RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Tuesday, August 1

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: Southampton F.C.

(nothing to this other than I find this picture amusing)

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football dork methodology meant to establish a listing of players who have been most active for English Premier League teams in their past 100 non-friendly matches. Essentially, it is calculated by minutes played, but weighted towards most recent games. The end result is a listing of the 25 players in a team’s recent history who have had the largest hand on their metaphysical sporting trajectory. The English Premier League was chosen because it is the highest level of football played in an English speaking country, and I speak English. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA, where I fucking live. And yet still I should clarify I hate English, and also America. Thus maybe I hate myself. Should I not fail in maintaining my unpaid deadline, a new 25-Man Metaphysical Roster will appear on the 1st and 15th of every month.]

Southampton F.C. aka The Saints, who I have found no fault with as of yet, though being a relative newbie to ancient grudges of English football, I’m sure somebody can fill me in on some sort of calamity I was unaware of. When I say I can find no fault with them, it is because they are an inoffensive club – not a corporate oligarch’s entity purchasing their position at the top of the table, nor are they a direct lower end threat to Swansea City, though who knows… that could change. The Saints host the Swans on opening weekend, so by then I will have geared my temporary hatred up to a solid level. But for now, and for the sake of this metaphysical metric I have devised in my fucked up head, let’s just say Southampton is alright.
I’ve been told that the southern tip of England is full of some trash folks, but to be honest I’ve been told that about most parts of England. The English people do not seem to have the best reputation among their fellow denizens of the world. I am not here to disparage or defend though, just cycle through this list of 25 men who have played the most minutes out of the last 100 competitive matches for this club. So let me begin…
#1: Fraser Forster – Rojonekku allegiances maintains a supporters agreement with Celtic F.C., so obviously there is love here for Forster, who did five seasons in Glasgow before his current three-years-and-counting spell with Southampton began. Oddly enough, as a young buck, Forster – who was already playing GK (sign of a wild ass kid, in my opinion) – was thunk to be too small. Dude ended up being 6’ 7”. And though he missed half of that second season with Southampton due to injury, he’s otherwise and most definitely since then been their man in between the posts, hence him just signing a new five year deal, which of course might mean he’s shipped off to Besiktas next July if things unexpectedly get ugly. Football is unforgiving as a business.
#2: Oriol Romeu – Young Spaniard who came up in Barcelona’s infamously amazing youth academy, and actually even got a couple of appearances for Barca’s senior team before making his way to England. He previously had a stint with Chelsea, in that hot prospect oft-loaned limbo young wunderkids find themselves in with the biggest clubs. Lack of consistent home club allowed his footballing stock to fall (relatively speaking) until he landed in Southampton two years ago, where he has established himself as key fulcrum in defensive midfield between the Saints’ solid defense and off-and-on attack.
#3: Ryan Bertrand – Bertrand was a Chelsea starlet who spent almost a decade under contract to them but really only had one year where he was a regular for them. During that period: 57 appearances for Chelsea, plus loans everywhere which led to: 7 appearances with Bournemouth, 24 with Oldham Athletic, 60 with Norwich City, 51 with Reading, 19 with Nottingham Forest, and 16 with Aston Villa. Those last 16 were at Premier League level, which made him known enough that he got a permanent transfer to Southampton, where he’s established himself as left back of choice on that solid defensive line.
#4: Steven Davis – Well, hate to bring up the Celtic kinship again, but Davis is a Northern Irishman who spent four seasons with Rangers. In fact, Davis’s path to Southampton was direct result of Rangers’ financial collapse in 2012, which allowed Davis to become a free agent and make the move to Southampton. He’s also club captain, which I guess is some sort of public relations role separate from the dude on the pitch who wears the armband during matches. But fuck if I know for sure.
#5: Dusan Tadic – Serb. I’m a leisurely student of post-Yugoslavic break-up (lolol, textbook “Balkanization”)culture and football, and have my entirely unnecessary loyalties built from this. A conclusion from all this has been an assumption that Serbs are wretched. Of course then I got a job where the main boss was a Serbian woman, and to be honest she wasn’t wretched but she also wasn’t wonderful, so maybe they are a patriarchal culture and the women learn how to be strange political tricksters. She did make some good ass baklava, and we had long discussions about fermented foods, so I guess what I’m saying is maybe I don’t unfairly hate Serbs any more. Good baklava will do that to you. (This is not a euphemism; she was an old woman, but that baklava was still good.)
#6: Maya Yoshida – Yoshida played his youth ball in his home country of Japan for what is my favorite club name in the world – Nagoya Grampus. I used to like Young Boys in Switzerland even more, but you can’t really say that on the internet.
#7: Cedric Soares – aka just Cedric, linked to Chelsea, but contracted to Southampton, at least for now. He’s also Portuguese, and has received the Ordem do Infante Dom Henrique as well as the Ordem do Merito, which are a pair of Ravensclaw spells that make your body shrink three inches but your penis grows three inches. This is why Cedric is only 5’8”.
#8: Nathan Redmond – Redmond’s a winger who jumped from Norwich City before last season after the Canaries got relegated. Southampton did not get relegated, but check out this fun fact… the previous three seasons where Redmond appeared for a Premier League club, they were relegated. Norwich City in 2016, 2014, and Birmingham City in 2011. Obviously Nathan Redmond is cursed, but perhaps he absolved himself by being involved in sainthood.
#9: Virgil van Dijk – No lie, van Dijk is likely my favorite player in EPL. He’s such a solid, never-fuck-up presence at center back, and pretty much helped establish that Southampton defense over the course of the past two seasons. The end of last season, he got sidelined by injury, and his absence was noticeable. It also sucks because he’s being expected to likely move to Liverpool, which is fine, I mean you want dudes you like to enjoy great success and shit like that. But I don’t know, it almost feels like your soul is squeezed at places like that (relative to being entirely crushed at either end of Manchester), and I’d rather a guy like van Dijk – a noble and rare spirit warrior, in fact we shall call him The Great Virgil van Dijk (TGVvD) – should be left to flourish somewhere where his ways will not be stifled by pretentious notions, or threatened constantly with a fresh new hotness that will potentially replace him. TGVvD deserves awe. Of course, Southampton knows what the fuck is up, and are sort of just standing around trying to be silent, hoping TGVvD comes back and accepts the fact he ain’t gone yet. But whether he is wearing stripes or solid red come September, TGVvD a one of a kind presence, one that can even temporarily transcend the shitlands of Big 6 EPL Clubbery.
#10: James Ward-Prowse – Ward-Prowse is their homegrown talent, young 22-year-old midfielder who came through their youth system. While in their academy, he snuck off to train simultaneously with lower level Havant & Waterlooville (a team I know well from Football Manager, because they were like the only lowest tier club that would hire me as an unproven American manager in one year’s version of the game). Despite his age, he’s coming on his sixth anniversary of senior club appearances, and even made his first senior English national team appearance this past March in a friendly against Germany. A south England success story.
#11: Shane Long – Irish fucker who may or may not be aging out of his prime, at least at Southampton. He’s been there three years, but last season saw his goal production fall off. New manager Mauricio Pellegrino gonna try to get him going again (that’s what they say at least) or might see him off.
#12: Jose Fonte(previously ranked #15 for West Ham United, June 1, 2017) Fonte transferred to West Ham last January, having been supplanted at center beam of defense by van Dijk, and though he played regularly for the Hammers, he has not shown the same ill skillz that led to almost 300 career appearances with Southampton.
#13: Jack Stephens – Young right back who can cover at center as well, and thus has been enabled to shine in periphery of metaphysical aura lights of TGVvD. There are two routes that happen from here: one, perhaps the young Jack Stephens absorbs some of this metaphysics and becomes through psychic osmosis a better player. You can’t really say this is outside of him because one must have that potential in the first place, and also perhaps all humans when they are truly being have such potential. But the second, sadder route is to not equal this, to mistake the absorption of metaphysical power for necessity of needing another entity’s presence. Should TGVvD leave for Liverpool, will the young Jack Stephens start to hear the call of the failure demons, who say “You were only good while he was here, without him you are less, it was him not you,” saying those horrible wretched lies that failure demons, who have been amplified by the neurological poisons of late age capitalism marketing, love to hatefully whisper into your ear, and hopefully (for them) your heart. Last season was the first one since Southampton got back to Premier League that Stephens did’t spend time loaned to a lower league, spending the entire year at St. Mary’s, and making 23 appearances (including hardcore second-eleven cup duty).
#14: Jordy Clasie – Look, let me be perfectly clear here – like any shitty freelance writer, I am going to wikipedia and vague google news searches for my info. The only difference between me and a normal shitty freelance writer is those people tend to get paid (meager sums) for what they do. I’m doing this for no reason, other than pure love of sharing words in the digital abyss, and then feeling depressing chemical reactions in my brain when it makes no ripples. But I am immediately struck by one thing on Jordy Clasie’s wikipedia page – that there is a place called Haarlem in the Netherlands. The thing is, I busted open a bunch of footballer wiki pages before leaving home, and now I’m sitting on somebody’s porch in the middle of Charlottesville, no fresh internet access, so I can’t even click the link to see what Haarlem in the Netherlands is all about. But that’s okay, this is all part and parcel of the ragtag method of football metaphysics, which has a science to it, but appears completely unscientific. That is how true football works too, though there are assholes who will tell you there is data analytics that is better than such gibberish, and also the business aspect is pushed by Yakubian devils who had their souls embezzled away by greed over the course of ten generations. The weird thing about the Netherlands is, despite Amsterdam’s reputation for drugs and sex, a lot of the Netherlands is batshit crazy religious, like Europe’s equivalent of deep south fundamentalists. Is Haarlem there? No idea. But I’m going to pretend in my brain (being I have not heart) and perhaps more appropriately I’m going to manifest in my mind (which is a double dropkick of brain and heart) that Haarlem is a wonderful place of pink and purple tulips where some middle-aged guys led by a dude called Cam’ron sit around talking shit to each other all day, in that loving but pokey way that true bros – not stereotypical internet bros, but real ride or die bros do. (Please note: 98% of all people you known will maybe ride, maybe, but doubtfully ever ride for you. Ride or die is good metaphor, because majority of American and western enculturated people are bitch-made, with very little ride and hardly no die in them.)
#15: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – Another youngster, a 21-year-old Danish dude who enjoyed long successful careers with Manchester United in multiple FM multiverses, so much so I was shocked to realize he was outright on Southampton’s squad and not on loan from Manchester United. It’s not a bad look for Southampton to have the super young potential football heavyweights they have. They’ve not had the best managerial consistency to match this, with an annual June sacking (Ronald Koeman in 2016, Claude Puel in 2017) being a thing the past two years. New manager Mauricio Pellegrino makes the jump from previous experience in Spanish and Argentine leagues to England hoping to become the young promising managerial version of what Hojbjerg and Ward-Prowse.
#16: Cuco Martina – Current Everton manager Ronald Koeman had the same position at Southampton previously, and is (according to media narratives) building a new empire at Everton. Cuco Martina had become expendable in the Saints defense, appearing less and less last season, thus his contract status actually was allowed to expire. He re-joined his former manager Koeman at Everton on a free transfer, likely for cover, because it’s hard to imagine him cracking a starting XI on a budding empire.
#17: Jay Rodriguez – After five seasons as Southampton’s standard vanilla forward, he transferred to West Brom, where there’s more room for such a role currently.
#18: Sofiane Boufal – Moroccan (by way of Paris) midfielder with attacking principles who joined Southampton from French league before last season. Only 23, and the fact that the majority of this list of 25 guys is all under the age of 25 is pretty striking. You might expect that for a non-Big 6 club, but you’d also expect that type of club to be one of those middle-to-lower table log jammers. Southampton’s actually been pretty good, even when they’re not. I support all North African players in the EPL, not sure why though. I think it’s some stupid “anti-colonial” mark I like to pretend to apply to being some dumbass sitting around passively watching a corporatized form of sports entertainment. Even applying metaphysics to these teams… I mean, come on man, majority of metaphysics has been pasteurized the fuck out of EPL clubs, and you only find true metaphysics deeper down the pyramid. But it does creep through, as football metaphysics is like kudzu on that footballing/corporate pyramid, and though they spray pesticides all over the top tiers of that pyramid, in order to maximize shine and keep profits high, the kudzu still creeps through the cracks, and is climbing through the unseen heart of it.
#19: Sam McQueen – Another young guy on their roster, as well as having come out their youth academy. When you see the amount of solid early 20s players getting significant minutes who came up through their system, it helps you understand Southampton’s success. I assume of the three people reading this, one is mostly an American sports fan, but I’m going to pretend it’s actually 3000 people, and the 1 is 1000. SO YOU SEE, FOR THE AMERICAN SPORTS FAN, we think of player’s developing in college, outside of a set system. Even that happens after regular schooling. The football academic system has kids from a very early age (younger than my youngest kid, who is 9, which is weird to think if she was a boy and we were in England and she was good at football, she’d be gone to academy) involved in not only learning the sport, but learning it specific to what the mother club is trying to instill. (Also, according to revelations in recent years, fending off sexual assaults.) It’s an indoctrination program bordering on human programming which is simultaneously amazingly fascinating and probably immoral. And Southampton seems to be doing it pretty well!
#20: Charlie Austin – So what I don’t get is Charlie Austin was the shit the first full season I followed Premier League like a consumerist addict, in 2014-15. Everybody wanted Charlie Austin, because his talents were being wasted at Queens Park, and once they sealed their relegation, all the talk was about where would Charlie Austin end up. (This talk is similar to the where will Jamie Vardy end up? talk that happened after Leicester City won the EPL.) Austin ended up nowhere at first, then transferred to Southampton last January. Austin has yet to establish himself a permanent starting XI role, which feels weird because he got 9 goals in 16 appearances for Southampton first half of this year. In fact, that period combined with his one season in PL with Queens Park, Charlie Austin is actually averaging better than one goal for every two appearances. This is even crazier Charlie Austin getting 90 minutes is rare (which is not uncommon for striker, I know, but Austin’s minutes are even more convoluted and oddball at times than normal strikerly starting burnout or late match fill-in). Southampton was pushing the limits of European qualification last season (and actually qualified the season before), and if the defense led by TGVvD remains intact (a big if), all they really need to put  them over that hump is more prolific scoring. Despite Everton’s high profile moves, essentially trading Lukaku for Rooney is a serious downgrade, and who the fuck knows if ManU will implode fully in second season under dickhead Mourinho, so shit could really open up for the Saints if everything breaks just right for them (another big if, especially considering how fucked the football gods can be).
#21: Sadio Mane – Young Senegalese striker who had been Southampton’s scoring threat before he was cashed out to Liverpool for £34 million transfer fee – a record at that point for African player in the Premier League. A lower-on-the-totem club like Southampton is sort of forced to do such a thing, and generally how good they remain is how well they re-stock with the abundance of funds they get from such sales. The Saints have remained a solid club, but haven’t had someone who can offensively destroy an opponent’s fire like Mane as of yet.
#22: Manolo Gabbiadini – Gabbiadini also joined Southampton in January, along with Austin, as they realized like everybody else, “Wow, our defense is tight but we ain’t got shit up front.” Gabbiadini is considered one of Italy’s promising young forwards, and actually just scored his first competitive international goal last month against those wily bastards from Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifier. The entirety of his experience before the past six months has been in Italian football though, and he and Austin will be competing for forward minutes this upcoming campaign. Hard to imagine Gabbiadini not playing the clean-up 69th minute sub role while Austin holds down the majority of playing time. But what do I know?
#23: Victor Wanyama – Another guy with Celtic ties, and my favorite type of role in football – the African defensive midfielder. Wanyama in fact was the Premier League’s first ever Kenyan player when he joined the Saints from Celtic, and has since moved on to Tottenham Hotspur, where he had a heavy workload of 47 appearances on last season’s club that contended for the EPL championship longer than anyone else.
#24: Matt Targett – Another homegrown youth academy kid, who plays from left back to winger down the left side, but saw his appearances drop last season – his third at professional level. With rumors of Ryan Bertrand (ahead of Targett on the depth chart) moving to Chelsea, this could be the season Targett is thrown into the EPL pool fully, to either sink or swim.

#25: Graziano Pelle – This is the last entry, so to be honest, I don’t feel like looking shit up. But Graziano Pelle is one of the most beautiful and poetic names I’ve come across while doing this, though added poetic factor may be added by American public schooled rural south ass pronouncing foreign syllables the way I think is right which is probably all sorts of wrong. But I’ve watched enough lucha libre to know how to try and not sound like a hick asshole nor an NPR commentator over-inflecting only certain words, so that I say “KA-RAH-KASS Ven-i-zway-la”. But being my actual name is Raven and it has metaphysically shaped me immensely into what I am now (a guy who likes to be naked in the woods listening to the crows and carving poetry into rocks with flea market machetes), I can only imagine Graziano Pelle is wonderful soul. (If he is not, don’t @ me. You fuckers ruin everything magical about life. Everything.)

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