New Contracts Just As Important As New Signings
Friday, 24th May 2019 10:00
Although new signings are a priority for Saints, new contracts for key players are just as important for key players and Saints have not only some offers to make but some decisions as well.
Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Nathan Redmond both joined the club within weeks of one another in the summer of 2016 and for similar fees and in many respects their careers have followed similar paths.
Nathan Redmond's first year on paper looked very good he played in all but one of the Premier League games, scored 7 goals in the League as well as a vital goal in the League cup semi final but still struggled to get recognised as a good performer in the team by a section of the fan base.
Hojbjerg started only 14 games plus another 8 as sub although with a Europa League campaign as well as a EFL cup run to Wembley he played a respectable 38 times in all competitions.
But in the second half of the season he was very much regarded as a sub rather than a starter by Claude Puel.
But if both players thought that their second season was the one where they really showed what they could do, they would sorely be mistaken, Hojbjerg was discarded by new manager Manuel Pellegrini and struggled to even get on the bench, at one stage he was told he could go back to Denmark or the birth of a child as he was so far away from the thinking of the then Saints manager.
Indeed he would not make an appearance of any sort till the season was almost 3 months old, but he would take his chance and by the end of the season had started 19 plus 4 as sub in the Premier League.
Redmond would play a little more with 22 league starts and 9 as sub he was fairly regular, but he was a shadow of the previous season and the crowd on his back had clearly drained his confidence, he would score only one goal but it was a vital one, at Everton in the final knockings of the season.
So this time last year it had been a topsy turvy ride for both players and one that had tested their mental toughness and it seems both went away and determined that what ever happened under now permanent Saints manager Mark Hughes they would go out and show the crowd what their potential actually was.
Even with a terrible first half of the season for the team under Hughes no criticism could be levelled at either player, both were if not at the top of their game just yet, getting their fast.
The arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl certainly improved them, but unlike many around them, they were playing well.
Redmond would deservedly win all of the player of the year awards and although he would not be top Premier League scorer, just being pipped by Danny Ings & James Ward Prowse, he would be overall top scorer due to goals in the League cup.
Hojbjerg would start 31 games, if he was fit and or as on a couple of occasions suspended he played and he was not far behind Redmond in all the player of the year awards,
The problem is for Saints a year ago with three years left on their contracts there was no hurry to sign them up for new ones, Hojbjerg had had a promising second half of the season, but Redmond looked a dead man walking based on his entire season.
With an already oversized squad, many tied in to long term deals on big money, there wasn't many Saints supporters who would have praised the club for adding their two names to that list.
But now it is different, with two years left Saints have to tie them in to new deals and fast, or face losing them for a cut price in 2020 with only a year left on their contracts.
Ironically with a central midfield packed with talent although Hojbjerg is a crucial figure there, if Saints were to sell him it would not be as big a blow as in other areas of the team and he would fetch a decent fee, but his reputation is not quite there yet, so I don't think this will happen, the fee's offered won't be big enough to tempt Saints.
But Redmond is different, he finished the season with a flourish that propelled him into the England squad for the summer tournament and there is that sneaking feeling that witj his new found confidence that he might just be the player everyone is talking about in a few weeks time.
He could well be in big demand come July, but Saints do not have the quality within the club to step in and replace him, so they can ill afford to let him go.
The rise of both Nathan Redmond and Pierre Hojbjerg is testimony that first impressions are not always totally correct and that players can turn things around and put bad seasons behind them and change the fans minds.
Saints history is littered with such players who initially have been the scapegoat for the crowd but have eventually become a hero, David Armstrong took time to settle back in 1981 and in a team of both superstars and homegrown talent blossoming, he initially had a section of the crowd on his back for failing to live up to his big money transfer fee, but no one remembers much about that now, he turned his season around and became one of the most solid players in what was one of Saints golden eras.
Both Hojbjerg and Redmond can be the backbone of a decent side that could with the right signings restore us to a top ten finish, we need to make sure that they are justly rewarded so that they stay around to make that happend.
But as much as we want those two to stay, there are other players at the club in a similar position with two years left on their deals and the club might want to sell now and cash in .
The two other first team regulars in this situation are Ryan Bertrand and Oriol Romeu, both are decent players and both are regulars, but as much as we would like to see them stay, both could be sacrificed for the right money as we have cover in those areas.
Bertrand has been at the club for 5 years now and for most of the time has been a consistent and good performer, but he will turn 30 in August and could still fetch a decent transfer fee, but this is perhaps the last chance to do that, in a years time and with only 12 months left on his contract what could be a fee of £14-16 million now could be less than half of that.
Matt Targett had proved an able stand in and it could be the right time to give him his chance to show his worth and in doing so bring in some vital money.
Oriol Romeu played 31 games last year and has a good solid performer in his time here, he is still not quite at his peak not turning 28 till September, but in the centre of midfield we are overmanned, we used six players in the centre including youngster Callum Slattery and if he is to progress then room has to be made.
Romeu could well be one to make way, but I don't think it will be him, I think that the club might cash in on Mario Lemina who spent most of the second half of the season injured and in his two years here only played a little over half of the Premier League games he could have.
In that time although at times he has shown tremendous skill and looked like he could become one of the best midfielders we have had in recent times, he has been too injury prone and not found real consistency, the club need money for incoming, he could raise a fair chunk of that and on last season at least would not be missed as much as others in that department. On that note I think that Stuart Armstrong could also depart.
One that is likely to leave is Sam Gallagher, clearly the manager doesn't rate him in that in the Premier League he has used him only 4 times off the bench, two of those have been 1 minute cameos to run the clock down and the only real game time he got was 7 minutes at home to Cardiff as we tried to rescue the game and 23 minutes at Brighton when he replaced Danny Ings.
Add a couple of cup appearances and he hat totalled 6 appearances, all off the bench and 69 minutes in total.
The only one of these he truly made an impression was Brighton away in the cup when his running unsettled the home defence, however both sides had weakened line ups and he did not have the same impact when he appeared at the A,ex in the League.
There has been talk on message boards that last season 8 Championship clubs have been after him and a bid of £8 million mentioned, if that is the case then it would be a good move for both club and player.
I would be surprised if we did get that much for him, but a fee of around half of that with add ons and a sell on clause would be good, from Gallagher's perspective he is not ready to blossom in the Premier League possibly due to a lack of experience, he perhaps needs to follow the example of another Sam, Sam Vokes who dropped into the Championship with Burnley after a similar career path and blossomed.
Saints have a lot of wheeler dealing to do in the summer, but it is not just to do with incoming transfers or indeed outgoing, but also securing the backbone of our team for many years to come.
Photo: Action Images
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