Tag: southampton

Watch The Documentary “The Southampton Way”

Watch “The Southampton Way”

Known as a “selling club” that operates on a relatively modest budget, Southampton FC isn’t a side that should be competing with the heavyweights in England. Yet thanks to an extremely well run youth academy, a passionate fan base and a smart vision that pervades all levels of the club, the Saints continue to thrive despite their underdog status.

In this edition of “PL Download,” Roger Bennett of “Men in Blazers” fame visits the well-run south England club and spends time with coaches, players and executives to find out more about the Southampton Way.

Unfortunately the embed code doesn’t work so you’ll have to click the link above to watch the video. It is definitely worth a watch though. In a club soccer world filled with oil money and expensive transfers it is refreshing to see a club of Southampton’s size compete with the giants of the Premier League. It just goes to show soccer fans that a club doesn’t necessarily need a huge cash infusion from a rich owner to compete and challenge for the Champions League. All it needs is a smart business plan and a very well run youth academy churning out top class talent. While both those things are difficult to do at least they don’t require a Saudi prince in order to do them.

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There’s Only One Cody Cropper

The United States soccer youth development system has long struggled to produce great international American soccer field players. In recent years, the development system has improved, but the United States Soccer Academy still trails all of the great international soccer countries. Aside from our country’s international “woes” in the field, we have still found a way to produce some of the world’s topnotch goalkeepers. Over the past two decades, the US has produced some of the most talented, athletic and consistent net-minders to date. Distinguished athletes such as Marcus Hahneman,Tony Meola, Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, and Brad Guzan have all enjoyed decorated careers as starting shot-stoppers in top leagues around the world.

Why is it, then, that the US has produced so many successful and consistent goalkeepers, with so few outfield players in comparison?

 

The general consensus about Americans’ success in-between the pipes is that the American youth have long had the opportunity to develop the necessary athletic skills for goalkeeping because of consistent exposure to American sports at a young age. The logic behind this reasoning is that years of participation in sports such as basketball, baseball and even American football help these future athletes naturally develop a basis for great goalkeeping skills such as positional awareness and eye-hand coordination long before they begin their exclusive training as goalkeepers. As a non-goalkeeper looking from the outside in, why would a goalkeeper desire to go abroad at such a young age if past American goalkeepers have proven they can succeed through the US youth system? Cody Cropper recently challenged this question when he decided that the best course of action for his development was to take his talents to England. This is one of the many reasons he is currently one of the most intriguing goalkeeping talents in the American youth system.

 

Cody Joseph Cropper was born on February 16, 1993 in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Deciding to forgo the traditional path of most American goalkeepers, and soccer players in general, Cody chose to attempt to play in England, where he had several trials with many different teams. Finally, he signed with Ipswich Town FC in May 2010, spending three seasons mixing it up at their academy level. In 2012, at age 19, Cropper signed a two-year contract with Southampton that was extended by a year this past summer. On Southampton, Cropper plays for their Academy team, also receiving the honor to act as the third-string keeper during a few Southampton first-team matches. Although he has been called into camp with the USMNT, Cropper spends most of his international career as the first choice goalkeeper for the U-23 US youth squad.

 

Currently, Cody sits behind Polish international Artur Boruc (on loan at Bournemouth), English international Fraser Forster, English veteran Kelvin Davis, and the young Argentine Paolo Gazzaniga on the depth chart. This is a daunting list, especially since goalkeepers, like all soccer players, need playing time to develop. Although he is the low man on the totem pole, there have been promising signs that Southampton sees him an important part of their future. When Dave Watson, England’s former goalkeeping coach, was hired by Southampton, one of the first things he made sure to do was exercise the one-year extension option on Cody’s contract. This high-profile move by a man of Watson’s caliber illustrates Southampton’s commitment to better developing its goalkeepers. If one of his first steps after being hired is to secure the young Cropper to a one-year extension, then it is safe to assume he is part of Southampton’s future plans.

 

Goalkeepers do not have the same development path as outfield players. It can take them several more years than their outfield teammates to develop into starters. Yet, after they do, they typically last longer playing at high level. Sometimes a goalkeeper takes until age twenty-seven to become a full-time starter. While most outfield players peak at that age, most goalkeepers can keep playing until their forties.  Although a thirty-eight-year-old net-minder may not be able to make every single glory save or scramble across the goalmouth in one leap and bound, he can still outplay the younger counterparts by using his experience. This is all due to the notion of knowledge is power. As they age goalkeepers can better manipulate their opponents into taking the shots they want by experienced positioning awareness as well as proper communication, keeping the defense in check at the back. Therefore, technically, Cropper can take the foot off the pedal and absorb as much as possible compared to his fellow USMNT youth prospects who play in the outfield. There are some goalkeepers, like Mattia Perin, Joe Hart and Thibaut Courtois, who get starting spots early, but this is not an indictment of Cody’s future. His place in the pecking order is hopefully only temporary.

 

It is clear that the US coaching staff has a lot of faith in Cody since he is currently the starting goalkeeper for the US U-23 team and has already  been called up to several USMNT camps. This experience, combined with his current environment where he will be learning under England’s former goalkeeping coach, will be great for his development going forward. The scariest part about his future is how far behind he is in the depth chart. Although he has time to develop, he will need to get more first-team experience if he ever wants to get over the hump and become a consistent Premier League-caliber goalkeeper. However, for the time being, he is developing well at Southampton. If Cropper stays there for another year or two, then he will only improve. Nevertheless, he will still need to get consistent first-team experience. This may be hard to achieve at Southampton, so he probably will need to seek a transfer or a loan elsewhere. The team he goes to does not need to even be a Premier League team. At the end of the day the best move for Cody is to continue at Southampton and absorb as much as he can until he can find first-team experience.One can only wait to see what a talent Cody Cropper can develop into. Patience is key in goalkeeping.

First Published In First Touch

English Premier League Predictions for 2013/2014 – Part 2

6 weeks ago, I posted predictions for the upcoming Premier League season.  If you happened to miss it you can read the article here.  With the transfer window half over, here are my updated predictions based on rosters and rumors as of today.  Over at premierleague.com, you can view the latest up-to-date official transfers for all the Premier League clubs.

Tier 1

1) Manchester United (+0) – Eerily quiet in the transfer window for the Red Devils.  However, you know the old motto: “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”.  If they start the season with their current squad, they should remain favorites to repeat.  However, losing Rooney would put a big chink in their armor, especially if it is to another Premier League club.

2) Manchester City (+1) – What a difference 6 weeks makes.  I had Chelsea at the #2 spot last prediction, but Manchester City has made two more key signings.  To go along with Jesus Navas and Fernadinho, they also added Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic to their attacking side.  These are two great signings and much needed with the departure of Balotelli last season and Tevez most recently.  Aguero, Negredo, Jovetic give City top class options at the attacking positions.  We’ll see how Jovetic fairs in his first Premier League season.

3) Chelsea (-1) – Chelsea has been quiet since the transfer window opened.  Only adding Andre Schurrle, who was an early summer signing.  They missed out on Cavani, who ended up at PSG.  Can they steal Rooney from United as the reports suggest they are trying to do?  If Rooney does make a move to the Blues, it would certainly close the gap among the top 3.  However, I was expecting another high profile signing or two by now which is why they dropped below the ambitious Manchester City.

Tier 2

4) Tottenham (+1) – For now, Bale is still a Hotspur.  However, if the latest reports are true regarding Real Madrid’s bid, maybe not for long.  As of today though, they have added Paulinho, who is a good signing to bolster the midfield.  They are also in advanced talks to sign Soldado which would be a great signing as they are in need of a quality striking option.  With that said, if Bale leaves, you can kiss 4th place goodbye.  I see 4th as their highest possible finish, but could drop to as low as 6th or even 7th should Bale depart.

5) Arsenal (-1) – Arsenal’s transfer rumors have been discussed at length on this site and there is seemingly a different development daily.  With that said, their ONLY signing thus far is Yaya Sanogo, a French U-20 International with a checkered injury record.  They missed out on likely transfers Higuain and Jovetic, and have put all their focus on signing the controversial Luis Suarez.  They have done very well in clearing out some of the dead weight that has plagued them for a few seasons, they just need to fill those spots with some quality signings now to challenge the top 3.  Suarez would obviously bump them up to the top tier while simultaneously dropping Liverpool into the Tier 3 range.  We’ll see how Arsenal’s summer plays out but this could be the make or break year as they always seem to be a few players away.  I don’t see them dropping any lower than 5th, so they can only go up from here depending on who they happen to acquire.

Tier 3

6) Liverpool (+0) – Not too much has changed with Liverpool since the last post.  Suarez is still on the squad, for now.  They did ship the struggling Pepe Reina off to Napoli and brought in Simon Mignolet as a replacement and potential upgrade.  Otherwise, they have been fairly quiet this offseason which doesn’t bode well for an above average squad.  Should they lose Suarez, they would need to replace him with two quality signings to remain in tier 2.

7) Everton (+0) – Also having a quiet transfer window thus far.  They did bring in Arouna Kone from Wigan, which could be a good risk/reward type of transfer should he stay healthy.  If they can hang onto Baines and Fellaini, and add another quality player or two, they could potentially fight for a Champions League spot, but as of now are a couple signings away from that level.

Tier 4

8) Swansea (+0) – Swansea has been relatively busy this transfer window.  They have added a few good players that should help them finish in the top half of the table yet again.  Wilfried Bony should prove to be a great signing to take some of the goal scoring pressure off of Michu.  Jonathan De Guzman could be a valuable loan signing that will solidify their midfield, while Jonjo Shelvey will look for a career resurgence after his move from Liverpool.  I look for Swansea to be a pesky team for the top clubs and certainly not an easy club to earn points from.

9) Newcastle United (+0) – Still no forward replacement for Ba.  However, they have retained all of their important players and look to rebound from a disappointing campaign last season.  They have the talent, let’s see if that leads to results this time around.  The chemistry should be there this season if they can maintain focus.

10) Southampton (Unranked) – Rounding out the top 10 I think will be Southampton.  They have only made two signings so far, but two signings that will greatly improve their squad.  By spending a combined 20m on Defender Dejan Lovren and Forward Victor Wanyama, they added quality to both ends of the pitch.  Wanyama could be one of the most underrated Premier League signings this season.

Dropped from top 10: Fulham

Tottenham and Manchester City have made the highest impact signings so far, which is represented by their bump up in the projected table.  I have a feeling this will be a very interesting final month of the transfer window.  I will post my final predictions following deadline day, once the clubs are finalized at least until January.

Have your own predictions?  Want to win a free jersey?  Check out the details on our Premier League Prediction contest and submit an entry before it’s too late!