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.

Monday, February 1

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: SOUTHAMPTON FC

{Southampton's greatest moment - and only major trophy - 
their 1-0 1976 FA Cup win over Manchester United}

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology based off the foundation of minutes played over the past 100 competitive matches for a club, determining which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current path. Intuitive analysis, performed mostly from an un-American “soccer” fan’s perspective is added. Ideally, we do this twice a month, cycling through English Premier League clubs, because it’s the top domestic English-speaking league on Earth, and as un-American miscreants and mongrels, our staff of writers were born saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. To some extent, we hate the English, but also America, and likely ourselves. Core staff is Raven Mack (chairman), Paul Robertson (director tecnico), and Neil Bulson (director rudo), but obviously, we always need help. Venmo @ravenmack23.]

Southampton Football Club was an original Premier League member in 1992, where they remained until 2005, suffering relegation, which bottomed out in League One for two seasons a decade ago. They earned back-to-back promotions in 2011 and 2012 to get back to the Premier League, where they’ve remained a solid middle of the table club, and in fact played two seasons in the Europa League. You take away the Big Six, and Southampton has been a Premier League club more than most any other club, and tends towards finishing in the top handful of clubs not the Big Six. They struggled from 2017-19, flirting with relegation, which you can’t really do for too often without fucking up, but after an 11th place finish last season, they’ve gotten off to a solid enough start this season to not fear relegation, though they likely ain’t challenging for a Europa League spot either. That’s sort of the existence for a lot of clubs who float in this high-middling level - way too good for the Championship, but not gonna compete with the likes of the Big Six heavyweights. Under Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who was appointed at the end of 2018, the Saints have settled into the cream of the middling. So, using our methodology of minutes played in the past 100 competitive matches, these are the 25 men who make up the metaphysical direction of this Southampton Saints Football Club currently… [RAVEN]

#1: JAMES WARD-PROWSE (up 1 from last time Southampton were metaphysically deduced on 15-Mar-2020; also HIS FIRST METAPHYSICAL STAR) – Ward-Prowse has been a lifelong member of Southampton’s club, even though he was born and raised in Portsmouth to a Portsmouth supporting family. Portsmouth’s best days are currently behind them though, so Ward-Prowse - since the age of 8 - has been a Saint. He’s been a fringe member of the English national team, with four caps for the senior team, though not anything super important necessarily. But he’s been the face of Southampton for a while, wearing the captain’s armband, and having played his entire professional career over the past decade, for only Southampton, beginning at the age of 16, getting called up for their League Cup matches back then. Perhaps not coincidentally, that season was the Saints last one in the Championship, before getting promoted. All Ward-Prowse played that season was a single FA Cup and that single League Cup matches, but he got a goal in the FA Cup match he appeared. The following season, he played about half their Premier League matches, and ever since he’s been most ever present as their fulcrum with the captain’s armband in the defensive midfield. One interesting fact is when he was still with the Southampton youth academy, he secretly trained, without them knowing, with lower tier non-league Havant & Waterlooville, specifically to get tackled and beaten up and get tougher. That’s a solid mentality for a captain to display. [RAVEN]

#2: JAN BEDNAREK (up 1 from #3 last time) – The glossification of dirt cultures for upper level football presentation always trips me out. I am one quarter Polish, as my maternal grandfather was the child of Polish immigrants, actual Ellis Island ass immigrants. It didn’t have a lot of effect on my upbringing, like there’s no real cultural shit I learned, because my grandfather was a rolling stone, and disappeared from New Jersey as soon as he could, through vagabonding as well as the navy. He fell in love with a creole woman in New Orleans but ended up marrying a Scandinavian widow living in her car outside Chicago with her two young boys, likely because he felt like they needed caring for. I don’t know, maybe my grandma had that WAP back in the day. But what I did learn about my Polish heritage is Polish people are absolutely fucked. It’s like the Eastern European doomed, who are doomed even by those relative standards. They are a people steeped in pollution. You never hear about wonderful trips through the Polish countryside. This of course means they’re a perfect form of person to play defender or GK, specifically slotted in that center back “fuck you, I won’t let you do shit bitch” territory, because a person steeped in environmental poisons does not attempt to succeed in life, they simply bash shit away as much as possible. Which is why Bednarek was perhaps destined to be a center back. But he’s this model-looking dude chilling on the Southampton coast? That doesn’t make sense at all. Of course, this doesn’t matter, because the doomed are always still gonna be doomed, no matter how much hair gel they wear. Bednarek’s first Polish senior team appearances happened around World Cup 2018, where behind the global prowess of Robert Lewandowski, they were expected to dominate their group. A late goal against Senegal provided little comfort for a 2-1 loss where the first goal for Senegal was an own goal by Poland. Then they got crushed by Colombia 3-0, effectively eliminated from advancing. In that final and meaningless match against Japan, they salvaged a 1-0 win over Japan, with Bednarek’s first international goal in the 59th minute. They were still considered a huge disappointment. And I guess, in that sense, Bednarek fulfilled his Polish destiny perfectly – having his greatest success still be part of a larger metaphysical disappointment. [RAVEN]

#3: RYAN BERTRAND (up 2 from #5 last time; also one previous metaphysical star with Southampton on 15-Jul-2018) – Bertrand is the elder statesmen of the defense, and though he doesn’t wear the captain’s armband, if the press and club are working in tandem to engineer public consciousness about an issue, it’s going to involve a notable quote from Bertrand. Only 31 still, he’s already comfortably entered that realm of players who speak well of other players, and comment on managers that have nothing to do with his current situation. Like last week, before Frank Lampard got sacked at Chelsea, there was Bertrand, in the press, talking about how great Lampard is. And it wasn’t really a threatening quote, like he wanted to leave Southampton, or wished Ralph Hassenhuttl wasn’t his manager. It was just that managerial press politics that certain players start showing a knack for a few years in advance of their declining play, and eventually getting appointed interim manager of Nottingham Forest or Reading one December. [RAVEN]

#4: ALEX MCCARTHY (down 3 from #7 last time) – I watched a couple Southampton matches recently, and wow, Alex McCarthy is kind of a brilliant fuck up. Like he’ll stand on his head sideways for some amazing saves, but then make an absolutely idiotic mistake to give up a goal that shouldn’t have even been contemplated as possible. That’s the perfect GK for a club like Southampton, eking out draws against both the best and worst clubs in the Premier League, confusingly not being really great or really bad with focus, but instead being both really great and really bad, at the exact same time. This is the chemistry that causes a club to be a perennial 9th through 12th place club. [RAVEN]

#5: DANNY INGS (up 4 from #9 last time) – Poor Danny Ings never got through the Klopp buzzsaw in Liverpool, but he’s back scoring goals for Southampton, picking up the pace he established at Bournemouth before Klopp literally kicked his ass out of Liverpool. Okay, that didn’t happen, I don’t think. No, the real sad story is that Danny boy wrecked his knee before he could even be in the plans, and the plans at Liverpool were famously outrageous, with the Reds front line scoring almost at will while young warriors held shit down on the defense. You know all those names now, MO, Bobbie, Sadio Mane… but Danny Ings was supposed to be able to roll with that crew, which is big ticket city, but he’s not at that super level obviously, but Klopp and the boys liked him because he made them laugh in the lockers. A good personality can keep you in the rotation but a bad one will turn you into a diva. Still, while they hate to say goodbye, Danny needed to find his level again, which he has and he is maybe one of the more underrated dudes getting goals out there. That’s all it takes, just find the right level and its buckets. [NEIL]

#6: JACK STEPHENS (same as last time) – Come April, Jack Stephens will hit a full decade of service to Southampton, after a £150K signing fee from Plymouth Argyle back then. Coming up on 100 appearances, and 83 starts for the club, that’s a fairly solid return on investment, and exactly the type of affordable and non-glamorous but ruggedly serviceable type of dude a club like Southampton needs in their defensive line. Factor in the fact he’s a white-appearing conventionally handsome enough Englishman, so the easily xenophobic footballing public at large isn’t going to get unnecessarily riled at him in these trying times, and what you have is a guy who looks perfectly inoffensive in the red and white Southampton kit. [RAVEN]

#7: ORIOL ROMEU (up 1 from #8 last time) – Former Barcelona youth academy and Barcelona B mainstay, who moved to Chelsea for four years, which was mostly spent mired as a back-up, occasionally loaned out for brief spells abroad. Since coming to Southampton in August of 2015, he’s finally been able to play regularly, appearing in the bulk of their Premier League fixtures since then, as well as most of their Cup matches as well, occupying that sweet and steady spot of guy who plays all the time but is not such a superstar that we bench him for cup matches. Part of why Southampton has been so consistent of a club is how many guys like Romeu fall from seemingly greater destinies, like Barcelona, to St. Mary’s. The Saints have a knack for identifying these types, taking them on, and many of them stick. This habit, combined with selling off rising young superstars like Sadio Mane as they arise, can allow a well-managed club to remain plodding around the midfield of Premier League table for a long ass time. [RAVEN]

#8: STUART ARMSTRONG (up 5 from #13 last time) – Paul is overloaded with coursework, attempting to live the academic dream in the declining age of the late American empire. Thus, he didn’t have time to check in this month upon our return, which is weird, because there’s no way I’d be writing about a Scottish midfielder who was part of Celtic’s double treble era under Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers is sort of the unifying managerial presence for the core Football Metaphysics group, as he’s managed notably at Swansea City (my club), Liverpool (Neil’s club), and then Celtic (Paul’s club). I guess we need a Leicester City American degenerate to join our crew now, to help flesh these things out. Armstrong has been a solid presence for Southampton ever since making the move from Glasgow in the summer of 2018, saying not long afterwards that he didn’t miss the rough and tumble world of Scottish club football. He’s knocked in 12 goals for Southampton in all competitions the past two-and-a-half seasons, including 3 this thus far this Premier League campaign, helping the club escape relegation scrum early, and not look to be getting drawn back into it. For a club like Southampton, this is a perfect arrangement, because Armstrong doesn’t really look to be moving to a bigger club, but he’s also excelling well enough he doesn’t need to go back to Scotland just yet. That’s probably why they renewed his contract this past month. [RAVEN]

#9: NATHAN REDMOND (down 5 from #4 last time; also one previous metaphysical star for the club on 15-Mar-2019) – Earlier in his career, Redmond was the metaphysical star for this club, appearing with more regularity than anyone else on the squad. The past couple years has seen injuries slow him down at times, but whenever he’s fit, the Saints benefit from his presence. He’s still only 26, so when fully fit, adds a good pace and flair for creating shit on the wing. He won Player of the Year award at the end of the Saints 2018-19 survival from relegation, both the fans and players version of the award, showing the high esteem he’s held both on the training ground as well as the stands. [RAVEN]

#10: CHE ADAMS (up 10 from #20 last time) – I don’t think anyone should be named Che. It’s too inflammatory. You can’t meet a dude named Che without some preconceived notions, which are probably more about the parents than the dude himself, I mean the dude didn’t name himself. But it’s too late for that and that means that Che Adams is out there as a mercurial weapon, and he chooses to deploy in English rags even though he has Antiguan and Scottish cards to play if he chooses. I can’t tell a man how to live his spirit life, but Che Adams has two get out of jail free cards, or he can go on to rep England and the capitalist empire aka the default setttings. [NEIL]

#11: JANNIK VESTERGAARD (same as last time) – Danish centerback, he came up through the German system, which has admittedly produced a wide variety of artistic expression, the gassers and such probably the most prominent. But whatever he learned in those dark gothic castles he passed on as a good soldier in the Bundesliga before Southampton came in and anchored him as the central defender around which the rest of the squad could do their jobs. He’s 28 so this is his prime, and he’s big, 6’6”. He’s a Dane. [NEIL]

#12: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG (down 11 from #1 last time; thus also one previous metaphysical star for the club, on 15-Mar-2020) – Ahh yes, the goofy-faced wonderkid who was Bayern’s budding young superstar, at least how he was marketed, before cashing him out to Southampton back in 2016. His time at Southampton started promising, helping the club appear to play better, though they had a couple relegation scrums in his time. When Ralph Hasenhuttl showed up at the end of 2019, he put the captain’s armband on Hojbjerg, but had to repossess it after the kid that had Bayern Munich hype in his resume started talking up his desire to leave for a better club. That’s when Ward-Prowse took over captaincy, and in the short transfer season between the lsat finishing 2019-20 season and this one starting, Tottenham Hotspur shelled out the money for Hojbjerg. He’s kinda perfect with Spurs to be honest, joining that collection of assholes like Harry Kane and Jose Mourinho, where it can all just self-implode upon itself in frustrating, overrated fashion. [RAVEN]

#13: KYLE WALKER-PETERS (previously ranked #25 for Tottenham Hotspur on 15-Sep-2020) – Former Spurs hyped hope on the back line, who has gone the opposite way of Hojbjerg. Walker-Peters was loaned to the Saints from Spurs for the second, covid-jumbled half of last season. And once Southampton cashed that Hojbjerg transfer check, they immediately applied a chunk of it to seal a permanent deal for Walker-Peters. His first start after the permanent move is metaphoric for the making the most of a downward trajectory that is a theme with a number of players on Saints, who were potential stars at a younger age for bigger clubs, but have ended up in Southampton. In that first start last September, Walker-Peters got a straight red card during the match with Crystal Palace, for giving Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell some high studs. However, after video review, the ref dropped it to a yellow, and Walker-Peters played on. A decent enough defender who will likely occupy a role with the club for the foreseeable future. [RAVEN]

#14: SHANE LONG (down 2 from #12 last time) – Long is an aging Irish striker who’s been with Southampton for a number of years, appearing regularly, but by no means as a star player. It’s weird to note the trends of where these guys finish on the 25-man list, because this is the fifth time I’ve compiled this list, and Long has finished 11th (August 2017), 13th (July 2018 and May 2019), 12th (last March), and now 14th. This signifies a consistent but not outstanding status with the club, as someone who gets plugged in, but nobody is clamoring to rave about. He’s certainly never come close to matching his 10 goal effort in 2015-16, and looks to be moving to Bournemouth today to aid their Championship cause for the second half of the season. [RAVEN]

#15: MOUSSA DJENEPO (up 2 from #17 last time) – Rapid-paced Malian winger who’s had a bit of a hamstring injury the past month. He’s yet to find his full form with Saints, but signs have been there, and Hasenhuttl certainly would like to see the young winger remain fit and occupy the staring XI enough to get a good rhythm going to enable more regular scoring beyond his PL average of 1 per every 9 appearances. Southampton has had trouble piecing together a good offensive threat, and Djenepo could do a lot to fix that problem. There’s still hope he’d follow the trajectory of the previous young West African star who played at St. Mary’s - Sadio Mane. [RAVEN]

#16: THEO WALCOTT (previously ranked #9 for Everton on 15-May-2020) – Walcott was of course the young English wonderkid at Arsenal all those years, with the expectation he’d be their great hope. Of course that didn’t come to fruition, so he ended up at Everton, which by all means is a pretty nice gig as well, albeit not in the illustrious Big Six heavyweights, at least right there on the periphery. But with Everton’s eternal dreams of moving beyond the periphery, and more and more signings, Walcott was deemed excess value, so off to Southampton for about as high profile a loan as one can be. And while Walcott remains decent enough (2 goals in 10 appearances so far for the Saints), the failure demons of early life expectations are always circling overhead when the now 31-year-old Walcott is on grounds. That’s quite a burden I imagine. Some can seize it, make the most, and become stubborn second-tier spirit warriors or run off to Turkey, Greece, or America, and regain their big fish form in a smaller pond. Walcott seems to just be going gently into that good night of a career though, and I’m sure he’ll plug around for a few years more, just being Theo Walcott, former English wonderkid. [RAVEN]

#17: YAN VALERY (down 2 from #15 last time) – Valery joined Southampton from his native France as a teenager, cracking the senior club in November of 2018 in the classic young dude proving round of the League Cup. A right back by position, who has scored a pair of goals in limited action, and after being intermittently available due to a glandular fevering issue, has struggled to find time after Kyle Walker-Peters’ arrival. He did make his first start of this season’s Premier League campaign last week though. [RAVEN]

#18: ANGUS GUNN (down 4 from #14 last time) – Similar to the downward trajectory of Walcott mentioned above, Angus Gunn had high expectations earlier in his career, as a product of Manchester City’s youth academy after oligarch money made it the go-to destination of schoolboy stars all over the United Kingdom. Never having staked out a spot on that eminent roster, he transferred to Southampton, where he also never really put a chokehold on the starting GK spot, having some highlights but also some boneheaded days in front of the net. He’s had a couple English national team call-ups, of a minor friendly nature, the first of which came when Jack Butland was injured in November of 2017. In a repeat of that status, he was loaned to Stoke City this past October when Butland was injured again. Gunn has done well for Stoke in fill-in duty, and it’s hard not to imagine his dream gig would be to return to his childhood hometown favorites Norwich City, whom he was loaned to previously while still contracted to Manchester City. Gunn is still only 25, so I wouldn’t be surprised if, upon their inevitable promotion, Norwich doesn’t come calling for Gunn as cover for current GK, Tim Krul. Gunn will eventually be the GK at Norwich City again, whether next season, or five years from now. [RAVEN]

#19: CEDRIC SOARES (down 9 from #10 last time) – There’s a certain metaphysical hierarchy to clubs that I’ve always wished could be charted through loans. It’s like cuckold sciences almost, where clubs that build through loans from better clubs are obviously lower on the metaphysical pecking order. This tends to be a one way (downward) flow, but occasionally that is disrupted in the opposite direction by certain players. Cedric Soares was just such a player, who had become a fairly solid but perhaps too exorbitant expense at right back for the Saints. They loaned him to Inter Milan for the second half of the 2018-19 season – an obvious upgrade in club status for Soares. Somehow, the feat was repeated last season, with Soares getting loaned to Arsenal. Southampton had no interest in re-signing Soares, so he made a permanent move to the Gunners, on a free transfer, at the end of his contract. So I guess the lesson of all this is usually the hierarchy of loans flows downward, unless somebody has a price tag nobody of the player’s metaphysical stature wants to pay. So if you can’t find a sucker, you just try to dump the guy off as much as possible, until somebody else inherits your headache. There’s been a lot of press hype this transfer window about how Soares is about to make his name known again for the Gunners, even getting a start last week under Mikel Arteta. But to be honest, it felt like heavy-handed press massaging to try and drum up transfer interest in Soares, as he remains one of the most underwhelming defenders money can be wasted upon. [RAVEN]

#20: IBRAHIMA DIALLO – French midfielder who only joined the club this past October, and made his first outright start on Boxing Day. Hassenhuttl is slowly working him into the rotation more and more. Strangely, as Diallo is a defensive-minded midfielder mostly, not an outright full back, he’s never scored a goal as a professional, either in domestic league play in England or France, nor in cup competitions. As a youth, he followed in the footsteps of his older brother Abdou, at Monaco. Abdou Diallo now plays at Paris Saint-Germain, competing in the Champions League, and had a big transfer fee involved in his arrival. Ibrahima Diallo is just trying to catch on at Southampton. [RAVEN]

#21: MAYA YOSHIDA (down 5 from #16 last time) – Maya Yoshida deserves someone better than me probably writing up his thing here, but just as that is the case, so is his sundowning in Italy after leaving Southampton, but it’s just how it’s done. He’s still the captain of the Japanese national team which means he is the only one allowed to talk. The rest are beaten with exploding fish for every syllable they utter. He will probably be a key “leader” in Japanese sport society going forward, his time with Southampton receding into the comfort of some half forgotten dream. [NEIL]

#22: MICHAEL OBAFEMI (down 1 from #21 last time) – 20-year-old black Irish striker, who became Southampton’s youngest Premier League goal scorer getting the third goal in a 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town back in December of 2018. Still young, a loan move had been lined up for Obafemi to play for Swansea City the remainder of this season, which I was stoked for. Swansea has been getting more goals than historically they do this season, so adding Obafemi was only going to make that more fun to watch. He got injured in training though, and the loan move was cancelled, as there is an injury history with the young man. He’s still out, so depending on his fitness by the end of the season, there may be interest for him in the Championship next season as well. [RAVEN]

#23: SOFIANE BOUFAL (down 5 from #18 last time) – Boufal was the French-born Moroccan striker who arrived at St. Mary’s for an undisclosed but club-record transfer fee in summer of 2016. He never lived up to those expectations, and got loaned out to a Spanish club two seasons back. Last season, he played in the majority of the club’s first dozen matches, but then somehow stubbed his toe on his kitchen table so horribly, the injury lingered and it ruined his season last year. Southampton gave up on him, and sold him back to his first professional club of Angers, in France, where he got one goal in his first five Ligue 1 matches, but then got injured again. I wonder how often Boufal thinks about when he ran into the kitchen table in Southampton though. [RAVEN]

#24: WILL SMALLBONE – Neil originally volunteered for this one, but only sent in an incomplete sentence mocking the surname. I’m not above such immature nonsense gibberish, but also as the sort of chairman of this bullshit, I have to try and steer it a certain direction. Smallbone is a weird ass surname though, an English one, allegedly with an etymology that goes back to a 7th century Olde English word thought to be a term of endearment for a small person, meaning somebody was chill but tiny so they started calling them Ol’ Smallbone. This to me is funnier than a dick joke, so Neil’s nickname is Ol’ Smallbone from now on. [RAVEN]

#25: FRASER FORSTER (same as last time; also one former metaphysical star for the club back on 01-Aug-2017) – A towering former Celtic GK (as recently as last year) mired in secondary status for the Southampton club he used to be the motherfuckin’ man for a few years back – another slot that normally would’ve been gobbled up by Paul. Celtic’s been in disarray this season – way behind Rangers for the first time since multiple administrations for Rangers, and Celtic was allegedly interested in bringing Forster back. Hassenhuttl had promised to keep Forster at GK for the extent of the Saints’ FA Cup run, where he’d already seen them past Shrewsbury Town and Arsenal, with clean sheets in both affairs. Wolves were up later this month, Forster got a chance to prove his status as “number one B”, as Hassenhuttl referred to him, this past month while McCarthy had to sit out a match against Liverpool with a positive rona status. Forster got a clean sheet, 1-0 win over the Reds. This means that for the Saints this season, Forster’s gotten a clean sheet in all three appearances, with two of those three against major English clubs. Alex McCarthy’s got to feel that giant Forster shadow looming behind him. [RAVEN]

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