Southampton Season Guide
Nickname: The Saints
Ground: Friends Provident St Mary's Stadium, Britannia Road, Southampton, Hampshire. SO14 5FP
Ticket Office: 0870 2200150
Home - Red and white striped shirts, black shorts, White socks with red and black trim
Away - Yellow and blue shirts, blue shorts and yellow socks
Soccernet's Southampton page | Full squad and player profiles | Fixture list
Soccernet's Southampton Correspondent
Official Southampton Website
Fan Site - Saints World
Unofficial Website - Saints Forever
|Last Season - All change||Position: 12th|
Southampton began the season with European football, thanks to their efforts in the FA Cup, but a lack of consistency both on and off the pitch hit the club hard. After nearly three years in charge manager Gordon Strachan quit the club mid-season, an apparently pre-determined decision to take a break from football, and after a hasty search the Saints plucked Paul Sturrock from Plymouth Argyle in March 2003. The upheaval affected results, and despite a good start under the new boss Southampton failed to string a healthy run of results together and slipped down the table. Sturrock's team failed to notch a single victory in their final five games of the season and the majority of Saints are filled with trepidation regarding what this term will hold.
|Transfers - In and Out|
Peter Crouch (Aston Villa) - £2million
Andreas Jakobsson (Brondby) - £1m
Mikael Nilsson (Halmstad) - £500,000
Kenwyne Jones (W-Connection) - Undisc.
Jelle van Damme (Ajax) - Undisclosed
Alaeddine Yahia (Guingamp) - £350,000
Fitz Hall (Crystal Palace) - £1.5m
Stephen Crainey (Leeds) - £200,000
Jamie Gleeson (K'minster) - Free
Stephen Hunt (Colchester) - Free
Mike Williamson (Wycombe) - Loan
Augustin Delgado - Released
|First Choice XI|
GK Antti Niemi; RB Jason Dodd, CB Michael Svensson, CB Claus Lundekvam, LB Jelle van Damme; RM Mikael Nilsson, CM Rory Delap, CM Yoann Folly, LM Anders Svensson; ST James Beattie, ST Kevin Phillips.
|The Gaffer - Paul Sturrock|
Although he was hugely successful with Plymouth Argyle, Paul 'Luggy' Sturrock's brief record since joining Southampton reads won four, lost five and drawn two - not exactly inspiring stuff. That said, the canny Scot did only have the last eleven matches of the season to make an impression and he will be rightly judged on what he does in his first full campaign. Saints fans will be hoping he can transform their club as he did the Pilgrims. Sturrock dragged the club from the depths of the Third Division to the top of the Second Division - picking up the Third Division title and the Manager of the Year accolade along the way. He has studied under one of Scotland's great managers in Dundee United's Jim McLean and the amiable coach certainly has the ability to cajole and inspire. However, his first four signings of the summer have a combined height of 26 feet and may well hint at the style of football in store for the St Mary's faithful next term.
|Player to Watch - Jelle van Damme|
Sturrock's first summer signing was brought to St Mary's to provide competition for injury-prone former England international Graeme Le Saux. At 6' 4'' it's unlikely the left-back will get out jumped at the far post and the £2.5million capture from Ajax is also expected to pose a threat in attack. His tall frame will provide a potent threat from set pieces and the 20-year-old Belgium international also possesses a huge throw. He made his first start in Southampton's impressive 8-0 win over Asebro IF in pre-season and looks set to play an important role this year.
|Young Gun - Yoann Folly|
Gordon Strachan brought Folly to Southampton from St Etienne in July 2003 but it was under Paul Sturrock that the 19-year-old made his debut, against Tottenham in March. Standing in for the injured Matt Oakley the youngster quickly gained favour under the new manager and started a further eight times as the season drew to a close. The French Under-21 is expected to continue his progress this term and has played a full part in the Saints' pre-season programme. His simple style is effective in the holding midfield role and his power and pace is suited to the Premiership.
|From the terraces|
Probably Saints biggest signing this close season was persuading Antti Niemi to extend his contract to possibly see out his career at St Mary's. This is important because Niemi is without doubt, the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment. In a poll asking fans to vote for the best ever Saints keeper, Niemi beat the great Peter Shilton with 75% of the vote. With a good defence and the striking talents of Beattie and Phillips up front, Saints only need to fill that missing link to really push further up the league. Our missing link has been consistency and goals from midfield.
However, signs are that youngsters like David Prutton, Yohann Folly and Fabrice Fernandes are now ready to take their role in the team by the scruff of the neck. New signing Mikael Nilsson brings international experience to right midfield and other new boy, Jelle Van Damme (great name for chants!) looks a really powerful player down the left. The jury is out on Peter Crouch, but the big lad certainly is unique and Sturrock has said he wants five different strikers in his squad.
As with many clubs in the Premiership, a lot of Saints success will depend on having a settled side and be free of injuries to key players. There is a good vibe about the club and if we get off to a good start to the season, I can see us being in the top 10 all season and possibly push up around 6th place.
Not since the late 80's have Saints had such an abundance of exciting youngsters coming through. Martin Craine is an U18 England skipper who made his debut at Stamford Bridge at the tail end of the season. Dextor Blackstock and Leon Best scored goals for fun in Saints Premier championship winning U19 side and are both not far off the first team. However, literally straight out of school in the last few months has emerged 15 year old Theo Walcott. He is reportedly the fastest player at the club and has jumped straight from schoolboy football into Saints reserve team. In two pre-season friendlies he's scored one goal and set up four others. The lad has huge potential. What odds on him becoming the youngest ever Premiership player this season?
Keith Legg, Unofficial WebsiteSaints Forever
Whilst almost all of the transfer talk this summer has surrounded James Beattie, the new gaffer has still found time to bolster the ranks with three new faces in Jelle Van Damme, Mikael Nilsson and Peter Crouch. Van Damme should slot in nicely at left back and his partnership with Le Saux down that left side promises much should Soxy remain injury free of course. Should he not, there are still options there with either McCann - who has started pre-season well - and Anders Svennson who finished last season out there and did surprisingly well. Nilsson's versatility will help bolster the midfield ranks but the big talking point has been the signing of Crouchy and the worry that we're going to turn into a long ball team, although funnily enough the lad is not renowned for his heading ability. With Delgado (finally) moving on though it seems more of a straight replacement for the Tin Man giving us cover for Beatts and another option should we need one.
Indeed the gaffer has so many options in every position that we could pick two decent sides these days. Having said that, the spine of the team picks itself with Niemi in goal - his new contract was probably the highlight of the summer for most Saints fans - Claus and Killer at the back, Folly and Prutton in midfield and Beatts and Super Kev up front. The striker's partnership in particular should really bear fruits this term and if both can get off the mark early doors we could get off to a flier. We probably won't but we could what with the fixture list giving us some very winnable games straight off the bat with only the trip to Chelsea on August 28 looking particularly daunting.
Of course, there are still teething problems in the side, notably the fitness concerns surrounding Oakley, Killer and Soxy and the winning midfield combination which neither Strachan nor Sturrock managed to find last term. However, the strength in depth of the squad and the long list of promising youngsters looking to force their way into the side promises much. Indeed, the last two home games of last season against Villa and Newcastle were arguably two of our best performances in years so there is much to be optimistic about although on the flip side, the truly dismal display at Fratton Park showed us that there is still much for the gaffer to prove. He'll be determined to show that he belongs at this level although it would be nice if he didn't criticize his new players in public so much. And yet even with the squad we have and the fact we haven't been in a dogfight for years we're still a shortish 8-1 for the drop! Whilst the thought of relegation doesn't enter Saints fans heads anymore (well maybe not as much as it used to) a UEFA Cup place is definitely within our grasp but much does depend on the Beatts/Super Kev partnership as there is a serious lack of goals from the rest of the team - something which Sturrock is well aware of and something that unfortunately points to a rotation system for the midfield until he happens upon the right one. Fab/Folly/Prutton/Le Saux should start the season there but I doubt they'll finish it.
Simon Tanton, Soccernet's Southampton Correspondent
|Best - Top Eight||Worst - Mediocrity|
With an unusual number of youngsters pushing for first team places the future looks bright for Southampton but the current season could represent something of a struggle. Sturrock's side will be looking to put the disappointing end to last season quickly behind them and with opening games against Aston Villa, Blackburn and Bolton a good start will be expected. If Southampton start the right way it could set a positive tone for the rest of the campaign but if they falter early on the club could find themselves hovering above the relegation zone.