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Saints V Manchester City The Verdict
Monday, 14th May 2018 10:00

The game ended in an ironic familiar fashion with a soft last minute of injury time goal conceded that has been the hallmark of this season, but Saints fans didn't care they knew The Great Survival had been completed.

Season 1998/99 was dubbed the Great Escape as Saints stormed to Premier League safety after spending all but the last two games in either 19th or 20th place, this season was different, Saints went into steady decline after a solid start, they did not hit the relegation zone till the final third of the season and apart from a month from mid March till mid April spent most of the rest of the season clear of the bottom three.

But the issues were there for all to see, unlike 1999 this was not a storming ending to the season, but we crawled over the line, therefore this was The Great Survival, just as much down to the inability of Swansea to win any of their last 10 games and end the season with five straight defeats than our own endeavours, indeed we won only 2 of our last 11 games, gaining 11 points in the process, it was not our own team we needed to thank for our survival but the three teams below us who were worse.

Having said this, there was a change in attitude and performance levels in the squad, it would have been naive to think that Mark Hughes had a magic wand which he could wave and suddenly transform a squad in complete chaos and with zero confidence, however in the final games he did so to a degree, but we were not just fighting other teams we were fighting poor refereeing and just plain bad luck.

We knew this game would be hard, we knew that City would have a lot of possession, but we dug in and made sure that it counted for little, although City had 70% of the ball as I predicted in the preview of the game, they spent too much time trying to create the perfect chance and we worked hard to make sure they didn't get it, the fact that they had only two shots on target speaks volumes given their possession and we managed three ourselves.

Indeed as the game went on and it was clear that the ten goal swing was not going to happen, we grew in confidence and looked the side most likely to score in the later part of the second half, Dusan Tadic having a shot cleared off the line.

This game ended the way that many of the others have done, for over 90 minutes we battled like trojans, yet in the final minute of the final injury time of the season, we did exactly what we have done in countless games before, we lost concentration, we let Jesus get on the end of a ball leaving his marker for dead and City won the game.

To be honest we didn't care, survival was all that mattered, in fact part of me was pleased to see City get that 100 points total, but the goal illustrated just what has been the problem all season.

So we achieved that Great Survival, something that just over two weeks ago looked highly unlikely, those that moaned about a lack of entertainment have certainly got value for their money in the final three home games of the season, personally I preferred bored sh*tless and 8th lol !

So now we are safe we need to make sure that it never happens again, those that call for the board to be sacked wholesale need to consider that on that board there are those that have nothing to do directly with football matters, to do not sack the commercial director who had quadrupled income in the last four years because we failed on the pitch that is not his fault.

No we need to look at the root cause and learn from it, remember that those responsible have delivered four straight top 8 finishes, one poor season does not mean that all is wrong, but lessons do need to be learned and perhaps changes made.

Over the next week we want to see intent from the club, we want to see they know what went wrong and how to fix it.

But for today it is all about breathing a sigh of relief and thanking God and Swansea's strikers for The Great Survival !

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Chesham_Saint added 10:19 - May 14
Yup. Agree with all of that.

DorsetIan added 10:23 - May 14
I agree with all of this.

I too was half-pleased that City got to 100 points, but I've just checked the prize money position and that lat minute goal meant we didn't get the point to finish above Huddersfield, costing us £2million in prize money!

£2 million!...bonkers isn't it...

pete_boggs added 10:30 - May 14
Root cause of all problems = Reed.

I thought everyone knew that.

highfield49 added 10:32 - May 14
A fair summary Nick apart from the supposition that God, whoever or whatever some people's invisible friend might be, had anything to do with our survival. I think it was manifested by the manager, who enabled the players to break free of their shackles, and worse teams unable to lift their game. We were probably a better team than the three below us plus Huddersfield, West Ham and a couple of others but were saved only by getting rid of MP.
With time to reflect I now have a problem deciding whether the club should show loyalty to Mark Hughes for his achievement or thank him for his input and try to rebuild with a few new faces. My concern is that Hughes is given a contract but we don't take the momentum into next season. Whatever happens the club can't afford to sleepwalk in the delusion that all is well, a few things need to change and it's a matter of how much can be invested in the future. Will Gao invest or gamble that doing nothing will be enough to keep us mid table next year?

mgprobert added 10:54 - May 14
I think your write up is a pretty good summary of what's happened and where we are. We were on a good trajectory for a long time and got unlucky. Sacking Puel was controversial. 8th and a cup final are a pretty good record but the board sensed the fans disenchantment with the performances - although that might have had something to do with the squad available after so many scouser raids. MoPe was brave choice, and a gamble, but he talked the talk and was a decent guy. He was not a good manager however, or was out of his depth. This put the board in a difficult position - they had already sacked a successful manager, sacking MoPe would be an admission that they'd got it wrong (again)....and anyway, maybe he just needed more time? By the time they took the decision it was very nearly too late - as you say, we were saved by Swansea being even worse than us.

So now what? - do the Board take the easy option and keep Mark Hughes, or take the bold option and go for a new younger and dynamic manager? ....maybe it will be once bitten, twice shy.... we'll, soon find out

Its about this time of the season (in fact its just about any time of the season) I make my usual plea for one, if not two top quality CBs - all top teams build from the back with a solid base at CB - we haven't had that for a long while now...Jose and VVD.

Looking forward to seeing what we can come up with over the Summer (or more likely the last day of the transfer window)

LordDZLucan added 11:01 - May 14
It's now all about keeping the players we want to keep and bringing in some real quality. The players clearly like working with Mark Hughes so, in order to make sure we hang on to the gems, namely Bertrand, Tadic and McCarthy, he must be given the job. Appointing someone else increases the risk of those players leaving and that is something we cannot allow to happen.

richardmdcooper added 11:40 - May 14
They surely have to sign Hughes and need to do so quickly. You can just see what will happen now though- they’ll take their time, including no communication to the fans, about deciding on Hughes and then wait until July until appointing a journeyman manager from Europe. The root cause of this season were the puel and pellegrino appointments. I have no confidence that they are now going to make the correct decision- which would be to appoint sparky.

landsdownsaint added 11:43 - May 14
I think Hughes has done a great job,the last 3 games has been a pleasure to watch ,they got to give Hughes the job he worked a miracle installing belief alot of our players are t prem quality & we made it thru by Hughes changing the attitude of the squad

skiptonsaint added 11:52 - May 14
Good summary

Hughes in for me because unless we are going to get a much higher level and profile manager I think it’s the safest option and will allow us to rebuild probably from mid table. We will also look a half decent option for good players with a well known manager.

But for me the main learning is that our transfer strategy cannot be just about maximising the potential profit on relatively young untested players. We must have a transfer strategy that mixes it up.

I would am prepared to give the board another go for the sake of some continuity after recent upheaval, but I strongly suggest they do some interviews and show some humility and get the fans back inside.

The league is getting tougher with everyone having cash and if we are not careful we could be down there again next season. Wolves won’t be for a start by the looks of it.


mgprobert added 11:56 - May 14
I'm glad its not me that has decide on the new manager. I'm very grateful to Mark Hughes for steering us to safety - I don't think we would have survived if he hadn't come in.

Look at Swansea though - in Carvalhal's first six games the had back to back wins against Liverpool and Arsenal, beat Watford away and drew with Leicester away. Look at them now - no win in their last 10 games

Its a real gamble whether Hughes would keep the upward trajectory going or we would end up like Stoke - relegated. Maybe a future manager could be brought in as an assistant?

SaintNick added 12:06 - May 14
Food for thought Mark Hughes 8 League games in charge, 8 points on the board

LondonSaint added 12:12 - May 14
Considering the team had no confidence, ambition or passion when he took over I think 8 points in 8 games under the pressure of a relegation fight is a great return.

helpineedsomebody added 12:14 - May 14
same again for me next season
play 9 at the back & we could stay in the 18 yard box for 90 minutes
pick up 38 pts a season perhaps go unbeaten & be called the invincebles
well done mr hughes&your staff for keeping the saints in the EPL but your brand of football /style is not for me & nor does the top 6 clubs in epl play that way .

SaintNick added 12:14 - May 14
There are mitigating circumstances for Hughes, but then again there are mitigating circumstances for Pellegrino he was without Charlie Austin for the last three months of his reign, he got 28 points out of 30 games overall

LordDZLucan added 12:15 - May 14
Food for thought - Mark Hughes 8 league games in charge, 8 points from just 3 Home games, 2 of which were against Chelsea and Man City!

SaintNick added 12:16 - May 14
The top six clubs can buy players of a calibre that can both compete and entertain as City showed yesterday, the rest have to dig in and grind out results at the expense of entertainment

GeordieSaint added 12:18 - May 14
Another new manager, probably from abroad, probably with no experience of the premier league, is a big concern for me right at this moment. The squad has looked invigorated and something resembling a football team over the last few weeks. Hughes it is for me, he knows the lads now and where he would like to replace and strengthen. If we get someone new it is simply another gamble on a step into the unknown when a bit of stability is needed.
That is if he wants the job and hasn't got a more attractive offer.

bstokesaint added 12:22 - May 14
A decent summary there Nick, and thanks again for all of your contributions this season.

Initially, I was totally underwhelmed with Hughes’ appointment, but on the basis he saved us and injected some much needed passion I think he deserves a chance. Why risk another unknown and another failing? Plus Hughes has been around a bit and probably wants the chance to build a legacy somewhere. Southampton FC seems to be a club which he wants to prove himself at. A club like ours might provide that platform.

I think it’s too much to blame this season’s failings on individuals. There are a number of failings which have collectively gone against us. The Black Box looks all but corrupted, unless a major upgrade is available – the quality of our recent big signings has been lacking and maybe “attitude” and “team ethic” are fields which need to be included going forward.

I couldn’t stand another season like this. The owner needs to come out and make his intentions clear or sell up and ship out. If he’s adding nothing, why is he here creating all this uncertainty? The appointment of the new manager needs to happen quickly and we need to identify targets early on. I don’t care what anyone says Hoedt is not in the same league as Toby or VVD and is always prone to a mistake – which has historically always been Yoshida’s biggest gripe for a lot of fans, so it doesn’t feel like we’ve upgraded even one defender. We need two decent centre backs to build the spine back to the quality we are now used to. We don’t have the distraction and mass exodus of the World Cup like we did four years ago so we can get things moving. I will be raging if come the end of July we are still assessing targets.

helpineedsomebody added 12:28 - May 14
ok guys who would you rather have as the new manager
the spurs manager/
mark hughes
one is a top 4 manager the other a bottom 6 manager
your choice

SaintNick added 12:37 - May 14
You cannot judge a manager just because they are at a top six club, would Pep Guardiola do a better job at Saints than Mark Hughes, perhaps not he has no experience of managing at a club that cannot buy the best players in the league he is in be it Spain, Germany or England.

saintjf added 13:10 - May 14
We are not a top six club and are unlikely to be for sometime. We have been rescued by Hughes who was brave enough to take the challenge on. I would be more than happy for Hughes to be given the managers job. We can start building and maybe aim for mid table and stability rather than the decline seen over the last two seasons. We were never going to hold on the top people. It looks like Toby wants away from Spurs to a club that will pay him more. These people are ambitious people who will give their all as part of the job they do for the club before they move on to the next club.

petedoors1 added 13:23 - May 14
I think Mark Hughes should be given the job today. Then tomorrow start looking to replace Les Reed and Ralph Krueger with new people with a more ambitious attitude. After that they can start to replace the deadwood in the team.

BoondockSaint added 14:42 - May 14
Losing again in Fergie Time is really aggravating for a number of reasons:

Again we see the absence of an official clock allow the ref to give more time to the team that is higher in the league pecking order.

And now, as a result of them getting 100 points, we now have to listen to pundits bray on and on about "such a special team" "a delight to watch" "we're lucky to be able to watch a team like this.." Not once do any of them say "The best team money can buy."

And then there is the "Pep is the greatest manager of all time" cr@p. As Nic points out he's never really had to be a proper manager: Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now ManCity all clubs with the biggest budgets in their respective leagues. Wonder how he would do if he had a chairman who sold his top two players every year and did not replace them?

Anyway, Sparky deserves the job for working this miracle. The players (those that really want to play) like him and us supporters like that he actually answers questions and has some backbone. Yes he may be a mid-table/make up the numbers club type. But, hey, that's all Les & Ralphie want for the club.

SanMarco added 15:59 - May 14
I echo bstoke in thanking Nick - it wouldn't be the same without TUI.

What I want, above all, is for the people in charge of the club to take a good hard look at themselves and come up with a clearly thought-out strategy for transfers, playing style and manager. 4 record signings all on the bench a few weeks ago shows that there has been no joined-up thinking. Bring in players to play in positions that contribute to what we want to do, players flexible enough to move to a plan B and a manager who is happy with the players and the system(s) being played. Also address obvious weaknesses at once - not gradually (if at all) over 3 or 4 transfer windows. Obviously our league place would then be dependent on the quality brought in but the expensive signings would all be on the pitch contributing and we shouldn't be left at the mercy of bad referees and cheats. Apologies for stating the bleedin obvious in this paragraph but those at the top have had great difficulty with the obvious in recent times.

Oh and if we are going to bring in ''stepping-stone' players then find a way to avoid descent into VVD-style farces. I know that is not easy but Les Reed is paid lots of money and is happy to gurn next to these characters when they sign - so maybe he could come up with something. Alternatively he could resign of course...

underweststand added 17:03 - May 14
As for the result ...there is something to be taken from the fact that we held City to 0-0 for 90 minutes TWICE in the season...only to be foiled by the last minute upset yet again. Looking back over the season, many of our problems have been down to individual errors by almost everyone , at one end of the field or the other...and several referees who had their own version of " Fergie Time " and those who couldn't see handball even when TV cameras did.

For those fans who like to say " it evens itself out over the season " - it didn't this time, but thankfully we survived despite all the difficulties.

I don't blame Les Reed for everything that went wrong but then again he didn't get many medals when overseeing some of the transfers that did go well over the last 5 years. Nor can he alone be held responsible for Pochettino and Koeman jumping ship , but in turn both Puel and Pellegrino looked to have the right credentials (at least on paper).

The signing of Hughes was a master stroke and Stoke can go on blaming him for their downfall until they descend to League 1 ...but he DAJFU whe it mattered.

Lesson for the future - don't employ managers who themselves played as defenders. They are obsessed with keeping clean sheets and expect a one man strike force to win the points. Koeman got his reward/punishment in short order, but Pochettino's was more subtle in that in 4 seasons at Spurs he created good teams - who won NOTHING.

Let's hope that a new deal for Hughes will give us more positive football next season.

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