Saints Can Now Get Back To Winning Ways And Make This A Good Season
Monday, 22nd Feb 2021 11:11
Saints have just come though one of the worst losing spells of their history, but there have been mitigating circumstances and that is the key parts of why we can now start to move forward again.
Losing six straight League games was not something we like to see, many will say it is the worst losing spell of our history and it terms of straight defeats it certainly is, but back in the 1990's we went through far worse spells.
Back in 1988/89 we went 15 league games without a win, losing 9 and drawing 6, although the worst losing run was only 5 games.
Another bad season was the start of 1993/94 when we lost 9 out of our first 11 game, we won the 4th and drew the 10th so never had more than 4 straight defeats in a row, but that is what I call a losing streak.
Dave Jones final season in charge in 1998/99 started off with 5 straight Premier league defeats and we achieved only a single point in the first 8 games, out of the first 17 games we managed only 2 wins and 10 points, Dave Jones will whinge about the way he was stood down as Saints manager that season due to his impending court case, but the record books will tell you exactly why he needed replacing.
So for us old campaigners, this 6 match losing streak is an unwanted record, but in the grand scheme of things means nothing.
But a look back at those seasons shows a marked difference between the situation then and now.
Back then we were getting beat with our full side, yes of course we might have had the odd injury every now and then, but essentially it was our full side out week in week out, that of course was very worrying and hard to see a way out of it in any of those seasons.
But this season is different, not only because of the current situation, but because the injury streak was not our full squad getting beaten week in week out, but a squad ravaged by injury and to a lesser extent suspension.
There are mitigating circumstances as to why we have been beaten including VAR decisions that were plainly wrong and of course just plain bad luck.
But we will get people back from injury, we will get the luck of the call from VAR at some stage and we will get just some plain old good luck at some point.
In that run though the spirit was always there, perhaps you could say that it wasn't so present at the Manchester United game, but even in that game just as we had dug in and were making a game of it, there then came a hammer blow to knock the stuffing out of us, not once but twice.
The good news was that the Chelsea game showed that the fight and spirit is still there, we are not a bad team, we are just one with a lot of issues beyond our control of late.
Some fans have accused Ralph Hasenhuttl of not having a plan B, that is wrong, he has plenty of plan B's but with so many injuries he hasn't had the personnel to implement them, when you are throwing on an untried teenager because that is all you have, then you have to keep your shape and formation that the side know, you can't revert to plan B's.
We are not out of the woods yet, on Saturday we had 6 experienced players out through injury, that is not going to get much better in the next few weeks, but hopefully by the time we travel to Bournemouth in the FA Cup we will have at least 3 of those injured back in the squad and fit again.
There is still a lot to play for this season, I read so much negativity on some social media platforms of late I wonder why these people bother following Saints, at the start of every season I don't go into it thinking we will win the title, I'm not naive enough to think if we spend £100 million it wll automatically get us into the top 6, I look around and see that even after the Big Six there are at least 5 clubs with bigger support and resources than Saints.
Football is not just as simple as throwing money at a problem, if it was then the League would follow a simple patter each and every season, so that means for Saints we have to try and compete on a level we can, not one that we can't.
Our success over the past 7 years and it has been success, aside from the aforementioned Big Six, few other clubs have been as consistent as us in that time, has been built on the Southampton Way, that means finding those with talent who are under the radar and have a hunger to succeed, improving them, using them to get us up the table and then repeating the process.
Saints current side is built on the likes of Stuart Armstrong, Jan Bednarek even Kyle Walker Peters and Che Adams, yes it is topped off by Danny Ings, but when we stick to what we do best we do well, when we try to buy our way to the top we go wrong.
So at this moment in time this season is going in the right direction, of course that losing run has set us back, but we are still only 6 points off the top 8 and we have a good chance of reaching the FA Cup semi finals.
Of course it is disappointing that we are not still in the top 10, but a win at Leeds would put us on the cusp and that is encouraging and an indication that at this stage of the season league positions mean nothing, it is how far you are away from what you are trying to achieve.
For me I think that par position in any season is probably 12th, there are the Big Six clubs and then sx others including Leicester, Everton etc who all have greater resources than us, so if we are going to base our potential on how much money is spent, then our par position is 12th
If Gao was investing in the club as some demand, or indeed a new owner came in, it would not alter our par position very much at least in the shot term, unless it was someone like Manchester City's owners.
So at the moment 12th is where we should be at the end of the season, but 7th is achievable and that is what we aim for, on top of that we want a good run in the Cup, a Cup win is the most achievable way of getting into Europe, so we should be looking to do it.
So set your targets at a achievable level when supporting Saints, I am not saying we will always be 12th in that pecking order, we can move higher, but throwing money at the squad by the owner is not what is going to get us up the table, the Southampton Way of doing things might just do that.
Hopefully we can get back to winning ways, but truthfully I would be happy if we won only 5 more games this season, two in the Premier league that see us to safety and then 3 in the FA Cup !
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #35 by wessex_exile
As many were predicting, time finally ran out for Steve Ball mid-week, after the U’s lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City. Although a considerable improvement in score-line compared to the 6-1 thrashing they handed out at St James Park earlier in the season, apart from the first 10-15 minutes and very brief glimpses throughout the remainder of the game, it was a poor performance, leaving Robbie Cowling with no choice. After a brief interlude, Robbie named Wayne Brown as our new Interim Head Coach (that’s caretaker as far as I’m concerned), and after an even briefer interlude, Robbie and Wayne in a joint statement put to rest any lingering concerns about Wayne’s attitude to race. If Wayne can show the same sort of leadership on the training ground and in the dressing room as he used to show for the U’s on the pitch, I am certain he’s going to do very well in the job.
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
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