Filed: Tuesday, 10th February 2015
By: Preview Percy
Preview Percy doesn't like to mention it but, for a while, he used to live not far from Southampton as a kid. Neither he nor the town benefited much from the experience and he made his way back to London as soon as he could. Their loss is, er, also our loss....
The matches are coming thick and fast as we hot foot it down the M3 to St Mary’s where we will be hosted by Southampton. Kick-off on Wednesday is at 7.45pm.
A word to those of you making the journey down by car – there are roadworks on the M3 from the M25 interchange down to somewhere around the Fleet services. I suspect that, whilst the 50mph average speed limit through the works might be achievable at 7am on a Sunday morning, rush hour on a weekday might be a different kettle of fish so factor that into your calculations.
Our hosts are probably the surprise package of the season so far. They sit in third spot with 45 points from their 24 games so far, leaving them one place above Moan Utd who had occupied that spot prior to this weekend’s round of matches. Their latest match saw them win 1-0 at a now Redknapp-less QPR (resigned because of dodgy knees? Yeah, right.) Whilst they dominated possession in the first half they found QPR difficult to break down in the second half and it was quite late on before they picked up the winner.
Even then QPR might have got an equaliser as Onauha bundled the ball into the back of the net only for the goal to be disallowed for something – it was one of those that didn’t look right and although the “foul on the ‘keeper” excuse wasn’t that convincing there might have been an argument for offside.
Goalscore in the win at Loftus road was Senegalese midfielder Sadio Mane. The work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips nicknamed him “Sad Old Man” adding “does that remind you of anyone?” It seemed to ring a bell with everyone else here at the New Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered judging by the laughter but I’m afraid the joke eluded me. Meanwhile the home may well be looking for a new work experience person sooner rather than later.
Mane is in good form of late having scored in three successive matches over December/January before those pesky Senegalese took him to Equatorial Guinea for their ill-fated African Cuppa Soup campaign. He turned up for that tournament with a calf injury but, remarkably, he survived the attentions of the Senegalese medical team and came back in a fit state to play.
Like the rest of the world they had a quietish transfer window. The only permanent deal made was that to make permanent the loan deal for (now-ex) Chelsea full-back Ryan Bertrand. Those of us of a certain age will remember a Belgian pseudo-punk artist by the name of “Plastic” Bertrand and, thanks to him, I find it incredibly difficult to come to terms with the fact that the player is in fact an England (and GB Olympic) international born in Southwark and who started his career with Gillingham rather than Ghent. He misses this game, it being the second of a three-match suspension after a frustrated hack towards the end of the Swansea match. There is a serious concern over the player’s judgement which stems from the fact that he once referred to Ashley Cole as “a fantastic role-model”.
The switch from loan to permanent for Bertrand meant that they had loan slots available for the window. Koeman – went back to his Netherlands homeland (via Germany) to pick up winger Eljero Elia on a loan to the end of the season deal from Werder Bremen. From what I’ve seen of him he looks quite lively and he picked up both goals in their 2-1 win over the Geordies last month. His availability may or may not have had something to do with a falling out with Werder boss Viktor Skrypnyk, who supposedly took exception of Elia’s clumsily-worded claim that he was “ready for war” in advance of Werder’s upcoming derby against Hamburg (the possibility that the manager was simply jealous over the number of vowels that the player could call on to make up his name can probably be discounted).
The second loan signing to arrive was Serbian international Filip Duricic who arrived on another end of season deal from Benfica. The Portuguese outfit signed the attacking midfielder a couple of years ago from Heerenveen for €6m, his five-year contract supposedly containing a release clause worth €40m. However, Benfica’s valuation in financial terms doesn’t seem to have been matched by the coaching staff’s opinion of the player in footballing terms – he’s made just 11 appearances for them and at the start of this season he was loaned to German outfit Mainz, who had an option to buy the player for €12m at the end of the season.
Things don’t appear to have gone much better there and, with Mainz looking more and more unlikely to exercise that option, the loan was cut short and the player was re-diverted to Southampton. It doesn’t appear that Southampton have gone for the option to sign but should he make an impression Benfica are likely to be after much much less than that €40m as they try to cut their losses.
On the way out went Jack Cork who left for Swansea for a reported £3m. Old gits like me remember his dad who, in the latter days of his playing career with Sheffield United (spit), was ahead of his time. Not in a Martin Peters playing way of course. Lord no – he was part of the infamous Wimbledon Crazy Gang for heaven’s sake, what were you thinking? No, Cork senior was one of the first players all those years ago to have one of those stupid beards that seem in vogue amongst the young players these days.
They have a couple of injury problems for the match. Having replaced the suspended Bertrand for the QPR match, young defender Matt Targett (who ought to have the words “Secret Agent” after his name) was left unconscious after an accidental collision. Thankfully Southampton had their own medical team (rather than having the Welsh Rugby lot over) and, despite the initial serious look to the situation, the player was fine, even if his answer to the question “how many fingers am I holding up” was “Is it Lulu?” He’ll miss out until he knows what day of the week it is again.
Another doubt is Morgan Schneiderlin. Schneiderlin spent much of the summer trying to join the exodus from the South Coast that occurred following Pochettino’s decision to give up on football and go to Tottenham. At one stage (no doubt prompted by the usual illegal overtures from Liverpool) Schneiderlin was threatening all sorts of boycotts. However, Southampton stood their ground and refused to sell. There still may not be much time left on the south coast for the French midfielder who is stalling over a new contract – recent reports suggest that the scousers and Arsenal are sniffing around. Schneiderlin’s groin has been giving him gyp and he faces a late fitness test.
This talk of injury brings us nicely on to us. Sunday’s patched-up side performed admirably and were desperately unlucky not to emerge with all three points. Kouyate did splendidly in an unfamiliar central defensive role and the goal wasn’t bad either. Tomkins also had a fine game despite Van Persie and Fellaini’s attempts to separate his head from his body. Quite why Van Persie’s attempted assault wasn’t deemed worthy of at least a yellow will remain a mystery forever.
Lenient refereeing meant that it wasn’t until injury time that a visiting player saw red. Apart from Van Persie, Rojo could have walked had Clattenburg elected to punish both of the yellow card offences he committed during a break out from defence. Rooney’s yellow was about an hour overdue when it came and his continued dissent – when Shaw walked – should have been punished accordingly.
The broken nose sustained by Tomkins on Sunday shouldn’t keep him out and hopefully the new five-year deal he’s just signed will stop Alan Pardew from commenting in the papers on how much he admires the player. For a bit.
Andy Carroll faces a late fitness test but I’d repeat the comments that I made in advance of Sunday’s match in that I’d prefer to see starts for Valencia and Sakho together with Carroll available from the bench if he’s fit to play. Although neither Valencia nor Sakho had their best games in claret and blue it was their mobility that caused the visitors so many problems throughout the match, with Valencia in particular forcing De Gea into some fine saves.
Of the other injuries, all three of Demel, Collins and Reid are looking at Sunday week before a return, so look out for Reece Oxford on the bench as long as it’s not past his bed-time.
Prediction? Well much depends on how much the efforts of Sunday evening have taken out of the team. The manager is big on the scientific stuff about recovery periods and the like – something with which I can identify as my arthritic wrists mangle their way through their four thousandth word in less than a few days.
My recovery regime includes sessions at the Swan & Superinjunction. Hopefully that of the players involves slightly less in the way of fine real ales.
I’m guessing that the extra day that the home side will have had to put their feet up might just preclude us from taking much out of this one. I’ll therefore be taking the £2.50 we had saved towards the cost of Redknapp’s knee op out of the bank account in Fido’s name and place it on a draw, in the hope that adrenaline plus guts will equal a 1-1 scoreline.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met at St Mary’s: Drew 0-0 September 2013 Jaaskalainen was MOTM in a match that saw us on the back foot for much of the game, though we were not without a number of clear-cut chances to pinch the points.
Danger Man: Sadio Mane – has netted in his last four league starts.
Referee: Craig Pawson Last seen back at the start of the season coering our 3-1 win over the scousers. Seems to have a Pavlovian desire to brandish the yellow card if a player rolls about a lot after a nothing challenge.
Daft Fact Of The Week: Southampton’s page on the “Knowhere” website in which contributors are invited to tell people all about the best and worst things about their manor contains an entry which refers to the sandwich chain “Subway”. In the “best of” section. Really.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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