Friday, November 21, 2014

England in Mainly Positive Shocker

Glenn Johnson Watches the end of his England Career

What started off a little write up of a trip to Wembley, got a whole lot bigger….

“Hi there, it’s your brother in law”
“Oh – hi there, how’s things?”
“Do you want a free ticket to got to Wembley tomorrow for the Slovenia game?”
“Errr.... it’s bath night... oh, alright then”.

So, I might get to see Nathaniel Clyne’s debut in the flesh or more likely, I’ll get to watch another centre back played out of position.  Bring it on anyway.  With all the trains between Southampton and Waterloo being subject to replacement bus services, it’s via Havant and up that way, listening to disaffected Pompey fans talking about their 3-0 defeat by Plymouth in the morning.  It’s amusing.  I hope they enjoy watching a team full of Scummers and ex-Scummers at Wembley.

Wembley – emerging from Wembley Park tube you can see right up Wembley (or Olympic Way as it’s now called) and the stadium looks as uninspiring as the old Wembley didn’t.   I sat on a wall and waited for the brother in law to turn up and looked at the e-ticket I’d printed off.  Club Wembley Silver – that’s the posh bit in the middle tier.   It’s an hour before kick off and in we go.  It’s a bit like stepping into a big city airport.  There are stewards ushering you though the barcode scanners and escalators up to the Club Wembley concourse which is full of food outlets (restaurants) and souvenir shops  and there are a distinct lack of people.  There is no 20 minute queue for a beer or waiting in line playing ‘spot the urinal’ as you’re waiting for people to leave.  In short, it’s very posh and about as far removed from ‘half time at The Dell’ as it could possibly be.  It’s very nice and comfortable and you can understand the casual rich punter being very impressed but for me, it really isn’t what it’s all about.

What is impressive is Wembley when you are in view of the pitch.  Even the Brother in law who is a Welsh rugby fan and used to the Millennium Stsdium in Cardiff, was impressed by the sheer scale of Wembley.  The pitch looked like a patchwork due to the painting out of the logos that were daubed on it for the American Football last week. The wrong shade of green was used as you could still see the logo of the Bumblefuck Braindeads (or whoever) up our end of the pitch.

The big screen filled us in on the make up of the Slovenian team and then it was time for the England reveal. No 1 Joe Hart, accompanied by a profile picture and an action shot.  No 2 Nathaniel Clyne accompanied by a blank screen and then another blank screen, No 3 Kieran Gibbs with pictures.  Right the way through the team we went and even Saido Berahino who was in his first full England squad, had a picture.  It doesn’t matter at the end of the day but surely someone could have taken a picture of Clyne in an England shirt.  I’m sure they could have found one in a cupboard somewhere in St.Georges Park.

Much fawning over Rooney’s 100th game followed.  It’s a great achievement it has to be said and he’s the youngest player ever to get there.  I’m not his biggest fan by any means though he has entertained over the years, what with banging grannies and prostitutes and all that.  On with the game and as we kick off, a quick scan round Club Wembley sees about 75% of the seats empty but no doubt sold so they’ll be counted on the attendance figures.

The first half was abysmal and the less said about it the better.  In summary, Nathaniel Clyne started off quite tentatively and felt his way into the game before making some forward runs and testing the defence.  He tore the full back a new one on one occasion and pulled a good ball back for Rooney to make a mess of but England seemed to want to funnel everything through the middle to Rooney and so often he was ignored.  Most of his passes came from Cahill in defence or from Henderson and as Henderson was having a shocker, the ball was rarely making it out to him.

One ex-Saint I noticed was Adam Lallana who did his usual array of tight turns but sadly, he was entrusted with taking corners from both sides and he underhit every one and saw it headed away before it even got to the near post.  It didn’t matter which side he took them from – underhit every time.  Useless.

Half time and back to the concourse.  I redeem my beer token purchased before the game and queue for an ‘Asian Platter’... because I can.  How incidental the actual football is the whole Club Wembley experience can be summed up by the fact that there is no countdown or announcement that the 2nd half is about to start and I have to admit that I missed a few minutes which would be the sort of behaviour that would have me calling someone else a corporate wnnker.  I’m sure I missed loads given the excitement of the first half.

Back to the game and Lallana find himself out on the right as Slovenia mount a rare attack and clatters a bloke rather than just hold him up.  A cross into the box, several players jump and it flicks off someone and we’re 1-0 down.  We’re having a discussion on who headed it and we all guess that it was Henderson as he hasn’t put a ball in the right direction all game.  Sure enough we were right.

Straight from the kick off it becomes evident that we’ve been given a wake up call and a slick move ends with Rooney being tripped.  Rooney takes it himself of course and smashes it in for 1-1.  It’s a different game now with Slovenia having shot their bolt and not being capable of doing anything else.  Now England are up for it and pressurising them in midfield, they’re shite and just kicking it anywhere.  Before long, Wilshere bundles his way along the goal line and crosses, the keeper Handanovic sticks a foot out instead of going with his hands and just spoons it up to Welbeck who mis-hits it into the net for 2-1 and a really crappy goal.  It’s quickly become a case of how many we’ll get and from the best move of the match, Welbeck plays a 1-2 with the sleepwalking Sterling and slots it in from the left of the 6 yard box.  Excellent finish.

It was a major shock that Lallana lasted longer than an hour.  He was clearly knackered but Roy obviously forgot he was still out there until 75 minutes but he was still the first to come off with Milner replacing him… how exciting.  Oxlade-Chamberlain made an appearance in place of the tired Sterling and that was just about it.  Henderson stayed on.  Rarely can an international footballer have been as bad in a competitive game and not got substituted.

So, marks out of 10.

Hart 7 – another night off against poor opposition, no chance with goal
Clyne 7 – Good debut, more later....
Gibbs 7 – Good game, much better than Baines, starved of ball a bit
Jagielka 5 – doesn’t look fit to me, should have gone post-World Cup
Cahill 6 – some sloppy moments including getting Jagielka booked by playing him in the shit.
Wilshere 9 – never liked him before but thought he was superb
Lallana 5 – pathetic set piece delivery, tired badly in 2nd half. I question if he has the work rate to play in a midfield diamond unless he’s in the 10 position.
Sterling 4 – shocking until helped set up 3rd goal, not convinced
Henderson 3 – dog shit, should never be an England regular. Own goal summed him up.
Rooney 5 – great penalty, otherwise dire.  No ball control and pace is going.
Welbeck 8 – rapidly becoming our most important player

Milner 6 - Mr Average came on, was average, won another cap
Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 – immediately showed he doesn’t have a clue how to defend in front of a full back.
Smalling n/a

Overall I think Clyney had an excellent game.  He did what he had to do in defence and was always looking to get forward and decent when he did so.  England don’t use the wings as much as Saints do so he didn’t see as much of the ball as he should have done but nor did Gibbs on the other side.  It’s not rocket science – the space is on the wings.  Roy Hodgson was given credit for finding a solution to the right back issue.  Sorry – he saw Clyne play at least 20 times for Saints last year but he still tried two Man United centre backs, an Arsenal centre back, an Everton centre back, two Tottenham full backs who can’t defend and worst of all, Glen Johnson.  Clyne is better than all of those options and he has been for two seasons.  Still – better late than never I guess and what do you know – the answer was down at Southampton all the time.

No doubt there will be media clamour for Clyne to leave Saints now. It’s easy to look at those who left in the summer and laugh but there was another on display today who I wonder about. Has Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain really progressed that much in the four years since he left Saints?  I wonder how many games he’s played?  If he’d stayed at Saints a bit, I reckon he’d be a lot better at the defensive side of the game as he really looks lost when the opposition have the ball. I guess when the bids from the big boys come in, each player has to decide if he wants to be the best player he can be or if he wants to be the richest player he can be.

Anyway, onto Tuesday and an away game in Glasgow against Scotland.

Scotland away on a Tuesday night and according to everyone who is paid to give their opinions about football, England are the underdogs as the Scots are playing well now.  It totally depends on if we put as much in as they will.  If we do then the bottom line is that we have much better players than they do.  Scotland do not have one outstanding player like a Gareth Bale or someone like that.  What they do have is a few lower end Premier League players and a load from the Championship.  They do have a manager though who has got them playing as a team which counts for a lot.

Uncle Roy has changed a number of players with the shocking Liverpool 3 being left out and replaced with Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Downing.  I know he’s played well this season but Downing in an England shirt will never sit well with me.  Likewise Milner – I don’t get it, he’ll work hard, win the ball, give it away.  Groundhog day.  Shaw is in for Gibbs and Smalling for Jagielka and in goal we have Fraser Forster, making a return to Celtic Park in an England shirt.  Ex-Celtic and current England footballer – I’m sure Rangers fans will be very friendly towards him.  Strachan has picked the same side as he picked against Ireland in the qualifier that they won 1-0, except for he’s replaced the injured Steven Fletcher with Chris Martin who I remember from our League 1 days.  He was a donkey then and he’s making his Scotland full debut today.

England start pretty well and the tackles are not flying in from the Scots like everyone expected.  They look compact and confident and Anya takes on Clyne and beats him before running out of pitch.  I bet that’ll be the last time he beats him all game, I thought to myself.  England are the better side but Scotland are competing well and then out of nowhere, Wilshere picks up the ball in their half and pings an amazing ball over the top to Chamberlain who flicks a header into the net with the keeper motionless.

That’s more or less it til half time but England are dominant and Scotland are looking like the squad of Championship players that they are.  The Jocks change a few at half time including removing the useless Chris Martin.  I tell you, they’d have been better off with the other Chris Martin up front who could have kept Smalling and Cahill better entertained by singling boring songs about his ex-wife.  Hodgson swaps Cahill for Jagielka and Lallana for Downing who has surely played his last ever England game now.

The first action sees Chamberlain break away on the right and Mulgrew come across and clothesline him across the neck.  Cynical, deliberate, dangerous, all of the above but just a yellow card, or so he thought.  With free kick specialist and creative genius James Milner over the ball I expected nothing but his free kick was to the right area, it came out to Shaw who volleyed it back into the penalty area, pinball off of Robertson at left back and Rooney gets his head to it and nods it past Craig Gordon for 2-0.  The best bit of the game was seeing the passion of the England players in celebrating that goal.  Excellent stuff.

47 minutes and the game is done as Scotland had nothing at all. England continued to dominate and look dangerous.  We were hunting the ball well when Scotland had it and whilst they kept it at the back, as soon as they were closed down they hoofed it.  A lot of England possession was breaking down whenever Milner got it which was infuriating but at the other end of the scale, Lallana was playing superbly, ably backed up by Chamberlain and Wilshere.  Anya has been substituted as predictably, he hasn’t beaten Clyne all day since the first minute.

Sterling is on for Welbeck, Lambert for Chamberlain, Gibbs for Shaw and the reshuffle sees Sterling playing right wing as Robertson advances up the pitch, walks past Sterling who just stands there like a sleepwalking twat, plays a 1-2 with Russell and fires in at the near post.  Whoops Fraser, you really should have done better with that one.

It looked for a second like the Jocks might have hope of nicking a scandalous draw but straight from the kick off England moved up the right and a patient passing move involving Lambert, Milner (yes) and Lallana ended with Milner playing Lallana in behind the full back and Mr IQ pulled it back for Rooney to slam in for 3-1 and game over, again.  With the game won and superiority confirmed, there’s time for some good old fashions baiting of the opposition fans.  All you can hear is “British til you die” and “One Vote and you Fucked it up”. Very amusing.  Barkley came on, gave the ball away and got a bollocking from Roy and that was that.

I don’t remember enjoying an England international that much for years from team performance point of view.  The Wembley England v Scotland game from last year had the best moment (Lambert’s goal) but as a team performance, this was excellent.  The players were right up for it and it shows what we can do when things go well.  There are still issues with the England side and there were a lot of things left untested by a pretty woeful Scottish performance but overall it was great.

Clyney put in another really good performance which has had most commentators crapping on like he’s some sort of well kept secret.  Andy Townsend is a complete helmet but when even he comes out with “it’s nice to find a full back who can defend”, it’s kind of amazing how it’s taken so long for everyone to catch on.  Andy always states to obvious but it seems that non this occasion, the obvious needs to be stated.  On to the other Saint and Fraser didn’t have much to do.  He shovelled one looping header over the bar which considering he’s 9 foot tall is not really difficult but he didn’t cover himself in glory for the Scotland goal so will surely remain 2nd choice for the foreseeable future.

Out of 10:

Forster 6 – Would have had a 7 but didn’t cover himself in glory for the Scotland goal
Clyne 8 – Yes, we’ve been telling you for ages Roy
Shaw 7 – Decent showing, better than Baines – we knew that as well
Smalling 7 – Didn’t put a foot wrong.  Having said that Scotland had nothing up front when Martin was on.
Cahill 7 – Wished he was still on when Scotland brought on Russell and May as he would have sorted them out.
Milner 6 – Good positionally but as usual, forever giving the ball away.  Better than Henderson.
Wilshere 8 – Let’s just hope he stays fit, getting better all the time, what a ball fro the first goal.
Downing 4 – Not good enough in a million years. Never was.
Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 – Nice goal but a bit wasteful otherwise. Dozes off defensively.
Rooney 8 – Much better, deserved his goals and was happy to drop to the left to use Welbeck’s pace up front
Welbeck 7 – not brilliant but caused problems.  Pace a massive plus and he got stuck in well when the tackles started flying.

Gibbs 6 – Didn’t get too long on the pitch but solid.  Again, better than Baines in that he can actually defend.
Jagielka 6 – No nonsense, struggled a bit against quicker attackers
Barkley n/a – You can see Roy’s problem with him.  Gives ball away a bit but no more than Milner
Lallana 8 – Excellent as he only had to play 45 minutes. Brilliant performance and even the corners reached. Still a massive thick twtt though. 
Lambert 7 – Came on, passed the ball, made us play better.  Maybe his club manager should give him a game. Just a thought.
Sterling 5 – Not convinced he’s as good as the hype says. Awful for Scotland goal – might as well have been asleep.

Here’s my composite team from the two games…

Hart, Clyne, Gibbs, Cahill, Jagielka, Wilshere, Milner, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rooney, Welbeck

There’s no debate over Hart, Clyne, Cahill, Wilshere, Rooney and Welbeck so moving on… Gibbs and Shaw were both decent and either could nail down the left back berth and either should ahead of Baines who is firmly in the “can’t defend” category and should have been binned after the World Cup.  Maybe Ryan Bertrand has a shout in there as well.  The second centre back slot next to Cahill is still open and neither Jagielka or Smalling look good enough to take into Euro 2014.  Milner or Henderson is like choosing between different unpleasant methods of your own execution but Milner was the winner from these two games and if I had to pick one never to play for England again it would be the Liverpool donkey.  I find it interesting that Hodgson keeps mentioning James Ward-Prowse even though he’s injured.  He’d fit in well in this position as a deep lying midfielder.  The attacking midfield slots are up for grabs though the Ox and Lallana contributed the most.  I’d rather have the ex-Saints thick twat as a sub but if he’s not, Sterling can have a kip on the bench for a bit.

Overall, two games, two wins, Scotland put back in their box as were some disaffected England fans, me included.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Premier League Match 11 - Southampton 2 Leicester 0

Ronald only sends him on cos he's sat on the bench with his Guitar.

Leicester City visited St Mary’s in what is being called a home banker by everyone in the media.  As a Saints fan who is at a point nearly 40 years after watching his first game at The Dell, I say that there’s no such thing.  I get it of course that we are 2nd in the league with 10 wins out of the last 11 matches and Leicester are on a downward spiral of massive proportions.  After beating Man United at home they have been on a disastrous run and are losing and not scoring on a weekly basis.  They came up from the Championship last season and the honeymoon period is over.

There are Saints connections of course with Nigel Pearson in charge of The Foxes.  He was of course our manager during the Stern John inspired escape from relegation to the League 1 in 2007/8.  His good work in keeping us up was rewarded with Rupert Lowe sacking him and thinking it was a better idea to put Jan Poortvliet in charge.  They also have Dean Hammond, the last Saints captain to lift a trophy who was a player instrumental in our rise through the leagues.  He’s surprised many by getting regular appearances in the Premier League but he’s not been in the side recently so we may not get to show our appreciation today.  At the other end of the scale they have David Nugent who is a total helmet.  An arrogant tosser who had the kind of face you’d never tire of punching.  He played for England... it’s incredible and he scored against us last time down here.  He’s alright at Championship level but was never going to do it this year.  Taslking of Championship standard players, Leonardo Ulloa did well for Brighton last season and started this season well but with the downturn in form of the side he’s now looking how I thought he’d look - very average.

The main Saints news this week has revolved around international call ups with Nathaniel Clyne and Fraser Forster keeping their places in the England squad to give Hodgson the comfort to know that when his first choices fail, he’s got decent back ups.  It’s interesting that Lambert, Lallana and Shaw had to perform really well and consistently for Saints last year to get in the squad whereas this season they don’t have to do anything, especially (sadly) Rickie.  Last year we championed him to get in the squad ahead of other based on his goals and form for Saints but how can he be picked ahead of Charlie Austin (for example) at the moment?  Whilst we’re at it – how are Gibbs, Baines and Shaw rated over Bertrand at the moment? Just how.... Andros Townsend, Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling.... why.. just why?

To the game and a nice walk across the Itchen Bridge had been enlivened by the rain.  There really isn’t a lot of shelter up there.  I’m walking across the bridge with a 69 year old and a 10 year old and it’s hard to tell who is whingeing the most as I try not to listen.  The Chapel Arms does not have the usual overspill of punters outside due to the pissing rain and you can’t see in because all the windows have steamed up from the wet people inside.  It resembles a sauna from the outside.  The team news is that we have changed just the one with Sadio Mané coming in for Shane Long.  Dean Hammond is not even on the bench for Leicester which is where Nugent is but it’s a surprise to see Wasilewski out there.  He got away with a horrendous elbow on Berahino last week and I fully expected him to be banned retrospectively.  Very odd.

Away we go and Leicester look like they’re playing with both Ulloa and Vardy up front which is fair enough and Forster kept them interested with a horrible scuffer of aclearance which bounced off Vardy and away. It’s us who have the first chance of note as Bertrand got away on the overlap and he produced a wonderful cross towards Graziano which he missed but we got a corner out of it which was played short and worked back to Clyne who didn’t quite get hold of the shot but it worked the keeper none the less.

A big welly and a flick on led to José having to concede a corner and we didnlt mark up terribly well as Wes Morgan headed over.  A few seconds later and we’re flying up the pitch as another Bertrand cross is cleared as far as Morgan who plays Mané in behind de Laet.  His cross is blocked straight back to him and he rifles the rebound right footed just over the bar.

We are a bit guilty of fannying around up front with players trying a fancy flick rather than just taking a touch and passing the bloody thing.  Tadic in particular is not at it today and every time he tries to play anything other than a five yard pass, he gives it away in Gaston-esque fashion.

The final action of a mainly action-free first half sees Steve Davis run into Schlupp and not get up .  He’s not had the greatest of games so far and hasn’t looked right all game and that’s his lot as he’s replaced by Corky.  Half time and 0-0.

One of the many things that I like about the new Saints set up is that if we have a ropey first half, we will always do better in the second with the words of Koeman in the players ears.  The passing is crisper and we cut though on the left with Tadic passing to our own players including Pellè who lashes one just over the bar on the turn.  We then have the ball in the net as Bertrand against gets down the left, totally free of de Laet and plays in a lovely low cross which Mané dinks over the keeper.  I had not even considered that it might be offside but the bastard with the flag decreed that he was and later replays proved the bastard was correct.

In a rare Leicester moment, Vardy tried to chip the ball over Alderweireld on the edge of our box and Toby clatters into him and gets booked which is ironic as the willing but limited Vardy has been kicking people all game without getting booked.  It would be just typical if Leicester scored now but Cambiasso’s free kick is straight into the wall.

With us not really looking like scoring, Ronald decides it’s time for his usual substitution and Mané comes off to be replaced by Shane Long.  To be honest, Sadio is a bit unlucky to be removed as Tadic in particular has been a bit off today.  Another who has been off is Ulloa and Pearson replaces one ex-Brighton striker with another and Chris Wood comes on.

In the League Cup game against Stoke a couple of weeks ago, Stoke had 5 corners in a row and you knew it was going to end up in our net and sure enough it did. Today we have a corner frenzy of our own and despite the corners actually being pinged across instead of being worked short, there was no anticipation of goal and sure enough, we didn’t get one.

Patience was finally rewarded with quarter of an hour to go.  Big Vic clipped it to Corky in space on the right and his cross was controlled by Pellè who held off the defender who was up his arse and teed up Long who had came in from the right wing and he curled a first time shot round Schmeichel and into the far corner.  Brilliant finish from a player who allegedly can’t finish.  Get the fuck in there.  What have you got Leicester?  Nothing I suspect, just long balls and hope for the best.

What they have got is one substitution left and they bring on Powell who was one of those lower league players who Man United signed and there was a massive fuss over him for 5 minutes before everyone realised that he wasn’t that good.  His introduction was notable only for the fact that it meant that Tosser Nugent wasn’t getting off the bench.

Four minutes later and it’s game over. Schmeichel wellies one up the pitch and with supreme confidence, Bertrand chests it first time to Big Vic.  The Bigg Man turns away from a half=arsed challenge from a Leicester player who thought better of it and played a ball over the top.  As the ball dropped over his shoulder and he controlled it, Long looked miles offside but the flag stayed down and he ignored the square ball to the unmarked Tadic and slotted it in.  As he wheeled away to run to the corner, he accidentally and amusingly clattered into a Leicester player who wasn’t looking where he was going and flattened him.

With the game won we dozed off and a ball forward was headed back and suddenly, Chris Wood was clean through against Fraser.  As the Bohemoth came out to meet him, Wood calmly lifted it over him and we would surely be letting in our 6th goal of the season if it wasn’t for the fact that the ball dropped 10 yards wide.  What a load of shit.  That’s why you’re going down.

There was just time for one more incident as Big Vic closed down Powell and took the ball off him like the proverbial candy from a baby and sent Tadic away.  His diagonal ball was chested forward by Long and buoyed by the confidence of already scoring two, he volleyed it goalwards and Schmeichel just got a hand to it and tipped it into the side netting.  A movement of the side netting means that half the ground thought it was in but never mind, there was no time to take the corner.

The ref blew the final whistle to confirm another hard fought win without the opposition having a shot worthy of note.  I like this.  I also like that Shane Long came on and proved to be the match winner and therefore putting pressure on the guys in possession of the shirts.  Ronald happy with the patience shown to break down a resolute Leicester side who were never going to be able to keep up the intensity they showed int he first half, for the whole 90 minutes.  Nigel Pearson took issue with Leicester’s finishing which was a bit odd.  Ok, Wood missed an easy-ish chance at the end but they were already 2-0 down and not going to get anything so that miss made absolutely no difference to the outcome.

Next up we have Aston Villa away – another side in a similar run of form to Leicester and another side who really struggle to score goals.  You’d have to predict 0-0 or 1-0 to us as the result for this game.  No doubt Paul Lambert will put a gameplan into play as if they were playing Real Madrid and the home team will mean 11 behind the ball and play on the break.  It sounds ridiculous but it’s what they did against us last year at Villa Park.  Following Villa we have the run of 3 games which according to the critics, will find us out.  Manchester City at Home, Arsenal away and Manchester United at home.  The two home games should hold no fears for us at the moment.  Of course, we may get beaten by these expensively assembled teams but they’ll be worried about us at least as much as we are by them.

Before all that we have an international break with two England games.  I’m very interested in the Clyne v Chambers battle for the England right back slot and on Sunday I (and Roy Hodgson one assumes) saw Chambers get ripped apart by Montero of Swansea.  It was embarrassing in the end and I’ve never seen a winger just run past a Premier League full back that easily and that often during a game.  So Roy has a choice – pick the player who’s been on fire all season and is playing in a defence that doesn’t let in any goals... or pick a player who’s just been ripped a new arsehole and could well have his confidence shot to bits.

I still haven’t got used to this lofty perch we find ourselves on and am not for example, watching the results hoping that Chelsea and Man City lose.  As Chelsea were away at Liverpool, I should have been wanting Chelsea to lose but it was against Brendan Rodgers and Dejan Lovren so I found it very amusing that Liverpool lost again.  Rodgers reverted back to all the players he ‘dropped’ for the Real Madrid game and they lost.  When they took the lead through a deflection, Rodgers stood there and pointed one finger at the sky like the Statue of Liberty or something.  Smug fucker – even his goal celebration is that of a complete bell end.  Talking of bell ends, Lovren – leader of the defence – was shite again despite not marking anyone as Skrtel was the man marking Diego Costa.  I would talk about Lallana’s contribution here but he didn’t have one as he was left on the bench as 3 players came on to try and get a goal and he wasn’t one of them.  Whilst I’m goading, it was beautiful to again see Spurs lose at home with Pochettino calling for a change of mentality from his players.  I think you’ll find that Spurs don’t change mentality Mauricio, they just change managers.

Anyway, Man City dropped points at QPR so we find ourselves a ridiculous 4 points ahead of the squad that cost billions and 4 points behind the other squad that cost billions.  I smile when we’re missed out of the list of Chelsea’s challengers and I smile at people getting annoyed about it.  I also smile that we’re 7 points ahead of Swansea in 5th place and… wait for it… I fucking laugh out loud that we’re 11 points ahead of both Liverpool and Spurs…. All this after “giving up on our ambition – B.Rodgers August 2014).


Monday, November 3, 2014

Premier League Match 10 - Hull 0 Southampton 1

One does not simply stop Victor Wanyama

I don’t want to sound arrogant about my team because it usually bites you in the arse…. but last year when we came to Hull, I knew we were going to win.  We were playing well and Hull were, quite frankly, a bit dodgy – not really in relegation danger so not fighting for their lives but not very good either.  We duly won with a José Fonte goal which was given by the goal line technology.  This year is a bit different though as in my opinion, Steve Bruce has done a superb job in recruiting quality players who should mean that Hull are nowhere near the relegation zone.  They lost Shane Long to our good selves but invested wisely and brought in Abel Hernandez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Mohammed Diame and perennial sub Gaston Ramirez who has now added Hull to his list of ‘benches I have sat on’.  They still seem to struggle to score goals a bit but they’re hard to beat and recent draws away at both Arsenal and Liverpool prove this point.

Talking of Liverpool – the early game of the day saw them play away at Newcastle and get beaten 1-0.   The defender who left us because we had no ambition again played like someone who had never played football pièce-de-résistance was him being involved in a 50-50 challenge and bottling it.  Then there was Mr IQ who as we know, can only play 60 minutes at the most so Brendan Rodgers has the choice of sitting him on the bench at the start of a game or at the end.  This time though he decided that even at 1-0 down that he had better options to try and rescue the game than bringing on our former captain.  Instead, one of those he sent on was Rickie Lambert who has yet to score for Liverpool which is not surprising because he’s hardly played.  Anyone who watched Saints for the last few years, knows that Rickie needs regular games or else his sharpness goes.  Brendan Rodgers knows that but instead he picks Balotelli every game who does nothing.  If Rickie had moved anywhere other than his boyhood club, this move would be seen as a complete disaster.  To be honest, it is anyway.

Anyway, enough of that mid-table team.  We  have a mid-table team to play ourselves today in Hull.  The teamsheets reveal that our double encounter with Stoke hasn’t left any casualties despite Charlie Adam’s efforts and the only changes see Toby Alderweireld return in place of Florin Gardos and Ryan Bertrand come in for Matt Targett.  Sadio Mané has shaken off the ankle knock from the first Stoke game and is on the bench with Shane Long keeping his place against his former club who he made a whole 15 appearances for.  Hull have Hernandez up front, supported by Ben Arfa with a decent looking midfield 3 of Diame, Livermore and Huddlestone.  Huddlestone gets touted for England occasionally.  Every time I see him he can’t handle it when the opposition midfield close him down quickly and ends up wellying the ball in random fashion.  Hopefully he’s like that today.  In defence they have Paul McShane who is one of those players about whom you have no idea how they’ve made a living out of playing football.

Away we go and it takes all of 3 minutes for the game to come to life and how.  Brady, under pressure from Tadic, knocked a back pass to Jakupovic who had a good looking Italian bloke bearing down on him so he panicked and scuffed his clearance along the ground and from fully 40 yards, Big Vic smashes it first time and it sailed over everyone and straight into the middle of the goal just under the bar.  It’s a brilliant finish and there is no way Vic is going to pull the ‘cool’ goalscoring celebration as he did at Swansea.  He’s off to the corner flag and no one can catch him and no one can quite believe it.  If you tried that 10 times you’d miss the lot but he’s caught it perfectly and it’s just sailed in perfectly with the keeper nowhere.

Unusual goals always seem to make everyone take stock for a few minutes and we’re not at it after the restart and Hull are on top without producing anything.  A cross is fired across the box after a Diame run which Bertrand clears and Hatem Ben Arfa manages to wriggle free but his shot from the edge of the box is straight at Fraser.  The dozing off continues and we piss about rather than clearing the ball and allow Hull to put us under pressure.

On the half hour we build up well and Pellè puts Long away clear on the left.  The ball is bouncing and Jakupovic decides the best course of action, after making a bollock of the first goal is to come charging out like a twat.  Like with Big Vic earlier, Shane’s mind is made up for him and he tries a long range header over the keeper which luckily for Hull both drifts off target and doesn’t find another Saints player who would have an open goal.

Jakupovic redeems himself as the clock winds down to half time as a flowing move ends with Davis expertly sliding a ball inside the right back to Long but the keeper is out to block well as Shane gets his shot in.  It’s half time and we are winning and the world is a happy place.

The opening period of the second half sees Saints in total control.  Whatever has been said by Bruce at half time has not worked unless it was “sit back and try and keep the score down”.  We have a great chance to make it 2-0 but it falls to the wrong man and that’s Steve Davis of course.  Davis himself feeds Tadic who crosses it in from the left and Graziano tries a ridiculously optimistic overhead kick which he fails to make proper contact with but the ball hits a defender and bounces across the goal to where Davis has sidled into the box.  He tries to flick it past the keeper but he’s pulled a star jump and it’s hit his arm and gone for a corner while everyone looks for an offside flag which doesn’t appear.

Shane Long’s afternoon of hustling and harrying his former team mates is over on the hour mark and Sadio Mané is on.  The new man’s impact is almost instant as Dusan does the full back down the right and whips a cross between the keeper and defenders.  In comes Sadio and it’s a sitter on his left foot which he meets and it bounces down and over the bar.  Fucking hell!!!  You’re hoping that later replays will show that a defender got a touch or it took a bobble and he has some kind of excuse but no – it was just shite.

Even with Hull creating absolutely nothing aside from a hilarious attempted overhead kick by Hernandez which sailed into Row Z, Ronald decides to shore it up replacing Dusan Tadic with Corky with Steve Davis moving to the right wing.  Of course, any nerves could be settled once and for all if we actually managed to stick another one in the net ourselves but after a lovely move up the right, Davis pulls it back to Graziano who bangs it the wrong side of the near post as every Saints fan in the ground or watching TV shouted ‘GOOOAAAA-SHIIIT’ or something like that. 

As last week in the Stoke league game, Hull are creating nothing but you’re still nervous.  They look devoid of any attacking ideas though as illustrated when a ball finds its way out to Robertson on the left who lashes it miles over the bar rather than try and find any of the 6 or so Hull players in the penalty area.
The next action is Davis breaking with the ball and only Corky and a coupe of Hull defenders for company.  As we all know, Davo is a wonderful footballer but his abilities decrease the further up the pitch he gets so it’s no surprise when he chooses the wrong option and lashes it over the bar as Corky held his hands.  You know what? It doesn’t matter.

Full time and another three points, this time, gained from a thoroughly controlled performance.  We’ve basically defended a lead for 87 minutes without conceding a shot – Fraser would not have got his kit dirty, such was the job that the players in front of him did.  I have never known a Saints side defence a one goal lead with such ease.  Part of this was down to Hull not having much up front but a lot is down to the fact that we didn’t let them have a sniff of anything.  The only criticism is that we didn’t put the game to bed with a second goal with Davis, Mané and Pellè all guilty.  To complain would be churlish though – we’ve had three games in a week, two of which were against a very physical Stoke, two of which were away at pretty inhospitable grounds and we’ve won the lot.  You can’t ask for more.

Steve Bruce was his usual fair self in the interview, bemoaning the goal from their point of view but acknowledging what a finish it was and how good a side we are.  Ronald Koeman was all over Big Vic’s goal and also his general play which was superb.  Along with Morgan and Davo he bossed the centre of the park.  Hull are no mugs in there with Livermore, Huddlestone and Diame but Big Vic was the main man as he broke up the play and kept the ball moving.

The back 4 of Bertrand, Alderweireld, Fonte and Clyne were magnificent, as was the midfield in front of them.  Clyney was highlighted on Match of the Day for both his attacking and his defensive play so even if the old duffer Hodgson (who was at the game) doesn’t realise how good he is, there’s a nice highlights package for him to watch.  No doubt there’s another centre back he wants to try at right back in the next England games though.  Glen Johnson is fit again though and he’s just brilliant (***extreme sarcasm alert ***).

It was left to José Mourinho to acknowledge how well we’re doing when he was asked about being 9 points ahead of Manchester City and he replied with words to the effect of only being 4 ahead of Southampton who just keep winning.  Yes we do, 10 times in the last 11 games.  Yep, we’re still 2nd and after Sunday’s Manchester Derby win, we’re 2 points ahead of Manchester City. 

Next up we have Leicester at home who are near the bottom of the current form table.  Potential banana skin perhaps but we really should be winning this game as we welcome both Nigel Pearson and Dean Hammond back to St Mary’s ... oh... and that complete cock David Nugent.  Bring it on.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Capital One Cup 4th Round - Stoke 2 Southampton 3

Pellè gets Booked for Yelling at a Ginger Steward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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