Saints season written off

Last updated : 08 August 2008 By Chris C
Reading through the papers over the last week, you wonder whether we should even bother kicking off against Cardiff. More than half of my fellow Championship pundits on the Observer's fan's verdict tipped us to go down, as have Sky, The Guardian and many others.

Looking at the club from the outside it looks ominous.

A Dutch relative unknown as manager, the return of Rupert Lowe, all the high earners up for sale, a solitary cash purchase and frees to fill out the squad.

And then a team full of unproven youngsters with five of them likely to make their debut at the same time - Thompson, Scheiderlin, James, Holmes and Gillett.

It doesn't sound good, especially when you consider that we only stayed up on the last day of the season.

Talk to the fans though and it's a different picture. Even allowing for the inate optimism of the football fan, there has been a noticable change in the mood.

The club is in the final stages of ridding itself of the journeymen. In their place are young, hungry youngsters fresh from a successful academy or sourced externally with something to prove. Mixed displays against lower and non-league opposition helped the squad to bed in, but a truer picture emerged from the two games against Premiership opposition.

West Ham saw some very encouraging performances. Short, direct, fast passing football with some surprisingly tenacious play saw Saints go two up against a West Ham side admittedly playing at less than 100%.

Saints faced a different test against the classic physical style of Stoke and acquitted themselves well, but showed their continued vulnerability at set pieces and against larger more direct opponents.

While many fans were unhappy about having two home fixtures in such short proximity, the Stoke game was a valuable runout helping the players and the fans to see both the potential and the current limitations of the side.

We may be able to pass with the best of them, but we still need to be more clinical in front of goal, more organised at set pieces and better able to deal with a physical onslaught, all things which come with experience, one thing our side is short of.

Given the number of youngsters in the team, we have to give them time to gel and set expectations accordingly. There will be some great performances, some defensive naiveity - even with the sensational return of Michael Svensson - and some poor performances.

This is a team with the potential to do well and serve up entertaining football, but also one that will struggle with the relentless run of physical games that the Championship serves up.

It's a season of transition. Let's enjoy the ride.