Football: Jones moans about slackers

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The Independent Online
DAVE JONES, the manager of Southampton, has told his experienced players "you've let me down" in the club's terrible start to the season.

Southampton were one of the most improved sides in the league last year and finished a creditable 12th in the Premiership table, but they are now bottom of the Premiership after five successive defeats, including a 5-0 thrashing by Charlton.

It took the substitute James Beattie to score his first goal for the club to salvage a draw against Fulham, of the Second Division, in the Worthington Cup second-round, first-leg at Craven Cottage on Tuesday.

Jones was grateful just not to lose for the first time this season but blamed the club's senior professionals for a run of results that has seen his side become relegation favourites.

"We have some good young players here, but it's my experienced ones who are not performing at the minute," Jones said. "My chairman gives me his full backing as do the board, and I just want the backing of the players because I'll give them everything I can.

"Confidence has been dented, and I feel like I've been kicked from pillar to post. When expectations are high, like they were after last year, you're wondering why it's gone wrong. It's only the players that can pull themselves out of it.

"No game is ever going to be easy now. It's hard to keep battling, but that's what we have to do. The players are as baffled as everyone else why it's gone wrong."

Jones did not name names on Tuesday, but it was clear which players he thinks have not delivered so far this season.

Against Fulham, Mark Hughes barely touched the ball; Egil Ostenstad and David Howells both limped off; and Stuart Ripley was ineffective apart from the pass that lead to Beattie's equaliser.

Matt Le Tissier, making only his second start of the season, was also anonymous and, as Jones admitted, still looks unfit. "He did okay in spells but as I've said all along he isn't fully fit. He has had a traumatic 12 months as everybody knows and he just has to keep working at it like everybody else," the manager explained.