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
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
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.
Letters from Wiltshire #30 by wessex_exile
Friday night football – can’t beat it. Gives you that feelgood factor all weekend, sitting back to enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon watching others fail in your wake. Of course, you have to win first, which we’ve been struggling to do for a while now, so be prepared for the possibility of a miserable weekend just in case. We share this evening with Reading v AFC Bournemouth, albeit they kick-off an hour later than we do. In the real world, leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris demanding action on the substantial difficulties they are facing over Brexit bureaucracy, whilst French border authorities are reporting that two-thirds of lorries arriving from the UK are empty (i.e. no exports leaving the UK). Still, at least the NHS can enjoy their extra £350m per week…
[ Vote here ]