Big Spending Southampton Need To Remember Pompey

Posted by on Apr 8, 2013 in Uncategorized | 18 Comments
Big Spending Southampton Need To Remember Pompey

Sitting in the East Stand at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday, it was impossible not to ponder how much the paths of Southampton and Reading Football Clubs have diverged over the intervening twelve months.

For even by the standards of a horrible recent run, the Royals were completely bereft of confidence after a mildly promising first half hour, resorting to scooping the ball forward in panic stricken mode and resembling statues in their static response to the fast flowing movement of Mauricio Pochettino’s Saints.

Take Luke Shaw – you’ve heard about him, right? Another much hyped youngster? In the team only because Danny Fox is so clearly sub-Premier League standard?

Not a bit of it – here’s a kid who I would put my house on representing England – and he may even manage it in time for the Brazilian jamboree next year. Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines may stand in his way, but the poise of this 17 year old recalls that of a young Kenny Sansom – muscular and lithe for a youngster, he has that low centre of gravity and assured touch of a future star.

Ditto Gastón Ramírez, even if the deployment of his first name only atop the number on his back suggests a fictional pal of Del Boy’s. Like an even more languid version of Francesco Totti, the Uruguayan seemed able to tune down the pace of the whole game a couple of bars when in possession – brushing off attempts to rob him with the shimmy of a shoulder here, an angling of his back muscles there, while all the time looking to pick pinpoint passes.

Take Jay Rodriguez, double the player I had seen on numerous occasions in a Burnley shirt. In an XI religiously devoted to keeping the football, the Lancastrian sounds more like a resident of Albuquerque than Heasandford and his ability to run with the ball at pace opened up the Royals’ fragile back line again and again in a swashbuckling style that recalled the brio of a spaghetti western gunslinger.

But Southampton are about more than these three – if you read about Rickie Lambert in the papers, you probably consider him to be a static big beast of a front man, a slightly more mobile Jon Parkin and this season’s fashionable item following Grant Holt’s 2011-12 in the sun.

But as we have noted before on these pages, Lambert has a licence to roam and kept on cropping up right the way across the forward line, interchanging swiftly and often with Rodriguez and rattling the bar at one point. The duo’s wanderings, along with the promptings of Adam Lallana, introduced from the bench here and ending up a goalscorer, provide Saints with a modern age fluidity that was almost comical in its embarrassment of poor, unreconstructed Sean Morrison and an out of sorts Adrian Mariappa.

Elsewhere, one of the chief products of the Glasgow Rangers fire sale, Steven Davis kept the ball brilliantly in centre mid – Reading may have expected a player similar in style, their own Summer purchase Danny Guthrie, to have provided what Davis has done for Southampton this campaign – but the ex-Liverpool and Newcastle man has so often tried to do too much via deluded Hollywood passes. Davis, on the other hand, keeps things uncomplicated.

Pochettino must take credit for Southampton do have their weaknesses. Centre back pairing Maya Yoshida and Jos Hooiveld is far from the division’s most watertight while a player I seriously admire, Jack Cork, was less comfortable on the day than he usually is even if he rarely put a foot wrong with his passes.

But the system is key and that’s why a player such as Morgan Schneiderlin, with the Saints since the dog days and yet always technically adept, can prosper – little else is expected of the likes of he and fellow midfield anchorman Cork apart from to move the ball on quickly, leaving the more silken Ramírez and Rodriguez to spin their magic. Ditto Nathaniel Clyne, if at times less than impressive defensively, always ready to hare forward to join attacks.

So it’s turning into a stellar season for Southampton Football Club and taking the evidence in front of us, Nicola Cortese does appear to have pulled off a strategic plan straight out of the IMD Business School cookbook.

Unlike Reading’s Anton Zingarevich, the Executive Chairman has realised the importance of investment, famously shelling out a combined total of more than £20 million to attract Clyne, Ramírez and Rodriguez, swiftly identified young talent where it is there, while encouraging both Nigel Adkins and Pochettino to stick to the passing brief (an absolute sina que non in Premier league these days – just look at Stoke currently, not to mention the Reading of Adam Federici’s hoof balls.)

He’s also acted ruthlessly in dispensing of Adkins and enabling a possible move to the next level while he’s ‘done a Starbucks’ in persuading fans to obtain things they don’t want – who would have expected Southampton fans to buy Nottingham Forest shirts in their droves even if they were silly enough to buy Peru ones a couple of years back?

So it could be a rosy future indeed – and with a bit more nous and boldness, one that Reading could have been contemplating had they chosen to spend properly rather than just a few million quid on the likes of Mariappa and Chris Gunter along with the odd bulging pay packet such as Pavel Pogrebnyak’s.

For Southampton perhaps embody the fundamental importance of the sugar daddy model even if the purchases they have made appear at the moment to have been superbly well judged and are supplemented by a healthy youth system which has turned up the likes of Shaw and James Ward-Prowse. Indeed, the estate of Markus Liebherr has been mentioned as the fifth richest ownership structure in English football.

Blogger Swiss Ramble underlined this in a piece he wrote fifteen months ago and all Saints fans will beware of the evils of over spending. Given the many righteous fingers pointed at their south coast neighbours Portsmouth when their rivals celebrated wildly an FA Cup that even the Pompey faithful must have known they had purchased on credit, to follow down that same yellow brick road with not a care in the world might make them look very hypocritical indeed. So, the amirable restraint the fans showed in choosing not to glory in a bad day for their former manager is a trend they will do well to adopt permanently.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

15 Comments

  1. Hassan Kachloul's reckless sense of adventure
    April 8, 2013

    Good summing up of the strengths of the Saints players, although I do find Ramirez a frustrating player as he often slows the play down when he should be the one speeding it up in the final 3rd. He may have to change his game, but I suspect he’ll move on in the summer.

    Regarding the comparison to Pompey, its an easy one to make, but apart from being Hampshire based, there is not much else to liken the clubs. Saints financial backing is clear-cut, its not deep in the murky shadows like Pompey’s was. Plus, Saints will benefit from the massive Sky tv deal payout next season which makes the loss-leading spending of the last 2 seasons easily payback.

    Saints have invested heavily in our infrastructure, a new training ground is nearing completion, plus we already have a stadium and crowds big enough for healthy revenue. None of that was the case at Pompey, which was always an accident that was definitely going to happen. I was just amazed that many PFC fans couldn’t see it coming.

    Reply
  2. Lanterne Rouge
    April 8, 2013

    First of all, I love your handle and the reminder of Hassan Kachloul – very interesting comments about Ramirez – as I also said, he did seem to slow the game down but purists will love that – perhaps you are right that this isn’t suited to the Premier League though.

    Saints’ spending has staggered everyone but I think there is logic to what you say – as a Reading fan, I feel an opportunity has been missed, especially with the reputedly richness of the owner, to match what Saints have done although there may be murkiness there of course. The Sky deal is a game changer even if there is a danger that teams will go even madder with the wage offers and transfer fees. Good point about the infrastructure too.

    Reply
  3. Mike Dale
    April 8, 2013

    Agree with the general tone, but I too thought Gaston had one of worst game for us on Saturday. He hasn’t had the impact many thought he would. He’s a bit timid, not massively quick and his shooting from outside the box is so often disappointing (like Lallana – but that’s where his weaknesses begin and end). Also, pretty sure it was Rodriguez who hit the post, not Lambert, and I thought Jack Cork was excellent. He nearly always is. Our midfield get through a frightening amount of work in this new system.

    As for our financial situation – it seems to be a different story to Pompey’s. I’d be shocked if we were spending as recklessly as they did on wages & transfer fees, and of course our stadium’s capacity is double Fratton’s, plus we have infrastructure to back it up. Even in the FA Cup-winning days, Portsmouth were renting a training ground.

    I still feel terribly uncomfortable about what Cortese did to Adkins, but I’m warming to Pochettino very quickly, the football is a treat and it seems the decision to appoint him is starting to be vindicated.

    Reply
    • Lanterne Rouge
      April 8, 2013

      cheers for your comments Mike and again, an interesting perspective on Gaston – He looks very classy but I can understand how fans might want him to do more work. He’s curiously un-Uruguayan in style because although that country has produced more than its share of talented players, most tend to have bite to add to the skills. My bad on the woodwork effort – I blame my Dad for mentioning it was Lambert!

      Reply
  4. Mark Dennis Spilt My Pint
    April 8, 2013

    Think it is also worth mentioning that the Liebherr family converted all the debt into equity so we starting the season in no debt & have simply used this years Sky money but spent it in advance.

    We have nothing in common with the blue few except geography.

    Reply
    • Lanterne Rouge
      April 8, 2013

      Another very enjoyable name – I am guessing you didn’t take issue with Mr. Dennis when your pint went flying!

      Reply
  5. Lucas
    April 8, 2013

    I completely agree with most of what was said, but however refuse to delve into the financial side due to lack of knowledge!
    But spot on with player analysis. Davis has been the unsung hero for me. Especially away from home he has run the hard yards and been a great addition to Schneiderlin and Cork in the midfield.
    Interesting to read about Gastón but I think he’s one of those Ibrahimovich types in that he can look lost throughout a whole game but completely change it with a sublime pass (if Rodriguez had scored on saturday when he hit the bar it’s effectively game over). He’s definitely look a lot more comfortable at home which has been dealt with well by Poch.
    However I do feel that Yoshida has been extremely consistent and done well over the vast majority of games, but lacks a quicker partner and one maybe less clumsy (maybe Forren is the answer?)!
    Overall, good read and well judged opinions.

    Reply
  6. Nicky
    April 8, 2013

    Nice piece, Rob. The strength and youth in our team – and how we’ve progressed this season – makes me very hopeful for the future. Shaw, Cork, Rodriguez, Lallana, Ward-Prowse & Clyne all have the potential to become England players. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Ramirez yet, but our midfield has been outstanding, Schniederlin is my player of the season.
    I agree we are a little short in central defence but am with Lucas – Yoshida made a shaky start but has improved and is now a decent PL centre back. As is (I think) Jose Fonte. And we’ve not seen anything of Forren yet…
    Having said all that, you had us on the ropes for a little while there. Hope Nigel sorts things out and we see you back in PL.

    Reply
    • Lanterne Rouge
      April 8, 2013

      cheers Nicky – agree that it’s great to see Schneiderlin doing so well – I remember he was featured in the programme for a bitterly cold Saints v Reading match back in December 2008. At the time, and despite a David McGoldrick goal, Southampton were really in trouble at that point.

      Reply
  7. Leicestersaint
    April 8, 2013

    I was there and fully agree with your report. In addition to what you say, I would highlight Clyne as an outstanding England prospect.

    Reply
  8. Sanchez_76
    April 8, 2013

    Just to point out that the ‘Peru tribute’ was in reference to our kits 125 years ago as St. Marys Y.M.A. The kit this year however is a friggin aberration!

    Added to our backing from Markus Liebherr, we also sold Oxlade-Chamberlain for a decent amount so I don’t think our net spend was that outrageous. Mr Cortese doesn’t strike me as the sort of bloke who’s going to get caught with his pants down when it comes to finances!

    I think the intersting part will be when we hit a limit of what’s acheivable against the big corporations in the premier league, as perhaps is highlighted by the plight of Villa this season.

    Reply
  9. Coley-lana
    April 9, 2013

    Not much to add because the posters above and yourself have hit the nail on the head. Love your writing style but must pick you up on one thing ;)

    The kit 2 years ago wasn’t a marketing gimmick. It was our 125th anniversary and the kit was changed to the kit we wore back then. Didn’t like it myself but many did. That was why there was no sponsor as it was a replica of that 125 year old shirt, albeit with the sash reversed so as not to interfere with the umbro badge.

    Have to also agree I hate this years shirt and hope we go back to our proper stripes. Last year’s kit was classy as is last years (an this years) yellow away kit which I wear with pride everywhere……

    …….it’s just like watching Brazil, its just like watching Brazil, It’s just like watching Brazil ;)

    Reply
  10. Lanterne Rouge
    April 9, 2013

    Thank you for your kind comments folks. I’ll admit to being a bit cheeky on the kits thing and style wise, actually quite like both – especially the 125 year one. I was aware of the anniversary but we should beware when club marketing departments piggyback on such spurious reasons in order to sell us more product – see also Man United’s green and yellow Newton Heath affair and Arsenal’s redcurrant – the latter was particularly cynical as it necessitated the purchase of new scarves and other items in a completely different colour – no doubt a real money spinner. Simple as it is, the current kit’s non-Southampton characteristics are disappoonting although Cardiff are looking odds on to win this year’s TTU Award for worst kit for obvious reasons.

    Reply
  11. Coley-lana
    April 9, 2013

    But they ‘piggy backed’ whist forgoing the money they would’ve got for having a sponsor on it. Probs still a profit on sales I guess but still was a nice touch. Come on you Saints :)

    Reply
  12. Sanchez_76
    April 9, 2013

    I have to agree with your cynicism Lanterne. I suspect this seasons all red kit is the pre-cursor to a ‘triumphant return to stripes and black shorts’ coming our way soon. It’s almost like they planned it………

    Reply

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