Monday, September 22, 2014

Premier League Game 5 - Swansea 0 Southampton 1

Big Vic:  Too Tough for Goal Celebrations

A trip over the Severn Bridge and then on until the land runs out to play Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.  Most experts that you see on TV or write columns in the press, would have been expecting this to be a game of 16th versus 17th or whatever but of course it’s not – it’s 3rd versus 4th.  Swansea started the season with a trip to Old Trafford and won and it was all plain sailing until they went to Stamford Bridge last week and lost 4-2 but still put on a decent display.  Ex-Saint Garry Monk appears to be doing things the right way and having been at Swansea as a player for years, has had no problem in carrying on with the philosophy of the club.  They play decent football so it should be a decent game.  Mind you, I said that last year and it wasn’t really a good game and the goal bounced in off Rickie Lambert’s shoulder having come down with snow on it.

Ronald Koeman’s press conference had brought the news that Sadio Mane’s work permit had come through but that he wouldn’t be available for today’s game, probably because he hasn’t met anyone yet. Other news is that King Artur has gone out on loan to Bournemouth.  Excuse me?  Bournemouth.  So, we’ve loaned out the guy who was one of the best keepers in the Premier League last season… to Bournemouth.   Let’s just ponder that for a second.  It’s an emergency loan for a maximum of 93 days but I don’t know if we have instant recall within the 93 days.  If not then it seems a gamble as we’re a Forster injury away from having a League 1 standard keeper in goal.  Artur obviously wants first team football and there has obviously been some sort of issue behind the scenes.  It annoys me though that we’ve helped out the team with the most ungrateful set of supporters ever and how the hell is it an ‘emergency’ loan when they have at last 3 other keepers who are fit?

There have been rumours before the game that Toby Alderweireld has a bit of a hamstring issue and the Twitter Medical Fraternity have diagnosed that he’s out for a month, or a year, or a week.  Whatever the length of time, the rumour has some substance as Toby is not in the 18.  With mention being made of Swansea’s lack of height in the build-up, I wondered if the giant Florin Gardos would come in but Maya Yoshida was back in the team and the only other change sees JWP in for Steve Davis.  Sam McQueen is again on the bench and (I know I said this last week) Emmanuel Mayuka is making his final appearance on the bench before being loaned out to a random Championship Club which hopefully won’t be Bournemouth. Swansea of course have ex-Saints and ex-bag thief Nathan Dyer and since last season have re-signed Gylfi Sigurdsson who thought the grass would be greener at a bigger club but it turned out that it wasn’t.  There’s a few ex-Saints players who might be learning that lesson this season.

Away we go and Saints are immediately reminded that Swansea are the only team in the league who keep the ball better than we do  and we struggle to make any impression at all.  Swansea aren’t creating anything much either aside from a Routledge cross which is too far ahead of Dyer.  He’d have got it if it was in a handbag.  Sigurdsson rifles a shot straight down Forster’s throat and Saints at least get up the other end as Pelle aims a massive scissor volley at Clyne’s cross and gets a free kick given against him for nearly kicking a defenders head off.  The first real incident is Bony getting booked for ignoring the ball and just charging into Maya Yoshida while he was in the air.  It’s a real cowardly, malicious tackle and it’s only going to injure the opponent.  Bony either knew that or he’s really thick.  Saints are not impressed with the tackle and the next time Bony gets it, Captain Fonte steams in, wins the ball but trashes through Bony on the follow through and he gets deservedly booked as well.

It’s still all Swansea though and Routledge should have scored when Maya dozed off and Sigurdsson found the winger in space but he clipped his shot off the bar and over.  Saints responded briefly with Pelle half hitting a shot after a Bertrand cross which Fabianski saved easily before Bony got his head to a corner and saw his header cleared off the line by Bertrand. 

A scuffle in midfield saw Yoshida come away with the ball and Bony decided to launch a tackle on him from behind.  It was a kind of scissors effort, nowhere near the ball and anyone who was remotely surprised at a second yellow coming out clearly knows nothing about football.  Off you go you idiot.  The one remaining incident of note in the half was Jose (rather stupidly) lunging in at a loose ball and Routledge got there first and cleared it, before hurdling the Fonte lunge.  Swansea’s bench went nuts and demanded a 2nd yellow, I presume for kicking fresh air.  I mean, it was similar to Bony’s 2nd tackle except for the fact that he didn’t touch him and didn’t leave him in a heap on the ground.  To emphasize the point further, Maya looks like he can barely walk at half time.  So, 0-0 but a one man advantage.

If anyone doubted the extent of the punishment that Maya took from Bony then they’d have noted with interest that he didn’t emerge for the second half and Florin Gardos came on.  Swansea didn’t make a change and left Sigurdsson up front on his own so there were expectations that we’d have a bit more of the play.  Sure enough we did, after working out that every time we put in a tackle, Swansea players would roll around a bit and everyone in the crowd and on their bench would be screaming for a card.  Bertrand fouled Dyer and the ref wasn’t going to book him until the panto kicked off on the bench and then he decided to.  So, after dominating the first ten minutes without looking dangerous, Dusan Tadic cut in from the left, worked some space and curled in a shot which flicked off Dyer’s toe, went to Portsmouth, nicked a handbag and back to today, looped up over the keeper and landed on top of the net.

Graziano was having a quiet game but become more of a threat as Clyne got away down the right and fired over a cross which the big man connected with but Fabianski comfortably saved.  He was again not extended by Pelle from the next cross which came from Steve Davis (on for Corky) so still no breakthrough.  Fabianski is another example of a player who always looked dodgy when he played for Arsenal as he was playing once every three months or whatever but now, as an undisputed first choice, he looks very accomplished.  He’s at Swansea because last years first choice Michel Vorm decided to kill his career by moving to Spurs and being their 2nd choice.

JWP got injured and on rumbled Big Vic for the last 20 minutes.  It’s all Saints now and just a question of whether we can fashion an unmissable chance or not. Ashley Williams was determined that this wasn’t going to happen now and trashed Shane Long to give us a free kick 25 yards out on the right of centre.  With JWP off the pitch, Tadic had no one to argue with over who took it and up stepped the Serbian to hit it low but Fabianski again got across well to grasp it by the post.

It’s been the season of the goal from unexpected sources.  However, we are now almost expecting the unexpected with Corky having scored twice and Morgan 3 times this season.  Taking the ‘least likely’ route would lead you to putting money on Bertrand or Fonte I guess but I bet no one got the first goalscorer except some blind optimists from Kenya.  As Pelle slipped the ball behind the left back, there seemed no danger as Big Vic picked it up but he barged past two defenders, stretched and smashed it across Fabianki and into the top corner for 1-0.  The celebration that followed was a bit odd as he just stood there and stared at the Saints fans without so much as a smile or a wave to the fans, a point which Graziano Pelle seemed to want to make to him but if he scores goals like that he can do what he fucking likes as far as I’m concerned.  Also, if Big Vic stared at me, I don’t think I’d be making an issue of it with him.  Maybe it’s because the last time he scored it was disallowed and he was over doing forward rolls by the corner flag and still there when the opposition restarted the game.

The half expected Swansea onslaught didn’t really happen and in truth, there was only one team who were going to get a goal.  Tadic put Pelle clean through but his first touch was fucking awful and it bounced through to Fabianski.  Pelle fired well wide and then Steve Davis, who is rapidly becoming the last likely to score, wafted a horrible effort miles over the bar.

At the final whistle I cast my mind to the league table that I have in my head.  A quick bit of mental maths and with Villa getting stuffed by Arsenal, I’m pretty sure that we’re 2nd.  Let that sink in for a bit – 2nd.  Whilst that’s sinking it, Liverpool have gone 2-0 down in the opening 10 minutes at Upton Park so I get to laugh at the probability that at least one of those goals will be Lovren’s fault.  It’s turning into a beautiful weekend.  As the weekend went on, Liverpool with Lovren and Lallana - lost, Man United with Shaw on the bench – lost and then to cap it all, Spurs with Pochettino and his lack of Plan B – lost at home to West Brom.  It will be beginning to dawn on Spurs fans now that once they go 1-0 down, they may as well go home.

Finally people are beginning to notice that we are not in meltdown.  Martin Keown and Neil Lennon on Match of the Day were much more objective that the clownish Murphy and Neville from a couple of weeks back and Ronald Koeman is being given the credit and rightly so.  It’s been a brilliant start and long may it continue.  Ronald acknowledged that we weren’t great in this game and it was difficult and you get the impression that he’ll have learnt from this.  Big Vic will have given him a nudge – both with his goal and the fact that in his absence, we did struggle to win the ball in midfield.  The sending off undoubtedly helped us and Garry Monk was a bit of a whingebag afterwards but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he hasn’t seen replays of the Bony challenges.  When he sees them again he’ll be wondering whether to fine his striker for gross stupidity.

It was a game where everyone did their job and no one really stood out.  Big Vic will get a lot of attention because of the goal and it’s great that all three of our nominal defensive midfielders; Morgan, Corky and Big Vic have all shown an eye for goal this season and benefited from the managers’ flexible and unrestrictive approach.  Florin Gardos got 45 minutes and though not under much pressure, that’ll do him good and with Maya and Toby Alderweireld struggling, he should make his full debut in the League Cup on Tuesday.  With Hodgson in the crowd our English contingent all had solid games with Clyne again being the pick of the bunch but Ryan Bertrand won’t have done himself any harm.  It would be mildly amusing if he got back in the squad while Shaw struggles at Mid-table United.

Next up we have a League Cup game versus Arsenal which should see Sadio Mane make his debut against the Arsenal kids.  I would imagine that we’ll put out a decent line up so should have every expectation of winning.  Arsenal have so few defenders on their books that there’s no way they are going to risk then in a League Cup game.  Hopefully the Master Child Catcher will be expecting to see some young fresh meat in the Saints line-up but I really hope we pick more or less our strongest side and give us our best chance of winning the game.  The next league game is against ‘Arry Redknapp and his team of overpaid, over-the-hill mercenaries.  We will be overwhelming favourites for that game but a word of caution – the last time we played them at home, we were the favourites and they did a right number on us and won 1-0.  Not this time though – we have a Plan B should it be going pear shaped. Bring it on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Premier League Game 4 - Southampton 4 Newcastle 0

Text "BIGR55 £3" to 70070.

Benali Puts More Effort into Lap of Honour after 1000 Miles than Newcastle put into 90 minutes

Newcastle at home and the first game of Alan Pardew’s bid to save himself from the sack.  Personally I don’t have a problem with Pardew.  He did well for us and put together the first post-administration squad which was the basis of the squad Nigel Adkins used to get us promoted back to the Premier League and of course, he won a trophy.  Putting that aside for a second, it is a surprise that he still has a job after an abysmal 2014 which included a 4-0 defeat at St.Mary’s in one of the worst visiting performances I have ever seen.  With regular 50,000+ crowds, they really should be challenging for Europa League places but right now you wouldn’t be surprised if they’re fighting relegation. 

We’ve had an international break since the last game in which England were terrible in winning 1-0 in a Wembley friendly against Norway and decent in winning the important game away in Switzerland.  As the rest of the group contains Lithuania, San Marino, Hayling Island and Angelsea, I think we can safely assume that we’ll qualify.  All our internationals came back unscathed and Sadio Mane was playing for Senegal and was supposed to be available for today’s game but the old chestnut of ‘work permit issues’ has reared it’s ugly head so we’ll have to wait for red tape to be cut.

The international break was being cited on the radio for the reason that Toby Alderweireld makes his debut today as Maya was half way round the world with Japan.  I really don’t think so.  It’s harsh on Maya as he’s been solid so far this season but the new man was always going to start.  The only other change from the West Ham team is that Jack Cork gets a start in place of the benched JWP. The bench looks strong and as well as JWP and Maya, it contains Florin Gardos and Big Vic as well as Sam McQueen and for the final time before Sadio Mane’s work permit comes through, Emmanuel Mayuka.

Having missed the West Brom game through being on holiday, I take my seat in the family centre and a quick scout round reveals that the groups of adults who had no kid with them have been moved on and I have four kids who are about 8, right next to me.  Swearing will be off the agenda this season except in frustration at my Dad attempting to pronounce new player names

Dad: “Auto-warold... “
Me: “No... it’s All-der-vi-reld”
Dad: “Aldo.... what is it....”
Me: “All-der-vi-reld”
Dad: “Ardo-harold.... is that it”.
Me: “ Just call him “Toby” for fucks sake – sorry kids”.
Dad: “Tony it is then”

So, Tony Autoharold takes his place as the left sided centre back with Captain Jose on the right.  In the words of Toby’s predecessor, who was a wanker and pissed off to Liverpool.... Let’s Play.

Playing for the managers future is clearly not high n the agenda for Newcastle as from the first attack, Coloccini lazily waves a leg at a backpass and sells Krul short.  Shane Long is charging it down and Krul’s kick smacks into Long and bounces a couple of feet wide.  Later replays showed that it hit Long’s hand but handball wasn't given so it would definitely have stood.  Long is being a pest a few minutes later as Alderweireld puts a ball over the defence for his diagonal run and Long gets there before Krul who flattens him with a punch to the head, getting nowhere near the ball.  It’s a penalty all day long but the ref decides that it isn’t, I assume because Long has pissed him off in previous encounters.

When you’ve had two big let-offs like Newcastle have had, you’d expect them to keep it solid but they’re not capable.  Tadic takes a throw on the left to Cork who plays it back to Tadic who volleys it first time, infield to Bertrand.  The full back lobs it over and Graziano Pelle walks in between the statuesque Coloccini and Williamson and heads past Krul into the top corner as easy as you like.  Jesus, they’re shit.  They finally manage to concede a goal at the 3rd attempt after giving us a chance every 2 minutes.

Newcastle have a couple of attacks down our left through some ineffective tackling from Bertrand which Alderweireld has to sort out which he does with a calm efficiency.  Pelle is showing what confidence does for a striker by shooting from everywhere and his shot from somewhere near the Itchen Bridge is clawed away awkwardly by Krul.

As we approach 20 minutes, we load the gun again, hand it Mike Williamson who shoots himself in the bollocks again.  A long ball and a piss poor 50p head skewed header by Williamson sees the ball drop to Graziano who tries to burst the ball with a shot which is so bad if flies sideways straight to Tadic on the left who calmly controls and lays it back across for the big man to run it into the net for 2-0.  Krul has his hand up to appeal for two mythical offsides and Williamson is appealing for Newcastle to sign a better centre half so he doesn’t have to embarrass himself any more.

Saints then collectively take their foot off the gas and allow Newcastle a spell of pressure. Sissoko runs from deep, plays it to Gouffran wand gets on the end of the low cross before smashing it straight at Big Fraser who has made himself even bigger and then playing a big air shot at the rebound.  Colback (who Roy Hodgson laughably referred to as the Ginger Pirlo … I shit ye not) smacked one straight at the keeper and the Bohemoth saves with ease.  It’s annoying that we’ve allowed them back into the game and just before half time, Gouffran sees his shot deflect wide off of Davis.  We’ve made heavy weather of the last 20 minutes but we’re in at 2-0 so all’s well.

It’s Benali o’clock as the great man entered the stadium though a guard of honour of ex-Saints which included Matt le Tissier, Lawrie McMenemy, Glenn Cockerill, David Armstrong, Mark Dennis, Gordon Watson and David Hughes.  1000 miles and 20 Premier League football grounds completed in 21 days.  The bloke is mad but he did it for Cancer Research.  If you haven’t done so already... go and donate something.

Franny is the same age as me and I think I could have just about made it round the pitch once but not if I’d done the 1000 mile warm-up first.  Our paths crossed in 1984 when we were 15 year old schoolboys – him representing Southampton Schools and me representing Havant Schools.  You’ll be pleased to know we got battered 8-1 and Franny (including his tache) and Rod and Ray Wallace tore us apart.  He was a striker then and of course became a legendary defender.  Here’s my favourite tackle ever.

Get yer money out.

Back to the game and Big Vic on for Long who has concussion as a result of the Krul non-foul after 5 minutes.  It must be a bit of a depressing substitution for Newcastle as Koeman has brought on a player who is not going to allow them to get back into the game.  Steve Davis has pushed up the wing and the Big Man has slotted into midfield with Morgan and Corky.

We are immediately better than at the end of the first half and Colback is soon under pressure and thinking he’s still playing for Sunderland and passing to the red and white striped shirts.  He gives it to Corky who gives it to Pelle who tees up Tadic but the midfielder crashes his shot straight into Krul’s stomach.

There should be a few nerves at this point that Newcastle might bring it back to 2-1 and we’ll be in trouble but not a bit of it as Newcastle are fucking awful and not offering anything going forward. Just before the hour mark it’s all over as the ever-excellent Clyne feeds a ball into Steve Davis, his pass is deflected away from it’s intended target but Williamson and Krul dither which allows Corky to knock it past the keeper’s right hand side and slot it into an empty net for 3-0.  Two goals in three games for Jack Cork – you have got to be kidding me.

It’s substitution time and JWP comes on for the visibly disappointed Tadic who has had a superb match. Ronald obviously feels that he’s not quite got the fitness to play full matches right now but to be honest, with this game won it’s best to take him off.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that I had a fiver at 45-1 on Saints to win 3-1 with Graziano Pelle as the first goal scorer.  It was getting to stage when I was beginning to think that a Newcastle goal wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world when Haidara swung over a cross from the left and everyone including Forster missed it.  Sissoko teed up Riviere who is their new super striker, with an open goal from 10 yards and he scuffed it completely and Ginger Pirlo couldn’t turn it in.  At that point I mentally tore up my virtual betting slip as Newcastle were not going to score if they played until next week.

JWP has taken over from Corky as the midfielder who is never going to score and he had another go and curled a right footed effort over the bar.  It’s time for another debut as the gigantic Florin Gardos came on for Jack Cork who has been superb in a more advanced position that he was ever trusted to play by the previous manager.  The resulting reshuffle sees Alderweireld slot into midfield alongside Big Vic.  Get past those two then.

And so 90 minutes arrived and Steve Davis won the ball in the right back position.  3 minutes later with 11 players having contributed to the move and 39 passes later, Pelle flicked on Big Vic’s pass to JWP, he played it to Morgan on the left hand corner of the penalty area and he cut inside Janmaat and curled a shot over Krul and into the far top corner to make it 4-0.  A brilliant goal and one in the eye for all those who pissed off on 83 minutes because you missed it.  Match of the Day only showed the last 3 passes.  If it had been scored by a big club you would have had a mass-wankathon from the pundits but not to be.  Never mind... a brilliant end to a brilliant day.

The press will no doubt focus on Newcastle being bad and Pardew heading for the sack.  As we know, they’re only interested in the negative unless you’re one of the really big boys but if any of them bothered to look, they’d see that there were some seriously good performers in red and white today.  First up is the new boy Toby Alderweireld.  My Dad can’t pronounce his name but he was absolutely rock solid and despite being right footed, has more than enough to slot into the left sided centre back role.  He won everything in the air, was decisive on the floor and dug Bertrand out of the shit a couple of times and never stopped shouting.  Not too shabby at all.  Though Gardos only had a few minutes he managed to win one tackle in uncompromising fashion and you can see him getting a game if Toby is posted elsewhere which he no doubt will be from time to time.

I love the fact that the midfielders are getting forward and having shots now.  We’re not trying to pass it into the net any more and are only leaving one at most as a defensive midfielder.  When Big Vic came on, Morgan and Corky could get forward and both scored and no one seems frightened to shoot any more.  The only slight moan is that Steve Davis is a great footballer but the closer he gets to the opposition goal, the bigger the chance of him cocking it up.  It seems the Ronald Koeman is going to rotate Corky, Vic, JWP and probably Steve Davis but any two of those four along with Morgan is a seriously decent midfield.

It was obviously going to be important that Graziano Pelle scored goals and adapted to the English game and now we (and even the twats who booed him against West Brom) can see that we have a player on our hands.  He so obviously wants to prove himself and do well which is a complete contrast to the last Italian striker we had.  Up front we have Pelle and Tadic as certainties and Shane Long was decent until he had to come off.  Sadio Mane and J-Rod will make competition in the wide areas seriously decent as well.

Newcastle?  Yes they were shite and the players didn’t give a fuck and it looked like Pardew wasn’t bothered either as he just sat there and did nothing.  Mind you, that’s better than nutting someone but he seems frightened to make his own decisions out there.  They've got some technically decent players but the attitude out there was shocking.  I take no particular pleasure from it as my Grandfather was a Geordie and I’ve always had a soft spot for them but I can’t believe they can get dicked 4-0 here a few months ago and then come back here and do it again.  They were as bad as last time when they players they had out that day, also didn’t give a fuck.

It’s time for a gloat.  It’s not big and it’s not clever but it’s definitely time for a gloat.  I know it won’t last but the league table shows that Saints are 4th and the teams that all our players and manager left for are all lower down the league than us.   Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United and Spurs…. All below us and fuck you.  Lallana, Lovren, Chambers, Shaw, Pochettino….  Long may it continue.  If we finish above just one of them this year it will be fantastic.  Until the season is done though I’ll just take pleasure in Lovren fucking up again for Liverpool to give Villa an Anfield win and Lallana playing his usual 60 minutes before getting knackered and being replaced.

I guess that being in 4th place means that the Ben Smith BBC scripted meltdown isn’t really going to plan either.

Next up Swansea away.  Man of the Match today: see the picture at the top.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Premier League Game 3 - West Ham 1 Southampton 3

Fat Sam is sick of referees giving corners

Every time we play West Ham I start with a tirade against Fat Sam and the way he sets up his teams to play.  It’s unfair to call it the ‘West Ham’ style as it’s Fat Sam’s style and it will be long after he’s departed the Hammers and pissed off back up North.  For now though he’s still here and we’ve got to pay him again today.  We’ve been in the same division as them for the past 3 years and our record is not good.  A home win and a draw in the Championship has been followed by two home draws and two away defeats in the Premier League.  The away defeats have followed the same pattern in that we’ve dominated possession without creating much and the fallen foul of shite defending against the inevitable hoofball pressure and lost convincingly in the end.  It’s so bloody annoying.

On the face of it, Fat Sam appears to have made some decent signings this season but shock of shocks, Andy Carroll is injured which is a relief, especially as Maya Yoshida always has a complete mare against a big striker.  Another bonus is that the Premier League have allocated us a referee for this game as Kevin Nolan is injured as well.  Before anyone thinks that the game would be lacking a hate figure in a claret and blue shirt – don’t worry, Mark Noble is still playing. 

With just a few days remaining of the transfer window, we too were expecting incoming players but so far there has been none since Florin Gardos arrived.  Under Cortese, we kind of knew that there would be no last minute business but I suspect it will be different this time with empty boxes marked ‘winger’ and ‘centre back’ still waiting to be ticked.  We may have to tick another box marked ‘goalkeeper’.  Something has kicked off behind the scenes with King Artur and it appears he is training on his own and is on his way out.  I acknowledge that Ronald Koeman has been decisive with signing and playing Fraser Forster but I can’t help but feel it could have been handled slightly better.  If the Holy Goalie is on his way then we are back in the same position as last season with an excellent first choice and League 1 standard back-ups a-plenty and to be brutally honest, I don’t want to see Superkelv or Gaz Timebomb in goal for any league matches.

To the teams and to the surprise of everyone who thinks that this game is going to be a complete battle, Big Vic is on the bench and the midfield three is Morgan, Steve Davis Ginger Master of the Green Baize and JWP.  Shane Long starts on the right wing and the rest of the team is as expected.  Fat Sam has gone all Championship on us with Carlton Cole and Vaz Te in the starting line-up. Stewart Downing is also there and I’m thinking that we really should be winning this one.

With the confidence of the win from last Tuesday’s visit to East London, we start well with Tadic to the fore and force a succession of corners which are all cleared with no danger to Adrian in the West Ham goal.  West Ham eventually get in our half and win a free kick as Morgan trashes Zarate.  Via a couple of deflections, Noble’s free kick drops to Vaz Te 8 yards out but his low shot is deflected away via the boot of the flying Forster.  It’s a really good save but unfortunately we don’t capitalize on it.  Clyne takes a throw in on the right to Pelle who cushions it back to Morgan.  He gets dispossessed by Zarate who feeds Noble who lets fly from 30 yards and sees it deflect of Yoshida and beat Forster’s dive.  I don’t think Fraser will be particularly happy with this one and Maya’s attempted block had a certain degree of ‘limp’ about it.

Unperturbed, we carry on with our football and try and get Dusan Tadic into the game more.  A decent move sees the ball go from right to left and Tadic puts Bertrand away down the left and his cross is met by Pelle but his header is blocked by a defender in front of the keeper.  The next move down the left sees Tadic pull it back and Davis demonstrate his customary finishing prowess by lashing it miles over the bar.

It looks like it’s going to be half time at 1-0 down but the left side holds the key as Zarate unnecessarily clatters Bertrand.  JWP’sfree kick finds its way across the box to Morgan whose first shot is well blocked but the rebound falls to him and he steers it in across the keeper left footed to make it 1-1.  The puce faced rage being shown by Allardyce is quite ridiculous, as is the penalty shout against Maya as the half ends.  As handball shouts go, it was complete shit.

As seems to be the pattern with Koeman, the second half sees us come out and boss it.  The passing is quicker and the movement is better and the chances are coming.  Clyne feeds a ball into Long who turns and hits it but doesn’t get hold of it before Tadic and Clyne both flash crosses across the box with no one connecting.  Long burst past a defender at pace before being tackled by another and the rebound was smacked by Tadic but pushed wide.  The resulting corner finds Morgan who really should do better than loft it over the bar.  

There’s a Fat Sam classic as West Ham struggle to live with us as Long goes for a return pass but Cresswell can’t be bothered to track the run and instead just blocks him off.  Yellow Card.  JWP swings over the free kick and Pelle judges his run to perfection and steers it across Adrian and in.  Disallowed wrongly for offside and bollocks.  There was no way Graziano was offside as he was stood next to the West Ham right back who didn’t track him after the kick was taken.

Fat Sam strengthens his team by removing Vaz Te and Zarate and bringing on Diame and Ravel Morrison who is fresh from facing charges of threatening to have his ex-girlfriend murdered amongst other deeply unpleasant stuff.  Joey O’Brien is a somewhat limited footballer and an arsehole to boot but he carries out his managers instructions to whack Tadic whenever possible.  He takes the ball and then follows through, swinging his other leg to make sure he gets him.  It’s quite clever in a thuggish sort of way but the ref doesn’t like it and another yellow card.  Once he’s up again, Tadic superbly disguises the free kick with a low pass to Long who miscontrols it which is his last involvement as he’s replaced with Gaston Ramirez.

His first involvement is to try and get on the end of a Tadic cross and it flies off him and the ref gives a corner when in truth it looked more like a goal kick.  West Ham are all bitching at the ref but Tadic is given the nod, knocks it short to the unmarked JWP who crosses to the near post where Morgan flicks it into the net for 2-1. Goaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!

What have West Ham got left/  Well, not much, Diame takes a chunk out of Ramirez which was so late that the ball was in another post code.  Tadic takes the kick and finds Pelle whose shot is blocked but he’s not to be denied just afterwards.  Corky, on for JWP, threads a ball out to the rampaging Clyne whose cross is clawed away by Adrian but straight to Graziano who with a swing of his left boot, slams it into the top of the net for 3-1 for his first league goal and now things are all going rather well.  It would be nice to score more but our job is done.

How do you fucking like that then – an away win having come from behind.  Didn’t get many of those with Pochettino as manager – in fact, we didn’t get any.  Fair play to Koeman who stuck his nect out by leaving out Big Vic and got the result.  Post match, Ronald’s bluntness was there for all to see again as he basically said that all West Ham do is welly it and compete for 2nd balls.  Fat Sam was predictably marvellous – he did acknowledge that we were the better side and deserved to win but crapped on endlessly about the corner that should have been a goal kick with his jowls wobbling and bits of food being spat over the interviewer. Sacked in the morning?  I doubt it but he won’t see the Olympic Stadium.

As you do after a good win, I tuned in to Match of the Day in the evening. I already knew that we were about the 5th game on but what I saw was a complete shambles of an edit to rival the draw we got at Man United last year when every attack we had was edited out aside from the goal and a game we dominated was made to look like a smash and grab.  Today, they showed nothing of the first half hour we dominated which also included the Fraser save, showed the Noble deflected goal and the equalizer. Next up was the disallowed goal which was incorrectly dismissed as “about three of them offside” and then 25 replays of the Gaston challenge that resulted in the corner that should have been a goal kick.

On top of all this, senile old duffer John Motson was commentating by satellite link from his bed in the Rest Home for the Terminally Bewildered and he was getting everything wrong.  We then had Lineker teeing up comments from clueless Danny Murphy and desperate Phil Neville who were there to solely talk about Morgan being destined for better things than Saints.  Morgan’s interview was then cut to solely talk about his possible move and Fat Sam was allowed endless shitting on about the injustices of one refereeing decision in a 95 minute match in which they got completely battered.  All in all it was a nasty, horrible, agenda driven stitch-up that makes you wonder if Cortese’s bitch Ben Smith was in on the act.  In many ways, you could understand the Man United edit from last year a bit more as it’s United but this one just set out to be bitchy.  We all pay a licence fee for this shit… and we pay for Garth Crooks to come out and say that we won this game against the run of play. 

Transfer deadline day happened on Monday and we brought intwo more players which on the face of it, seem very good additions.  Toby Alderweireld, a regular witht eh Belgium national team arrived from Atletico Madrid on a years loan with an option to buy of less than £7million.  Hang on – that’s Atletico Madrid who lost in the Champions League Final and won the Spanish League ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona.  He plays either at right back or centre back which is excellent news.  I would imagine he’ll be first choice in the centre of defence but he’s obviously right footed and the right centre back is where Captain Fonte is currently deployed.  We shall see but with Alderweireld, Fonte, Gardos and Yoshida – our centre back resources now are now better than last season.  Talking of centre backs – Jack Stephens was allowed to join Jordan Turnbull out on loan at Swindon and Big Jos Hooiveld was allowed to leave on loan to Norwich.  With his contract up at the end of this season, it’s safe to assume we’ve seen the last of him at SMS and he should be remembered for the massive contribution he made in the Championship promotion season and also for having a few decent games in the initial Premier League season.  He didn’t have the mobility for a longer term career in the top league but when we signed him he was vitally important or else we’d have had Dan Seaborne in defence and we would not have got promoted out of the Championship as he was a shocking player.  The club kept up its tradition of leaving tributes to departed players that were in the manner of how the player conducted himself so Jos got a decent write up and video tribute.  I’m still looking for the Lallana and Lovren one.

We have been crying out for a winger since Steve de Ridder.  Actually, we were crying out for a winger when Steve de Ridder was here.  The closest we had was Punch and he took a shite and was moved on to Palace.  Sadio Mane has arrived from Red Bull Salzburg and we will be hoping that unlike de Ridder, his You Tube compilation will prove to be an accurate reflection of his ability.  Obviously, the Austrian League is not the highest of standards but then nor is the Scottish League or the Dutch League but we’ve already signed players from the latter two that look decent so hopefully Mane is more of the same.  He’s taken the Number 10 shirt which has been vacated by Gaston Ramirez who has moved out on loan to Hull City for the rest of the season.  This one is a bit of a slap in the face as he obviously has so much ability but the facts are that he’s not been a regular for the two years he’s been here and has not done justice to that ability.  Add to that, the fact that he’s being paid a fortune and shipping him out makes sense both for him and us.  I think there’s a question mark over his attitude as well – whenever we needed him and he had a chance of a run in the side (like when J-Rod got injured last season) he was injured.  At the start of this season he had a chance to make a good impression on a new manager but after being away at the World Cup with Uruguay and improved his collection of ‘benches I have sat on’, he still took the maximum time before returning to Saints pre-season training.... and then he got injured.

My overall verdict regarding the transfer window is that we are in a better shape now with a stronger squad than before... and we did it at a profit.  Of course it could have been handled better and for a while it seemed worse than it was because the summer was front loaded with departures.  The Board were challenged to make it right and despite a concerted media campaign (MELTDOWN, FIRE SALE, DREAM WRECKER etc etc) have managed to do so.  The role of our new manager cannot be underestimated in all this.  For example, would we have been able to sign Toby Alderweireld without Koeman? – Not a chance but with his signing we can genuinely think that overall, we have upgraded.  The ambition has remained, regardless of what the ex-players might say.  None of them left because of a lack of ambition from Saints. Not one.  

Anyway, sod Match of the Day and sod the BBC and sod the media in general.  It’s all about Southampton FC today and this was a great win at a ground where we don’t usually do very well.  Next up is another manager who needs to be making a good start to the season in Alan Pardew who brings his Newcastle side to SMS.  Today’s win makes it a great chance to jump to 7 points out of 12 and being in the top 6.  Meltdown?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Capital One Cup - Millwall 0 Southampton 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PPS – I’ll still watch the game…