Niemi off to Fulham

Last updated : 07 January 2006 By Chris C
Niemi was nearly sold to Celtic in the summer when the Bhoys failed to match Saints' asking price. He was refreshingly honest about his disappointment, but shook it off to put in a series of top class performances for Saints in the Championship.

That honesty has taken something of a dent after recent comments on his personal website and on the club website expressing his delight with the appointment of George Burley and his happiness to stay at the club.

December 14th personal website at "I am not thinking about a move." Glad to hear it, Antti.

December 22nd club website: "I am happy at Southampton." We're happy with you to, Antti.

January 4th personal website at talking about his happiness at the appointment of the new manager: "I think we all have a lot to look forward to, not only this month, but for the rest of 2006." You may do, Antti...

At times like these, I really wish players wouldn't embarrass themselves by making these kind of comments weeks before they actually leave. A dignified silence will suffice, as Peter Crouch proved in being one of the few to depart the Saints with good grace.

Niemi is held in great affection at Southampton and has been a great servant for the club and, along with Nigel Quashie, is our only player with genuine international class (kids and physio room aside!).

The real concern is that we have consistently weakened our squad through the two transfer windows. However, those clubs at the top of the Championship have done with the opposite with the inevitable results. Ashton is banging them in for Norwich, Johnson for Palace, while we fail to replace our leading three goal-scorers. Now our once formidable defence takes a major hit.

There is talk of Richard Wright coming in from the Everton bench, a player who emerged under George Burley at Ipswich. And of course we have Smith at Saints who is long overdue his big chance, plus new signing Polish boy mountain Bialkowski. For all of their ability none are quite in the class of Niemi.

We can only hope that now we don't lose Nigel Quashie and that George Burley is given all of the Niemi money, plus the money held back from Redknapp to reinvest in the first team.

As the great football pundit Oscar Wilde said: "To lose one great player, Mr. Lowe, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

With our academy so strong, we don't need 'ones for the future', we need first team players with Premiership ability. To do this we need to show the ambition and pay the money to get them or we are going nowhere, great new manager or not. The priority may be next season, but the building work starts now.