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The ShirleyMush View - Saints Go Native
The ShirleyMush View - Saints Go Native
Thursday, 24th Feb 2011 16:49 by ShirleyMush

ShirleyMush returns with his thoughts on the Hartlepool game 

There has been much talk recently of Saints’ “glory” years under Lawrie McMenemy. I travelled to the Hartlepool game with a mate who had grown up watching the Saints teams of the early 1980s. I have often felt that this generation of supporters were rather spoilt by the quality of the football they witnessed during this period, as I can only imagine how exhilarating it must have been to see Kevin Keegan et al playing champagne football at The Dell. As a result of having missed all that, I am perhaps a little more tolerant of the mediocrity served up most weeks by the current Saints team. Sometimes I’m even grateful for having missed the McMenemy era. After all, if I’d seen the likes of Alan Ball and Steve Williams in Saints shirts, I might find it hard to stomach Dean Hammond too.


Hammond pretty much personified the grim fare served up in the north east on Tuesday night. Gritty, full of heart, but depressingly and frustratingly short of quality. Make no mistake, this was a game that did League 1 no favours from a marketing perspective. There was little in the way of atmosphere to compensate for the shortage of class, and the few “diamonds in the rough” that were on display failed to sparkle. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked jaded, Adam Lallana off the pace, and there were some desperate passages of play.


Just as it is hard to gauge whether this represented a point gained or two dropped, it is also difficult to judge whether Saints’ honest if rather toothless performance is indicative of progress or inertia. We have lost these games in the recent past. Defeats at Carlisle and Tranmere were huge blows to our promotion chances. Since the latter result, we are unbeaten in the league, but another trend has developed- in each fixture, Saints have tended to play at somewhere near the level of the opposition. A slick if ultimately fruitless exhibition of passing football against Manchester United was followed by a self-destructive capitulation at kamikaze Peterborough and a clueless display at home to an inept Carlisle team who at the time couldn’t win a raffle. At Victoria Park, Saints again took on the characteristics of their opponents- full of endeavour, but lacking in flair.


The team seem to be experiencing a personality crisis. Nigel Adkins displeasure about the players’ inability to play a quick passing game has been made increasingly public, but the suspicion remains that Adkins may not be the football purist he’d have us believe. His constant tinkering with the starting XI, as well as seeming to be counter-productive, also suggests that the game plan may alter from match to match too- something which would go some way to explaining the almost schizophrenic inconsistency of the team’s performances. It is, of course, difficult for Adkins. He inherited a relatively talented squad but also a high level of expectation, and is under pressure he probably hasn’t experienced before. Furthermore, like most managers arriving at a new club, he has felt the need to experiment in order to establish his strongest team. With a comparatively large squad, the agony of choice has come into the equation, and Adkins has been further hampered by injuries to key players. The experimentation has led to Saints exhibiting the symptoms of a patient with bipolar disorder- periods of intense creativity interspersed with spells of depression and despair.


Of course, we as supporters are largely powerless in all of this. We are the doting girlfriend of the manic depressive musician,  helplessly watching as they spiral out of control, vicariously experiencing both the dizzy thrill of their highs and the anger and embarrassment of their lows. Sometimes they do things that are so reckless and stupid that we feel like giving up on them, but mostly we cling on in the hope that one day they’ll make another great artistic statement. Some recording artists don’t make a decent record for decades. Saints were at their creative peak between 1976 and 1985, before enjoying a brief return to form in 2003. Until they rediscover their muse, we’ll just have to encourage them as they produce lesser works.

Photo: Action Images

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Spot51 added 17:06 - Feb 24
Good to have you back SM. Enjoyed that.

I wouldn't have missed the McMenemy era for the world. Following Saints probably blighted my career as I wasn't prepared to move away while they were good, and by the time they became shite it was too late.

Even back then, Saints were rarely consistent. It was fortunate we scored a lot of goals because we let in loads too. During the past couple of seasons I've begun to see those characteristics in the current Saints team. That is OK, it is the Saints way.

It has never been easy watching SFC but if we wanted an easy life we' could always opt for a Man Utd shirt and a Sky subcription.

eusebio added 17:44 - Feb 24
I get the impression that you have not warmed to Nige. No too sure I have but then I didn't really warm to Pardew.
"we’ll just have to encourage them as they produce lesser works." As fans what else there to do but that and see it for what it is !?

eastlondonsaint added 19:19 - Feb 24
Good work SM.

LostBoys added 19:29 - Feb 24
I only heard the Hartlepool game on the radio (and that was bad enough) but there is nothing stated here that I do not agree with. While if you have 11 fans as team selectors you will get 11 different teams I am concerned about certain players and consistently poor performances and remaining in the team. From a Maybush mush

zonehead added 21:02 - Feb 24
As you said SM we decided to take Nigel home for tea instead of getting "fingered" round the back by Phil Brown!

winchesterbob added 07:59 - Feb 25
Good read SM and pretty much on the nail. Supporting SFC is hard work but every now and then there is something to smile about..........or grimace!

bstokesaint added 13:17 - Feb 25
Nice article SM. Agree in the main, although I'm happy to give Adkins a bit of time. I'm not sure who could realistically lift us straight out of the division with flying colours, but it'd be so nice to have a manager for more than a season!!

I'm grateful to Pardew for giving us our day at Wembley, but I never felt convinced he'd get us out of the league. Ironically if we did get promoted I think we could push on because we seem to find it easier to raise our game to better teams on good pitches. We could do a Brighton and get 'ugly football' promotion or persevere and scrape up if we have to. I'm worried about the away fixture backlog, but ultimately we should have enough to see off Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Peterborough and Charlton. I'll take second any day. COYR.

bstokesaint added 13:19 - Feb 25

There's nothing quite like being a Saints fan. I'd feel ashamed to support any one other than my local club. Okay so we don't win much, but glory feels that little bit more personal.

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