Southampton FC

Southampton sign long-term deal with American brand Under Armour

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SOUTHAMPTON — In a plush executive suite overlooking the pitch at St. Mary’s Stadium on Thursday, Southampton Football Club announced a new landmark partnership with Under Armour from the 2016-17 season.

[ VIDEO: “The Southampton Way” ] 

The duo announced a seven-year partnership, as Southampton’s plans to muscle in on the American market received a huge boost with one of the most recognizable and fastest-growing brands in the sporting sphere aligning themselves with Saints.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

UA will make Southampton’s apparel for the next seven seasons but this deal is about much more than just making a jersey.

In February ProSoccerTalk sat down with leading figures at the South Coast club to discuss an extensive coaching and player development program they are launching in North America this summer.

Saints’ will partner with youth clubs and programs across North America to help educate coaches and develop young players, as they aim to grow their brand Stateside. UA’s involvement in this plan is pivotal as the team continue to push ahead with expanding their fanbase in the United States of America and Canada.

UA and Saints have put together a six-point plan and pledge — it was led out on the St. Mary’s pitch on canvas together with a team badge and UA logo — to work together to achieve this.

  • Relentlessly innovate and create revolutionary product enabling or first team to perform at the highest level
  • Continue to develop the next generation of academy talent and empower them with over 5000 pairs of cutting edge footwear over the next seven years
  • Work with the Saints Foundation and kit out 5000 children in the local community
  • Develop the women’s and girls’ game through our shared expertise and knowledge
  • Realize our global ambitions by spreading the benefits of sport and healthy living through technology and activations
  • Together we commit to having fans and innovation at the heart of everything we do

Speaking at an event at St Mary’s to launch the new deal, Southampton’s chairman Ralph Krueger (a Canadian who formerly coached the Edmonton Oilers) lauded the link up — he called it the must lucrative deal in club history — with one of America’s top brands.

“The American market is one we have taken a big step into. We are growing this day by day,” Krueger said. “We are peeking into the Asian market in China. There are other opportunities in the world where we want to teach the game of football.”

Krueger also said that Saints’ challenge is to “retain their underdog mentality whilst entering a sustained period of success” and his club partnered with UA as they “share similar values in that they achieve success through a combination of hard-work and strategic thinking.”

Southampton FC and Under Armour Team Up for Multi-Year Partnership Bold Pledges at Heart of Agreement to drive Future Success and Innovation for the Club, Supporters and Sport of Football

Southampton have finished eighth and seventh in the last two PL seasons, their best-ever campaigns in the PL era. Ronald Koeman‘s side are currently in seventh place, three points off fifth with five games of the 2015-16 season to go.

UA is currently partnered with one other Premier League outfit, Tottenham Hotspur, and they sponsor top athletes such as Jordan Spieth, Steph Curry, Bryce Harper, Michael Phelps, Memphis Depay and many others.

UA’s VP of Global Brand and Sports Marketing, Peter Murray, traveled in from the U.S. and sat in the suite overlooking the pitch with Krueger on a sunny morning on England’s South Coast.

“It is going to be a great journey together,” Murray said. “As part of the partnership, our brand will be on Southampton Football Club’s players from their academy and every step of the way.”

Krueger and Murray revealed that 18 months ago initial talks started at St Pancras International train station in London and now it has come to fruition.

ProSocerTalk understands that Saints could well plan a preseason training trip to Baltimore this summer to visit UA’s headquarters and will take the coaching staff, U-21 players and those players not involved in the 2016 European Championships to the U.S. for training. Krueger said firm details on preseason plans will be made clearer in the coming weeks.

Ralph Krueger, Chairman of Southampton FC. and Peter Murray, Vice President of Global Sports Marketing at Under Armour at today's partnership announcement.

Krueger also revealed that Southampton will find out at the end of April about their application to start a women’s team, with the club eager to kick on and help the female game grow in England.

Southampton called themselves “the fastest growing brand in world football” during the announcement and this partnership will help the Saints go marching on to new territories.

“We are just getting started” is the motto used by UA. The synergy between these two is clear as Southampton aim to continue their climb up the PL with a new American partner by their side.

Petr Cech earns win with 2 penalty saves in hockey debut

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Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper joined English fourth-division hockey team Guildford Phoenix four days ago and made his debut on Sunday.

He did not disappoint.

The 37-year-old saved two penalties in the shootout, earning Man of the Match honors.

Cech is reportedly a fan of the Guilford Flames, the first-division side who use the Phoenix as their developmental side. He was signed to be the team’s third-choice goalkeeper, just a chance for him to get in on the action before his body gives way for good, but he was given a chance to play right away. He wore number 39, a nod to famous Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek. His custom helmet was adorned with Arsenal and Chelsea colors. Regulation finished level at 2-2 before Cech’s shootout heroics.

“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said after the match. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”

Giroud upset with reserve role at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud does not look back on his transfer to Chelsea and wish he had done things differently, but that doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and roses for the 33-year-old.

Giroud, who moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the winter of 2018 after six years with the Gunners, has played just 43 times in the Premier League, averaging just 35 minutes per appearance. That has him frustrated, hoping to prove his loyalty to the club and work harder than the other options up front.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving,” Giroud said. “I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019. Once again, I’m starting the year in a difficult situation. But as my brother says, I have always built myself in the face of adversity.”

Giroud is trying to be smart about how he approaches the competition for time with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi, but he says it is emotionally taxing.

“You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations,” Giroud says about keeping a level head. “I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticize him. But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch.”

The French international has made just three league appearances this season, mostly thanks to Abraham’s scalding form. Abraham, still just 22 years old, has snatched his opportunity for first-team minutes with eight goals in eight games to start the campaign. That has left Giroud on the sidelines for each of the last five league games, missing out on a spot in the matchday squad altogether for the last three.

Despite his struggles at the club level, Giroud has maintained his place in the French national team, missing just five matches of France’s last 64 games, including 37 of the last 39.

James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Kane reflects on Tottenham, England struggles

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Harry Kane keeps finding the back of the net, but his teams keep losing.

The 26-year-old striker has bagged five Premier League goals in eight games for Spurs thus far, plus another seven goals for England in five Euro 2020 qualifiers this cycle. Yet Tottenham sits ninth in the table after three losses already this season, while England slumped to its first Euro defeat last time out, putting its seeding at the Euro finals next summer in jeopardy.

Kane is hoping to be a leader through the tough times for both club and country, wearing the armband for both as it currently stands.

“I think you need to lead by example,” Kane said ahead of England’s visit to Bulgaria on Monday. “Not getting too down when you lose a game, not getting too high when you win games. It is a long, old season for club and country ahead – a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.”

Kane has taken over the England captaincy on a permanent basis, and is filling in for the injured Hugo Lloris at Tottenham. “I am still the same person,” he said. “I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that. I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.”

Leading by example includes finding the back of the net, while also supporting teammates both on and off the pitch. He knows even if he’s in good personal form on the stat sheet, there’s always ways to improve and help the squads through tough times.

“I am scoring goals but can I get more assists, create more chances? So yeah, I always look at little things I can get better at. Yes, the England form has been good but as ever, it can be better. We will see if I can continue scoring. It has been a good campaign but important I do not stop now.”