Gary Bowyer has done really well. He is the first person this season that has got the fans and the players all believing. The supporters have really got behind him. It has always been the case for a while that the club need to look at the infrastructure behind the team and that has been destabilised the last few seasons. It the players responsibility to focus on the game but you must have the right structure in place.
From a player’s point of view I have felt just as much for the players as I have felt for the fans. I had a fantastic part of my career there and it is clear that everyone wants to see them delivering on the pitch. They are a decent club but a lack of consistency has cost them with the club letting themselves fall victim after relegation last year, but I hope they will be fine.
At Southampton with Mauricio Pocchetino in charge not being able to speak English do you feel this could create a language barrier? Did you ever come across a similar problem in your career?
Yes, I particularly had a language barrier with Claudio Ranieri. He couldn’t speak any English when he came to England and it was difficult. A lot of management is about communication, it doesn’t mean it has to be in the same language but it helps. It creates a barrier but it does not necessarily affect training as there are ways you can get your message across without speaking. A translator is something though that can really help especially at half time and just before the games when you have a limited amount of time to get your messages across.
Pochettino has done really well. The belief he has instilled in the players has helped them go on a good run as they beat Liverpool and are good value to stay up. When I was playing those times under Ranieri were very difficult. I think as long as you allow a manager a chance it is only a matter of time before they become really integrated.
Whilst we are on the theme of Southampton, What do you make of the rise of Luke Shaw this season?
I have seen him a few times and he has obviously generated a huge amount of interest around his performances. What you have to remember is that it is his first season in the Premier League and he has already played 20 odd games. He has represented England at U17 level, he was in the U21 squad. The talk of him being a future England international is good but you have to keep it in perspective. Luke has a fantastic opportunity to deliver but it has to be a step by step process.
I think Southampton is the best place for him to do that for the foreseeable future. For him to get recognition in a season where the club have been really inconsistent speaks volumes of his performances. He is very dynamic he is a good athlete, he is very confident in the way he goes forward and I think the future is bright for him.
What is your take then on Chelsea? Rafa Benitez… Jose Mourinho What’s your thoughts?
For Chelsea they have played so many games 60 games already this season. They have a wonderful chance to get to the Europa League final if they can overcome Basel. A top four finish is vital for the club as well. So from Rafa Benitez’s point of view, I am sure he is thinking if I can look back at the end of the season having got to a cup final and having won it and qualifying for the Champions League, relatively that is a successful season.
Then it is up to the club to decide what direction they go in. That is really going to happen behind closed doors. None of us know, we can speculate about who the next manager will be. The speculation is one the club has created with nobody knowing if Rafa Benitez will stay on or what their decisions are. Hopefully whoever they appoint can lead them to success next season.
Considering your interest in the England set up and Club Wembley, What is your take on St George’s Park?
I have been there a couple of times and it is a wonderful facility. It is accessible as an identity for English football and English elite football, whether that is grassroots or top level national team. It is long overdue if you have a look at other countries they have established similar facilities for their national teams. We have been a little slowing getting there, but now we are there the next stage is now the content of what is put into that facility. I am a firm believer in having all the major stakeholders being united in football so we can develop our players and coaches. It is a really exciting time for the FA and English football. We need to ensure it has measurable success.
One final question, how well do you think Roy Hodgson has done as England manager? What does he need to do to deliver the goods?
He has been an excellent England manager. I think he has brought a calmness and a trust back and being English helped. He has got a wealth of experience and he’s a realist as well. He is not pretending he has got a team that is going to win a World Cup or European Championships, but what he has done is, brought together a team with a blend of experience and youth. His values of the game are really good. I think the future with him as manager is very very bright.
I like Roy a lot, I have a lot of time for him. He is an incredibly intelligent man and he is getting the best out of those players. Does that mean we can win a tournament? We are one of a few in a group just below the top nations, but nobody would want to play us because we can always spring a surprise. We don’t have that belief or pedigree we need to win a tournament just yet though.
Graeme spoke to us whilst he was an ambassador of the Champions League at an event in London alongside Faye White. The Men’s and Women’s trophies went on a tour on the London Underground and on a commercial bus tour through London. This was part of the promotion for the upcoming finals at Wembley and Stamford Bridge in May.