BBC Radio Solent Sport editor Adam Blackmore has given saintsfc.co.uk his verdict on the club’s 2014/15 Barclays Premier League fixtures.
Adam covers Southampton’s matches home and away throughout the season, so who better to ask for the impact that the schedule will have on Saints?
On the start to the season…
“The Liverpool game stands out and rightly so because of the Rickie Lambert factor, but it’s a high profile start to the season for the club and for Ronald Koeman, and to have that start at Anfield is massive for him. As is often the case, it’s can be better to play one of the perceived ‘big clubs’ early because they’ve got World Cup hangovers and maybe not got themselves into full swing, which is something that tends to happen.
“It’s a great home start. A new manager will always want to get his home form right early, so to have West Brom, Newcastle, QPR, Sunderland, Stoke and Leicester all coming to St Mary’s before the champions Manchester City, I think you couldn’t have asked for a better set of home fixtures to start the season with. I think that’s very encouraging for Koeman, and he’ll no doubt target those first games to get the campaign up and running.”
On the overall course of the season…
“Interestingly from last season, the winter looks as tough as it did then. Two batches of three hard games book-ending the December-January period Man City, Man United, Arsenal and then Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United the other side, so again it looks as though Saints will want to get as many points as possible before they go into that winter schedule.
“I can’t see a month where there isn’t a winnable game in it which I think is really good. I think it’s a fair list for Koeman and for the club in general, so I think the fixture list has been kind to Saints. I think they would have liked to have ended the season with a home game, but by the time they get to Manchester City on the final day, they’ve got winnable games before that against Villa, Leicester and Sunderland, so it does look pretty fair.
On facing a few former Saints managers…
“The fans always look forward to the matches with former managers, but the trouble is in the modern game you never quite know if the manager will be there when you do eventually play them! Away trips to Newcastle and QPR come quite early in the New Year, but I’m sure a lot of fans will have pencilled in the home ones against those teams in September for being a game that they want to be at, no doubt about it. Away fans going to Spurs the week after Harry Redknapp comes here to see Mauricio Pochettino, is a really good couple of fixtures isn’t it? They’ll be ones to look forward to for Saints fans I’m sure.”
On Ronald Koeman’s approach to the season…
“He won’t be intimidated by any of it will he? Someone of his standing in the game, he won’t be nervous about going to any grounds because he’s played at the highest stage and his reputation precedes him rather than his reputation affecting him. I would have thought he will relish those challenges at some of those big away grounds, especially Anfield on the opening day and of course the one at Tottenham on 4th October where the club will be desperate to do well in that game, no doubt.”
On the grounds that he’ll look forward to commentating from (and those he won’t!)…
“From a commentary point of view I think, like the supporters, you look forward to going to the big clubs. You look forward to commentating at Anfield, at Old Trafford and the Emirates. I’m particularly looking forward to going up to Burnley with Dave Merrington because of his connections to both clubs where he is well known. I think he will have looked at that on 13th December as a game that he will look forward to. I’ve been there before with Dave and a lot of Burnley fans always come up to him and he’s very well regarded there as he is with Saints fans, so I think that will be a special day for him, and I was definitely looking for that fixture this morning.
“As a commentator, yes there are some worse views and some better ones. I don’t always look forward to Crystal Palace because you’re behind glass in the press box, whilst even at Chelsea and Spurs you can find yourself in a difficult place where the view is too low, but it’s hard to complain because you are always at a decent ground and the atmospheres are always good, so it’s hard to moan in the Premier League. Like supporters, you don’t really want back-to-back long trips, those are the ones you look to avoid, but I look through the fixtures and think it’s not been too bad to Saints. Man United away followed by Newcastle looks as though it’s as bad as it gets in the space of eight days, but even in that regard it’s been a fair fixture list for supporters as well.”
On how the season will go…
“If you compare the fixtures with last season and even the first one back in the Premier League, whatever any manager says about, ‘you’ve got to play every team twice,’ as a bog standard answer when you ask them how the fixtures have fallen, there is absolutely no doubt that the reality is you want to get some winnable games under your belt before you go into that first international break.
“I think Saints have been handed some fixtures which are winnable early on in the season, so there is no reason why there won’t be a few points on the board by the time we get into September.
“Whatever anyone says about European football, and we all hope that Saints will do well, I still think that there is a gap between the top few and the rest, just with financial clout as much as anything else. Financial Fair Play is almost putting that order at the top hard to break up, so I think Saints finishing eighth last year, if they can do that again then that is a great season, and if they can pick up some silverware along the way, then they could really have a terrific year.”
Be in that number at every home game in the Premier League next season with a season ticket. Seasoncards are available until 12th July, click here for more details.
And don’t forget, if you can’t make it to a game next season, then you can catch Adam Blackmore and Dave Merrington’s live commentary from every matchday via BBC Radio Solent.