Let me take you back to the Summer of 1996. It was a different time. Robson & Jerome were stunning us on a regular basis with their reworked classics and we were still the best part of a year away from Tony Blair and Cool Britannia taking the country and turning it on its head. It wasn’t all grim though, England had just put in a credible performance at a major tournament on home soil and were a Gazza boot lace away from a major final. There was an air of optimism, especially for this Isle of Wight student about to embark on a miserable (self-inflicted through lack of effort) A-Level campaign……
It will not have escaped your attention dear reader, that Saints have for some time been a little goal shy. In fact the club’s hierarchy is said to be tempted to change the match-day host to Paul O’Grady† and Ben Elton is considering writing a book about us‡.
To that end I tasked myself with coming up with solutions to this issue, and hopefully see us not be subjected to another week of frustration in front of goal.
Disclaimer. If at this point you are expecting to read carefully thought out coaching suggestions, this isn’t the blog for you.
Still with me?
1. Running Man style exploding collars
I haven’t done the science, but basically invent an exploding collar that all the Saints players must wear. If they get within 25 yards of the opposition goal and the ball doesn’t cross the line (some sort of tie in with the existing goal line technology required here. Over to you Boffins) within the next 3 minutes the wearer’s collar explodes.
2, Pray to Le God
We all worship him, but perhaps our offerings of late haven’t been sufficient and he’s angry with us?
Let’s take it in turns to sacrifice our first born sons at the feet of the Ted Bates statue at midnight on the night before each game while collectively and repeatedly chanting the Le Tiss song under our breaths.
I know what you are thinking. This is easy for Chris to say, he doesn’t have any kids? Point taken, but I would be prepared to do it, and that counts.
3. Play Home Games at Staplewood
As discussed this week on the Total Saints Pod, our players look superb in training. Banging shots in top bin every time, Ward-Prowse sinking free kicks like it’s the easiest thing in the world! But have we got a team of Willie Thorne’s?
4. Recycle the Clappers
Not my idea, but the brainchild of @saintsmadmomma, and it’s perfect. No one asked for the clappers, no one likes the clappers, so why not make use of them?
— Rachel Baker (@Saintsmadmomma) September 9, 2017
Get McKenna in. It’s a cut and shut job for the master of minds. All he’s got to do is collectively hypnotise the squad and tell them that every time they hear the song ‘My Way’ or any bastardised version of it they will believe they are a combination of Le Tissier and Shearer.
As a bonus, while he’s got them under, we can ask Paul to also tell them that every time they hear the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ you suddenly become football’s answer to Frank Spencer. It worked on Lovren.
6. Change the Changing Room Music
Whenever the club releases a playlist of the squad’s choosing it is overrun with terrible R&B tracks. No one in the history of anything has been inspired by anything written or performed by Drake. No wonder half of them look like they’ve just had bad news when they are playing at the moment. Soul? Soul destroying.
Luckily I’ve created a pre-match playlist for them. You can find it here:- https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/saints-matchday/idpl.u-1V3F8keGYj
7. Play in Cartoon Format
Who misses those guys from the kit release cartoon? So accurate, yet Pellegrino has ignored them so far. Ridiculous.
8. Put an Instagram Frame Round the Goals
They love an Instagram post. Some might say they are over focused on posting dull updates on their lives in which they are inevitably wearing hideous clothes and listening to terrible music (refer to point 6). Put the frame up and they won’t be able to get there quick enough!
So there we have it. None of them are realistic or will likely work, but all I’m saying is they can’t do any harm.
Keep the faith,
† – Least famous presenter of Blankety Blank, but only one not dead.
‡ – Elton wrote a book about infertility.
After the big money move to Blackburn, was it a difficult decision to come back to Saints? How had the club changed?
KD ‘It’s well documented that I didn’t enjoy my time at Blackburn. It was a big money move and sometimes they just don’t work out. I signed a seven year contract when I went up there and then had a difficult first season competing with five or six strikers. I was used to playing in dressing rooms where everybody got on and I didn’t feel that at Blackburn. There were power struggles going on and it felt quite cliquey. It didn’t feel right and I didn’t enjoy my football. We got relegated that season and I was in and out of the team with injuries and illnesses. It was a difficult time especially with the expectation that came with the fee. There were pressure and nerves and I was driving back to Sheffield a lot. Roy Hodgson got sacked and Brian Kidd came in and a couple of games into the Championship he pulled me into his office and was very understanding with me. He said ‘Would you be interested in going back?’ because Blackburn wanted to swap with Egil Ostenstad. So with ten minutes to go I was in the car with my medical records heading back down. It wasn’t a difficult decision at all because I’d had a great time at Southampton and I wasn’t prepared to sit there for five or six years just picking up my money at Blackburn. It suited both parties and for me it was the easiest decision of my life. I have to say that Jack Walker was fantastic with me throughout my time there and he knew I wasn’t happy.
Not much had changed at Southampton. There was still a great team spirit and Dave Jones was still there. It was like going back home. I loved the lifestyle and the area and I had great friends down there. The only thing that changed was me. My confidence had taken a bit of a battering so it took some time to get that going again.’
While most might remember the FA Cup exploits with Chesterfield, some forget the last minute goal for Saints that kept them in the 2003 competition (which led them eventually to the final). How disappointing was it not to be involved in the final?
KD ‘Gordon Strachan came in and we didn’t see eye-to-eye from the first week. That happens in football. I wasn’t in or around the squad so I took the decision to go out on loan. I was in my final year anyway and I wanted to prove I could still do it so I went to Millwall. It didn’t matter where really because I needed some games: I was rotting away. I came back and knuckled down and started scoring in the reserves. There was a cup run and I think I came on as a sub for that game and scored a late equaliser. We won the replay and got to the final and though I’ve had lots of good points in my career that was a difficult moment when he pulled me aside an hour before the game and told me I wasn’t going to be involved. It was a huge disappointment for me. I knew I wouldn’t start but I was hoping to be a substitute and you have those dreams about coming on against Arsenal and scoring the winner. I was desperate to get my hands on that trophy throughout my whole career.
I see Gordon Strachan on the media circuit now and I know it’s difficult. Somebody has to miss out and back then it was me.’
You were perhaps unfairly labelled as a more physical player later in your career, which is nothing like the style of the player at Southampton. Why did your game change?
KD ‘I can’t remember a moment when I thought I needed to adapt. At Chesterfield I’d played out on the wing or behind the main striker. I was a bit nippier in my younger days and maybe the injury to my ankle affected that. But I always enjoyed the physical side of football. I grew up on a council estate and I’d play against the older boys on the parks. Then I went to Bolton with Sam on trial around 2003 and, I don’t know, I just enjoy the battle and getting the better of your opponent then shaking hands and having a couple of pints. That was my way of thinking. So it just developed and that first season at Bolton we had a huge amount of success with me as the main striker and the likes of Campo and Diouf playing around me. The stats backed it up because I was involved in about 70/80% of the goals. Maybe Sam just stumbled upon it and we went from there.’
Who was the best player you played with at Saints (Le Tiss excluded) and the worst?
KD ‘Matt was obviously the most naturally gifted player I’ve played with alongside Jay Jay Okocha. At Southampton we didn’t really have a lot of superstars: we were hard-working players who enjoyed training and each other’s company We’d be out at weekends together having a few drinks. It was a proper changing room. We had characters like Carlton Palmer, John Beresford and David Hurst – old-school players – so no-one was allowed to go off on one and be big-time Charlies. I’d liken it to Wales at the Euros where they did so well without having any proper superstars other than Bale.
“We had some good players of course. Marians Pahars was a natural finisher and they loved him down there. There was my partnership too with James Beattie’
Carrying on from Part 1….
Unlike most clubs, Saints have not spent much money – do they need to invest in order to remain competitive?
KD ‘They need to and they haven’t been shy in the past of reinvesting the money they receive. In the past couple of years they’ve brought in something like £200m and they keep reinvesting it because they’ve got the scouting ‘black box’ model down there where they’re constantly scouring the planet for the best young players coming through. It almost feels like a stepping-stone club at times where they look to develop. It wouldn’t surprise me if they already have their targets in mind and negotiations are going on so they can wisely reinvest the money they get for van Dijk. They need competition for places and to keep adding to the strong if they want to push forward from what they achieved last year.’
What are your fondest memories of playing for Saints?
KD ‘The first year down there. I obviously made the move from Chesterfield where I’d been playing in League’s one and two so it was incredible to play in the Premier League at the age of 20. I still remember going down with the PFA and them negotiating the deal for me with Graeme Souness who was the manager at the time. He left that summer and Dave Jones took over. There was so much hype around the Premier League and to play with these legends like Zola and Bergkamp was so exciting for me. I loved the area and the club.’
November 4, 1997. Goodison Park. Talk to us about that solo goal against Everton, where does it rank in your best goals scored?
KD ‘That has to be the best one I scored. It was live on Sky and I loved playing at Goodison Park. I see it every now and again on those TV shows and I have a little laugh and a joke with my children saying ‘Have a look at this”. I got the ball and things opened up for me so had a little dribble up from the halfway line and it found the net.
It was a decent little goal and I’m sure if Messi had scored that one it would have been shown a few more times. We won the game 2-0 as well. It was an embarrassing celebration though.’
Do you feel you may have got a bit unlucky at Saints at times – looking back especially on that ankle ligament injury against Manchester United at The Dell?
KD ‘Leading up to that ankle injury I was absolutely flying at the time in January. I think it was ’98? We had a good team spirit and I loved living on the south coast. We had a good season that year barring my injury. You have ifs and buts and maybe that was a turning point for me because you wonder what could have happened. If I hadn’t got injured that summer was the World Cup. My ankle was never really the same again and that was a big turning point in my career. I went on to do alright but I was never quite the same player again.’
This week I was given the fantastic opportunity via 888sport.com to pose some questions to former Saints striker Kevin Davies.
Davies had two spells at the club sandwiching a big money move to Blackburn Rovers and can perhaps be credited for changing his style of play completely to earn him greater success as he matured.
From ‘that’ goal against Everton to cup final disappointment and what he makes of the van Dijk ‘situation’, Kevin gave us a frank and honest take on the club.
Kevin Davies, spoke exclusively to 888sport.
What do you expect to see from Saints next season, can they compete for a top eight place again for example?
KD ‘There needs to be more signings and it will be interesting to see what happens between now and the end of the transfer window and particularly whether Van Dijk goes and if they have the timescale to reinvest that money. I covered their games for BT last year and yes there was some fans a bit disgruntled with the style of play but I think when you play that many games in Europe, get to a cup final – which they were unlucky to lose – and finish in the top eight that’s a really good season.
You look at the sides above them and it’s going to be difficult to compete with them but they’ve got a really good manager in Pellegrino and they may well play a more attacking style of football now because he always wants his teams to play the right way.”
The fans need to believe in Les Reed and the model they have created down there. I’m a big fan of what they do where they plan for the future. You may question their ambition a little bit and want them to keep their better players but they have the model in place to be ahead of the game whether that is finding the right playing staff or managers. When you look at where they were seven or eight years ago and now they’re going to be in or around that cluster of top eight teams like West Brom, Stoke and Leicester. There is no danger of relegation and they will finish mid-table at least I think.’
Their biggest flaw last season was the lack of goals, how does Pellegrino bring back that spark up front?
KD ‘They’ve got enough options there. We saw flashes of what Gabbiadini is capable of and though he has never been prolific at previous clubs in Italy he looks a real fox in the box. All the strikers have different attributes with the likes of Shane Long and Charlie Austin. Both missed a lot of last season through injury but they’re different kinds of strikers who can cause different kinds of problems for defenders. There is Redmond in there as well so it comes down to the manager and what he sees in pre-season. Whether he plays three up or one or the old-fashioned 4-4-2 there are plenty of attacking options and it’s about settling on a system that clicks. There will be less rotation which is good because the best players want to player every week and that leads to frustration. Shane Long only made ten starts last season so there is frustration there but what that gives a manager is a clean slate. They will all be eager to impress and make that starting line-up and stay there.’
What is your view on the Virgil van Dijk situation?
KD ‘It just seems unsavoury. Clearly the player wants to go and Southampton are taking a stance which they have every right to do as he signed a new contract not so long ago. It needs to be resolved sooner rather later though because it looks inevitable that they’re going to sell him at some point. The club has done really well in the past bringing in players at the right time then selling them on but I know there are a lot of fans – including former players like Matt le Tissier – who would like those players to stay. That is so difficult when the big clubs come calling and maybe it’s the right move to sell him if they triple their money on him. With the model they have at Southampton they will have been planning this for months, years, and will know how best to reinvest that money.’
More to follow…..
Thanks to Kevin and 888sport.
Of the millions of species in the world, 98% are invertebrates. Invertebrates don’t have a back bone. Common examples of this are Jellyfish, worms and over precious, multi-millionaire Premier League footballers.
It’s somewhat of a mystery to me, that someone as relaxed on the ball as van Dijk, someone as commanding in the air and with such physical presence can find themselves ‘not in the right frame of mind’ to play for their club in a pre-season friendly because their dream move to perennial also-rans Liverpool doesn’t seem to be going to plan. It beggars belief it really does.
Now let me be clear. I have zero issue with someone wanting to better themselves, and despite my tongue in cheap dig at the Scousers in my previous paragraph, they are back in the Champion’s League, and that is where a player of the Dutchman’s quality belongs. So yes, he may have his heart set on a move, but when you are highly paid to do a job that most would kill for, how about you do it in a professional manner? Just get on with it. Do your job, and do it for the club who is paying you until that club agrees a fee with somebody else.
Let’s not overlook that he has taken this stance before a game being played for the benefit of the victims of the Grenfell fire, I wonder what his team mate Ryan Bertrand makes of that? Dream move or not, this whole episode is not putting him in a very good light as far as being human is concerned. He seemed to be enjoying his trip to Disneyland Paris instead and I think Lucy put it best…
Well it is the start of the school holidays so I'm glad he found someone who could take him.
— Lucy Highnett (@lucyhighnett) July 23, 2017
I’m very much in the camp that believes he should be moved on now as soon as possible. If that is to Liverpool then so be it. If they meet the asking price then move him on, he’s a bad apple. His actions have shown he has zero respect for the fans who chant his name, and the club that gave him the platform to shine. Sadly, he’s a bad apple who is exceptionally good at football. If a deal could be done with any club other than Liverpool then that would be a nice bonus. Our new manager has a handle on it having told ‘the boy’ to train alone. Many would have us stand firm and stick him in the reserves and I understand their frustration, but that is an expensive asset to have hanging around stinking the place up in a permanent sulk. Besides, that money could be invested in the next van Dijk, and God knows we want to be able to go through all this again in a couple of Summers time.
The board are (yet again) in a shit situation regarding a key player, and while I can sympathise with their position, they have to take some of the responsibility themselves having given in in the past. I suggest they make clear decision one way or the other, can they get a final year a la Schneiderlin/Wanyama or cash in and invest the money in new players. Either way, it’s yet another Summer of distractions for Saints and poor Forster has already been caught out at Brentford after spotting a van Dijk lookalike in the crowd at the worst possible time….
Anyway, at least we have all the new incoming players to take our minds off van Strijk. Oh wait…
Personally I’m not of the opinion that we need wholesale changes, but one or two new players to freshen up the squad would be nice. I’m certainly not as desperate as some, and I have to have a little chuckle when I see the same people who were telling us that Puel wasn’t getting the best out of a talented squad now telling us that the squad is poor. Make your mind up lads and lasses.
This squad finished 8th last season with van Dijk and Austin missing for large chunks, and with Puel’s odd negative tactics and a terrible home record. If Pellegrino is the man we all hope him to be then we shouldn’t need an influx of new players to have a better season. Jan Bednarek has come in, in a position that actually we are stronger in than we ever realised given Stephen’s performances in the run in last season, and maybe we could do with another attacking midfielder? I’m not sure we need a lot else.
If van Dijk is sold then I would expect that money to be reinvested in the squad, the board must surely understand that, but if he doesn’t then I don’t think we are in bad shape.
Silly season sees us linked with all sorts, and when they sign for someone else try not forget that may never have really been interested and they may not have improved our squad. We aren’t going to sign the likes of Hernandez and Sigurdsson, it jut isn’t our way. If we sign anyone else this Summer it will likely be someone you’ve never heard of, and in two years time you will be bemoaning his impending big money move to another club…
Enjoy the rest of the window dear reader.
Keep the faith.
Some sterling efforts on this round, which is too be expected given that it should all have been fresh in your memories!
The answers were:-
- Who was the striker brought in on loan from Reading in 2010? (1pt) Nicholas Bignall
- Saints opened their return to the Championship with 4 wins on the bounce. Who halted that run? Who scored their winner? (2pts) Leicester City won 3-2, their third being a Rickie Lambert OG!
- How many goals did Rickie Lambert score in the succesful 09/10 JPT run? Who scored more than him? (2pts) 3, Papa Waigo scored 5
- What odd occurrence marked Pochettino’s first game in charge against Everton? (1pt) Jason Puncheon’s poo break!
- Who were the 2016/17 joint top scorers in the Europa League? (2pts) Charlie Austin & Virgil van Dijk with 2 each.
- Name the goalscorers in the 8-0 win over Sunderland in 2014 (7pts) Vergini og, Pelle (2), Cork, Bridcutt og, Tadic, Wanyama, Van Aanholt og
- In the promotion run in of 2011, Saints only dropped points in two games from the 5th of March. Who against? (2pts) Charlton Athletic & Rochdale
- Who was the club’s first signing on returning to the Premier League? (1pt) Jay Rodriguez
- Who did Tadanari Lee score his two goals for the club against? (2pts) Derby County & Stevenage
- In the 2011/12 FA Cup who scored the opener against Coventry at 17 years old ? (1pt) James Ward-Prowse
21 points available, here is the latest (and possibly final) leaderboard:-
My intention was to stop this quiz once the new manager was in place, but as that is yet to happen I will make this the last round while I have a sabbatical. The quiz will return on Monday if no manager has been appointed!
So, modern day Saints today, so presumably plenty of points to be had!
This must have been the easiest round so far as there were multiple maximums!
The answers were:-
- German born keeper signed from Barnet? Maik Taylor
- 90’s midfielder, scored a wonder goal against former club Sheffield Wednesday at the Dell? Carlton Palmer
- 1960’s left winger who terrorised defences with Terry Paine? John Sydenham
- Red Headed 70’s midfielder who later managed the club? Alan Ball
- French born midfielder who represented Togo? Yoann Folly
- French born midfielder who represented Togo? Eljaro Elia
- Spanish play off penalty misser? Inigo Idiakez
- Plymouth born forward signed by Souness? Mickey Evans
- Ever reliable club captain recently awarded an MBE? Steven Davis
- Who Am I? Jimmy Case
11 points on offer and most came close! Here is the updated leaderboard:-
Something a bit different now. The first 9 questions will be clues to a Saints player past or present. The answer to question 10 will be an anagram of a Saints player past or present using the first letter from the previous 9 answers. Example, if the answer to question 1-9 is Ali Dia, you will need the letter A for the final answer. So simple, even Luke Shaw could work it out. Probably.
There will be 1 point for each correct answer and a bonus point for a full house!