Friday, July 3, 2015

Summertime Blues and .... Women!


 
Hodgson and Southgate Face the Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Who Let that Senile Old Goat Out


Remember when the Shit 'managers pet' kid was picked in your position at school... that!

Summer is here and it’s a time when we don’t think about football.  Oh yes.

Uncle Roy had a friendly in order to experiment with new players as England went to Dublin to play Ireland for the first time since the 1995 riot.  I remember watching that game as Matt le Tissier was playing.  The England manager that day was a complete arse and picked le God on the left of a midfield 3.  This was the allegedly tactically astute Terry Venables.  This time around the fixture is a warm up for the qualifier we have against Slovenia in the Easiest Qualifying Group of all time.  The squad he picked was interesting in that he has a striker in there in Jamie Vardy who has scored 4 goals this season.  He also had Charlie Austin in there who is rumoured to be a Saints target for the summer as well as Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand from our current squad.  Anyhow, come the day and Roy made a colossal balls of it.  Sterling and Lallana got picked despite being shocking for Liverpool recently and we had to suffer players who have been tried and have failed on regular occasions like Phil Jones at right back – all that sort of shit.  I don’t have to write anything about the game – it was 0-0 and totally tedious.  Shane Long played the second half for Ireland as he came on as a sub for David McGoaldrought.  Ryan Bertrand played and he did ok and Clyney was made to look better in his absence as Phil Jones proved once again that you can’t be classed as versatile because you can play shite in several positions.  We had a glimpse of Liverpool’s future as Henderson and Milner were awful in midfield and Lallana and Sterling predictably did nothing.  Vardy got 15 minutes and Austin stayed on the bench.  Maybe Roy’s got something inspiring up his sleeve for the qualifier next week.  Maybe Fabien Delph will play.

In the event, for the competitive World Cup qualifier in Slovenia, Roy pulled out an absolute cracker in his team selection which had had me and I guess, several thousand other England fans, further questioning his sanity, let alone his suitability to manage the England football team.  In goal…. Joe Hart, at right back… Phil Jones, left back… Kieran Gibbs….  I kind of missed the rest of the team.  Let that sink in for a second… Phil Jones and Kieran Gibbs.  A out of position shit centre back who has not played well all season and a left back who though quite decent at times, has hardly played for Arsenal since Christmas.  Clyney, the only right back in the squad and Bertrand, the team of the season left back are on the bench.  The game itself was meandering and boring for the first half an hour with Sterling (another desperately out of form player) missing a sitter.  Then we got a throw in on the right wing and for reasons that I suspect even he doesn’t understand, Phil Jones threw it straight to a Slovenia player, they broke, beat Cahill’s abortion of an attempt to play offside and scored to lead 1-0 at half time.  Jones had been shocking all game and got pulled at half time with Lallana going on and get this – Jordan Henderson, who had been completely shit in midfield, moving to right back.

The second half was entertaining with Jack Wilshere smashing us level after a ball broke to him on the edge of the box and then the same player put us ahead with a quite brilliant goal, created by Henderson steaming up the wing and finding Lallana whose deft flick found Wilshere who again hit the top corner from 25 yards.  Brilliant goal.  We then immediately conceded a goal again which was directly as a result of having shite full backs.  With Clyney ready to come on as Henderson was having a mare defensively, over came a cross from Slovenia’s left and Gibbs stood still as Pecnik got the jump on him and it flew into the net off the side of his head.  We were rescued by Squirrel Head as he burst through the middle and finished well, which was in direct contrast to the other 4 good chances he’s had which he missed in really shit fashion.  We won 3-2 and all the Roy apologists went on about us winning 6 out of 6 and being undefeated in a year.  Yes these are facts but it’s also a fact that this is the easiest qualifying group in history.  Slovenia’s 2nd goal was scored by a layer who was shit for Sheffield Wednesday when we played them in League 1 back in the day.  They’re our nearest challengers in this group so that gives you an idea of the standard.  Our defence is chronically bad, our ball retention is awful and the managers criteria for picking players is as best questionable and at worse appallingly stupid.  Will we be any better when we play against slightly better opposition – of course not.

On the Clyne situation – Hodgson actually said that there would be questions (from the media I assume) if Phil Jones wasn’t picked.  No there wouldn’t you senile old goat and even so, why are you so scared of the media.  Even United fans know he’s shit and has been shit all season and the whole world knows that he’s not a right back.  Didn’t someone say once that Jones was the new Duncan Edwards or somesuch bullshit when he signed for United whose players always get biged up to be some sort of sensation based on 2 minutes (Macheda, Januzaj). The media of course made an issue of Clyney not looking terribly happy at the end.  Why would he – a shit centre back has been preferred to him at right back and then a midfielder has been put there.  The Old Goat said that Clyne shouldn’t expect to play just because he’s had a good season.  He’s a fucking idiot is Roy and no wonder the defence look shite.  The full backs were dreadful and he persists on picking Smalling to partner Cahill when neither is a leader so there is potential disaster all over the place.  I have a theory that Roy thinks Smalling as in fact a 22 year old Rio Ferdinand.  Here’s a decent back 4 – Clyne, Cahill, Terry, Bertrand.  Assuming Terry is a non-starter then you have to go with Jagielka as whilst he’s not great, he is the closest we’ve got to a defensive leader.

Gibbs being selected over Bertrand, when he’s not playing and not sharp is almost equally ridiculous and Sterling and Henderson owe their presence as England regulars to how good Luis Suarez was when Liverpool won all those games at the tail end of 2013/14.  They’ve both had poor seasons and are not in any sort of form but they’re now undroppable.

To be fair, on the positive side, Lallana coming on made a difference and Wilshere playing slightly further forward had a massive effect.  He’ll be straight back in front of the back 4 once Sturridge or Welbeck gets fit though as you can’t trust Roy to make a tough decision.

Meanwhile, away from Planet Roy, the wheels of the well oiled machine at Southampton FC have been turning and things have been smoothly progressing, unlike last year when we had a couple of wheels missing and were lurching all over the road.  We have signed a couple of players which have addressed specific needs that we had in the squad.  The first was Spanish international Juanmi who joined from Malaga for about £5 million which in today’s market, is nothing. He’s a winger / striker in much the same way that Sadio Mané is and has a decent reputation.  The only negative anyone seems to be able to come up with for him is that he’s small and slight... in the same mould as David Silva... who has not done too badly over here has he.  A couple of days later, Cedric Soares (pronounced ‘So-are-ez’) signed from Sporting Lisbon for about £3.5 million which, for a Portugese international right back is pretty good.  He has a reputation for being decent going forward and being very quick so it all sounds pretty positive from where I’m standing.  Two player son the fringes of powerful European International teams for a combined transfer fee outlay of less than £9 million... when Man United gave us triple that for Luke Shaw.

The Soares deal throws up a couple of interesting points.  The media of course saw it as proof positive that Clyney is off to Liverpool as we’ve signed his replacement.  That may well be the case but no one seems to be considering that Soares may just well be Calum Chambers replacement and he’ll provide competition for last years first choice.  There has been a lot of noise about Liverpool signing Clyne but no one this end has confirmed anything.  It’s standard Smug Twat Rodgers tactics to do everything through the Liverpool media so the Liverpool media have reported that they bid £10 million and we knocked it back, they were going to increase that to £11m or £12m and now Clyne is “desperate” to join them.  All they need to do is bring out the lines like last year when we were “holding Lallana prisoner and stopping him progressing” and all that and we’ll have the full set.  Oh yes, I forgot the “sign by this deadline or we’ll go elsewhere”.  Saints seem to be using the time honoured “pay the asking price or fuck off” approach.

It’s great, Super-Happy-Super-Motivational-Hockey-Guy Ralph Krueger said recently that we’re not a gossip club so the facts are these: - Clyne has a year left on his deal and no one has met the asking price as yet.  I would rather we held him to the last year of his contract and lose him for nothing next summer, rather than sell him to Liverpool.  The other point is that the Soares deal means we are covered whatever the outcome of the Clyne situation and I wonder where Nathaniel’s head is right now.  On the one hand, he’s just had first hand experience of getting shafted when he mixed with the big boys in the England set up and that’s the sort of thing that happens at the bigger clubs.  Maybe that’ll make him want to say or maybe that’ll make him more determined to get away.  It appears that the Champions League big clubs are not interested in him and now, if he stays at Southampton, he’s not an automatic first choice any more.  I also wonder how long the new contract offer from Saints will remain on the table.

News has been very sparse on the loanees we had in last season.  One assumes that Elia and Djuricic have gone back to Werder Bremen and Benfica respectively but they’ve in effect been replaced in the squad by Juanmi and the returning J-Rod.  The loanee we’re all interested in is Toby Alderweireld.  There has been no offical news whatsoever on that one.  We all know we had a clause to buy him and that Atletico Madrid could buy that out.  It’s not been confirmed that they’ve done this and I can’t find a date by which they had to do it.  There has been a rumoured swap deal involving Chelsea and Atletico and Filipe Luis but that seems to have come from a glib comment Mourinho made in a press conference.  There’s been noises from Fucking Spurs (fuck off) and West Ham (ha ha ha) being interested as well.  He’ll either end up at a Champions League Club or with us.  In our favour is that he obviously enjoyed it here and he’ll be a regular.  At Chelsea he’ll be a sub most of the time but be on a load more wedge and in the Champions League.  He’s had a season of being a bench player in the Champions League at Atletico which is how we managed to get him in the first place so I can’t imagine he’ll want that again either at Atletico or at Chelsea.  Still hopeful.

When does the Europa League start?



Saturday, June 6, 2015

The L1-10 Player Review 2014/15


Players Review 2014/15 (Fans of Mayuka and Osvaldo better not look)

The marks out of 10 are difficult as you have some players who’ve played 40 games and some who’ve played 2 but in general, the way it works sees players rated on a scale of 10 to Mayuka.

GOALKEEPERS (FORSTER 8, DAVIS 5.5, GAZZANIGA 6)

This season we had the same nightmare with the keepers that we had last year.  Last year, Artur Boruc broke his wrist at a crucial stage of the season and we then mixed and matched between replacements who weren’t good enough.  I would say that the one failing in the recruitment for this season was not finding an adequate back up for the first choice keeper.  It was understandable that it didn’t happen in the summer as the new goalkeeper coach Dave Watson hadn’t seen the other keepers we had and Artur Boruc threw his toys out very close to the end of the transfer window.  However, we let the January window pass us by when surely we could have found a keeper on loan for the rest of the season.  It of course bit us in the arse when Fraser Forster got injured and just like last year, we had to use back up keepers who are nowhere near the required standard.  It’s the whole defence that suffers, not just the keepers themselves.

FRASER FORSTER had had a very impressive first season with a record number of clean sheets.  In a lot of those games he had had very little to do, such was the strength of our defensive play but when called upon, in the main he was there.  The miracle reaction save at QPR was a highlight, as was the performance at Arsenal in the League in a game we eventually lost in the last minute.  He’s not the finished article as he doesn’t dominate the box as well as he should for someone of his size. He is however, world class at getting in the way because he has great reactions and he's fucking massive.  The biggest howler this season was the goal conceded at Villa when he came charging out to clear a ball and Agbonlahor got there first and this seems to affect him regarding getting off his line.  Off the top of my head I remember that goal and maybe the one conceded in the 1-0 defeat by Swansea when he should have maybe done better but overall he’s been superb.  The difference in the defensive record before he was injured and after is massive and that really is all that you need to know.  Many (me included) wanted to see a fair fight between Fraser and King Artur for the keepers jersey but Koeman made hi choice and stuck to it and Fraser proved him right.

When Fraser knackered his knee clearing the ball against Burnley, all our past nightmares came back to haunt us but not straight away.  KELVIN DAVIS came on and was superb in that game but as is often the case with squad players, they prove that they are squad players for a reason.  The odd performance is decent, but give them a run of games and it all becomes clear.  We had a horrible defeat against Stoke when Superkelv misjudged a cross which came back off the bar and gifted Stoke a goal and whilst no one can blame a keeper for letting in penalties, his dives by instalments to try and stop both of Gomez’ penalties at Sunderland, were pretty lame.  In short and to be brutal – he’s never a Premier League keeper.  PAOLO GAZZANIGA was given a game against Leicester as Koeman decided he needed to see what he was like in a first team game and after 19 minutes he’d let in two goals, one which was almost entirely down to his shite clearance.  Gazza performed well in the 6-1 win over Villa but the same rule applies.  The cold hard truth is that neither of these keepers are good enough so we need to sign one for next season to both play the first half of the season and challenge Fraser for the Number 1 jersey when he’s fit again.  The other option is of course our USA international Cody Cropper.  All I can say about him is that he’s been in the squad for at least 2 years and he hasn’t got past the ancient Superkelv and the calamity prone Gazza in the pecking order so I naturally wonder if he’s any good.  UPDATE: Cropper isn’t any good as he’s not had his contract renewed.

FULL BACKS (CLYNE 8.5, BERTRAND 9, TARGETT 6)

The right back position has been the preserve of NATHANIEL CLYNE for virtually the whole season.  His performances have been such that he’s now the first choice England right back as he should have been all along.  This is not a great indictment of Roy Hodgson’s managerial skills as the senile old goat had tried a selection of centre backs at right back (Jones, Jagielka, Smallling, Chambers, Stones) and average “Big Club” players (Johnson and Flanagan) without success before he picked the natural.  Well done Roy.  Clyney started the season on fire and scored two great goals at Liverpool and Arsenal.  As the team fell away a bit as the season went on, he didn’t get forward as much which resulted in much sniping that he didn’t have his mind on it and was angling for a move.  To me he just looked like a player who was getting on with it and doing his job as a defender first and foremost.  He only has one year left on his contract so this summer will either see him sign a new one or move on.  I have high hopes that he’ll decide to stay.  As I write we have just received a derisory offer from Liverpool so it doesn’t look like it’s Champions League sides that are interested in signing him.  He’s already said that he’s happy here so you never know – stranger things have happened and he might stay.  Other incumbents at right back this year have been  Jason McCarthy (5 minutes when a game was already won), James Ward-Prowse (one cup game in which he was dreadful), Maya Yoshida (did a solid job but looks ridiculous when he tries to break forward down the wing) and Toby Alderweireld who had one game there and didn’t look great, despite this being the position he plays for the Belgian national side.

We signed RYAN BERTRAND on loan from Chelsea in the summer with a view to buy at the end of the season.  He replaced that overrated fat permanently injured twat who went to Man United.  Ryan meanwhile, was so good that we converted his loan to a permanent deal in January.  Having suffered the Chelsea Curse of being English and never getting a chance in the first team,  he seems to respond superbly to being a regular and will be the regular England left back next season after Hodgson has done the same as he did with Clyne and tried everyone else before realising that the best option plays for Southampton.  It has been a superb season for Bertrand who gets forward well and puts over superb crosses on a regular basis.  He also scores the odd goal and the right footed half volley against Palace was one of our better goals this season.  The biggest surprise to me has been how good his defensive play is as I always thought that was a bit ropey in the past and assumed that that was why he never got a game for Chelsea.  MATT TARGETT came in for a few games when Bertrand got sent off for hoofing that Swansea player up in the air and did OK.  He made a mistake which presented a goal to Man City at SMS but played well against Chelsea when he managed to convince the ref that he hadn’t trashed Fabregas and that he dived.  He also got injured at QPR, resulting in the stoppage time in which Sadio Mané scored the winner.  Seriously though, Targett is going to be a good player and with more confidence from playing occasionally in the Premier League, will develop his attacking game more.   Maya Yoshida filled in at left back with both Ryan and Matty out and looked like a fish up a tree.

CENTRE BACKS (FONTE 9, ALDERWEIRELD 8.5, YOSHIDA 7, GARDOS 6)

Being named as skipper at the start of the season seems to have helped add something extra to the game of JOSÉ FONTE.  It made me think that Nigel Adkins missed a trick when he names Lallana as his captain instead of José.  The new skipper has been different class all season and the outside world is now beginning to realise that he is the man who makes the defence.   If ever you needed proof of this then look at that shitbag who pissed off to Liverpool who has looked an absolute clown this season without José telling him what to do.  The Koeman influence has seen his play out of defence come on leaps and bounds and maybe the one mistake all year which led to a goal (van Persie backpass at SMS).  He won the players vote for Player of the Season… he won the supporters vote for Player of the Season… he should be in every team of the year from the Premier League.  Gary Cahill in the official team of the season.  Really?  Once Lovren joined up with his head in Liverpool, there was a question mark as to who would play alongside José until on transfer deadline day we signed  TOBY ALDERWEIRELD on loan from Atletico Madrid.   This was the best loan signing ever.  He’d just played in a Champions League Final and was a regular with the Belgian national team and we signed him for the year – not only that but with an option to buy for approximately £8 million.  If Carlsberg did transfer deals!  Putting it simply, the guy is different class.  He’s always in the right place due to exceptional reading of the game and can play anywhere, off both feet and basically do it all.  He’s not one for diving into last ditch tackles like Lovren was and the reason for that is that he’s in right place to start with.  He did suffer a few muscle injuries which explains why he didn’t win any Player of the Season votes and the only other downside is that the option to buy that we have can be bought out by Atletico which they are almost certain to do as he’s been so good that the big boys (and Fucking Spurs) fancy their chances.  I would donate parts of my anatomy to medical science before I’m dead to sign this guy on a four year contract.  Toby’s occasional absence has given MAYA YOSHIDA a couple of runs in the side and in the main he’s done well, proving a very good stand-in and also playing well enough for Koeman to throw the odd formation change and play 3 centre backs.  Towards the end of the season though, the mistakes began to creep in but he’s done enough to earn a new contract and as a squad player, that’s fine.  Also firmly in the squad player category is Romanian centre back, FLORIN GARDOS who arrived from Steaua Bucharest.  He had a few promising performances, ironically against the big boys.  It was against the more direct teams that he struggled as many have before when sampling English football for the first time.  Sheffield United away was a nightmare and he found himself with markedly reduced game time after his red card in that game.  He needs to man up a bit cos at time he looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane.  He a big powerful bastard but he doesn’t play like it and he needs to.  I hope he stays as I’ve seen a player in there and I wouldn’t be surprised if he improves massively next season.

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD (SCHNEIDERLIN 8.5, WANYAMA 9, REED 6)

Following his pre-season meltdown, MORGAN SCHNEIDERLIN stayed with the club and got his head down straight away and was excellent throughout, anchoring the midfield and also getting forward and coming up with a few goals.  The fact that he improved again this season means of course that we are in for another summer of wondering if he’ll be with us this season and you have to say that the expectation is that he’ll be going.  As we’ve had a year to get used to the idea, I don’t think anyone would be giving him a hard time over it.  It makes me smile a bit that the big clubs aren’t falling over eachother to sign him and to me, it shows how clueless they are.  With the possible exception of Chelsea, he would improve the midfield of every one of the clubs that finished in the Top 4 this season.  His usual partner in crime in the centre of midfield is of course VICTOR WANYAMA.  As a pair they are superb but I’ve noticed an improvement in the pair of them this year when the other one has been out for whatever reason – they’ve both been capable of being equally effective when the other hasn’t been there.  Big Vic has come on massively this season, being much more with the pace of the Premier League and being so much more comfortable on the ball.  Gone are the aimless panicked passes to no one and he doesn’t get caught on the ball anymore.  He does seem to be the player who gets booked simply for being stronger than the opposition when the referees haven’t got a clue.  Arsenal away when he gave away about 20 free kicks for breathing on whichever lightweight midfielder came near him was the best/worst example of that.  We can deal with losing Morgan as long as we keep Big Vic but I have the distinct feeling that we’ll be facing up to him going as well next summer.  Making the odd appearance in the defensive midfield area was HARRISON REED who is not the new Paul Scholes, despite such compelling evidence as his hair colour and his height.  He’s a tenacious little terrier of a midfielder who is a constant pain to the opposition.  When he’s played this year he’s done very well but Ronald obviously doesn’t see him as quite ready for a prolonged run in the side and so he invariably gets left out after one or two games.  The one thing I thought Ronald got wrong this season was moving Alderweireld to midfield and thus weakening the defence, rather than playing Reed a bit more... not that Alderweireld isn’t good in midfield because he can do anything.  Next season i think we’ll see Reed play more but the biggest threat to that could be the potential signing of Jordy Clasie as there’s no way we’re going to see two 5 foot 5 players in the centre of midfield.

ATTACKING CENTRAL MIDFIELD (DAVIS 7, WARD-PROWSE 7)

It’s hard to know how to classify the midfielders who don’t play in the defensive positions but are not really wingers either.  Attacking central midfielders was the best I could come up with but it’s not a perfect description for with STEVEN DAVIS or JAMES WARD-PROWSE.  Playing where they do, in front of Morgan and Big Vic, they should be chipping in with 5 to 8 goals a season but they’ve contributed 1 penalty between them.  Davis started the season very well and when he plays well, the team functions very well and he looks untouchable as he hardly ever gives the ball away and is constantly closing down and forcing mistakes.  He just keeps it simple and does everything well.  He does have this habit from time to time of having a complete stinker where everything goes wrong but he’s had a good season overall... except for the lack of goals.  It’s becoming an epidemic now where he gets into a great position, gets the ball and doesn’t get it on target.  Most of the time you’re wondering if it’s actually gone for a goal kick or a throw-in.  The Spurs home game was horrible for this with three bad misses including sidefooting wide of a gaping goal from 10 yards.  It of course has to improve or there will come a point where zero goals will become a bit of a problem for him.  JWP has had a stop start but has started a fair few games when available.  He too is guilty of the crap shooting epidemic – most of the time he gets it on target but it’s like a back pass to the keeper.  The one exception was his penalty which he buried like Sir Rickie used to do.  He’s such a clean striker of the ball and his set pieces are getting better and better.  Needs to toughen up a bit in the tackle but next year is huge for him and I expect him to improve further.  A goal or two from set pieces at the start of next year and he’ll fly with the confidence that’ll bring.  If so, he’ll play for England before this time next year.

WINGER/FORWARD (MARKS FOR THE SEASON – TADIC 7, MANÉ  8.5, ELIA 5.5, DJURICIC 5)

DUSAN TADIC arrived with a decent reputation from Dutch football and as a replacement for the turncoat Lallana.  He has great vision and a wand of a left foot and the only question was whether he could adapt to the English game.  He certainly could and up until Christmas, his performances were different class.  As the decorations came down though, so did the level of his performances and he looked knackered which manifested itself in him constantly giving the ball away and his crossing accuracy falling from 80% to about 5%.  I am not Mr.Opta and have made these stats up but that was the perception I got anyway.  He flickered brightly in a couple of games towards the end of the season but then got an injury which required a lay off and rumour has it that he’d been carrying a groin injury since Xmas.  He did bring the excitement back to our penalty taking.  For years through Sir Rickie, Beatts and le God – we’ve had great penalty takers who you knew were going to score.  Dusan’s penalties are uniformly bloody awful.  It’s a miracle that he scored 2 out of 3 with both successes being bobbled down the middle for the keeper to just about dive out of the way. Again, he’ll be better for the experience of a season in English football, as will SADIO MANÉ.  The fickle nature of the Saints fan was illustrated well with Sadio.  He started well, then tailed off and looked a liability, before becoming our best attacking player in the 2nd half of the season.  For me, in the first few games he proved he was up to it and was always going to emerge from the ‘1st season’ dip in form that everyone seems to have.  When played through the middle he’s been electric and a nightmare for defenders and there was no better sight this season as watching Terry and Cahill struggling to contain him in both matches against Chelsea this season.  The 3 minute hat-trick against Villa was amazing to witness as well and let’s hope he plays the majority of his football in the central areas next season and not out on the wing.  Picking up a player like this from Austrian football for less than £10 million is an absolute masterstroke. 

Not so effective were the loan signings for this position. ELJERO ELIA looked the business in his debut at Old Trafford and up at Newcastle when he scored twice but he’s contributed very little since.  He has all the skills and pace but seems to get lost and not deliver anything worthwhile.  Showed a good set piece delivery in one game as well but I guess it depends on who else we can get as to whether he’s here next season.  With a fee of £400,000 being mentioned, I certainly think it’s worth a gamble – the ability is there and I trust Koeman to decide if Elia can be more consistent.  FILIP DJURICIC is very similar to Elia in that he has the ability but can he actually translate that into anything useful on the pitch?  I think a couple of things are going to count against him and they are that Benfica appear to want quite a hefty fee for him and that he’s incredibly similar to Tadic and that’s not just the fact they’re both Serbs.  The Liverpool home game was his chance to do something special but he went to ground instead of shooting in the first 30 seconds.  If he’d scored then, the loan spell might have been a lot more productive for him and Saints.  Personally, unless Benfica are asking less than £1 million for him, I’d pass.

STRIKERS (PELLÈ 8.5, LONG 7)
Koeman took a risk at the start of the season on a player he had at Feyenoord who had only ever scored goals in Dutch football.  In a season where everything has been pretty positive, the main annoyance for me has been the stick that GRAZIANO PELLE has got from some of our fans.  There have been many payers over the years who I haven’t liked but what good does it do to barrack them?  In Graziano’s case, all you’re doing is showing your gross ignorance.  Starting with the obvious – he had the pressure of taking over from Sir Rickie Lambert, he’s our top scorer, he’s central to our attacking style of play enabling us to go short and long, he never hides, he’s playing his first season in England, he’s played in every game so must be knackered, he’s mostly played up front on his own.  Shall I go on?  OK… he’s scored 12 goals in the league and 4 in the cups and all from open play as he doesn’t take penalties or free kicks.  He’s also been very unlucky this season, hitting the post about 6 times.   Personally I think he’s been fantastic.  Sure he had a lean run in front of goal but as with Mané and Tadic, there’s always a dip in that first season in England.  He’s obviously an emotional sort and you could tell that the barren run was getting to him but he so obviously desperately wants to do well.  Also – he’s a big beautiful bastard as we all know.  For me, the overhead kick against QPR should have been goal of the season but my personal favourite goal of the season was the header against Spurs and we have to work to get more decent crosses in to him next season.  That cross against Spurs was provided by SHANE LONG who had the season that everyone knew he’d have.  He scored about 5 or 6 goals, was a pain in the arse to defenders who wanted time on the ball, was in and out of the side, sometimes looks like he can’t control a ball at all, did the odd brilliant thing like the goal against Villa and missed a load of chances.  I’ve always felt that he’s better as a sub rather than a starter but he’s a great player to have with his willingness to play through the middle and from either wide position.  He’ll have the challenge next year of trying to get time on the pitch with the increased involvement of J-Rod but overall, it’s been a solid season for him and you can see why he’s a crowd favourite wherever he goes.

ALSO RANS

JACK CORK (7/10) was sold to Swansea in the January window which was a shame but not surprising.  He’s a really good player and it appears he moved because he wanted more football.  He’s moved to a good club who both play the right way and will give him that opportunity.  There was no animosity towards Jack as he’d left for the right reasons and not gobbed off.  He left that to his Dad who is a classic example of why older people shouldn’t use Twitter.  Scored a couple of goals this season and looked good in a more advanced role than usual.  We really could have done with keeping him as he would have got quite a few games towards the end of the season though the ‘Corky Lottery’ game to guess which seat in the crowd Jack would hit with his shot has been handed over to Steven Davis.

GASTON RAMIREZ played about half an hour before being loaned out to Hull for the season where he did his usual in flitting in and out of the team and ultimately delivering not a lot.  It would have been interesting to see him stay this season to see if he could do it in a side that wasn’t struggling but by now, I think we all know that the answer would have been ‘no’. He’ll be in the last year of his contract now and I would anticipate us taking any offer north of a couple of million for him.  A talent but ultimately a waste.

JAKE HESKETH emerged from nowhere to get picked to start a game at Burnley as an attacking midfielder.   I’ve got a 10 year old son who looks older than Jake but nonetheless, Jake played, kicked the keeper, got booked and then got taken out in a revenge tackle and had to go off, not appearing for the first team again this season.  Koeman obviously saw something in him to throw him in so he’s one to watch with interest.

JAY RODRIGUEZ & SAM GALLAGHER have both been injured all season.  We knew Jay would be out for the majority of it but that’s been compounded by Sam’s absence as well as he (in case you’d forgotten) made appearances in about 18 games in 2013/14.  The absence of this pair meant the workload on Graziano Pellè was much higher than it should have been and though Sam made it back to play for the Under 21s before the season ended, including scoring the winner in the U21 Cup Final, he didn’t make the first team aside from one non-playing appearance on the bench.  Jay probably could have played the last two games of the season but I think it was wise no to play him and these two are our first new signings of the summer.

JACK STEPHENS & JORDAN TURNBULL are our two young centre backs who spent the season out on loan at League 1 Swindon Town which ended up in failure in the playoff final.  Great experience for the pair though and they appear to be quite highly thought of.  They are bucking the trend with the Saints still seeing a future for them but sending them out on loan.  The idea is apparently for them to go on loan to a Championship club for next season an see how they get on there but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stephens (as the higher rated of the two) being in our squad.
Ladies and Gentleman, I give you ….(drumroll!!!... The Saints Academy…. DOMINIC GAPE, JASON MCCARTHY, LLOYD ISGROVE & RYAN SEAGER all got on the pitch for merely minutes this season with Gape & McCarthy totalling about 2 minutes between them.  Gape was very short in the centre of midfield and McCarthy ran around a lot at right back.  McCarthy was on the bench quite a lot in the first half of the season which as interesting because I guess he wouldn’t have been had Stephens and Turnbull not been out on loan.  As captain of the Under 21’s, it appears that the club think quite highly of him..  The Academy rolls on.  Seager is attracting a lot of attention as he rattles in goals at a decent rate.  In his first team league appearance though he was thrown on and barely got a touch of the ball, bringing comparisons with Billy Sharp.  His goalscoring record for the Under 21’s means that we should keep an eye on him though and you’d rather rely on him that a certain African striker we have.  Lloyd Isgrove looked 4 foot 6 but decent, when he got on the pitch but another season has gone by without him making a real breakthrough and he’s about 23 now.  Loaned out to League 1 level and I can’t help but think that this is where he’ll ultimately end up.

DANI OSVALDO is of course, a scumbag, wrapped inside a bastard with a large quantity of dickhead thrown in and some fuckwit sprinkled on top.  There are no words sufficient for this guy.  We could have done with him this season as an extra striker and he undoubtedly has ability but he’s a complete shitbag and at 29, he’s never going to change.   He was at Boca Juniors in Argentina for most of this season but they can’t afford him and amidst stories of spousal abuse and various other stuff, they don’t want to sign him permanently.  It’s hard to predict how it’ll end for Dani but he’s more likely to end up in prison than on a field in a Saints shirt again.  We should pay up the remaining two years of his contract just to get rid or maybe we can find a way to sack him which would ultimately be more satisfying.

EMMANUEL MAYUKA!!! No stop it. 3 years… fuck all…. Better than Osvaldo though as he hasn’t beaten anyone up.  He however, won’t make it in the Premier League as long as he has a hole in his arse.



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Captain Bellend fails as Saints Qualify for Europe


Bellend: Not a Good Day

I usually watch the FA Cup final out of habit but this year there was a bit of purpose to watching it as Saints of course, needed Arsenal to win so we qualified for the Europa League.  Fans of the big clubs (and Fucking Spurs) may not think this is a big deal but it is to us.  Well, it is to me anyway.  I want to qualify for Europe and despite this years flirtation with the top 4, this is the highest graded competition that we’re ever going to get the chance to play in, in all likelihood….. so I want it. 

As a kid, the season after we won the FA Cup ourselves, I remember cramming into The Dell to watch us play against Marseille (we won 4-0) and then against Anderlecht in what was the Cup Winners Cup.  We won the game against the Belgians as well by 2-1 but having lost 2-0 in the away leg, we went out.  It was brilliant as a kid and it was different and we need that again.  We’ve had a few excursions since and many will remember the 2003 defeat to Steaua Bucharest as that campaign was over before it really got started.

Anyway, before we can worry about all that, Arsenal have to win against the Villa side that we battered 6-1 a few weeks back when they were truly shocking.  Arsenal warmed up by smashing West Brom 4-1 and Villa lost at home so all the signs are good.  There was just the nagging fear that Captain Bellend might inspire a performance out of his desperately average Villa side or that Arsenal could choke as they have been known to do on the big occasion.

In the build up we had to endure a horrible ‘Gooner for a day’ love in and another hamfisted attempt by Calum Chambers to endear himself to Saints fans as he was filmed signing something from Saints and saying that they’d win it for both of us. Well you won’t, will you mate as it's hard to make a difference from a seat in the crowd.  For all the help you'll be, you might as well be watching it on TV with me.

The Villa line up was more or less as it was at SMS.  Sadly, Hutton was not at left back but Bellend had switched him to right back and left out the attack minded Bacuna which suggested to me he was going to try and choke the shit out of the game and hope for a Benteke header from a set piece.  Arsenal had gone with the pace of Walcott up front, possibly having seen how Sadio Mané and Shane Long tore new arseholes for Vlaar and Okore respectively, a couple of weeks back.

For the first half an hour it was going to plan except that Arsenal couldn’t fucking score.  Koscielny’s header brought a decent save from Given and Richardson blocked a certain goal as he threw himself in the way of Walcott’s shot.  Villa were basically just trying to disrupt.  Benteke should have been booked in the 2nd minute for a crude hack on Sanchez but got away with it but eventually the cards started flowing, usually for cynically stopping attacks by grabbing someone once they’d gone by.  Delph had two goes at this before he eventually got carded.

Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!  Theeeeeeeo!  A cross into the box, Sanchez heads down and Theo Walcott smashes it first time past Given.  Get the fuck in.  Villa respond by getting completely penned in.  It’s like Paul Lambert never left and it’s the 9-0-fifty yards-Benteke formation all over again.  The defence isn’t playing as a unit either – there’s a lot of tackles going in but no cohesive effort at all, just panic mode.  On the rare occasions they get into Arsenal’s half, the one tactic which is throw it into the mixer from miles out, is being negated by Chesney coming for everything and punching everything before Benteke gets near him…. And Jack Grealish is having a mare – it’s all good.

Half time and if Arsenal get one more then this is done.  What happened next was not only a goal for Arsenal but a fantastic goal as Sanchez picked it up on the left, cut inside and then just mullered it into the roof of the net from about 30 yards.  You would normally criticise the keeper for getting beaten from there but he didn’t have a hope in hell.

The rest of the game was a procession.  It was 3-0 when Merteasckofshit moved two yards and Benteke couldn’t be arsed to move with him and the big German shouldered it past Given from a corner.  A quite dreadful goal.  Arsenal could have scored as many as they wanted in the last 20 minutes but they were on the beach at that point.  It was left for the fresh legs of Chamberlain to beat Hutton (who had been switched to the left at this point) and square for Giroud to tap into the net in almost apologetic fashion. 

One of the things that’s stayed with me since 2003 was there being more Saints fans than Arsenal fans in the stadium when the FA Cup got presented.  We lost but we stayed to eek the most out of the day out.  There’s no worry about that today as the Villa fans had all fucked off, along with the usual percentage of Arsenal fans.  I despair at fans like this.

The amusing thing about the celebrations was seeing all the Arsenal squad players doing the full John Terry and having their kit on.  One of them was Calum Chambers who, as regular readers will know, I have a problem with.  In the Academy for 10 years learning his trade, 20 games for the first team and then fucks off as soon as he could.  Now he’s Arsenal’s 3rd choice right back and 5th choice centre back and doesn’t make the bench.  I’m sure Saints could have got you a ticket to watch the final and you might have played some more games this season and next, you twat.  Arsenal were short of defenders at the start of the season so he played 20 odd games but they’re not now and more will arrive in the summer so it’ll be interesting to see how many times he plays next year.  I wonder if he feels just a little bit of a fraud bouncing around celebrating the win when he’s hardly played since the FA Cup started.

The Arsenal players who were out on the pitch were very very good and totally deserved to win in the easy fashion that they did.  Walcott, Cazorla, Ozil and Sanchez were different class and then they still had Giroud, Wilshere and Chamberlain to bring on off the bench.  It was predictable and sometimes it’s nice for the predictable result to happen without any alarms.  As for Villa – well Sherwood came out afterwards and blamed the players which was fair enough as they were shit but he did what he did at SMS and just sat there as it all went to ratshit in front of him.  Maybe he’s not the messiah after all.  Just a thought.  They went to the FA Cup Final and basically lied down and didn’t even have a go.

So - We’re all going on a European Tour!

Now here’s the thing – The Europa League wasn’t on my radar when I booked the family holiday this year so I will be away for both legs of our 3rd Qualifying Round fixture so all I want right now is for us still to be in the bloody competition when I get back!

As an aside – the best resource I’ve found with info about the Europa League is good old Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015%E2%80%9316_UEFA_Europa_League

When Neil Ashton and Ben Smith sat down with Cortese last summer and took it up the arse - they could hardly have envisaged that their MELTDOWN stories would have been so incredibly wide of the mark.  It is a great achievement for a team like Saints to qualify for Europe and it matters not how you do it (unless it's through the fair play route which is just shite).  We've finished 7th and we've qualified and that's all that matters.  I saw some real petty sniping on Twitter from the other end of the M27, unbelievably referring to when they qualified which had more merit apparently.  No mention of the players they couldn't afford etc etc etc when they won the FA Cup.  Who cares what they think anyway.  It's extra games but I'm sure we'll manage and the people who matter at the club aren't stupid enough to think we don't need reinforcements.

So in case Neil, Ben and anyone else hasn't worked it out yet.... We March On!