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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice