View from the Kingsland: The end (at last)

View from the Kingsland: The end (at last)

by Nick Mabey

They say all good things must come to an end. Thankfully the same is true of all bad things and, for Southampton FC, this season has been the worst for quite a while. It’s finally over and, now the dust has settled after a crazy 4-4 draw with mighty Liverpool, I can at last relax into the summer and contemplate what is going to happen next season without any of the stress of having to actually watch us play.

My neighbouring Kingsland season ticket holders carried out a brief post-mortem at half-time during our final game and agreed on a probable cause of death.  Our diagnosis: a combination of the signing of a large amount of young players followed by poor coaching and baffling tactics was the culprit. Under all three of our managers this year we didn’t have a clear, identifiable way of playing and, without that, it was therefore hard for new, inexperienced players to know what to do, when and how. We weren’t so much a team, more a collection of potential ideas.

In reality, our season was lost in a series of close results against teams near us in the league.  We actually performed pretty well against the better sides, which provided much need nourishment in an otherwise barren season – as well as the obvious frustration of “why can’t we play like this all time?”.  If we could have won just three of the ten one-goal defeats we suffered to Bournemouth, West Ham, Leeds, Villa (twice – both before they were any good) Forest (twice), Palace and Wolves (twice) we would have survived. But in almost every game we seemed unable to step up to the challenge, lacking in energy and urgency, and devoid of any sort of ‘plan B’.  

Fans seem split about whether Ralph should have been sacked last summer or kept for the whole season, and I can see the argument for both. We all seem to agree his replacements didn’t work, for which the football board need to carry the can. I ended up feeling sorry for both Nathan Jones (clearly out of his depth) and Reuben Selles (probably out of his depth but at least an easier person to rally behind). I just hope our next managerial appointment is a good one and made sooner rather than later.  At the time of writing Russell Martin looks set to join us, though the fact it was imminent a week ago and yet still not done is curious.  Who knows if he will be the right choice? Plenty have already written him off; I’m inclined to be more optimistic though our last two managerial choices have dented my faith in our new owners. They seem a very committed and active bunch though and that gives me hope that great care will be taken in the many tough decisions to be made over the next few weeks.

One thing is clear, and that is our first team squad is too bloated.  We probably need to lose more than ten players in order to free up space for members of our over-achieving B team. The big unknown is who goes and who stays.  In reality the club does not have full control over this and will presumably trying to balance maximising incoming fees and wage reductions with assembling a squad fit to challenge for promotion.  We do know we are saying goodbye to Willy Caballero, Theo Walcott and Mohamed Elyounoussi, all three of whom I would regard as good honest professionals and imagine to be decent human beings. And so I wish them well in whatever they do next. Willy and Theo are nearer the twilight but Moi is at his peak, at 28. He’s been the most recent target for fan abuse, but personally I find him to be a consistent, if not spectacular, player who always gives of his best.  Like others before him – Paul Telfer springs to mind – managers seemed to rate him more than fans, seeing the important role he fills in a team.  It will be interesting to see where he ends up next.

My season ticket is now spent and it’s time for grieving to end and peace to reign.  Not too much peace though, already the club are helping me in my recovery by offering me next year’s ticket at a reduced price.  I always pretend to consider my options but they know and I know that I’ll be there soon enough securing my loyalty discount. I’ll keep writing in the off season as it’s going to be an interesting one.

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