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Time To Identify The Real Cause Of Saints Problems !
at 15:36:02

What an amazing co-incidence: the headline of this article and the emerging Saints news regarding Ross Wilson!

It may well be the case that our senior leaders may have played an important part in our troubles. And perhaps this has seen a weak link in our set-up. It is no co-incidence that Mr Wilson was instrumental in advising Les Reed in a number of our now fabled ‘disaster’ signings and sales.

You ask Nick what might be the cause. The answer is that it is never just one thing, but you have to look at the myriad of issues you rightly raise (Head Coach issues, poor coaching team, poor recruitment of players and managers etc) and note that much of these fall at the door of the past (or soon to be past) Directors.
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Saints V Chelsea The Verdict
at 14:22:09

I see there has been a lot already said on this thread: all valid and all very astute.

I fear RH is lost at the moment, panicking a little bit. RH spoke about lack of confidence in the after match presser, but I think that should also be attributed to him too. To be fair to him, he’s not the first Saints manager to do so in the last 3-4 years.

I am at loss as to why Danso is not being played in the CB role he was clearly brought in to fill, and can only put it down to RH wanting to protect him (and not see his confidence knocked like all the other young CB’s we have brought in – Hoedt and Stephens immediately spring to mind).

Yet defensively we are lacking in leadership and confidence. I do believe we have raw talent there, but it can only be nurtured and brought out by having confident experienced leaders next to you. Yoshida is currently the only defender who can tick those boxes, but he’s not Fonte or VVD, Lovren or Alderwiereld. He’s not a solid rock that you can rely on.

I strongly suspect we tried to look for an experienced CB in the summer but couldn’t land one without having to pay silly money in wages or be stung by having a disinterested journeyman come into the frame. Yet ‘Plan B’ is Danso, and it feels like we’ve gone straight to ‘Plan C’, which looks alarmingly familiar to the plans MP2 and Hughes had.

Everybody knows you cannot become a solid team without a solid defence. You simply cannot adopt a ‘score one more than then’ tactic if your defence is constantly letting 2-3-4 goals per game. I really feel for the strikers and midfielders as it is often the case now that we are playing catch up from early periods in the game, which puts even more pressure on them to deliver.

Midfield is more solid but just lacks creativity – no spark. Romeu is doing well but his job is the ‘Wanyama’ disrupt play option. He can’t pick a killer pass or score a blinder from 25 yards. Hoijberg is similar, but with a bit more purpose. We need to stop playing with both and get some creativity in there.

And I agree with the comment about where are all the academy players, but first we need to sort out the back four. Danso and Yoshida must now be the first choice.
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Saints V Bournemouth The Verdict
at 13:51:20

Very wise Nick to let everybody calm down first!

I haven’t had much time recently to comment here, but this game has prompted me to make a few quick observations:

1. Ralph needs an experienced assistant manager, given he is very capable but still inexperienced in what is the most competitive league in the world. I suspect the lack of a calming presence next to him is resulting in some of the strange starting formations.

2. I respect Ralph’s tactic of ‘always keep them guessing’ but I agree with Nick that we haven’t got enough confidence/stability at the back at the moment to be doing it there. Keep it consistent and get them used to each other first.

3. I hope that this was the ‘shot in the arm’ Ralph needs to stop with some of this meddling. Whatever has gone on with Bertrand needs to be sorted. You cannot keep playing players out of position and not expect it to hit their confidence. Danso’s must be rocking at the moment.

4. Vestergaard. Doesn’t do it for me. I’ve given him lots of benefits of doubt, but he is far too ponderous and slow and he lacks leadership skills. I would start bedding in Bednarek and Danso (if a back 4 or with Yoshida in a back 3) to give stability.

5. Che Adams will come good, but I wholly agree he now needs some time and space to kickstart his Saints career by coming off the bench. I would deffo do that for the Pompey game.

6. I am not certain it is right to be playing two defensive midfielders in this current formation (and especially not at home) if you are trying to adopt pressing/attacking football. PEH and Oriel are good players but they are not creative midfielders, so this formation doesn’t current suit strengths. It is clear this is having an impact on creating golden chances for our forwards. I would play PEH and have Oriel as a solid substitute option.

7. But who to play in creative central midfield? We’ve not replaced Tadic. Perhaps JWP should be given a turn. Failing that Armstrong. Given them licence to roam/create and press.

8. Personally I think a 4-3-3 best suits us. Adams/Ings up front supported by Redmond and Djenepo. Have PEH and JWP/Armstrong in midfield – potentially with Danso sitting in front of back four. Bednarek/Yoshi (or Danso) in Centre with Bertrand/Valery and Cedric on the wings.

9. It’s still early days and we have done well – but we need a consistent game plan now.
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Hoedt Explains Why He Had To Go !
at 11:01:01

Let’s not over analyse or read too much into this. Hoedt didn’t have to play in order for Hass to take a view. Whilst I take the point his performances were no worse than others, they were no better either. It’s also just his take on the matter; we know Hass spoke to all the players 121.

Suspect that a combination of prior intell and observation in training/121 made Hass feel that he wasn’t a team player who was worth fighting for.

Let’s move on. Hoedt is part of history now, not the future.
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Saints V Cardiff City The Verdict
at 14:27:58

This result – more than any other recent results - appears to have brought out the extremes in our opinions. Either we are all good (a minor lapse) or we are sailing to oblivion in storm-ravaged ship.

I sense that the truth will be somewhere in-between, so a little bit of reality dosed with constructive criticism and optimism thrown in (we are – after all –fans of SFC) will probably give a clear picture.

Firstly, on the ‘sack the board for failure to invest in Jan etc.’ brigade: clearly a lot of emotion that is clouding judgment here. I saw some numpty on Twitter blaming Gao/the Board for failing to “buy Che Adams” in the transfer window. That would be fair comment if it wasn’t for the fact Birmingham made it absolutely clear they weren’t selling! This SFC Fan seemed to conveniently not let fact get in the way of a good rant.

Trouble is the January window is (for most clubs) only really for those who panic – or have enough spare cash to scratch a particular itch. SFC are neither this season. Compare that to last January when we forked an extortionate fee for Carillo, who didn’t exactly live up to expectations. That was panic personified: short term gain for longer term pain. We couldn’t afford to do that again.

We then must go back to the Summer: different manager, different DoF. We bought Vestergaard and Ings but did they really settle the problem? Trouble is, the answer is still ‘not sure’. Both come highly regarded but have not hit the ground running (one due to lack of experience, the other due to our familiar punt on a player with iffy limbs). Armstrong has shown signs of promise, but he needs more time. It’s not so much that the bet has backfired, but that it has failed to produce the instant results perhaps the club needed.

So, were Saints correct to offload so many players? To answer that, you have to ask yourself whether any of the players who left you would consider to be ‘game changers’. Hoedt? Nah. Cedric? Well he’s one you could rely on, but full backs are not really where our difficulties lie. Gabbi? Trend over the last few seasons indicated he wasn’t the answer to our goal scoring drought. Davis? Past it for the Prem. Etc. etc.

Point here is that we got rid of mostly fringe players. Our manager likes to have a pared down squad and he didn’t sell the family jewels in order to do so. Yet I get the point that it lays bare whether we have any family jewels at all...

And that’s where reality and optimism must align. Hass has assessed and seen potential across the squad. He’s got Redmond on an upward trajectory and that’s an incredible plus: Redmond has the raw talent to become a star player. Bednarek can also be placed into the ‘rough diamond’ category too – as well as Valery, Hojiberg, Obafemi and a number of others. JWP even! He has the ability to become a significant mainstay of the EPL – he just needed the right coach to bring that out of him.

But whilst this is positive, we are in a serious state of transition – and we’re running out of time. Being unbeaten in 2019 until Saturday is immense, but the fact we dropped points due to failure to convert chances/last minute defensive clangers has meant we have taken two steps forward and one step back at each time. Had luck (and some calm heads) prevailed, we could have been a far different position and likely to have seen more confidence and vigour returning to St Mary’s.

And so to Cardiff. It typifies everything I say above. Hats off to Cardiff; they recognised we play better when we have less possession, so they came to sit behind the ball and wait until our faults (lack of ability to convert chances) started to bring out the nervousness/lack of confidence that has built up over the past one-and-a-half seasons. Then the classic ‘rope-a-dope’ and suddenly SFC are panicking.

I feel for Stephens. He is another with potential, but I fear he’s been placed into a position where there is too much pressure for him to deal with right now. I don’t think CB is for him. You can see he’s trying too hard: trying to play the ball out calmly under pressure. But he should be sending it up into the stands before thinking that way. Clearly there is a psychological barrier now whenever the game goes into additional time at the end of 90. Teams know that. Cardiff knew that. Stephens probably knew it too much.

If I was Hass I would use Yoshida for now, whilst encouraging Stephens to bounce back. I just wouldn’t throw him under the bus again for a little while.

So where are we? We are massively better off than this time last year (even this time two months ago). Yet we are still a very fragile team that is being asked to find confidence and skill at a time where the pressure is intense. There are no new ‘players’ with supreme confidence and skill to bring in (and there never was to be fair – unless Che Adams was prepared to throw a sulk to get a transfer...) so it is about how we dig in and continue to grasp points and confidence.

I’m not prone to wetting the bed but I’m not into relentless optimism either. Just realism. And a passion to want to see Saints do the best they can in what is another difficult season.
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Hoedt On Verge Of A Move To Spain
at 13:55:53

Any transfer is a gamble; even those involving ready-proven, world class footballers. This is because it is not just down to form and ability, but also affected by psychological and social factors too. I suspect any loan move isn't simply down to Hoedt not living up to his potential yet.

A key factor for me (IMO) is our policy of looking for ball playing CB's that are marked as 'potential' in european leagues. Hoedt and Vestergaard are in a similar bracket here; looking for players who are deemed to be useful to play out and quickly transition defence to attack.

There is nothing wrong with that; it's part of Southampton's tactical foundation. Yet it has meant that an incoming defender has been brought in on the assumption they will acclimatise to the rough and tumble of the EPL. That hasn't happened for Hoedt and he has also had the issue of having to play in overtly negative squads (i.e. Puel and MoPo2).

Will be interesting to see how Saints approach the area of CB going forward now.
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Hasenhuttl Feels The Supporters Will Be Vital
at 10:36:02

Very impressive first press conference. Gives the air of a manager that is no-nonsense and has very clear ideas. Use of modern approaches to the game much welcomed.
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Saints Return To The Blueprint For Hughes Replacement
at 11:59:54

I agree: Feels a bit like we’re going back to the Southampton Way here. A bit more decisive, with some bold moves. We may not know Hasenhuttl but he is revered in Germany and Austria and is synonymous with bold attacking football.

Let’s not underestimate this: we are struggling at the foot of the premier league but have been able to quickly convince a highly regarded manager to join. Whilst SFC have clearly been able to satisfy his wage demands, the most important aspect is satisfying his ambition on the pitch. It sounds like he’s been convinced and that bodes well for investment going forward.

Let’s get back to the exciting old days - when we were a team other teams were fearful to play against. I kept my powder dry on Hughes (always wanting to see the club do well) but it was clear that was a desperate roll of the dice that should never have been followed up with a ridiculous 3 year deal. Hughes was never the future - the premier league has changed so much in his managerial career and it requires a new philosophy of management. I wish him the very best though. Whilst I am convinced we stayed up due to other teams poor performances (rather than Hughes’ acumen) I am still grateful for his contribution and ability to bring a bit of stability and man management to the club. Yet he should have never received a contract.
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Saints Looking To Hijack Napoli Target !
at 13:42:37

Not a bad potential signing at all, although probably not in the priority category (unless Cédric goes or there is a genuine concern that he needs “genuine” cOmpetition to avoid complacency).

I’m now believing CB is the main priority; I’m just not convinced with Hoedt and Stephens at moment (particularly the former).

I think a striker would be useful, but I’m getting fed up with the snipes at the club given this has not happened yet. In today’s market getting an established striker costs serious money and they are few and far between. I suspect SaInts have been looking but nothing concrete has emerged.
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Ins Ans Outs Rumoured In Saints Goalkeeping Squad
at 13:36:56

The press link between Liverpool and McCarthy was made before the Champions League final. However, it does smack of being a classic rouse by McCarthy's agent to try and ensure SFC negotiate well with any potential contract renewal. Alex has a year left on his contract and i wouldn't be surprised if this is his agent trying established techniques here to bring to the table.

That may be further suspected when Liverpool made it clear (post final) that they were looking at other, more established GK options. (You also cannot rule out that LFC are keen to ensure they are distancing themselves from yet another summer of tapping up SFC players). And then - lo and behold - the press are making out as if Spurs are now interested in him.

I'm no further in the know than anybody else on this, but you can't rule out that this is all agent talk - or simply the lazy gutter press taking SFC's 'player of the season' and running with that familiar summer headline.
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Ralph Krueger Speaks
at 13:57:07

I know not all will agree with me, but managing/running a football club at this elite level is not simple. It's far from it. I agree with RK that the reasons for Saints demise this season cannot be simply attributed to one or two things. I also agree that just small issues can make a huge difference at elite level.

Interesting that RK has placed a lot more emphasis on the VVD situation, but also that this idea of keeping your core players 'come what may' went against the Southampton Way. I suspect that is the biggest tell that SFC won't be doing that again. We will never know the full extent, but SFC's stance and VVD's attitude had a significant impact on the club.

The description of Mane signals (to me) that SFC want to get back to attracting top potential talent on the basis that it is a pathway to bigger things. We don't know, but i would place money on the fact that a number of potential footballers SFC have been looking at may have got cold feet after seeing the VVD saga. (And I hope that doesn't include Promes). That's a mortal blow for a club like SFC, who cannot offer the same attractive wage deals as a number of clubs in or around the mid table - let alone the traditional top 6.

Nick is bang on with the interlinked issue on VVD: SFC decided to move away from the usual approach and force VVD to stay. It meant they diverted attention away from identifying a replacement (alongside Hoedt, who you could say replaced Fonte) to fill the gap - obviously because they thought VVD would shut up and put up. He didn't - and performances were affected.

I think this element of the interview also requires us fans to become a bit more bought into the ideal. I too have been screaming for SFC to show some balls and dig in to ensure we don't get the 'selling club' tag. Yet when it did happen, it had a negative impact and we were eventually left with the same result - just a few months later than planned, and for more money (bonus) but with a negative impact on the squad that MP simply did not have the experience or personality to resolve.

As such, I should look to accept that we are a growing club, who is placing emphasis on getting decent performances from top 'up and coming' players for 2-3 seasons before they move on. When this works, we become better as a collective - and we could soon reach a level where we can attract and keep these players for longer; but we only do that if we are consistently challenging for European spots and equaling ambition by securing bigger name transfers alongside a growing pay structure. That doesn't happen overnight though - and this season has made a big dent on our improvement there.

In terms of this season, RK gets it spot on for me with regard to the failure to convert chances into goals. The stats are clear to see. If MP had not had better luck, more support, a happier squad, it could have been a very different scenario - because some of those draws should and could have been converted into wins if the wind was blowing the right way - and then we would have all been commenting on a very different season than the one just been.

Finally, i come from an organisational culture where the emphasis is always on learning, not blame. Clearly SFC (under RK's reign) is also embedding that culture. I accept that, more broadly, Football does (and will) continue to operate on blame. I appreciate Les Reed is not everybody's cup of tea but i still believe he has had considerably bad press as fans look for that pariah to lynch. He is still a very good member of staff who has guided the club into continuous improved seasons in the most competitive league in the world. He may well have made mistakes over the past two seasons - but i believe that all of SFC have learnt from that - and that will make the club stronger. Experience is key. Success always accelerates when you learn from failure. Practice really does make perfect.
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Alex McCarthy Wins Daily Echo Player Of The Year
at 14:10:48

Made up for McCarthy - he's done so well. Yet Hojbjerg is a big stand out for me. He's clearly talented, passionate, and a team player. He looks like another Schniderlin and will only improve and give a lot for SFC - if SFC supports him back. Would like to think he will use this seasons 'experience' to great individual benefit - but also impose a good sense of discipline in the changing room - no more prima donna's!
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Saints To Begin Revamp Once Survival Confirmed
at 14:05:40

Lots of speculation! It’s tempting to say ‘lets get over the line first’ but its also great to be in a position to be speculating on next season in the PL.
My penny’s worth:
I wouldn’t want to see a huge influx of players - particularly if they are unproven European imports etc. Last two seasons have shown that this can affect the squad immensely. There is also the cautionary tale of Stoke – who cocked up by bringing in an assortment of ‘should be good’ players for lots of money, only to see them go absent. If Sparky stays, surely he will guard against that particular Groundhog Day.
I don’t think Gabi will leave; hasn’t his agent just indicated he is happy to stay in England (admittedly not specifically with Saints)? I think Gabi just lost faith in Pelligrino and wanted to go home, but now may have bonded with Sparky and considers another season here would be good. There’s no denying his quality, but Saints haven’t played to his strengths.
I see Boufal going – big time. He’s clearly not helped with team dynamic and is not a team player. I suspect he is one of the ‘wrong uns’ Romeu has spoken of. Same with Forster; he got dropped due to not giving a toss and believing that he was England’s no.1 (or 2) by default. McCarthy has done a sterling job – and is a real bonus for Saints getting back on top with regard to transfers.
I would like to see Carillo stay. Sparky has had good words to say about him (he has good temperament and ability) but he just came in at the wrong time. A good close season training and acclimatising more to the English game and I think he would make a great addition.
Promes is perhaps the only one that I would say definitely to – he’s a class player. But I want Saints to get back to the thorough analysis they put into checking out their temperament etc. We need team players right now; not some potentially flashy player who is high maintenance. If Quincy is a grafter and team player then sign him up for a record fee. If he’s not – move on.
A CB is definitely needed, and I agree that Targett should get a solid crack at things. Bertrand is likely to go (not that he’s done anything special this year). I can’t see Harry Reed coming back in to the fold – he’s made it clear its first team or sell. Gallagher I do see coming back, but then we have an awful lot of rangy strikers.
So, to conclude, I hope we don’t ‘do a stoke’ and buy shed loads of ‘promising’ players. Get Promes and an established CB - and get them in early so they have the summer (if not world cup bound) to get into the Southampton Way.
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Boufal Frozen Out By Mark Hughes
at 09:25:59

I recall reading, about 3 years ago, an interview article with Les Reed, who was explaining what the Black Box does.

Les mentioned that Saints look beyond technical abilities etc. And also look at the player’s temperament and personality, so to ensure that Saints built a squad that focused on teamwork and common spirit.

Clearly that’s fallen by the wayside in recent years. Boufal’s reactions on (and now confirmed off) the field show he does not buy into the culture. In addition, Saints choice of managers recently have focused on potential tactical ability at the expense of whether they can actually manage/handle a team of professional football players.

We need to get back to basics next year - get back to recruiting a tightly knitted squad of players that play to their strengths and that of the collective team. It’s what got us to the Premier League and beyond. Cannot over emphasise the importance of bringing back that analysis of whether getting a technically gifted player who’s a prima Donna actually really is worth the risk.

As for Boufal, him and a few others should take a good look at themselves. And then bugger off back to Europe.
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Marco Silva Early Favourite To Replace Pellegrino
at 10:36:42

This is a good article - sums it up for me

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2018/mar/13/southampton-mauricio-pelle
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Mauricio Pellegrino Is Gone !
at 23:14:34

Didn’t get a chance to comment on the Newcastle largely due to work and the length of the comments I could make on it!

What I wanted to say was that it was clear the players were no longer behind MP. Lots of signals that they were going through the motions. MP was either a very stubborn man or was locked in a fearful situation whereby he feared to change anything. The continued approach of an isolated front man in a 4-2-3-1 was just shambolic. The continued oversight of Gabbi also shocking. The lack of proaction, the continued insistence of defence, the random swaps and subs finally took Saints to breaking point.

Who’s next though? Silva would be a good call but is the prospect too daunting? Well Saints actually got away with it as Stoke and Crystal Palace lost, and there is a little respite in the distraction that is the FA Cup. If they stuck a deal now the new manager could end up with a FA cup win building momentum into next Saturday. But we’re placing a lot of hope on fresh blood, but we have a decent squad - it just needs rebooting and given confidence to play.

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Saints At Burnley The Verdict
at 12:42:50

Small margins: a defeat could have spelt the end for MP.

I’m a believer in MP but even I’m stating to lose patience. He needs to be starting Gabbi - ideally in a 4-4-2. But even if we stick to this 4-2-3-1 formation we should have Gabbi playing.

Sims did very well when he came on and I think Redmond did what was asked of him (clearly the stint out has helped him refocus). Yet we are not causing trouble at the right end of the pitch often enough.

Play 4-4-2 against Stoke and push them hard and high up the pitch. We can secure 3 points and can even be reasonably clear of the drop zone come full time
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Jose Fonte Set To Leave West Ham !
at 19:01:27

Sorry BoondockSaint, perhaps you can explain why it is “petty” to comment on Fonte’s post-Saints career? I think you’ll find I was quoting financial facts. You talk about “fake news” and the proceed to make your own suppositions (without any facts) on what has happened at the club/why Fonte left and how Les Reed has “supposedly” done to destroy this club.

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Jose Fonte Set To Leave West Ham !
at 08:08:55

I get to post this again!

Has anybody seen the news that West Ham are about to ship out Fonte? He’s not started once under Moyes and he’s been told he’s surplus. Apparently he’s off to China for a reputed £4.8m fee.

Just worth reminding ourselves of this, given the numerous posts I see about the Board not knowing what they’re doing etc. I recall posts about that it was scandalous to see Fonte leave: he’s our captain, leader, huge gap in defence will be left etc.

Just worth pointing out that Saints signed Fonte for £1.3m in 2010. Sold him for £8.3m last year. That’s £7m profit in 7 years (£1 million annual yield).

He’s played 24 for times for West Ham. If he’s sold for £4.8m, that’s a loss of £3.5m in the space of 13 months.

That’s a smart bit of business! Similar story I reckon to the likes of Lovern and Shaw too. I wonder if VVD will also go the same way?
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Season Defining Period Begins
at 15:31:43

I appreciate my post is a complete random one from this article, but...

Has anybody seen the news that West Ham are about to ship out Fonte? He’s not started once under Moyes and he’s been told he’s surplus. Apparently he’s off to China for a reputed £4.8m fee.

Just worth reminding ourselves of this, given the numerous posts I see about the Board not knowing what they’re doing etc. I recall posts about that it was scandalous to see Fonte leave: he’s our captain, leader, huge gap in defence will be left etc.

Just worth pointing out that Saints signed Fonte for £1.3m in 2010. Sold him for £8.3m last year. That’s £7m profit in 7 years (£1 million annual yield).

He’s played 24 for times for West Ham. If he’s sold for £4.8m, that’s a loss of £3.5m in the space of 13 months.

That’s a smart bit of business! Similar story I reckon to the likes of Lovern and Shaw too. I wonder if VVD will also go the same way?
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