Southampton started the season with a new manager, key personnel missing and a disappointing draw at home to Watford. Next up is a trip to Old Trafford, begrudgingly on a Friday night, so we caught up with Nick Illingsworth of Saints fanzine The Ugly Inside to get his thoughts regarding a fresh start under Claude Puel.
These are testing times for Southampton. Ronald Koeman running off to Everton and Liverpool continue to do their utmost clearing Southampton out of a squad. Puel has a big job on his hands which may see expectations lowered for now.
Anyway, thanks to Nick for answering the following questions.
This is the first Friday night fixture in the Premier League season, which consists of a long trip for your travelling support. Many will be coming off long work shifts while others cancel theirs. Do the Premier League and FA have any consideration for fans?
It would seem that neither the Premier League or the FA have had any consideration, however hopefully that will change, I am the Southampton representative on a panel that is going to meet six monthly with the Premier League in an initiative by the Football Supporters Federation, this was a major topic of discussion and the Premier League are now well aware of the supporters frustrations.
Ideally they would like to do something about this, however they are very much dictated too by the TV companies who are paying big bucks for broadcasting rights, but that doesn’t make it right, hopefully a balance will be struck.
We expect to see the (re)debut of Paul Pogba against Southampton. What are your thoughts on the transfer and valuation behind it?
Football has gone mad, personally I do not begrudge football’s big clubs making millions and re investing them, but unless something is done to re adjust the balance, then the game if we are not careful could die on its feet, that means the redistribution of wealth right through the divisions. The reality is that Manchester United when compared to Southampton’s commercial income can afford to buy one Paul Pogba or three Morgan Schneiderlin’s without a thought.
There has been lots of talk regarding Fonte being a target of Jose Mourinho. How important is it to Southampton that you keep hold of the Portuguese veteran?
From the perspective that we have already lost a few players already this summer it is very important, the fans need to see that the club can hold on to players. However if we had not sold Mane and Wanyama then it would be a different perspective, then we would snatch your hands off for £10 million for a player who will turn 33 in December, that would be a big chunk towards his replacement.
Thoughts on Ronald Koeman jumping ship for Everton?
We were all very disappointed, he had the potential to be the best Southampton manager since Lawrie McMenemy, but his departure was a symptom of the modern game, in terms of longest serving Premier League managers constantly in the Premier League he would now be fourth longest serving if he had stayed at Saints and if he had been here after Xmas then he would have been the longest serving Saints manager in 25 years.
The disappointment for us about Koeman was that he continually said he would stay at Saints and spoke about how he didn’t understand those managers who went to clubs just for the money, then Everton just kept offering him more till they found his price, it was more about the fact that in football everyone will eventually put money above morals.
Southampton were sloppy when in possession against Watford (1-1), which is an area that needs to be vastly improved on Friday night at Old Trafford. Are you confident about getting a result?
Saints were playing a new system and in the first half struggled to adapt, in the second they were much better, our pre season has been disrupted by players arriving back late from the Euros, the possession will improve but I fear not enough for a win or draw on Friday.
Which Southampton player should we watch out for?
The two new signings look good, Nathan Redmond is fast and could be the new Sadio Mane and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg looks to be a player in the Schneiderlin mould, but with a little more attacking flair
If you could have any United player joint this Southampton side, who would it be?
Good question, we need a new central defender whether Fonte stays or goes, any going spare ?
And finally, give us a scoreline prediction…
I would hope that we would earn our third consecutive win, but the reality is that we will probably lose 3-1.