Thursday, October 30, 2014

Capital One Cup 4th Round - Stoke 2 Southampton 3

Pellè gets Booked for Yelling at a Ginger Steward

Two games in four days against Stoke would not be on the top of most managers’ “To Do” list but here we are again.  My opinions on Stoke can be found at the start and end of Saturday’s blog…. I don’t like them.

The fall out from the weekends games involving other teams was that Spurs lost again so to take the heat off of that, the London media fired up the “Let’s try and make a Transfer” spin and bullshit machine again.  Pochettino wants Jay Rodriguez again for anything between £15 and £25 million depending on how sensationalist they want to be.... and of course they want Schneiderlin.... and so do Arsenal.  West Ham are getting it with their players as well so we’re following the well worn path of a smaller club doing well, therefore they must be slapped back down.  I’m sure there’s nothing concrete in this but Saints got rumoured to be in for Harry Kane for £10million from Spurs.  I really hope that this is someone at Saints putting a bullshit rumour out there just to yank Spurs’ chain a bit.  I dn;t really want us to sink to their level but sometimes you gotta have your fun.

So, Capital One now sponsor the competition that in my head is “The League Cup” and we are at the 4th Round Stage and win tonight and we’re in the Quarter Finals.  Ronald has made 4 changes from Saturday with Shane Long, Florin Gardos, Matty Targett and Big Vic coming in for the injured Sadio Mané and the rotated Alderweireld, Bertrand and Cork who are all on the bench.  I strongly suspect that Mark Hughes doesn’t read this blog but he’s done what I suggested and brought in Diouf, Arnautovic and Bojan and left out the Giraffe, Moses and common thug Charlie Adam.

To my surprise we’re playing a 4-4-2 with Long up front with Pellè, rather than on the wing as we play in the league.  I’m expecting Stoke to come tearing into us but they don’t really and the first real action of the game sees Morgan and Big Vic sort out a potential issue in defence and feed Pellè.  He goes left allowing Matt Targett bring the ball forward on the left and slip it back inside to Graziano.  He seems to be looking right to lay it off to Steve Davis but instead, he smashes it from 30 yards and it curls round the dive of Begovic and flicks the inside of the post on its way into the top corner of the net - GOAAAAAAAAALAAAZZZZZZOOOOOO! As a commentator in his Italian homeland might have said.

Stoke seem more up for it for a bit and pile on a bit of pressure without forcing Fraser into any serious action and in entirely clinical fashion, we take our second chance as a move down the right sees a wonderful reverse ball from Tadic intot he path of the overlapping Davis and his pull back is despatched past Begovic for Shane Long’s first Saints’ goal.

It’s nearly 3-0 and virtually game over a few minutes later as Tadic produces a ridiculous sand wedge chip onto Pellè’s chest and he brings it down superbly before pashing it over the bar.  Stoke have the ball in the net not long after after a long diagonal finds Walters beating Targett in the air.  The balls eventually falls via Diouf to Walters who smashed it over Fraser and into the net but the flag and whistle had already gone so there’s really no point in berating the linesman you twat.

A great passing move with some flicks and general showboating later and we win a corner which eventually sees Gardos nod over the bar.  Hughes did not look happy as the players headed off at half time and I’m sure that words were said at half time.  At risk of sounding that I have Merringtitus, the key to defending a 2-0 advantage is to survive the first 15 minutes without conceding a goal so what do we do?  We doze off at a free kick on the half way line which Stoke pass short to Nzonzi and then we allowed Nzonzi to run unchallenged to the point where he had a free shot which he fired along the ground and past Fraser and into the corner.  On first viewing I thought the big man should have done better in goal and on second viewing later, I still did.

We have woken up now and Tadic is trying to put the game to bed by setting up a 3rd goal.  Firstly he puts Long through but his effort is well blocked by Begovic and the ex-Skate is at it again as Big Vic plays a 1-2 with Dusan and smashes in a shot which he kept out as well.

Shane Long is really proving his worth. He picks the ball up twice and starts running with it and Stoke’s 2nd half directive of ‘kick everything’ comes into play as he gets trashed twice and Stoke get two bookings.  2 balls to Long, 2 fouls, 2 yellow cards, 2 shite free kicks into the box that are easily cleared.

There’s a casual element creeping into our play at both ends of the pitch.  Tadic butchers a 3 on 3 break with a sloppy pass behind Graziano and then we get really lucky at the other end as Gardos gets caught in two minds as to whether to clear or knock it back and in the end he just miscontrols the ball and Bojan is away and here’s where the luck comes in.  Bojan has a simple pass to set Diouf up for a tap in but Bojan is shit and his cross is cleared by José Fonte, much to Florin’s relief.

What you need when you’re chasing a game is a couple of inspiring substitutions or failing that, Charlie Adam.  He’s on with the Giraffe and Bojan and Cameron are off.  Florin Gardos looks like he’s got his gaffe on his mind still as he initially does well to read a ball into the box and then gets robbed by Diouf and again gets lucky as the pass goes astray.  Adam’s first involvement is to take a hack at Morgan after he’s turned away from him.  He’s nowhere near the ball and it’s completely deliberate.  He gets the booking and then psses and moans about it.  It’s a borderline red card for what is basically a lash out at another player. I hate players like him.

Another player who I dislike intensely is Jon Walters.  Saints have the ball and there’s an injury from yet another clattering.  The drop ball happens and Bardsley gives us it back but he’s played it down the wing.  As Forster goes to get it, Walters chases him down and Fraser wellies it into touch.  Walters can’t be surprised that it all kicks off and ends with Bardsley, who’s not been at Stoke long enough to be a complete prick, giving us the ball back again.  More fouls as Long is again clattered meaning he’s been clattered the last 4 times he’s had the ball.

The pressure is building though and Stoke win what seems like 8 consecutive corners.  Wilson heads one wide off a Saints player, Forster flaps and misses another, Stoke take one short and win another corner from it and then finally we break as a corner is flicked on and Diouf has a free header at the back stick to make it 2-2.  I’m not sure why Targett and Long were the nearest players to the centre forward but it’s happened and shit, 2-2.

I’m sure all Saints fans are expecting Stoke to win it now and we all collectively shit ourselves as Diouf turns and drills in a shot which pings off the inside of the  post and across the goal.  He’s offside and the flag goes up but the smell of brown trousers is palpable.

Into the last 5 minutes and extra time is looming and no one wants that, least of all the Giraffe.  He leads with his elbow in a challenge with Targett and catches him across the chest and gets deservedly booked.  A minute later Crouch miscontrols the ball and makes up for it by catching Steve Davis up near his thigh.  What a dickhead and off you go.  There are no complaints from the Stoke players including Shawcross (who is always in the referees ear) which really tells you all you need to know.  So, down to 10 men when they had fought back and were on top and the ultimate punishment is dished out. Davis chips in the free kick which misses everyone except Pieters who doesn’t adjust, the ball drops down and Graziano swivels and blasts it into the top corner, 3-2 and get the fuck in!  He’s over the barrier and in the crowd and there’s a yellow card waiting for him when he gets back on the pitch.  It’s a small concern right now but he must only be one booking from a suspension.  It does wind me up when players get booked for celebrating with their own fans.  If you goad opposition fans then fair enough but I’ve long since given up on common sense from the Premier League and FA.

6 minutes injury time!!! What!!! To be fair, we were dawdling quite a bit at 2-1 and we delay further by bringing on Alderweireld and Cork for Gardos and Steve Davis.  The only alarm is a decent overhead effort from Diouf from the edge of the box which goes through a ruck of players but Fraser graps it comfortably enough.  We run down the last 2 minutes easily enough and that’s it, 3-2, quarter finals, come on!!!!

It’s a bit harsh on Stoke at the end as they’re worked really hard to get back into it.  A quick glance at their web forums shows fans generally berating the referee for not clamping down on timewasting.  I think they should be thanking for ref for not overly clamping down on assault and battery.  Hughes obviously sent them out in the second half to try and kick us off the park and it, along with pulling a goal back so quickly, nearly worked.  The subs came on – Adam could have quite easily been sent off and Crouch was sent off.  I’m sure the way they see it is that they tried playing football in the first half and were outplayed, so they reverted to type in the second half, went long ball and just kicked everything that moved.  The story of the bookings tells you all you need to know as well.  Including the 2 bookings for Crouch, Stoke had 5, all for bad fouls, we had 2, one for dissent at a Stoke foul and one for celebrating a goal.

Ronald Koeman came out with a couple more ‘honesty’ classics, basically saying that we deserved to win as we played all the football, Charlie Adam should have been sent off and best of all, commented that Stoke sent Crouch on (so they could launch it) and that was not the way we like to play.  Interviewers persist with the ‘are you surprised at your start’ line of questioning.  When is it not just a ‘start’?  When will all the deserters cease to be mentioned?  We’ve won 9 games out of the last 10.  Imagine the collective creaming off in the media if van Gaal got 9 wins out of 10 out of Man United.

The draw for the next round was made after the game with Chelsea being the team to avoid, closely followed by Liverpool and Spurs with Bournemouth and Sheffield United being the ones you want.  I was convinced we were going to get Chelsea.

Derby... will play Chelsea... happy days, avoided Chelsea...
Tottenham ..... no, not them bastards, we always lose to them.... will play Newcastle.
Bournemouth.... here we go, come on, come on... will play Liverpool.
Come on now... home draw please... and Sheffield United .... will play Southampton

You gotta be happy with that.  Ok, it’s our 4th away tie in a row but it’s the lowest ranked team left in the competition, League 1 Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.  A difficult game but more difficult than Stoke or Arsenal away – I don’t think so.  Bring it on with a great chance of making the semi-finals.

Back to the league on Saturday and our quest for our first title since I was a kid playing Subbuteo against myself in 1981.  We play a Hull City side who have picked up some decent results this season as they look to consolidate in the Premier League.  Gaston Ramirez won’t do anything as he’s on loan from us which is pretty similar to what he’d do if he could play.  It’s a game we will be looking to win and I’m sure the players will be up for it.  Hopefully we’ve achieved the impossible and emerged from 2 games in 4 days with Stoke without too many injures and we can keep Manchester City behind us for at least another week.  Let’s fucking do this.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Premier League Match 9 - Southampton 1 Stoke 0

"Can I have that one Boss?"

Mark Hughes and his band of merry thugs are in town as we take on Stoke City.  Last year they were changing from the norm and actually playing some football but this year it doesn’t appear to be the case. Not that I watch them much I have to admit. they had a bit of controversy last week and Hughes made a complete twat of himself trying to defend the indefensible when Victor Moses pulled one of the most blatant dives ever to win a penalty against Swansea and the referee bought it.  He could have got away with saying “it’s a soft one” or some other bland non-committal statement but instead he basically said it wasn’t a dive… and then defended Ryan Shawcross who gave away a penalty for shirt pulling, only it wasn’t shirt pulling, it was wrestling, followed by putting a bag on his head, gaffa taping his mouth and then throwing him in the boot of a car.

It the wake of 8-0, we have of course picked up many plaudits but it’s more been about how bad Sunderland were in the same way as it was all about Newcastle when we dicked them as well.  I don’t feel that we’re being fully embraced as members of the top table as yet and there’s a bit of “wait til they play the big boys” creeping into the articles I’m reading.  If we get to about March and we’re still in or around the top 4, I wonder what tone the articles will take.  A majority of fans from outside the big 5 would love it if Saints or anyone else gatecrashed the top 4.  It’s unlikely to happen of course but if it did, expect everyone to focus on the negative impact it will have on the club next season.

The main news from Saints this week has been that the dubious goals commission has rules that the Sadio Mané goal in the Sunderland game was an own goal.  Who the fuck are these people and do they have any clue about football whatsoever?  They were asked to look at the Pellè shot that resulted in Bridcutt’s amazing dancing feet but instead, they managed to change the 8th goal in an 8-0 win.  Twats.  Maybe it’s make sure the betting markets are fair, so I feel sorry for anyone who had Mané to score the 8th goal in an 8-0 win at 5 million to 1.  Still, I’m please that the Premier League Dubious Goals Panel have justified their existence.

As I said, there’s a rumour doing the rounds that Mark Hughes has changed the style of Stoke from the Tony Pulis days but their starting line up tells a slightly different story.  Every player who has any technical ability seems to be on the bench whereas the team is packed with athletes, big blokes and runners, there are defenders in midfield and of course, Crouch up front supported by Nzonzi who are 6 foot 7 each. Victor Moses is the only one with a bit of flair.  If they need another runner of limited ability then they have Sidwell on the bench who has somehow had a decent career.  The bench also contained most of the flair and pace in the form of Arnautovic, Assaidi, Diouf and Bojan, the ex-Barcelona kid.

After our iffy start against Sunderland, we came flying out today.  A ball up to Pellè was expertly controlled after he’d manoeuvred Shawcross out of the way, then he slid the ball to Davis who fed Mané.  Mané turned Bardsley inside out before sidefooting a shot at the far post.  Pellè got a touch as he flew in but couldn’t divert it the correct side of the post.  Mama-fucking Mia, he might have said.

Having won the goal kick bomb forward, Crouch fed Nzonzi who lumbered forward without anyone closing him down and clipped over a cross back towards Crouch who 50p-headed it wide and shite.  José might have got a slight touch on the cross but I prefer to believe it was a massive error of judgement by the giraffe, a bit like the error of judgement that he made with that prostitute.

After a crappy cross from Corky which went straight to Begovic, Nzonzi sent Moses away on the left and he burst between Tadic and Clyne before staying on his feet and being crowded out, tamely poking the ball through to Fraser.  No one actually challenged him in the end but he’s made a rod for his own back now.  Everyone saw him cheat last week so he has two options, stay up or go down when going down probably means he’ll not get a decision in his favour and he’ll probably get booked.

That’s the end of Stoke as an attacking force for a bit as Saints build up the left and Mané again lines up Bardsley, beats him on the outside and his pull back is lashed over the bar by Pellè from in front of the near post.  Tadic is next to have a go as he picks up the ball on the right touchline and dances outside and then inside Pieters before hammering at the near post and Begovic, the Skate Bastard, annoys the Northam End by getting down well to tip it just wide.

The resulting corner saw a move off the training ground which unlike most training ground moves, nearly worked instead of the usual lash at the gas holders.  Dusan’s corner was short to Mané who returned it first time. Dusan passed straight to Morgan on the run and his clipped effort flicked off the bar and over.  

Charlie Adam has predictably done nothing creative but always has the other side to his game which is to be a walking free kick giveaway machine.  He trashes Tadic in typical ‘nowhere near the ball fashion’ and we get a free kick after the ref plays an advantage which we screw up but no matter as he gives us the free kick is a display of excellent common sense refereeing.  40 yards out and Tadic flights it in, Wilson heads it out not very far with his face to Pellé whose left footed shot on the turn smacks the post and back out.  Whilst everyone is holding their head, Sadio Mané reacts and sidefoots it right footed into the top corner for a great finish that not even some twat in a suit at the Premier League can take away from him.  He celebrates with the players and with Koeman and now we’ll see what Stoke have got.

Half time comes and goes and away we go again and we’re immediately threatening again.  A build up down the left involving Bertrand, Mané and Tadic ends with Dusan floating a cross over and Graziano hanging in the air and heading one over Begovic but it smacks the bar and won’t come down for Steven Davis who would have missed anyway. On the hour mark both managers decide that it’s time to change things with Ronald Koeman deciding that it’s Big Vic time in place of Corky and Hughes removing Charlie Adam about 55 minutes later than when he should have done.  Diouf is on in his place.

Pellè must already be thinking it’s not going to be his day in front of goal and when Mané tees him up with a knock back, he doesn’t even look surprised when he lashes it a few feet over the bar.  Another great move down the right ends up with a Clyne cross being helped on by Pellè to Tadic who throws in a couple of obligatory turns which make the defenders looks stupid, before scuffing his shot wide.

Some of the Saints players are beginning to get a bit sloppy with the passing as it looks like the nerves are setting in but we sort it out enough to again break down the left this time and Bertrand’s cross is blocked out for a corner.  Tadic’ delivery is perfect for Pellè and though José Fonte puts him off, he rises superbly before thumping a header over the bar.  You have to score that big man.

A poor Fonte pass gits possession to Stoke and they break down their right and Bardsley swings a great ball over towards Diouf who goes for it with his right foot instead of his left and consequently misses it altogether.  It would be a travesty if they scored and in all honesty I can’t see it happening but whilst it’s only 1-0….

Koeman has had enough of the uncertainty and on comes Florin Gardos for Steve Davis with Alderweireld moving to midfield so we have Gardos and Fonte at the back, protected by Alderweireld, Big Vic and Morgan.  Get past that!!!  They can’t and we’ve won again.

Get in.  It wasn’t great and it wasn’t pretty but the job got done and we won and got 3 points again.  We should have won by more and 1-0 flattered Stoke in the end whereas 3-0 wouldn’t have.  Sunderland and Stoke at home last year got us 2 points and I was kind of expecting the same again this season but we’ve ended up with 6 and +9 on the goal difference and no goals conceded.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

With Manchester City falling to a surprise defeat at West Ham, we’ve moved up to 2nd in the league.  Let that sink in for a minute.  2nd. Every single one of the deserters is below us in the league table and it’s all quite mad.  Our next three league games are against Hull, Leicester and Villa so there’s scope for it to get even better.  It’s really not bad being a Saints fan at the moment.

Hughes spoke afterwards about Stoke giving us too much respect as we won 8-0 last week.  I’d say that’s true but that this started with him.  If he’d put Bojan, Diouf and Arnautovic in the starting line up then they’d have had some sort of attacking threat.  As a Welshman, I’m sure the phrase “may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb” is one he’s heard of.  It rings true when you’ve gone into a game with a negative gameplan and lost anyway.  The Stoke fans who came down would rather have seen them go for it and lose 3-2 than lose 1-0 without having a shot of note.  Man United beat opponents before the game kicked off for years and it certainly makes things easier if the opposition are shit scared of you.

For the first time in a while, I found myself thinking about our Blue neighbours down the road, mainly because of the Northam giving Begovic the ‘You Skate Bastaaaaaard’ when he took a goal kick.  If memory serves, he hardly played a game for Pompey and they had to pay out £1million when they didn’t sell him to Tottenham or something daft like that.  Begovic’s Pompey past was highlighted by the media of course when he scored against us last year which is probably why he got stick this year.  I didn’t hear one boo for Marc Wilson who played many more games for Pompey or for Peter Crouch, who of course confused matters by playing for us for a bit.

Though the second half was a bit nerve wracking, it was solely so because we only had a one goal lead.  Looking back from the position of having got 3 points, it was easy as Stoke had next to no threat at all.  They seemed caught between two stools, neither playing passing football or playing it long.  They had nothing in the final third and we saw the game out easily and it was a very satisfying win, as Ronald alluded to in his post match interview.  I thought he managed the game superbly with Big Vic and Florin Gardos coming on at exactly the right moments for the right players.  Maybe I’d have brought on Shane Long for Tadic who was not the same player after Pieters got fed up with chasing him around and kneed him in the back.

The win today was built on the defence in which all four players were outstanding from a defensive point of view.  I noticed that Toby Alderweireld tried to win the first header against Crouch and was comprehensively beaten as you would expect by a giraffe and from then on in he just got close and picked up the knockdowns.  Intelligent play from a quality player and I hope we have a watertight deal in place to sign him at the end of the season.  Dejan Who?  Thanks for the money Brendan.  Not so smug now are you, you tosser.

The front three worked well today against a very robust and organized Stoke defence.  Graziano was unlucky to hit the woodwork twice and Dusan led them a merry dance until they started kicking the shit out of him.  Sadio Mané was the star man though and I’m not saying this just because he scored – I’ll leave that to Garth Crooks, quite possibly the worst football pundit ever and how the fuck has he still got a job?  His work rate running back was phenomenal which is always a worry when you sign a winger from abroad.  Anyone missing Gaston?  No, I didn’t think so.

So, onto Wednesday night and we get to play Stoke again.  I think it will be quite a different game as Hughes will undoubtedly pick some flair players.  They would be mistaken to think we’ll be easier to play against at their ground though as their need to attack a bit more will play into our hands on the break.  Expect Big Vic, Matt Targett and Florin Gardos to feature and there may be a start for Shane Long as well.  We are taking the Capital One Cup seriously this season and In Koeman we Trust to get the balance right.

Bring it on.

We’re 2nd in the Premier League.  Lap it up….

Monday, October 20, 2014

Premier League Match 8 - Southampton 8 Sunderland 0

Gus waits for his Players in the Tunnel at St.Mary's

Since our last game, the international break has seen Nathaniel Clyne and Fraser Forster putting out training cones for England and swapping wit and wisdom with Roy Hodgson but there was other Saints involvement with other countries who are fortunate enough to have a manager who knows what he’s doing.  Having said that, Jose Fonte got his long awaited call up for Portugal and then sat on the bench for two matches, including a friendly when he surely could have been tried ahead of that walking red card that is Pepe.  The main positive was that Graziano Pellè made his first start for Italy and in true Rickie Lambert fashion, scored to secure the Azzurri a 1-0 win against Malta.  The main story in this for the media here was that he was in the squad in place of Balotelli whereas the amusement in my house was provided by the fact that he was picked ahead of Dani Osvaldo who as it turned out, managed to get injured in training.  Dusan Tadic had some fun as a politically charged encounter between Serbia and Albania ended up being abandoned when a flying drone appeared with an pro-Albanian flag on it, a Serbian player took it down and the Albanian’s kicked off.  The good news is that Dusan only played 45 minutes.

The rest was pretty positive with Steve Davis winning two matches with Northern Ireland as they continued their 100% start to their European Championship Qualifying Group, Morgan Schneiderlin starting a game for France and then, almost unbelievably, Emmanuel Mayuka scored a goal for Zambia which really should be bigger news than the Ebola outbreak.  It’ll give him more confidence for his role of sitting on the bench on Saturday.  Mayuka, Big Vic and Sadio Mané were playing African Cup of Nations Qualifiers on Wednesday so the chances of them being available for Saturday is somewhat slim.

The international break made its way into Ronald Koeman’s pre-match press conference as Holland have made a ropey start to life under Guus Hiddink and a few ex-players have been speculating that Koeman should have the job.  In typical Koeman fashion he addressed it, saying that they could have approached him in the summer and they didn’t and now he was at Southampton and his contract was for 3 years.  It’s obviously dangerous to speculate on the intentions of managers post-Pochettino but you get the impression he means it which is as good as we’re going to get.

Sunderland are in town today and they are unbeatable, to us anyway.  3 draws and 3 defeats in the last 2 years in games that have typically seen Sunderland be very very average and us be worse.  Our old mate Gus Poyet is still in charge up there so the game and press conference is sure to contain many bell end moments.  Of course, last seasons results mean nothing, especially if we are serious about being up near the top of the league.  Let’s fucking do this.

The team news revealed that the African 3 were all available but on the bench as the pack was shuffled to bring Corky and Shane Long into the starting line up.  Sunderland having won a game last time out, have Fletcher and Wickham up front in what looks like an attacking line up.  The central defence is O’Shea and Brown who you usually need a good referee against with O’Shea in particular being fond of grabbing the centre forward and wrestling.  The midfield contains two of the most unlikeable players in the Premier League for my money in Cattermole and Larsson.  They’re both horrible little snarly players who are always on at the referee and added to that – they’re both pretty shite.
Away we go and Sunderland start the better and we get penned back a bit.  We’re giving the ball away and not having any calm possession.  Poyet has posted Wickham out wide left with Fletcher up top and Jordi Gomez is obviously supposed to provide the guile that Cattermole and Larsson won’t.

We still really weren’t playing very well by the time we reached 10 minutes and then something very odd happened.  Football broke put and we moved up the pitch and Morgan tried to knock it past a defender which he did but too far for him to collect the ball again.  He needn’t have bothered as Vergini came across from right back and instead of using his left foot to clag it up the pitch, he used his right and smashed it on the volley straight past Mannone and into the bottom corner, from 20 yards.  More Vagina than Vergini.  What a finish, what a goal, what the fuck was that?

Once they’d stopped holding their heads in their hands, Sunderland once again looked decent with Fletcher causing problems in the middle but Wickham was having a mare out wide and picked up a booking for trashing Clyne.  On 20 minutes, having reloaded the gun, Sunderland turned it on themselves and pulled trigger.  Buckley, last seen being average in the Championship for Brighton, tried to pass out of defence and drilled it straight up Larsson’s arse.  The rebound fell to Steve Davis who advanced down the left and slid a ball across the six yard box and Pellè steamed in to tap in number 2. Larsson had, true to my impression of him as a whiny moany bastard, not tried to track back once the ball was lost but just stood there making faces and throwing his arms about n pathetic 8 year old fashion.

Sunderland still flickered though and won a free kick for a nothing tackle which caused me to utter my second Family Stand Expletive of the season with a heartfelt ‘Bollocks referee!’ Whoops.  Anyway, Larsson’s free kick was easily dealt with by Fraser.  Fraser was in the middle of the next incident of note as Cattermole slid Fletcher in.  He got to the ball first and poked it past Fraser before attempting to jump over Forster, clipping him and flying up in the air as the ball rolled wide.  I expected a penalty to be given and a red card to come out of Andre Marriner’s pocket.  If you look at it from our point of view though, Fletcher has already knocked the ball wide so it’s not a goalscoring chance any more when contact is made.  I guess also that the ref has seen it as Fletcher started jumping before Forster got to him.  However, if I was a Sunderland fan I’d be livid…. But I’m not so definitely not a penalty…

Just when the Mackems were thinking that everything was against them, Corky swept a ball out to Tadic on the left and he toyed with Vagini before clipping over a cross right into the path of the onrushing Cork who rather bobbled the shot but even though Mannone got a good hand to it, it still ended up in the net and with Corky now being a regular goalscorer, all the Row Z stuff I wrote about him last year seems more and more funny.  Half time and though we hadn’t been brilliant, it was still 3-0 and surely we wouldn’t manage to screw up against Sunderland again and somehow not win.

At half time I was explaining to my son and daughter that 3-0 at half time usually means 3-0 at full time as the players knock off as the job is done.  Daughter said it would be nice to see at least one goal down this end.  We will see… Gus hasn’t had an enjoyable half time and he’s sent the players out early and Wes Brown has been replaced with Liam Bridcutt.  Call me a pessimist but I was pleased that Adam Johnson didn’t come on as I’ve always thought he was decent.

The only danger to us in this game is from a fast start and an early goal from Sunderland but what we get is Cattermole giving up in midfield and jogging back as Saints attack.  A cross from Clyne, Pellè heads down and Davis lashes it over the bar on the volley.  Davo is the new Corky in front of goal.  Ten minutes go by with nothing much happening aside from Bridcutt looking like a fish up a tree at right back. Actually, if he was a fish he wouldn’t be out of his depth but he looks like he’s won a game in the first team in a competition.  He’s slow and looks like a ball boy.  Anyway, so Gus decides that it’s time to change stuff and takes of Larsson and Gomez, throwing on Johnson and Rodwell who are on paper, much better players.  What I don’t get is that he left Wickham out wide left where he was doing nothing and played Johnson, a left footed winger, in the middle.  Also, Larsson has been piss poor but he’s better than Cattermole and at least he hasn’t given up.

Shane Long gets put in on the keeper and it looks like his first goal for Saints but he unselfishly knocks it to Tadic whose effort is cleared off the line.  Sunderland had another go at clearing one off the line a minute later as Bertrand got down the left and pulled the cross back to Pellè who took a touch and blasted a shot through Mannone who got something on it.  As the ball rolled towards the goal, Bridcutt did something akin to Riverdance on the ball and succeeded only in knocking it over the line.  What a complete bellend, 4-0.  I’m pretty sure it’s an own goal but worth a shout to the dubious goals commission.

What you need when your midfield has given up and you’re 4-0 down, is to see Big Vic coming on for the opposition.  Having played two games for Northern Ireland on the international break, Steve Davis is the one to make way and it’s been another excellent game from the man who signed a 4 years contract last week.  Sadio Mané is also on for Shane Long and if I was Bridcutt I’d be phoning the Samaritans at this point.

Big Vic is immediately finding the freedom of the midfield and shanks a shot across the goal and it goes straight to Graziano but he lifts a first time shot over the bar before sinking to his knees in over-demonstrative typical Italian fashion.  He’s not to be denied a minute later as Tadic picks it up in the middle, waits until Pellè has half a yard on the hopeless Vagini, slides the pass in and Pellè whips is across Mannone and into the opposite corner. 5-0.

It’s getting silly now and the Cattermole attitude has rubbed off on even the usually reliable players.  O’Shea wafts a lazy backpass to Mannone who instead of belting it, tried to sidefoot it out to van Aanholt but succeeded only in passing straight to Tadic who simply curled it round him with his left foot as Mannone dived on the ground late, in the hope that an earthquake would swallow him up.

On the one hand, Koeman must be feeling sorry for Sunderland as he’s sending on Mayuka for work experience in place of Graziano.  However, Ronald is waving everyone forwards as he has no intention of taking the foot off the throat.  6-0 becomes 7-0 almost straight from the kick off. Sunderland pass it around and into Cattermole who gets brushed aside by Big Vic.  He can’t be bothered to chase back so two passes later, Dusan Tadic turns van Aanholt inside out before playing a ball into the path of Big Vic who thunders it into the net.  The man who didn’t celebrate against Swansea when he got the winner is celebrating the 7th goal in a 7-0 lead though his dive towards the corner flag didn’t have much artistic merit.

It honestly felt like we could score 10 if we wanted to but we had to settle for just the one more goal with Tadic again getting down the left past the non-existent Bridcutt and pulling back for Sadio Mané to score his first Saints goal with Mannone helpless. EIGHT-NIL... Eight fucking Nil. 

It was getting so ridiculous that there was an air of disappointment that there were no more goal in the last 5 minutes and the final whistle signalled the end of the complete and utter slaughter of the team that we haven’t beaten in the last 6 attempts.  Though we always lose to Spurs and that continued this season, today was a day when you realise that this is a new Southampton and the usual rules do not apply.  Ronald Koeman got his team selection spot on, benching the players who had travelled the farthest and then bringing them on for impact.  Both Corky and Shane Long did a great job and let’s not forget that this was another clean sheet with José Fonte and Toby Alderweireld being rock solid at the back, ably backed up by Clyney and Ryan Bertrand who also flew forward with good effect.  All the goalscorers and Tadic in particular will take the plaudits but in the middle of it were Morgan and Steve Davis who totally ran the game.

Gus to be fair, did say some nice stuff about us before the game but this couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.  He fronted up in his post match interview saying that it was the most embarrassing performance he’d ever been involved in.  A majority of his players just gave up and more on that later but in memory of Lambert and Barnard and Dagenham and ‘Can you Keep Up’, we’ll start with you Gus.  The substitution he made at half time was mind blowing.  Not only did he bring on Bridcutt who is a Championship player at best, he put him out of position and teamed him up with the equally hopeless Buckley on the Sunderland right against a rampaging Bertrand and Tadic.  The double whammy was that Vagini was moved into an area where he could do even more damage… and he did.  Playing Wickham out on the left was a total waste of a player – he’s a centre forward and you have Adam Johnson on the bench.  Did I mention that the players that he signed from his previous club Brighton, Buckley and Bridcutt are shit?  I think I did but it bears repeating. 

Then we get to the midfield engine room of Larsson and fucking Cattermole.  Larssson got taken off but he was the better of the two. Cattermole had given up at half time.  He couldn’t be arsed to track his man and just jogged back.  He did the same with Big Vic’s goal having lost the ball.  Even Matt le Tissier put in more effort to get back if he’d lost the ball himself.  There has to be an element of pride in yourself, especially if you’ve screwed up, to win the ball back.  Cattermole is the captain for Christ’s sake and can whoever touted him for an international call up, simply because he hasn’t been sent off for a few weeks, please have a word with themselves. Not only is he bang average, he also has a shocking attitude when the going gets tough.  In the first half, I thought Fletcher was decent – holding the ball up well and being a right nuisance and he didn’t make a big deal of the penalty shout but other than that, Sunderland were woeful.  Oh and I forgot to mention the keeper.  He was great – should have saved goals 3 and 4 and he fucked up for number 6 but other than that – great.

When I got home, my missus (who is not a football fan) asked if I felt sorry for the Sunderland players to which I answered “not in the slightest” as you’d expect.  The fans however are another matter.  I’ve been on the end of a trip to Sunderland where we were abysmally bad and it’s not good.  Mind you, we only lost 1-0.  8-0 is a shocker and whilst I hate people leaving games early, I don’t think you can blame anyone when their side is 4-0 or 5-0 down and you have a 300 mile plus journey in front of you.

Next up is another home game against Stoke – another one of the side who we don’t beat.  They will be considerably more tough than Sunderland as they have thugs like Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross in their side.  A few days afterwards we also have them in the League Cup so expect our resources to be stretched and if we come out of these game with no injuries then we’ll have done well.  Oh yeah, a couple of wins would be nice.  That’s for another day though so let’s enjoy the 8-0.  I was present the last time we scored 8 which was an 8-2 against Coventry with Steve Moran and Danny Wallace both scoring hat-tricks in April 1984, just over 30 years ago.  Make the most of it my friends.

"Look Up at the Scoreboard Gus. Can You Keep Up? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mr IQ Speaks and Suddenly All Is Clear

"My England Career is Purely to Benefit my Club Career"

The international break happened and someone said something that confirmed something that I knew all along and at the same time, answered one of the great questions that has been vexing football fans for years – Why are England so shit?  You would expect that the person who answered this question would be a genius of some description with a high IQ but the truth could not be further removed from that.  The person in question was a thick idiot with no self awareness called Adam Lallana and what he said in his press conference crystallized everything.  He was talking about Nathaniel Clyne and he basically said that if Clyne got in the England side that it would give him options, meaning options like a move to a Champions League club. On one hand, I was screaming ‘cunnnnnnttttt’ at him but on the other hand, he was being honest and illustrating the way the modern footballer thinks about the England side which tells you all you need to know about why England are shite. 

It’s not about the pride of representing your country any more or maybe actually doing well and winning stuff for the millions of people watching.  For Adam Lallana and countless others, it’s about getting in the England team and giving yourself the chance of a better club career… and by better, I mean more money.  It was so important to Adam that he spent the World Cup preparation time talking about it.  The England team is just a stepping stone and that my friends, is a fucking tragedy.  Adam Lalllana is undoubtedly a thick bastard who has no awareness of how he comes across but on the other hand, his lack of brain means that he’s honest because he’s too stupid to be anything else and in a world where footballer soundbites are usually completely bland and boring, I guess it’s not a bad thing.  He is assuming that every player is motivated by the same things he is but I still cling to the hope that some are motivated by something other than cash. 

So, there you have it – there’s motivation for a player to get in the England squad so he can get his ‘dream’ move to a big club but once he’s done that, the big club in question becomes way more important than the national team and that my friends, is one big reason why England are shite.  Of course, if we had a decent manager then we could kick back against some of this but that’s a whole other issue.  So thanks Adam for making me see the light.  Perhaps I’ll see if my son wants to put your picture back up on his wall now.  Rickie’s still up there but he took yours down (on his own with no input from me by the way) for some reason which is probably totally lost on you.

Talking of Nathaniel Clyne… which I was a while ago... well he got picked for the squad and then ignored for the team as the senile old goat Hodgson picked Calum Chambers for both matches.  This is a player that Arsene Wenger is going to play at centre back whenever possible so it fits that he joins Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and John Stones as centre backs that Hodgson has picked at right back whilst ignoring the best English specialist right back.  In two games against the football powerhouses of San Marino and Estonia, Chambers was distinctly average and offered next to nothing going forward against two sides where we had 80% of possession.   Who could possibly have predicted that?  Clyne is the better attacking full-back.  Everyone knows that and even if they didn’t before, 2 superb goals already this season illustrated it to the uneducated, except one man it seems.

There is a total myth that gets pedalled about that Chambers is a better defender and Clyne is a better attacker.  The fact that Clyne is a better attacker is beyond debate but he’s also a better defender, quicker, sharper in the tackle and hardly ever beaten 1 on 1.  Chambers is better in the air, mainly because he’s taller, which is why he’s now a centre back and that’s it.  It’s absolutely mind blowing that for two games against shite opposition, Hodgson picks Chambers.  I was prepared (a bit) to give him the benefit of the doubt after the San Marino game as we had 2 games in 4 days and I thought he might play them in one game each.  After all, with Kieran Gibbs and Chambers being picked at full back v San Marino, I assumed that the better pairing for Baines and Clyne were to be used in the tougher game against Estonia.... but no.   All this is just a debate over one position in the team and it’s before we even get to the rest of the side.  Anyway, Clyne won’t even get in the next squad as no doubt Glen ‘can’t attack, can’t defend’ Johnson will be back.

The inbuilt negativity that Hodgson has means that matches at home to San Marino and away to Estonia were treated with caution so he picked what in his mind was a solid defensive team.  He should be using these fixtures in the easiest qualification group ever to think longer term and develop a team and a style of play that might actually achieve something in a tournament.  Trying to finish in the top 3 of a 6 team group containing Switzerland, Estonia, San Marino, Lithuania and Slovenia is as close to a bye as you can possibly get.  Pick an attacking team you moron – Milner and Henderson in midfield against San Marino with Wilshere as the holding player? Delph and Henderson against Estonia with Wilshere again as the holding player? Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench for both games?  Ridiculous and we haven’t even discussed Rooney yet. 

All we need to say about out captain and leader is that he was slow, sluggish and shite in both matches, missed a load of chances but scored a penalty and a free-kick which the keeper should have saved.  He is going to be England’s leading goalscorer ever and Bobby Charlton is turning in his grave and he’s not even dead.  Rooney - England legend, my arse.  When Sturridge is fit again, we know that Wayne Untouchable will be fine and Welbeck will get dropped or moved to the left – that is, as long as Brendan Rodgers allows Sturridge to play.  The main issue from these games is that of Raheem Sterling asking to be rested for the Estonia game.... yeah, that wasn’t under instructions from Mr Smug Rodgers was it?  Club over country and here we are back where we started with Mr IQ, Adam Lallana.  He did well as a second half sub against the postmen and PE teachers of San Marino and he had a decent first half against Estonia before doing his usual and fading out as the game went on.  He was probably saving himself for his next Liverpool game.

So England were turgid and shite and won both games, 5-0 against the PE Teachers and postmen of San Marino and 1-0 against 10 man Estonia whose star player is a sub for Blackpool. Beyond pathetic but that’s what we’re dealing with now with Hodgson in charge.