Monday, 5 July 2010

Marian Pahars interview

I meant to upload this a few weeks ago, but Glastonbury and the last week of university (yes, I was too busy having a good time) got in the way. Anyway, I managed to track Marian down recently and interviewed him over the phone. The former Saints star is currently coaching in his native Latvia and had some nice things to say to Saints fans. Enjoy the piece, The Daily Echo's sports weekly The Pink ran it on their front page.

Saints’ Swiss-powered revival in League One has attracted a lot of attention this season and one man looking on from afar has been the former fans’ favourite Marian Pahars, who has followed the side’s prospects keenly since leaving four years ago.

“I follow Saints over the internet,” says the gifted Latvian international, who acquired cult status on the south coast after joining for £800,000 in 1999. “I don’t have a chance to see them as they only show Premier League matches in Latvia, but I make sure I keep up with how the team are doing.”

The ‘Latvian Michael Owen’ was recommended to Saints boss Dave Jones by Latvia national team manager Gary Johnson and went on to score 45 goals in 156 appearances for Saints.
He became an instant hit with fans after playing a crucial role in the ‘Great Escape’ survival bid of the 1998/99 campaign, scoring three vital goals in the run-in, including both in the crucial final-day 2-0 win over Everton at the Dell.

Now retired and coaching at Skonto Riga, one of his first clubs in his native Latvia, Pahars took the time to speak to The Pink and reflect on his time at Saints. “All the Saints years were great,” he said. “They are just one big happy memory. Every day I spent there was fantastic.”
Renowned for his phenomenal pace and dribbling ability, Pahars enjoyed a prolific partnership with James Beattie, scoring thirty between them in the 2001/02 season. He scored a number of landmark goals, including the winner in Saints’ first ever league victory at St Marys against Charlton in 2001.

His sweetly-struck curler against Pompey in 2003 is also fondly remembered by fans, as is his goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 1999, which was preceded by an outrageous nutmeg on the bewildered Jaap Stam.

His tendency to score important and memorable goals could make it difficult to choose a favourite, but he plumps instantly for a strike against Derby at the Dell. “I remember it well – I took it left-footed, and it flew into the top corner from 25 yards. I enjoyed it because I didn’t score so many from outside the area!”

The latter stages of the Latvian’s spell at Saints were marked by a series of persistent injury problems, and Pahars has not been back to visit St Marys since he left. “It is a shame but I have not been back to Southampton yet. I hope to return one day as I enjoyed a very special few years at Saints.”

Saints fans may also be pleased to hear his thoughts on the World Cup this summer. “You can never count out teams like Brazil and Germany, but England definitely have a chance.”

“The fans in Southampton will stay in my heart forever,” he said. “Since I arrived at the club they were fantastic, and stayed with me throughout my injury problems. I would just like to say a big thank you to them for all their support over the years.”

Marian Pahars Facts

- Despite his diminutive reputation, the ‘Latvian Michael Owen’ stood at 5 ft 9.
- He was signed by Saints after scoring a ‘classic’ hat trick (a goal with each foot and a header) in a reserve team match against Oxford United on in 1999.
- Pahars was the first Latvian to play in the Premier League.
- He scored 16 goals in 75 appearances for his national team and came on as a substitute in every game of their 2002 World Cup campaign.
- Pahars wore the no.17 shirt, as he did for his country.

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