Salut! Sunderland is delighted to announce the renewal of sponsorship by the US sportswear suppliers soccerpro.com for the new season’s “Who are You?” awards. More on that later. This week’s contender is Ben Gammon*, a Southampton fan and creator of the Go Marching In fan site. He expects a straightforward home win in Saints vs SAFC, acclaims Mauricio Pochettino’s ability to attract top players to St Mary’s, remembers a special SuperKev goal and laments the contempt for tradition shown by the club when launching its grim new home kit …
Salut! Sunderland: You made a good start, we made a bad one and now you have Osvaldo. Should we just fax the points down or do you still have weaknesses we can exploit?
If only it was that simple! The signing of Osvaldo is massive for us, but I don’t expect us to change our starting eleven from the one that beat West Brom at the weekend. I’m sure we’ll see him in the second half, whether things are going our way or not.
As for weaknesses, it would have to be our high pressing game. We’ll press you all the way back to your goalkeeper in the hope that he’ll kick it long. But, if you can pass it quickly enough you won’t give us time to close you down. Or you could just bypass the midfield with long balls!
To the outside world, a popular manager was dumped during a decent run by an unpopular chairman, Nicola Cortese, who then installed someone who could barely speak English. But was he vindicated by the excellent second half of the season (and a better command of the lingo than billed)?
Nigel Adkins is a very likeable man and what he achieved to get Southampton back to the Premier League in such a short amount of time will never be forgotten by Saints fans. I was angry when he was dismissed because he is a good man who I believe had earned the chance to carry on.
Outside of Southampton, Nicola Cortese isn’t the most popular of people, but I doubt he’ll lose any sleep over it. There is no room for sentiment in the way he runs the club. Put simply, he needed a man to get Southampton back to the Premier League and Adkins was that man. Pochettino is the man now charged with pushing Saints to the next level. The question you have to ask is could Adkins have persuaded a player like Osvaldo to join the club? The answer is probably no.
As for the language barrier, Pochettino knows more English than he lets on. The club use an interpreter to make sure nothing is lost in translation, so it shouldn’t be too long before he’s speaking to the press in English. His back room staff all speak English as well.
You must have been bad on the day we won at St Mary’s – just as you were far too good to be happy with a draw in the return game.
If any club wants to do well they must make their own stadium a fortress. Saints have to do that this season if they want to break into the top half of the table.
Dominating games but getting nothing (or less than we deserved) from them was also a regular occurrence last season. Hopefully with the additional quality in the squad we can now make sure we make the most of the ball when we have it.
Sunderland and Saints fans: Guess the Score and win, er, a mug: https://safc.blog/2013/08/southampton-v-sunderland-guess-the-score-altidore-or-oswaldo-to-shine/
So how far can Mauricio Pochettino take you and have the fans completely warmed to him?
If there’s one thing that the Osvaldo transfer has highlighted, it is that Mauricio Pochettino has the ability to attract top talent to the south coast. As long as the team are doing well on the field and the manager can mix these talented additions with our very promising youth players, there is no reason why he can’t stay with us for the foreseeable future and establishing Southampton as a top 8 club at the same time.
By now all Southampton fans should be behind Pochettino. I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be!
Are you impressed by the summer transfer activity or should there have been more (or different)?
This has certainly been the best transfer window for Southampton that I can remember in my lifetime. In Lovren, Wanyama and Osvaldo we have not only added depth to the spine of the team, but injected real quality as well.
How do you honestly feel the current squad compares with the greats of Southampton’s past? You mentioned Matt Le Tissier in your preview for The Observer but there have been so many, including gems like Walcott and Bale prepared for others’ benefit.
So many great players, playing for the club at different times and under very different circumstances. Southampton have established themselves as one of the best places in the country for developing top talent and having to sell those prospects in recent years has been hard to take.
On the opening day of the season last weekend, the Saints fielded three 18 year old players in their starting eleven. That’s the first time that has happened in the Premier League and it is massively satisfying to see our young players performing at the top level. Now that we’re back in the mix with England’s top teams, we stand a much better chance of keeping those players.
And what were your feelings about Sunderland’s poor season and subsequent replacement of Martin O’Neill with Paolo Di Canio?
We were in a similar position to you last season, so don’t take it the wrong way when I say that I was hoping the teams around Southampton wouldn’t do as well.
Personally, I’ve always rated O’Neill and thought his appointment at Sunderland was a good one. I expected him to do well. It must be an experience watching Di Canio’s movement in the technical area and I don’t think any of his teams will ever lack determination or hard work. I don’t see him as a sustainable choice for Sunderland though and if things don’t start well, he could be one of the first managerial casualties of the season.
Our hero of recent times, Kevin Phillips, appears to have made more impact cleaning Shearer’s boots than on the field when he was with you. Any memories of his spell with Southampton?
When Phillips was with us as a schoolboy, he was considered to be too small to be a striker and was played as a right back instead! He scored 22 goals in 64 games during his second spell with the Saints. One of those was a winner against Portsmouth at home, so as you can imagine, I remember that goal of his more fondly than the rest.
Who, Le Tissier apart, are the best you’ve seen in Saints colours (oops, didn’t mean to touch a raw nerve) and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
If you’re talking about a player who brings the most to a team, then in recent years that award has to go to the man of the moment, Rickie Lambert. Originally signed for his goal scoring ability, he contributes so much more than that. Seen as a traditional target man, good in the air and brilliant at holding up the ball, he has completely changed his lifestyle to help prolong and further his career. Always willing to run into the channels, a great eye for a pass, a great freekick taker and lethal penalty taker. No Saints fan wants to think about life without Lambert.
As for the worst, Ali Dia is the clear winner. For those who don’t know, Ali Dia was signed by Southampton manager Graeme Souness on a one month contract, after Souness received a phone call claiming that Dia was a cousin of former FIFA World Player of the Year, George Weah. His contract was terminated two weeks later, but by then he had already made his one and only appearance in a Saints shirt, coming on as a sub in the 32nd minute against Leeds. He was substituted off again in the 53rd minute.
Those new colours. A managements that does away with traditional red and white stripes make me question my lifelong hatred of capital punishment. Your thoughts?
I hate it. Tradition should be respected. I don’t have a problem with away kits going through regular changes, there’s nothing wrong with that. If the owners of a club want to make drastic changes to a kit (such as removing stripes) it should be put to a fan vote.
Name this season’s top four in order, and the bottom three
20. Crystal Palace
Where will our two clubs finish?
Southampton – 9th
Sunderland – 16th
What most inspires you about modern football and what most appals you?
For me, the best thing about modern football is the pace and power that is required to play at the top level. There is plenty of power in the Championship and below, but having recently played in those leagues, the gulf in pace is frightening.
There’s plenty of negatives we could discuss about the state of the modern game: money, chairmen getting rid of stripes, etc. If we’re talking about modern football on the pitch though, diving is what angers me the most. Whether we need a reviews panel to hand out punishments after games, I don’t know. But referees certainly can’t cope on their own.
Club versus country. Which comes first for you and why?
Club comes before country for me. We give so much to our clubs on an emotional and physical level week in and week out. For some of us, a win or a loss can make or break an entire weekend (or longer!).
Because of what we suffer for our clubs, I don’t think international games will ever mean quite so much.
Will you be at our game – and what will be the score?
I will be at the game, yes. Unfortunately for you I think it is a bad time to play us. All three of our summer signings will be making their home debuts and with it also being the first home game of the season St. Mary’s will be buzzing.
Another clean sheet would be nice, but I don’t think it’ll happen. Saints win. 3-1.
* Ben Gammon on himself: I’ve lived in Southampton all of my life (27 years). My whole family are Saints fans, so there was never really any decision to be made there. I’m a season ticket holder at St. Mary’s and started my site, GoMarchingIn.co.uk, back in 2010.
Interview: Colin Randall
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