And so, after pretty disappointing results against Birmingham
(1-1) and Man City (3-1), we move to St Mary Axe � scene of our
1-0 victory last year.
Southampton are one of only two teams yet to register a win so
far this season and will be keen to not keep the fans waiting much
Antti Niemi, their recent signing from Hearts (who allegedly was
wanted by Ferguson at Man Utd) will battle with Paul Jones for the
keepers spot. Pahars appears fully fit after playing 80 mins
for Latvia in their 0-0 draw with Sweden and will renew his very
dangerous partnership with James Beattie.
Those two along, with Fernado Fabrice, are the Saints' most
Although we have few injuries from the second set of
internationals already this season, team selection is dogged by a
growing injury crisis among the rest of the players at
Goodison. Wright is now not expected to be fit this month, and
Simonsen has a hamstring strain. Expect a 4-4-2 formation with
Radzinski and Campbell taking the striking berths. Unsworth or
Pembridge will battle for left side of midfield � hopefully Pembo
getting the nod, especially if Unsworth is needed in defence... or
will we get a first glimpse of Li Weifeng?
The Reserves' 1-0 win against United a week ago should also be
giving us all some more cause for optimism. Yobo played the
full 90 but, later sustained amother knock on his recovering ankle
and is now very doubtful. However, his pace would be a great
asset against Pahars who will skin Weir and Unsworth if he gets a
run at our defence.
Rodrigo also shone in the reserve game with all commentators
mentioning that he gave Gary Neville a torrid time. He may
push for a left spot or even oust Alexandersson from the right �
though that may be asking for too much!
Nick Chadwick got his first run-out but he is probably some way
from a first-team outing � it will be very interesting to see
whether Moyes sticks with Campbell or the very promising (and
semi-forgotten) Chadwick when he is fit.
If we can hold out for the 1st half then Southampton's bad start
to the season could begin to pressure them. The Saints can
also be short of pace at the back. Last year at Goodison,
Radzinski showed that he has plenty of pace to burn them away.
A 1-0 win would be enough to allow us to consider ourselves
satisfied with our start to the season after the recent stumbles and
that is a very possible scoreline. Radz to score on the break,
Wright to get his 2nd consecutive clean sheet and Yobo perhaps to
get his first outing?
Was it really only 5 months ago that we were last at St Marys?
Rather than the balmy April afternoon when we saw the Blues
cruise (which could be a new idea for ferry trips across the Mersey
when Kings Dock is built!) to a 1-0 nil win that effectively
guaranteed the 100 top-flight seasons, we had a barmy September
evening when everything that could go wrong almost did!
First up, probably the strangest team we've had out in
years. A minor injury crisis saw Gerrard back in goal and no
reserve goalie on the bench � five outfield players! Not a
masterstroke by Moyes, just a reminder of how fickle fate can
be. Less than a week after seeing Andrew Pettinger leave the
club, we are suddenly left with only one fit keeper!
Then a back-four crisis � Stubbs suspended, Naysmith &
Pistone injured (you're kidding...), which meant Unsie had to play
left back and Li Wei Feng making his debut playing alongside Weir in
the middle. What odds would you have got back in April that
we'd be back here with two Chinese internationals out in the middle
and Chinese characters splashed across the shirt fronts. Truly
we have come a long way since the days of Walter.
The game itself: It wasn't a great game, wasn't a game to make
the likes of Arsenal et al quake in their boots. But it did
show up a couple of interesting things...
Sometimes you have to make harsh decisions � and the future of
Kevin Campbell at this club is one such harsh decision that someone
has to make, sooner rather than later. Everything he did was
re-active � not pro-active. When a great little ball is
played to him, he has to pick himself up off his heels and move,
whereas the likes of Radzinski and Rooney are already on their toes,
expecting something to happen.
Everything with Campbell seems to be a surprise, like he's
unaware that people actually do play little balls into space for
him, that rebounds do come back off the keeper, etc. etc. The
time has come for everyone to acknowledge that his best years are
behind him, that he should no longer be first choice up front, that
he's really only a squad player these days. He'll forever be
remembered for keeping us in the Premiership when he arrived, for
being the first black captain of this club and for all the hard work
that he's done in the past.
Which leaves us with a major problem! If the reports are
true about Ferguson (and there seems to be little doubt that he will
ever be even half the player he was), then we are left with a strike
force that consists of Radzinski, Chadwick and the Boy Wonder.
Scarey eh? What do we make of a summer transfer policy that
didn't buy a new number 9?
The other thing about last night was Li Tie and Li Wei Feng.
Blimey � where did we dig these two from?
Li Tie is superb: his work rate is excellent, he's always
available off the ball, always looking to make space to pull
opponents away, and he gets up and down the pitch as tho' he's got a
bike out there!
And, considering Li Wei Feng was making his debut at this level,
he too hardly looked out of place. OK, so he's a little na�ve
at times, but that will come with more exposure. He's also
fast, athletic, uses the ball well � everything that Stubbs isn't.
OK, so Stubbs is a 100% player who would die for the club, but I
believe Moyes is after much more than that. In fact, if you're
going to succeed in the Premiership these days, then you need much
than just whole-hearted endeavour. That's why the likes of
West Brom and Birmingham will almost certainly soon be heading back
The two Li's offer us something that we haven't had much of
recently: athleticism. If I was going to criticise them at
all, it would be for the dodgy haircuts.... Someone have a
The game itself was tragic; we bossed it for long periods with no
reward. Gerrard had so little to do in anger, that he
occasionally looked a half-decent keeper. But at the other
end, oh dear.
You can't go away from home and miss the chances we did then
complain when a dodgy penalty is given against you. Radzinski
did superbly to jink past three or four players before rounding the
keeper and slotting the ball way over the bar. Weir glanced a
header inches the wrong side of the post, Campbell had half chances
that he should have done better with at least one.
Then Pahars came on. You just knew something was going to
happen... And so it was, that Weir leant on him in a
one-on-one, Pahars went down like a sack of spuds and the ref (Lennie
Bennett) � who had penalised Weir for almost every challenge he
made � pointed to the spot. Anyone ever seen Gerrard save a
penalty? No, nor had we.
Finally, Moyes did what he should have done earlier and brought
on Rooney and Rodrigo, and we ended up playing 3-3-4! But it
was all huff and puff, with no result. Bitterly disappointing:
5 points from 5 games is relegation stuff. And to cap it all,
most of the other results went against us.
It's easy to say that, if we play like this, we'll win more than
we lose � which is only true if you've got someone up front
putting it in the net. The transfer window can't come
quickly enough... Taxi for Mr Moyes � a taxi to take him to the
airport and onto the next flight to Beijing to pick up some more
- Gerrard: 7 - Had little to do, but did it well enough
- Hibbert: 8 - This guy is quality. Wouldn't mind
seeing him right side of midfield
- Weir: 8 - Class. Would have been MotM except for the
- Li Wei Feng: 7 - An absolutely solid start.
Saturday's team will be interesting.
- Unsworth: 6 - Distribution was poor at times - but
then, what you see is what you get with him
- Alexandersson: 5 - Back to his invisible Walter Smith
- Gravesen: 6 - Only started to play once we'd gone a
goal down. Great shot from distance that almost beat
Jones, useless shot in the last minute when everyone was up in
the box. Sums him up.
- Li Tie: 9 - My Man of the Match. First time I've
seen him and I'm impressed. More of the same, please.
- Pembridge: 8 - Solid game, again you know what to
expect from him.
- Radzinski: 7 - works hard, gets into positions,
frequently misses, occasionally scores. Tomasz, stop
reading that book entitled "How to be a striker" by A
- Campbell: 5 - enough said above
Moyes: 6 - Very disappointed in him tonight � I thought
he was up for making brave decisions. He waited far too long
to bring on the subs, by then the game was lost. If we'd
brought an attacking player on earlier, then we would probably have
been out of sight by the time they scored.
Ref: 4 - Was it Lennie Bennett, Alan Bennett or Gordon
Bennett? � the latter actually. He made so many poor
decisions that I lost track.