Having key players linked to moves away from St. Mary’s seems to be a reoccurring theme recently and it’s something Southampton fans have become accustomed to. Despite Ronald Koeman clearly stating that nobody will be sold in January, speculation persists that some of the league’s biggest clubs are after the likes of Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Shane Long.
Speculation was fuelled after the 1-0 loss to Norwich at the beginning of January when Sadio Mane was dropped for disciplinary reasons and Victor Wanyama was given his marching orders after picking up two needless yellow cards. Many people saw Mane’s actions of turning up late to a pre-match meeting as a way to force through a move away from St. Mary’s whilst Wanyama’s red card raised questions over the Kenyan’s attitude and commitment to the Saints. Koeman publicly placed the duo on the Southampton naughty step in his post-match comments insisting that any player trying to force through a move away from St. Mary’s would spend the rest of their time on the south coast sitting in the stands.
Saints legend Matt le Tissier revealed in an interview that he was informed that Mane was late to the meeting due to not being informed of a time change. This along with recent news from an African football media outlet claiming that Wanyama is keen to extend his contract with Southampton will make pleasant hearing for Saints fans. Despite playing for a bigger club and earning more money, Wanyama, Mane and any other player that could be looking for a move away from St. Mary’s should take note of those that have left have left the club recently and realise that the grass isn’t always greener.
Take the quartet of players that swapped St. Mary’s for Anfield, for example. Executive Director of Football Les Reed probably still cracks a smile at the fact he managed to get £20m for Dejan Lovren; a player that has been heavily criticised for his defensive mistakes and one who, recently, has since been watching most Liverpool games from the bench. Adam Lallana struggled to make an impact in his debut season under Brendan Rodgers but looks as if he’ll thrive under Jurgen Klopp who plays a similar brand of football to the one that Lallana thrived under at Southampton. Nathaniel Clyne has had a relatively steady start to his career at Liverpool but is part of a Liverpool backline that has struggled to keep the ball out of their net as of late. Perhaps the most disappointing of the four that left for Liverpool is Rickie Lambert. Some suggest that Rodgers used the scouser as a tool to try and get Lallana and Lovren to follow. Lambert didn’t get the game time that he deserved and has now had to leave his dream club behind to get sporadic appearances in a West Brom shirt.
Southampton youth product Calum Chambers left for Arsenal but after a decent start, has struggled to get a place in Wenger’s starting 11 whilst fellow academy graduate Luke Shaw struggled with injuries in his debut campaign at Old Trafford. The left back started this season strongly but is one of a number of United full backs that have been spending most of their time in the treatment room with long term injuries. This summer, Shaw was joined by Morgan Schneiderlin at United. Schneiderlin has arguably been the biggest miss out of the players that have left the Saints over the past 18 months with defensive midfield positions in Southampton’s side being one that has seen a lot of rotation over the course of the season. It is particularly gutting to not see Schneiderlin playing on a consistent basis in United’s team as his loyalty and commitment to Southampton deserves first team football at the highest level.
This season has definitely been a chance missed for Southampton with the unpredictability meaning opportunities for new teams to break into the top five or six. Whilst the club will look at the opening half of the season as a disappointing on the whole, with 15 games left and the Saints in good form, there is still definitely the opportunity to achieve something this season. The players at the club now will hopefully look to those that have left and see that it hasn’t always been beneficial to leave the club for irregular playing time and greater expectancy.
Southampton is a club with ambition. Whilst many people will suggest selling your top talent contradicts that, the ability to sign a player like Charlie Austin, who could have walked into pretty much any team when his contract expired at the end of the season, is a great piece of business and a terrific signing. With Koeman halfway through his contract, he’s beginning to be asked questions over the possibility of a contract extension. His response has been that it is dependent on the ambition shown by the board of the club. After the reported £4m transfer of Austin, Koeman said that the transfer displayed exactly the sort of ambition from the club that he’s after.
Stability at the club is now key. A commitment from Koeman is crucial in ensuring that the club’s top talent stays put at St. Mary’s. A commitment from the boss, ambition from the board and hopefully the awareness that a move away from the club may not always be as rosy as it seems will hopefully keep this group of players together as well as a few to strengthen. Then, what next? Maybe, just maybe, Saints fans can dream that this time next season, they are where Leicester are.
Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Huma Khan.