Southampton seem doomed - spare a thought for James Ward-Prowse
If Southampton were on the brink before then they are currently suspended in mid-air having careered off the edge of a ravine, legs pedalling wildly at a nothingness like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, waiting to plummet out of shot and into the yawning abyss below.
On Monday night, the Saints were on the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller against Nottingham Forest. The result leaves them seven points adrift with three games left to play. You could put Harry Houdini, Steve McQueen, and those fellas who broke out of Alcatraz in a conference room for a month and they still wouldn’t be able to come up with a way of making an escape that great. After a decade in the Premier League, Southampton finally look to be doomed.
When something like this happens, there are lots of people to feel sorry for. The fans, of course, come to mind pretty quickly, as do the club employees who face uncertainty over the financial capabilities and logistical direction of the institution moving forward. To some extent, you have to feel for Ruben Selles, too. The Spaniard always felt like the managerial equivalent of applying an Elastoplast to a claymore wound, and so it has proven; since taking over, he has guided the Saints to just nine points from 13 games. Whether that is a reflection of his own leadership credentials or the ineptitude of the squad he inherited is a matter of some intrigue.
I’ll tell you who I feel particularly sorry for, though; James Ward-Prowse. The midfielder, like a Matt Le Tissier or a Jason Dodd before him, is a modern day Mr. Southampton. Indeed, he sits fourth on the Saints’ all-time appearances list, and sixth in the dusty records of their all-time top goalscorers. He is a boyhood fan, an academy graduate turned club captain, and a talismanic presence at St. Mary’s. Without wanting to assume too much, you would imagine that this will hurt him more than most.
And not least because relegation will surely bring with it his exit this summer. It’s almost incomprehensible that a talent as influential as Ward-Prowse’s could be made to turn out in the Championship on a weekly basis. It would be like Celine Dion sacking off Caesar’s Palace and booking a headline residency at Butlin’s.
Of course, Ward-Prowse is no stranger to speculation surrounding his future. He is a certifiable darling of the gossip columns, a perpetual dreamboat for those clubs that occupy a space between the true elite and the rest. But the fact that he is still with Southampton at the age of 28, over a decade after his debut, would suggest that he is quite content on the south coast - and that turns any prospective departure into a sad, sad hypothetical.
Whether it be for financial reasons, or the inescapable height of his own personal ceiling, Ward-Prowse could well be subjected to a sort of enforced migration in the coming months. The likelihood is that both he and Southampton will be dreading the sting of that particular blow.