Southampton At Leicester City The Preview
Friday, 30th Apr 2021 12:57
It will take about 20 secs for the TV pundits to bring up Leicester City's last visit to St Mary's, but that game is now water under the bridge, it is all about getting 3 points that finally get the spectre of relegation off our coat tails and restoring pride to the team and the fan base.
Tonight will see a number of pundits drag up that game 18 months ago when Leicester last visited St Mary's, they will talk about revenge but the truth is we had that 15 months ago when we won at the King Power Stadium in the return fixture.
Tonight is not about Leicester City it is about putting to an end our awful run of fixtures, a run that has made what looked like a promising season turn into a bit of a nightmare, but good teams don't become bad teams overnight, we know our squad hasn't the depth os some, but that run has been about injury crisis's, var decisions and poor refereeing more than anything.
Of course the manager has to take some of the blame, but most of the issues have been about things beyond his control, if you think that there is a better man to run Southampton Football Club on the pitch, then tell me who you think it is and why, don't just say Eddie Howe, a man who had not one but two winless runs of a similar magnitude to ours, last season at Bournemouth.
Tonight is gong to be tough, missing Danny Ings is bad enough, but other key players such as Oriol Romeu long term have hit us hard.
Tonight is another game where although we won't be struggling to fill the bench as we did during that run, we will lack in key areas.
Ralph Hasenhuttl needs to show the fans tonight that he can adapt, make changes and motivate his side.
So tonight needs to be not about revenge for the game 18 months ago, but about restoring our own pride as a squad, we need to sort out the wheat from the chafe and see who can self motivate and play without fear.
Ralph has mentioned that now is about planning for next year and most of our squad need to prove that they can do it, football is a squad game and some players will never be first choice players as the norm, but they need to show that they can push for a place in the first team when they make the starting XI.
It will be interesting who plays in goal, Alex McCarthy at Spurs was a surprise, Fraser Forster had done a decent job, will he be restored this evening.
At the back it will be a question of whether Ralph sticks to the back four at Spurs with Salisu at left back, or whether he goes to a back three and employs wing backs .
That will decide who plays in the centre of midfield and I would not be surprised to see Alex Jankewitz make an appearance at some point.
Up front Che Adams must lead the line, if I have one criticism of the manager it was dropping Adams for the return of Danny Ings, when you have scored in 3 Premier League games in a row as Adams did, you deserve to keep your place.
Now is the time for Che Adams to shine and show not only the manager but the fans that if Danny Ings does leave, then there is nothing to worry about.
Off the bench we still have options, Nathan Tella is another who seemed to drop out when a player returned from injury, in Tella's case Theo Walcott, of all our youngsters Nathan Tella is the one that truly could make it at this level.
So tonight is about pride and playing for the future, what is gone is gone, only what happens next season now count, this has been a strange season not just for Saints but all clubs, we have some solid foundations, no one is pretending that everything is rosy, but things are a lot better than they were in December 2018 when Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived at this club.
Leicester City are a good side who are looking for the points that will get them into the Champions League, but we should not be scared of them, we have shown in the last three meetings that we can match them, tonight we need to prove that again.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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