down the middle for our first goal conceded in 6 and a half matches.  Cheers Mike.

With 15 to go you feel that there might be alarm bells ringing but there are none.  Davis reminds everyone of the one flaw in his game by dragging a very presentable chance wide and José thumps a free header from a corner just wide to his obvious annoyance.  The final chance is down to another great break down the left and McQueen delivers a superb cross on the run which J-Rod meets at full pelt at the back stick but he can only scuff it into the ground and Heaton saves again.  Full time, happy days.

As wins go in the Premier League, that was incredibly easy. This was down in equal measure to our vibrant attacking football which should really have brought more goals and Burnley being absolutely shite relegation fodder.

I would say that all 14 of the players used today were an absolute credit to the shirt. Everyone was an 8/10 at least but for me, Nathan Redmond was the pick of the bunch. Maybe it's because Boufal is nearing fitness but whatever the reason, Redmond was fantastic today.  A major plus today was Jordy Clasie, who not only played the full match but had probably his best game in a Saints shirt.  I also have to mention Sam McQueen who though he had absolutely fuck all to do defensively, terrorised the right hand side of Burnley's defence and put I have a succession of great crosses and of course, won the penalty as well. Made me think of Wayne Bridge who of course, started as a left winger and eventually became left back. He did OK for himself.

I keep hearing about what a great manager Sean Dyche is but he's already been relegated with Burnley once and he is heading that way again. The game plan today was to get a 0-0 draw and the soon as they went behind the game plan appeared to be to lose 1-0, another goal of the game plan was to lose 2-0. In short, they did absolutely fuck all and I would not have been happy being one of their travelling supporters today. I mean, nothing else is working so stick an extra man upfront and try the long ball for fuck's sake but no, Nothing. 3-1 flattered them horribly and it was all down to Tom Heaton in goal and Mike Dean's desire to make a name for himself as the referee who gives the most penalties every week. Dyche had a moan about the one they didn't get given in the first half which in real time and right front of me, I didn't think was a penalty either (until I saw it later).  To be fair he did admit that we were the better side but how could he not but it's a pretty desperate straw he's clutching at to mention a penalty decision he didn't get after 20 minutes when you've been absolutely played off the park. It's easy to forget that they sent to half Michael Keane was in the last England squad. Maybe it was an off game but he was pretty average today.

Claude was understandably delighted and of course pointed out that we should have one of my many more. The style of football that he has asked playing is now putting average opponents to the sword. In case you hadn't noticed our next five games are Inter Milan away Manchester City away, Chelsea at home, Hull away and Inter Milan at home. If we get through that lot undefeated then a) it will be a fucking miracle and b) it will be a fucking miracle.  It'll be interesting to see what we do with the team selection for the Inter-away match and Manchester City at the weekend. Normally you would expect a stronger team in the Premier League game but I think most fans would prefer to put a strong team out in Milan and take our chances with the City away game which is after all, the most difficult Premier League fixture of the season. We have a few injuries of course what with being down to the third choice in both full back position is but on the positive side Shane Long doesn't appear to be too badly injured, J Rod got a run out today and I would think that Boufal will feature somewhen in these next two games.

For today though, the unbeaten run went up to 7 games and we've come back after an international break and demolished someone. One of my favourite hobby horses is Match of the Day and how ‘big club’ focussed they are.  Usually I just accept it with rolling eyes in my head but this weekend was difficult.  MOTD2, which we always feature on now because we only play on Sundays, was delayed a night to Monday so they could feature the hyped to fuck 0-0 bore draw between two of the big clubs, Merseyside Redcunts and Manchester Redcunts.  They did show quite a lot of our game but the analysis, provided by Keown and Kilbane was horrific.  They show the penalty shouts and yep, it sure looks like Virgil carted Gudmundsson and it should have been a penalty.  However, they’re asking why Virgil turned his back on the player and that’s plainly obvious.  José was on the ground behind him and Virgil was falling over him at the time so you could hardly say it was deliberate.  Then they moved onto our penalty and basically said that McQueen dived, no mention of how well another Saints youngster played on his debut.  Yes it was a soft penalty but compare and contrast the reaction to that penalty and the one Luke Shaw won against Saints earlier in the season.  The same kind of challenge, a slight touch and over he goes but no one even mentioned the possibility that Shaw dived.  At least they agreed on the Burnley penalty which was absolute horse shit though no one actually mentioned that it should have been our free kick as Vokes has hold of Virgil’s shirt right the way through the incident.  If you’re going to be the ‘go to’ man for penalty shouts Mike Dean – at least get it fucking right.

What can you say about the legend that is Francis Benali that hasn’t already been said?   Two weeks of a marathon a day and 75 miles on a bike is absolutely mental for a 47 year old bloke.  I’m a 47 year old bloke and there is absolutely no way in this lifetime as I can barely run to the chip shop.   If you haven’t done so, stick some money in the pot here…

What’s next?  Oh yes… Inter Milan at the San Siro… fucking hell!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Premier League Match 7 - Leicester 0 Southampton 0

Out of the Way, Steptoe

Leicester City – Premier League Champions 2015/16.

No matter what is said on Sky or in the media, Leicester winning the league last year was the biggest achievement in domestic football ever, bearing in mind the difference in resources between the haves and the have nots.  People go on about Blackburn in ’95 as being similar but they had loads of cash compared to everyone else because of Jack Walker and it was before the days of Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour.  Man United or Chelsea or City winning it three times in a row is not even close to Leicester’s win last year.  They won’t win it this year of course but a run in the Champions League and a top half finish would be great for them and the memories are forever and all supporters of non-mega clubs can smile at the amount of teeth gnashing that Leicester’s title win will have caused in the corridors of the powers that be.  Chat shit, get banged.

They’ve started well in the Champions League this year with two wins out of two so more power to them.  They only lost one player in the summer but it was a big one in Kante who followed the cash to Chelsea like a spoilt little Lallana.  Claudio Ranieri has strengthened the rest of the squad with the money and they should be on for another good season.  Not everything will break their way this season like it did last and Vardy and Mahrez will do well to replicate last season’s heroics.  They’ve already struggled this season with the new rules on pulling shirts which means that Huth, Morgan and Fuchs have to actually defend rather than assault every player who stands near them.  I just realised that I said ‘new rules’.  It’s not a new rule, it’s just applying the existing ones.

So – bullshit fixture lists.  They get to play at home in the Champions League on Tuesday whereas we get to go to fucking Israel (which is not even geographically in Europe) on Thursday so they’ve had two extra days to prepare and no travelling.  I know it’s all about TV but surely there has to be some consideration for integrity of the competitions.  Here’s one for free - Europa on Tuesday, Champs League on Wednesday – sorted.  Anyway, here we are and we’ve reverted to our ‘West Ham’ line-up which is our strongest team.  Austin and Tadic in for Long and Hesketh up front, Hojbjerg and Davis in for Clasie and JWP in midfield and the first choice back 4 all present and correct.  Despite the rotation of the squad, I think it’s too much of a stretch to expect a win and Leicester haven’t lost at home for about 18 games so it isn’t going to be easy.  We’ve got Eric Black on the bench, fuck the Daily Telegraph.

Away we go and it’s a good start with Cedric getting in a good left footed cross and Charlie finding space in between Huth and Morgan to get a header in but straight at Schmeichel and he also gets his head on a Tadic cross next but this time he can’t get it on target.  Leictester aren’t showing anything yet and whenever they threaten to do so, Romeu is in and winning the ball and via Redmond, the ball ends up with Davo breaking forward.  He tries to chip it over the defence for Austin but it looks to have gone too far but with the angle against him, Charlie just hits it and it catches everyone out, flies past Schmeichel and pings off the far post and away.  Great effort and really unlucky.  If you’re not confident then you don’t even try that effort.

Leicester’s attacks are all breaking down but then we have a collector’s item – a mistake from Virgil.   He finds himself at right back and plays a shit house of a pass which gets half way to Fraser and straight to the one player you don’t want to give it to, fucking Steptoe Jamie Vardy.  Fraser does his best and sends him across the top of the penalty area and this delays him just long enough for Romeu to steam in and half block the shot.  The rebound comes out to Slimani and Romeu blocks it and then back to Vardy and Romeu blocks it again.  Absolutely fucking outstanding from Oriol and he celebrates like he’s just scored a worldie.

Hero has an attempt at turning villain next though as Romeu tries to find Fonte with a pass and fucks it up, straight to Slimani bearing down on goal but Jose gets his body in the way and Slimani hits the deck.  It’s a great tackle in my book but it would probably have been given as a penalty at one of the big clubs and despite being the Champions, Leicester don’t have that advantage as yet.  Half time and as long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the arse, we’re the better side here.

We’re back on it at the start of the second half and some lovely play by the ever impressive Hojbjerg and Davis sees the former slide Redmond through but he new Thierry Henry scuffs his shot straight at the keeper.  Virgil has recovered from his aberration in the first half and confidently brings the ball out of defence before playing the ball into Austin.  Two Leicester defenders seem to get in each others way and Austin turns with just Schmeichel to beat and he tried to bastard chip it and the keeper didn’t sit down like he was obviously supposed to do and pawed it away.  Fuck it.  You can’t have a go at Charlie because of the credit he has in the bank for the run he’s been on but fuck me, we do miss some chances as a team.

Drinkwater hits the side netting after a run in which he is shadowed all the way by Romeu and you can tell that Leicester are not happy with the way they are attacking as Steptoe is taken off and replaced with Okazaki who this season, comes on as a sub every game whereas last year he got substituted every game.  The substitution seems to put some life into Leicester and from a corner, Drinkwater again has a go and catches it well from the edge of the box but it’s straight down Fraser’s throat.

Saints show sporadically with Hojbjerg finding space for a low shot which is well saved but it’s mainly Leicester and there’s all sorts of carnage in our box as everyone leaves a Fuchs long throw, Fraser paws it out and when the cross comes back in, Okazaki gets up well and flicks a header just wide.  Tadic and Austin are replaced with Long and JWP and so we reach the 90th minute and all three subs get involved.  Martina takes a quick throw whilst no one was concentrating, Long hooked it back from the corner and it runs to JWP, 15 yards out and he fucking leans back and creams it over the bar.  Golden opportunity to win it and utter shite.

We almost make it even worse in the last minute as Fraser produces a very tired looking shite skidding kick which is knocked forward.  It’s reminiscent of Kelvin Davis’ shite kick against Leicester at home last season but whereas last year the chance fell to Vardy and he buried it, this year it falls to Ulloa who is dogshit and he hits it first time, Row Z.

There’s isn’t time to restart once the ball is back from Ulloa’s attempt to hit a satellite and so we have another point on the road which is good… but there’s a nagging feeling that we should have had all three.  Charlie Austin will blame himself for trying to chip Schmeichel but we can’t criticise him too much as he still looks the only player we have who is going to score.  For me, a worse miss was JWP at the end as it’s unforgiveable to not even test the keeper from that range.

Also, the focus will be on the Austin miss but we have to remember that we got lucky on a couple of occasion when we sloppily gifted chances to Leicester with shite back passes though it was fantastic work from Romeu to bale Virgil out of the shit when he fucked up.  The defence is looking great again overall – 6 games without conceding a goal is impressive going no matter who you are playing against.  Claude was quick to highlight the defensive work of the whole team in creating that record and long may it continue.  The post match interviews were almost trying to play on Claude’s language skills and trying to get him to admit he was angry with Charlie for missing.  He was disappointed of course but respectful of the fact that we’ve come to the Champions home ground after playing on Thursday 2000 miles away and we’ve got something out of the game.

There were some major performers in red and white out there today with Romeu and Hojbjerg being the pick of the bunch in midfield.  The triple-block from Romeu deserves a place in the memory alongside the Triple-Niemi against the ridiculously good Arsenal side of the early 2000s.  Romeu is turning into a great player and will only get better with regular football which aside from one loan season when he was farmed out by Chelsea to Germany, he has never had in his career.  The same applies to Hojbjerg who looks a fantastic player with every game he plays.  Elsewhere, José Fonte looked back to his best which is vindication for the decision to leave him at home for the trip to Israel.

It’s time for an international break and we’ve got two weeks of Gareth Interesting Southgate but we can take our mind off it by knowing that we’re going to see Sofiane Boufal when it’s over and hopefully he can help us carry a bigger threat in the final third. When the England squad did get announced, there were deserved places for Ryan Bertrand and Fraser Forster and if there’s any merit in the thinking of the latest England manager then both should start… oh hang on, Alex Chamberlain is back in the squad after doing fuck all this season so merit is out the window.  Hang on, Glenn Johnson!!! There are hasbeens and then there are those who never were anything other than complete shite.

Back to Saints and I read that we have the same number of points and same goal difference as we had last season after the same number of games.  I must look up my list of Meltdown Fuckwits on Twitter to check if they’re ok or admitting that they might have been wrong.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Europa League Match 2 - Hapoel Be'er Sheva 0 Southampton 0

Eric Black Meets Undercover Reporter

SPOILER ALERT: The game was complete boring shite. This blog is mainly about other stuff.

Away from the mighty Southampton FC… Fat Sam has been sacked as England manager, just 67 days after getting the job.  Great effort all round that.  He’s undoubtedly an idiot for falling for a newspaper sting operation and for being a greedy arrogant bastard.  The FA have mutually consented him, thus taking the moral high ground which is a bit rich because of the past and also because, they knew he wasn’t a whiter than white character when they appointed him and guess what, he proved it.  Then there’s the press and their role in it.  Making and shaping the news instead of just reporting it – like they do when they leave bottles of whiskey outside Gazza’s house in the hope that he gives them a photo opportunity of him looking hung over.  They set him up Fat Sam and he walked right into it.  Don’t get me wrong, he had to go and the FA had no choice but I’m uncomfortable with the methods used to get rid of him.

The Telegraph will claim they’re on some moral crusade the clean up the game and it will have an effect I guess because it’s brought down the England manager but is that their job and do they really care?  They want to sell more papers generate more web traffic and this is a marvellous way to do that.  Apparently there are 8 more names in the frame for being ‘outed’ for taking bungs which of course, the Telegraph are going to drip feed over the next week or so to maximise sales / traffic.  If you’re on a moral crusade just get it all out there and be done with it.  If the press are the moral guardians of the game then we’re all screwed.

There’s no news like bad news is there?  If they’d set up this meeting to frame Fat Sam and he’d turned it down and not turned up, or even if he’d turned up and said “f**k off I’m not having anything to do with that”… would they have reported it?  Would The Telegragh have published a front page boasting that they’d tried to stitch up the England manager but he didn’t fall for it?  I think we all know the answer to that one as they’d probably be on very thin ice with the law.  The only reason they’re not being completely slaughtered is because at the end of the day they’ve got a result and so the end justifies the means somehow.  I can’t imagine that these ‘stings’ have a 100% success rate and I don’t recall ever seeing an article which read “… (insert manager name) is a good egg cos we tried to bribe him and he didn’t take the bait”.

Once Fat Sam became England manager then he as fair game as far as the press were concerned and he fell for it like an idiot and for what?  He believed it was all real and he stood to gain £400k for amongst other things, providing information on how to flout his employers’ rules on 3rd Party Ownership.   Not smart.  I guess the £3 million a year he earned for his dream job that he’s coveted for 30 years wasn’t enough.  Idiot.  I’m disappointed because from a football point of view, I actually felt that we had a chance of doing well with him in charge but there you go – it’ll be back to the Southgate’s of this world now and that’s what’s happening in the meantime whilst the FA wait for Wenger to finish his Arsenal contract in the summer, before he undoubtedly turns England down and stays with The Gunners.

The England National Team – The Gift that Keeps on Giving.

Meanwhile, the Saints European adventure begins with a trip to Israel to play Hapoel Be'er Sheva. On the one hand they lost 5-2 to Celtic but on the other they beat them 2-0 at home and then most notably, won away at Inter.  They are supposed to be the weakest team in the group but I can't see them being worse than Sparta Prague were.

Claude's team selection is obviously made with Leicester on Sunday in mind. The early announcement that Jose, Davo, Ryan Bertrand and Goal Machine Austin had been left at home got under the skin of a few but what's he supposed the do? He's left behind our two oldest players and the two who've had relatively recent fitness issues. Also, Leicester played their Champions League match on Tuesday and it was at home. We're playing two days later and 2000 miles away. I guess that TV schedules are more important than having a level playing field.  

The starting XI picked itself.  Oh, hang on, Dusan on the bench and Jake Hesketh is starting... Didn't see that one coming.  Hapoel have apparently never lost at the Turner Stadium which is something to aim for. Their manager is resplendent in a suit and T-shirt and looks like a right Cockney wide boy.  They have a bloke in midfield called Ogu who looks like he should be a Bond villain. He's fucking huge. If Big Vic was still with us they could just have an arm wrestle for supremacy.  Anyway, game started and we win a free kick as Bond Villain treads on Long about 40 yards out. Up steps JWP and curls it perfectly over the defence and away from the keeper and right onto Captain Virgil's head. GOAAAAAAAFUCKKKK! How's he done that??? 50p head moment from the big man. All he has to do is get his forehead on it but it's hit the corner of his head and made a beeline for the corner flag.  I watch the replay still expecting the net to bulge and prove I was in some sort of false reality the first time round but no...50p head, corner flag.

The game settles into a pattern and its Hapoel passing it about and us sitting off and letting them get to 40 yards out before we get in their faces. On the one hand it's inviting pressure but they've not got the quality up front to do anything.  They have a couple of shots but nothgin to worry about as they bobble through to Fraser.

Despite having some joy down there when they created a chance that Virgil had to clear up, I'm glad that Hapoel haven't got the foresight to attack down our right where Cuco is having a mare, not being helped by Clasie in front of him who may as well not be there. We are getting nothing going up front where Long can't make any ball stick, Redmond is trying but ineffective and Hesketh is dieing on his arse and not touching the ball.

Claude's had enough after half an hour and it's time for a change with Tadic coming on for Hesketh. Though there's the expected blather on the TV about it being harsh, I like the fact that Claude has made the call.  Tadic stations himself on the right wing and we instantly look better.

Christ this is shite.  Cuco is doing my fucking head in. How can you be offside twice when you can see right across the pitch you twat? It's like watching an Under 13 player who's never played in a game with the offside rule before. 

It gets a bit fiery just before half time. Targett goes down and Hapoel have the ball. They make no attempt to kick the ball out and Ogu dawdles on it and gets it taken off him and Redmond shoots wide and it all kicks off. At least it's something to wake everyone up.  Half time, rubbish.

The second half starts in a bit more of a positive vein for Saints with JWP combining well with Targett before slipping a challenge and bringing a good save out of the keeper with a low shot.  Be’er Sheva go close when Redmond gives the ball away and then Romeu misses a header, allowing a break.  Luckily they overhit the pass to the free man and a shot was drilled across the goal and just wide of the far post and we were dead lucky that the bloke on the back post missed it.

They’ve brought on a guy with a stupid haircut called Buzaglo and he’s a diving fucker.  Howver, he puts in a decent cross which Maya decides to backheel straight to a striker who shoots wide.  It’s Maya’s “what the fuck” moment for the game and the reason he will never be a Premier League regular.

There are no more incidents at either end aside from Fraser pulling off a ‘one for the cameras’ save.  All there is, is shite from us up front with Shane Long continuing his current form and basically falling over the ball and doing everything aside from holding the ball up and passing it to a black shirt.  There are only 2 minutes of injury time as the ref can’t be arsed and the whistle goes after Shane tries to take on two men and treads on the ball again.

What a complete chore of a game that was and thank Christ it's over. We settled for a draw with about 15 minutes to go and they were never good enough to score against us. I just feel that with even a little bit more intent we could have one tonight quite comfortably. Whenever we did actually press the ball, their players just gave it away but we set off for such a long periods that it gave the impression that Hapoel were actually quite decent, which they weren't. We kept a clean sheet for the fifth match in a row but on the flip side of that, that's a minimum requirement against teams like this who were never going to score.

Lack of intensity aside, we weren't help by Virgil's 50p head effort in the first minute, nor by Martina getting caught offside about four times when he could see right across the whole fucking pitch. We were also not helped by a performance from Shane Long that can only be described as abysmal.  I can understand a striker having a bit of a confidence crisis in front of goal but he was repeatedly failing to control the simplest of passes.

The more positive performance has came from Romeu in the midfield and for once I actually thought Clasie had a fairly decent second half though he was piss poor in the first. Martina meanwhile was voted in UEFA's Team of the Night.  Well Corruption is all the rage these days.

Jake Hesketh was a little bit unlucky to be taken off but he was looking completely out of his depth and I back Claude 100% on this call though many will dig him out for it.  Claude was happy with a point and so he should be.  We’ll dick these at home and the Inter games are going to shape how well we do in the group.  They lost again tonight at Sparta by 3-1.  Apparently they have a load of Financial Fair Play implications if they play their full squad so all their big money players are not in the Europa league squad and they obviously can’t afford to not give a shit and pay the fine like Manchester City do.  Our next game is of course in the San Siro so we have to go there looking for a win to keep ourselves at the top of the group.  I imagine that the players are as keen to play in the San Siro as the fans are to watch the game so I expect us to play a stronger side there than we did tonight.

When I said at the start of this that all the news, the Daily Telegraph and all the corruption was about England and is nothing to do with Saints, I didn't know that Claude’s assistant, Eric Black was going to become the next person to be implicated. Southampton FC have asked for a full article from the Telegraph but of course they haven't given it to us because otherwise they wouldn't sell as many papers. It sounds as though that he has been filmed advising fictitious businessman on how best to bribe lower league footballers. Hopefully this is nothing but on first reading, it does sound like he is completely fucked as far as keeping his job is concerned so Claude is going to have to find another French speaking Brit.

Apparently the team is not leaving Israel until Friday morning which is going to make for a very entertaining Thursday night for Eric Black. Imagine being the poor bastard who has to share a room with him or sit next to him on a coach or on a plane.  Morning Eric, how are you? Sleep well? The Friday morning training session they have planned could be interesting. I wonder if anyone will try and bribe him to put the cones out in a certain way or whatever.

Anyway, in the current climate I couldn't see him being around for the Leicester game on Sunday though as I write, Saints have once again asked the Telegraph for unedited video and a full transcript which they are refusing to give.  Now it appears that the agent at the centre of it all who has spoken of 8 managers being on the take, has made it all up.  Stranger and stranger.

Back to the footy and Leicester.  Well, we know four of the starting 11 for that game and I expect the other 7 will mean that the team is unchanged from the West Ham game. Another clean sheet on Sunday against Vardy and Mahrez and Slimani and we'll be laughing all the way into the international break.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Premier League Match 6 - West Ham 0 Southampton 3

"We Fackin' Lost Again You Caaaaant"

Here we are at the Taxpayer Athletics Bowl to play West Ham. Everyone is calling it the London Stadium at the moment and that's because everybody in London has been fucked over to pay for the thing. Without wishing to get too deeply into it, I can't believe that they haven't been made to share the ground with another London club and I also can't believe they've been allowed to brand the stadium like it's their own home ground. If I paid for a house and someone rented it off me, I'd be pretty fucking annoyed if they painted it Claret and Blue. I do actually have more respect for them if the Dildo brothers had erected a 200 foot high dildo at one end of the ground to bother the aeroplanes coming out of London City airport.  It just seems wrong to me that Spurs have actually redeveloped their own ground and done things the right way.  I hate giving Spurs any credit and I want to dislike them more than I dislike West Ham.

And another thing - West Ham seem to have a bit of a problem with Saints which seems to stem from the season we both got promoted out of the Championship, us by finishing second and them via the play-offs. I don't really get what the problem is. I've never really minded them as a club but the Dildo brothers being in charge and the whole stadium fiasco does make you want them to do very badly. If you ever listen to talkSHITE on the radio you will be aware of The Moose who is a West Ham fan and a massive massive wanker. If we managed to win this then one of the great pleasures will be listening to The Moose on Monday as his voice gets higher and higher pitched. This is because his jowls will be getting in the way of his teeth and he'll be biting big holes in the inside of his mouth trying to make excuses.

Good news this week as Claude revealed that both Jay Rodriguez and Sofiane Boufal would be in contention after the international break.  Today though, Austin starts ahead of Long and Hojbjerg ahead of Clasie.  On current form, this is our strongest starting XI and it was good to see Jake Hesketh rewarded for his performance in the League Cup with a place on the bench today.  Austin will have a point to prove today as West Ham were in for him when we signed him but when he moved to us, one of the Dildo Boys (can’t remember which one) said something along the lines of Charlie having no ligaments in one knee and wanting £100k a week.  This was a statement that Charlie dismissed as an outrageous smear and oddly enough, I don’t recall an apology.  The West Ham side contained no Andy Carroll which is good news for us as he always scores against us but it did contain Payet and Antonio who will be dangerous.  They also signed Simone Zaza who in the Euro’s managed to do the impossible and take a worse penalty than Graziano Pellè.

A cagey opening comes to life when Bertrand comes forward on the left and exchanegs passes with Austin and this takes out Nordveit at right back and his low cross finds hojbjerg who should hit it first time but takes a touch and is blocked by the centre backs.  West Ham’s first foray ends with Zaza being closed down by the Portuguese boys and he gets the slightest brush from Cedric before throwing himself to the ground like a twat.  We have a score when Zaza flicks on a corner and it flies across with no one getting a touch.  Ten minutes in a Romeu hasn’t fouled anyone so he does in horribly mistimed fashion and gets booked.  80 minutes on a tightrope then.

It all seems pretty stale.  We’re passing the ball about nicely and having most of the possession until Davis spots a run to the wing by Tadic, he has Bertrand underlapping and just rolls it in front of him and Ryan pulls it back to Austin who sweeps it first time left footed into the net.  Fucking brilliant goal all round but the way Austin stopped his run to find space was superb.  Great left footed finish as well which I thought was the foot that he used to stand on and nothing else.

West Ham looked blown away by the fact that they’re behind again and we have two good chances to make it 2-0.  First off Redmond superbly brings a ball down from over his shoulder before twisting an opening and smashing it low for Adrian to block well.  Then Cedric makes a great run into the box and Tadic finds him but he loses composure and lashes into the side netting when he should have pulled it back.

Half time and pretty bubbles are not blowing in the air but who gives a shit – we’re happy.  The second half starts I much the same way as the first half ended – they’re shite and not tracking runners at all.  Cedric puts in a ball to Tadic who holds off a defender and back heels it back to Cedric who leaves Antonio on his arse before pulling back to Tadic.  Fucking hit it!!!! Sidefoot, saved, aaaargh! It’s a bloody good save to be fair but he really should have buried that.

The Hammers hsow a bit of life with Kouyate working hard to get a cross in from the right and Zaza arrives with Romeu and pulls another big fucking dive.  What a prick he is.  Jonathan moss doesn’t give anything but allows play to go on, a cross comes over, Fraser comes flying out like Superman, only Superman wouldn’t miss the ball and we get away with it as it bounces off a West Ham player and wide.  Moss then books Zaza.  As he hadn’t stopped the game I assume this was for his reaction, rather than for the dive.

Noble is having a shite game in midfield and shows it when he pulls out a nasty tackle on Hojbjerg and gets booked and his mood won’t have been helped by Reid, Kouyate and Noble himself fannying about in midfield and losing the ball three times – Davis to Austin, first time through to Tadic and he dropped a shoulder to leave Adrian on his arse and rolled it into the net.  Great skill, great goal and 2-0 up.

They’ve completely gone and so have many of their fans as Bertrand flies down left unopposed and finds Redmond who pulls back to Davis who lazily fires over.  Great player but can’t fucking shoot and he messes up again when we once again win the ball high up the pitch and Hojbjerg and Tadic again combine to put Davis through but as he weaves towards goal he takes an extra touch and the Hammers get a block in.

With 20 to go, West Ham have a bit of a go and we get a bit lucky as Feghouli shoots and it hit Bertrand on the hand as he turned his back.  With the current laws it would have been a bit harsh but I’d have been spewing if we hadn’t been given one like that at the other end.  Antonio breaks up the right after Moss had lent a helping hand by giving them a free kick for fuck all and I feared the worst as the ball reached Payet but he dragged it wide.  Last season he scores.

Long is on for Austin but it’s still all West Ham as Payet dances into the box and the ball breaks to the diving git but Zaza’s poked effort is easily cleared off the line by Virgil.  JWP is on for Tadic and he immediately gets on the end of a Cedric pass and brings out another good save from Adrian who has really kept them in it.  He’s at it again as Romeu finds Long who in turn finds Hojbjerg breaking into the box and the keeper makes a find save low to his left but for some reason Moss gives a goal kick. 
As we reach 90 and start feeling that we might at least get a draw, Martina is on for Cedric and we break down the left through Davis who takes a pass back off Redmond and when confronted with Adrian, pulls it back towards the penalty spot where JWP is lurking and he passes it into the net for 3-0.  Brilliant.  Have that Dildo Boys.

As away performances go, well that was just fucking awesome. I don't expect that Claude reads social media but if he did, you can just imagine him logging on tonight and pondering the reactions of some of the fans and that he will have made a note of from a few weeks ago. Now I have to admit that I questioned the formation and the style of football we were playing but bloody hell, has it all come together in the past couple of weeks or what?

The catalyst to the upturn has of course been the goals of Charlie Austin but today he did more than just stick at the ball in the net. The unselfish running to provide space for Tadic and Redmond was absolutely first class and not something that you would have expected him to be doing at the start of the season. I had him pegged as a good striker but quite a limited one in that I expected him to just play it within the confines of the width of the penalty area.  He looks like he totally gets it now and it is embracing it whereas he had previously looked a bit lost. His movement to lose his marker and the first time left foot finish for the first goal was absolutely brilliant. He always seems incredibly reluctant to use his left foot but today when he had no choice, had to take the chance first time and he just rolled it perfectly into the corner.

We didn't have a single player today who played badly. The fullbacks were absolutely awesome and West Ham had no idea how to defend against them. West Ham had set up with a right back at left back and a midfielder at right back so two players out of position so they needed the wide midfield players to help them out and Antonio and Payet could not have been less interested in doing so. Ryan Bertrand is now obviously fully fit and his running and general terrorising of the right side of the Hammers defence was a joy to watch. I am still at a complete loss how Oriol Romeu managed to go 80 minutes without getting booked and the only time when it looked like he might was when Zaza had that horrible fucking dive. Not that they were tested much but Virgil and José were absolutely imperious today and consequently Fraser had nothing to do.

It’s the role of the wide midfielders in the diamond that I don’t think I fully understood and was one area that I didn’t feel was working in our earlier games but today, Hojbjerg and Davis were so energetic and both had a really good chances to score so it shows that when it's played properly, the diamond produces entertaining attacking football and we keep clean sheets as well. Love it.

I've forgot to mention Redmond who was exactly what he wasn't in the last away game at Arsenal and perpetual motion that ran the defence ragged and then there was Tadic.  Can you imagine the wankfest if Pogba had managed to drop a shoulder and beat the goalkeeper without touching the ball?  No and it wouldn't happen because Carlton does not have the level of ability that Tadic has. That was an absolutely outrageous natural piece of skill.

Everyone seems to be queueing up to blame the ground for West Ham's woes. Yes, as a football stadium the ground is complete shit but let's not get away from the fact that the West Ham team was completely outplayed. I always thought that West Ham overachieved last season with Payet being on fire for virtually all of it. I also wondered how Bilic would cope with any sort of crisis as I can see him being the sort to just throw his toys out of the pram and storm out (not that many managers actually quit these days). When you start playing players in the wrong position all over the shop then usually it's the sign of a confused mind who is going to struggle to sort things out. It has to be said that it couldn't happen to nicer owners, the Dildo boys and Karren Brady.  It might not turn out to be one of your better business decisions Karren… maybe Lord Sugar will have a word.

It’s ironic that most Hammers fans would rather be playing at the Boleyn and there was a video this week of part of it being blown up.  Now there’s a chilling reminder that you can’t go back.  When you consider the amount of effort that Gold and Sullivan put into the ‘fucking’ industry, it's ironic that in chasing this move to the Taxpayer Bowl, they may have completely fucked what was a good traditional football club. The whole move was wrong and it completely stinks and for that reason alone I hope it completely finishes on their face and it would be fucking hilarious if they got relegated. If memory serves correctly then I believe they pay even less to rent the stadium if they go down.  It’s enough to make Russell Brand choke on his jellied eels.  Wanker.

Anyway, West Ham’s problems are theirs alone as we have a nice little trip to Israel on Thursday for a Europa League game against Hapoel Be’er Sheva. Expect the team to be rotated but expect the same style of football. After their win in Milan then a point would be a very good result before we return to play champions Leicester City on the Sunday afterwards.  Get in!