Saints & Sinners: Reflecting on most successful decade for Southampton since the 1980s

Freddie Hunt from The Ugly Inside gives us his highs and lows following Southampton over the past 10 years.

Freddie Hunt

Best Memory of the Decade

This decade has been the most successful since the 1976-1986 seasons. A Wembley victory in 2010 (JPT), back to back promotions, consecutive top 10 finishes, qualifying for Europe, Europa League travels, League cup final, FA Cup semi final and survival showdowns.

Those aside, I have to nominate the sentimental values of Shane Long’s no nonsense smash and grab at Anfield in the semi-final of League Cup in 2017.

Liverpool pile the pressure seeking an aggregate equaliser, Claude Puel’s men set up their stall, 10 men defending in the penalty box, the game is in its dying embers, Josh Sims breaks away, threads the ball across to Shane Long who made no mistake, Saints march to Wembley (first major final since 2003) and cue tumbling limbs in the away end. Moments like that are what you live for.

Player of the Decade

There are many to chose from, figures that were pivotal to our promotions, players that sprinkled some stardust at Southampton and went to bigger things, mainstays and great club servants. My player of the decade has to be (Sir) Rickie Lambert.

Lambert’s goals were most of the reason we accomplished back-to-back promotions from League 1 to Premier League. Great goals too, free kicks, penalties, 30 yard screamers and more. 30 goals in his first season with Saints in League One, 21 the year after, 27 in the Championship and 15 in his debut year in Premier League. Prolific.

His journey is also very admirable, Southampton gave him his platform and England recognition – on his England debut scoring with his first touch, something only you could dream of.

Rickie endeared himself, loved and adored by the club, the fans, ergo we call him Sir Rickie Lambert.

Game of the Decade

Southampton have given us some memorable games over the decade, honourable matches include Saints comeback vs Liverpool to win 3-2 in March 2016, down and out at half time 0-2, inspired by Sadio Mane to win and march to Europe.

Saints promotion match winning 4-0 at home to Coventry in May 2012, pitch invasions ensue and back to the promised land.

Equally Saints victory at Brighton in May 2011 to promote us to Championship, in the boiling sunshine, miles from the pitch at the Withdean, Jose Fonte’s looping header and submerging himself in to the fans.

But to conclude an incredible achievement and highlight how far we’ve come is Saints victory against multi European Champions Inter Milan at St. Mary’s in the Europa League in November 2016. Although the game wasn’t attractive, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife, an electric night under the lights lead by Virgil Van Dijk.

Biggest disappointment of the decade

For all of Saints ambition and blueprint over the years we started to lose sight of our values towards the tail end of the decade. Our efforts to march to Europe under Ronald Koeman were let down by the succeeding manager, Claude Puel. Fans certainly enjoyed our trip to Europe off the field, Milan, Prague and Be’er-Sheva but on the pitch left feeling bitterly disappointed.

Another mention for the League Cup final in the same season. We still have a bad taste in our mouth and Saints denied a deserved victory at Wembley – searching for only our second ever major trophy. This game will be synonymous with terrible referee decisions. Gabbiadini denied a rightful goal, adjudged offside yet it was Ryan Bertrand in the offside position, a case of mistaken identity and the first real case for VAR.

Goal of the Decade

Saints don’t always score attractive goals but when they do, they’re a showcase of power, pace and technique.

Graziano Pelle’s overhead kick versus QPR – simply sublime, Dani Osvaldo’s pluck from the sky and bender to the top corner versus Man City come to mind.

Capping those has to be Cuco Martina defying the laws of physics with a 30 yard outside-of-the boot curler versus Arsenal on Boxing Day 2015 ruining their Christmas.


Most underrated signing of the Decade

No one has come close Steven Davis when you think ‘underrated’.

Saints secured his signature for a measly £900k from Rangers in the midst of their financial crisis in 2012.

In our first game back in Premier League he made an instant impact with a debut goal at Manchester City and went on to appear more than 200 times for Southampton and latterly as captain.

Davis was clever, unsung and contributed with some important goals – a brace at White Hart Lane (Saints were the last team to beat Spurs at their old ground) and a well driven volley to help Saints to victory at Stamford Bridge.

Best team of the Decade

When you look at the teams we’ve had since 2010, it’s chalk and cheese.  At its best Saints have had some incredible players and recruited smartly. Some have gone on to become European or Premier League champions.

My team of the decade, 4-2-3-1:

Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster. Right-back: Nathaniel Clyne. Centre backs: Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk. Left-back: Ryan Bertrand. Holding midfield: Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin. Attacking midfield: Adam Lallana, Steven Davis and Dusan Tadic. Striker: The one and only Rickie Lambert.

What are your hopes for the next 10 years and where do you think your club will be in 2030?

Southampton’s blueprint was envious over the last ten years but we’ve been found wanting and have been exposed recently with poor recruitment and embroiled in relegation battles.

My hopes and dreams for Southampton for the next ten would be not to settle for survival, remain patient, back the manager and stop chopping managers every year for a quick fix.

Build something with Ralph Hasenhuttl and invest wisely, don’t be afraid to break record transfers and we should be aiming high. In 2030 we should be a team comfortably in the top ten and occasionally challenging for Europe.

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