Friday, November 9, 2018

No More No Les


You’re Fired. Just Like That!

I’d like to claim some measure of responsibility for Les Reed leaving Southampton football club but I
don’t think I can but it is ironic that he leaves two days after I wrote one of my most well received blogs ever. 

He had to go, he really did. It doesn’t matter how well anyone does in their first 5 1/2 years in any particular job - if you are underperforming/very poor for 2 1/2 successive years then you are really up against it. You could argue that it’s the players or its the managers or it’s any number of circumstances that have conspired but the fact of the matter is that Les Reed was the senior board member responsible for the football side of the club which is the core business. It is failing so he is failing and we have reached the point where under his stewardship, it was clearly not going to turn around. The main area that has been a disaster in the last two years is recruitment so I fully expect Ross Wilson to be following Les out of the door in the next few days and certainly before January. Also leaving, is Martin Hunter who was the technical director of the Academy. I guess he is being judged on the number of academy players who have made it through to first-team level. I touched on this in the other blog and there is an issue with them not being given the chance to develop in the Premier League but it has clearly been decided that the players coming through are not good enough and that is his responsibility.  I don’t have too much to say about Martin Hunter only that his interviews were incredibly dull to listen to so you do wonder how he is going to inspire a young player.  Below first-team level, none of our young players are in any of the England International development squads and at least one of the age group teams got relegated last year so it is not surprising that Hunter is on his way also.

It has to be said Les had a great five years as we got stronger and stronger until the point where he decided he couldn’t work with Ronald Koeman anymore and Ronald took the first opportunity to get away.  As I’ve said many times before, the manager is the most important person at the club as he runs the first team and without the first team doing well, everything else falls apart. It’s also very dangerous to believe your own hype and think you have some sort of Midas  touch.

Thinking the Claude Puel would be a suitable replacement for Koeman was Reed’s first big mistake and the next came in January 2017 when Jose Fonte flounced off to West Ham and Virgil Van Dijk got injured and we basically didn’t replace them. That cost us the League Cup final which we should’ve won and I then we had the bizarre Martin Caceras fiasco when we signed a player too late, who we didn’t want to play for financial reasons.

Where this leaves Mark Hughes is interesting. Hughes was a Les Reed appointment and they apparently go back a long way. Whilst I feel that it is unlikely that the press reports of him being sacked after the Watford game if we don’t win it have any truth in them, I can’t help but feel his position has been somewhat strengthened by Reed going and no one else coming in immediately. One thing is certain though that with Reed gone there is no one else left to blame so Hughes will be firmly in the firing line of Ralph Krueger and everyone else should result not improve. That’s a bit harsh perhaps because he can only work with the players that he’s got but that’s the reality.  Of course, whoever the new director of football turned out to be my want to get his own man in place as soon as possible and that really wouldn’t be a surprise unless Hughes starts pulling up trees. 

In Hughes press conference he was of course asked about all of this and it worries me slightly that he hopes for more control in transfers. Firstly, I think we need to have a big clear out before we bring any more players and secondly, Hughes track record when he is given the cheque-book and the decision making is really not very good. However, he is now by default, the senior football person at the club so Ralph, for all his talk about taking time to find the right person, need to get his finger out and do it quickly.

What I am also interested in is who made the decisions on the football side? If Martin Hunter has been sacked last week, you would have said that it was a Les Reed decision. Who exactly is Les Reed’s boss? Did he still report to Krueger or does he report directly to the Gao family who we of course know nothing about and where exactly is Katarina 20% Liebherr in the mix? 

If it was Krueger’s decision then I guess you don’t need a huge amount of football knowledge to look at the results of the first team, and the age group sides and decide that they are not good enough and make a decision based on that but bear in mind that Kruger knows very little about football. The complete lack of football knowledge in the upper echelons of the club makes me feel slightly worried about who we get in to replace Reed in particular but I don’t believe that sitting around and doing nothing because you are scared to do anything, is the right way to run a football club.

The King is dead, long live the Motivational Hockey Guy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Earth Calling Planet Gao - Your Club is a Shambles



Excuse me Motivational Hockey Guy, Where's My Booster Seat?

I’ve got something to get off my chest.

When the Leicester owner died in the helicopter crash a week or so ago, the work he’d done for Leicester both for the football club and the city became even more apparent. Not only has he financed the team that won the Premier League, he also funded hospitals and schools and numerous other initiatives around the city. Compare and contrast with Chairman Gao who has not even made a statement to Southampton supporters, let alone make a mark on the city outside of the football club. We've seen his daughter at the Saints Exhibition in the Civic Centre but that's it.  He's turned up to one game I think and didn't say anything public then.  Oh how we laughed at our neighbours down the M27 when it turned out one of their owners didn’t exist.  Is this really much different?  

Gao leaves the day-to-day running of the club to the football board which mainly consists of Les Reed as King of all Football Matters and Ross Wilson as Head of Recruitment. This is of course the recruitment of managers and recruitment of players which since D-day, Summer 2016 has been pretty much, a complete disaster.  I wonder what Katharina Liebherr makes of it all when she considers her fathers legacy.

Where we had Fonte, Van Dijk, Wanyama, Pelle, Mane and Koeman, we now have Hoedt, Vestergaard, Lemina, Austin, Boufal and Puel/Pellegrino/Hughes. It almost makes you cry looking at those six names that we had as recently as two and a bit years ago. All big personality, big character leaders and bloody good at what they did, making the more average around them raise their levels. Now look at what we’ve replaced them with. None of the names on the second list can hold a candle to any of the names on the first list. None of the second list would’ve been any more than squad players or assistants if they had been around at the time that those on the first list were around. Some of the second list may yet come good and some have made fleeting decent contributions but it’s not the same, not by a long chalk.

At the same time in this huge decline in what matters, the manager and the team on the pitch, the marketing side of the club has upped their game and merely succeeded in pissing everybody off. Season-Ticket Plus – is that Plus goals or Plus Entertainment or Plus Players that Care.  Nope, the Plus is in the cost.  This is a scheme to charge you more for your already ridiculously expensive season ticket and give you the opportunity to spend more money on some peripheral stuff that (I’m guessing) most people don’t care about.

I don’t pretend to speak for everybody but I am a relatively long in the tooth football supporter.  I hit 50 in a few weeks and I can remember life before 1992, before the Premier League brand and despite all the crap that comes with Premier League football these days, I still maintain the same values which hopefully I’ve passed on to my kids. We want to turn up 15 minutes before a game, watch the game, see 90 minutes of players in red and white shirts giving 100%. When the final whistle blows we want to clap the players off and then we want to go home. That’s it.  Which part of that don’t you understand?  The message is that it’s the football that’s important.  Everything else doesn’t matter.

The list of things I don’t want includes the opportunity to buy ludicrously expensive Artisan burger and I don’t even have a desire to know what an Artisan burger is. I don’t want ridiculously loud nightclub style music right up to kick off and as soon as the game ends. Once the game ends I want to actually talk to the people around me as we are filing out of the ground. After another mind and spirit-crushing 0-0 draw against a team at the bottom of the league, I do not want to hear Paul Weller screaming “Shout to the Top” at 2000 dB. I had to mime that “I am going for a piss and don’t leave without me” to the other people I was with.  I guess the club don’t want supporters discussing the garbage we’ve just seen until they’ve put some sort of positive spin on it on a website. I don’t want plastic clackers and I don’t want the mascot dog with the drum.  I don’t want flame-throwers that don’t work when it’s windy and I care not for fireworks.  Give us something decent on the pitch and we won’t need all this atmosphere enhancing bullshit.

Now back to Les Reed’s department - I don’t want to see more squad filler experienced pathway-blocker pros who are absolutely no better than the youngsters are we loaned out the Championship clubs. The double bonus of this is that you don’t then have to loan out the experienced pro to another club because no one want to buy them because we are paying them too much money (Boufal, Clasie, Carrillo). I don’t want our highest wage earner to be our 4th choice goalkeeper and the way that you avoid this is to not give him an extended contract when he still has four years of his existing contract to run and he is already in terminal decline.

Jake Hesketh or Stuart Armstrong?  Josh Sims or Mohammed Elyounoussi?  Harrison Reed or Jordy Clasie - you might not think Jordy Clasie is relevant any more (and we did sign him in Summer 15) but we are still paying the lightweight nonentity to be out on loan somewhere.  Sam Gallagher could not possibly be worse than Guido Carrillo and Guido Carrillo himself could not possibly be worse than Shane Long and Charlie Austin.  Why do we still have Steve Davis when we have James Ward-Prowse and neither are regulars in the team? Why do we somehow have five average centre backs on our books, none of whom are any better than any of the others? You could pick any two of them out of a hat and it would make absolutely no difference whatsoever.  So, we have too many central defenders and yet we only have one right back. We have a manager who I assume wanted to sign the centre backs because he was going to play with three on the pitch and then he on a whim, changes to a formation the only requires two of them. If he was going to play 4-4-2 then maybe the list of summer targets would have been different.  Maybe we could’ve done with more wingers, or keeping Josh Sims, or actually having a central striker who could hold the ball up.  We could offer mega wages to a decent striker if we weren’t paying Carrillo, Clasie, Boufal, Forster, Davis, Austin, Long… none of whom would be missed.  Everyone makes mistakes but come on…

Who remembers Reed saying he wanted all the teams of the club to play the same formation which would’ve aided both in continuity of moving between the teams (the pathway) but also with recruitment because we would’ve known we were recruiting for specific positions instead of what the plan appears to be now, which is sign any desperado who is willing to join us.  This 'same formation and style' thing was shown to be rubbish when Puel was allowed to change the formation to a diamond midfield as soon as he arrived with no time to prepare for it.

We used to be the club that foreign pros came to enhance their career.  There was problems with this when they wanted to move on but now we have a club that they come to because we pay more than most foreign clubs and you get a nice four or five year contract and if it doesn’t work out, hey… doesn’t matter, you’ve got five years worth of big wedge coming and Saints will loan you out somewhere.  Remember when we used to talk about the black box and how are used to look at a players character and aren’t we so clever… and yet we still sign Sofiane Boufal when his character was clearly lacking somewhat.   

We just love wasting money - why did we sign Angus Gunn? Now, he looks like a very good goalkeeper but as I said before we have an England international goalkeeper on big wages a week, currently as our fourth choice. It seems like the more money we get in from the Premier League, the less careful we are and the more we completely cock things up. When Southampton was careful with the money (pre-Premier League) they would never have had this situation develop. Did we think that one of the Premier League big boys was going to come in for Forster?  Is that why we gave him an extra contract, which is why we signed Gunn as his replacement. Something went severely wrong there didn’t it?

Mark Hughes is coming under fire with loads saying we should sack the manager and all that sort of stuff.   Do you trust Les and Ross to find someone better?  Hughes has questions to answer though.  I can’t understand the formation change when we signed a lot of players that looks suitable for the three at the back formation. I also can’t understand the persistence with Shane Long and Charlie Austin, nor that ridiculous back four with two of the tallest slowest centre backs you could possibly imagine. That would have even been a disaster in a Football Manager game, let alone in the real Premier League.  Les Reed should be asking Hughes why this has happened?  Maybe he is?  If he isn’t then he isn’t doing his job.  Hughes got the job because he kept us up last season and he deserved it in all truth.  However, he also got it because Reed and Wilson have got the last two managerial appointments horribly wrong so they were not about to give anyone a stick to hit them with by not appointing Hughes and taking another punt.

Where do we go from here? We probably won’t go down this year because there are 5 other teams who are as terrible as we are but it'll be this year or the next if nothing changes from the top.  As it stands, everything is screwed and the Southampton Way is dead.  Les and Ross need to go – that much is obvious.  We no longer attract the best untapped talent from abroad. We no longer promote youth players and give them a chance to prove that they can be a genuine Premier league performer.  There is no pathway.  We no longer are ahead of the game in any area and we no longer have an owner who gives a toss.

Welcome to Southampton 2018.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Premier League Match 11 - Manchester City 6 Southampton 1



Doh! I've Picked Shane Long Again.

Manchester City away. No chance.

Such is the level of optimism these days that we go into the game with Manchester City at the Etihad just looking to keep the score down. Regardless of how well or badly we have been playing, City have been burying everybody by an average of about 4-0 so if we keep it down below that then I think we can be quite satisfied with our days work. Sooner or later, City are going to stick eight or nine past someone but with professional footballers being as they are, usually a team get three goals ahead and just play the game out.

Kevin de Bruyne getting injured in midweek means City are without their best player but when you have a squad worth billions and you bear in mind that they have been doing without him more or less all season, it doesn’t really make much difference to our prospects of getting anything out of this game. David Silva, Leroy Sané, Sergio Agüero, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez… For fuck’s sake. They can put out the third team and still have a decent shout of beating us. Such is the ridiculousness of the haves and have nots in the Premier League.

Talking of which, the European super league has been back on the agenda with all of the top six apart from Tottenham seemingly involved in the discussions as I’ve said before in this blog-I can’t fucking wait for it to happen. Off you go and take all the shithouse players, managers and Sky Sports and Liverpundits with you. Don’t let the door hit your arse. I wrote a manifesto for the English game post-Euro Super League here.

http://leagueoneminus10.blogspot.com/2017/07/off-you-go-good-riddance-so-as-follow.html

Last year in this game, we set up to defend the shit out of it and very nearly got away with it, only losing to Sterling’s 97th minute winner in a game that will be remembered mainly for Guardiola’s strange interaction with Nathan Redmond after the game. One thing I remember about this game But no one in the media will highlight, was van Dijk strolling around like he didn’t give a fuck and making a horrendous error for the first City goal. He doesn’t make mistakes now he plays for Liverpool of course - he is the best defender in the world.

So, three minutes in and knowing that we have to be defensively perfect to get anything out of the game, some panicky shit in defence and the ball gets fired at JWP who can’t control it.  Aguero picks it up, feeds David Silva who slots Sane in and his cross is smashed into the net by Wesley Hoedt and all the people who had Hoedt as ‘First Own Goal Scorer’ at odds of 1-50, celebrated wildly.  A bit unfortunate for him as he had to do something with Sterling right behind him but smashing it into the roof of your own net isn’t a great option.

We learn the meaning of defensive solidity and three minutes later, Sterling picks it up on the left and slalom’s into the box whilst we watch him, moving about as much as dead bodies in a fucking morgue.  Sterling gets to the line, cuts out Macca with the pull back and Sergio Aguero doesn’t often miss from 5 yards with an open goal.  He’s no Shane Long that’s for sure.

It nearly gets worse straight away as Bernardo Silva plays in Aguero and McCarthy pulls off a superb save to turn it wide as the defenders who are supposed to be helping him, collectively shite themselves.  The respite lasts for about 5 minutes when we have three chances to clear the ball and take none of them.  Eventually, after a few passes, Sterling has it on the right and he stands up a cross.  No worries, Jack Stephens is under it but the Hindenburg (shit in the air) doesn’t get off the ground and Sane flicks it on to David Silva who is hiding in plain sight about 10 yards out and he belts it into the top corner.  If you useless twats could mark the players in the light blue shirts – that would be really good.

Then the afternoon took a turn for the surreal and Southampton did a goal.  Bertrand took time off from not tackling or marking and played a superb ball through the defence to meet up with Ings run and Ederson came out and trashed him.  Lee Mason gave the penalty and no one argued in the slightest.  Up stepped Ings to roll it into the corner for 3-1 to give us a real chance of turning it around.  Ha ha fucking ha!

Far from getting back into it, we have a go at immediately conceding as City manage to string together about 10 passes in an area of about two square metres around our penalty spot.  No one tackles, no one clears it, there are a couple of nutmegs in there and the smell of brown trousers is overpowering.  Someone has a shot and it hits Hoedt and bounces clear.

45 minutes are up so it’s time to let in a goal.  Portuguese International Major Tournament Winner Cedric Soares decides to try and shield a ball out of play and it all goes full schoolboy as Aguero takes it off him and passes to Sterling who gets a bit lucky as his airshot sends Hoedt for a hotdog and he then smashes it in.  Great defending Cedric.  A real safety first classic.

Can we go home yet?  Oh no, just another 45 to go.  My money is on 8-1.

We actually start the second half quite well.  JWP plays a ball into Long who does his best thing of the match by stepping over it.  Everything that involves touching the ball he’s fucking useless at.  Anyway, JWP picks it up again and smashes a shot at Ederson who parries it out and does well to save Ings follow up.

We have another effort from a corner as Ings meets it at the near post and Ederson saves superbly in the bottom corner.  Now that’s over, it’s clearly time to let in another goal but not just yet as Sane’s ridiculous shot from the right smashes off the left hand post.  90 seconds later and Aguero slides Sterling in again and he scores through Macca’s legs to make it five.

Michael Obafemi is on for the last ten and his first contribution is to create a chance for Long which he predictably fucks up.  On the next attack we give it away on the edge of their box and you know they’re going to score – it’s just a case of who.  Sterling finds Sane and he scores from 15 yards.  McCarthy should keep that one out but why fucking bother when you’ve spent the whole game watching your defence and midfield completely go missing. 

I watched this game on a dodgy internet stream. It should’ve been only accessible via the dark web. I nearly switched off at 3-0 but the timing of Danny Ings goal meant I watched until half-time. I managed about 15 minutes of the second-half until the fifth goal went in and then the dodgy stream collapsed and I just couldn’t be fucking bothered to find another one.  I have to say that City were brilliant.  It gives me great comfort to know that Liverpool won't win the League because City will.  They will probably win the Champions League as well and if they play 60 games this season, they won't have an easier one than this.

I haven’t criticised Hughes too much until now as the problems are more than just his butt playing a narrow three-man midfield which basically allowed Sane, David Silva, Bernardo Silva and Sterling to run whenever they liked completely unhindered, was fucking ridiculous. We didn’t get close to David Silva all afternoon. I know he is a great player but him picking up the ball when there are five of our players circling him but none within 20 yards is absolutely woeful. And Hughes picked Shane Long again and once again, he was fucking garbage – hardly a surprise is it?.  Michael Obafemi will hopefully get more chances and the longer he spends around the first team, the more likely it is that he will learn not to pass the ball to Shane Long if he wants to get an assist at Premier League level. My personal Shane highlight of the day was when we had a break on the left hand side and he basically just trod on the ball and let City have it. Hughes was going mental at that point on the sideline but I bet he still picks the useless twat next week.

Personally, I think that Hughes has to leave Long and Austin out of the 18 altogether and use Sam Gallagher (if fit), Obafemi and Marcus Barnes because they cannot possibly be worse. If Hughes continues to select Long and Austin then it will cost him his job and I will have absolutely no sympathy if he hasn’t at least tried the youngsters.

And so much for that bollocks from the last two games about our improved defence. Two clean sheet against two teams that didn’t muster a single attack between them is not quite the same as Manchester City going in dry. You can’t give goals away against anybody, let alone the big boys. JWP getting his feet in a mess on the edge of the box lead directly to Wesley smashing in his second own goal of the season. Jack Hindenburg-Stephens not even getting off the ground and getting beaten in the air by Sane which lead directly to David Silva’s goal. There was some classic schoolboy from Cedric getting tackled whilst trying to shield the ball out of play. Not that we would’ve got anything out of the game but we had just scored and 3-1 down going into half time when he fucked that up.

Elsewhere, Ryan Bertrand didn’t do himself any favours in front of the watching Gareth Southgate and having being given a chance, JWP had an absolute fucking nightmare. I usually defend Bertrand as he is a very good player (see the pass for Ings goal) but today he just looked like he was going through the motions and that is simply not acceptable, especially when you are the captain. Also, when you are as utterly fucking shit as we were, it’s the captain’s responsibility to come out and do the post match interviews. If you don’t want to stand at the front when things are going badly, let Pierre Hojbjerg take the armband because he seems to be the only one who is willing to put his hand up and talk to the media and say that it basically isn’t good enough.

I can deal with the fact that we lost and I can deal with the fact that City and their players are miles better than us but what I can’t deal with is that City did the basics better than we did. They ran without the ball, they pressed, they marked players. The only way you can beat teams that are better than you is by outworking them. If you don’t have the ability then you can make up for this by working incredibly hard but when the other team has more ability than you and they are also working harder, then you get absolutely fucking dicked like we did today.

Danny Murphy did some good analysis on us on MOTD2, highlighting that Hughes set us up 4-3-3 and the intention was to press high but no one did.  He highlighted occasions where because we were narrow and not pressing, one pass from the back and City bypassed our front 6 and engineered 5 vs 4 attacking situations.  Is that Hughes fault or is it the players?  I felt a bit differently after watching that because he picked a side of high-energy players as much as he could with Long instead of Austin etc – maybe they didn’t follow instructions, maybe they didn’t get enough instruction, maybe they couldn't be arsed to play for the manager. Who knows?  Murphy used to play for Hughes at Fulham so he has insight into the manager and also said that Hughes would rather go out against the big boys with an attacking plan rather than sitting back.  Maybe the big boys are just too good now.

Today isn’t terminal for our season because we got exactly the amount of points that we thought we were going to get but it is another nail in the coffin regarding my enjoyment of brand Premier League. In a week where the European Super League is back on the table, this was a bloody good advert for it both in terms of the complete mismatch which went on at the Etihad this afternoon and in terms of me wanting the big clubs to just fuck off and go and play with their own ball, somewhere where I don’t have to pay any attention to it. English football would be better off without them.

Next up, Watford at home. Where the odds on 0-0?

As an aside, on Sunday morning I watched my sons Under 15 side avenge a 5-1 defeat to the same opposition a month ago, with a marvellous performance and a 7-2 win with the added bonus of my centre half offspring scoring a really good header.  The most enjoyable game of football I’ve seen for ages.  Football really is a great game when your team plays with maximum effort and application.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Premier League Match 10 - Southampton 0 Newcastle 0




New Merchandise Available from the Saints Megastore

Well we’ve got to win this one. We need to prove that there are three teams worse than us in the division and even if we only win six games all season as long as they are the two against Newcastle, Cardiff and Huddersfield, it should be enough to keep us up. Today is the first of those 6 cup finals and it is against the team probably in the most disarray and we are at home. We really have got to win this one.

There comes a point with every football club that has a shit owner and cuts every corner imaginable and just expect the manager to keep pulling miracles out of his ass, when it all comes crashing down. It appears that Rafa Benitez talent of making a silk purse out of a sows ear are now not proving enough to balance out the Mike Ashley shit show from the boardroom. Rafa must wake up every morning and wonder what the fucking hell he’s done to deserve this. A Champions League winning manager and someone who managed Real Madrid. I know there have been some criticisms of his signings but are crap signings the managers fault much these days? This was a club that was so morally bankrupt at boardroom level that Alan Pardew, hardly a paragon of virtue himself, decided to quit because he couldn’t take it any more.… And they employed Dennis fucking Wise and gave him an important job.

Mark Hughes is still being very positive in his press conferences stating that the performances are nearly where we need them to be-newsflash Sparky, they’re not. He’s also saying that top 7 might be difficult but top 10 is achievable-newsflash Sparky, it’s achievable but it isn’t going to happen. It’ll be interesting to see how positive he is about things if we don’t manage to beat Newcastle.

Saints line up is predictably the same as it was against Bournemouth last week with the only change being Romeu in for the ill Hojbjerg.  The one change that should have been made was anyone for Charlie Austin but he’s in the side, having had a dig at negative supporters on social media.  I assume we’ll get a 90 minute performance out of him today then instead of the waddling half-arsed shite he served up last week.

One thing is immediately obvious and that is that Newcastle are barely going to commit a player out of their own half.  Muto up front is going to run around a lot, Perez is going to dive around a lot and as long as we don’t give Shelvey time to play, this game should be all about us and attacking.

It should be 1-0 on 5 minutes.  We build on the right, Redmond crosses and Lemina produces a horrible shank off a shot but it puts Elyonoussi clean through.  He produces a wanky chip when he should have passed it across to where even Austin couldn’t have missed from.  Dubravka comfortably saves what was neither a pass or a shot.  Bollocks.

The best Newcastle have is from their fans on Mike Ashley.  I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think they want the Fat Cockney Bastard at their club anymore.  Their mood was under no threat of worsening as Austin picked up a half clearance from Lascelles and tries a long ranger at the near post which any goalkeeper would save.  Redmond has the next shot as Ings attempts to bollocks the move by passing behind him by Nathan still manages to dig it out and fire over.

More chances come and go in the first half – Redmond to Bertrand and a near post defelecting by Lemina which hits the outside of the post.  Then Elyonoussi produces a promising burst from the left, cutting in but curling a shot wide.  The last action of the half is a corner swung in by Bertrand a header from Stephens which once again is comfortably pushed away by Dubravka.
You can’t say we haven’t had chances but somehow it has still been incredibly boring and Newcastle’s average defence has been very comfortable.  Whatever happened to concerted pressure?

The second half is clearly going to be the same as the first  Redmond plays a 1-2 with Ings and sees a low shot comfortably saved and then the only thing more predictable than us not winning happens, someone calls time at the bar and off waddles Charlie Austin for a last beer before hitting the kebab shop on the way home, after a hour of keeping his side of the bargain with the fans. Tosser.

Gabbiadini is on and Lemina has a dig from long range which is a decent hit but always going over.  Hughes is again positive with Romeu and Elyonoussi being replaced by JWP and Long with JWP going into the centre of midfield.  It really is a bit late but straight away we look more progressive but time is running out.  Lemina wins the ball and feeds Gabbi who produces a superb turn and finds Cedric overlapping – a good pull back along the top of the box … Shane with a free shot from 15 yards, 25,000 people including other Saints players with head in hands.

It takes a turn for the farcical as Gabbiadini, with three options to pass to, tries a shot from Bitterne Park which flies into orbit and we have one last chance with a  free kick fromt out on the right.  A brilliant delivery from JWP and Stephens can’t decide to kick it or head it and eventually does neither.  Another 0-0.  Fuck sake.

It’s very tempting to write “there is nothing to say“ but I will try to sum up what I have just watched. Newcastle came from a draw like we knew they would and they were fucking dreadful in terms of entertainment but they got what they came for. All you can do against teams like that is to keep things at a high tempo and put their defence under lots of pressure. We did it in little patches but as usual, even putting together a concerted 15 minutes of lively attacking play was beyond us. Last week I had issues with Hughes starting 11 but his substitutions were fine. Today I only have one issue with starting 11, Charlie Austin and more on that later. Today, the substitutions were average at best. Gabbiadini for Austin had to happen because Austin was a) injured and b) shite. JWP for Romeu was the right call but it should have happened 20 minutes before did and of course, allowing Benitez to put Shane Long on as an extra defender wasn’t the right call.

We have two strikers who are completely not fit for purpose. Charlie Austin is an embarrassment to the club and probably to the Premier league as well. He has to be the most unfit player to have played in the Premier League. Last week he actually had the nerve to come out and criticise the fans for not having blind faith 100% of the time. You can fuck off mate, you absolute waste of space. That bloke has had a full pre-season in which he could have addressed his obvious fitness problems. Someone from the club should have made him do it, cancel his holidays and making get fit enough to do his fucking job. Rumour has it the Nathan Redmond spent all summer in the gym making himself physically stronger because he thought it would help him in the season ahead. Assuming that’s true, that’s a great attitude. Doing fuck all except beer and kebabs like Austin has obviously done, is the complete opposite. Playing him from the start, as discussed before is a complete waste of time and a waste of a substitution that you have to make. If Mark Hughes can’t see that then you have to wonder what the fucking hell he’s doing during the week.  Playing Austin from the start doesn’t just mean we’re playing with 10, in fact means we are playing with 9 because Danny Ings has to play 20 yards deeper so he is further away from goal and not really a goal threat. By playing Austin we basically put all our eggs in the ‘Charlie Austin four years ago’ basket and guess what? He isn’t the player he was four years ago when he was rattling them in for QPR. He’s not even the player was at the start of last season. Since the 5 month hamstring injury last season he’s been a fucking useless pudding.

Shane Long. Is anyone surprised? A glorious chance to win the game in the 90th minute just by doing what the strikers practice before every game - taking a pass from the side and hitting it first time in to the net. We will for a minute gloss over the detail that he misses 99% of his shots in the warm up but the fact is that they practise it all the time for when that scenario arrives during a game. I actually feel sorry for him. The poor bloke is absolutely shot to bits with no confidence whatsoever and it’s almost cruel to keep putting him in the first team. He needs to get confidence from somewhere, maybe the U23s or whatever but trying the same thing time and time again just isn’t working.

Talking of which, a lot of Saints fans seem to have it in for JWP. If you can’t see that we looked much more likely to score in the 15 minutes that he was on that every other 75 then you really don’t know much about football and I question both your eyesight and your sanity. We have to find a place for him in the starting 11. We are desperate for goals and he’s our best set piece taker. Would he really detract elsewhere? Would he really offer less than Elyonoussi? Would Sam Gallagher and Michael Obafemi be worse than Long and Austin? We have Stuart Armstrong not even in the team. Would giving Hesketh a go really have been worse?

On the face of it, the football side of the club from the players we’ve signed down to the way we utilise the ones we’ve got, to the ones we loan out that we shouldn’t have, to the ones we loaned out we should’ve sold. It’s all wrong. We have a bloated squad full of average squad players. We could probably put two 11s out that would be more or less exactly the same ability which is why we do well in the League Cup. We can rest 11 players and it doesn’t make much difference to our team where is with other teams there is a distinct drop off. Today we were missing Hojbjerg, one of the few that is a big loss, has become our most important player and I think it showed today, well though Oriol Romeu completed.
Today, we should have won. We were the better side and we created enough chances. However, our strikers just aren’t good enough. If you’d persist with playing two up front and it is not Ings and Gabbiadini, then Hughes is as big a fraud as Pellegrino. To be honest I don’t think the majority of this shitshow is Hughes fault but I don’t think anyone can have the opinion that he is getting the most out of the resources he has available.

There is no way that the board will be wanting to fire another manager and admitting that they have fucked up for the third time in a row - not yet anyway. I think Hughes will certainly get the January transfer window when the recruitment and probably more importantly, the letting go will have to be spot on.

There is an apathy and disinterest in the fan base. Personally, I’m kind of in the ‘shrug your shoulders’ camp. I watch the games and they are in the main fucking boring with nothing to get you excited and I look at the clock sometimes and it says 35 minutes of gone and I can’t remember anything of note that happened in the previous 25 minutes. It’s like I’ve been asleep. Some people I know who have been supporting Saints for many years are getting to the point where they just don’t give a fuck anymore and the cost to the club is going to be in hugely decreased season ticket sales for next season.  Season Ticket Plus… My Arse.
Next up, was the chance to give our bloated squad of senior pros a game against Leicester City in the League Cup but as everyone knows, the tragic helicopter crash that happened at the King Power Stadium on Saturday night means that the game is postponed. I feel a bit of a dick getting irate about a wanker like Charlie Austin when things like this are going on so enough of him and here’s hoping that Leicester City recover from the loss of their Chairman and that the families of those affected are allowed to grieve and can find their own peace.