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Keep Your Enemies Closer - Southampton, 2014 (v. 1.0)

Jim McMeachin sat down with the managing editor of St. Mary's Musings to have a friendly exchange of questions ahead of Saturday's PL match between Newcastle United and Southampton. Here are the results.

Steve Bardens

Keep Your Enemies Closer pieces are always fun for me.  This one was particularly fun for me as it involved St. Mary's Musings, the newest member of the SBN Soccer family and their managing editor Jake Edwards.  In spite of my inability to handle the massive time difference between my home and his, Jake was kind enough to agree to and in fact answer a series of questions about Southampton and the match coming up this weekend.  Here's the result!

1)  Will you guys take Alan Pardew back?  Please?

We're good for now, thanks! I, along with many other Saints fans, actually quite like Pards. He did a solid job on the south coast (we won the prestigious Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley under his stewardship... It still counts!) and a lot of fans were very unhappy upon hearing of his sacking. However, Nigel Adkins took over and we really stepped it up another gear so, in hindsight, it was a good call from our former chairman Nicola Cortese.

Personally, I think Pardew gets some unwarranted stick from the press and Toon fans. Sure, he likes to stick in the odd headbutt here and there, but, in terms of results, I think he's worked well under some tough restrictions under Mike Ashley. Ashley sold Pards' best player in Yohann Cabaye and didn't bother replacing him. Newcastle's form subsequently dipped and Pardew is getting it in the neck. That doesn't seem right to me.

2)  The departure of Mauricio Pocchetino to Spurs presented the possibility that the progress that Southampton have made in recent years might stall out.  You seem to have landed squarely on your feet with Ronald Koeman.  It's early days still yet, but what are the Saints supporters' thoughts regarding the Dutchman?

We're loving Ronald Koeman so far. As you say, it's early days right now but it appears not much has changed in terms of the on-pitch product of the Saints. While Mauricio Pochettino did a great job with the club, you have to remember Saints have long had this style of football embedded within all of our systems. Something even Pardew helped hone as we tried to fight our way back up to Premier League relevancy.

It's nice to have a nice, friendly character back leading our club - I think us Saints fans all miss Nigel Adkins for that. It also helps having a legend of the Dutch game and a boss with both European success and contacts at the helm. We are punching a bit above our weight signing the likes of Toby Alderweireld from under some big clubs' noses; and that was purely down to Koeman's relationship with the player.

While it was a shame to see Pochettino leave, things seem to be looking up. He had no intentions of staying at Saints and strung the fans and players along with it - you just knew him leaving would have a domino effect on our squad. It's widely rumoured that he was stirring the pot among our players for months following chairman Cortese's departure (Pochettino and Cortese were very close). Morgan Schneiderlin was extremely confident in earning a move to Spurs and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Pochettino had made him promises he couldn't keep. Our refusal to sell Schneiderlin could be an indicator of that, considering who we did see leave in the summer.

3)  Your club's recent success predictably set you up as a target for Sky 6 poaching of your best and brightest talents.  Which of your team's departures has been/will be missed the most?  Which of the new arrivals has had the biggest impact thus far?

You're right. It was so predictable, wasn't it? I think we'll miss all of our departures immensely - not just for their on-pitch talents, but also for the unity and leadership that was among those players. It appears that we've signed well over the summer (though I'm not too keen on Shane Long or his ridiculous £12million price-tag), but you have to remember that we traveled up the leagues with the majority of those players who left in the summer. One of the best things Saints had going for them was their team spirit, and it certainly would have taken a knock.

In my opinion, Rickie Lambert will be missed the most by the fans. He was one of the few players to leave with any dignity intact: who could begrudge a 32-year-old club legend moving to his boyhood team? I think we'll greatly miss Lallana's talent on the pitch, though Dusan Tadic looks to be a replacement who could even better our attack on the Lallana's vacated left-wing. Lallana did not leave on particularly good terms with Saints fans; though not as badly as Dejan Lovren. Lovren was fantastic for us last season, but he showed his true colours when forcing a move this summer and I hope he continues to struggle with the pressures of being at a club like Liverpool. He found his level at Saints and it was so nice to see him get done by Tadic as we scored our equaliser at Anfield. Karma and all that.

I think it's easy to say who has made the biggest impact since signing with Saints this summer. I mentioned him previously, but Tadic looks like a real find. Again, Koeman's Dutch connections coming through for us as we snapped him up from FC Twente. Not only could he be a good replacement for Lallana - he might actually be a bit better than him. Though I'm not sure if that's a bit of bitterness clouding my judgement. Geordie lad Fraser Forster looks like a quality goalkeeper and has already made some vital saves in his short stint in the Saints net so far.

Toby Alderweireld hasn't yet played for Southampton, but I'm confident he can supply more than suitable cover at the back in place of Lovren, while Sadio Mane has a ridiculous one-goal-in-every-two-game scoring ratio from the wing for former club Red Bull Salzburg, so he could prove to be a decent signing. It's early days but things are looking good so far.

4)  Alan Pardew has frequently asserted that not only can we not expect to compete with the Sky 6, we can't be expected to compete with clubs like Southampton.  In terms of general club stature, how do Southampton supporters view Newcastle United?  Do you guys view our club as a somewhat direct rial in these terms or have you set your sights higher?

While I agree with Pardew that it's unrealistic to compete with the top six clubs, I think it's absurd for him to say Newcastle can't compete with the likes of Southampton. It's most likely a bit of self-preservation and managing of expectations on his part - anything to relieve a bit of pressure from Mike Ashley.

Newcastle is a massive club. Always has been, always will be. I see Newcastle as a rival in terms of league position, but we could never match The Toon in terms of club stature or popularity, in my humble opinion.

5)  What are your expectations for Southampton this season?  Would a top-half finish be satisfactory or does last season have you guys expecting more?

It's hard to know how we'll fare this season. Many 'expert' pundits tipped us as relegation certanties; buying into all that crisis club/meltdown bollocks perpetuated by the media this summer. Personally, I'd happily take another season of mid-table mediocrity. I'm not too confident of a top-ten finish but I believe most Saints fans would agree with me in thinking this is our most realistic goal to try and achieve.

Finishing 8th-14th and having a nice cup run would suit me nicely.

6)  My managing editor asks: "Can we have Tadic?"

Sorry, but this is one player I think Saints will try and keep around for years to come.

7)  What is your prediction for the match?

West Brom managed to stifle our defence in our sole home game so far, so it's hard to say. It really depends on how Pardew sets his team up.

We smashed West Ham at Upton Park and have beat Newcastle at St Mary's in our last two home games against The Toon so I'd be a bit disappointed if we kept up that trend, given our nice bit of momentum gained from East London. Still, I think Newcastle are a good side with some decent summer signings in tow, so I'm not expecting a victory by any means.

I'm thinking we may snatch a 2-1 win.