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Why Van Dijk Needed To Stay And Then Had To Go !
Monday, 8th Jan 2018 11:09

The Virgil Van Dijk saga rolled on for six months and without a doubt his prima donna behaviour has damaged this season, but it was an event that needed to happen.

After the events of the summer of 2014 when Saints lost a big chunk of their squad in a crazy couple of months with 3 of them going to Liverpool, followed by a couple more summers of sales, many Saints fans have had the perception that Saints actually wanted to sell all these players and that they put up no resistance.

Social media is full of Saints supporters slagging off the club and claiming that they are only interested in money and that the moment a bid comes in that Les Reed and Ralph Krueger rub their hands with glee.

But the reality has always been a little different, firstly in every summer there have been players desperate to go because they are being offered big money contracts elasewhere, but have been held to that contract.

In 2014 it was morgan Schneiderlin who was told he was staying, his initial reaction was to take to twitter and moan, but after missing a couple of games to get his head right, he returned to the side and put in a decent season and got the move he craved.

Likewise the following summer Victor Wanyama wanted to go to Spurs, agan he had a little hissy fit and missed games not least a trip to Denmark in the Europa League that saw us eliminated with his absence not helping, but in the second half of the season he knuckled down and helped us to sixth.

In 2016 it was Jose Fonte who suddenly has delusions of grandeur and with his agent driving tried to engineer a move to Manchester United, something that lead the United board to question their new managers motives only weeks after he arrived, Fonte was told he had to stay and honour a contract that he was happy to sign six months earlier.

He tried to justify his actions by claiming he wanted to leave because Saints had no ambition, but the clue lay in after the United deal fell through and he suddenly found that there was no one better than Saints who wanted him, he ended up at West Ham, desperate for a short term fill.

But if there was anyone who lacked ambition it was Jose Fonte, after all with the club in a League Cup semi final it was a chance for him to ingratiate himself back in the fold and truly enter the twilight of his career on a high, but for Fonte it was not about ambition it was about money.

The sad thing about the Fonte situation was that he feels so bitter about the decision he took that he still feels the need to take to social media to slag off Saints, why would he need to do that to a club that took him from the Championship at Palace and made him not only a Premier League player but a European Championship winner with Portugal ?

The answer is that players in the main ultimately have little loyalty to any club they play for, it is all about money, yes playing for a big club comes into it, but that is only because in the main how much money a club is willing to pay a player is in direct correllation to their standing in the game.

But if Fonte showed us what the reality of football is today, Virgil Van Dijk took it to a different level !

It is true that Saints fans are fed up with players being sold, they ask why don't other clubs sell so many, the answer is simple they dont produce and find so many class players, that is the downside of our success, we have a system, it works well, but it is a conveyor belt, we have to accept that.

But the fans seemed unable to, their perception has always been that the club are the most willing participants in each transfer, it is not the player who wants to play for a bigger club with of course much more money in wages, it is not the buying club who are working behind the scenes tapping up players and luring them away, it is almost as if some Saints fans think we put the sale notices up every summer.

This is why the Virgil Van Dijk saga had to happen, the realities of how the likes of Liverpool etc tap up our players had to be exposed (in fairness every club does it, it is only the level of money offered etc that changes), the greed of players had to be exposed, the greed of agents had to be exposed, but more importantly the fact that it is not just as simple as telling a player he is staying and getting him to play had to be exposed.

At the end of last season I would suggest a big proportion of our support was under the impression that all Saints had to do to keep a player was to tell him he was under contract and that was the end of the matter, but now they know the truth.

But the truth had to be learn't the hard way, if Van Dijk had simply been allowed to go then the supporters would be up in arms and claiming that Saints just roll over every time a club makes an offer and pointing to the past three summers.

So Saints had to flex their muscles and show their supporters just what happens when a multi millionaire footballer is told he has to honour a contract, what we saw was shameful, but it showed us what the reality is in today's game, Saints do not lack ambition, they lack the financial resources of those big six clubs in the Premier League.

So the Virgil Van Dijk debacle needed to happen, he needed to be made to stay, he needed to be sold to show Saints supporters that the focus of the club is keeping it's best players as long as they can and trying to win football matches, but also to show the fans th disruption that can cause.

Of course ideally players would honour their contracts, but these days contracts are not a measure of how long a player is going to stay at a club, they are only there so that a club can protect a players value to a degree.

When Van Dijk signed a big long term deal with Saints he knew the score, he did not expect to be at St Mary's for the ength of his contract and nor did Saints, from Van Dijk's perspective he probably expected to do two seasons and then a big money move and that is what Saints would hope for too, all the contract did was mean Van Dijk got paid more and the club would get a bigger transfer fee because of the length of the contract.

Usually this would all play out amicably, (as I say the club's only fault has been producing too many very good players) but what is changing in football is the greed, both of players and clubs, Liverpool were desperate to get Van Dijk, he was desperate to get hs hands on an alleged £180k a week, if it was about ambition he would have wanted to go to Manchester City, but they weren't going to pay him that much.

So Saints fans need to cut the club some slack, there is too much finger pointing at the club and Les Reed and Ralph Krueger in general, they have their bad points, but if you look at their record it is second to none in the history of Southampton FC, we had never finished in the top 10 for 4 consecutive seasons at any time in our history, this is the best most consecutive period in our history, they have not done a bad job at least not statistically speaking.

But there always will be blips, two years ago Chelsea finished well below us, but their fans didnt desert in droves claiming they werent being entertained and demanding that Abramovich go elsewhere, they knew it was a blip and in the long term they would compete.

That is what we as Saints fans need to do now, get behind the team, i'm sick of seeing sarcastic comments on social media about the Championship, when times get tough good football supporters rally around their team and help it get out of trouble and come back stronger than before, they don't sneer at their club or ridicule it.

Ralph Krueger's comments about us being a small club in the scheme of things were ill advised, but they were true, perhaps he was sick to death of being slagged off for the job he was doing, when no one else had done it better before him, I don't know, however what I do know is we need to learn some lessons and get some pride back.

I don't go to football to be entertained, If I did so then i would have stopped going in 1975, I go to support my football club through the bad times as well as the good and it is the bad times that show us who our supporters are, anyone can go to a Wembley cup final, its Palace or Brighton at home that matters.

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warnfordcookie added 11:41 - Jan 8
Sadly, with the cost of football these days it is not only mercenary footballers and contracts ignoring agents but "so-called" Fairweather fans who are attracted to a team that a couple of years ago were nearly every fans "second" team. They come in on the success bandwagon and can't ever get that there are lean times as a football fan as well as good. We reached a current pinnacle when we got to finish 6th. That was way above what most teams of our size can hope for in the modern game. I have supported Saints since 1968 we have had much worse teams and coaches than now several times. As a supporter you live for the wonderful days but you still support through the times when things don't go to plan. I believe in the long term future of our club, The people running do not deserve the abuse they get. Yes I'd like to compete on level terms with the Manchester clubs and the London clubs but with our capacity and our standing in the World we are still a small club who aim to get bigger by being better. It takes time and a lot of good fortune but we will get there, or as near as is possible one day. Have faith keep supporting and one day our ship will come in.

Sanguin added 11:47 - Jan 8
I don’t always agree with you Nick, but you’re a fantastic champion of the club with a sensible, balanced and evidence-based approach to all of your opinions. Keep up the good work!

CommonSaint added 12:01 - Jan 8
Deal assorted in August and that has been the problem the team knew he was going left Pellegrino in a terrible situation

underweststand added 12:07 - Jan 8
Totally agree with ...Warnfordcookie, but I expect we will be in the minority by the time this thread expands to 2 pages.

Firstly , we were right to "discipline" Liverpool over their tapping-up meeting with VvD.
With their past record they might have got some strict punishment,or even a ban but it's obvious that VvD was in another class to the majority of our squad, and in the longer term, there was no way we would reject a £60 mill. fee for his transfer, and holding out for £75 mill. shows that we have a few good poker players in the Boardroom.

Liverpool were the club desperate to bolster up their leaky defence and to find themselves still struggling for 4th place at Christmas must have caused a few wrinkles of concern in their Boardroom. They're not out of pocket - having sold Coutinho to Real, another instance of a player who was "too good" for his team.

Although we don't get the results we deserve, our transfer policy shows that we are a victim of our own success. Buying the likes of Mane and VvD for a mere pittance in todays market - and getting over £100 million for the transfers proves that point.

Until we find" our own Harry Kane or Ageuro" we will still struggle to get goals, (as do half of the Prem - even now).

At the end of the day, our expenditure of the VvD fee will eke out more talent than "the big clubs" who willingly spend £50-60 million on a player - who they can leave on the bench every week.
Our priority now is to find new emerging talent who can get the goals/points we need for survival and have a major overhaul in the summer.


SanMarco added 12:35 - Jan 8
I agree entirely with the point that we needed to do it and that the consequences were not what we would have hoped for. I think we should have made a stand earlier with either Clyne or Wanyama - run down the contract and take the hit on the few million lost. Now, although we have drawn a long overdue 'line in the sand' the messy consequences have rebounded on us. As long as we manage to stay up though it will have been worth it. That means spending the money NOW. I wont be the only one clicking on all of the sites ten times a day hoping for good news on signings - I really don't want to wait until 10.59PM on the 31st. We have two very winnable matches + a cup tie before then - so let's strengthen NOW.

As for VVD - he crossed two lines. Firstly with his behaviour last summer and then with his quite blatant lack of real effort once he returned to the side. We don't know the affect he had on the dressing room. Kreuger hinted that it wasn't good but we will never really know. Let's forget about the fecker now and get on with turning things round - and that means good signings NOW.

JGH added 12:38 - Jan 8
Well said. Nice to see some common sense.

Whiteknight added 12:38 - Jan 8
I think that Warnford and Underweststand are correct in identifying that we have always been a roller coaster club (and that's part and parcel of supporting Saints) and that times have been worse. However, I think that they are wrong in a couple of respects:

1) This is the first time that I can remember the club being used as a cash cow for other activities;
2) The communication from the club - Gao, Kruger, Reed and Pellegrino - is either non existent or patronising gibberish. Pellegrino could have come over to the fans on Saturday - JWP did, PEH did and they got a great reception and they give the impression of giving a damn and of establishing a connection - Pellegrino doesn't seem to care. This shows a lack of respect for the fans who were here before them and will be here after they've all gone;
3) The malaise is across the club - all of our teams from first team down into the academy have gone backwards very quickly. This may be a coincidence but I don't believe in coincidences!
4) The bizarre decision making from Pellegrino - both in terms of team selection and substitutions - why not regularly play Romeu, PEH and Lemina together (they all have different attributes). For example - on Saturday bringing on Lemina was not wrong but taking off PEH was; taking Long off was not wrong but the timing was.

For what it's worth I have supported Saints for 50 years so I'm not a "Johnny come lately" but I see nothing in the current setup to inspire confidence in the future.

Braveheart added 14:17 - Jan 8
Who was it that said "No player is bigger than the club" VVD has proved otherwise! For me who should have been left to rot on the bench until his contract runs out. Holding out from selling him in the summer proves nothing. Nick says "get behind the club", how can we do that, when "the club" continually ignores are disappointment by sitting back and ignoring the fact that we are sub-standard and they won't do anything about it, and appear to be quite willing to see us drop into the championship. Then it will be us languishing in League 1 again while our neighbours down the road are in the premiership. I now read we are after a midfielder that we don't need from Celtic. I was one of the thousands that stood in the cold at Craven Cottage on Saturday to watch another win by a solitary goal. We should be taking these teams apart and hanging them out to dry. Its a shame we didn't lose. I wish we had, maybe then I can "get behind the club" with a new decent manager who knows what he is doing. Empty words Nick my friend, empty words.

BoondockSaint added 15:30 - Jan 8
CommonSaint is absolutley right!

Back when the Scouse made their improper approach to VDD (not unlike the ones made to Lovern and Lallana during the World Cup) in the summer. Supporters of the Saints were in an uproar that Reed was again weakening the Saints to help the Scouse.

So he puffs out his chest and pretends outrage to quiet the fans. But the Scouse have done this before, why did the Saints not pursue it with the League and get the Scouse banned? As I mentioned in a post at the time, Les was just doing this as a smoke screen, and would do the deal at the next window. The sScouse probably upped the offer another 10 million if Les doesn't go to the League. Small price to pay compared to being banned from transfers for a couple of windows, and then Les pretends the played hardball.

Ralphie's excuse for the state we are in is not mismanagement, but lack of fan support. Says we are crap and should not expect any better since we are a "small club". However, the interviewer failed to ask him to explain the success of "behemoths" like Burnley, Huddersfield and Brighton.

Speaking of behemoths, the reason Chelski fans weren't bothered by their "blip" was they knew they had an owner who would not accept that type of performance and didn't expect the supporters to either. He'd clear out the dead wood be it manager, players, or both and bring in new talent that wanted to play for his team. You didn't hear Abramovich blaming the fans or telling them they would just have to accept it.

The culture of the Saints has changed drastically in the last 2 years, and it's a damn shame.

LordDZLucan added 16:03 - Jan 8
For a club to be in harmony the interests of owners, players, supporters and the manager need to be aligned. What we have at Saints is a situation where that appears not to be the case. The owners are overly focussed on the financial situation, a number of the players are most concerned about getting a move, the supporters’ priority is a successful team playing attractive football and the manager is adamant that he is going to impose his playing philosophy on the team whatever the cost in terms of short-term results. Until at least one of the other stakeholders aligns with the supporters we are going to have supporter unrest I’m afraid.

warrens76 added 18:10 - Jan 8
it is true that Saints fans are fed up with players being sold, they ask why don't other clubs sell so many, the answer is simple they don't produce and find so many class players, that is the downside of our success, we have a system, it works well, but it is a conveyor belt, we have to accept that.

RUBBISH, you are stating openly the more we produce the MORE we must sell, explain..clubs sell sometimes because they have to, sometimes because the situation is untenable, that is balanced, we are like Kingsland market, there is NO excuse for our velocity and turnover of player sales,
the fact that we can (did) produce more should have led to a financially balanced club with a wealth of relatively 'free' talent..

Accepting the reality of needing to occassionally sell is one thing, accepting this asset stripping is something quite different..if we can find and develop more players than our peers and still sell them, well, what's the point.

Saintsfc added 18:26 - Jan 8
Good article.. On each of those occasions wanyama etc we had already sold 2/3/4 players from our first 11 or first 18. Our current administration cares more about the books than football. Credit where its due, when they sell its on saints terms, when they don't sell its on saints terms. In my opinion that's just a smokescreen because fans who care about football not money will kick off. If it wasn't for that reason and that reason only, wanyama etc would not have been told to stay another season.

saintpp added 20:47 - Jan 8
Brilliant post Nick tho sadly wasted on some who wont bother to read it or dismiss it as it doesnt suit their mindset.
Had VVD knuckled like Reed hoped we could have got another season and even more money. But he diidnt so selling him was really the only practical option and getting 5 million more than the imaginary figure that was touted in the summer.
Having said that i personally would have let him rot but that wouldnt reallly be sensible business.
Anyway if Reed did ,sell or didnt sell there are those who will say he got it wrong,for some reason they blame him whatever he does.

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