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.

Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?