Opposition Q & A

After failing to continue our winning streak, West Ham travel to St Mary’s to face a Southampton team who will be boosted by their mini-revival and two consecutive wins for a post Boxing Day game. Before the game I spoke to old friend and Saints season ticket holder Simon Lacey from Dance Company New Adventures to discuss the game and the season past present and future.

Hi Simon, when we spoke last (about this fixture), it was just after Mark Hughes was appointed, now he has just been sacked. Given your position, I assume you are in accord with this move by your board?
Virtually nothing until he was appointed but delighted on his past record and what I have seen so far. The most impressive thing has been the attitude and the team work when without the ball. We have been right up there all season in chances created but had been woeful at defending in all areas. Under Hughes (and Pelligrino) to be twice be up against the glory hunter Gooners and then concede two equalisers would have meant going onto lose without a shadow of a doubt, to go on and score a third and win speaks volume for change of attitude and belief.

I reckon you have had about 12 managers over the past 10 years, apart from Mauricio Pochettino who out of those would you have liked to stay a bit longer?
Koeman at the time, but having said he always honoured his contracts walking out of the last year to join a supposedly bigger club in Everton changed that wish and I therefore enjoyed his and their failure. I would not have sacked Puel either having taken us to a cup final that was lost due to incompetence of officials and a top 10 finish. Adkins and Pardew did good jobs but their dismissals were right for different reasons.

What do you know about the new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, and are you happy with his appointment?
Virtually nothing until he was appointed but delighted on his past record and what I have seen so far. The most impressive thing has been the attitude and the team work when without the ball. We have been right up there all season in chances created but had been woeful at defending in all areas. Under Hughes (and Pelligrino) to be twice be up against the glory hunter Gooners and then concede two equalisers would have meant going onto lose without a shadow of a doubt, to go on and score a third and win speaks volume for change of attitude and belief.

What do you think about Manuel Pelligrini’s appointment and tenure as West Ham manager?
It was a positive step in terms of him being I believe a coach who encourages the best in terms of style of play. He is also a thoroughly decent guy; witness how he responded (or didn’t) to being sacked by the glory boys of City. Signing something like 11 new players in the summer was always going to mean a tricky start but some of the them, most obviously Anderson, are and will be real assets and great to watch if they can be kept. If the club is happy to be genuine contenders for 7th with the chance of a 6th finish and winning cups or getting finals then I don’t; see why he can’t be manager for some time.

Actually while we’re talking about managers, what are your thoughts on Jose Mourinho’s sacking by Manchester United?
My thoughts are I’ve heard and read enough. There was more pages in my daily paper on his sacking the day after than on Brexit and don’t get me started on that joke! The press and media perpetuate the fallacy that all football fans want to hear about is the big six glory hunters and top of that list are United closely followed by Liverpool. I’m more interested (apart form my own team) in hearing e.g. why Watford are doing well this season or how the Irons’ new signings and regime are doing than how sad it is that Spurs don’t know how to build a new stadium or the woes of United and managers post-Ferguson.

It looks like it’s going to be a decent title fight this season, who do you think will end up as champions, and who will fill the other Champions League places?
1) City, 2) Liverpool, 3) Spurs, 4) Arsenal

Who on the other hand are your favourites for relegation?
Perm any three from Fulham, Huddersfield, Cardiff and Burnley with the latter most likely to escape.

What positions do you think Southampton and West Ham will occupy at the end of the season?
After last season and our start to this, one place higher than when we finished last season (17th) seemed good just over two weeks ago but we can aim a bit higher since the new manager’s appointment but not above 10th, say 12th. Irons between 8th and 12th.

The transfer window is almost upon us, where if anywhere will Hunddenstal look to strengthen?

Hasenhüttl will hopefully have a player or two that he has worked with before to bring in and, like him as manager, I will never have heard of. It is suggested that Gabbiadini will go (Newcastle want?) as he has not featured in last two games; I’d be sorry for this but if so then another striker is needed. We are strong in holding/defensive midfield but would like to see another attacking wide player (Elyanoussi hasn’t stepped up yet) – Lallana return would be ideal and can’t see him getting much playing time at Liverpool. We have decent seasoned full backs with young academy back-ups but 5 centre backs none of whom totally convince – so this might mean selling and buying. Very happy with goalkeeper and reserve.

You have been unfortunate to have lost a host of really good players over the past few seasons (mainly to Liverpool and Man United), which of those loses do you regret the most?
Van Dyke, Mane and Lallana most, followed by Shaw. Another beef, all I’m hearing now is, “is Van Dyke now the best defender in the world or the premiership?” He was the best defender in the Prem for the 2 seasons he played for us without this being acknowledged, because he is now with one of the big 6 glory boys, the press & media are now taking note. Footnote: Van Dyke, Mane, Lallana, Clyne (Liverpool), Shaw and Schneiderlin (United) – what have they won since their moves other than a higher wage packet? Answer: sweet FA!

Are there any current players that you would not be averse to seeing depart this January?
Wesley Hoedt and Fraser Forster would be top of the list. Steven Davis is a club legend but deserves a possible move back to Rangers if it means him getting proper playing time; he would go with all Saints fans appreciating his time with us in many ways.

Which if any West Ham players would you like to see playing for Southampton and why?
I don’t know many of the new ones well enough yet but obviously Anderson as he is real class and would be an asset to the glory boys as well as any other Prem team. I am a Wilshere fan and saddened that his ankles or body keep breaking down. At his best he is such a dynamic and astute creative presence that he would be very welcome IF FIT. Declan Rice for his obvious potential. Andy Carroll (JOKE!)

How will Southampton set out against West Ham on Thursday? Formation/Team?
I guess same as last two (wins): McCarthy, 3 at the back in Bednarek, Yoshida & Vestergaard (Stephens as possible replacement), L wing back Targett (Bertrand if fit now or on bench), R wing back Valery (Cedric if back fit), holding midfielders Hojberg & Romeo (Lamina for latter now if fit again), Redmond and Armstrong wider midfield and Ings up front. Some of the changes may happen with the Xmas fixtures coming up but maybe not for this game – we have City next!

I seem to remember us beating you 2 – 1 after trailing in the Christmas fixture 3 years ago: are you confident you can get a positive result against West Ham this time round back at your place? Prediction for the score?
No result would surprise me but there is a distinct positivity around – at home to Arsenal was a massive turn-around and then away at Huddersfield was fun – so I think we are probably just favourites. I will predict plenty of goals e.g. 3-2

Well many thanks to Simon for his time during this busy spell. Somewhat chastened by Saturday’s defeat, I am going to rein in my wild predictions, but still go for a sneaky away win: 0 -1 West Ham. COYI

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