Which of Southampton’s players will step up?

Posted by on Oct 25, 2011 in Uncategorized | 17 Comments
Which of Southampton’s players will step up?
Earlier this year, we analysed then Championship Queen’s Park Rangers in order to guess which of their stars might successfully negotiate the jump in standard once promotion was secured. Of course much of that thinking has been rendered moot by a squad overhaul that has left many of last year’s heroes either elsewhere or out of the team, although there is an argument that Alejandro Faurlin has confirmed our belief in his ability, that the jury is still deliberating on Adel Taarabt (well…a one man one at least) and that Sean Derry has defied the years and our lack of faith in him.That eye witness survey was carried out in February: so far enough into Rangers’ garlanded season to form definite opinions: QPR looked well on their way to the title and so it proved. This campaign has seen Southampton open up a gap of sorts and whilst acknowledging that October is far too early a point to conduct a properly credible exercise, my opportunity to see these Championship newcomers in the flesh in the 1-1 draw with Reading yesterday has at least allowed me to indulge in a degree of conjecture as to these Saints’ abilities.Missing from yesterday’s fray was Adam Lallana – the scampering metronome around which so many of the good things about Southampton revolve. His absence along with that of Radhi Jaïdi makes any assessment of the team structure an incomplete one. Indeed, I was surprised at the physical size of the XI and although there was always an attempt to pass the ball, Southampton don’t approach the likes of Swansea for craft.Before assessing each player one by one, I’ll state the truism that if individually there are few Southampton players who can be counted upon to make an impact at Premier League level, that’s not to say that the team won’t perform perfectly well – Nigel Adkins is proving himself to be an skilled motivator and I am writing this a couple of days after Grant Holt scored for Norwich at Anfield. So, in the spirit of mindless guesswork, here goes:Goalkeeper: Kelvin Davis

The club captain has been knocking about the lower leagues for aeons now and his career hasn’t perhaps quite fulfilled the promise he showed at his local club Luton back in the nineties – his spell at Sunderland was particularly difficult. I have always seen Davis as a line goalkeeper – a good shot stopper but at 6 feet 1, perhaps not as tall as your average keeper. Without doubt his experience is important and he made it into two League 1 player of the year squads in a row. Because other areas of the team would need greater attention, I’d fancy Davis to start in August.
Verdict: Ready

Right back: Frazer Richardson

Richardson is another who had to drop a level to restart a career that once showed much promise. A classic utility man, he developed into a right back first and foremost after the retirement of Gary Kelly at Leeds. A tough competitor, he nonetheless lacks pace and would likely struggle in the top flight.
Verdict: To be replaced

Left back: Danny Fox

Fox is a player I have seen a lot of down the years and we featured him very early on after the foundation of this website. The master of wicked free kicks is an elegant presence moving forward on the left and at one point, I saw him as a potential solution to England’s left side problem. After he excelled at Coventry, a move to Celtic was notable only for a brief Champions League journey and a switch to a Burnley side destined for relegation also provided little succour. Now reassessing his career, he remains a talent and if his weakness is defending, he would not be alone in the Premier League in that.
Verdict: Ready

Centre back: José Fonte

My fellow blogger Lloyd reminded me that Southampton fans were proclaiming Fonte as the best centre back outside the Premier League last year which, given that hardly any of them will have attended a match in the Championship, is an opinion that can be swiftly discounted. To give them their due, however, he has started this nine month cycle very well indeed and combines muscle with time on the ball, even if his afternoon lasted just the 45 minutes here Still, having seen him play the role of a solid but unspectacular centre half for Crystal Palace for ever and a day, I’d say that this is the level he’s most comfortable at. Replacement Aaron Martin did his chances of a regular first team berth no harm at all after coming on.
Verdict: To be replaced

Centre back: Jos Hooiveld

On loan from Celtic – so Saints don’t own his signature -Hooiveld is lantern jawed and broad shouldered – a “unit” in essence. He was solid here, winning countless headers, but his career has been picaresque – he has never chalked up more than 52 games for a single club. Hooiveld is proof of Adkins’s ability to create a team – on paper, his record is nothing special, but he fits well into the general plan.
Verdict: To be replaced

Central midfield: Dean Hammond

I have always liked Hammond as a player – something of a man mountain, he is a generally wise head who sits in front of the back four and forms a crucial link between all sectors of the team. Tall and domineering, he was for any years a vital cog for Saints’ fellow south coasters Brighton and he has carried on the good form in red and white. Dismissed for two bookable offences on this occasion, he did struggle to cope with the dominance of Mikele Leigertwood in midfield but will remain crucial in the run in, if not come next August.
Verdict: To be replaced

Central midfield: Jack Cork

Burnley fans’ anguish at losing this jewel of a player after his loan spell from Chelsea last season was telling for here is living evidence of Adkins’ cuteness in the transfer market. Cork often sits deep but the absence of Lallana on this day allowed him to roam forward and he is never less than completely assured on the ball – bringing to mind a less trigger happy Frank Lampard in many respects, and not just because of his hailing from footballing stock.
Verdict: Ready

Right midfield: Guly Do Prado

On that most misleading of media, television, I have been struck by Do Prado – a mammoth of a man in a team of them, he chips in with goals aplenty and is without question important to the cause. Hence, while I was relishing this first opportunity to witness him in the flesh, his slightly lumbering performance was a disappointment. One game does not allow me to form an opinion, however and I’d be surprised if the manager did not see him as a part of his plans should promotion be achieved.
Verdict: Ready

Left midfield: Richard Chaplow

In a team of players that promised much at youth level and are eager to get their careers back on track after dropping to the third tier, Chaplow is another example. Always dangerous on the ball, he lurks with confidence even if his goals return had dipped since his days at Preston and Burnley. I don’t have the stats but it would be telling to find out how many games Chaplow has played in his career as a substitute.
Verdict: To be replaced

Striker: Ricky Lambert

It would be a brave man to say that Ricky Lambert wouldn’t make it in the Premier League after his fine start to the season – most neutral and opposing observers did not see his burly style as suited to the Championship. Clearly enjoying proving the doubters wrong, he dropped surprisingly deep for the ball here – losing out to Kaspars Gorkšs, one of the QPR men we surveyed last year, on most occasions they came into contact. Still, with the aforementioned Holt and Swansea’s Danny Graham doing themselves proud in the EPL, I for one am not going to write big Ricky off.
Verdict: Ready

Striker: David Connolly

In the dusk of his career now, Connolly is a pest to opposing defences but his prolonged absence from Giovanni Trapattoni’s thinking is evidence that his career hasn’t developed as he would have hoped, in common with so many here – although as with those guys, he’ll be enjoying cocking a snook at those who have forgotten him. A notorious wrangler over contracts, if he plays regularly until the end of the season, he’ll have turned out for Southampton more than for any other club. At 34, he’s unlikely to be afforded a true chance to prolong that.
Verdict: To be replaced

Whilst not wishing to dwell on those who played only bit part roles in yesterday’s piece, Steve de Ridder’s impact from the bench was such that I do need to afford him a few words. “Revelation” is a oft abused word, but the Belgian showed deftness in possession, speed and trickery while thundering in an equaliser off the underside of the crossbar – the low key signing from De Graafschap looks like a great player to have on the books.

Which leaves us with Adkins – his moulding of players who had stalled in their careers has been admirable, although Alan Pardew perhaps deserves credit for laying the groundwork before his rather harsh sacking early into last season. A chirpy presence, the manager has drawn on his experience of lower league football and the wonders he performed as Scunthorpe to build a team that perhaps resembles last year’s promotees Norwich in style and ambition – there is cause for much optimism at St. Mary’s.

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.

11 Comments

  1. London Saint
    October 25, 2011

    Honestly, Saints were rubbish on Saturday, or at least compared to what we were doing a month ago. You're wrong about Fonte but pretty spot on with the rest. btw Lallana is probably in the Top 3 best Championship players. Thought Reading were pretty tidy.

    Reply
  2. Lanterne Rouge
    October 25, 2011

    Cheers for your comments. I know Adkins said Saints were below par – but it was quite a tough away game against a side unbeaten in six. Obviously my view is based on a snapshot so I would certainly bow to the judgement of fans who see the team week in, week out. Disappointed to miss seeing Lallana.

    Reply
  3. Harrow Saint
    October 25, 2011

    I agree with London Saint – Saturday was a bad day at the office. Fonte is good enough IMO but is out of form right now. And Chaplow deputised brilliantly for Lala until Reading when the whole team underperformed

    Reply
  4. Chris P
    October 25, 2011

    A good article and I agree with most of the assessments, but like the other commentors feel that Fonte's poor form pretty much all this season has been counted against him. I'd also point out that many Saints fans feel that Guly despite all his positive attributes gives the ball away far too easily at this level, which could be a liability in the Premier League.

    Reply
  5. Lanterne Rouge
    October 25, 2011

    Interested to get your thoughts on De Prado Chris as one kind of expects a Brazilian to be a little better on the ball I(mind you, I remember George Santos who played at this level for Sheffield United) and he was a little bit of a lumberer.

    I wouldn't say the whole team underperformed at Reading – Davis had a good game in goal and the centre backs did pretty well in clearing crosses. Chaplow also looked dangerous.

    Reply
  6. Lanterne Rouge
    October 25, 2011

    As one reader has kindly pointed out on Twitter, Danny Fox has actually played one game for Scotland. He's English born though and at one point, I thought he might have a chance of representing the Three Lions at a later date.

    Reply
  7. Sam
    October 25, 2011

    Good to see Guly in there. Gets a Raw deal from some Saints fans, but has contributed massively. Don't agree with the comments above that he gives the ball away too much, that's a bit of a myth. I agree with most of the list, but think a few more could cause a surprise. Fonte wouldn't look out of place in the Prem and Chaplow could hold his own I reckon

    Reply
  8. Lanterne Rouge
    October 25, 2011

    Apologies for omitting Schneiderlin who came on a bit late for me to form an assessment based on this appearance – I do remember him being featured in the programme the last time the two sides met at St. Mary's in December 2008 (a freezing day) – impressive that he has been with the club through a long period now.

    Reply
  9. Sam
    October 25, 2011

    Would also like to add we have some very good youngsters coming through, including James Ward-Prowse who is playing tonight, Luke Shaw who is attracting interest from Arsenal and Spurs and Scott Sinclair's brother Jake. Expected to be Premier League standard players in a few years

    Reply
  10. Lanterne Rouge
    October 25, 2011

    Yes – the improvement of players who had been forced into something of a plateau in their careers has been telling – many would have written off Fonte, Richardson, Chaplow and others a while ago given they were in Division 1 – now they look more than good enough for the Championship – maybe even higher.

    Reply
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