Football: New deal for Dell boys - Sport - The Independent

Football: New deal for Dell boys

Saints count on fresh faces on old heads. Andrew Warshaw reports

IF SOUTHAMPTON upset Liverpool in today's first televised Premiership game of the season and go on to produce the kind of form that defied all those who predicted relegation last time round, no one will feel more vindicated than David Howells and Mark Hughes, two of the Saints' five summer signings.

For different reasons the pair found themselves surplus to requirements, at Tottenham and Chelsea respectively, at the end of last season. Christian Gross, eager to build his own squad at Spurs, did not rate Howells enough to offer him a new deal - although any Spurs fan will tell you that the balance of the team was better with Howells sitting in front of the back four. Hughes suddenly found himself pushed down the pecking order of strikers at Chelsea once Brian Laudrup and Pierluigi Casiraghi had been added to the club's ever-increasing list of high-profile foreign imports. Both Howells and Hughes felt they still had plenty to offer, and Southampton's manager, Dave Jones, with money to spend after the pounds 7.25m sale of Kevin Davies, clearly agreed.

Of the two, the peripatetic Hughes might have been expected to settle in more quickly having played in three different countries with Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea. For Howells, a lifelong Spurs fan who joined the club as a trainee, leaving White Hart Lane after 277 appearances was a wrench. Yet such has been the welcome at The Dell that all those years of service in north London have already been consigned to the back of his mind.

"It was disappointing to leave Spurs, of course it was," Howells, who is still only 30 and looks leaner and fitter than ever, said. "Some managers fancy you, others don't. Football is a game of opinions. But it's not something I'm going to get bitter about. I could see it coming. I've got my mind around it and I'm just looking forward to playing for Southampton. Everyone at the club has been fantastic, from the chairman to the cleaning lady. My mind is totally focused on what Southampton might achieve."

Achieve? Southampton? The two may not seem synonymous but Howells, who arrived on a free transfer, chose the Saints ahead of two Premiership clubs and three from the First Division. "It's a big city with a big catchment area. Potentially they could be a big club and that's what I could see in the manager and chairman's thinking."

Howells, whose family will shortly be moving into a new house in Hampshire, has had little contact with his former team-mates. Not for any negative reason, just because of his desire to concentrate on the future. "I spoke to Darren Anderton at the England-Argentina game and I sent Ian Walker a message on the birth of his daughter. Otherwise I haven't been in touch with anyone. I'm sure it will be difficult when we play Spurs and of course I hope they do well this season, but I don't really want to talk about Tottenham any more."

Jones takes the view that Tottenham's loss is Southampton's gain. "We all knew what David was capable of and when he became available we were lucky to get him," he said. "It was a big decision for him: he'd been at Tottenham a long, long time. Sometimes players need a fresh challenge and we're delighted he's here."

The same goes for Hughes, bought for pounds 600,000 to add experience to the forward line after the departure of Davies. Memories are short in football, but if it wasn't for Hughes' crucial goal in the second leg of the semi-final, Chelsea might never have reached last season's European Cup Winners' Cup final and won the trophy.

Yet Hughes, just like Howells, shows no bitterness. "It's the nature of the game," said the Welsh international, who will be 35 in November. "Chelsea have gone out for quality players. The problem with foreigners is when you sign them purely because they're cheaper. But Chelsea haven't done that."

Hughes is impressed by the mixture of experience and youth at Southampton and by the ambition of the south coast club, who have also invested in Stuart Ripley and James Beattie from Blackburn for a combined pounds 2.5m and Scott Marshall on a free from Arsenal. "They are not happy with being simply a homely club. They had a good season last time and are not content to rest on that.

"Beattie is only 20 and could be a great player. At the other end of the scale, there's the likes of me. A successful club is about getting the mix right. It's not just about players, it's about personalities. If you get a good group of lads together, it's amazing how far you can go."

Pre-season has been moderate but the real thing starts now. "Friendly games don't mean that much," Hughes said. "It's when you smell the hot- dogs and the greasepaint that it really matters. We're happy to be starting with Liverpool: the bigger the start for us, the better."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week