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Who is going up from League One?

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Paul Fletcher | 01:31 UK time, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

At St Mary's Stadium, Southampton

Until the sun descended and the temperature sharply dropped, there was the unmistakable feel of spring in the air at Southampton on Tuesday.

It was a sure sign that after a long and biting winter, the most engaging and competitive League One season in many years is moving into the home straight.

Saints were superb as they thrashed Huddersfield 5-0 - strong in defence, tigerish in midfield and clinical in attack. I have rarely, if ever, seen a performance of such quality from a third-tier team.

There was a mood of optimism about the place as the boisterous home support celebrated a win that was in the bag by the half-hour mark, leaving them an hour to sing about their forthcoming trip to Wembley for the JP Trophy final.

The question now is whether Southampton, who thrashed Walsall 5-1 last Saturday, can pull off something truly sensational and snatch a play-off spot.

They started the season on minus 10 points and needed eight attempts to win a league fixture. And although they have two games in hand on sixth-placed Huddersfield they are 14 points behind the Terriers with 14 games left to play.

Alan Pardew has guided Southampton up the tablePardew's team have hit a rich vein of form. Photograph: Getty Images

"It is a long, long way when we are chasing teams that are winning a lot of their games," said Saints boss Alan Pardew, whose team are now 10th in the table. "We will need a lot of luck but there are still a lot of points left to play for."

Clearly he hasn't given up and on the evidence of Tuesday his team looked capable of mounting a spectacular run. If they won, for example, 11 of their remaining fixtures that would take them to 77 points, which would have been good enough for a top-six spot last season.

However, there are two big problems here. The first is that playing on their silky-smooth home surface is one thing; handling the heavy, boggy pitches away from St Mary's has proved to be a totally different proposition.

The point is not missed on Pardew, who said he expected Tranmere to be dousing the Prenton Park pitch ahead of their meeting this weekend, before drily observing: "Southampton are a racehorse that does not like the mud."

Secondly, it could well be that a points total in the late 70s will not be enough to secure a play-off place this season.

There are 10 weeks of the campaign remaining and with between 12 and 14 fixtures for most of the teams, common sense suggests that promotion will be decided by the top seven.

I'm discounting MK Dons, who are eighth in the table and nine points behind an in-form Millwall one place above them. Paul Ince's Dons have lost their last two games and with rumours flying about regarding the manager's future, his side appear to lack the momentum necessary to make up lost ground.

I was starting to think that Huddersfield were looking like serious contenders and travelled to Southampton to check out their form.

The Terriers would have moved into fifth with victory but instead endured a chastening evening that ended their 11-match uneaten run in such an emphatic manner that manager Lee Clark must hope it does not damage the morale of his young squad.

Town had won their previous three away fixtures and looked to have cast aside the patchy away form that blighted the first half of their season but they were blown away at St Mary's.

"Very, very sore, embarrassed and angry," was the assessment of Clark.

"I would not like to put my name to that performance but I am the manager and so I have to. I am hurting a lot. I will watch the DVD and it will be a horror show."

Clearly, as things stand, the favourites to secure a top-two finish are Norwich, who are five points ahead of Leeds in second and, tellingly, nine above Charlton in third.

The Canaries have won 11 of their last 13 league games and Paul Lambert's team show no sign of faltering.

The same cannot be said of a Leeds outfit that I felt were well equipped to last the distance but appear to have lost their way since claiming the considerable scalp of bitter rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup.

That fixture took place on 2 January and Leeds travelled to Old Trafford safe in the knowledge they had an eight-point lead over Charlton in second.

Leeds striker Jermaine BeckfordBeckford has struggled to find his best form. Photograph: PA

However, a game every three-and-a-half days since then appears to have badly derailed Grayson's team, with just two wins in their last 10 league fixtures. Jermaine Beckford, the hero in Manchester, has stayed at the club but his goals have dried up while Gary McSheffrey has not made an impact since his January move from Birmingham.

Leeds have consecutive fixtures against Saints, Millwall, Norwich and Swindon through March and early April - and their season is about to enter a defining phase.

Charlton are currently third but I'm not sure they are the most likely to capitalise on any shortcomings at Elland Road, with the gruelling season perhaps catching up on their smallish squad.

The Addicks started with six straight victories but have won two of their last seven. Manager Phil Parkinson remains confident his team can finish strongly but they, like Grayson's team, face a tough set of fixtures, with Norwich, Leeds and Colchester all coming to the Valley.

It wasn't looking too clever for Colchester after they followed a 7-0 hiding at Preston by conceding five at home to Norwich in early January but manager Aidy Boothroyd is nothing if not upbeat and was soon talking in terms of the response to a knock down being the making of his men.

His team haven't done too badly since, with five clean sheets in nine games, but they missed a big opportunity on Saturday in losing 3-2 at Bristol Rovers.

Victory at the Memorial Stadium would have put them just two points behind Leeds but despite the defeat club insiders tell me that there is still a strong belief they can snatch second.

The surface at the Weston Homes Community Stadium is a shocker, but that actually favours the home team's direct style of play. Combine that with a reasonable run-in and it would clearly be foolish to discount Colchester.

Then there is Swindon, who are unbeaten in 13 League One fixtures and have a devastating strike partnership in Charlie Austin and Billy Paynter, with January arrival Vincent Pericard clamouring for the opportunity to make an impact.

Throw into the mix a Millwall team that has won six of their last seven matches and I think there is a strong case to be made for League One emerging as the most exciting of the top four divisions.

And in the midst of it all remains the wild card that is Southampton, who are already heading to Wembley at the end of March for the JP Trophy final.

But it is surely too much to expect a repeat visit. Isn't it?

You can follow me throughout the season at


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  • Comment number 1.

    If they can it will be great. I'm just concerned about the occasional lapses of concentration eg Wycombe. The call was on the south coast that Portsmouth after 7 pointless games still had more than the Saints after 9 games. It certainly seems as though messrs Pardew & Liebherr have got something right. Here's hoping for two successful Wembley trips.

  • Comment number 2.

    Saints problem is too many draws. Win away to top of the table Norwich then 3 days later draw 0-0 with second bottom Wycombe. Saints are arguably the best side in the league, but need to turn more draws especially away from home, into wins.

  • Comment number 3.

    It was very nice and all very well saying that saints are in a "rich vein of fine form", however this is mainly home form saints do better at home than we do away when as johneboy1886 has said we have scraped to many draws earlier in the season alot of these we have lost as well, and there still along way to saints will need to win nearly every game to get in to playoff and that's depending on how the teams above us, all I am saying its that is a bit of a long stretch, but we can remain hopeful and I hope your right John of Burgundy and and get to the playoff finals, saints are surely a contender for gaining promotion it will be a big achievement just to get the the playoffs also I rember when we lost to Derby County in the playoff final to get back in to the Premier League! or was it the Championship an I hoped it was the Premier League?. Oh well we have Leeds to play soon and that will a "difference maker" of a match.

  • Comment number 4.

    In my head I think we will finish painfully just outside the playoffs, but in my heart i think we will just get in them. Either way it has been an AMAZING season when you think in the summer we almost ended up in the Blue Sq Conference :)

    Well done to Pardew who as built a great team, and massive thanks to Mr Liebher for providing the means.

  • Comment number 5.

    jimmysfc21 we did lose to derby but it was in the playoffs semi-final...on penalties.

  • Comment number 6.

    Paul, would you rather have Emile Heskey or Rickie Lambert in the England squad?

    I am being serious.

    For me, Rickie is the most complete forward outside the Premiership and dare I say it, probably better than a sizeable number of English forwards in the mid to lower half of Premiership squads.

    He leads the line superbly, wins most things in the air, has a great first touch, clearly is a natural finisher and is lethal from freekicks. The only thing that counts against him is a lack of pace, but he has a smart footballing brain to make up for that, much like Teddy Sheringham.

  • Comment number 7.

    If Soton make the playoffs, will that be more of an achievement than Leeds United two seasons ago? Remember, they started on minus 15 points and amassed enough points to finish 2nd before the deduction condemning them to the play offs and a dismal defeat against Donny. Not in my opinion!

  • Comment number 8.

    Don't think they will make it unless they can turn those away draws into wins and even then there are a lot of points to make up.
    I spent some time in the south west and have a soft spot for Bristol Rovers who have suffered the away blues too, the difference being Rovers have been losing those away games and not even drawing them. I can't see either side making the playoffs barring an almighty crash from a couple of teams above but if that happens Southampton will be waiting I'm sure.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a Norwich fan this is the first time my club has been at this level for 50 years - so I knew little of what to expect before the season started, fans of other clubs pointed out the media blackout below the championship (which is partly true) and how tough it can be. They got that right, this season has had all the top seven teams well matched, all capable of beating each other, all with obvious strengths - and weaknesses, and the next month or so many coming together in 'must win matches'. It's been a roller coaster for nearly all these teams, and like a good movie the shootout is just getting ready to start as we hit the home straight. Saints could still snatch sixth place, who knows - but your right with one thing this has been a great division this season and fingers crossed for the canaries it might be a really happy year! (for once!)

  • Comment number 10.

    Im actually pretty surprised at how conteny Saints fans are with their league form. Even with the 10 points added back on, you still wouldn't be in the play offs! Thats shocking.

    Saints (i think and am pretty sure) have spent more than ANY team in this league. They have a big ground, a good following and by this divisions standards a HUGE pot of cash to spend. Play offs should have been the very LEAST that Saints were hoping for. As #7 said, Leeds were -15 points and comfortably made the play offs, despite losing our manager half way through that season, which resulted in a very sticky patch. Nevertheless by xmas we were top even with -15! We only slipped away after losing Wise.

    And to rate Ricky Lambert so highly is kind of laughable. Its Div 1, anyone with an ounce of talent can shine - just look at the mercenary Beckford. Even he gets bags full of goals at this level. It will be interesting to see how Beckford does next season - and if Lambert is so good, why has no decent team even taken a chance on him? My reckoning would be that all 44 clubs in the 2 divisions above don't rate him too highly?

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm not sure what the situation was with Leeds squad when they got their points deduction, but Saints squad in July & August was in turmoil following Administration. The squad had barely trained properly in pre-season and many were looking to get out of the club, meaning at one stage we only had ONE fit striker in the entire squad including reserves & youth team.

    So it was no wonder we started the season so poorly and being playing catch up in a league where the top 6 have been better than probably in this league for quite a few years.

  • Comment number 12.

    And Norwich and Leeds will be the 2 automatic.

    Charlton, Colchester, Swindon and Millwall for the play offs.

    If any team were able of snatching 2nd, i would say Swindon.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yes chocolate box kid, but Leeds have barely spent a penny on transfer fees in years. Saints have spent a LOT. You bought Lambert and Barnard as your strike force who were arguably 2 of the best in this division. Any team with those 2 up front would be in with a shout of promotion.

    When Leeds were relegated from the Prem we only had a couple of players left on the books! We had to sign an entire SQUAD of players and still just missed out on the play offs.

    What im trying to say is Saints have underachieved this year, barring their JPT final appearance

  • Comment number 14.

    Phil (#10) Saints had a slow start to the season, we had practically no preseason due to the upheavals at the club during the summer and the team earlier in the season was vastly different to the one now and we got off to a bad start with mostly draws and defeats.
    Thanks to Alan Pardew's excellent signings, things are - at last - looking better for the Saints than they did a few months ago.
    Saints fans are reasonably content with things as they stand, we (or most of us) are realistic enough to know that going up this season would be a tall order and the playoffs are probably out of reach. However, this is the best season we've had for years, albeit in a league none of us really want to be in, and yes, we're enjoying it.
    However, if Saints fail to go up next season, then we will not be so happy. What Saints need to do is find the same sort of form on turnip-field pitches as at St Mary's and we'll be going up next season.

  • Comment number 15.

    #10 "if Lambert is so good, why has no decent team even taken a chance on him? My reckoning would be that all 44 clubs in the 2 divisions above don't rate him too highly?"

    Lots of clubs in the championship tried signing Lambert before he moved to Saints, pretty much anyone knows that, it was pretty well reported at the time how many teams were after him. And saying that because its the third tier anyone with an "ounce of talent" can score goals for fun is pretty ridiculous.Its still professional football, its still a very high standard, just cos its not the premier league it doesnt mean anyone can walk into it and score for fun.

    As a Huddersfield fan, just want to say last night was not an accurate reflection of what we are. We are a good team who can play football and have done well this season with a very young squad and a talented young manager. I still think we will make the playoffs and last night could actually be the kick up the backside we needed heading into this final run in.

  • Comment number 16.

    Great blog Phil.
    Not a division my team is in but I take an interest in all divisions so it was good to get a synopsis of form, fixtures, etc.
    Interesting read.
    Now let the bun fight begin with the various fans affected !!

  • Comment number 17.

    Norwich fan here. Saints slow start let them down, however I musy say Southampton were the best team Ive seen this season, two decent strikers at this level, in Lallana a real talent,a decent set of wingers and a very well organised defence. Can't see why you're not higher in the league but im not complaining!!

  • Comment number 18.

    ChocolateBoxKid - Leeds were in the same situation, David Prutton was the only player with a contract at the start of the season and we had a youth team playing our 1st pre-season game at York. We still ended up top the League by Xmas. Like Phil said Southampton are under achieving big time!
    On a team closer to my heart, Leeds need to find some sort of form because of the big tests ahead. If we end up in the play -offs, sure Beckford will bottle it again.

    (Suppose we will always have the sc*m win tho)

  • Comment number 19.

    The 'media blackout' isn't so bad this season, thanks to the Football League Show giving decent coverage to all three divisions, and putting the spotllight on players such as Rickie Lambert and Charlie Austin. Add the fan-focused presentation and lively reporting (Clem in particular is a joy) and we have something well worth its small chunk of the license fee.

    League One has been fantastic this season - at first it looked like Charlton and Leeds, then it was Leeds and AN Other, now it looks like Norwich should be comfortable, with Leeds slight favourites for 2nd. Southampton may have started slowly, but they've made up for it by signing big players. I'd happily guess that their squad cost more than Norwich's, which doesn't suggest that they've overachieved despite the points deduction and slow start. If they'dspotted Austin instead of going for the easy option in Lambert I'd be rooting for them a bit more....

  • Comment number 20.

    Nice to read about the lower leagues for a change.

    Unfortunately, we haven't had a strong end to the season for several years. I've nearly given up on the automatic spots since we've dropped so many points recently, but we don't tend to lose an awful lot of games, so the play-offs could suit us well.

  • Comment number 21.

    Phil I don't think its fair to say Saints have underachieved this season, I know they have spent alot of money but remember Pardew has basically had to start from scratch with southampton and is trying to build his own team there.

    This is evident from the slow start they have had, but you can see that the team has become Pardews now and the form of the team has improved along with the results. Add to that the 10 point deduction and I think that accounts for their league position.

    I think they are a shoe in for promotion next season and I think things look bright for the future.

  • Comment number 22.

    Paul - apologies for calling you Phil !!

  • Comment number 23.

    Southampton would have to win almost all of their remaining fixtures to go up. I think we have had too many away draws (Wycombe and Exeter recently) on poor pitches to make that likely. We had a horrendous start to the season and after a midweek 1-0 defeat at Swindon early on I remember a lot of people worrying about a double relegation. If we finish close enough to the play-offs that we could say we would have been in it without losing 10 points, I think that would represent a successful season and surely make Saints one of the favourites for the league next year - I think the attack of Lambert, Barnard, Puncheon and Lallana will be irresistable.

    Elsewhere I thought Leeds were going to run away with the title but they seem to have fallen. If they didn't make it into the Championship it would be a disaster for them. I think they stumble into 2nd, following Norwich, the play-off's are a lottery but maybe I would go for Colchester.

  • Comment number 24.

    Choclate box kid - Lambert in the England squad is taking it too far, there are so many strikers that bang them in while there playng in the championship but as soon as they get to the prem the goals dry up, its a compleatley different level. I mean look at chopra, he has no problem scoring in the championship, you think he would get that in the prem? we have already see he cant.

  • Comment number 25.

    By the way I know we are talking about league one but I was just pointing out the difference between Championship and Prem when Southampton are still one tier below that.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm going to be honest, all you 'Leeds Fans' need to look at yourselves, you have been in this league for 3 seasons and your saying that Southampton are underachieving!

    My mate is a Leeds fan and he also is of the deluded belief that they have a 'premiership squad' and it is Leeds right to be in championship!!

    If Leeds are so good and managed to defy there points deficit so fantastically then why are you still here 3 seasons later?

  • Comment number 27.

    lambert for england haha now that is funny yes he is top scorer in league one but it is league one, talk about getting ahead of yourself here saints fan!
    btw great win for you lot last night didn't see that coming against an in form huddersfield side.

  • Comment number 28.

    A top 6 for Saints at the end of the season is very unlikely but unlikely things do happen.

    The season started with a thoroughly demoralised young side which had lost the art of winning games. Pre season we had to sell Surman and McGoldrick to pay the wages during Administration and not only did we have a new manager but new owners who were coming into football for the first time.

    Early season results reflected the mess we were in but Pardew worked away with what he had, adding a couple of strategic signings before the window closed.

    Towards Christmas we looked like a side heading for the top 6 but a few poor results particularly draws at Millwall, Brentford, Exeter and Wycombe set us back a bit.

    January signings have changed all that but they needed time to blend and understand each others play.

    The side put out in the last 4 games is our best and the results bar Wycombe reflect that.

    The aim – top 6 if possible but more importantly a team that will be in the top 2 next season if our charge for promotion fails this year.

  • Comment number 29.

    Re: Sammy the Saint, post 26

    I'm a Leeds fan and neither myself of anyone I know have ever said we've got a 'Premiership Squad' or that we have the 'right' to be anywhere but where we are. I dare say there are some deluded Leeds fans, but then i expect theres still some Southampton fans who say you should still be in Premiership. Every side has deluded fans. Leeds have more than most simply because we have more fans generally than most in this League.

    All I will say is that it was hugely frustrating earning enough points to get promoted two years and then not do so.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm disappointed in those who claim Saints are underachieving - clearly you've misread the situation. This season was always going to be about consolidation and building a team ready to compete for the title next year.

    We had no pre-season and a ten-point deduction. We didn't win a game in eight attempts because the dust was still settling after the turmoil of the summer - don't forget, in early August we were days from going out of business.

    Despite the money spent by Pardew, any new team needs time to gel and we're actually only just beginning to do that. Just look at Man City, they've spent the GDP of a medium-sized country yet won't finish higher than fourth.

    The only reason people are beginning to realise the play-offs may be within reach is because we're actually over-achieving. People point to Barnard, Fonte and Puncheon as examples of why we should be doing better - they've only been at the club just over a month!

    Next year will be our year. If we lose our better players in the summer, we'll make sure they go early and we'll replace them with quality. We'll start on an even footing with the rest of the league and we'll have it sewn up by this time next year.

  • Comment number 31.

    I'm sorry BognorRock if i was to general in my discussions of Leeds supporters views, i just remember checking the 606 after your result against Machester United in the FA Cup and it was of the view of many Leeds fans that they should be playing in the Champions League!

    It's nice to see a reasonable Leeds fan who understands that work is needed to make a team, not just a name and big stadium...

    Many people involved with football understand that things take time, but to some the phrase 'Rome was not built in a day' needs to be hammered into there heads!

  • Comment number 32.

    As jrjasper says above, this season is already a great success. Considering the poor start to the season and the turmoil the club was in before Liebherr stepped in, Southampton have done remarkably well to get to where they are now.

    Securing Alan Pardew as manager was a tactically superb move by the board and he has bought sensibly- in particular Jason Puncheon, Ricky Lambert and Jose Fonte. In all areas of the pitch Saints are now delivering.

    Of course, while some sections of the fans want to see a return for the money spent by the club, the ten points deduction hangs heavy (although not as heavy as in August!) over any promotion hopes we may have. Personally, this has always been a season of consolidation and anything else (Wembley for instance in the JPT) is just a bonus. So if the play-offs come our way it will be a spectacular achievement for the club but I only hope we don't get too wrapped up in the need to get there this season.

    That said, the forthcoming fixtures make interesting reading as many of the play-off and automatic promotion contenders all come into contact once again. A run of form for any side in these 'six-pointers' will probably be the difference-maker in the final standings. So, if Saints can learn to deal with the conditions away from home and adapt to pitches that aren't as good as St Mary's, who would bet against a late dash into a play-off spot?

  • Comment number 33.

    If we had had the current squad at the start of August I would have agreed with those saying Saints were under achieving but as the team was put together mostly in late August/September and January, I think we are doing fine. Paul's point on the away form and away pitches is spot on. Lets hope the 9 homes games (incl. last night prove successful) and we have no major slips up away from home!
    I'd love to have seen the two home losses (Rovers and the Seagulls) been different results (more thrown away rather than lost) and there were about 4 away draws that I think Saints should have got wins from, but its too late now to cry over split milk.
    If Saints can finish well and be close, I think the talent in the squad will see the potential, look at the clubs set up and stability and believe in us to take them up. Why gamble on warming the bench of a debt ridden wannabe club yo-yoing up and down, when you are in a fairly affluent club playing in front of 20k home fans and your salary prospects are as good as anyone's outside the Premiership and lot more secure than even some of those in side the Premiership. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush ;)

  • Comment number 34.

    I think the expression of "under-achieving" is a matter of opinion.
    I believe the majority of Saints fans will be very happy with our performance this season considering the April-Sept period.
    That said, I am truly hopeful Saints make promotion this year as if we don't, we will be the Leeds of next season. By that I mean the Leeds of last year - when they were favorites for automatic promotion and everyone upped their game against them!
    We are struggling on the poor surfaces at some clubs such as Exeter and Wycombe which is part of the reason this league is so hard to get out of. This will be overcome with experience in this league for both players and manager (hopefully not too much experience!).
    The telling difference between us and Leeds of last season is that we appear to have an owner and manager who are willing to buy the players needed to get out of this league, without breaking the bank (take the Elliot Ward scenario). Yes, we have spent more than most in this league but I do not expect any more signings of note for next year.
    Saints need promotion this year (however far fetched that is) or we could become the next Leeds and none of us want that!
    If we make the playoffs, I think we will be favorites due to the momentum we will undoubtedly have.

  • Comment number 35.

    Talk of 'rebuilding' and 'young teams' blah blah blah - its all to cover over the cracks. Its an easy excuse for a manager to use. Like i explained, Leeds finished comfortably mid table their first season out of the Prem. When we went down to Div 1 we had literally no players, yet still would have gone up had it not been for the -15. So yes, Saints have underachieved as you will finish mid table AND have spent a truck load of money, which no other club has had the luxury of doing in this league.

    Pardew has spent how much? Who in this division has spent that kind of money? NO ONE.

    Do you think your squad is the only one decimated after relegations?

    Look at your team. On paper you should be winning more than you are, simple as that.

    Its laughable that you blame pitches! Seriously, every team plays once on every other teams pitch and 23 times at home. If your players are unable to dig in and get results away then that shows a lack of steel and quality. Its again, just an excuse.

    And for those thinking just because Saints have strung a few results together of late that they will walk the league, you are deluding yourselves. There are always half a dozen teams with realistic title hopes and others who are surprise packages. No league is a walk over, although Saints are doing their best to buy their way out of it. And the irony is Pardew talked about playing on a level playing field - then splashed a cool mill on Lambert

    And on the issue of Lambert. Just because there is 'interest', this doesn't equate to any other clubs actually making a firm bid. Also, teams were probably put off by his price tag. 1 million is a lot of money for a player unproven at any level higher than Div 1. How many strikers who are a success at this level flourish at higher levels? Think DJ Campbell, Jason Scotland, Jon Stead, Richard Cresswell etc etc

  • Comment number 36.

    @Paul, post 35.

    You say that we're 'blaming pitches' for where we are when really its an explanation rather than an excuse. It's true, Saints are in the same boat as every other team in having to play half their games away; what I'm saying is, they haven't dealt with that requirement well enough. It's a fact of life that other clubs, particularly worse off clubs financially, will have pitches that don't suit Southampton's playing style. Yet Saints have not adapted to changing conditions well enough- and it's definitely something that needs to be sorted out if we are to have a hope of getting into the play-offs.

  • Comment number 37.

    Don't think Saints should even be in this position. How can a club be in Administration then go out and be the biggest spenders in the Division? That means the likes of Lambert, Barnard, Puncheon, Hammond, Otsemorbor + others shouldn't be there! It makes a mockery of the points deduction system.
    True they've now got the strongest squad in League One and I still think they will make the play offs and they will affect who goes up with Norwich as the rest of the pack have still got to play Saints. Interesting indeed.

  • Comment number 38.

    Our last two games, with ten goals scored and only one goal in four games conceded, shows how serious Saints are about getting out of this division. It is, in my opinion, a task too difficult this season. Not only would we need to win most, if not all our games, but we're also relying on two of the play-off contenders to hit bad form. (Although we did ourselves a favour last night beating one of them.)

    As you say, we can't play on dour pitches, and teams will now shut up shop when the play us and look for the draw. Tranmere away on Saturday is potentially a harder game than last night's.

    Next season we MUST perform from the very beginning. If the investment of Markus Liebherr is to continue, anything less than promotion next season would be a disaster.

  • Comment number 39.

    "Don't think Saints should even be in this position. How can a club be in Administration then go out and be the biggest spenders in the Division? That means the likes of Lambert, Barnard, Puncheon, Hammond, Otsemorbor + others shouldn't be there! It makes a mockery of the points deduction system."

    Eh??? It may have something to do with a billionaire buying the club. You're right though. How dare we do so well this season. Shame on us

  • Comment number 40.

    #37 DMABoy - I'm shocked how many people don't know the facts yet are prepared to comment. Fact - we were in administration as our previous owners made a complete mess of the club's finances. Fact - the job of the administrator in every case is to find a buyer who is willing to take on the club and its debts. Fact - thankfully ours did, and he's got lots of money.

    What in that sequence of events is controversial?!

    #35 Phil - you're contradicting yourself mate. No league is a walkover and there are always surprise packages, yet we should be winning more games?

    I sense an element of bitterness - do you feel that if Leeds had the cash we have now then you'd have done better with it?

  • Comment number 41.

    After a poor start to the season, Saints have picked up and to me now look like one of the best teams in the league, however spending a million on a player in this league shows that this is just as should be expected. Promotion this year i think is a large task but wouldnt surprise me, but not getting promotion next year i feel would be a disaster for the amount of money they have spent in this league. I do think they will get promoted next season as some very ordinary teams will be dropping into the division next season rather than norwich, charlton and saints last season.

  • Comment number 42.

    Phil you seem to be a clueless bitter person with an axe to grind against Saints. Yes we spent a bit on Lambert but perhaps take a look at our club's money in and money out over the past ten years. The money we got in the summer from Surman and McGoldrick alone almost covers all the signings that were subsequently made. Southampton have never been a club like Leeds or Portsmouth that goes out and makes stupid big money signings. We've always lived through our gate receipts and selling off the players that come through our excellent academy. After a few years of dire financial mismanagement (again, unlike other clubs this didnt involve spending beyond our means - if anything we underinvested in the team and didnt spend enough), we now have sensible people at the helm who will not spend a fortune but are prepared to make purchases of players like Lambert.

    Absolutely laughable that you can harp on about Saints underachieving and how easy it is to get out of this league when you're still in it!

  • Comment number 43.

    Leeds DO have the cash. We don't rely on a millionaire (or is it billionaire?) like Saints to fund our club. Our revenue pays for it. We have made countless millions in profit the last few years, the difference is that we want to build our club on solid foundations. If Liebherr goes where does that leave you? If Bates goes, then it makes no difference to us, as he is not the one funding everything - actually he is making a tidy profit. Look at the Beckford situation, we wont be held to randsom. The club is bigger than the player.

    I've watched my club go down the pan because a certain chairman had no business sense. Now Leeds are the opposite and we are cautious with our money. Im happy we are not buying our way out of this division and gambling everything like we did in the past. Fans complain constantly about clubs buying success, then Leeds try to do the opposite and you say im bitter! Why? Im happy mate, because like you, we nearly went out of business.

    Its entertaining playing League 1 as you never know the outcome unlike the Premier League where its the same teams EVERY year. Saying that one day i hope we get back up there, but im in no hurry. The main thing is i still have a club to support.

    And whilst i say no division is a walkover, im not contradicting myself by saying Saints should have more points on the board. Im saying no club will win this division by 20 points, but thats not to say you dont expect teams like Leeds, Norwich, Charlton and Saints to amass more points than the likes of Stockport, Wycombe and Exeter when you make predictions at the start of the season.

    Also with reference to the pitches... aren't many or most of Saints players from this division anyway? Or at least they have experience playing at this level. And whats more, they often played for lower teams with worse pitches. So surely they are used to it? I agree it may put you at a slight disadvantage when playing away from home, but ultimately your manager is aware of this at the start of the season and has only himself to blame if he has signed players unable to play at 23 of the 24 grounds in the division!

  • Comment number 44.


    Surely the 2 players you sold went towards paying off the administrators?

    Year on year Leeds have also had to sell their best players like Delph. Where did that money go?

    You say you never made big money signings - why did you go into administration then?

    Its also a joke saying you spent 'a bit' on Lambert. Who else has spent 'a bit' like that? He cost more than our entire squad!

    I think you need to move back from Moscow son, as clearly you ain't got much odea of whats going on

  • Comment number 45.

    So you think we went into administration because we spent too much on players? Are you having a laugh?

  • Comment number 46.

    And you're missing the main point, which is that for years we haven't had much to sing about. I think up to about a year ago Southampton had lost more games over the previous ten years than any other team in the Football League. We're all enjoying having a good run of form, and I don;t think that a mid-table finish just after nearly going out of existence is too bad at all. Yes, we now have a rich owner, but we have never been a spending club - we get higher attendances than anyone in this division except you lot and have one of the best academies in the country.

    And we've just won two games back to back by huge margins for the first time that I can remember. Which is why nobody particularly wants to hear you carping that we're underachieving. Can we just enjoy it for a bit please? Cheers!

  • Comment number 47.

    Phil - fair enough, some valid points. I also like League One in terms of entertainment value, especially as there are some good young managers these days who realise the value of trying to play proper football.

    Liebherr is going nowhere, I should make that clear. And yes we're spending, but we're not being held to ransom either - we were close to signing Elliott Ward from Coventry in the summer but refused to pay over the odds when we could quite easily have paid an inflated price to get our target on the wages he reportedly demanded.

    One final point on our away form - not ideal but actually it's been far from disastrous. We've only lost four, and two of those were in the first four games of the season. And we've won five, the same amount as play-off chasers Swindon and Colchester.

    Not quite a squad that is "unable to play at 23 of the 24 grounds in the division"!

  • Comment number 48.

    Phil - what do you think should have happened differently? Cortese has invested in players who have the quality to take us to the Championship. All of our signings have been spot on. In Pardew we have a experienced and top quality manager. Should we have not bought the players because other teams didn't have the transfer budget we had? We almost definitely aren't going up but I think this season has been practically a dream for Saints fans, particularly after what nearly happened in the Summer.

  • Comment number 49.

    "Yes, we now have a rich owner, but we have never been a spending club -we get higher attendances than anyone in this division except you lot and have one of the best academies in the country"

    Thats why i think you are underachieving.

    Good luck to Saints, i have nothing at all against them. My only point was my personal OPINION is that you should make the play offs this year.

    Like i said earlier, a trip to Wembley is a great bonus, but i still think you had the squad to make the top 6.

    Next season will be telling, especially if Leeds, Norwich and Charlton go up. This will put your team and manager under HUGE pressure. Every team will raise their game and you will be the team to beat. Favourites for the title makes it even harder. This season you haven't had that and still not shone, and next season will be much harder in that respect.

    What should be frustrating is that with the current squad (after additions in Jan) you are set up for life in the Championship, but will have to spend at least 1 more year at this level (probably). Why is that? Because you have thrown away points, which you shouldn't have. Not that the team wasn't good enough.

  • Comment number 50.

    Was waiting for the saints fans to bite! We will just see how long it takes for you to get out of this League. Seen it all before with Leeds.

  • Comment number 51.

    SH, thats your choice to spend so much money. But thats the whole point. You have spent a load of money and like you say, you have a Championship squad. So why don't you have more points? To me this is underachievement. You have to realise that in this league 250,000 is a large amount to spend on any one player. You have put your squad together at great expense - lets not forget its not just the transfer fee but signing on fees and wages. To not make the play offs i believe is failure. People say about Man City - but their aim is 4th and Champions League and it looks like they may do that. Anything less i also believe would be failure. Clearly their board agrees as they sacked Hughes.

    jrjasper - whats maybe more telling is the amount of draws? I mean, 5 wins from about 16 - 17 away games is hardly good enough, is it?

  • Comment number 52.

    Phil, you keep repeating yourself - do you think because you keep saying it, we will start to believe you are right? Last summer was awful, we were 2 days away from going out of business and had been messed around by groups that wanted to take over (but had no money). We were in administration due to bad business - the most money we have ever spent on a player is Rory Delap for £4.1 million. In contrast we have had to sell Walcott, Bale, Kenwyne Jones, Peter Crouch, James Beattie, Andrew Surman etc just to keep going.

    Thats why fans are having a great time this season, because the roles have been reversed. We are now able to go out and buy who we want and more importantly, we hope to be able keep our academy kids and really let them develop. Last season we were forced to play them all - and it was too much for most of them. Look at Lallana now - he is a great prospect for England in the future.

    Yes we have dropped points, but we have also beaten the league leaders, Ipswich in the cup, and scored 10 goals in the last 2 games. Also I can wait till you lot come down a week Saturday - now is the best time for us to be facing Leeds. It is always easier to do the chasing - and if we make it to the play-offs then it is a bonus, it was never a goal we thought possible at the start of the season!!

  • Comment number 53.

    I was in Southampton last night for an entirely different reason (I'm a Wycombe Fan, so I wasn't there for the game), and all through the City Centre you could hear St Marys. sounded like it was a great atmosphere last night. I hope you manage to get to the playoffs, and win yourselves promotion. For a team that at the beginning of the season had a rough start to League One life, you've overcome and have been progressivley moving up the table. Not that you need it, Good Luck!

  • Comment number 54.

    Maybe you are right Phil about this season. Even forgetting about the -10 points, our terrible start practically has done for our play-off chances this year. With a better pre-season though I think we will have a great chance next season. Also I don't think Cortese is the type who would buy players for no reason, he is investing to get us to the Championship and I guess he has the right to be disappointed about not making the play-offs. That's why we bought the young Seabourne instead of other Championship players who were linked with us.

  • Comment number 55.

    Have Saints underachieved? Yes and no.
    5 pts from our 1st 7 would have had us plum last before the deduction. 49 from the subsequent 25 would have us level with Leeds.

    However, with the amount we have spent, certainly in comparison with other teams, we might have expected even more. The new wave of signings took a little while to gel, meaning we were turning wins into draws at a stage where we needed to push on.

    A telling stat is that Saints have only won ONE game when we haven't had a 2 goal lead. We haven't been able to hang on to a 1-0 or 2-1 all season (1-0 vs. Wycombe was the only exception). Now it looks as though Pardew's new signings have the fortitude to hold out.

    And that's partly why the fellow Saints' fans are content. We know we're finally going in the right direction; Pardew's signings are good and Cortese is a legend. It's probably too much to ask for this year, but if we keep winning our games, others will wobble.

  • Comment number 56.

    I lived in Huddersfield for four years and went to watch the Terriers plenty of times in that period so I feel an affinity with the club despite it not being the one I love and support.

    Bit disappointed with their result last night because all season under Clark theyve looked very solid (despite one or two bad patches). Hopefully they can cling on to that last playoff spot ahead of Millwall and the rest and sneak up through the playoffs. They definitely have the manager and players to do so.

  • Comment number 57.

    Seems like a bit of jealousy there Phil!

    Anyway it is stupid to compare our results to Leeds results of past, our situations are completely different. None more so than the teams that were in the league then are different to the teams now! With Leeds, Norwich, Charlton, Swindon and Southampton all 'larger' clubs and the likes of Millwall, Huddersfield and Colchester all playing exceptionally well this season, it is a very difficult league (as also stated in this article!!).

    As a club, we were in a totally different psychological mindset than Leeds of past and other teams in this league. We had to go backwards first to go forwards in the way we wanted and in the way we are able to with our new owners. This backward step at the beginning of the season set us back and with other teams playing so well (seriously out of Saints' control!) it has meant play-offs for us is going to be very tough this season. But take away our first 7 games (our backwards step) and our results are up there with the best in this league! it is very narrow minded to suggest we have unachieved this season as our objectives, situation, and approach is different. It is foolish to compare us with historical results of other teams and suggest we have underachieved! Our objective was to ensure we weren't relegated again, build a team strong enough for promotion next season and try and finish as far up the table as we can. Anything more (promotion, wembley, FA cup runs) would be a bonus. So we have EXCEEDED our objectives this season meaning we have certainly not unachieved.

    I like Leeds and hoped for a Saints vs Leeds final for the JPT but Phil you are so narrow minded with your views! You should not be counting your eggs just yet either, you have certainly not secured an automatic spot and with your form of late you could fall back into the play-offs! Will you be singing the same song if you fail to get promoted and we go up??

  • Comment number 58.

    The debate isn't going to be settled. Underachievement, versus a slow start to the season.

    I'm in the latter camp. As well as the points deduction, the first ten games only earned 9 points, so in a way you can say the effective part of Southampton's season has been 10 games shorter.

    Since then, they've averaged 2 points a game. Over a whole season this would mean quite likely automatic promotion, or certainly in the play-offs.

    This season? Well, to get up there this time needs more improvement still, but as the form is improving all the time it's not impossible, but certainly a large gap to bridge at the moment from 8th to 6th/7th.

    If a couple of those teams lose form, who knows? But if not, I reckon Southampton are installing themselves as favourites to win the division next season

  • Comment number 59.

    Amazing! A blog that almost completely ignores the devastating form of Swindon (a passing ref in para 105!) and talks up the chances of a team who are tenth with a 10pt penalty and whose mgr readily admits (was this a good idea from Pardew) cant play on wet pitches!

    Well I'll put the record straight shall i. Apart from Norwich who've had a similar run since their 7-0 home defeat on day 1, Swindon are the lge's highest scorers since early Dec with a 13match unbeaten run during which they have beaten leeds 3-0 and all but beaten Charlton twice save for 2 injury time equalisers. They have 2 games in hand on the teams around them and with Leeds (a) and Norwich (h) still to play may yet grab an automatic spot. So give them some credit. By the end of this weekend they could be 3rd or 4th.

  • Comment number 60.

    Phil you need someone to take that massive chip off your shoulder! If 3 seasons in League 1 do this to you, I hope we get out ASAP!

    What makes you such an expert on SFC?

    Saints fans know that the "Championship" squad we have in place now have only played 4 games together, most of whom joined the club this season.

    Saints fans know that we only had a makeshift back 4 for the first 3 months of the season with no recognised right back.

    Saints fans appreciate nearly going bust and now being able to compete for once!

    Our record signing this season is Fonte (£1.2m) who joined us mid-Jan, Barnard and Puncheon late-Jan - to not gain promotion NEXT season would be to under-achieve (something Leeds fans know about).

    Don't give me that rubbish about Lambert costing more than your entire squad! Do you actually know how much we paid for him? Thought not. Go back to panicking about your promotion under achievement before telling us where we should be!

  • Comment number 61.

    I agree it is somewhat perverse a Leeds fan talking about underachievement recently.

    When Wise and Poyet were in charge, they flew up the division, winning I can't remember exactly but something like 13 of their first 15 games, and got into the play-off spaces even carrying a points deduction.

    Then they faded and the managers left, and how many seasons ago was that, until they've at last got going in the right direction?

  • Comment number 62.

    In response to comment 10 (have not read past that one)..........

    No im not finding our form shocking at all. When you consider that we very nearly did not have a team in the Summer to support, I think we have done fantastically well for a Club that was on the brink less than a year ago.
    Consider that it actually took us 10 games to get a win on the board and you can see where in the season, our Play Off push faultered. Though we can mathmatically still make the Play Offs, I think the season's results were important in those first 10 games. Looking at our form from game 10 to 32, and you have yourself a team that should and would be in the top 2 (without the -10).

    It took us time to settle, and time to rebuild and if you ask any Saints fan what 2009/2010 was all about and they will all tell you that it was building for next season. If and only if we could make the Play Offs, then we would all agree that we have been spoiled, but with the last two games producing 5-1 and 5-0 victories, I can safely say that im all about 2010/2011 season. This year we have a Wembley day out as a cushion to the blow that was -10 points. While we may not be in the Play Offs even with the -10 deduction, we would certainly be in the Play Offs come game 46 with the points added back!!

    Whether we finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th, there is always an opportunity waiting for Promotion, and though a title would be great, Promotion is the key word in any season for any team outside the PL!


  • Comment number 63.

    It is quite incredible that the Saints are doing so well with what be one of the worlds worst managers-Pardew has a long history of generally not knowing what he is doing,enforcing dull and tedious tactics and unadventurous game plans not to mention his unending rolodex of pathetically lame post game excuses.He is the very byword for bad management.And yet desite it all Southampton may be a long shot.The issue here would be that there is no point Saints getting promoted with him still in place as Pardew has shown he is criminally inadequate at hacking it in a league of any true class.

  • Comment number 64.

    TeaTime, who's to say he will be in charge after promotion? Our owner and Chairman seem very ambitious, if they think he is not up to it, I have no doubt they will get someone who is. With the contract terms being handed out to some of our players, it makes me think we are building for promotion out of L1 and then the changes will be rung.

  • Comment number 65.

    You are right TeaTimeAtHarrods, Pardew has achieved nothing of note, unless of course you count an FA cup finals and 3 promotions! and his tactics and play are very tedious and dull. I mean I really got bored listening to us win 5-1 and 5-0 in the last 2 games.

    What a stupid comment that was! go drink some more tea at harrods!

  • Comment number 66.

    Am I the only one that thinks a Leeds fan moaning about Saints’ spending is a pot-kettle-black situation? You might not be spending millions on transfer fees, but you’re telling me players like McSheffrey are on peanuts? We tried to sign Andy Robinson in January, but his wages (for what he is – a decent, if not spectacular League One player) were astronomical! If I put the rumoured figure on here it would probably be taken down, but it would shock you!

    Last night has got me fearing for Saturday! The last thing we need is an in-form free-scoring side coming to PP. Although, the pitch isn’t in the best of nick which may work in our favour – though it isn’t a bog and we won’t be taking Pardew’s advice and messing it up further.
    Go easy on us Saints, we need the points more than you (just)! Ditto Leeds on Tuesday!

    P.S. Another solid blog Paul – keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 67.

    Another good article by Paul Fletcher! His recent article on Charlie Austin has somewhat put the mockers on him, he hasn't scored for two games now! His longest run without scoring since he joined Swindon!

    Joking aside, I wouldn't discount Southampton. Looking at their first eleven scares me, and then I look at their 2nd eleven and that perhaps scares me even more! If they don't go up this year then I'd put every single penny on Soton to get promoted next year.

  • Comment number 68.

    come on southhampton, allways had a soft spot for them because of le tissier

  • Comment number 69.


    Sry but i disagree with you about Pardem.

    At charlton he was russish true BUT he did wonders at Reading and West Ham and has proven himself at League 1,Championship and Prem level unlike loads of "wannabe" Managers.

    No he´s learnt his lesson from the Charlton experience while making sometimes weird subsitutions even you must admit ALL of his Southanpton signings are top-notch!Just playing aginst Barnard and Lambert must stike fear in ALL of the whole League 1 defences!


    No Saints aren´t underacheiving.All the Saints fans knew that this year we might not go up.Leeds aren´t even out of League 1 and still have the cheek to say we´re not achieving-Maybe its all coming together at the right time for us..

    I hope we will go up this yr but personally i don´t think so.BUT if we don´t go up next season then Pardew is a Flop(but we will go up next yr 100%!)

  • Comment number 70.

    RE: Phil (Same old response from a Leeds fan)

    Your not famous anymore!! I simply do not care if you feel the mighty Southampton FC are underachieving!! are a Leeds fan and Leeds have stayed in Devision 1 for THREE seasons!..i wouldnt count your chickens this season either as you clearly cant keep up the pace for the entire season so therefore are likely to fall into the playoff places for another season...that is underachieving!

    All you Leeds fans say the same thing..we had this, we had that, we didn't have this we didn't have that..your chairman feels that if he don't get his own way he can just sue everyone!!

    Over inflated oppinions of yourselfs...if Southampton are still in league 1 after three years then yes we have underachieved...

    Now go back and look at Leeds underachievement’s this season and the last 5 seasons for that matter...Don't worry i'm sure all the mighty Southampton fans will give you a wave on the way past..

  • Comment number 71.

    #59 Horshamred - didn't Paul Fletcher do a blog about Charlie Austin a couple of weeks ago?? I didn't see many Saints fans complaining that it should have been all about Lambert...!

    Pardew may have got it wrong before (one of my best mates is a Charlton fan so I've been kept well informed about his plus and minus points) but the fact is that in his first season at Saints he's bought well (despite the blank chequebook, you still need to bring the right faces in for the job), his tactics are spot on in my opinion, and he's got Paul Fletcher issuing statements such as "I have rarely, if ever, seen a performance of such quality from a third-tier team".

    Let's not forget that if it weren't for a tip-of-the-fingertip Pepe Reina save in the dying moments of normal time at 2-2, Pards would have won the FA Cup with miserly West Ham (compared to Liverpool's might at the time, anyway).

    I wasn't sure at first but now I am, and I hope his good work continues as I'm sure it will.


  • Comment number 72.

    A lot of Leeds fans on here questioning spending money on players to help get us out of this division. I would understand this possibly from a Swindon or Colchester fan. But from fans of a club that put all their players on champions league wages then did not qualify is a bit hard to stomach. I understand it was a few years back but it's like listening to financial advice from 1 of the pompey owners. Y it bothers Leeds fans if saints fans have underachieved is beyond me

  • Comment number 73.

    #57 why would i be jealous? We are second, with a game in hand.

    Have the best support in the division, home and AWAY - we sell out EVERY allocation for away games

    Beat Man Utd in the cup, drew with Spurs

    Its not about jealousy, i just made a point about Saints under achieving with the resources they have. If you don't like my opinion, then disagree. But to say i'm jealous is quite funny really. And narrow minded? Why? Because i have an opinion different to yours.

    Saying its a slow start to the season too is true, but Leeds have won 2 from 8, so thats the equivalent to your slow start. Take those games off and we would still be way ahead of you. 2 points a game on average wouldnt have you in the automatic spots like some are claiming, check the table. It would have you in play offs. Not that picking and choosing a good point of the season is anything to go by as the season lasts 46 games.

    #59 horshamred, look back and you will see i also tipped Swindon to snatch 2nd if any team is capable (although it could come down to your visit to Elland Road). But i still think the top 2 as it stands will go up automatic.

    #60 Add up what you spent on your squad, add up what every other club has spent in the division - you probably spent 5x more than anyone. Im glad mid table mediocrity is ok for you. And yes you SHOULD walk the division next year as you are trying to buy success. Leeds have spent 3 years in this league because a)we had -15 the first year, b) lost in play offs twice c) haven't spent any money and sold Delph, who cost more than the 2 Saints players sold put together

    As for trying to buy success. Well, thats your perogative. Spend all you like. We did it once and suffered. We are still paying for it now, im just proud we arent going down the same path again. But when you have spent countless millions and you are harping on about winning the last 2 games against clubs who don't have the same money to throw around willy nilly then it makes you a joke. Well done on spending millions and millions and finishing mid table. You are right, thats not underachieving, thats over achieving hahaha. Whatever you say guys. Its not like Norwich had the worst start possible, sacked their manager, built a whole new team and are top. Thats success.

  • Comment number 74.

    Saints fans still biting!!

    Think you might have hit a nerve Phil. I hope all these fans go to the games.

  • Comment number 75.

    Phil, what is your problem with Saints? I think your jealous because we have money have managed to create a team in 6 months better than Leeds achieved in 3 years. If your not jealous stop harping on about the amount we have spent! Unlike Leeds, we have an owner who has the funds to back up the spending. Our club went into administration due to bad management of funds, not due to over inflated player costs and bad support. £24m of our £30m debt was in the mortgage of our stadium. That debt is cleared and is an asset of the club. The other £6m was our bank overdraft. Our club was mis-managed, not financially inept! Our club does not rely on Liebherr's billions to exist. If he left tomorrow, we would be perfectly fine. All it would mean is it might take us a bit longer to build the club back up into the Prem. You seem to think we throw money about without care, would you not agree that having a striker who has netted 24 goals for us this season is worth £1m? Or a defender of Championship and arguably Premiership (according to other football pundits) and that helped us to be far far better in defense is worth £1.2m?

    This is not wreckless spending to buy success, its careful and targetted spending to build a team that can take us back up through the divisions.

    I hope Leeds get promoted this season cos I like them, always have. But how are you going to do in the Championship? do you have the funds and structure in place to then push up again? or are you likely to be in the Championship for another 3 years at least...

    If we don't make promotion this year (which I don't think we will) then we will see you in the Championship for the 2011/2012 season.

    Oh, and stop comparing us to other sides! circumstances are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! again...NARROW MINDED!!

  • Comment number 76.

    I agree with Phil I think its criminal that saints are trying to spend money and build themselves a good team. What they should do is keep the money stuffed in their pockets and make it as difficult for themselves as possible and continue to slide down the football league.

    Phil if Southampton don't get promoted next season then I think you can say they have underacheived. By your assesment Man City will be winning the league this year or underacheiving. I think you might have said earlier that there objective is 4th and in the case won't be a faliure? If you did that dosen't make sense either as I dont think anyone at or around Southampton expected promotion this year.

  • Comment number 77.

    why are swindon and leeds fans always bitter? i mean - what are you complaining about??

    go and support your club, we're doing just fine as we are. Thank you.

  • Comment number 78.

    3 seasons in division 1...who is underachieving is simple LEEDS!!!...

    'We beat Man United' hooorah!! did Burnley you ape!!

    You have no right to question our spending, our board, our players, the way we play or our owner...

    Your are a typical Leeds fan who claims that you and the Leeds following are an army of patriotic warriors born out of the aftermath of a Football club who fell onto it's face because it was rubbish...when in fact you are a second rate football team with poor facilities which pays 51p of every £1 they make to it's creditors...your pathetic arguments that Southampton are underachieving are pointless and moronic...

    Take a look at who is have thrown away this chance to win the division again!!..see you in the play-offs!!

  • Comment number 79.

    Leeds still have the game in hand. As a Leeds fan I think it is going to be very close regarding the number 1 position. Norwich probably have an easier run of games between now and the end but having said that I think that the top 6 - 7 teams all have fairly tough, important fixtures. That maybe plays to the saints favour of nicking a promotion spot. IMO if we fail to get auto-promo again. I could see Colchester/Swindon maybe pipping us to second.

    Doesn't bare thinking about.

  • Comment number 80.

    I love this part of the season for Leeds. Punching above their weight early in the season, suffer a loss of form (right about now), and end up in the play offs, and then lose in the play offs.

    It's a beautiful thing to watch, and it's all in 3d.

  • Comment number 81.

    the expectations of most Saints fans at the begininning of this season was relegation - FACT.

    Ergo we are over-achieving!

  • Comment number 82.

    Phil, come back on here after the game on the 13th of March. Lets see what the score is at St Mary's. We lost 1-0 to you at your place and it was a close game, but we have strengthened since (which is our prerogative seeing as we are the 4th richest club in the country).

    You are talking like the season has finished - but there are 14 games left. Do you still think we will be 10th then? Come the end of the season, Norwich will be 1st, Swindon second and then I really hope we beat you in the play-offs, wouldn't it be justice for you shouting your mouth off in early March!!

  • Comment number 83.

    despite their recent success on the field i think it will be a season too soon with the -10 points start still meaning we are a long way behind the 'top' six. If we do somehow manage to scrape into the playoffs it will be because a couple of the other teams are simply atrocious and i cant see that happening. However, next year.......COYR.

  • Comment number 84.

    Leeds are bottlers. End of.
    Norwich and Leicester show how its meant to be done.
    Southampton were close to oblivion only weeks before the start of the season. Just compare the team they put out last night and that in august - totally unrecognisable.
    Hopefully Ken Bates puts a few quid Leeds way so the deluded cognitive dissonance stops. Doubt it somehow. In the meantime, they continue to provide us with us comedy gold.

  • Comment number 85.

    There there ladies, have a warm lemon tea and some ginger nuts and calm down.

    Did i ever say Leeds haven't underachieved? NO. I think we have. The first season we didnt go up and with -15 that was understandable. Last year we should have and didn't. Thus we under achieved last year. You won't hear me say differently

    This season we are where i hoped we would be at this stage of the season. If we go up its expected, if we dont, we have under achieved. Simple as that.

    Look at Notts County. They were useless last year and not far off relegation to the Conference. Some fresh funds came in and they are in the play offs - this is even though they have had 4 managers and countless new signings. Large sums of money at this level usually equal success. IN MY OPINION Saints have SO FAR under achieved. If you make the play offs then its a good season, if not, its a wasted year. Clearly your squad is good enough.

    Can any other Saints fans agree with #81? Did you really think you would be relegated? I can't believe that for a second. I know a Saints fan who went at the end of pre season and said you looked decent enough.

    Andre the Giant - if you think Leeds are punching above their weight, then realistically do you think anyone will ever take you seriously?

    What is hilarious is all the Saints fans talking about Leeds' financial mismanagement - hahaha, take a look at your own! You were in administration too, POT KETTLE BLACK. It doesnt matter if the money was lost on players, stadiums etc, it was still lost. And low and behold you are splashing top money again on players and wages. What if your sugar daddy leaves? Your ticket prices are ridiculously low from what i was told, so clearly you aren't self sufficient.

  • Comment number 86.

    @ #85

    You've just repeated the same statement 10 or more times without listening to anyone else's comments. I suggest you up your medication mate.

  • Comment number 87.

    Southampton will be in the Premier League by the next World Cup. Mark my words, we're looking at a club that is going to be simply massive soon, while all the top clubs other than Arsenal start to fall. I predict that by 2020 the top 5 or so teams in England will be Arsenal, Aston Villa, Leeds United, Southampton and West Brom. Manchester United and Liverpool will have been liquidated, while Man City will have been hit by the debt crisis in Abu Dhabi forcing the owners to sell for a low-price with the squad being trimmed to within an inch of its life. Spurs will STILL be mid-table under the current ownership, while Everton will be bleating about not getting the breaks. Meanwhile, massive investment in Southampton who will by then have a monopoly on the south coast see them cruise up the league season on season, into their newly referbished 65,000 St Mary's Stadium playing some of the best football around.

    I genuinely believe this will happen.

  • Comment number 88.

    Woah - thanks for all the comments. I've been busy this afternoon (went to watch Ivory Coast play South Korea) and so have only just had the chance to have a look.

    Seems like the honey pot has been stirred somewhat. I reckon it speaks volumes about the tension everyone is starting to feel.

    And my name is Paul, not Phil. And yes, I did do a piece about Swindon recently, so chill your boots on that one.

  • Comment number 89.

    Sorry Leeds fans are NOT the best supported club in this league, I think Norwich are they fill there ground each home game on a 25,000 cap Leeds get only 23,500 ave on a 40,000 cap. Leeds will cop out at play offs, Swindon will go up with Norwich in top two, Millwall to win play offs with Colchester in final, Saint,s will not make playoffs and have to wait until next year when they will win the league with Chelton go up with them and Leeds will miss out in playoffs yet again next season. And Swindon make play-offs championship next season SIMPLES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 90.

    Sorry, but I don't buy this Saints thoroughbred line. It's not as if we've bought Premiership players used to playing on quality surfaces week in week out. Our new intake have been banging them and knocking it about at this level on 'turnip fields' for other teams. That's why Pards bought them or am I being stoopid? So why not for us?
    Surely it's simply tactics and that's down to Pardew. We have the ability to knock it about on the floor but surely by now he realises a more direct approach is needed on some of the lesser grounds and more than that, the new acquisitions are experienced in dealing with them. If it's route one to the playoffs then it's route one. Who gives a damn how we play so long as it's a win against the likes of Wycombe etc at their place.
    By the way, I'm not one of those calling for Pard's to go like some of the nutters on Saints forums.

  • Comment number 91.

    SaintPeteII @75 - yes, you are correct on the location of the previous Soton debts, but completely wrong on the mismanagement of the club. We somehow increased our wage bill by 40% at the same time our revenue was falling by 25%, and that on mediocre players playing average football.
    I also think we'd be up against it if Liebherr withdrew; he offers us stability and investment to make us competitive and long may that continue.

    Also worth noting, Saints are getting their biggest crowds for 3 seasons; so I'd suggest the posters are going to the games and can answer where we were when we were ....

  • Comment number 92.

    ok ok, im getting a abit miffed at you now phil

    I'm sorry to turn this into a "who's been stupider with their money debate" but to be fair, you're asking for it.

    @85 a fair few saints fans did think we'd be struggling in the relegation zone at the start of the season.
    Our squad was decimated, we'd lost all our good players and any club going through what we did (as in - finding out around 2 days before the deadline if we were going to cease to exist or not) wasn't going to instantly come together and win their first ten games.

    It was a brutal start to the season.

    To say it doesn't matter how a club goes into administration - it matters to the fans.

    Leeds were stupid with their money - they were spending well above their means on players and wages. Everyone seemed to be well aware of this fact at the time and everyone but Leeds fans (who were happy for their bosses to destroy their club for a shot at success) could see that it wasn't going to end well.

    Southampton did not fall due to recklessness. As said before, their debt was £30m and a huge amount of that was due to the stadium.
    Leeds sold Ferdinand for £30m, £9m for woodgate £7m for Keane, £5m for Kewell, sold your training ground and still couldn't get out of the mess you were in.

    To compare the situation at leeds to ANY OTHER CLUB (except perhaps portsmouth) is an insult to football & the supporters of said clubs.

    The simple fact is Leeds deserved what they got, the majority of other clubs didn't . Most clubs go under due to mis-management - not a second rate premier league club trying to buy their way to success.

    I'm not saying Leeds supporters are to blame for what happened to your club. But when you were flying high in the premier league you were a pack of smug....people and didn't mind how you got there.

    Anyway, got that out of the way. Feeling much better now.

    I'd be delighted if we made the play offs, but its a tall tall order. We'll finish well (and hopefully continue that into next season) and we can dream!

    As for us buying success...Yep. But the difference is, we are being sensible with wages and we actually have the money.

    The Man City situation is different, they are going a little bit mental (in the same way Chelsea did). It would appear our new owner is being sensible in his approach.

    The simple fact is every Southamton fan has a reason to be cheerful - Against the odds, we're still Southamton Football Club - and long may we continue.

  • Comment number 93.

    I'm sorry Phil but you sound like a very, very bitter person.

    I love my club, as a Southampton fan I've taken great pride in saying that and I have no idea why everyone thinks we're underachieving. If you take away the ten point deduction then we'd only be 4 points off the playoffs and with two games in hand over Huddersfield.

    Leeds United, look like they're gonna mess it up again. That makes me sad because my dad is a Leeds fan and I've supported them out of loyalty to him (unless they're playing Saints). You are critising our club but at the same time, this is Leeds' 3rd year in this league. Southampton will spent a maximun of 2. It is clear that Saints will be in the top two next year and we may even defend the Johnstone Paint Trophy successfully.

    Unfortunately, due to me being a university student in Manchester, I have not seen a great deal of games but my friends and family can back me up when I say I really make an effort when I'm there.

    I also feel that Pardew has done a terrific job and although he's had the money to get us going (No one complains when Man. Utd or Chelsea flex their chequebooks). It is also rich having Leeds fans bring that up considering what happened in the Premiership. Again, I like Leeds and would love to see Saints face them again next year but only in a Championship Match, if not then we'll see you in a year.

    I would love to see Saints reach the top six, it does mean Saints will have to win every game left and they do have the squad for that, but I am being realistic. It's not going to happen this yearbut we can take pride in a trip to Wembley which is a sign of things to come.

  • Comment number 94.

    Its with great sadness that i heard of the death of Keith Alexander today,he played and managed teams that played football for a tall man his touch was very good,His movement was very intelligent,and football needs more like him my deep and heart felt sympathy to his family.

  • Comment number 95.

    The irony and double standards from Saints fans here is first rate.

    People harp on about Leeds fans feeling hard done by and claiming we think we have the right to be in a higher division - which most fans of our club don't think. Yet here the majority of Saints fans are crying tough luck and saying they will walk the league next year! Why will you? Arrogance.

    Saints over spent FULL STOP. You spent more money than you had and went into administration. Leeds went into administration because of their wage bill, not signings. In fact we probably made more from sales than we ever did on transfer fees. We were about 75 million in debt at one stage, which is a fraction of Man Uniteds 715 million - 10%. The board foolishly gambled on Champions League football. Ask any Leeds fan whether we KNOWINGLY would have wanted to risk our existence on signing Seth Johnson, Robbie Fowler and Robbie Keane - all of whom were squad players - and i dont think you will find anyone who wanted that. We didnt know what debt we were in. We are fans, we didn't have access to the finances. How many other clubs have a similar debt to what Leeds had? Most of the Premier League clubs probably would be in trouble if their sugar daddies walk away. the difference is that we had Peter Ridsdale who didn't/doesn't have any money. It wasn't his personal fortune been pumped in, hence he didnt give a damn taking a gamble with other peoples money!

    You say Saints are different to Man City - not true. In the division you are in, you are the Man City of this league i.e a club with little history, arrogant fans (or so this forum shows), and trying to buy success and failing miserably.

    #89 Compare ticket prices of Leeds and Norwich and that would be 1 reason Norwich may have a marginal advantage on gates. BUT take into account away following. We have sold out EVERY allocation for every game for the last 3 years in this league!

    #91 very good points. The answer to the attendances is a) you got a new board and b) your ticket prices are incredibly low.

  • Comment number 96.

    Not quite sure your history comment is right considering when you were founded phil!

    I think Pardew is doing a superb job and were playing some quality football for this league

    As for buying success i would'nt call it a failure just yet as i think the owner has a five year plan to get us back to the prem, if it takes longer then that could be seen as failure!

  • Comment number 97.

    Actually Leeds United came from the ashes of Leeds City. So yes 'United' were founded in 1919, but essentially the same club existed under 'City'. And i don't think the year you were founded necessarily affects much. History is also about success. And checking our history in comparison with Southamptons, you will find we have actually had some success in our History.

  • Comment number 98.

    Ok fair point no offence intended.I've got friends that are leeds fans so nothing against them. Although we have'nt had as much we've had a bit and only being late 30's i've seen them in the top flight formost of my life in a small ground. I know its not much but for a small club can i class that as success please? I think were in the same boat as that we just want to get back to where we were before nearly going bust! Well in league status anyway.

  • Comment number 99.

    Phil, yet again I question why you think you know so much about SFC?

    Average Matchday ticket price for League 1 2010 = £22.80

    SFC Matchday ticket = £25

    Norwich = £27

    How is that incredibly low?
    You have outpriced your self because you were not as fortunate (hence the chip) as us getting a buyer who paid off all our debts - hence we are debt-free. Do you have to rent your ground?

    Again you spout off about things you know very little about.

    And how did we overspend? How was what SFC did any different to you and I taking out a mortgage and then breaking our leg and not being able to keep up repayments?


    Leeds record signing - Rio Ferdinand @ £18m
    Saints record signing - Rory Delap @ £4.1m

  • Comment number 100.

    Message 95 - I think the majority of Saints fans are expecting exactly what has happened. That we would be somewhere in mid0table thins year (8th-16th) and then hopefully push on next year into the top six. I'm sure there are some who think we're going to 'walk the league' next year, but I don't think anyone can predict that their team will 'walk' anything in football. I'd hope for a top six place and then whatever else comes is slightly in the lap of the gods.

    Our debt also had nothing to do with player signings and although the majority of the debt was the stadium, the inability to service the debt (i.e. what caused administration) was the wage bill. We came out of the Prem (after Arry) with a first team squad of 46 players. Mostly mediocre and mostly on inflated wages. We have no one to blame but the manager and the chairman for that i.e. ourselves. Despite being able to sell on some of those players, we still ended up with a Championship squad on almost Prem wages. That's what killed us in the Championship - we never got the wage bill trimmed enough in the first two years, so when we lost our parachute payments, we were killed until we were within two days of being dead. Our fault. No-one elses. But it was the stadium + wages not transfer fees.

    Your opinion on 'little history, arrogant fans, trying to buy success and failing' I'm not going to comment on. That is opinion, you're entitled to it and I don't see it adds anything to the debate to get into that sort of mutual club slagging off.

    As for our ticket prices being low, our adult tickets are £19-25 vs your £16-32 and our -16s tickets are £8-16 vs your £8-13. So yes they are cheaper if you are an adult or group of adults, no question. If you're a dad taking your couple of kids then the prices are pretty much the same. For the demographics, yes i'd agree that leeds prices are higher, but just looking at the facts, our ticket prices are hardly what you could realistically call 'incredibly low'.

    Good luck for the rest of the season (except at our place obviously!)


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