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.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Nought in the headlights: Massive defeat leaves Saints on edge

“This is our hour of need.”
Leon Crouch

“It’s all about you. Players come and go and directors come and go but you are here for ever.”
Lawrie McMenemy

“We underperformed.”
Mark Wotte

The 27,228 supporters who rallied to the cause after a week of crisis at St Marys were treated to a horror show yesterday as Saints slumped to a miserable defeat at home to bottom club Charlton. Their magnificent show of support could not be matched on the pitch, where the players appeared fazed and intimidated by the sheer scale and importance of the match.

Saints 2 – Charlton 3

Not just league survival, but the survival of Southampton Football Club as a whole is at stake in these final seven matches. That was the message given on the pitch by as former Chairman Leon Crouch and Cup-winning manager Lawrie McMeneny who issued passionate pleas to the supporters and the city to get behind their team in its hour of need. They duly delivered, first by turning up and then by raising the volume to a level not seen at St Marys this season.

However, it was the eleven on the pitch who ultimately mattered and they crumpled under the pressure. Charlton’s early goal came as no surprise as Wotte’s wobbly defence opened up welcomingly. The performances of the Saints players seemed riddled by a fear of defeat that found expression in the endless long balls heaped forward. Throughout the game, no one was prepared to get the ball down and take a risk.

However, credit to David McGoldrick for keeping his head and drawing things level after seventeen minutes. Few others in the side, however, were able to follow his example, except for the superb Kelvin Davies. His penalty save – after the woeful JP Saeiz had lost his head in a ridiculous act of petulance, dragging down his man in the box – should have kick started a Saints revival, but this was not to be on a day when all hope of survival seemed to perish.

The woeful standard of the game was briefly interrupted in the second half by Charlton’s winning goals, which put any hope of a Saints victory to be bed. That appeared to be the verdict drawn, anyway, by the thousands of supporters who disappointingly left after the third went in, despite there being twenty minutes left. Their actions appeared to sum up the complete loss of belief in its footballing side the city has undergone in the last couple of seasons. There appears to be a belief that it is enough just to show up as a pledge of support to the football club. It is not. Unless the side is supported to the end, there will be no football club- the two are inextricably linked.

Where does this result leave Saints? After staring down the barrel of the relegation gun for much of the season, this has pushed a lot of fans over the edge into thinking relegation is a matter of time. It is not. I remember feeling similarly after the loss to Burnley late last season, after which we survived. However, times are indisputably bleak indeed and if there is a chance the ten point penalty is carried over to next season – the Football League meets on Tuesday – (if there is a next season) it must be ensured it is taken now.

Knowing Saints, they will probably go and get a win at Watford on Tuesday. It is one hell of a hope, but we cannot afford – for the club’s sake – to give up now.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Administration arrives at St Marys- can the club survive 2009?

The future of Southampton Football Club hangs by a thread tonight, with the financial oblivion that has loomed on the horizon all season becoming a reality yesterday.

Many football fans waking up across the country must have thought the news was an April Fool. But for Saints fans - to whom the club's financial woes have been common knowledge all season - it was all too believable. The football board's inability to publish a set of bi-annual accounts made administration inevitable for the club's owners Southampton Leisure Holdings - the parent company finally brought to its knees by SFC's £27.5 million debt mountain.

The news was accompanied by Rupert Lowe's exit from the club, marking an ignominious end to his second spell at the club. His “Second Coming” has been characterised by drastic steps being taken to improve the club’s financial situation – including a slashing of the wage bill and sections of the stadiums closed during match days – but these measures were not enough to save the club and his reputation lies in tatters tonight. Fellow board members Michael Wilde and Andrew Cohen have also left the club.

The club’s fate now lies in the hands of administrators Begbies Traynor, the accountants who oversaw Bournemouth’s recovery. However, they make plain the seriousness of Saints’ situation. If the club fail to attract major investment before the end of the summer, Southampton Football Club will cease to function and drop out of the Football League.

It is an unthinkable prospect.

However, 125 years of proud footballing history count for little when the administrators get called in. After dropping out of the Premier League, the club has been encumbered by massive debts, largely the £23.1 million the club still has to pay off on its St Marys loan. The remainder is made up of the overdraft, which Barclays refused to extend after it was exceeded this month.

Compounding all this, Saints remain in danger of a second relegation in four years. If Saints were to drop down to the third tier it would make the club a far less attractive investment opportunity and reduce the chances of a buyer being found.

The situation is grave, but relegation would make it ten times worse.

Given all this, it is hardly a surprise that the administrators called on the club’s supporters to get behind the club this weekend. Their support for the rest of the season – both financial and physical – will play a massive part in determining the club’s fate. High ticket sales will help the club operate until the end of the season, while their support on match days has never been so important.

Fans put off by Rupert Lowe have no excuse now.

Survival this season would be a massive boost- and that is if we can also avoid a points deduction for going into administration. The fact that SFC’s parent company – not the club itself – has gone under could provide a vital loophole, one likely to be contested by Saints’ relegation rivals.

In the midst of so much uncertainty, one thing is for sure: Saints will have a fight to survive this year. Even if relegation can be staved off – unlikely enough, though possible – a buyer will have to be found and a points reduction avoided. These are perilous times indeed, and the economic downturn will not help the search for investment.

As Saints enter the unknown, the fans must again demonstrate their love for the club. The players must be shown what they are playing for and the moneymen must be shown the club has a future. Lets sell out these last three games and keep the club up.

To go from an FA Cup Final to extinction in six years would be a travesty, but that apocalyptic scenario is a real possibility. With so much at stake, Championship survival is the first priority.

Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?