I would like to start this blog by saying a big thank you to David Connelly, Bartosz Bialkowski and Radhi Jaidi amongst others who, as I predicted in my last article, were released by the club after their contracts expired.
Jaidi remains at the club in an ambassadorial role and he will help to raise the clubs profile in Africa, as well as obviously looking out for the next generation of talented footballers to emerge from that continent.
As for Connelly and Bialkowski, both served the club well over a number of years, and indeed Connelly’s goals at the tail end of the 2010-11 season, helped the club fend off the challenge of a dogged Huddersfield side to gain promotion from League One. Plus he carried that form over into the next season with his goals helping to cement our place at the top of the table, and setting us on course for back to back promotions.
As a Saints fan it has come as no surprise that the recently released relegation odds see us as second favourites for relegation next season, despite the fact that no new signings have been made by the club and the new season is more than two months away. Only Reading have shorter odds on relegation, and there is an obvious bias towards London clubs for some reason, as West Ham who only managed to scrape promotion through the playoffs, are listed as fifth favourites.
Additionally, Norwich, who actually finished last season in 12th place in the Premier League, are shorter odds than both the newly promoted Hammers and Queens Park Rangers, a team that only survived on the last day thanks to Bolton’s luckless result at Stoke City.
Of course, the bookies are looking to avoid paying out large sums of money and more money is going to be taken on newly promoted clubs going straight back down, but in recent seasons, the three relegated clubs have more often than not been clubs who have been in the top flight continuously for more than one season.
Saints fans are used to being labelled as “relegation fodder”; after all, we were usually the bookies favourites for the drop, year on year, when we were last doing battle in English football’s top flight. In fact, if my memory serves me right, the only time we weren’t tipped for the drop was the 2004-05 season, when we were actually relegated.
With reports of a transfer offer for Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez being bandied about, one that is in the range of £6 million; which would smash the previous club record on a single fee of the £4 million we shelled out for Rory Delap (yeah £4 million for Delap!), we may well see an influx of big money signings as we look to consolidate next season.
Talking of next season, the club this week released its season ticket prices for our first foray into Premier League football for seven years, and the 30% increase comes as no real surprise.
What is a shock is the £50 admin fee for using the clubs instalment plan, in addition to the 25% payment that needs to be made upfront, with the balance paid off over only five months. I think this is going to put a lot of people off the idea of getting a season ticket, if they have not already got one.
Individual match day tickets are going to be divided into three categories depending on the attractiveness of the opposition, although the prices have yet to be announced. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that St Mary’s is bouncing ahead of an exciting year for everyone at the club.