Monday, 28 December 2009

Saints fail to end 2009 in style

Despite dominating large periods of the game, two poorly conceded goals ensured Saints failed to pick anything up from their trip to play-off chasing Colchester - a disappointing start to a season-defining run of five matches against sides above them in the league.

Colchester 2 - Saints 1



Pardew opted for a five-man midfield for this trip to misty East Anglia, partly to neuter the threat of an attacking Colchester side and partly because of doubts over whether David Connolly could last a whole game. But despite this numerical advantage in the middle, Saints seemed overwhelmed themselves in the first half and fell a goal behind. Connolly was brought on to support lone frontman Lambert and restore the side's attacking potency, which seemed to do the trick as Saints had the larger part of the chances and dominated possession in the second half.

They failed to capitalise upon this, however, with Papa Waigo having one chalked off for - quel surprise - offside. Colchester put matters beyond doubt with a second fifteen minutes from time, Ricky Lambert's stoppage time penalty boosting nothing but his goal tally as Saints ran out of time. The significance of the result - against, afterall, virtual play-off certainties - should not be overplayed and the forthcoming visit of Huddersfield and trip to Millwall should prove more profitable. It does, however, slump Saints back into the bottom half of the table. Not where Saints want to be, but, given the traumatic circumstances of 2009, they can consider themselves in rude health and look ahead with confidence to 2010.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Saints box clever to inspire festive cheer

Following last week's defeat against Leeds, Pardew had tasked his side to stay focused on getting the result ahead of today's clash at home to Exeter. Two first half goals ensured that they did, although it was not as comfortable as it should have been in front of a rare full house at St. Marys.

Saints 3 - Exeter 1

James, Perry, Trotman, Harding
Lallana, Hammond, Schneiderlinn, Antonio
Connolly, Lambert

The absence from midfield of Morgan Schneiderlinn had cost Saints against Leeds, with Pardew bemoaning his side's failure to pump the ball out to Lallanna on the wing. He is the sort of player who will always look to play the ball on the ground, although there was little fluency to Saints' midfield on his return to the side, as Exeter dominated the early stages.

Managed by Saints old boy Paul Tisdale, who has led Exeter to back-to-back promotions in the last two seasons, Exeter set themselves up as a solid defensive unit and Saints struggled to impose themselves, perhaps put off by the season record crowd (their loss at home to Brighton earlier in the season occurred in similar circumstances). But Antonio, who combines pace and a good touch to useful effect, always provided a threat down the right and it was from that flank Saints won themselves an undeserved lead thanks to a deflected strike by Lloyd James. The lead was doubled soon after as Neal Trotman rose highest in the box and the game looked to be over before half time when the ever-lively Adam Lallana attracted a high challenge that had the perpetrator sent off.

But few members of the capacity crowd, one buoyed by Saints' form this season, can have forgotten the golden rule with Saints: it's never that easy. As the second half wore on, the ten men of Exeter started to play some fluent passing football and began to look as if they may get back into the game. The jitters now afflicting the fans intensified on the hour when Adam Lallana was taken off with a dead leg. His importance to the side was proven minutes later as the Grecians got one back from a - you guessed it - poorly-marked set-piece, setting the scene a nervous final twenty minutes that the oddly quiet home fans, perhaps still digesting yesterday's turkey, could have done without.

Lallana's replacement, Joseph Mills, toiled away for a miserable 23 minutes before himself being replaced by the more imposing presence of Paul Wotton, who was tasked to sit and protect an increasingly jittery back four. But all major worries were put to bed minutes from time when the impressive Papa Waigo slipped in round the back to slot home. Also deserving of mention is Ricky Lambert's injury time 30 yard wonder strike which hit the angle - the woodwork was obviously not in a festive mood.

The win lifts Saints into the top half for the first time this season and lays an important foundation ahead of important games against Colchester, Huddersfield and Millwall. The difficulty with which the side eventually dispatched the lowly Grecians also serves as a wake up call - Saints are still finding life difficult at home to the lesser sides, who see St. Marys as a big day out and a stage on which they have nothing to lose. But Pardew was right to place the onus on it being a case of "job done, move on" in his post-match interviews. Points are the main thing for Saints presently - and how many they pick up from the next three will be a good indicator of how they should fare this season.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Unbeaten away record ends as Leeds prove class

A late goal from Robert Snodgrass was enough for Leeds to see Saints off on Saturday, ending their impressive unbeaten away record which had lasted since August.

Leeds 1 - Saints 0

It was probably a fair result and Saints cannot stretch their luck after the fortunate circumstances of Tuesday night's cup win over Norwich. That Saints managed to hold off the league leaders until twenty minutes from time was an achievement in itself, though they had missed a few gilt-edged chances. With any luck, the result should not hinder this season's progress to any great extent, with providing Boxing Day's game at home to Exeter providing their next opportunity to climb up the table.

In other news, chairman Nicola Cortese has delivered this charming Christmas message to Saints fans. What a lovely guy. Makes his fall-out with the Daily Echo last week seem all the more bizarre.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Wembley on the horizon as Saints continue march to the arch

If you haven't already, stick March 28th in your diary now. For that is the date on which Saints, barring defeat over two legs against Paul Ince's MK Dons, will be appearing in their first Wembley Final for over fifteen years after Tuesday night's win over Norwich.

Saints 2 - Norwich 2 (Saints won 6-5 on pens)

It was more of a stumble than a march to the arch, however, as Saints put in a mixed display at odds with their recent performances. 2-1 down with seconds to go, it took a stoppage time equaliser from Papa Waigo, who had already put Saints ahead in the first half, to force penalties after a poor second half. Alan Pardew admitted Norwich may have deserved to win, but more than a measure of luck is necessary to all sustained cup runs rely and it went Saints way on the night as the side recorded their second penalty shoot out win of the competition thanks to Bartosz Bialkowski's heroics.

Saints 3 - Tranmere 0

The cup win came hot on the heels of Saturday's match against Tranmere. Goals from Ricky Lambert and Dan Harding eventually saw off the League One strugglers, who had made life difficult for Pardew's men in the first half. The two victories mean Saints have now won five on the trot in all competitions, just the results, even if not matched by form, required if Saints are to make their play-off dream a reality this year.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Daily Echo banned from St Marys

Events at Saints took a curious turn today, with the Daily Echo revealing today that they have been banned from St Marys.

It appears this draconian measure has been taken by Nicola Cortese after the paper, which has never before been banned from a Saints ground in its 121 year history, published a fairly innocent report concerning the proposed training ground developments on Tuesday.

This was a day before the official website put out its press release, although the news was picked up on by local radio and the BBC website carried the story on Wednesday.

It does not seem as if the Echo broke any laws as details of the planning application had already been published by New Forest District Council and the article does not contain any malicious or defamatory content. If this act is the result of a fit of pique on the part of Nicola Cortese at not getting to get the news out first it seems a very odd and unimportant issue to get wound up about.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few days. The Echo has its critics amongst fans but no one wants to support a football club that is going to take such a dictatorial stance with the media. One gets the impression there is more to this than meets the eye. Watch this space...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Movin' on up - Walsall win sees Saints rise to 15th

Until yesterday only Leeds had managed to turn Walsall over on their own patch this season. But on a blustery day in the Midlands Saints proved their quality to become the second team to do so with a win that propelled them up to fifteenth place.

Walsall 1 - Saints 3

With four wins on the bounce, Pardew's team is really motoring now and starting to look as formidable as any opposition in this League. Goals from David Connolly, Dean Hammond and Ricky Lambert (his ninth in eight games) dispatched the in-form Walsall with half and hour to go and set the stage for a busy December with Saints next facing tests in the League against Tranmere and the JPT against Norwich.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

At last - Saints look to the skies as drop zone left behind

For all the talk of play-offs this year, the stark reality is that Saints have been stranded in the drop zone for the entire season. But that millstone was mercifully lifted from the club's neck on Tuesday night as victory over Wycombe dragged Saints into the relative heaven of 20th place. Now, with over half the season still to go, Saints can really start to look upwards in their pursuit of a play-off place.

Saints 1 - Wycombe 0

It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but that will not have come as a disappointment to Pardew, who seems to relish it most when Saints win ugly. That, however, would be a harsh assessment of a game Saints dominated from start to finish under the floodlights at St. Marys. It was a case of getting the job done for Pardew's men, who missed a host of chances against their relegation-threatened opposition. Ricky Lambert surprised no one by getting the crucial goal before the break, his worth to Saints being proven on nights like these when others fail to convert their chances. In the end it was not the performance but the result that mattered as Saints left their opponents behind in the drop zone.

Form guide

Beside the boost received by escaping the drop zone, an analysis of Saints last ten games and where that would leave them in the League offers more hope for the remainder of the season. A league table based on the last ten games would leave Saints in fourth place (20 points), firmly entrenched in the play-off places. If they can maintain that form over the next few months finishing up there in May is more than possible. Saturday's trip to Walsall should provide an interesting acid test of the likelihood of that happening, with the Saddlers also collecting 20 points from their last ten games.

Cup half full

Away from the league, Saints continued their impressive cup form on Saturday, navigating a potentially tricky trip to Northampton.

Northampton 2 - Saints 3

The scoreline flattered the hosts in this FA Cup second round tie, as Papa Waigo, Lallana and Hammond goals put the tie beyond doubt within an hour. Sunday's draw handed Saints a home tie against either Rotherham or Luton, making a potentially lucrative and high profile fourth round match against Premiership opposition a distinct possibility.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Four games, fifteen goals - what have Saints been up to?

Apologies for the lack of action on these pages of late - I realise I have ignored a glut of Saints action. Before a quick catch-up, however, just a word to the wise for those who think that supporting Saints is tough. Having been taken to a Bradford game by a season ticket-holding friend on Saturday, I have a new empathy for those supporting other clubs who have had a tough few years.

Administration, relegation, player unrest - we haven't had the easiest time. But compare that to Bradford - who have had three demotions since their halcyon Premiership days in 2001 - and we can't complain. At least we now seem on the up; it is quite the opposite for the Bantams, languishing in League 2 nowhere land with a third of the season gone. Their stoppage time heartbreak against Accrington Stanley on Saturday - a disallowed goal, missed penalty and hit post - summed it up.

Us Saints fans, on the other hand, can look ahead with confidence after our revival under Pardew this year, with recent results taking us to a point from safety and the verge of a Wembley appearance.

Saints 2 - Charlton 1 (JP Trophy)

St Marys was again in fine voice for this midweek cup tie, as goals from Wayne Thomas and Ricky Lambert took Saints to the JP Trophy area semis - and to within three good results of a cup final. We may not be there yet but a potential day out at Wembley and even silverware - the third tier may not be so bad after all.

Saints 1 - Brighton 3

There are three potential factors to explain Saints' off-day the following Monday against local rivals Brighton. Cup success may have gone to their heads and forced them off the boil. The arrival of Brighton's new manager Gus would certainly have had an impact. More likely, however, it was Saints' annoying habit of losing on TV that led to their first defeat since October.

Saints 2 - Norwich 2

A return to form in their last home game saw two brilliant Saints goals secure a point against the Canaries. An Adam Lallana strike in the first half was added to by a David Connelly wonder goal in the second, but both of which were levelled after poor defending. Pardew was left frustrated his side could not get a third in a game they deserved to win, although satisfied by the quality of a pulsating game which he labelled "worthy of a higher level."

Hartlepool 1 - Saints 3

Perhaps the most important result of the lot came tonight as Saints made the long trip north. Hartlepool are making a good fist of things this season, but that did not stop a brace from goal machine Adam Lallana seeing off the north-easterners, Ricky Lambert getting the vital third.
The result leaves Saints a point from safety and poised to continue their long climb up the league. Cup wins aside, November looks unlikely to replicate the golden success of October, but if Saints can continue to get results and keep moving up play-offs remain a possibility. And that, believe it or not, would top an appearance in the Johnstone's Paint Final.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Saints march on... and top 50 Southampton players

Saints successfully navigated their tricky cup tie away at Bristol Rovers on Friday, avenging their embarrassing defeat in the same place eighteen months ago.

Bristol Rovers 2 - Saints 3

It took five second-half minutes for the impressive David Connelly, granted his first start for Saints after two goals in two appearances as sub, to add a further two to his tally and put Saints in a commanding position. Winger Antonio chipped in with another on 70 minutes, and it is just as well that he did as Bristol Rovers fought back. The win was never in doubt, however, as it was not until two minutes into stoppage time that the Pirates got their second. The win represents another step in the right direction for Pardew's men, who are building momentum with their regular wins both at home and away from St Marys.

On separate note, Steve Keenan of The Times has compiled his list of the 50 Greatest Southampton Players. It is well worth a read and there is a lot of room for debate - why is Jason Dodd not higher? - and I will be writing a blog post in response later in the week. The biggest point of contention is who occupies the top spot. I myself disagree with that particular ranking, but you will have to make up your own mind. Enjoy...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Lambert magic ensures Saints remain unbeaten

Saints failed to make it five wins on the trot away to Leyton Orient on Saturday, but in a way their performance against the Os was just as important as their four preceding games.

Leyton Orient 2 - Saints 2

When wins come in such volume together it can lead to a sense of inevitability, which can be crushing for opposition teams but also lead to complacency in ours. And Saints' slow start on Saturday could be put down to the latter, although it was pure bad luck that caused the Os to double their lead after half time from Neal Trotman's own goal.

But the most important thing is that Saints continued to attack right until the end, in spite of a number of well-created chances going begging. They had to wait until sixteen minutes from time for goal machine Ricky Lambert to eventually punish Orient and score. Promptly collecting the ball from the net he, like everyone else, knew Saints were in it to win it and got the second ten minutes later. Such was the manner of the fightback, Saints would undoubtedly have won had the game been extended - testament to their self-belief and ability.

People may point to this game as a missed opportunity to extend a winning run, but more important is the fact that Saints remain unbeaten. After some bad luck and complacency this turned into a good result for Saints - if they can continue to claw back games such as these while winning the best part of the others a top half finish and more is a very realistic outcome this season.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

100 posts... and a few points on the board too

Welcome, at last, to my hundredth post on the site, and what a time to be writing it with Saints riding high following two more victories against in-form sides.

Oldham 1 - Saints 3
Saints 3 - MK Dons 1

Good times really are back at St Marys, with this afternoon's win over Paul Ince's men their fourth consecutive league victory. Last week's win at Oldham was far from straight-forward but Pardew's men dug in to secure the three points, the win sealed by debutant substitute David Connelly's strike. And the new man scored the all-important third again today as the side came back from a goal behind at half time to give the St. Marys faithful something to cheer about.

Pardew praised his side's winning mentality after a performance that takes them to within three points of escape from the drop zone. But the play-offs remain eleven points away and they will need to continue this form over Christmas if they are to be in the reckoning come May. Still, things are on the up at St Marys and who knows what the coming 100 posts have in store - either way, League One ain't so bad after all.

Monday, 12 October 2009

***The first R&W B Videocast***

12 games into the new era at St Mary's, the time has come for Red and White Bill to begin a new era of his own. Assisted by in-house League One expert David Attwood, I have recorded my first videocast, a short interview examining Saints' progress this year. Topics touched on range from the impact Pardew has had on the club to the pros and cons of the Ricky Lambert signing (a particularly contentious area). And in light of Saints' recent spurt of form we will examine what we can hope from this season.

Gary Linekar I am not, but I hope the content will be of interest to Saints fans - feedback would be great, let me know what you think. Most importantly, enjoy.

Here is the link

ps. Apologies for the poor audio, we will sort this out next time.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Progress visible as Saints go on run

Is this a dream? After four years of unrelenting misery on the south coast, things are at last improving for Saints, who yesterday secured their third win in seven days at Southend. However, that was not before a somewhat shaky performance in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Tuesday, when penalties were needed to secure their passage to the next round.

Saints 2 - Torquay 2 (Saints win 5-3 on pens)

To describe this result as jammy would not so much be an understatement as an outright lie. After all Pardew's talk of wanting a Wembley final for the fans, his players had a shocker in front of 9,000 at St.Marys. Kelvin Davies was the worst offender, at fault for the two goals which gifted the seaside visitors their half time advantage. And it was not so much a fight-back as a scuff-back as new signing Papa Waigo bundled home two second half goals, neither from further out than a yard. Davies' achieved partial redemption (he really had a shocker) with the penalty save that sent us through. All in all though, a night to forget.

Southend 1 - Saints 3

Still, a win is a win however you get it and they followed up Tuesday's clanger with an assured victory in the league last night. A brace from midfield dynamo and new-found goal machine Adam Lallana added to loanee Neil Trotman's opener to lift Saints to within two points of Wycombe. This spurt of form has totally changed the complexion of the season for Pardew's men, who, after a summer of uncertainty, would be tenth if it were not for the points deduction. Play-offs may be a stretch but survival looks a far more comfortable prospect that it did a couple of weeks ago, which is testament to the work of the gaffer - bravo, Alan.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Goal-fests at St Marys as Saints get positive points boost

Financially debt-free, now, at last, the club has moved into the black in terms of points, too. Saints lie just sixteen points from the play-offs after their two recent games at St Marys, which happens to be unusually goal happy at the moment.

Saints 2 - Bristol Rovers 3

New man Ricky Lambert's former employers are riding high presently and broke Saints hearts at the death on Tuesday night with an injury time winner. Despite a leaky defence, Saints had looked the comfortable winners until the last twenty minutes when the shakes kicked in and they let the lead slip. It brought to an end the side's eight match unbeaten run in disappointing style and Pards was understandably fuming after the result.

Saints 4 - Gillingham 1

Happily, Saturday's goal fest came out in Saints' favour as Adam Lallana goals came either side of strikes from Lambert and Papa Waigo to send the Gills home with their tails behind their legs. It at last carried Saints to a positive points tally for the season and should set the mood for the coming games. With the class we have in the team, this sort of result is exactly what we should be doing to the lesser sides at St Marys and will boost their confidence, particularly Lallana's, who did excellently again.

Following on to an excellent response to the Solent fans' forum, here is a link to an article from the BBC sport website that provides another excellent insight into what is going on at St Marys.

Just click here.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Radio Solent Saints Fans Forum

If you missed it, the BBC have put last week's fans forum online. Trust me, it is a must-hear for Saints fans and Pardew, Kelvin Davies and chief-exec Nicola Cortese give a great insight into what is now going on at St Marys.

Here is the link.

Big beast Jaidi grabs important point

It was a year ago that Gordon Brown announced the return to his Cabinet of political juggernaut and big beast Peter Mandelson. Twelve months on Saints were thankful to be in possession of a big beast themselves as new centre-half Rahdi Jaidi popped up in stoppage time to grab a late point and ensure the side's unbeaten run continues.

Carlisle 1 - Saints 1

How refreshing for Saints to be on the right end of a late goal. Important too, as Saturday's was the sort of long away trip from which it is so important Saints pick up points this season. If we can continue to do so, while winning our home games, it will not be long before we start moving up this league. After being unfortunate to go a goal down on 69 minutes, the side responded well to continue putting pressure on the northerners and were rewarded with Jaidi's header. The football may not be pretty, but, unbeaten in six, confidence is building and the Pardew Project looks like it is moving up a gear.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

At last - we've won a game!

What a difference three points can make. It may not have been a classic performance, but penalties either side of half time secured Saints their first win of the season at St Mary's yesterday, at last providing points-starved fans with something to smile about.

Saints 2 - Yeovil 0

We may remain anchored to the foot of League One, but the win should imbue Pardew's side with that most treasured asset, confidence, and enable them to carry on winning after a glut of draws. It was not pretty - League One rarely is - but the importance of this result lies in the fact Saints won without playing particularly well against a highly average Yeovil team.

Now unbeaten in five, just won more win will take Saints into positive points for the season. It still promises to be a long, hard slog but it could be worse - Tranmere fans have John Barnes as manager, after all.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Saints draw heart from signings

Back from the subcontinent to a mixed bag of Saints news. Two games on, and our points penalty has not been cut in half, but the point away at Charlton was a good one and we have made a couple of very encouraging signings to boot.

Saints 1 - Colchester 1
Charlton 1 - Saints 1

Draws remain the order of the day this season then, although Pardew is confident the wins will start coming soon. Such a view is strengthened by the additions made to the squad of Fiorentina striker Papa Waigo N'Diaye and chunky centre-half Rahdi Jaidi, whose work permit clearance finally came through. Following the signing of Neal Trotman, Jaidi should add more height and strength to our back line, as well as striking fear into opposition offences - Jaidi and Trotman are two brick wall collussuses you most certainly would not want to meet in a dark alleyway. The season long loan signing of Senegal forward N'Diaye is also exciting and he should add pace and running to a somewhat immobile frontline. He has the goal celebrations of Kenwyne Jones, too.

All things considered an encouraging fortnight, but Saints remain rooted to the foot of the League and that first win cannot come fast enough. Yeovil on Saturday should provide the ideal chance.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Back in a fortnight

Red and White Bill is finding all this stress a bit much and will be back in a couple of weeks. India will not be the ideal place from which to report upon Saints, but I hope to return to find the squad bolstered and the points deficit cut in half.

If I meet any Holy Men, I'll get them to put in a word.

Pardew perplexed by daylight robbery

Sure, surely it is time for the gods to give us a break. They have been conspiring against us for long enough. After relegations, administration and a points deduction, you would have thought they would back off. Whatever we have done, we have been punished enough. But the footballing powers in the sky ain't done yet, as Saints were today denied their first win of the season by the last kick of the game.

Stockport County 1 - Saints 1

It was a cracking display, with Trotman, Lallana and Mellis impressing and the side having ample opportunities to build on Ricky Lambert's first half penalty. Only a shocker of a refereeing decision could deny them the three points which would have at last given them a lift off in this league. Pardew and his players were left fuming as the man in the middle spotted an infringement in the area at the end of stoppage time.

Five games in, it is too early to panic yet, but Saints need a win, and fast. If they carry on playing like they did today, it will come soon enough. We just need the gods onside first.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Is it rational to support Saints?

Supporting a football club is a nutty thing to do, but we do it anyway. That was the conclusion of a chat at work yesterday about why we tie ourselves to the fortunes of our home clubs when they are arbitrarily allotted to us through chance.

Let's face it, despite our club being saved, we Saints have not had the best few weeks. We lie stranded at the foot of League One, our points penalty placing us over twenty points behind the leaders after just four games, with our best players apparently on the verge of leaving. And yet, a lot of my Saints-related conversation recently has been overwhelmingly positive in nature, I and others waxing lyrical about Alan Pardew and our recent performances despite their poor returns.

Not very rational. Yet still we turn up, week after week, to support a fairly poor team failing to get results - and enjoy it too. Where's the logic in that? We couldn't find any, but did it matter? When we thought about this complete lack of sense, were we dissuaded from supporting Saints? Well, no. It didn't matter one bit. Soon the most important thing on the agenda was Saturday's trip to Stockport. We haven't won this season but was an away victory against an in-form side after a week of upheaval thought beyond us? Of course not. Football has no logic - and that is why we love it.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The round-up: Pardew's cup still half full

Tuesday night saw Saints slip to their third competitive defeat of the season, but the 11,000 strong crowd at St Marys was not too disheartened by the display.

Saints 1 - Birmingham 2

Saints led for much of the game after Adam Lallana's cracking opener - annoyingly opening the floodgates for Premier League transfer interest ahead of the transfer window slamming shut - but were turned over by two late Birmingham goals. The side put in a solid shift and outplayed their Premier League opponents for much of the game. Despite a moderate moan at the referee, Pardew will not be too perturbed at this club exit - there are more important matters at hand at present. Most concerning will have been Graham Murty's stretchered removal from the field - a knee problem could rule him for a spell of weeks. Given Lloyd James' horror show on Saturday, signing a right back could now be a priority.

The other news of the week has seen donkey frontman Gregorsz Rasiak sign for Reading. Can't think why he would want a move - no one has seen him score, let alone play with any passion, for over a decade now. Presumably the abundance of Polish plumbers in Southampton made a sideline in waterworks difficult and forced the move.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Saints 1 - Brentford 1: Saints progress but win still proves elusive

Saints took a few more jittery steps in their recovery yesterday but were thwarted in their attempts to secure a breakthrough victory.

Saints 1 - Brentford 1

Nearly 20,000 flocked to St Marys to show their support for Pardew's new era, most of whom would have returned home with mixed feelings after another patchy display. Saints did well to capitalise upon a period of sustained pressure in the second half, but, as against Millwall, defensive frailties proved costly.

Good signs Though the result was not ideal, positivity with the new signings and progress made carried the day, showing that fans are willing to give Pardew as much time as he needs. He will be thankful for that, as the inadequacies of last year are taking a while to shake off, especially given the short pre-season he had to work with. The manager was probably right in saying the pre-season process is spilling into these opening fixtures, with new signings fitting in and pieces still falling into place. Key man: Dan Harding again excellent at left-back and got the goal to boot.

Pard times If Graham Murty had played we would not have lost this match. Though he is no gazelle, he would have had the nouse to take down Brentford's midfielder before he could get to the touchline and tee up their equaliser. Lloyd James, the perfect example of Saints' policy of blooding youngsters before they are ready, did nothing. He was captain for a game pre-season. Crikey - he really is atrocious.

Comedy moments Brentford manager Andy Scott lit up the touchline, with his long-sleeve shirt striking a shade of peach melba few can have seen before. It was more imaginative than anything we saw on the pitch - but Gok Wan would not have been impressed.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Transfer round-up and Brentford preview

It has been an interesting week for Saints, with Pardew bringing in reinforcements designed to increase the side's aerial presence and ability to deal with dead balls. On Wednesday, Colchester captain Dean Hammond signed for an undisclosed fee and he is likely to head straight into centre midfield for tomorrow's match against Brentford. Defensive colossus and Chelsea youngster Neal Trotman, who signed on loan on Thursday, is likely to do the same. However, after a dodgy start and against an in-form Brentford side, it will be a tough ask for Pardew to engineer a turnaround of Saints fortunes on the scale that Stuart Broad managed in the cricket today for England.Encouraging to see fresh blood brought in though - here are the view's of Somerset's finest, David Attwood.

Atto's tips

Recent form Having come up from League 2, Brentford have had a solid start to the season, remaining unbeaten in the league so far. In mid-week they came up with an excellent performance to beat Norwich City at home and this could be the foundation for an excellent home record - a trait which saw them claim the League 2 title last season.

The squad They have added to their squad but have nothing compared to the quality of Saints.
However, their excellent win away from home at Carlisle on the opening day of the season was down to new buy Weston getting both goals.

Prediction I fear that this weekend could be tricky. I can see this being a very tough test for Saints and surely Pardew would settle for a point so I predict 1-1.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

This is going to be a loooong season

Just one corner was enough to send Saints home pointless tonight as Pardew's men were again undone by their failure to defend set-pieces.

Swindon 1 - Saints 0

Good signs Pardew thought it was a better performance than Saturday, although that is not saying much. Against shaky opposition, it was important they picked something up and their failure to do so piles the pressure on to Saturday's game.

Pard times Set-pieces. It has been a problem for too long now and needs to be sorted out. It seems Saints do lack a commanding presence in the box to take control - it would make life for everyone so much easier if we never conceded from set-pieces. If his work permit problems can be resolved, Rahdi Jaidi would be a god-send.

Comedy moments Hard to look on the bright side of Saints' slow start to the season. One point from nine and the deficit still a millstone around their prospects this season. At least we still have a club, even if it looks like another relegation fight could be looming...

Monday, 17 August 2009

Swindon preview with our new resident tipster

What do the following - Ricky Lambert, Ray Stubbs and Michael Owen - all have in common? Any ideas?

Let me put you out of your misery. They are all potentially great signings that have been made in the last few months (well, maybe not Owen), and the time has come for Red and White Bill to join the party! In the light of my own somewhat scratchy knowledge of the third tier I have scoured the world of football punditry to bring you an analyst who will be bringing you his thoughts on Saints' opponents and games over the next few weeks.

Imagine a sort of west-country fusion of Lee Dixon and Steve Claridge and you are nearly there. My very own signing of the summer is Yeovil die-hard and national Bowls player David Attwood. He will be putting his neck on the line to offer predictions, form guides and ground reviews to add a layer of expertise to the R&W Bill stable.

Just three games in and tomorrow's encounter away at Swindon already feels like an important match. The boys have to bounce back from Saturday's disappointment and start picking up points to stop the gap between us and the pack widening. Here are the thoughts of our new resident tipster.

Atto's tips - Swindon Town

Recent form They are an erratic team and that has shown this term - in between a cup win they lost their first game 5-0 and drew 0-0 last weekend.

Up front They will struggle up front this year having lost their top scorer Cox to West Brom for 1.9million, proven by their inability to score any goals in the league. They have only brought in a youngster from Bolton who is unproven.

The Boss They had been tipped to finish very well this year after sorting out their long term financial troubles but I would question this. Their squad is not that strong and I have serious reservations about Danny Wilson's ability. He did get Barnsley into the premiership but look where they have ended up now!

Away fans' guide As for the ground, you had better hope that it doesn't rain because you will be exposed high up on a terrace. It's a bit old but the rest of the ground is passable. Swindon is also famous for possessing the daddy of all roundabouts, about 7 roundabouts in one and very scary to negotiate. It's best if you can park about 10mins in a local retail park to get away quickly but make sure your cars are locked!

Prediction This time of the year is a great time to play them as they have not got themselves sorted yet. I would be very surprised if Saints couldn't turn them over! Swindon 0 - Saints 2

Video highlights from the weekend

Not for the faint-hearted, here are the highlights (or rather lowlights) of our defeat on Saturday.

Still, you may be cheered up by Crystal Palace's goal-that-never-was against Bristol City. I know the ref can get it wrong, but this must be some sort of record...

And even funnier is manager Neil Warnock's response - he hasn't calmed down a few hours later.

PS. I don't think the BBC are allowing their highlights to be embedded on external sites yet - I am looking into it.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Pard times as Saints given reality check

After a positive week, it was something of a rude awakening for Saints this afternoon as they slumped to Pardew's first defeat as boss.

Huddersfield 3 - Saints 1

Positive Signs: Two things stick out from a roundly disappointing display. Firstly, Ricky Lambert scored again, putting away the only proper chance Saints had the entire match. Very encouraging. Also, Kelvin Davies was inspired once more, saving another penalty. If these two carry on performing, we will be fine. After all, few were expecting a win here - it is just a rather deflating result.

Pard Times: A generally poor performance, about which Pardew was struggling to contain his anger in the post-match press conference. We resorted too quickly to the long ball and our midfield didn't turn up. My major worry is that a large part of the team got used to losing last season - it may be hard to change that mentality. That is probably Pard's biggest challenge. Result leaves us stuck on -9; important now to pick something up at Swindon.

Comedy moments: To the Final Score studio for this one, where new head girl and ringmistress Gabby Logan was trying heroically, without success, to maintain order amongst the squabblesome trio of Garth Crooks, Les Ferdinand and Mark Bright. I felt for her as they bickered about some mundane point, with Garth Crooks threatening to throw the toys out of the pram as he sulkily stood his ground, reducing a sensitive Mark Bright to the verge of tears. Big Les, meanwhile, just looked as if he fancied taking a swing at the babbling Crooks. Without Ray Stubbs, I fear for the future of that programme. In fact, I worry about the mental state of Garth Crooks.

Friday, 14 August 2009

ShotGunn dismissal leaves Canaries reeling

In fairness, when I tipped Norwich for the title - just a week ago - I did say that my predictions have a tendency to end in tears. But I didn't expect this one to go tits up quite so quickly.

After just a game of the new season, the Canaries have ditched their manager Bryan Gunn. Given their terrible start - they were beaten 7-1 by Colchester at home on Saturday - this decision will surprise few. Despite restoring some pride with a cup win on Tuesday, having supporters throw their season tickets at you on the opening day puts you in a rather irrecoverable position and he had to go. So much for them emerging as champions in May - although the bookies had favoured them too, I add in defence.

Raises an interesting point, though. Out of all the relegated teams - us, Norwich, Charlton - who would you rather be supporting? Norwich's season may have ended before it started and while Charlton look solid, there is nothing to set the world alight. Down here on the south coast, however, we have a solid manager who is doing and saying all the right things, a couple of respectable results and some very positive signings. We may still be 9 points behind but the feel-good factor is back. Give me Saints any day.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Cup success sees Ricky off the mark

Saints got their first competitive win under Alan Pardew last night as they beat League 2 Northampton in the first round of the Carling Cup.

Saints 2 - Northampton 0

A crowd of over 10,000 watched as Ricky Lambert's debut goal was added to by Adam Lallana's second half strike. It marks another step in the right direction for Saints and should fill them with confidence ahead of Saturday's trip to Huddersfield.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Ricky! Rickayyy!!

Good work Pards. The Saints boss has wasted no time in adding a proven goal scorer to the ranks, with Bristol Rovers striker Ricky Lambert joining today. The 27 year old (right) was joint top scorer in League One last year with 29 goals and got off the mark this season on Saturday. But a deal was wrapped up today for a fee that could rise to £1m - but if he can keep on banging in the goals it looks like money well spent.

Another positive step for the Pardew era - COYR

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Solid start to Pardew era

Saints got off to a rumbustious start in the third tier yesterday, earning a point in an exciting season-opener at home to Millwall. With St Marys bathing in rich sunshine, a crowd of over 20,000 came to witness the real start of the Pardew regime and left feeling confident about the season ahead.

Saints 1 - Millwall 1

Chances were shared fairly evenly in a match where a combination of heat and fatigue meant players were truly puffing by the end (Graeme Murty certainly was). But it was Saints who got the lead early in the second half as Matthew Paterson latched onto the loose ball following a goal mouth scramble. It was a sloppy but not undeserved goal and the perfect start to the Pards era. But in characteristic Saints fashion, the defence - which had been strong throughout - then suffered a wobbly ten minutes. The colossal Wayne Thomas was unlucky to concede a penalty and Kelvin Davies came to the rescue with a fine double save. But the excitement cost Saints dear as a lack of defensive organisation two corners later saw Nadjim Abdou rise unmarked to head home. Millwall had chances to win it as Saints ran out of steam but the side held on to move a point nearer to 0 points.

Positive Signs: A great atmosphere and good to have the crowd back. Aside from the 10 minute panic, our defence looks very solid, as good as any in the league. Dan Harding and Wayne Thomas both excellent and Graeme Murty, well, entertaining.

Room for improvement: Once injuries kick in, the cupboard is bare. Rahdi Jaidi was a big miss, but we also badly need another striker; we only have Pats and Saga, and the latter is probably off anyway.

Comedy moments: The distinctly unintimidating Millwall crew wore shirts with the phrase "we fear no foe" printed on the back. I bet midfield behemoth LLoyd James had them quivering in their steel toe-capped boots.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Prediction Time

Like it or not, the time has come for me to make an idiot of myself once more by sharing with you my predictions for the forthcoming season. To limit the likelihood of a series of great footballing eggs decorating my face, I will be restricting my predictions to tiers one and three. And if you think I sound overly negative about my predictive powers, remember - I thought we had a shout for the play-offs last season.

Premier League:

Winners: Chelsea Runners-up: Liverpool 3rd: Man U 4th: Arsenal
Relegated: Burnley, Portsmouth, Wolves

I think Chelsea have the strongest, most balanced squad of the top four and that United fans will have a frustrating season after a poor summer. Liverpool, meanwhile, will have a strong season but finish up the bridesmaid once more (a good shout for Champs League though). Arsene will again deliver wonders given his resources - gooners should show some respect. Mark Hughes to be fired by Christmas as City prove that clubs need time, as well as great players, to compete at the top. At the other end, things look gloomy for Pompey (hurrah!) as takeover uncertainty continues. I expect them, along with new boys Burnley and Wolves, to be for the chop.

League One:

Winners: Norwich Runners-up: Leeds Also promoted: Huddersfield
Relegated: Yeovil, Stockport, Tranmere, Walsall

If you want to make some money from a season-long bet, put your house on Stockport going down. Rookie manager, weak squad, club in chaos. Got this tip from my mate - and he supports them. Norwich and Leeds should dominate this league and as for Saints, if only, if only, we weren't starting ten points behind. Holding on to one of Rasiak and Saga is crucial, along with a commanding ball-winner in midfield and centrehalf - missing out on Jaidi was a big blow. Given the handicap, it would be foolish to put Saints anywhere higher than 12th.

Pink Article: After Dutch Revolution, Swiss Evolution?

On the eve of another new season, my thoughts on the months ahead were printed in local sports weekly The Pink on Sunday. Here is the article in full.

It has been a tough twelve months for the St. Mary’s faithful. But, with investment secured and an experienced manager in place, Saints fans have reason to be positive this season, writes Will Wainewright.

So much for a relaxing summer! Pre-season is supposed to be a restful period for football fans, a couple of months free of worried Fridays, stressful Saturdays and gloomy Sundays. Not for Saints supporters.

Even after the season from hell, the takeover saga was something else as the club flirted with armageddon. Despite plenty of bellicose talk from Mark Fry of his hopes for a sale, flogging the once mighty SFC turned out to be a tougher task than initially thought. Even Matthew Le Tissier, our saviour so many times before, failed in his attempts to find the club a buyer.

But now, despite entering highly in the pantheon of football failures, Saints could have a brighter future. The purchase of the club by Swiss Industrialist Markus Liebherr has secured the future of SFC and allowed fans to emerge from behind the sofa.

And it seems there are reasons to be (whisper it) hopeful. Though the shotgun dismissal of manager Mark Wotte is redolent of the Lowe era, the appointment of Alan Pardew is an encouraging sign. The English coach has a strong track record of steering sides to promotion in the lower levels and ranks as a managerial heavyweight in League One. That he would only manage at this level at Saints makes it pretty clear how highly he respects the club – and where he sees its future lying.

Just as encouraging was Kelvin Davies’ decision to remain at the club. Like Pardew, he would not be out of place in the Championship or higher and his loyalty to the club shows his belief in the club’s future, especially after performing so well in such a dire season. Both will be a class above in League One.

Pardew now has the job of building a side that can flourish at this level – by no means an easy task after the years of instability that have resulted in such a ramshackle look to the squad. But with all the off-field drama settled he has a clean slate to build a side worthy of promotion. Thankful to still have a club, fans will give him time to do this and will not be expecting miracles – particularly given our ten point handicap.

It may take two or three seasons – or even more – but that is not the important thing. After the chaos the club has gone through in the last few years, what fans want most is to be able to turn up on a Saturday and know their team will be well-managed and work their socks off. That is something for which Pardew’s sides have been renowned and bodes well for the future.

After the rushed desperation of the Dutch Revolution, we are hopefully in for a period of calm Swiss Evolution. A tandem of stability on and off the field has not been had at Saints for many a year and that is why fans are so positive now. After coming so close to losing their club, all are doubly keen to preserve and support it now. It’s strange, but if you had asked me in 2003 whether I would ever look forward to a season in League One, the answer would have been no. Not any more. Yeovil away – bring it on!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Jones revelations shed new light

Away from pre-season worries, it has been interesting to get the chance to read parts of former Saints manager David Jones’ autobiography, No Smoke, No Fire, which was serialised in the Daily Echo last week. He never struck me as the writing type – but if anyone has had a life to write about, he has.

I always thought he was a good manager, and his achievements with Wolves and Cardiff since his spell at Saints have demonstrated his ability to bring stability and success to middling clubs. He kept us up twice, finishing twelfth in his first season – a feat that recent events have shown to be harder than once thought. We will never know what he would have achieved at Saints as his stint was tragically interrupted by unfounded charges of child abuse from his days as a care worker in Liverpool. Jones was given time off to clear his name and Glenn Hoddle came in, setting the stage for our relative success in the early noughties.

But Jones’ successes on a small budget should not be forgotten. He was particularly effective in the transfer market, making a huge profit out of Kevin Davies and bringing in James Beattie and Dean Richards. Particularly interesting have been his thoughts on key figures at the club.

On Le Tissier –

Jones thought Le Tissier was a little too comfortable at Saints as a big fish in a little pond and should have moved to a bigger club. Oh, that and he “did like his hamburgers too much.” In a weird passage, he recalls being told by members of SISA (Southampton Independent Supporters Association) not to drop Le Tissier in any circumstances. Oddly, he says he replied by saying he would get “two bus loads of scousers down there to sort them out if that was a threat.”

On Lawrie MacMenemy –

Saints legend Lawrie apparently told Jones that “finishing fourth from bottom constituted success.” How’s that for ambition? Another example of old Macca dwelling on past glories for too long.

On Rupert Lowe –

Jones pokes fun at Lowe for “thinking he was one of the boys.” He marks him out as a “patrician” figure; backing it up with Lowe’s claim that he picked potatoes as a child. But unlike one of the coaches who did the same, Lowe “drove the tractor.” How fitting. More damaging is the revelation that Lowe claimed Saints were “going to burn up the Championship” last year with the kids they had. Not sure about that one, Rupes.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

How has pre-season been for you?

The club has been saved from extinction by a rich owner. An encouraging managerial appointment has been made. Judging by season ticket sales, the fanbase seems onside. Would I be crazy, therefore, to describe the last few weeks as the pre-season from hell?

1) Results: We could only draw against Eastleigh and AFC Totton. Fair enough, the games came at the height of the takeover upheaval. We lost to Ajax. Again, fair enough. But we have also lost to Bournemouth and, more recently Salisbury, in a side composed of many first team players. Aside from the Hearts win, the last few weeks have contained more dodgy results than a blind chefs' cooking contest.

2) Signings: I will move on to strikers in particular, but our squad in general is weak. We have a potentially solid spine (Davies-James-Perry-Thomas-Molyneux-Gillett-Wotton-Holmes-Lallanna-Rasiak-Saga), but once injuries come into play the wardrobe is bare. Dan Harding aside, there has been little indication of signings on the horizon. Time for Pards to work the contact book.

3) Strikers: Our striking options are threadbare. Marek Saganowski hasn't looked up for it in recent friendlies, Gregorz Rasiak still refuses to run if he can help it and Stern John is off. Our big fish forwards don't exactly seem up for the challenge of League One, a league in which they would terrorise defences with ease. You can understand Stern John's decision - at 32 dropping down into League One brings with it a chance you will never play at a higher level. But the other two have hardly covered themselves in glory recently.

In case anyone has forgotten, we are due to start this season ten points behind. Crikey.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Terry sacrifices reputation for riches

Am I alone in thinking John Terry to be no better than a host of other money-grabbing urchins inhabiting the Premier League at the moment? The strapping centre-half is undoubtedly a very good, maybe great, player and his crunching challenges a refreshing tribute to the physical days of old. As Chelsea and England captain he certainly commands respect in the game, and wages commensurate to that to boot.

But he remains a player, and no more. The way he has flirted with the riches on offer at Man City, in defiance at his employers and the fans who pay his already astronomical wages, has been scandalous. But even worse has been the way the football commentariat has sought to defend his right to do so, given his status as "more than a football player," "Mr Chelsea" and other such piffle. If Chelsea meant so much to him, he would not have batted an eyelid at City's advances, not used them as leverage to secure a bit more cash. Do those extra few grand a year matter so much John, really?

This counter-view is gracefully articulated by Matthew Syed in The Times today, who makes mincemeat of John Terry's hollow and belated announcement of "total commitment" to the Blues. Mr Chelsea? Only if it pays.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

OS marches into Twitter-age

Change afoot at St Mary's. I thought cranes, rather than social networking sites, were Markus Liebherr's thing but that has not stopped the official Saints site joining up. From now onwards, hidden hands at the club will be twittering away, relaying news to followers about what is going on "behind-the-scenes" at SFC.

How disappointing then, to access the page and find nothing more than news updates of the type already to be found on the OS site. Behind-the-scenes? I was expecting a bit more. Maybe, 'Just seen Stern John stubbing his toe mid-flounce after seeing contract offer. V funny'. Or even 'Pardew found crying in kit-room. Squad depth to blame'. Now that would be more realistic.

Monday, 20 July 2009

New team given St Marys welcome

Saturday's friendly at home to Ajax saw new owner Markus Liebherr and new manager Alan Pardew given a St Marys welcome. Over 20,000 fans turned out to witness the start of a new era on the south coast as the new team watched from the stands. Four Ajax goals overturned Joseph Mills' opener to give the Dutch giants an expected victory but the real work starts today, with Alan Pardew taking over at Staplewood and attempting to mould a team that can compete in League One.

New owner Markus Liebherr

New manager Alan Pardew, with a suspiciously bleary-eyed Claus Lundekvam in the background.


Friday, 17 July 2009

What a summer; interesting season in store as Saints step back from the brink

Nearly a year ago, while reflecting on what had been an awful twelve months for SFC, I wrote that the club's affairs "contain more twists and turns than the Middle-Eastern Peace Process." That was disingenuous of me. The past twelve months have seen two changes of manager, fan uprisings, administration, relegation to League One and the club coming to within days of being wound up.

Events in the Middle-East seem positively serene by comparison.

The Summer Sales

For many, the recent takeover saga has been too much to bear; here is a re-cap.

After the club's heart-breaking, if inevitable, descent into League One was finalised in May (not by a looming ten point penalty, but by a season of poor performances), attention turned to graver matters. The search for a buyer had begun as soon as administrator Mark Fry entered the fray at the start of April. But despite plenty of bellicose talk of his hopes for a sale, flogging the once mighty SFC turned out to be a tougher task than initially thought. The task of saving us proved too much even for the man who had done so often before as the Matthew Le Tissier-backed bid fell through. The club's future looked bleaker with every day that passed and player sales (Andrew Surman- shame, David McGoldrick- less so) were required to keep the club operating.

As the club not so much flirted as had an open affair with being wound up, fans lost faith in the ceaseless tide of rumour and speculation about potential buyers. And then, three months on, at last a deal was struck.

After Dutch Revolution, Swiss Evolution?

Southampton Football Club is now owned by Mr Markus Leibherr, a Swiss industrialist. To the surprise of few, shortly after the £13m deal was completed, Mark Wotte was removed from his post as Saints manager. A shame in some ways as his heart was in the job, but a higher level of management will clearly be required if Saints are to advance from the mire they find themselves in. The job of steering the club to a better future has been handed to English manager Alan Pardew, who signed a 3 year deal early this morning. Despite recent disappointment at Charlton, Pardew has a successful track record from his days at Reading and West Ham, taking the latter to within penalties of the FA Cup.

The appointment, together with the equally-important news that Kelvin Davies will be staying, is what fans have wanted and shows that the new owners are serious about restoring SFC to prominence. It remains to be seen whether that can be achieved, but with the club safe and a solid, proven manager in place, fans have a lot more to look forward to this season.

Let's just hope the next twelve months prove less stressful than the last twelve.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Good news at last

At last. Nearly two months after Saints went into administration, serious progress has been made in the fight to save the club. The administrators have entered into a 21 day period of exclusivity with the Matt Le Tissier-backed Pinnacle group, who have been negotiating on behalf of wealthy investors.

Fans should be cautious- this news does not mean a deal has been done. It does, however, indicate not only that this group is serious but that the administrators believe them to be so. Crucially, it also means wages at the club can be paid for the month of May; the group stumped up a non-refundable £500,000 deposit in return for being granted exclusivity. Hopefully now the end is in sight.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The future wasn’t orange… will it be red and white?

The following article was printed in sports weekly The Pink on Saturday

With Saints’ fate already decided, last Sunday’s final-day defeat at Nottingham Forest was not as costly as it could be have been, but it still marked a sorry end to a sorry season that few fans of the red and white will want to remember.

Younger fans (myself included) will certainly be hard-pushed to remember a season that provided such misery, week after week. But the summer break by no means amounts to a respite: with a buyer still to be found the club’s future hangs in the balance.

The club’s relegation was certainly the final nail in the coffin of the supposed ‘Dutch Revolution.’ While parts of the season were characterised by the sort of free-flowing ‘Total Football’ promised upon Jan Poortvliet and Mark Wotte’s arrival on the south coast, neither managed to successfully combine youthful flair with results.

And while Saints fans will be accustomed to relegation by now, the club’s administration at the beginning of April added a new shade of grey to the misery. We all knew the club was in trouble, but it was a stark reminder of the financial ineptitude which has characterised our time outside the top flight.

However, it would be futile to engage in the blame game now. Until the future of the club is secured – hopefully without the assistance of the various directors who got us into this mess – looking for a buyer must be the priority.

Let’s just hope he or she wasn’t a season ticket holder at St Marys this year. Seeing just five home wins all season must surely be some sort of record and would be enough to put anyone off. The fact that ticket renewal forms aren’t being sent out until a buyer is found may be a blessing – any forms received following our horror defeat against Charlton would have been thrown straight in the bin!

Though there have been glimmers of hope, this has been a season with relegation written all over it. Our slow start could have been dismissed as typical of Saints, but our persistent failure to pull away from the lower reaches of the league indicated the problems ran much deeper than that.

Our lively young side may have played some pretty passing, but they were being consistently found out in the tough, physical environs of the Championship. As the season wore on, the ‘Dutch Revolution’ was exposed as a financially-driven strategy aimed at keeping the club solvent. It may have been done with the best intentions, but football clubs rarely thrive when the bank becomes too much of a factor and the side’s failure to win during either October or December saw us enter the new year in relegation peril.

Encouraging wins away at places such as Reading and Preston brought some relief from the agony but were ultimately outweighed by our terrible home form. Fans probably guessed the game was up after the Charlton defeat. As the crowds returned to St Marys in the club’s hour of need, the players got stage-fright and fluffed their lines on the big stage.

Our failure to stay up means we will begin life in League One – a tough league at the best of times – ten points behind. Our cause will not be helped by the player sales that will inevitably take place this summer. But the current Saints squad is not one fans have grown to love. Others will follow the departing Ryan Smith (“world-class,” apparently) and Rudi Skacel (an overpriced underperformer).

It may be best for a clean slate, both financially and tactically, in League One. Few Saints fans at the FA Cup final in 2003 could have guessed the fall would be so steep, nor the pain so great. But the priority now must be on shoring up the club’s future and halting the decline. And who knows – we might experience a promotion one of these days.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Saints bow out of the Championship... will they ever return?

Saints' miserable season was finally brought to an end on Sunday as the side slumped to defeat away to Championship survivors Nottingham Forest.

Forest 3 - Saints 1

Saints were unable to end the season on a high note after BWP's opener in the first half was pegged back. It was a result, according to Mark Wotte, that summed up Saints' season, a cliche that has been pertinent to all too many of their recent results. The departure from the club of midfielder Ryan Smith (the next Ronaldo, apparently) and left back Rudi Skacel (a supposed big name who fans will be pleased to see the back of) have already been announced. Other players, along with significant wage cuts, will follow as the club seeks to negotiate a way out of its present state of limbo.

Saints remain in urgent need of a buyer and are unable to send out season ticket forms until one has been found. On life support, they will start life in the third tier on minus ten even if they survive the summer. A Leicester-style return to the Championship looks unlikely to say the least, but many fans would no doubt prefer a few seasons of stability in League One to seeing the club go out of business. It may be all they have to cling on to.

Friday, 1 May 2009

A sign of the times

Crunch time is approaching. That much is clear from the official Saints website, which has appended the following guarantee to publicity surrounding a Saints All-Stars match due to be held at St Marys on May 17th:

We have arranged for your ticket money to be held in an account separate from the club's account so that is the match is cancelled, we will arrange for a refund of your ticket price upon presentation of the ticket.

Administrator Mark Fry has already admitted the club is running out of time- it needs a buyer, and fast. With no more home matches, the funds will not take long to run dry. The future of Southampton Football Club remains more precarious than ever tonight.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Saints condemned

Saints will start life in League One next season on minus ten after failing to win against Burnley today. Having had their fate sealed by the Football League's midweek ruling, the side managed a spirited display but were unable to secure their fifth home win of the season.

Saints 2 - Burnley 2

Goals from BWP and David McGoldrick were not enough to carry the side's bid to finish above the drop zone to the final day. Having their second relegation in four years confirmed, the points deduction will carry over to next season. The final whistle was greeted with silence around St Marys before fans ran onto the pitch, some of whom climbed the goalposts and approached the travelling Burnley fans. It was a physical expression of the pain that has been mounting all season after the side's terrible home form and scenes are unfolding outside the stadium.

Next week's fixture at the City Ground now meaningless, it a sad end to a sorry season and the club must now use the summer period to regroup and rebuild and ensure its future.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

"Inextricably linked": Points penalty sends Saints down

Southampton have been effectively relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in forty-eight years.

The Football League sealed the club's fate in a statement this afternoon, with the report commissioned to look into the club's finances after it entered administration earlier this month finding the football club and the holding company were "inextricably linked."

If Saints do achieve a miraculous survival this season, the points will be deducted from their final tally and they will still go down.

The likelihood, however, is that the club will be relegated of their own accord this weekend and start life in League One on -10. It is a hard league at the best of times, but Saints will face a huge challenge to avoid successive relegations after the player sales likely this Summer.

That assumes, of course, that the club is still operating next year.

It is a sorry day for SFC.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Oblivion beckons for sorry Saints

Any hope still harboured by Saints of survival this season was destroyed this afternoon, as the side slumped to a poor defeat at Hillsborough.

Sheff Wed 2 - Saints 0

With just two games left, Mark Wotte admitted the side now needed a miracle to survive, especially with Notts Forest winning against Coventry. While Norwich have their game in hand tomorrow, even Barnsley managed to scrape a point against Reading to enhance their own hopes.

For Saints, however, this looks like being a sorry end to a sorry season and the start of an uncertain future. While 2 wins may be enough, the chances of that happening are so slim that few will be hopeful. Reserves of optimism are spent- for Saints, this looks to be it.

Yeovil here we come.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Back from the brink: could the Great Escape be back on?

After seven matches without a win, Saints at last picked up three points this afternoon in a result that gives the club a fighting chance of survival.

Saints 1 - Crystal Palace 0

It was a massive result. In the first home game following that Charlton horror-show, a creditable 24,000 fans turned up to cheer on Mark Wotte's side, but few carried high hopes of success after a torrid season at St. Marys.

The Wolves result, combined with Nottingham Forest's surprise win on Saturday, looked to have sealed the club's fate and reserves of hope were largely used up by the sequence of seven games without a victory that preceded this result. However, a well-organised Saints side responded to the critics, with Bradley Wright-Phillips leading the line and David McGoldrick getting the goal in a vital win.

The result moves them to within two points of safety, but with just three games left they need to continue winning if they are to pull off what would be an incredible escape. However, Norwich and Barnsley will be feeling the pressure tonight, particularly given the latter's run-in and the fact that Saints and Forest meet each other on the last day.

20 Norwich 43 -8 46
21 Barnsley 42 -14 46
Nottm Forest 43 -18 46
Southampton 43 -19 44

Victory away at mid-table Sheffield United will not be easy, but is now crucial if Saints are to survive; the two final games will be much harder. But it seems the side has come into a bit of form at exactly the right moment. Brace yourselves- the Great Escape could be back on...

Friday, 10 April 2009

Relegation on the horizon as lifeless Saints put to sword

It was a case of don't mention the score for Saints at Molyneux this afternoon, as three goals within the opening twenty minutes came as another massive body blow to their hopes of survival.

Wolves 3 - Saints 0

Winless in six coming into the game, Saints would have preferred easier opponents in such an important match, but their downfall was of their own making. A complete lack of marking led to Wolves putting away two easy headers in the first six minutes, while a clumsy striker's challenge from Marek Saganowski led to a penalty which killed all hopes of a Saints revival in the eighteenth.

Now two points from safety (having played a game more than their rivals) chances of survival look slim indeed. The side looked bereft of confidence and with four games left they will need to find some form from somewhere. But there was no discernable fight shown in a performance that seemed to sum up a woeful season.

It was a performance that had relegation written all over it.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

JP up to size as Saints make point against Watford

It is all too probably too little, too late, but it is possible to take some heart from tonight's draw against Watford after a week of misery on the south coast.

Watford 2 - Saints 2

Having lost all six encounters since the sides met in 2003 - in the semi finals of the FA Cup; how times have changed - few gave Saints much hope of success in their game in hand at Vicarage Road tonight. However, the side managed to bounce back from Saturday's horror show and claim a point, with Mark Wotte going for broke with a 4-2-4 formation.

The star of the show was JP Saeijs, whose header opened proceedings before Saints displayed their trademark inability to hang onto a lead. However, the Dutch defender made up for giving away a penalty on Saturday by winning his side a point minutes from time with a sweetly struck free kick.

Saints still look near-certainties for relegation but football is a funny old game and the remaining five fixtures could throw up anything. They remain two points behind and Saturday's trip to Wolves is not the most inviting; but, being Saints, you just never know.

Football League delay a worrying sign

The Football League has decided against making a ruling today on whether or not to dock Saints points for going into administration. Worryingly, the board has instead commissioned an independent inquiry into the club's finances that will influence any decision made.

It looks as if they are treating the matter seriously and are yet to be persuaded by the argument that the fact that SFC's parent company, Southampton Leisure, entered administration and not the football club means the latter should avoid a points deduction.

Today's news makes survival this season even more important.

Having passed the League deadline for entering administration any points deduction would be carried over to next season if Saints go down. If they don't, the points will be deducted from their final tally this season. Either way, a points deduction would see Saints playing League 1 football next season.

Only if Saints can fight off relegation and a points deduction will they survive. But that is an unlikely scenario, and today's news bleakens the already dismal picture for fans of SFC.

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Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?