15 May 2005, the day Southampton football club were relegated from the top tier of English football, ending their spell in one of Europe’s elite leagues. A few years later the club went into administration and struggling on and off the pitch, they were later relegated from The Championship. The club were in crisis, close to liquidation and having to start life in League One with a 10 point deduction, until a saviour arrived, Markus Liebherr. The Swiss billionaire with a heart of gold took over the club, along with new chairman Nicola Cortese, saving them from being extinct. The Saints won the Johnston Paint Trophy that year finishing just outside the play offs, bringing saint’s first trophy since the FA cup back in 1976. Since Liebherr’s unexpected Death, Cortese has kept to the club’s 5 year plan set to get back to the Premier league. Back to back Promotions and the Saints are finally back in the Top Flight.
Although Southampton are being tipped to go straight back down to the championship this year, I think they stand a very good chance of avoiding the drop, here’s why...
Loved by his own, hated by the opposition, confident and outspoken, Nigel Adkins. He has been a revelation since his appointment as manager. Winning back to back promotion with the club, his positive attitude and his passing philosophy has rejuvenated the club turning them into a great team to watch. The former Physio has had strict regimes for the players getting them as fit as he can, the likes of Rickie Lambert and Billy Sharp have benefited from this most. More importantly though, he has the ability to give the team belief going into each and every game, regardless of the opposition.
One of the youngest manager’s in the Premier League, he has the potential to be a very, very good manager in the future, and will be desperate to achieve that with Southampton.
The Squad like most bottom half teams, will be vulnerable in certain areas, the main cause of concern for Nigel Adkins’s men will be at the back, with Jose Fonte, Jos Hoiveld and Dan Seabourne the only senior centre backs in the squad. If the Saints are going to survive in this league they will need to invest in a couple of quality, solid centre backs. Another weak spot is the left back position with Danny Fox the only main man in the picture, with young Luke Shaw the back up in his first year of senior football.
With the Negatives out of the way, I can now talk about the stronger areas of Southampton’s game. Kelvin Davis, always reliable and ever present, the veteran goal keeper will be looking forward to getting his 2nd chance back in the Premier League. Right back position, Frazer Richardson will be battling it out with new signing Nathaniel Clyne. In centre midfield they have Morgan Schniederlin, Steven Davis, Richard Chaplow & Dean Hammond. With the always brilliant Adam Lallana, who can play anywhere in an attacking position on the pitch with ease, likely to be Southampton’s stand out player this year. With Jason Puncheon, James Ward-Prowse & Steve De Ridder being the other attacking midfielders in the team. Then we move onto the strike force, Rickie Lambert, 78 Goals in 132 Games for the saints, otherwise known as the goal machine, need I say more? New signing Jay Rodriquez, reported to have cost around £7 million from Burnley, will be hungry to justify the high price paid for him. Tadanari Lee, Saint’s Japanese forward that look very good after signing in January before having his season ended early due to an injury. Last but not least, Billy Sharp, the front man contributed with some very important goals to help get the saints into the Premier League and he’s also been in very good form in preseason. He’ll be hoping to establish himself against the some of the best defenders in the world. The main thing about this squad is that they are brimming with confidence and their attitudes are spot on.
Quickly becoming known as one of the best Academy’s in Europe, producing the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in recent years, all going on to represent their countries and play at the highest level of club football.
The latest batch of youngsters produced feature James Ward Prowse & Luke Shaw, both very highly rated teenagers that are more than likely to feature this year. With the club back in the big time, the focus now will be to hold onto and progress the promising talents into key first team players.
The Fans & The Stadium
St Mary’s stadium had been a fortress last season with the Saints winning 16 of 23 games at home, picking up 52 points in the process. With An Average Attendance of 26,419, the ground was rocking every match day, with the fans giving the players all the encouragement that they needed. They’ll be out in their numbers yet again this year supporting their team, Home & Away. Saints will need to try and emulate the home form they achieved last year to have any chance of survival.
If Southampton can get the ball down and play the football that we know they’re capable of they could cause a few upsets this year, provided they can get Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert on the ball whenever possible. These two players will surely be the ones to watch for the Saint’s this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the less familiar names to football fans turn into household names this year either.
Here’s to hoping the saints strive this year!