Southampton FC: Transfer Review, Summer 2014 – Part One

A few days have gone by since the summer transfer window snapped shut. Let’s face it, this one was a rollercoaster that, given our recent history, we all could have done without.

I thought I’d do a quick appraisal of our business over the course of the transfer window. The outs will be covered, so I can get some f*cking closure at last, as well as the ins.

So let’s get started…

Southampton FC Summer Sale

Ahh yes, who could forget this bit of witty banter? I for one will never tire of seeing Surrey-based Manchester United fans, crap betting sites and Chelsea fans from Totton Tweeting this image ad nauseam in June and July.

In fairness to them though, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were right. With Pochettino choosing to move to Spurs, and Cortese leaving in January, Southampton had lost two pivotal figures who would be hard to replace.

Cortese may have had many bad points, but it simply cannot be denied that he had one key good point that, when removed from the club, had quite a negative effect. Simply put, Cortese had the sheer, stubborn belief that a moderately sized team from Hapshire could not only compete domestically at the highest level, but could break into the top tier of European, and eventually world, football.

That may be unrealistic, but it was true. And with an equally charismatic manager at the helm in Pochettino, Southampton as a team were buying into that belief – and that’s no bad thing.

The problems started when Cortese left in January. Here was a man who was always at the training ground, bantering around with players, making them feel special, suddenly walking out on the team that he’d helped assemble. Now we all know that this team was built with Marcus Liebherr’s money. Not his. But after Marcus’s sad passing, Cortese really did step into his shoes, and became the de-facto ruler of the club. He built strong relationships with players and staff, and when he told them that he was leaving, and that it was because of issues that he had with the Liebherr family, many of the senior players in the squad became distraught.

To them, Southampton was Nicola Cortese – not the fans, not the badge, not the stadium: Nicola Cortese. And once this man and his belief left, the reality is that the players felt that they had no reason to stay.

The new chairman and our owners soon set about trying to smooth over the situation. In reality, however, I’m sure that many of us knew that, at the very least, Luke Shaw was sure to move on. Of course, many more did in the end.

But the blame cannot be laid squarely at the feet of the new regime. In fact, it could be argued that Cortese’s ego and charisma did more harm to the club than good. If the players aren’t loyal to the club, or their contract, then they can only really be loyal to a manager and a chairman. Pochettino was Cortese’s man. Cortese was loved by the players. Once both left, the players had no reason to remain loyal to the football club. After all, we are dealing with professional footballers. Barring Lambert, I have to say that I think that none of the players we shipped out this summer really gave a shit about Southampton Football Club. They were professional footballers who didn’t rate the new chairman because the owners had sacked their mate. That’s it, essentially. Players are treated like royalty by the fans, but ultimately they’ll never afford you the same sentiment. Remember that.

Unexpectedly, first player out of the door this summer, barring the much-maligned/missed Guly Do Prado, was our talismanic number seven Rickie Lambert. Here was a man who had been instrumental in our rebirth, our number seven, ripped from the club in less than 24 hours.

rickie lambert liverpool

It is a fair point to argue that Rickie should have been allowed to join his boyhood club. One that can offer him European football NOW, and silverware (maybe) soon. But finding out that Brendan Rodgers and Stevie Gerrard had been texting him since January was hard to take.

Nevertheless, when somebody has been as instrumental in our rise as Lambert wants to go to his boyhood club, and we are offered more than we paid for him, then heart and head combine and say that a deal should be struck. He goes with my best wishes, but I also believe that we, not Liverpool, have seen the best of Rickie Lambert, and they will never see the player that we saw lighting up St. Mary’s.

Luke Shaw Manchester United

The Shaw transfer was a no-brainier. Negotiations had been ongoing since January, but Luke, who seems like a good lad despite his recent bad press, had the dignity and class to keep quiet, keep his head down, play well and move on in a deal that benefitted us as much (if not more) than Manchester United. It’s interesting that he never had the same fitness and conditioning problems here that he has now. Better coaching and fitness training at Southampton than at Manchester United? Maybe.

Now we move on to the ones that stick in the throat somewhat: Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren.

Adam Lallana was a model professional for 13 out of the 14 years he was at the club, and arguably was our best performer last season. So why did he choose to upset the apple cart so much in the last six months of the season? Had he really, as Mark Clattenburg told him in the Everton match last season, changed?

I was skeptical about him getting the captain’s armband last season, when so many other, more deserving players were in line to get it (Fonte, Lambert, Schneiderlin). But it looks like this may have been one of the conditions of him signing his new, improved contract towards the end of the 2012/2013 season.

Whilst his performances on the pitch last season were often little short of marvellous, it was obvious after Christmas that he started to lose interest in playing for Southampton, and perhaps started to view himself as bigger than the club which developed him. His deserved international call-up bolstered this belief, but the fact that after these call-ups, and during them, he started making ambiguous statements about his future concerned many. In short, the player who wanted to finish his career at Southampton was now giving interviews with Adam Blackmore of Solent Sport which the club had to pull, where he essentially spoke of looking for a new challenge, and being open to new opportunities. Weasel speak for ‘I’m off’.

When Liverpool came calling, we made them wait until after the World Cup. Adam wanted the deal done as soon as possible, and was concerned that the club were going to force him to stay. So he dug his heels in, and told the club that he’d never play for them again. This news was made public, and essentially destroyed the respect that fans once had for Lallana.

Adam Lallana, left, speaks with Mark Clattenburg during Southampton 2-1 defeat at Everton

‘You’ve changed, Adam. You were never subbed as much in the 2012/13 season.’

I think that, as supporters, we were unfairly represented in some quarters as moaning minnies – a footballing wave of King Canutes trying to idealistically order back the tide when modern football is increasingly dictated by players, and not by the clubs, or the fans, that pay them, keep them fit and give them a platform to perform.

Adam Lallana unarguably is the player he is today because of the support given to him by Southampton FC. In that respect, the £26 million shelled out by Liverpool is a better deal for us, than for them. We have sold a player at his peak, and we have replaced him with another player approaching his peak, with fewer injury problems. But more on our incomings in part 2 of this blog…

Lovren? Well came, played well for half a season and then left. Seeya mate…

Dejan Lovren liverpool

And Morgan and Jay? Well, who knows?

I certainly don’t think that the Morgan and Jay storyline is going to go away in a hurry. In fact, even today, days after the transfer window has closed, the rumour mill regarding Jay Rodriguez’s future on the south coast has already gone into overdrive. There is little doubt that this story has been fed to the papers by Jay’s Dad Kiko (who would love to have his son back up north first and foremost), and Jay’s management company is based in the northwest too. It doesn’t take a genius to see who’s making the movements here.

Morgan? I think he’s been told to sit tight by Les Reed for another season. He will leave next summer, but I think our board have struck a deal with him and his agent. I wouldn’t be surprised if negotiations with other clubs start, Luke Shaw-style, next January.

One thing’s for certain: the ins and outs will continue. And in the second part of this blog series, I’ll be looking at the key players bought in by the club this summer, and a certain Dutch legend who’s been charged with putting it all together, and hopefully drive us forward.

As they used to say on Police 5 – keep ’em peeled for part 2.

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