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COMMENT: January success for Saints
This January has been a very successful one for Saints.
Looking ahead to the transfer window in late December nobody could have imagined what a remarkable month it would be for the club.
Nicola Cortese departed, Katharina Liebherr took over as non-executive chairman and record signing Dani Osvaldo had a bust up with Jose Fonte, got suspended and then shipped out. There was also some football played too.
It has been a real rollercoaster of a month, one of those rollercoasters that starts stationary and propels you forward as if you’ve been fired out of a slingshot.
Saints had to make the most of the hand they were dealt though and they have done very well indeed.
The headline grabber on a damp squib of a deadline day in Premier League land was Osvaldo’s switch to Juventus.
Saints simply had to get rid of him before the transfer window shut.
His very presence around the place for the remainder of the season could have proved quite toxic, and for a squad whose strength lies partly in their unity and togetherness, it was a real danger. He could have blown that wide apart.
Mauricio Pochettino has every right to feel let down by Osvaldo.
He knew the player and was confident he could control his notoriously fiery temper. In the end though there is no helping some people and, as Pochettino correctly pointed out, each individual is ultimately responsible for their own actions.
The warning signs had been there and it was something of a standing joke that it was only a matter of time before an explosion went off.
It nearly did against Aston Villa, a minor tremor was felt with the ban for violent conduct against Newcastle and then we got the big bang in the form of an alleged headbutt on Jose Fonte.
Most people who have been in a competitive team at any level have probably had an argument and maybe even a bit of pushing and shoving with teammates. It’s par for the course. What happened this time crossed that line by some distance.
Saints had to do the best deal they could for the club and this looks about as good as it could get.
Osvaldo is gone on loan, and he’s off the wage bill.
The only downside to the move is that he isn’t completely gone.
If he is a success then Juventus may choose to activate their option to buy him by May 31, in which case Saints make a €4m profit on their initial payment.
If he isn’t successful and doesn’t have a great World Cup then Saints may have another headache in the summer.
You cannot blame the club for this though. Negotiating these sort of major deals so late in the window is incredibly hard and this looks like a very acceptable option all round.
Of course, such is football, that it doesn’t exactly seem things have worked out badly for Osvaldo.
Many Saints fans will remember the Italian media stories when Saints were chasing him in the summer and it seemed Osvaldo wasn’t all that keen to join.
He has hardly delivered much of note on the pitch since he’s been here, as 13 appearances and three goals in more than half a season underlines. Not quite what you hope for for you €15m.
After all that and the problems he’s caused, he gets to move on to Juventus, a major world force who might well provide him with a Serie A winners medal in a few months. That’s football these days.
Saints move on though and still look ahead to a bright future, this matter dealt with in a commendable manner and with plenty of credit deserving for interim CEO Gareth Rogers.
Back to December again, and the big fear was that Luke Shaw and Rickie Lambert might go. You would have got long odds on Cortese and Osvaldo instead.
But it is good news that Saints have held onto every player they wanted to.
Lambert appeared close to leaving before Cortese’s departure but now stays, and with Osvaldo out of the way is as important as ever.
Shaw is also here at least until the summer, though expect some sizeable bids for his services to really test Saints, and his commitment, then.
Keeping the core of the squad together was vital for Liebherr in terms of steadying the ship in the wake of Cortese’s exit.
She said nobody would be sold, meaning nobody who Pochettino wanted to be kept would be sold, and it was important for her to deliver on that promise – and she has.
Saints have been busy shipping players out, but ones that are surplus to requirements, and that is very important and positive for the future too.
Any manager will tell you that you don’t want extra senior pros hanging around. Saints have a nice bunch of guys and not troublemakers in that bracket, but even so it’s not right.
The fact they need games can take up places in the under-21 side as they figure as overage players and blocks up a natural pipeline for development.
That has been well and truly unclogged.
Lee Barnard has joined Southend on loan until his contract expires in the summer.
Danny Fox is on loan to Nottingham Forest until the end the season when his move will become permanent.
Billy Sharp is going to get regular football at Doncaster, where he is a hero.
Jason Puncheon has been sold to Crystal Palace, ending an intriguing four years at St Mary’s. It has been a big dipper type rollercoaster of ups and down, but in the end he goes for a nice little £1.75m fee.
He wanted to be at Palace for personal reasons. It’s where he grew up, where his family is and good luck to him.
It does feel like the end of an era with some of these guys going. They have been promotion heroes and a huge part of the journey to where Saints are now.
But times move on and for the sake of them, the club, and the youngsters coming through, it’s only right that they continue their careers elsewhere.
A few Saints fans have expressed their disappointment that the club haven’t signed anybody, but looking at it dispassionately you again have to conclude they have done the right thing.
Without wishing to put too much of a dampener on things, Saints do not have masses left to play for this season.
There potentially is the FA Cup, but they haven’t prioritised that as of yet.
In the league they have looked for some time as if they will finish in the ninth position they currently occupy.
It is feasible they could maybe go up or down a place, but upper midtable is where they will finish.
Of course they can still progress as a side ahead of next season, and that is very important.
But they have a strong squad and there is no requirement whatsoever for them to have paid over the odds for anybody else right now.
Look at the fees being paid for some players in January – they are way over the top.
Saints are now shopping up and around the top end of the marketplace. To convince clubs to sell those sort of players in January is very hard, and only large amounts of cash normally do the trick.
Pochettino surely would like another centre half and another striker, the positions most clamoured for by Saints fans, but he knows it is better to wait until the summer.
High calibre players are then available for fair fees.
Even if Saints signed a brilliant striker and he scored 20 goals between now and the end of the season, the chances are Saints probably won’t finish higher than eighth anyway, so what is the point of spending £5m over the odds to get them now?
It might not be exciting or sexy, but it’s good business sense and perfect logic that Saints have followed.
They haven’t got carried away in the emotion of it and have made the right decision.
And if anybody still needs consoling, let’s talk about the young players.
How brilliant has it been watching all this fantastic talent trundle out of the academy and into the first team? It’s made people proud to call themselves Saints fans.
A lack of cover for Luke Shaw at left back after Fox left will actually mean a chance for another youngster in Matt Targett.
Osvaldo departing will mean more minutes and experience to Sam Gallagher, experience that he would never have got had Saints signed a big name for a big fee.
Once more you have to conclude it’s good for the club.
There is a real air of positivity around St Mary’s at the moment, and this transfer window has illustrated perfectly just why we are right to be so optimistic about the future of this club.
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