Opposition Q & A

This weekend West Ham welcome Southampton to the London Stadium for our last home game of a mixed season. With a slight chance of overtaking Watford and scraping into 10th place, we will be hoping that we can build on that great victory last weekend against Spurs and finish our season with a flourish. 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.

Hi Simon, the last shakings of the seasons’s sack are upon us, how would you judge the 2018/19 year from The Saints point of view?
To distort a cliche, A season of two halves, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand what that means.

Hasenhüttl seems to have done a good job for you since he was appointed – he’s another manager that your board seem to have picked from nowhere, what’s the word on him?
All positive at this stage – the team is organised tactically, he changes it within a game and from game to game, they play with energy and discipline with and without the ball and he gets the most out of players.

I (along with anyone else who has been watching the Champions League run in) noticed that Dusan Tadic has had a major impact on Ajax’s season. I remember him and Sadio Mane terrorising some-team or other a couple of years ago. He’s another one of your old players: was it a case of him leaving a bit prematurely? Did he not get on with Mark Hughes? What happened there?
St Dusan of Amsterdam was the last of the great Saints players left from our return to the Prem and following years, but even the best need others to be effective; we were shite last year so as the opportunity of Champions League football came along why not take it. No negative comments about the Saints like some money-grabbers when they left. He will always be loved at St Mary’s – I’ve been to Old Trafford (a tarted-up shithole by the way) only once and he scored the winner so won’t forget him in a hurry. What a particularly delicious irony it would be if he won the Champions League with unfancied Ajax whilst VVD, Lovren, Lallana, Mane, and Clyne still win nothing despite moving on “to win things”. Footnote: VVD said he was too good for the Saints, underrated and wanted to win things; will he now say only Barcelona are worthy of his genius, the arrogant non-winner?

Which player has got your vote for ‘Saint of the Season’ (or whatever you call your best performing player)? Who has run him close, and who has disappointed?
Nathan Redmond has overcome a couple of poor seasons lacking in confidence to be our main attacking spark (credit Hasenhüttl and perhaps Pep a little for that) but needs a few more goals, Hojberg is becoming a real beast in midfield, but I’d have to give it to the old cliche “one of our own” in Ward-Prowse – technically the most gifted passer of the ball at the club and arguably the best deadball taker in the Prem. Finally (again credit Hasenhüttl) he is considered a starter on the team sheet and we are utilising his strengths and receiving the rewards. I know some Irons fans don’t always rate Mark Noble, but I do: there are similarities and I hope he goes on to be just such a servant for the Saints. Disappointing: Elyanoussi this season.

Southampton are like West Ham were a few years ago when all our young stars seemed to be sold off to Chelsea and Spurs. Who’s going to be the next player from the Southampton conveyor belt to move to pastures new?
I don’t think at this stage any of them are as good as those from the recent past but I do like Valery, the young right back and if he continues to improve he will definitely be a target for bigger. I’d ask you, can you keep Rice? I’d hope so but Man United for one could do with him.

Where will Hasenhüttl look to strengthen in the post season? What are your priorities for next year?
We need at least one more striker particularly as Ings is injury-prone and he is the only one that I’d feel 100% happy with if fit. I’d like a fast wide/winger type midfielder and a real centre-half leader. My hope is Hasenhüttl will have some in mind that we may never have heard of – when Koeman took over he bought Tadic and Pelle (who? we said at the time) from Feyenoord for virtually nothing and Alderwerield (who?) from Atletico on a loan. That sort of thing would be great business.

What are your thoughts on the season as a whole? Who do you want or expect to win the League?
The gap between the 6 and the rest has become even more exaggerated so if you’re not one of those glory seekers, the aim is for 7th: Wolves or Watford richly deserve that this season whilst the likes of fallen so-called ’istorical greats Everchina spend bucket loads, poach managers and still continue to underperform and win nothing. Want: City. Will: City The BBC and other media are obsessed with Liverpoo.

Which other two teams are going to make up the other two Champions League spots?
Spurs and Arsenal; the former cos they are a cert, the latter more cos I hope Man Utd and Chelski don’t.

Are Cardiff going to join Fulham and Huddersfield in dropping down to the Championship? Any preferences?
They will almost certainly drop though I’d prefer Brighton to as they are dullness personified. We all know what Warnock is but they have had some pretty outrageous decisions against them recently and I do think the big teams and big players get decisions in their favour that the likes of Cardiff don’t. He is entertainment too.

What have been your personal highlights and lowlights in the current football year, either from a Saints point of view, generally, or both?
Totally dominating Everchina at St Marys was fun given what they had spent and their fans’ distorted sense of their own importance but the highlight has to be coming from behind to beat Spurs at St Marys as they arrogantly thought they had won it by scoring first. Beating Arsenal at St Mary’s a close second and Palace away was fun. The lowlights were virtually the whole of the season up to Hughes’s sacking; nothing worse than turning up to watch your team, fearing the worst and that being turned into reality. A highlight will be Liverpoo winning FA again (and that ain’t the Cup!).

I notice Portsmouth are on the way back up, are you hoping you can get a few ‘Solent Derbies’ in a couple more seasons if they keep up their progression?
Up? They have just missed out on automatic promotion. They might scrape in to the Championship but that is the limit of Kenny Jacketts’ ability (witness Wolves and Millwall under him). I don’t care if we never have to play them again but a good beating of the Skates in a Cup would be fun.

Good to see that the old Pompey/Saints animosity still runs deep. How are The Saints going to line up against West Ham this weekend? Team/Formation?
Gunn, Valery, Bednarek, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeo, Hojberg, Ward-Prowse, Lamina, Redmind, Ings (4, 4, 1, 1) but possibly Vestergaard if fit again of Targett in place of Lemina (5, 3, 1, 1)*

Are you feeling confident for the victory? Prediction for score?
Bearing in mind the result is of little real importance for either team, I could see any result but if you support a team you have to think positive so 2-3.

Well thanks to Simon for his time. Another big up for Mark Noble from an opposition fan highlights that Nobes has had his best season for a while. And of course no West Ham fan would want to see Declan Rice move on in the near future, if at all! I will have to disagree with his prediction though. I am going for a 3 -1 victory to West Ham. COYI!

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