Season Preview: Southampton

Last updated : 05 August 2005 By Chris Colby

How did you fare last season?
Must you bring up that question! Relegated after 27 years in the Premiership, much to our anger and Pompey's delight. A lack of ambition in
the transfer market, bungling over the manager's position and some woeful defending combined to send us down.

How do you expect you'll do this season?
We're still licking our wounds from relegation and have seen the departure of 15 players. Certainly the bloated squad needed a clear out, but we've also lost some quality players, with the biggest loss (in more senses that one) being Peter Crouch. However, we still have a number of Premiership quality players, some promising youngsters and Harry's eye for a bargain. A good start is imperative to help generate the momentum that we require. We have the potential for one of the automatic promotion places and will expect play-offs at the very least.

What have you done on the transfer market this summer? Which of your new signings are you expecting most from?
Despite all the exits, we've been quiet on the incoming transfer front, spending only a whopping £90k on Ricardo Fuller. The other signings have been on frees: Darren Powell, veteran Dennis Wise, Algerian Belmadi and Polish giant Hajto. Dennis Wise and 'John Terry lookalike' Hajto have been a revelation in pre-season, showing Harry's lost none of his ability to wheel and deal.

Where do you think you'll need to strengthen in the January transfer window?
We're still chasing another striker and a left-sided player, but are struggling to find ones of the right quality that want to play in the Championship.

Have you any promising youngsters breaking into the team?
Our academy is very strong and reached the final of the FA Youth Cup last year. Defender Cranie is the England U19 captain and plays in that side alongside Mills and Blackstock. The one to really watch out for is 16 year old prodigy Theo Walcott who has electric pace and a bag of tricks – remember the name!

Have you got the right man in charge of the team? Will he still be there at the end of the season?
If anyone knows how to transform a team and take it out of the Championship, it's Harry, and he's a popular figure at the club. The arrival of Sir Clive Woodward and our interfering Chairman could cause Harry to walk, but right now they need him more than he needs them, so expect Harry to have all the cards and stay.

Is the club being run well? Are you likely to be singing 'Sack the board' any time soon?
We were singing that last season, particularly about Chairman Rupert Lowe who is a divisive figure at the club. Most fans respect his business acumen, but feel he had a large part to play in the calamities of last season. As he keeps, saying football is a results business and expect the fans to react accordingly.

Which team do you most want to beat and why?
Now we're denied the pleasure of regular encounters with Pompey, other rivalries pale in comparison, but there was a lot of niggle with Crystal Palace last season, as we fought for survival.

Who do you think's going up?
Saints loyalties aside, I think Norwich are looking strong and look to have held onto their best players while adding a few more. As for the rest, it could be one of 6 or 7 clubs.

Who do you think's going down?
The Championship is a step into the unknown for us, so I'm probably not the best qualified person to answer this one. I'll play it safe and say the promoted teams!

How do you reckon Hull City will fare in the Championship?
Hull have had an incredible rise through the leagues and boast a manager with a great pedigree in the lower leagues. It seems that your Chairman also has a few quid in the bank, so I imagine it's onwards and upwards. The Championship looks strong this season, but I'd say top half with an outside chance of the play offs, if you make a good start and do well in the transfer market.

Chris Colby is editor of On The Cross.