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.

Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?