There’s a refreshing change in store, folks… Mike Allott is optimistic about the season ahead. Gone are Dumb and Dumber and, in Mike’s view, replaced with a man in Mark Hughes who knows what it takes to prepare for success in this league.
As always I decided to nip down to St Mary’s last night for the first of two home pre-season friendlies, so I whipped out the new home shirt for its debut and off I trundled.
Travelling down to the ground by car I was thinking back to the last couple of seasons’ friendlies under Puel and then Pellegrino. After those matches I pretty much decided how Saints would do in the season ahead, and to be honest with you I wasn’t far wrong.
Last night was different, maybe it was the fact we stayed up, maybe the fact we now have a manager who knows the league and the requirements needed for the season ahead, so I went to St Mary’s more in expectation than hope.
The game started like most pre-season games, nothing special nice football played at a pace that wouldn’t trouble an amateur let alone the professionals on show.
I decided that I would run my eye over our new signings and that Stuart Armstrong would be the object of my attention. I must say I was very impressed with him in the first half: he holds ball well, looks to go forward every time, makes the obvious pass, didn’t go for the spectacular and most importantly found a Saints player with every pass bar one. I think we might have found a little gem here. His goal in the second half was taken very nicely as well.
On 11 minutes Sisto produced a worldie, that even I applauded—no keeper in the world was getting near it. Maybe someone should have asked Celta if we could borrow him for the season, like they’ve borrowed Boufal.
Anyway, back to the game… on 43 minutes Long gets caught in possession and Aspas beats Alex McCarthy on his near post, which didn’t impress me one bit, no keeper should get beat on their near post in any game.
So two-nil down at half time.
During the half-time break I watched Angus Gunn warming up and must say his kicking looked excellent. In the second there was a raft of changes including the aforementioned Gunn on for McCarthy. He looks a confident lad, made the saves he had to make and looked quite comfortable, If he is to be used as number 2 keeper, I’m pretty sure he won’t let anyone down.
I have to say Yannik Vestergaard, is a big old unit alright. Although he wasn’t troubled too much he didn’t look out of place, a big and aggressive centre back, just what’s needed in my opinion.
Matty Targett played exceptionally well when he came on, his cross for Austin to nod home on 55 minutes was a delight, as was his nutmeg of the Celta defender for Armstrong to level the game. I don’t know what happened at Fulham last season but the boy needs to stay.
I have to say that in Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg came on the pitch we looked even better, the lad is a future captain, he played like he’d just come on in the World Cup final, not a pre-season stroll around the park, what a player we have on our hands.
I broke the habit of a lifetime and left on 85 minutes, so I only saw the Moi goal on the tele. A lovely shot from JWP and a tidy little finish from Mo.
All in all I am optimistic about the season ahead, which for me makes a refreshing change.