Southampton Season Preview
With Saints fan Tim Orme
We've enjoyed back-to-back promotions, made some decent signings over the summer and generally looked solid in most of our pre-season preparation by giving Ajax a decent game in a 1-0 defeat and beating Wolves 2-0 in our last outing. Unfortunately, all that might not count for much once the first match of the season comes round as an away trip to Manchester City beckons - followed by Manchester United at home and Arsenal away in our next three matches. The fixture computer is definitely not our friend!
What to look forward to from your club this season:
Full houses every week at St Mary's again - and watching some of our lads surprise a few people in the Premier League. Going forward Saints have been fantastic for a couple of seasons now with Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana (above) the standout flair players in the side whilst Morgan Schneiderlin in a holding midfield role is a quality footballer in any league. No doubt, because of the two Clubs' similar recent history, there will be some lazy pundits quick to draw comparisons between Lambert and Norwich's Grant Holt but with all due respect to the Canaries' front-man, Rickie's got a lot more in his locker than that. And given they're still young the likes of Lallana, Schnederlin and a few more besides have got big futures ahead of them. So long as they keep their confidence up after what could be a bumpy start they're more than capable of upsetting a few of the top flight's more established sides.
What to worry about:
It's been a fantastic couple of seasons as a Saints fan watching the team win more matches than probably any other time in our history. And there's still a genuine optimism about the future - but after successive promotions, is this going to be a step up too far for some of the current squad? We've been great going forward - but right now we look like we need to strengthen further at the back. And a bit more genuine pace in the side wouldn't go amiss either.
Where are you going to finish?
Most Saints fans would settle for simply staying up this year. But we're capable of surprising a few people along the way too - particularly at St Mary's.
Best/most outrageous transfer rumour
"Saints snap up entire Pompey squad for Nectar points... " I made that up myself. Does that count?
Manager right man for the job?
Absolutely. Look at the season Alan Pardew just had. Then remember that we binned Pardew to get our man. Should tell you everything you need to know.
Player to look out for
If you look at all the talent that has come through our academy and then walked out the door in recent years - Walcott, Bale, and Oxlade-Chamberlain being the obvious examples - it's sometimes hard not to think what might have been. But despite the mini-exodus we still managed to keep hold of the player with the best feet of all of them in Adam Lallana. He came through a couple of years later from the same youth side that produced Walcott and Bale, and now having played a massive part in getting us back there, if he goes on to have a few good seasons in the Premier League for us he's well on the way to earning himself genuine club legend status. And that's at a club with a pretty rich history in the club legends department...
Dead wood you would get rid of?
It's been such a good couple of years for this group I haven't got the heart to talk down any of them. A couple more options at the back would definitely improve the confidence where we can look a bit short of pace through the middle at times.
Game of the season (2012/13)?
Manchester United at home for me. We've had some fantastic results against them over the years. 6-3 and 3-1 at the Dell stand out - particularly the 3-1 when they changed their shirts at half time to usher in a whole new era of sport science at Old Trafford... We've beaten them at St Mary's too - but the match that sticks in the memory most is the defeat there that put us down at the end of our last season in the Premier League. I'm not sure it's a chance for revenge (just yet) but we're at least back on terms with them.
Best away day (2012/13)?
QPR is probably the nearest thing we have to a local derby these days and always good for a few drinks on the way. For the real die-hards the trip to St James Park is probably the longest away day in the Premier League.
"We're shit on TV. We're shit on TV-e-e. We are Southampton. We're shit on TV." We were singing this as we clinched promotion at the end of last season by battering Coventry 4-0 at St Mary's. After a couple of disappointing recent results in televised matches against Middlesbrough and Reading it was supposed to be a tense end to the season going right to the wire. Instead we were cruising by 20 minutes in and this one put a smile on everybody's face.
How good are your pies:
If you enjoy melting the inside of your face with non-descript meat, wrapped in pastry and nuked to the same temperate as the inside of the sun then we're right up there with the best of them.
Our Academy continues to churn out some of the best talent around. Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse are probably the next two to look out for from the south coast production line.