Friday, July 31, 2015

Where Did the Pre-Season Break Go?

That Shirt is Way too Big for Him

In amongst the departure of Morgan Schneiderlin and the decision of Toby Alderweireld to follow the money to Spurs, Saints managed to bring in two players and play some pre-season friendlies.  In addition to Cedric Soares, Juanmi and Maarten Stekelenburg – first came Cuco Martina who plays for a country I only heard of recently, Curacao.  It’s a small Caribbean Island which is ruled by the Dutch and Martina played for FC Twente and is a utility defender but mainly a right back.  It appears he has been bought for cover, primarily at right back where we got pretty lucky last year with only having Nathaniel Clyne.  This is not a comment on how good or bad Martina is as a player because I’ve never seen him play but I know that we have a policy at the club with having a pathway for youngsters.  How does signing a foreign player as cover fit in with this?  I guess it depends how much better he is than Jason McCarthy or any of the other youngsters who play at right back.

There are no question marks on the face of it however about the signing of Jordy Clasie from Feyenoord who you’d think would be as sick of the sight of us as we are of Spurs and Liverpool.  For something between £7 million and £10 million, Clasie follows Koeman and Pellè down the path from De Kuip to St Mary’s but the Dutch are used to seeing their players depart for the English league and just have thanks rather than any animosity towards their former heroes.  Part of this is cultural but the other factor is that their players don’t act like total pricks when they move and don’t disrespect the club in any way...Adam, Dejan, Mauricio...

Clasie will slot in where Morgan Schneiderlin was, next to Big Vic.  He’s a combative midfielder with an eye for a pass and has 11 caps for Holland, playing as a defensive midfielder or slightly farther forward.  His tenacity and technique makes up for the fact that he’s only 5 foot 6 and a bit so I guess the presence of Big Vic is vital as you can’t imagine Clasie and Harrison Reed being in the same midfield too often as our opponents would think they had accidentally run into a production of Gulliver’s Travels.  Clasie of course credited Koeman massively for the progression in his career when Ronald was manager at Feyenoord and his first interview was class in that it of course mentioned the manager but also that he would have signed for the club regardless.  So – welcome to the new midfield general. 

Meanwhile, the pre-season friendlies have started as the players try to build up fitness for the Europa League campaign starting on July 30th.  First up was RB Leipzig and we scored 4 goals but managed to let in 5.  The good news is that all the goals came from the new guys with Juanmi, Cedric Soares and J-Rod (2).  Getting the latter back on the pitch and him scoring twice as the biggest plus of the day.  Next up was the Audi Quattro Cup which sadly, did not feature Gene Hunt beating up 70s gangsters but a 45 minute semi-final against Valencia, competing for the right to play a 45 minute final against either hosts Red Bull Salzburg or Wolfsburg.  We played ok against Valencia with Juanmi and Jose Fonte hitting the bar and then Valencia breaking away and scoring to nick it 1-0.  3rd place playoff it is then and a game against the hosts and we were shocking.  With a midfield which didn’t consist of a single defensive minded player (Steve Davis was the closest) , we attacked, lost the ball and got the ball back when Red Bull either missed or scored.  Stekelenburg made a couple of decent saves but was powerless to stop either of the two goals in five minutes which sent us to another defeat.  However bad we were, we were not as bad as the commentator on the official internet stream who had no idea who anyone was or what had just happened.  Lloyd Isgrove was referred to as Negredo throughout as he got the teams mixed up but the two players in question didn’t have the same number on so I assume he had two lists of names and was just guessing.

The fitness building continued with a 1-0, last minute closed doors friendly at Staplewood against Brighton with a surging run by Sadio Mané ending with a tap in by Sam McQueen.  Then it was off to Holland on the Koeman Nostalgia Tour, taking in many of the destinations of his career including matches against Groningen (where both Koeman brothers started their careers) and Feyenoord. 

As it turns out, a trip to Holland was just what we needed as we’re going to be going back there soon in the Europa League.  Cast your mind back to 2003 and the draw for the first round of what was the UEFA Cup – we got the best team we could possibly get in Steaua Bucharest.  The draw was made and how bizarre was it.  The teams were split into groups so we, as a seeded team, could only be drawn against one of six possible teams.  The fact that these groups were drawn or allocated behind the scenes make you wonder if it’s all bent given the recent goings on at FIFA (I know this is UEFA but tarred by the same brush as far as I’m concerned and I wouldn’t trust Platini any more than Blatter).  So, we could have got one of 6 teams from all sorts of far flung places like Macedonia, Norway, Ireland and also in the mix were Belgium and Holland and guess what we got?  Yep – the highest ranked team we could have possibly got and a tie against Vitesse Arnhem.  Vitesse are used by Chelsea as a youth team as it’s not easy for Chelsea to have 30 players out on loan all over Europe. West Ham as always, got drawn against one of the ‘where the hell are they from’ teams.  Ah well, at least Holland isn’t too far to go.

Back to the tour and Groningen was notable for it being Jordy Clasie’s debut but also, for the fact that we actually turned up for a friendly, running out 3-0 winners.  There was a header from a corner by Captain Fonte to put us 1-0 up in about 20 minutes.  Next up was a cracking team goal as we built up the right through Tadic and Cedric, with Cedric crossing low for Mané to finish.  It was 3-0 with ten to go as Tadic expertly jinked round a defender before sliding a great ball through for Graziano to pass past the goalkeeper.  Great stuff and nice to get a few goals and look decent.

A few goals were certainly on the agenda in the game against the vaguely amusingly named KVV Quick 20, a Dutch amateur side who we beat 10-0.  There were hat-tricks for both Graziano and J-Rod and you could tell how much it meant from the goal celebrations which consisted of variations of ambling back to our own half.  The other goals came from Jordan Turnbull, Juanmi and two from Steve Davis.  It must have been intense if Steve Davis scored twice.  Despite what Erwin Koeman said afterwards about it being worthwhile, you have to wonder if it was even worthwhile for fitness.  It was 7-0 at half time and no one was really busting a gut n the second half.  I guess it gave the like of Jordan Turnbull and Jack Stephens the chance to play with some first team players and of course, J-Rod to get 90 minutes in.

Onto Feyenoord for the main game of the pre-season tour and it’s a big day for Koeman, Clasie and Pellè as they return to De Kuip for the first time since leaving.  The expected great receptions duly arrive for all three and Clasie in particular seems very choked up by it all.  Maarten Stekelenburg, given his Ajax connections, is given dogs abuse however.  The game itself wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting as we coasted to a 3-0 win.  Tadic gave Pellè a goal on a plate before a Yoshida header and a nice finish from Juanmi who was teed up by fellow substitute Shane Long.  The starting XI seemed to give up Ronald Koeman’s thinking for the Vitesse match in the Europa League with Stekelenburg in goal, a back 4 of Cedric, José, Maya and Matt Targett in the absence of the injured Bertrand.  We then had Big Vic next to Little Jordy with Steve Davis in midfield and Tadic and Mané up front with Graziano.  There was no J-Rod on the bench which says to me that he’s still being very closely monitored.

It came to light that Florin Gardos’ absence from the Dutch friendlies was down to him picking up a knee injury which is going to rule him out for ages so now there’s a potential story for the media to call a crisis.  Also absent was Gaston Ramirez – what a surprise.  He was offered the opportunity to play more this season and guess what – injured again – same as he always is when he has a chance to play.  To think we had hopes that he’d be the new Matt le Tissier when he signed and in fact he’s the new Lee Holmes.  It happens too often for it to be a coincidence.  Remember when J-Rod got injured and he was next in line to play a few games – guess what happened?  Yep, injured.  The guy is a waste of space.  If any Italian or Spanish or South American club offer more than a million then get rid… but my guess is that he’ll carry on being a drain on wages for the final year of his contract even if we hawk him out on loan somewhere.  The bloke’s on course to retire with a career total of about 100 league games.

The centre half crisis was averted before it really got started as we signed Stephen Caulker on loan for the season from QPR.  I saw a lot of negative reactions from Saints fans to this as he’s been relegated twice in the last two seasons but think about it.  Signed for Malky McRacist to play for the basket case that was Cardiff and then signed by Harry Redknapp to play for the basket case that was QPR.  Maybe he sacked his agent as he’s now ended up with us.  Now, I’m not over convinced by him but this is a defender who has represented England once and was highly thought of and I remember wanting us to sign him when he left Spurs.  José Fonte will make him a better player and the solid structure that we have behind the scenes will bring out the best in him…. Not to mention the manager who knows a thing or two about centre halves.

It doesn’t seem very long since we stuffed Villa 6-1 but here we go again….

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Well, We Did Kind of Know It Was Coming.

Morgan and Victor Took Protecting the Ball to the Next Level

Manchester United have stopped messing about and decided to get on with it and sign Morgan Schneiderlin from Saints for a fee of somewhere in the region of £24 to £30 million quid.  It was the worst kept secret in football for a while but it’s finally happened as we all knew it would.  It was an open secret since last summer that he’d be gone this summer, the only unknown was the destination and let’s face it, whilst it’s disappointing, it’s not a bad destination.

We were completely skint and had just survived relegation to League 1 by the skin of our teeth when we signed Morgan.  He was an unknown kid from Strasbourg and we were paying £1.2 million for him when we didn’t have any money, on the recommendation of Georges Prost, the Frenchman who was overseeing the Academy at the time.  There’s were these rumours going round that Arsenal had had a lot to do with his transfer and that we were merely keeping him for a bit.  If memory serves, we even signed another French kid (Romain Gasmi) to keep him company in keeping with our babysitter approach that we had.  We bought Marian Pahars a fellow Latvian in Imants Beleidelis and we had Kleber Chala as an Ecuadorian friend for the legendary Agustin Delgado.   All of the babysitters were complete failures in their own rights as players. 

Add all this up and add in the fact that the rest of the team at the time was terrible and Morgan got burdened with unrealistic expectations in that everyone expected this 18 year old kid to tear up the Championship and fire us to promotion.  It didn’t happen and we got relegated with Morgan playing well in a few games but in the main, flattering to deceive.  He had something but no one was really sure what it was, least of all Jan Poortvliet, his first manager who didn’t have a clue about anything. 

A new season brought League 1 football, the Markus Liebherr takeover and a new manager in Alan Pardew who liked what he saw in Morgan but told him that he needed to toughen up.  He still didn’t really stand out as anything special and the more prosaic talents of Dean Hammond and Paul Wotton were often more effective in midfield as games passed Morgan by.  Teams tended to defend deep against us and park the bus, only attacking by lumping the ball forwards to the obligatory big bloke.  When the ball was in midfield it was usually one big scrap which the 19 year old Morgan wasn’t always up for.  The success of that season was winning the JPT and Morgan was injured for the final.

The first markedly better season was in the League 1 promotion season under Nigel Adkins and his partnership with Hammond dominated most matches.  With Chamberlain and Lallana on the wings and Lambert and Guly up front, he flourished as we dominated a vast majority of matches.  When Chamberlain disappeared off to Arsenal at the end of the season, it was assumed that Morgan would be off too but still the big boys hadn’t seen enough in him to warrant it.

The Championship was of course a higher standard than League 1 and some could raise their game and some could not.  Morgan was one of those who could and was an influential performer when partnered with any one of Hammond or the newly acquired Jack Cork or Richard Chaplow.  He became a more consistent player as the team started the season well and just kept on going through to another promotion.  He had had more influence in games the tougher they got and now the question was, could Morgan do it in the Premier League?  By this time, there were no Saints fans who had any doubt.

The first season in the Premier League under Adkins, saw Hammond fall by the wayside and Morgan’s emergence as a genuine Premier League class midfielder was aided with the return from injury of Jack Cork in the Novemeber of that year.  Cork’s return enabled Morgan to flourish, add a few goals to his game keep that going to an eventual Saints Player of the Year award and a call up to the French national team.  He had been ignored up to this point by Didier Deschamps who had made noises to the effect of Morgan playing for the wrong club.  There was even talk of him being qualified to play for England as he’d been here 5 years by that point but that only ever seemed like a ruse to try and get Deschamps to see the wood for the trees.

The full season under Pochettino saw Morgan having to adapt to the high pressing strategy which he achieved with ease.  The skinny French kid who had got lost in the scrap in League 1 was now mixing it with the best in the Premier League and winning, in partnership with Victor Wanyama.  He chipped in with some important goals and always seemed to save his best performances for the big guns.  He was by now turning into the complete midfielder with the defensive discipline, the ability to go box-to-box and the range of passing.  By the end of 2013-14, Pochettino had defected to Spurs and Morgan was his top target.  The club refused to sanction any move away for him in the face of a rash of sales.  Morgan famously threw his toys out of the pram and wrote his ‘6 years of an amazing journey, DESTROYED in 1 hour’ tweet.  In the event there was one bid, a ridiculous £10 million offer from Pochettino and Spurs which just offended anyone including apparently, the player himself.

Deep down, we all knew that season 2014-15 under Ronald Koeman was going to be his last at the club but he got over the upset of the summer and just got on with it and what a season he had.  Superb performance after superb performance as Saints defied all expectations and occupied the Champions League places for much of the season.  The highlight of the season for many was the performance at Old Trafford where he and Wanyama completely dominated the midfield to ensure United didn’t get a shot on target as won 1-0.  The really big clubs couldn’t fail to take notice now and once Manchester United’s name came into the mix, it was only a matter of time before he departed.  There was the briefest moment when United signed Bastian Schweinsteiger first that we thought that Morgan might be their second choice but a day later the deal was done and the kid we paid £1 million for, kept for 7 years on our upward journey and developed into a world class midfielder had been sold for considerably more than that to the biggest club in the country.

There should be no animosity towards him as he’s been brilliant for us overall.  He’s made a genuine massive step up in joining United and his signing is a very significant step to getting them back where they should be.  United are of course, a huge club and they have a virtual guarantee of Champions League football every year.  I’ll never care much for United but they’re now just a striker and a centre back away from being a title challenging side again.  The additions of Morgan and Schweinsteiger will take a lot of pressure off of their dodgy defence and the two of them will make all the ridiculous hype that surrounds the snail-paced, non-tackling, can’t-play-when-pressed Carrick look ridiculous.

I find it amazing that other clubs weren’t in for Morgan as with the possible exception of Chelsea, he would improve any side in England and many of the big guns abroad.  Here anyway, Arsenal have missed out, as have Manchester City.  Are Coquelin and Fernandinho better than Morgan Schneiderlin? No way.  I’ll forgive the offending tweet though it was annoying at the time and also, he seemed to be unable to keep his mouth shut when interviewed in France on every international break but the bottom line is, if no one had paid the money this summer, he’d have been back playing for us next season and he’d have just got on with it, just like he did last year.  He must be counting his blessings that Spurs weren’t serious about signing him and that Saints would have blocked it anyway.

In terms of his career, he is going at the right time – he’s 25 with 7 years behind him.  He’s learnt all that Saints can teach him and got the experience required to take into his United career.  I feel that Shaw, Chambers and before that, Walcott, Chamberlain and even Bale left too soon and could have done with another few years at Saints.  Also, Morgan has not left in a bad way (Lallana, Lovren) and he should have our respect for that.  The club issued a website tribute to him when he went and that tells you he conducted himself well when compared against Lallana’s two line send off.  Adam did nothing wrong though and he categorically never refused to play for the club.  Of course not.

So we should thank Morgan for all he’s done for us and wish him all the best with his new club.  They are the biggest club in the country and genuine member of the elite in European terms and if they come knocking for one of your players then all you can do is wish them the best, especially if the player concerned has already given you 7 years.  Maybe it will act as a lesson for some of the youngsters to show that you can stay at Saints for a number of years and keep improving until you’re absolutely ready for a big move.  I remember thinking this about Theo Walcott who could have given us 8 years and still only have been 24.  As far as Saints are concerned, Morgan was a huge player for us and massively instrumental in the journey we’ve been on for the past 6 years.  It’s a shame to see him go but we’ll get someone else in for a fraction of the money (in fact, we have already....) and we’ll march on.

Thanks Morgan

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dodgy Dealings and Dishonesty in Football. Who'd Have Thought It?

A Massive Cock next to the Tottenham Badge

I am setting myself the challenge of writing this without swearing.

I am writing at a time when the Toby Alderweireld saga has come to an end and it’s comes to the end in the worst possible way in that he’s signed for Spurs.  To say this is a disappointing end to what is a shoddy affair is an understatement.  Media campaigns, dishonesty, legally questionable practice, underhand dealings, ex-employees, incompetence and the usual badge kissing footballer standard rubbish have all played a part and the end result is that Saints got shafted, again, by Tottenham, again.

I have never been so keen for us to sign up a player that we’ve had on loan.  I remember being desperate to sign up Marek Saganowski after a 10 goal in 13 game loan spell and he turned out to not be any good once he had a permanent contract.  Toby Alderweireld would have been different however.  This is very much like when Glenn Hoddle left Saints to return to Spurs as manager in one respect.  Hoddle at the time was at a low point in his career having just shot himself in the foot over his disabled ‘reap what you sow’ comments and Saints gave him the chance to resurrect his career as a manager, which he did with aplomb for about a year before Spurs came calling and off he went without a second glance.  Alderweireld had had a season with Atletico Madrid where he hardly played, Saints gave him the chance to resurrect his career and he repaid them and joined Spurs.  It’s worse in a way as Hoddle was a Spurs legend beforehand whereas Toby’s connection seems to be that they have a couple of Belgian players. 

Due to way it’s been reported, mainly through speculation and guesswork, it’s hard to know the facts so some, or all of the following may have happened at the three clubs in this triangle.

Atletico Madrid are a club which pride themselves on buying small and selling big, in much the same way that Saints operate.  They loaned Toby to Saints last year with an option to buy at the end of the season for £6.8 million with an option to buy that out for £1.5 million which it was assumed they’d take up if they thought that the value of of the player had now exceeded £8.3 million.  This clause had a time limit on it and they didn’t sort that out in time and therefore, should Saints want to take up the option to buy, they should have been able to do so.  Atletico decided that they didn’t care about the Saints clause and flogged him to Spurs as they chucked more money at them, £11.5 million by the sound of it.  Atletico clearly messed up not buying out the Saints clause in time but they just didn’t care about the agreement or Saints threatened legal action which may or may not happen.   Also, if he hadn’t been on loan with us and had just been sat in Atletico’s reserves for a season then his value to them in the transfer market would not have been anywhere near what they’ve sold him for.  Nice isn’t it?  From a playing point of view, it makes no difference to Atletico who they sell him to.  So why Spurs?  If they’d bought out the clause as expected then I’m sure we’d have bid the same as Spurs and there may have even been a bidding war.  It looks like we eventually did match the bid at the last minute but too late.

Saints appear to have been played by Atletico in order to get more money out of another potential buyer.  Saints are possibly guilty of believing the player when he said he wanted to stay and possibly guilty of standing there like Neville Chamberlain (no relation to Alex) and pointing at their bit of paper which appeared to say that they had got what they wanted.  Many will say that Saints could have afforded £11.5 million as if they sign Virgil van Dijk for example as a replacement, he’ll cost that much but it appears the club thought they had an agreement to sign the player for £4.7 million less than that so why would you throw away that amount of money when you didn’t believe you had to.  Once it became apparent that Atletico didn’t care about that agreement, Saints tried to bid more money but by then the horse had bolted.  Saints have had their pants pulled down one way or another and are either guilty of naivety or incompetence.  Personally, I don’t believe it was the latter.  I believe we played by the rules and expected others to do the same.  We’ve given Alderweireld a chance to resurrect his career, increased his value for Atletico and proved he can handle the English league for Spurs.  So all three other parties have benefitted and we’ve been shafted.

Spurs in the eyes of the media are the whiter than white in all this.  The argument is between Saints and Atletico and there’s no blame attached to Spurs and no issue with their conduct.  The legal argument if there is one will be between the other two clubs so they’re done with the whole thing now unless any legal row results in the player not being allowed to play until it’s all resolved.  Two words for you – Paul Mitchell.  Mitchell was the Head of Recruitment at Saints when we signed Toby and now he holds the same role at Spurs.  He would have known every single detail of the contract that Saints signed with Atletico, known of all the clauses, known all of the option expiry dates and so Question 1 when they decided to get involved should have been, “Have you sorted out all the clauses with Saints in the contract?”.  As the answer to that was clearly no, Spurs would have known that they had no right to make an approach at that point.  Will anyone care?  No – no one will care in the slightest – the media haven’t even looked at this angle.  Illegal approaches go on all the time as we know.  If you want to go conspiracy theory mad and take an alternative view, maybe Mitchell had already been tapped up by Spurs and set up the deal with holes in it to allow Spurs to come in at this point.  We won’t ever know as no one is asking.

And then there’s the player who came out with the quotes that always come back and bite you later when you do an about turn.  “It doesn’t feel like my last home game” he said after we hammered Villa in the last home game of last season.  We had the usual ‘love the club, love the fans’ stuff and there’s the expected respect for the manager of Ronald Koeman’s standing.  Ronald said only a few days ago that he’s spoken to Toby and he wanted to join Saints and now it turns out that Toby did have the choice of who to join but had already made up his mind to join Spurs, wehcih he told Saints about the day before it was announced – Footballer being economical with the truth shocker. 

No one comes out of this with any credit and it’s another nail in the ideal that footballers mean what they say and actually care about the club they play for or the fans of that club.  Let’s not pretend he won’t do well at Spurs though because he will – he’s different class.  They may have about 15 central defenders as befits Spurs scattergun approach to signing players but they’re all poor and he’s straight to the top of the list.

The bottom line is that Toby Alderweireld decided to he’d rather join Spurs than us.  That’s his prerogative of course and as has been proved many times in the past, you’re better off having players who want to play for you.  Like with Nathaniel Clyne, it’s hard to wish them well because of the clubs they’ve joined but in this case it’s hard because there’s the feeling that we’ve been treated very badly by everyone, including the player himself.  He’s apparently sent Ronald Koeman a text message to say thanks.  Nice one Toby – a real personal way to thank a true legend of the game for rescuing your career.

Anyway – he’s been, he’s chosen to go to a rival and we must move on as always.  Nothing changes, and neither Spurs or Saints will be challenging for a Champions League spot next season.  One thing we learnt last season is that we’ll be ok.

Now for the swearing section as we explore the reasons why I’m pissed off about this.

  1. He’s a great player and he’s not going to playing for us this year and we have to replace him.  We’re used to replacing players but there’s always that risk of buying a Vegard Forren.
  2. It’s Fucking Spurs who we’re competing with for 5th – 8th place in the League.  We finished a whole 2 points behind them last year and we should be aspiring to finish in front of them this year.  Instead – we are weaker and they are stronger at this moment in time.
  3. We’re busy releasing self-congratulatory videos about how great we are behind the scenes and we may well have fucked up here.  Like I said earlier, I don’t believe we have misunderstood the contract that was signed but just in case - pride comes before a fall and all that.
  4. We’ve been played by Atletico and Spurs.  The bigger clubs have got together and it all appears to have been done in a rush before we could do anything about it.  At present we don’t know what date all the clauses expired but I’m guessing it was July 1st, less than a week before Toby was unveiled at Fucking Spurs.  Once he’s been picture holding the shirt, it’s hardly going to unravel is it?
  5. It’s Fucking Spurs who have pissed us off so many times before – Hoddle, Dean Richards, Gareth Bale, Pochettino, Mitchell.  Not to mention what we’ve had off them – Tommy Forecast and Ryan Smith – absolute turds of players.
  6. The player has clearly lied to Koeman, one of the most respected figures in the game who has achieved pretty much everything as a player and is proving to be a great manager.  Pretty much all footballers are scumbags and just follow the wedge, not caring who they shaft along the way.  Toby has an image of being a great stand up guy but his just doesn’t tally. “I’ve sent Koeman a text to say thanks” – very big of you Toby.  As soon as Spurs made their (possibly illegal) approach then he was only going to join them but he obviously strung us along for as long as possible like an absolute shit.
  7. Spurs fans are in the main, pricks.  Deluded arseholes who think they’re one of the elite.  I’m 46 years old and they haven’t challenged for the Premier League in my lifetime.  They’re a big club, bigger that us but nowhere near the top 4 clubs and whoever they sign, they’ll finish between 5th and 8th like they always do.
  8. The media campaign – no one asking the Mitchell question, no one suggesting Spurs in the wrong at all.  I think it’s a really good angle for some investigative journalist but no one can be arsed as it’s only Saints fans who would be interested and no one ekse cares.
  9. The good guys have in all likelihood, been fucked over yet again it appears.  We tried to do things the right way but by the time it became clear that the contract we had meant nothing, it was too late to compete on a level playing field to sign the player.
  10. Sing your own fucking song you wankers.
  11. Just once, it would be nice if a player chose us over Fucking Spurs and Fucking Liverpool but that’s never going to be the case.  Money and the fact that the clubs in question won trophies some time back in the last century before the player was even born, are always going to be more of a pull.  No matter how many players leave us and see their careers tank at a bigger club, there’s always going to be the next one queuing up to leave. 
  12. No one outside of Southampton gives a shit – the big club got the result.

Good news is
  1. We’ve still got Jose Fonte who brings best out of whoever plays with him. He’s the elader of the defence so any new centre back just basically has to do what he’s told.
  2. I’m convinced that Florin Gardos is going to step up this season.
  3. It’s over, nice and early – we have plenty of time to find a replacement and we’ve proved to be pretty good at that recently.
  4. It wasn’t Liverpool.
  5. I’m not sure that Fuckign Spurs ‘Dream Belgian Defence’ of Toby and Vertonghen will be that decent.  Is one of them a defensive leader like Fonte is?  Hopefull they’ll find out that the reason they are right and left back for Belgium is that they’re not great at centre back.  Clutching at straws here aren’t I….
  6. We might sue Atletico and he might be blocked from playing if the transfer isn’t ratified until the legal action is over.  This would be incredibly amusing.

Anyway, now it’s done we can all move on.  Any legal case will proceed in the background and we can get on with pre-season and the Europa League matches approaching.  Bring it on.  What’s that marketing phrase we have?... oh yes… We March On!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Summertime Blues and .... Women!

Hodgson and Southgate Face the Media

Hot on the heels of the signing of Cedric Soares, came the capture of Maarten Stekelenburg on a season long loan.  On the face of it, it seems like a great deal for both parties with us getting an experienced and decent keeper to cover us until Fraser returns and Stekelenburg getting a chance to resurrect a career that has stalled somewhat in the last couple of years.  He made the mistake of signing for Fulham you see.  They of course got relegated and he was loaned out to cut costs to AS Monaco where he didn’t get a game.  Before all that of course he played for Ajaz for the best part of 10 years and was the Dutch keeper for the whole of the 2010 World Cup when they reached the final.  OK, we’ll ignore the fact that Eljero Elia played in the same final and he’s been average at best.           

It is another signing which has been brought in to address a specific need and he will of course, barring catastrophe, start the season as our number 1.  I have nothing but praise for the way the club has signed the players they need, rather than just signing the ones they can get. 

Another we need of course is Toby Alderweireld and the London media have been in full swing.  Apparently he’s told his friends and family that he wants to sign for Spurs despite going to print in the Dutch papers saying he wanted to sign for Saints.  I guess Saints and Spurs are similar, they sing our song, sign our manager, sign our recruitment bloke and all that shit.  It boils my piss that Fucking Spurs and trying to sneak in there but I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Maybe Toby has got confused as to who he played for last season.  I doubt it though. 

On the same day that Stekelenburg signed, we had the in many ways, more significant news, that our England Under 16 captain Callum Slattery, has signed his first professional deal with the club.  Despite only being 16, he’s been linked with Arsenal so it’s good to get that one over the line.  Of course, all it does it shunt the speculation down the line a couple of years but at least the lad has made the decision that’s best for his career and not best for his bank balance right now.  If the club can remain true to it’s word about the pathway through to the first team and Slattery is as good as he appears to be, hopefully we can see him on the pitch at St.Mary’s in the Premier League before the end of the season.. 

Talking of England (which I was briefly) it’s good to see that we are preparing the younger generation for playing for the full England side by making them play for a manager so devoid of anything you need to be a decent football manager.  You’d think the job description might include things like ‘Personality’, ‘Tactics’, ‘Inspiration’… all words that immediately make you think of Gareth Southgate.  Average player, average manager, personality free yes man with no balls.  You’re 2-0 down and going out against Italy and you have 45 minutes to save things and what do you do Gareth – I know, bring on a guy with 20 minutes to go who has played 60 minutes first team football in his life.  Meanwhile, James Ward-Prowse, with 70 odd Premier League appearances sits on his arse on the bench.  It’s not just that JWP is a Saints player and it’s not that Ruben Loftus-Cheek isn’t a decent player – it’s just how the fuck can RLC be better equipped to playing in a pressure situation when he’s got no experience whatsoever.  Who out of JWP and RLC is likely to be in Hodgson’s thinking come next season?  Yep, it’s JWP so why is he not playing in a U21 Tournament to give him experience of international tournament football?  It’s not just about JWP, Calum Chambers who I have no time for at all, got no game time at all despite having played about 50 more Premier League games that one of the starting centre halves.  Nathaniel Chalobah played every game and he can’t pass ball 5 yards.  He’ll never make it at Chelsea and is this years Josh McEachran – remember him?  Still, I bet he has loads of cash as his reward for fucking about in the Championship.  I tell you, the first step to recovery for England at all levels is to actually pick players who are sharp from playing regularly at the best level.  Then, players who are not getting picked might actually think twice about sitting in a Big 4 reserve side.  We had the usual selection of players who were eligible but not picked because their clubs bitched about it.  I can understand Jack Wilshere not being there as he’s had a lot of injuries but there’s no excuse for Ross Barkley or Alex Chamberlain not being there as they’re not regulars for either club or country. 

The big club stuff is of course the same shit that Hodgson pulls at full international lever – you’re better of not playing for Chelsea, than playing regularly for a smaller club in the same league.  Same old shit.  As for Gareth “I’d like to keep the job” Southgate – just fuck off!.  Look at the recent resurgence in the England Cricket Team, brought on solely by dynamic leadership and allowing the players to express themselves.  What have we got at international level – Hodgson, Southgate and at Under-20’s level, Aidy Fucking Boothroyd – a League 1 level hoof merchant.  It really is staggering that anyone is surprised that we’re shit.  Uninspiring, conservative, tactically inept yes men.  

In the last blog I ranted about Clyne not getting picked – well he will now as he’s signed for Liverpool for a fee rising to £12.5 million.  Good luck to him I guess.  A couple of things piss me off about this… one is that we are trying to compete with Liverpool and Spurs in the league and we’ve just sold them yet another player and the other is that Clyne left his new contract unsigned and didn’t turn it down when he had no intention of ever signing it.  The club had the impression that talks were going well but obviously not.  Off you go and don’t let the door hit you on the arse.  There has been a reaction on twitter from people who I respect, saying that he couldn’t be arsed in the latter half of the season and that it shows what happens when a player has his mind elsewhere.  I have to say that I never really saw that in the games I saw but too many are saying it for it to be not true I guess.   

We could have also done without Jamie Carragher giving it the big one about how he advised Clyne to move to Anfield when they beat us at SMS.  No crime here as Carragher has no official job at Liverpool any more but you can bet your bottom dollar that Liverpool put Carragher up to it and in hindsight, it’s interested that Clyne was quoted soon afterwards as saying he didn’t need Champions League Football for his international career.  We thought at the time that he’d stay with us but no.  Still, Cedric Soares admitted that José Fonte has been in his ear about signing for Saints so swings and roundabouts.  I honestly wouldn’t mind if Clyne signed for one of the top 4 but any player of ours ending up at Fucking Liverpool or Fucking Spurs is always going to grate more from now on. 

Changing the subject slightly…. At risk of being called sexist (which you are always at risk of when discussing this next subject)… you have the England Women’s team who as I write have just been knocked out of the World Cup in the semi-final, having conceded a heartbreaking own goal in the 93rd minute.  I’ve been watching the England sides’ progress since the knockout phase started and have thoroughly enjoyed it for many reasons and fair play to them.  There are some things that annoy me about Women’s football but none of that is the players fault.  It’s not really comparable to the men’s game at all so it annoys me when female players say ‘you can’t compare us to the men” but when I was at Wembley recently and Rooney won his 100th cap, they read out all the England players with over 100 caps and it was “Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Peter Shilton, Rachel Yankey, Frank Lampard…..”.  When England reached the semi-final, there was lots of media chatter about it being our first semi-final since 1990 etc so you can’t have it both ways.  Don’t complain about comparisons being made when the powers that be and the media around the womens game are merging everything together. 

Also, no one says something is shit when it quite clearly is shit.  An aimless ball out of play is shit whether a man or a woman plays the ball.  A defender who can’t turn and is really slow is shit, regardless of if they’re male or female. Having said you shouldn’t really make comparisons, against Norway in the first half, the women were so much like the men’s team that it was amusing.  4 defenders, 5 midfielders in front of them and about 70 yards before a lone striker.  Toni Duggan up front reminded me so much of Michael Owen when Sven the Charlatan was in charge in that she had a diet of throat balls to control with 4 defenders battering her all over the place.  Also mirroring the men’s teams, the coach picked the wrong team and got rescued by the subs he brought on with one in particular (Jill Scott) changing the game completely just by linking play up and passing the ball to her own side.  After coming back from a goal down to win 2-1 courtesy of a set piece header and a thumping shot from right back Lucy Bronze, it was host nation Canada in the Quarters. 

The England Woman raced into a 2-0 through Jodie Taylor capitalising on a horrific error by the Canadian centre back and running through to score and then Bronze looping a good header from a set piece over the keeper and in off the bar.  It was very comfortable and then just before half time, our keeper Bardsley dropped a horrendous clanger, pushing a low cross straight to a striker to make it 2-1.  In the second half, despite losing the first choice keeper, the ladies battled like fuck to hold on and win 2-1.  I sat up until 3am to watch this and I have to say, they put so much into it that they thoroughly deserved to win.  When it comes to talking about heart and guts you can definitely make comparisons to the England mens team – the women have it and the blokes don’t.  Remember the pathetic exits from the last two mens World Cups and compare the attitude the women who are giving everything.  Technically they’re not the best in comparison with other sides in the tournament and the ball retention is shocking but despite this, when our clearly nervous sub-keeper had to come on for half an hour, England restricted the Canadians to a couple of half chances and they did this through making every tackle and header that they needed to.  Great stuff and all power to them.   

In the semi, they played well against a technically good Japanese side, going 1-0 down when the Japanese got given a penalty for a foul outside the box and then equalising when captain Steph Houghton took a horrible dive under the slightest contact and Fara Williams stuck away the penalty.  Needless to say, the dive wasn’t called a dive by anyone commentating but it was…. a horrible dive.  England hit the bar through Toni Duggan and Jill Scott should have scored with a header (being about a foot taller than the Japanese defenders) and so it came down to a 93nd minute Japanese break down the right, a low cross and poor Laura Bassett in trying to stop the cross, saw it come off her foot, balloon over the keeper, hit the bar and bounce behind the line.  Shit.  I was gutted for them.  When the men lose I’m gutted for myself as in the main, the players deserve to lose and here you can make another comparison between the two sets of England internationals and it’s down to Adam Lallana. 

Adam Lallana ripped away the last shred of me thinking that the England men played for their country for the right reasons, for the honour and for the fact that they wanted to represent their country.  No… Lallana was interviewed when he first got in the England squad and said of Nathaniel Clyne, something along the lines of…. “Clyney will want to get in the England set up…. because it gives you options”.  I thought it was a strange thing to say at the time but history has proved that what he means is “opportunities to earn more money”.  So, there you have it, the England men, bar a couple are playing for England because it increases your commercial viability and you’ll get a move to a bigger club on a bigger contract etc etc etc.  I have no doubt that most footballers think this but don’t actually say it but trust Adam, the thickest of a long line of thick idiots to actually come out and say it.  There are of course some like Rickie Lambert who would have wanted to play for England for the right reasons but most of them… no. 

The women play like a club side.  There don’t appear to be any cliques, no haves and have nots and they wanted to win the World Cup for the country and to spark a legacy for women’s football in this country.  Ok, so they fell short but they’ve captured the imagination of enough people to positively affect the game in this country.  Fair play to them. 

Back at base, pre-season training has started with the kids and those not playing internationals back at Staplewood.  Morgan Schneiderlin was there and this got reported as ‘Morgan forced to train with the kids’ by Alex Crook in the Daily Star.  Crook is a locally based journo who reports on Saints, Pompey and Bournemouth and Crook blocked me on twitter for questioning his journalistic pedigree last summer, in a display of thin skinned petulance.  I honestly can’t remember what I said but I expect that it was pretty minor – he can write made-up shite and try and pass it off as fact but I can’t tell him he does.  So, Crook is right up there with Neil Allen of the Portsmouth Evening News.  As I write, since his latest bullshit, he’s been very quiet on social media.   

Ronald Koeman talked positively about the Europa League and about the prospects of Toby Alderweireld joining.  Oddly, he didn’t mention Spurs.  Social media a nightmare during the transfer window especially concerning Arsenal, Spurs and Man United.  So much bullshit, such a high percentage.  If we do manage to get the Alderweireld deal over the line, I hope all of you on twitter give it the large one to any Spurs fan on there or especially all the Spurs Hub sites. 

I could list all the players we’ve been linked with but there are too many but there is one bit of good news and that’s that we’ve cancelled the contract of one Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, he cost us a fortune, scored 3 goals, one of which was amazing, kicked a Newcastle coach in the bollocks, nutted his captain in training, slapped a player at a club he was loaned to, organized an orgy at another club, disowned his son and probably countless other things – he could have been brilliant but he chose to be a piece of shit.