After last season I thought the days of going into games thinking we were going to lose had ended. However, after a stuttering start, we travel to Southampton and I cannot see anything but a defeat. Having said this Southampton’s start has been fairly inconsistent and they currently sit 10th, two places behind Posh in the league table. A Southampton win on Saturday will mean they leap-frog Peterborough United and move within touching distance of the automatic places. A loss and both sides could slip down to a mid-table position that few would have expected either to be in at the start of the season. Ahead of an important fixture at the weekend we caught up with Saints fan, Steve Grant, to get his opinion on their stuttering form, Nigel Adkins and his prediction for Saturday’s final result.
THE POSH BLOG: You started this season as strong favourites and were tipped by many people, including me, to win the division. Do you still think this is possible after a disappointing start?
STEVE: Yes, definitely. The fact that we had such a disappointing start and yet are still in touching distance of the automatic promotion places shows that we’re still in with a shout and if we play to our potential we should still be there or thereabouts. The slightly iffy away form needs improving, but at home we’re starting to pick up the pace quite nicely.
THE POSH BLOG: The sacking of Alan Pardew came as a huge shock to most people. What was your opinion on the whole situation with him and Nicola Cortese?
STEVE: I was deeply unhappy about it at the time, and a slightly bitter taste still remains nearly three months on, particularly as we’ve pretty much had a wall of silence from the club about the situation. They’ve allowed the rumour mill to spiral out of control which has led to all sorts of conspiracy theories. My personal belief is that it was simply a clash of egos, and with Cortese controlling the club from top to bottom, there was only ever going to be one winner there. The main problem was the clear lack of support from Cortese from the end of last season, there was plenty of speculation that he was going to be sacked in the summer which built up a head of steam until the club eventually released a statement claiming the speculation was “without exception, ill-informed”. As a result of the clear miniscule job security Pardew was feeling, I suspect his motivation dropped over the summer, which led to the players not being properly prepared for the start of the season. Last season, we had the legitimate excuse of a threadbare squad low in quality and with a manager who had only taken the job a week earlier. This season, there can be no excuses, and that’s probably the main negative thing for me about Pardew’s reign. As an aside, strangely, within a week of Pardew’s sacking, that club from May disappeared from the club’s website…
THE POSH BLOG: Nigel Adkins was his replacement and he has made a steady start to life at St. Marys. How highly do you rate him?
STEVE: Very highly. I wasn’t expecting us to be able to attract the likes of Pardew at the start of last season, when the takeover went through, so Adkins would have been right at the top of my wanted list for the job. I guess it’s a case of “better late than never”, but in terms of perception I guess it’s easy to be slightly concerned that it’s a bit of a backward step. My main concern was how he would manage the bigger name players we have here compared to Scunthorpe, but to be fair he seems to have coped with that quite well, judging by the team performances, although there are still a few issues that need resolving, mainly about why Rickie Lambert looks a (rather large) shadow of the player we saw last season.
THE POSH BLOG: We know all about the likes of Lee Barnard and Rickie Lambert but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain appears to be a great talent. How big a prospect do you regard him?
STEVE: He’s got a great future ahead of him, I think, but like most young players (he’s only recently turned 17) he needs to be carefully managed. That will inevitably mean that he’ll be left out of the side every now and then, which will be frustrating for the fans who want to see the better players playing week-in, week-out, but it’ll hopefully provide the end result that we get a fresh and fully fit player in the side more often than not.
Adam Lallana is the player most likely to make the step up in class sooner rather than later, though. Somehow we’ve managed to get ourselves into a position where he’s out of contract at the end of the season, so the situation seems fairly clear-cut: get promoted and he’ll probably stay, or miss out and he’s off. As he’s under 24, we’ll still get some sort of fee for him, but it’ll be nowhere near his actual value, which will be a bit of a blow.
THE POSH BLOG: Who else should we look out for on Saturday and what do you think will be the starting line-up?
STEVE: I should probably be careful telling you our starting lineup, the club are worried that there’s a mole releasing the team lineups a day or two before games on our forum! As we’re at home, and you’ve got a shaky defence (to put it kindly!), we’ll almost certainly go back to two main strikers, so Lee Barnard will be back in the side, probably at the expense of Morgan Schneiderlin. Schneiderlin’s a class player, but he was badly at fault for Carlisle’s third (and crucial) goal on Saturday, and with Richard Chaplow and Dean Hammond looking fairly solid, he’ll probably the one to make way. Chamberlain and Lallana will pose a threat from either flank. Defensively, Jose Fonte and Dan Seaborne have built up a fairly strong partnership (it was a bit of a surprise when that was broken last week with Rahdi Jaidi replacing Seaborne – I’d expect it to be reversed for Saturday), and we’ve got one of the best – if not the best – keepers in Kelvin Davis.
THE POSH BLOG: Do you fear anybody in the Posh side? If so, who would you say are Posh’s main threats?
STEVE: It’s the three “headliners” up front, really. Mackail-Smith, McLean and Boyd will be the dangermen, and I think the key to the game will be how we cope with them. If we manage to push you onto the back foot quite early then I’d fancy us to win quite comfortably as we’ll create enough chances to score, but if we allow any of them a free reign then it could go the other way.
THE POSH BLOG: Finally, what is your prediction for the weekend’s game?
STEVE: Despite being much more solid at the back, we don’t keep that many clean sheets, so I’ll go for a 3-1 Saints win. Definitely get money on +2.5 goals!
Steve runs his own excellent blog at http://www.footballleaguereview.com/. He also writes for the outstanding podcast “The Football Ramble” on their recently formed blog, which can be found here http://www.thefootballramble.com/index.php/blog/index. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SteveGrant1983.
Thanks to Steve for agreeing to answer our questions. Best of luck to Southampton for the rest of the season – except for when they play Posh, of course!
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