Blogs

Nathaniel Chalobah: The perfect project for Southampton FC?

According to a recent report by Goal, Southampton are believed to be keen on England U21 International and Chelsea Youngster, Nathaniel Chalobah.

Numerous sources in recent weeks have stated that Marco Silva’s Watford are currently leading the race for the destructive midfielder, but Southampton are now keen to hijack the Hornets plans.

A bid in the region of £5M appears to be all that’s needed to prise the youngster from Chelsea’s grips, with Chalobah holding just one year left on his current contract.

But just where would he fit into our squad? And what can we as a club do to convince Chalobah to make the switch?

As a self-proclaimed admirer of Chalobah in recent years, this is a deal that certainly interests me; and here’s why…

Southampton are fortunate enough to boast a midfield with many young and creative options, yet despite this, we hold just one out and out defensive midfielder in Oriol Romeu. With the potential acquisition of Chalobah however, Mauricio Pellegrino has the tactical flexibility to select a compact two-man midfield partnership, similar to that of the Pochettino era.

Being able to organise a midfield of this style could prove to be crucial in handling the attacking threat of the Premier League’s top six sides – a challenge we failed to pass last season. We’re sorely missing a physical core at the heart of our midfield, and this is something that I want to return to our side, not only for the defensive stability, but also for the attacking freedom it gifts our frontline.

It’s also worth noting that if Chalobah does make the switch, he would have one hell of a first-team mentor in Romeu. Chalobah has shown glimpses of his obvious talent in the past, but has failed to channel this into a consistent string of performances at a top level.

With an experienced and intelligent player like Romeu, Chalobah has someone that can guide him in finding his role and responsibilities in the side; when to dive in, when to sit deep, when to press, and when to take risks on the ball. These are all questions that Chalobah will need help answering as an inexperienced midfielder.

But whilst this inexperience in the Chelsea side will no doubt raise a few questions marks over Southampton fans heads, I believe that we would have no need to worry.

Firstly because Chelsea’s pathway between the academy and the first team is a battered and bruised road, but secondly, because Romeu and Bertrand’s situations at the London based club weren’t a million miles away either.

Both of these current Saints showed promise at a big club from a young age, were then rewarded with a number of opportunities, before quickly being discarded from the first team the moment that there was a hill to climb. Through hot competition, injury and even inexperience, some ridiculously talented players can fall through the net at Chelsea Football Club.

But with thanks to the faith and guidance of Southampton, they’ve been able to revive their careers and show their full potential.

Presenting young talented individuals the opportunity to succeed and develop is what Southampton Football Club do best, and that’s exactly why I would love to see us take the gamble on Nathaniel Chalobah.

Jay Rodriguez and Southampton: The end of the road

After five years wearing red and white, it’s now been confirmed that Jay Rodriguez will be making the switch to West Bromwich Albion, in a deal worth £12M.

The transfer itself comes as a surprise to very few Southampton fans, who over the past 24 months have watched Rodriguez fight to rediscover his 2013-14 season form.

But despite failing to do so, this is a departure that’s been been left on wonderful terms, with each and every Southampton fan wishing nothing but the best for Jay, and rightly so too…

Rodriguez signed for the Saints in the summer of 2012 for a fee of £7M, as Nigel Adkins’ Southampton prepared for their return to the top flight.

With the pressure of fighting for survival, Rodriguez managed to show glimpses of his physical edge and positive movement, only for his unrefined technique and nerves in front of goal to let him down. The talent was there for all to see, but this diamond desperately needed polishing, having recorded just six League goals from 35 appearances.

But with the departure of Adkins – the man who placed his faith in Jay – there came the arrival of a certain Mauricio Pochettino, and this was the moment that we began to see the very best of Jay Rodriguez.

With a full pre-season under the Argentinian, Rodriguez had been endlessly drilled, physically pushed and given a vital responsibility in the way that Pochettino wanted his side to play.

The skinny forward that only 12 months ago would be bullied to the ground in aerial duels, was now leaping high-above 6ft 4in centre-halves as he sinks the ball into the back of the net. And that same player who would once crumble as he bares down on goal with just the keeper to beat, was now cooly slotting the ball home without a moment’s hesitation.

Operating as an inside forward from the left, Rodriguez was wreaking havoc upon the Premier League’s strongest defences, linking up effortlessly with Rickie Lambert through the middle, and showing the intelligence to stretch defences in wide areas.

With 15 League goals in just 33 appearances, Rodriguez was showing no sign of slowing down as the end of the season edged nearer. Having already made his England debut in mid November of that season, there was huge talk of Rodriguez being the wildcard selection in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad.

He was in the finest form of his career so far, but then it all came crashing down…

On the 5th of April 2014 against Manchester City, Rodriguez leapt to control a high ball in the air, only to writhe in pain as his feet touched back down on the ground.

The Etihad filled with a painful silence, as the Southampton players rushed to surround Rodriguez in shock of what they had just witnessed. They knew it was bad news from the moment he touched the ground, and the stretcher on the field just moments later only confirmed that.

News broke instantly amongst us Southampton fans, who were feeling every bit of Rodriguez’s pain. Our club had only been back in the top flight for a single season, and here we had a player who was helping to put us back on the football map, all whilst dreaming of representing his country on the biggest stage that football can offer.

I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t emotional watching his childhood dream be crushed before our very eyes.

Rodriguez had suffered a rupture to his anterior cruciate ligament, and was told that he would face the next 11 months on the sidelines. His World Cup dreams were well and truly over.

Rodriguez was about to endure the biggest challenge of his career to date, both physically and mentally. He would go on to face setback after setback, scare after scare, and even for a short time, have doubts over whether he would ever play the game again.

But after sixteen brutal, agonising months, having missed the entirety of the 2014/15 campaign, Rodriguez was once again ready to step back out onto St Mary’s.

It was chilling to watch him re-enter the field as a Saint, knowing full well just how deep and cruelly his strength had been tested over the last 16 months.

And whilst over the past two years Rodriguez has been a shadow of his 2013/14 self, it’s made me realise that there is far more to football than just results and goals. For all the players that come and go from St Mary’s, here we have a player who was giving his all just to one day wear those red and white stripes again.

Even after all that time on the sidelines waiting, Rodriguez still maintained a focused and determined attitude when both Ronald Koeman and Claude Puel starved him of game time; no running to the press, no moaning and certainly no drama. Jay’s only focus was getting back out onto that pitch, to repay the Southampton fans for their endless support through his recovery.

Over the past 24 months, Rodriguez has tried time and time again to once again make an attacking role his own, but sadly, his efforts came to no avail. Without the physicality to play as a lone number nine, the pace to play as a winger, or the technical ability to play just off the forward, Rodriguez has often been consigned to the bench.

But by no means am I suggesting that he’s no longer capable of being an effective Premier League footballer. For a while now, he’s been missing a number of vital components that help to aid development; a manager that trusts him, a single role in the side and a consistent run of games. At West Bromwich Albion it appears that Tony Pulis has promised him exactly that.

For the wonderful memories, professionalism throughout, and his pride in being a Saint, I would love nothing more than to see Rodriguez back amongst the goals; just not against us, alright Jay?

Player profile: Jan Bednarek

It’s now been confirmed that Southampton Football Club have made their first acquisition of the summer, with the purchase of Lech Poznan’s Jan Bednarek. 

The 21-year-old joins the club on a five-year-deal, for a fee that’s believed to be in the region of €6m, rising to €8M. But rather than sitting here and rambling away as if I know about our latest signing, I spoke to a man who does; Christopher Lash.

First and foremost, what can we look forward to in Bednarek? 

Well, he’s probably the best young defender in his position in Poland.  He’s relatively quick, decent on the ball, pretty good in the air, quite strong, and in general a pretty aware central defender. He only really broke through into the Lech first team this season, and he became a key defensive player as the club rose up the league after a poor start.

Are there any defenders that you would compare him to? 

He’s better on the ball than your average central defender, so in that respects you could compare him more to the John Stones/Rio Ferdinand model. But he’s also good in the air and strong, so he has the kind of capabilities required for more typical central defensive work as well.

What weaknesses has he shown? 

Lots, unfortunately. He’s been a key defender in the Polish league for Lech this season, making a lot of pundits’ team of the year and it’s clear that he has a lot of potential, but there are a lot of areas in which he needs to improve. His anticipation can go missing at key times in games and his positional play is a bit haphazard.  For a big guy, he can sometimes be bullied off the ball by opposing strikers. All of this can be coached out of him and he’s only 21, so Southampton are buying mostly based on what he could turn into, rather than what he is now. But don’t be surprised to see him make quite a large number of mistakes if he’s thrown into the deep end.

How has Bednarek performed at International level? 

He’s not made his debut for the full international side yet, although there have been strong rumours that he will make the Poland squad in the autumn as the Polish team moves inexorably towards the World Cup Finals in Russia.  He has played a lot at youth levels though and was a key member of the u-21 side in the recent European championships hosted in Poland.  He didn’t have a particularly good tournament (but then neither did the rest of Poland’s squad), getting sent off in one match and making a number of mistakes that led to goals (the non-squeamish can look up his mistake which led to Slovakia’s winning goal in Poland’s opening match).  The most important thing is Poland’s NT coach Adam Nawałka firmly has his eye on him and he should have a fine international career.

Has he had to face any challenges or great pressure in his short career so far?

Well I’d say he’s done very well to win a starting place in Lech’s first team after not being considered a key player even last summer, so that’s definitely a challenge he’s overcome.  The recent u-21 championships were a big challenge for him, but one that he didn’t really pass with flying colours. All good experience though.

What do you make of the reported €6M fee rising to €8M?

It’s a massive fee to be honest and will break the transfer record for a player transferred out of the Polish league.  In that respect there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him, especially from the Polish media who will be checking on his progress pretty intensely.  I’d say in some ways the media hype of the move from the Polish side might be just as difficult as the jump in class that he’s going to experience in the English league.  I suppose we’ll see if he has a mature head on his shoulders because he’s going to need to be level-headed to succeed with all the pressure he will be under.

Finally, what do you think of Southampton as a destination for Bednarek’s development?

Hopefully it will be a perfect match.  As you know Southampton are renowned for being a club that brings through young talent and so, in that respect, Bednarek couldn’t be headed to a better club.  The big worry in Poland is that Bednarek will go the way of Kapustka who couldn’t break through whatsoever at Leicester and looked a shadow of his former self at the U-21 championships recently. I wouldn’t expect Bednarek break through straightaway but hopefully Southampton will be able to provide him with the know-how and coaching to advance the level of his play appropriately.

Cedric Soares targeted by Allegri’s Juventus

Coming off the back of Euro’s glory and a fine Premier League campaign, it’s no surprise to Southampton fans that Cedric Soares has already been linked with a number of European giants.

The latest reports have suggested that Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus are interested in the Portuguese International, with Dani Alves’s transfer to Manchester City looking all the more likely.

FC Barcelona were also believed to be monitoring Cedric earlier in the season, as their hunt for an attack-minded and natural full back goes on.

But this fine run of form for Cedric over the past 12 months doesn’t tell the full tale of his time on the south coast, and in my eyes, that is exactly why our board can’t allow such a transfer to formulate this summer.

Not too long ago under the reign of Ronald Koeman, there was a time when Cedric looked unable to adapt to the Premier League’s physical demands, and would find the opposite corner flag more often than Pelle’s head. There was clear talent inside the former Sporting fullback, but he needed to be nurtured and protected inside the team’s system in order to flourish.

So much so was the need for improvement that Koeman finished the 2015/16 season placing more trust in Cuco Martina, often consigning Cedric to the bench.

If we allow a single impressive season to be the benchmark for warranting a move away, then our transfer strategy is beyond flawed. I’m sure that the Southampton board hold the same stance, but it’s something that we shouldn’t even consider entertaining. It would show weakness to not only our fans and current crop of players, but also other teams that may wish to test our resolve with a bid.

Not to mention that at this moment in time, it’s looking increasingly likely that either one of Virgil Van Dijk or Ryan Bertrand will depart this summer. Losing two of our current backline in one single window would be one hell of a task for our recruitment department, and a cruel welcoming for Mauricio Pellegrino.

Don’t go forgetting that we’re still holding out for our Jose Fonte replacement too…

Finally however, there comes the hurdle of the reported fee that would be enough to prise Cedric away from our grips. £15M. Yes, you read that correctly.

£15M is the figure being thrown around by numerous sources, and quite frankly, I don’t believe that our board would pay even the slightest bit of attention to this offer. As many will know, Southampton operate a transfer strategy of buying low and selling high, but to accept such a bid would only complete the first half of the cycle.

When you consider the current rate at which Cedric has been developing and the fact that his contract runs until the summer of 2020, it would simply be mindless to consider a bid any time before the end of next season. 

Every goal from Southampton’s 2015/16 season

Earlier today I stumbled upon the following video, and to be quite frank with you, it’s dragged me into a state of depression.

With the dismissal of Claude Puel earlier in the week, it’s already been well documented just how uninspiring the Saints were over their 2016/17 campaign. 17 Premier League goals in 19 home fixtures, not a single player reaching the double digits of goalscoring, and Charlie Austin finishing the season as our top goalscorer (despite being injured since December).

But by no means is this telling of the Southampton way or years gone by.

In recent years, fans on the South coast have often been treated to free-flowing football and a guarantee of effective attacking play – even when the aesthetics itself may take a hit. This goals compilation of the 2015/16 season proves just that.

Having finished reminiscing over these times however, a number of thoughts quickly came to mind…

Firstly, just how influential Graziano Pelle’ was in each and every attack; whether it was a thumping header, a delicate touch on his chest, or even being a nuisance with his 6ft 4in frame, Pelle’ was a constant nightmare for defenders to handle. There’s simply no denying that we’ve missed the focal point of the Italian International in our frontline this season.

On top of this, we failed to replace the blistering pace and clinical nature of Sadio Mane. The Senegalese International recorded an outstanding 11 goals in 37 league appearances as a winger, yet we avoided signing a like-for-like substitute. It’s ludicrous to expect Nathan Redmond to match such a tally already, whilst Sofiane Boufal certainly falls into the category of a creative winger, rather than a goalscorer; where on earth were we expecting to make up for these lost goals?

And finally, there’s the fact that Ronald Koeman managed to work 10 Premier League goals out of Shane Long. Whilst Long’s finishing itself has certainly been well below par this season (3), it’s got to be said that he’s been forced to operate as a square peg in a round hole under Claude Puel. Had he worked under a manager that plays to his limited strengths, we could have seen his fine form continue into the new season.

One things for certain however, and that’s the demand for our ruthlessness in front of goal to return to St Mary’s.

Dusan Tadic: Should he stay or should he go?

According to reports at The Times, Dusan Tadic is believed to be a target for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool this summer.

This conveniently concocted transfer rumour isn’t what prompted me to start typing away however; Instead, it was the reaction to this news from many Southampton fans…  

This Premier League season has been a write off, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. The football has been dire for the most part, Claude Puel looks as if he will face the sack, and a number of players are certainly guilty of not matching expectations – perhaps none more so than Dusan Tadic.

With the way things are in the modern game, this has naturally caused a number of supporters to switch on the former fan favourite, claiming that they are open to let the Serb move on this window.

Whilst each fan is of course entitled to their own opinion, it baffles me that someone can talk about discarding a player with such clear and previously proven talent. Certain comments would have you fooled that the playmaker is rotting away as dead wood in our squad, when in truth, it’s simply been his first troubled season at the club.

Granted, a player of his talent should be doing far more in the final third, but does that mean we should give up on him just yet? Not a chance, and here’s why.

With the appointment of Claude Puel as first team coach last summer, there came a new vision for how Southampton should play their football. Puel adopted a number of systems during his first season as Southampton boss, trialling both a midfield diamond (442) and a conventional 4231, but the general approach was one of patience and disciplined structural organisation.

Puel encouraged his side to be comfortable on the ball and patient whilst in possession, searching for the perfect moment to cut through the opposition’s defensive lines.

This is a change in style that quite frankly, Tadic has found very little joy from, recording his worst Premier League season for both goals and assists

Where in the past Tadic would be tasked with the freedom to hunt for pockets of space and drive at the defence, he now finds himself surrounded by defenders with almost every touch of the ball. This is a symptom of Puel’s style of play, which hands the opposition the time to form two defensive banks as we look to break them down.

Whether this is Tadic’s failure to adapt, or even Puel’s failure to accompany Tadic in the side, It’s obvious to me that a patient style of football doesn’t bring the best out of Dusan.

Taking risks and playing with a high intensity has so often allowed Tadic to be at his best, but such a game plan was clearly discouraged by the Frenchman.

Evidence of this can be seen in previous seasons under Ronald Koeman, who played to Tadic’s clear strengths. During his debut season in the Premier League, Tadic fired in four goals and picked up seven assists, before recording seven goals and 12 assists in the following season.

Compare that to just three goals and five assists this season (despite starting six and three more games respectively) and it’s no wonder why he’s struggled this season.

It’s also worth noting that Tadic (24) has recorded more career Premier League assists than Alexis Sanchez, Raheem Sterling, Roberto Firmino and even Willian. A player of such quality doesn’t lose it all overnight.

There is however a criticism of Tadic that I can perfectly understand, and that’s his tendency to show a lethargic and disinterested attitude.

Tadic has never been one to run to the media and cause a stir, but this stroppy attitude on the field is one that doesn’t sit well with many fans – especially when the team is in a slump and needing inspiration.

Such a trait is infuriating to watch from the stands, but to tell the truth, it’s a common theme amongst attacking midfielders when they don’t receive the ball in the right areas. I’m not justifying his actions, but it’s certainly not unheard of. 

The final consideration for keeping Tadic is the potential for change this summer. If the Southampton board dismiss Puel as many are expecting, then a new manager will of course take charge, and this hands Tadic the opportunity for a fresh start.

We’ve seen first hand this season that new management can help talent individuals flourish. So if Cedric Soares and Oriol Romeu have been able to do so under Puel, what’s stopping Tadic from doing the same next season?

Whether Puel sticks around and decides to change his approach, or Southampton find new management, I’m certain that if we retain his services, we haven’t seen the last of Dusan Tadic at his very best in red and white. 

Charlie Austin’s fitness will be key in our upcoming season

Many Southampton fans are unhappy with how the 2016-17 season turned out, but should they be? There were many clubs that performed below par last season, and none more so than the former Champions Leicester City. Other teams like Manchester City, Stoke City and West Ham will all be looking for a big improvement on last term too. 

Southampton manager Claude Puel has come under criticism, but it’s kind of weird how a successful season comes back to haunt a club. Southampton came 6th in the league in the 2015-16 season and finished on 63pts. In the major football betting markets last season, the betting firms were clearly not fancying the Saints to repeat that. The problem that Claude Puel faced was twofold.

Had the Saints Peaked?

The fact is that Southampton are not a “top six” club despite coming 6th in the 2015-16 season. Their financial resources are far behind the traditional big six in England, so it was always going to be difficult for the Saints to replicate their previous form. Secondly (and something that went largely unnoticed) every single team in the top six finished last season with more points than the previous season.

This acted like a syphon on the rest of the division and led to many clubs being compressed in terms of points totals. An absolutely staggering 94pts more were earned by the top six clubs in the 2016-17 season, than in the previous year. This is a factor that must be taken into consideration when we look to assess Puel’s first season in the top flight of English football.

Southampton Faded

Many Saints fans were unhappy at how they finished the campaign, but they were not the only club to tail off towards the end. Southampton finished the season winning only two form their final nine, and it’s safe to say that such form is worrying for onlooking fans. However, there are a number of key factors that would have no doubt played their part in this poor run.

The shoulder injury to Charlie Austin was a big loss to the Saints, having fired in six goals in just thirteen appearances wearing the red and white stripes. A big negative for the Southampton fans over the 2016/17 season was their lack of goals overall, and this is an area that Puel (if he stays beyond this season) needs to correct.

Austin finished the season as the clubs highest scorer, and that is staggering considering he spent five months out injured. It’s clear that the Southampton fans expect greater contributions from players such as Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez and even Manolo Gabbiadini to some extent.

Long is a hit and miss striker and his stats are there back that up. Just 18 goals from 89 appearances won’t give opposing defenders sleepless nights before a game. As for Rodriguez, there are glimpses of his former self as games go by, but to tell the truth, he’s never been the same since that injury in 2014.

Gabbiadini arrived in the January transfer window from Napoli, where he scored 15 goals from 56 games, and a grand total of 42 goals during the entirety of his time in Italy. He kicked off life on South coast in immense form, scoring six from his first four appearances, but then ended the season on that same tally.

Do the Saints have the quality they need?

The fact is that Southampton clearly cannot go out and buy the top quality strikers like other clubs can. They need to stumble on a new “wonder kid” or another gem using their black box method to recruitment, and whilst the jury is still very much out on just how good Gabbiadini is, fans will want to see a greater involvement from the Italian come next season.

This makes Charlie Austin key to their chances of a successful year in the 2017-18 season. Austin has scored 93 goals in 183 games for Burnley, QPR and Southampton, and that goal every other game strike rate is exactly what the Saints need. They can’t just go into next season relying on Austin though, and they need better back up beyond Gabbiadini. Is it time for both Long and Rodriguez to move on?

Free-flowing attacking football has been engraved into the DNA of Southampton Football Club in recent years, and in order for fans to look back on the 2016-17 season as a strong building block, that needs to be corrected; I’m certain that Charlie Austin will play a vital role in doing so. 

Saint-Etienne optimistic in acquiring Claude Puel

Ligue 1 outfit Saint-Etienne remain confident in securing Claude Puel this summer, but only in the event of Southampton dismissing the Frenchman.

The latest update regarding Puel’s current situation on the south coast was reported by France Bleu, who claim that whilst Puel hasn’t been in touch with Saint Etienne personally, his lawyer has been acting on his behalf.

With thanks to Patrick Kendrick’s translation, we are able to bring you the details of this France Bleu report.

The article states that Puel rejected an offer to take over from Christophe Galtier just two weeks ago, but Saint Etienne are now preparing a revised offer; it’s been said that Puel is far more interested to hear what Les Verts will offer this time round.

On top of potentially receiving a salary in the region of €3.7 million a year, the former Nice boss will also have the luxury of being nearer the south of France – a destination that he loves to visit during his time off.

Not to mention that Saint-Etienne themselves are willing to embrace new ways of playing, allowing Puel to take over a similar project to that of his time at Lille and Nice.

The only reported stumbling block between the two parties appears to lie with Puel, who wishes to take over control of all aspects at the club whilst in charge. If Puel becomes available, then Saint-Etienne will have to budge if they want to secure their top target.

From the outside looking in, this looks to be a far more comfortable proposition for Puel, who in truth, has had a torrid time in winning over the Southampton fans and adapting to the Premier League.

The bottom line however is that with Puel unlikely to leave of his own accord, any chance of a shuffle in management this summer starts and stops with the Southampton board.

Over to you, Les.

 

Lap of depreciation

Last Sunday was the first time that I haven’t stayed for the lap of appreciation in my 16 seasons as a season ticket holder, which speaks volumes (I did have to get my eldest back to Uni, but that wouldn’t have stopped me before).

This was no reflection on the players, who I feel have played well individually and within the framework that they are presented. They have been professional throughout, but obviously aren’t enjoying the football.

If I’m being honest, it was an element of lethargy from me (probably derived from the style of play that I’d just witnessed again) and the fact that I had no desire to see and hear Puel being abused. He comes across as a reasonable character, professional, knowledgeable and with a clear style that he has communicated very well to the players.

From other fans perspective on the outside looking in (and no doubt with the benefit of hindsight, from our perspective in due course) his results have matched and exceeded his start of season brief – top half finish, cup final appearance and blooded youngsters. However, it’s passionless football. I’ve left St Marys of late without any emotions whatsoever. It’s effective, functional but not entertaining and that’s in a league (top 6 aside) that has been poor this season.

Yesterday was a missed opportunity to sign off the season with a smile, which makes me think he’s knows his fate already. All too often, the switched ball to an overlapping full back was on, but the full back was shackled / the midfield drove forward into a static wall (Austin(!) or Gabbi aside) of Saints and stoke players / the ball was worked to the goal line and cut back, to where a midfielder should have been, but wasn’t / the ball played into a central midfielder on the edge of the box had to be stopped and then returned to the deeper lying midfielder, as no runs were being made beyond. That wasn’t a case of unwilling, disinterested or lazy footballers, it was obviously the cautious system they were playing to.

As others have mentioned, in the second half of the last game of the season, at home, losing 1-0 to a pretty unadventurous Hughes side and with nothing to lose, why not try Austin and Gabbi together? Why, because it doesn’t fit the system.

Most worrying though is that the players don’t look happy. Bertrand is a classic case. He’s never been found wanting before, nearly always a 8/10 + in my books, but he’s looked frustrated and dare I say bored of late. He’s been professional but can’t wait to get off the pitch at the end of every match. Yesterday, at times he looked like he was wary of getting any knocks etc (protecting a move?).

With the lack of any real passion on the pitch (Oriel aside of course – THAT tackle!!) transferring to the stands, the inevitable happens in that the silence is only broken by moans and jeers (Forster, Targett and Tadic being the most recent recipients).

And so starts a downward cycle…

I don’t want to be negative (8th place, cup final, Europe, League 1) but it’s becoming difficult not to and I’m therefore convinced that something has to change.

One thing won’t change though …I’ll still be there, in my lucky pants, week in, week out ! COYR!