View from the Kingsland – Spring Sabbatical

View from the Kingsland – Spring Sabbatical

By Nick Mabey.

Well, this is strange.  As the Championship promotion race builds to a climax, Saints find themselves with a three-week gap between games. Even stranger, this ‘Spring sabbatical’ (as I’m calling it even though no one else is) follows a mad eleven games in 41 days and preceded an even more bonkers nine games in 29 days.  How an earth has this happened?  The answer is a mixture of fixture madness, FA cup runs and even an industrial fire!

Southampton manager, the ever resilient and upbeat Russell Martin, seems to be taking these extreme peaks and troughs in his stride, saying that the pause will give his coaching staff much needed time on the training ground. Top of their agenda will be Saints’ recent defensive frailty, which has seen us concede eighteen goals in the last eight games, compared to four goals in the eleven matches prior to that. Hopefully this break will have everyone working out how such a change in basic defending has occurred.  

It’s interesting to get fan reaction to the break.  Some see it as a chance to regroup before one last push for promotion, allowing more time to get our best player,Kyle Walker-Peters, fit and also one of our two Bournemouth loanee super subs, Ryan Fraser. Others see the upcoming fixture pile up as the final nail in our automatic promotion prospects, even suggesting we should rest players from here on in preparation for the play-offs! One thing all fans seem agreed on; it’s a long wait for our next Saints footballing fix.

The prolonged pause has come with just under a quarter of season to go and an intriguing promotion story unfolding. Like a well-crafted TV drama, the plot has twisted and turned in the recent past and we urgently await the final episode with many outcomes possible (if not probable). There will be no shortage of predictions, extrapolations and arguments filling the action vacuum.  The cast of characters each have their own reasons to be fearful and hopeful:

  • Leicester City. Top all season by a country mile, only to lose some form in the last few games leading to supporter unrest and some nervous looking over their shoulder.  The finish line can’t come soon enough.
  • Leeds United. Seemingly irrepressible and breathing hard down the neck of first place.  Momentum is with Leeds, and it is hard to see them blowing up from here…but you never know, pressure does strange things.
  • Ipswich Town. The dark horse of the four, with everyone expecting them to drop away from the front.  Like Leicester they have squandered an exceptional half-way lead and are now playing catch up.
  • Southampton. Adrift but with a game in hand.  Already proven they can sustain a long unbeaten run, and also prone to a batch of defeats, Saints have the hardest job of the four ahead.

To add to the intrigue, Saints have to play the other three clubs in this race, all away from home. Depending on how your glass is filled this either means we have destiny in our own hands or no chance of success. It really is going to be a fascinating finish to the season, but for now we have to sit and wait. And debate, and wait. And dream, and wait. And predict, and wait.

As for me, I can’t bring myself to make a prediction about how it will all pan out.  I’ve covered all the bases in my head (automatic promotion, Wembley glory via the play-ffs, another year in the Championship) so that my poor heart is ready when the time comes.  I guess I should spend this three-week Spring sabbatical on my own training ground, preparing for the stress and torture that is sure to come.

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