Author Archives: Aidan Small

Nathan Redmond-It’s time to kick on

After a difficult and uneventful 2017/18 campaign, this season, Nathan Redmond means business.

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During sections of last season, the weight of fans’ frustration fell on Nathan Redmond’s shoulders, as he was arguably targeted as the scapegoat for Saints’ misfortunes. The pressure of replacing Sadio Mane looked to be hindering and holding back his talents.

The Englishman started life perfectly at St Mary’s by netting the equaliser in Claude Puel’s first game in charge against Watford. However, following his goal against Manchester City in October, Redmond went 15 games without scoring; his next coming in March as Saints faced Watford at Vicarage Road.

At the end of his first season at Southampton, Redmond registered seven goals and one assist in 37 league appearances. As a young, promising winger in his debut season, it wasn’t a bad return by any stretch of the imagination – but the club had wrongfully given him the responsibility of being our second largest goal threat.

We were demanding all too much from Redmond all too soon, and we desperately needed another attacking threat; for the benefit of the team and Redmond’s own development.

Last season, as Mauricio Pellegrino’s turgid, defensive football dragged Saints into a relegation battle, the lack of results and performances effected no player more than Redmond. Under the Argentine, Redmond failed to score in the league and it took until Saints’ trip to Everton in May until he bagged his first goal.

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The 2017/18 campaign was the worst in Redmond’s career and, at times, he deserved the criticism from fans after failing to show his talent on a consistent basis.

In some ways, Redmond has been an embodiment of Saints’ transfer policy across the past few seasons; sell high and buy low. And when you’re seeing Mane reach a Champions League final, while Southampton scrape for their Premier League status, it leaves somewhat of a bitter taste in the mouth of the St Mary’s faithful.

He knew he had to improve, and as a result he made his way to a training camp in Los Angeles prior to pre-season training. Alongside Daniel Sturridge, Redmond kept fans posted on Instagram of his hard work stateside; a far cry from his cryptic posts during last season’s disappointment.

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Heads began to turn after seeing Redmond work vigorously during the off season and the hard work paid off in pre-season, as he grabbed back-to-back goals in Southampton’s matches against FC Schalke 04 and Jiangsu Suning in China.

Redmond looks a completely different player from that of last season and he’s been one of our most consistent performers during the opening five games of the season. So far in the league, Redmond has averaged 2.3 shots and 2.3 successful dribbles per game, which is far better than what he averaged during the last campaign when he averaged 1.4 shots and 1.8 dribbles per game.

However, these stats need to be taken with a pinch of salt due to how early we are into this season.

Examining his promising start to this season, it appears that this could become a defining year for Redmond at Southampton. As his confidence has grown under Hughes, he’s started to utilise his pace and dribbling ability. A fine example of this is against Brighton & Hove Albion in the Carabao Cup, as he undoubtedly ignited our forward line when he was introduced from the bench.

Deep into the second half with penalties looming, Redmond cut inside, beating two Brighton defenders, then delivered a perfectly chipped ball into the box for Austin to head home the winner.

It’s great to see Redmond playing with a smile on his face again, as Mark Hughes seems to have inspired confidence into our forward, but he’s still yet to register a goal and an assist this season; something he’ll desperately be wanting to add to his game.

The talent is there, so let’s hope that he can build on these promising signs and become the player we know he can be.

Podcast: Liverpool vs Southampton Preview

After picking up five points in the opening five games of the season, Southampton travel to Anfield on Saturday to face a Liverpool side who boast an 100% start to the season.

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This is undoubtedly Southampton’s toughest test of the season so far and to make it harder, Saints will be without top scorer Danny Ings this weekend.

Join us as we speak with Anfield Index to discuss a number of topics including…

  • Danny Ings’ start to life at St Mary’s Satdium
  • Last season’s struggles
  • Mark Hughes’ Saints
  • How we will approach Saturday’s game
  • And where the key battles take place on the pitch

 

Southampton are reportedly open to offers for Ryan Bertrand

After four fantastic years at the club, it’s now being reported that Southampton are prepared to listen to offers for Ryan Bertrand this summer.

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The England international has arguably been the clubs most consistent performer since 2014, but over the past few months, questions have been raised over his desire to stay beyond this season. The Daily Mail have claimed that the Saints are now ready to see what offers could be placed on the table.

The Champions League winner was initially signed on loan to fill the gap created by Luke Shaw’s departure, but within just a matter of months the club knew that they were on to a winner. Bertrand had finally found a place he could call home after a number of sub-par loan spells.

In February 2015 he decided to put pen to paper, and from that day forward it’s fair to say that he’s remained a true professional throughout.

Sections of the Southampton fan base have queried his commitment in recent months, but when you consider that he’s turned up week in week out, never ran to the press, never forced a move (like so many others have) and been handed the captaincy by Mark Hughes, you’ve got to show him some respect.

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Over previous transfer windows Bertrand has been linked to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea amongst others. But with Benjamin Mendy back on the field for City and Andrew Robertson nailing his place in the Liverpool side, you can’t help but feel that the ships sailed for a move to a European giant.

Bertrand may have to look a little further down the table if he wants a move away from the South coast this summer – especially when his performances haven’t quite lived up to that of previous seasons. A move to Everton or Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle seems far more likely.

Calum Chambers opens up about his move away from Southampton

Ahead of facing his former club at the Emirates this Sunday, Arsenal’s Calum Chambers has revealed how he kept his move to north London secret – and how an old friend reacted. 

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Chambers joined Southampton’s academy at seven years of age, and made his first-team debut at just 17-years-old. Over the next two seasons the right-back would prove to be strong competition for Nathaniel Clyne, as he seemingly prepared for a long-term future with the Saints.

But in the midst of the 2014 summer exodus, Arsene Wenger saw an opportunity and managed to turn Chambers’ head. The Southampton fan base originally laughed at such rumours, but in what felt like the space of a night, the transfer had been signed, sealed and agreed.

“It was funny because nobody knew about me moving to Arsenal,” Chambers told www.arsenal.com. “We literally didn’t tell anyone, not even my flatmate (Harrison Reed) at Southampton knew.

“I’ve turned up here, all dressed up in my shirt and my jeans, stood outside the office at the training ground and Chambo walks around the corner. He had to double-take! It was brilliant because he just couldn’t believe it.

“Then obviously I’ve had to call up my flatmate and say, ‘Can you give my boots to the kitman? I need my boots’. Then I had to go back, I took my Sky box with me and all that. It was quite a surprise to everyone.”

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Champions League football, training with world-class players and working under Arsene Wenger; these are just a few of the benefits that Chambers would have seen with such a move. But another was having the opportunity to play alongside an old friend, and a fellow academy graduate.

“My relationship with Chambo is quite funny. He broke through into the first team and obviously I was a couple of years younger than him, so we sort of looked up to him. Our age group thought, ‘He can do it, so one of us could do it’.

“In my first training session I trained with him and then we started getting the train in together. Me and Harrison Reed, who lived at my house, used to get the train in from Petersfield to Southampton, and he and Lloyd Isgrove would get on the train halfway. We’d get train journeys in every day together but he was always the first-team player at the time so we had massive respect for him.

“I remember the first day seeing him [at Arsenal] where I turned up and he didn’t have a clue. I stood in the corridor and he just saw me and was so surprised, it was brilliant. I can remember his face and it was so funny. It’s been quite interesting how our paths have crossed throughout our careers.”

Credit to www.arsenal.com for the quotes that have been referenced above

Preview: Arsenal v Southampton

Following a horrific 3-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend, Mark Hughes will be desperate to see a strong reaction from his relegation bound side this Sunday. 

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The only problem, however, is that we’re not getting a second crack at a team who’ve been stealing corner flags, fighting their own fans and arguing with players.

Instead, we’re facing an Arsenal side who come into this fixture off the back of four consecutive wins, and two Premier League games in which they’ve scored three without reply.

So to gain some greater insight into what we can expect from this current Arsenal side, we spoke to Sports Journalist Mason McDonagh, who’s an Arsenal fan and writer for Sportskeeda.

Considering the fact that you’re 13 points off the top four,  is Europa League glory the only way that this season could be considered a success? 

MM: Most definitely. It still won’t be much of a successful season given our terrible defence of the FA Cup, thrashing in the final of the Carabao Cup and a dreadful league campaign, but it will at least get us into the Champions League which is so important.

Which player has surprised you most by truly stepping up this season?

MM: Is it okay to say nobody? It’s hard to pick out anyone who has had a stand out season. If I had to pick, I’d say Ramsey has had another good season, but nobody has stepped up their game really.

You’ve got an abundance of quality in your frontline, but Arsene Wenger still appears to be tinkering with personnel and the formation. How would you like to see them line up?

MM: I’ve always preferred when we play with a 4-2-3-1, allowing Ozil to play as a 10. So, if it was me picking the team I’d have Mkhitaryan on the right, Ozil in the middle, Aubameyang on the left and Lacazette as striker. I’ve been a big fan of both Lacazette and Aubameyang since their arrivals, so I’d like to see a regular starting line-up with them both in it.

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How do teams get the most joy out of your defence?

MM: Based on our defensive performances this season, any way possible. I’d say a high press is what usually forces Arsenal into mistakes with their passing, giving opportunities to the opposite team. And generally, quick wingers/inside forwards usually cause Arsenal some problems.

As an outsider looking in, what have you made of Southampton’s season?

MM: At the beginning of the season, I would have never have tipped Southampton to be anywhere near the relegation zone at this point of the season, so I’d say it’s been a catastrophe. Most times when I’ve watched, Southampton have just looked extremely boring and void of ideas, so hopefully Hughes may be able to change that.

Now that VVD is gone, which Southampton player would you take to join your side?

MM: I’d have to say Sofiane Boufal. Although he has struggled to nail down a place in the Saints side, he is the biggest talent and the most technical player in the side by far. With Arsenal not having any natural wingers with most of the players who play there having being forced out wide, Boufal could certainly offer something different.

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Which Arsenal player would help to improve Mark Hughes’s Saints most?

MM: Aaron Ramsey. I know Southampton have struggled for goals this season, and Ramsey loves a goal from midfield. It would be obvious to choose Aubameyang, but he could become very isolated for a team like Southampton and I don’t think it’d work.

Do you think we have what it takes to beat the drop?

MM: There is a lot of quality in the Southampton side, as I mentioned I can’t quite believe you’re in a relegation battle. However despite that quality, I think you could be going down. I just don’t see where you will pick up any points from your remaining fixtures.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

MM: 3-0 Arsenal. Although Southampton have been somewhat of a bogey team for Arsenal in recent years, I think it should be a comfortable victory this Sunday.

Podcast: Mark Hughes, Austin’s importance and overcoming Pellegrino’s negativity

It’s been like London buses for Fresh Saints and Southampton podcasts. We’ve waited weeks for one to come along, then all of a sudden two arrive at once… 

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So join us as we give our thoughts, views and rants to the Southampton Dellivery podcast, hosted by California based Saints fan, Matthew Markstone.

We discuss the following topics and much much more…

  • Our views on Mark Hughes and the potential impact that he could have on our squad
  • Charlie Austin’s return from injury
  • The damage that Pellegrino’s done to Oriol Romeu
  • Our admiration for Ryan Bertrand – a player who truly knows what it means to be a Saint

 

Talking with Total Saints Podcast

Earlier this week we had the pleasure of joining Ben Stanners and Lucy Highnett on the Total Saints Podcast. So if you’re still on the hunt for your Southampton fix over the international break, then simply look no further. 

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Join us as we discuss the following topics and much more…

  • Our win away at Wigan
  • Southampton’s financial results over the 2017/18 season
  • The qualities that Mark Hughes can
  • Our upcoming clash with West Ham

Mark Hughes: the facts and stats of his managerial career so far

Since returning to the Premier League in 2012, Southampton have built up a reputation of being an innovate and forward-thinking club, always on the lookout for talent and value where others don’t see it. But over the past two seasons it appears that the club have lost sight of what made their strategy work in the first place, and as a result, we find ourselves here; in the midst of a relegation scrap.

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Mauricio Pellegrino’s been relieved of his duties, and in his place, the club have appointed Mark Hughes – a man who just two seasons ago would have been considered outside the managerial profile that Southampton are striving for. But the truth is, Southampton are no longer that same side.

We’re no longer looking to harness the thrilling talent of our players in a bid to achieve Europa League qualification. Instead, we’re battling relegation.

The club have clearly decided that they can’t afford to roll the dice one last time with our Premier League safety on the line, so have consequently opted for the ‘safe’ option.

But whilst a number of fans are encouraged by this appointment, another section of the Southampton fan-base are left unconvinced. Claiming that he doesn’t offer us the stability that we’re striving for and that he’s going to relegate us in the same embarrassing manner that he did with his previous clubs.

So in the interest of dispelling any myths and white lies that have created panic and worry amongst our fan base, here’s an extensive season-by-season review of Mark Hughes’s managerial career so far.

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BLACKBURN ROVERS

2004/05  

Premier League:
– 42 points and finished 15th (remit was to stay up)
– Nine points above the drop zone, 13 points off of Europe

Cups:
– Reached the FA Cup semi-final before losing to eventual winners Arsenal
– Eliminated in League Cup second round by Bournemouth, on penalties

2005/06

Premier League:
– 63 points and finished 6th (same points total as when Koeman got us to 6th)
– Secured UEFA Cup qualification

Cups:
– Knocked out at the fourth round of the FA Cup by West Ham
– Reached the League Cup semi-final before losing to eventual winners Manchester United

2006/07

Premier League:
– 52 points and finished 10th
– Four points off of a second consecutive season of Europe and 14 points clear of relegation

Cups:
– Progressed through qualifying by beating Salzburg, making it to the group stage of the UEFA Cup
– Won their group ahead of Basel, Feyenoord, Nancy and Wisla Krakow
– Went unbeaten in the group stage
– Eliminated by Bayer Leverkusen after losing 3-2 on aggregate (3-2 away, 0-0 home)
– Lost in FA Cup semi-final to eventual winners Chelsea
– Lost in League Cup third round to eventual winners Chelsea

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2007/08

Premier League:
– 58 points and finished 7th
– Just two points behind sixth-placed Aston Villa
– Missed out on UEFA Cup due to Portsmouth’s FA Cup win

Cups:
– Returned to UEFA Cup, courtesy of coming through the Intertoto Cup
– Progressed through UEFA Cup qualifying
– Lost to Larissa in knockout round one (3-2 on aggregate)
– Lost in FA Cup third round to Coventry
– Lost in League Cup quarter-final to Arsenal (3-2 AET)

NEW CLUB: POACHED BY MANCHESTER CITY

2008/09

Premier League:
– 50 points and finished 10th
– Three points away from European qualification
– Best goal difference outside the top five

Cups:
– Topped his UEFA Cup group again (PSG, Schalke, Twente, Santander)
– Progressed to quarter-final stage before losing 4-3 on aggregate (won 2-1 at home, but lost 3-1 away in the first leg)
– Lost in FA Cup third round to Nottingham Forest
– Lost in League Cup second round to Brighton (penalties)

2009/10

Premier League:
– Sacked in December 2009 with the team in 6th place

Cups:
– Had qualified the team for the League Cup semi-finals before leaving, beating Arsenal in the quarters
– Did not last long enough to oversee the FA Cup run that season

NEW CLUB: RETURNS TO MANAGEMENT WITH FULHAM

2010/11

Premier League:
– 49 points and finishes 8th
– Qualifies for the Europa League

Cups:
– Eliminated in fifth round of FA Cup by Bolton Wanderers
– Eliminated in third round of League Cup by Stoke City

RESIGNS FROM FULHAM AFTER FALLING OUT WITH MOHAMED AL-FAYED

NEW CLUB: JOINS QPR IN JANUARY 2012

2011/12

Premier League:
– Takes over with QPR in 17th and finishes 17th with 37 points
– Only one point clear of relegation

Cups:
– Won in FA Cup third round, lost in FA Cup fourth round to eventual winners Chelsea
– Club eliminated from League Cup prior to his arrival

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2012/13

Premier League:
– Sacked in November 2012 with team bottom of the table
– Harry Redknapp comes in, team still finishes in 20th

Cups:
– Was dismissed before FA Cup draw was made
– Won in League Cup second round before losing to Reading in round three (3-2)

NEW CLUB: RETURNS TO MANAGEMENT WITH STOKE CITY

2013/14

Premier League:
– 50 points and finished ninth
– Six points behind Mauricio Pochettino and Saints
– 17 points clear of the drop

Cups:
– Eliminated in FA Cup fourth round by Chelsea (1-0 loss)
– Eliminated in quarter-finals by Manchester United

2014/15

Premier League:
– 54 points and finished ninth
– Four point improvement on previous season
– Six points behind Ronald Koeman in his first season
– 19 points clear of the drop

Cups:
– Eliminated in FA Cup fifth round by Blackburn Rovers
– Eliminated in League Cup fourth round by Southampton (3-2 home loss)

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2015/16

Premier League:
– 51 points and finished ninth for third straight season
– Slump of three points compared to the previous season
– 11 points off Europe
– 14 points above the drop

Cups:
– Eliminated in FA Cup fourth round by Crystal Palace (1-0)
– Made it to League Cup semi-final before losing to Liverpool (penalties)

2016/17

Premier League:
– 44 points and 13th place
– three points would’ve seen him finish above Puel’s Saints and come 8th
– 17 points away from Europe
– 10 points clear of the drop

Cups:
– Eliminated in FA Cup third round by Wolves
– Won in second round, but eliminated in League Cup third round by Hull City

Southampton’s ethos must take the backseat for their cruel reality

After eight long months of turgid football, abysmal results and mindless team-selections, Mauricio Pellegrino has at last been relieved of his duties as Southampton manager.

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But whilst the Southampton fanbase feel that their chances of survival have been given somewhat of a boost, the small matter of identifying the man who should steer us clear of relegation remains.

If reports from the Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson are to be believed, then it seems that Mark Hughes is set to become that man. The report claims that the former Stoke boss has been offered a contract until the end of the season, before any long-term decisions will be made on Pellegrino’s replacement.

My initial thoughts on this potential deal were that of disappointment and a distinct lack of inspiration. Going from Europa League football to chasing Mark Hughes in a relegation battle over the space of two years is a frightening thought.

It’s understandable for many Southampton fans to feel that they deserve more. That we’re better than this.

But the sad reality at this moment in time is that we’re not. Our recent history and current crop of players may be stronger than those around us, but if we’re unable to communicate and work together as unit, then it all counts for nothing.

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Those who still feel unsatisfied with the link to Hughes have blasted the direction of the club, demanding a ‘modern manager’ who fits in with our so-called philosophy to take the reigns. But what promising and forward thinking tactician would ever think of coming to Southampton in these current circumstances?

Southampton’s most successful managers in recent years (Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman) would have turned their noses up at the club if the board approached them in such a high-risk situation.

As for as I’m concerned with our next manager, we can forget about long-term planning, youth development and whether they’ve got a history of taking their previous club to the next level (Europe). The bottom line is that if we don’t nail this next managerial appointment, there’s simply no Premier League future to plan for.

The reality is that we’ve got eight games remaining to claw our way back to safety, with numerous sides around us gaining momentum as each game week passes.

Southampton’s only aim at this moment in time should be finding someone who’s capable of inspiring a depleted squad. Someone who can quickly install confidence, implement an identity and command respect; three things that Pellegrino failed drastically at achieving.

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Hughes is no revelation. We won’t be playing the expansive fast-paced football that many Southampton fans so desperately desire – let’s get that out the way. But knowing that Hughes has only got eight games to make an instant impact on our side, I’ll be willing to guarantee that he simply won’t allow a repeat of last Saturday’s performance.

He’s been known over his previous tenures for adding a gritty, physical and aggressive style to his sides. Something which in fairness, we’ve severely lacked since Koeman’s departure in 2016. We’ve been all too nice for far too long now – in the physical sense and in front of the opposition’s goal.

He’s also always looked to form a physical partnership at the heart of his midfield, which could be good news for Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina, in addition to welcoming attacking flair in wide areas. Nathan Redmond and Sofiane Boufal are desperately in need of a manager that understands and appreciates their qualities.

Many have jumped at the chance to criticise Hughes for his collapse with Stoke City earlier this season, and that’s certainly a worry to consider. But they conveniently chose to ignore the fact that he inherited an anti-football Tony Pulis side, and helped them on their way to three consecutive finishes in the top half of the table. All whilst showcasing the best football they’ve played since their return to the Premier League in 2007.

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So why have a number of fans shown so much resent to the idea of recruiting Hughes?

In my mind, fans are fearful of what such an appointment means for the club. That by recruiting Hughes, we’ve become just another Premier League side that fails to think for themselves.

Over the last five years, we’ve taken pride in the fact that we innovate and continue to buck the trend by way of player and manager recruitment. Since 2014 we’ve served as a model club for those in the Championship and those facing relegation.

But those players, leaders and managers that helped to form that reputation are no longer here. It’s time for us to come to terms with the fact that we’re no longer that same side.

Now by no means am I suggesting that we stop innovating and trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible as a mid-table side. Far from it. But what I am suggesting is that now is not the time to roll the dice in a bid to rediscover ourselves.

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We’re in grave danger. Crystal Palace and Stoke City remain just one point below us in the relegation zone, whilst Swansea City who were once considered down and out, now sit three points above.

I’m willing to welcome the physical, gritty and no-nonsense approach that Hughes offers, solely because this current Southampton side are in a downward spiral that’s shown few signs of slowing down. Let alone stopping.

When the players have talked about finishing this current season in the top half of the table we’ve criticised them for being naive. For thinking too far ahead while danger continues to stare them in the face.

So let’s not be naive enough to talk about the long-term future with regards to Southampton’s next managerial appointment.

Until we book our place in the Premier League for the 2018/19 season, putting points on the board must remain our only focus.

Pochettino reveals he tried to sign Astori for Southampton

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has revealed that he tried to sign Davide Astori back in 2013 for Southampton, following the news of the Italy International passing away at just 31-years-old.

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The Fiorentina captain was at the height of his career and was widely considered by his team-mates to be as professional, punctual and healthy as footballers come, but last weekend the entirety of the footballing world was rocked by this devastating news.

Astori had been linked to Southampton countless time over the past five years. So often in fact, that he actually became a cult hero amongst the Southampton fanbase.

Whenever we were short on numbers at the back or had just conceded a sloppy goal, Astori’s name would be mentioned tongue-in-cheek as the transfer window edged nearer.

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The former Southampton boss started by saying “I want to send all my condolences to Davide Astori and all the people that love him, and I think it’s a massive tragedy.

“I had the possibility to meet him five years ago because it was my idea to sign him when we were at Southampton. I took three hours to have lunch with him and he was a great kid, great person, great professional, great player.

“It was very sad news, we were devastated to hear the news and we share the pain with all the people in Italy and Florence, and I send all my energy to his family.”

Currently sitting just one point above the relegation zone, many would label this a stressful and troubling time to be a Southampton supporter. But when you hear stories like these, you’re handed a stark reminder of just how fortunate we really are.