Southampton 2012 Year End Awards
With the festive season approaching ever quicker, it's time to reflect on the year past.
For Southampton, it's been a year of mostly positives. The Saints gained their second straight promotion in late April. Sure, the beginning of the Premier League campaign was a bit rockier then most would have liked. But things seem to be coming together on the South Coast, and 2013 looks promising as the Saints look to consolidate their Premier League status.
Let's take a look back at the best of the best for Southampton in 2012.
Golden Boot: Rickie Lambert
Rickie Lambert was by far the most prolific goal scorer for Southampton in the nPower Championship, and that form hasn't changed in the Premier League.
Lambert scored 29 goals in the 2011-12 season, 14 of which were in calendar year 2012. So far, Lambert is also the leading scorer for Saints in the Premier League with six.
That means Lambert has tallied 20 goals in 2012, more than any other Saint. Billy Sharp scored nine for Southampton in the beginning of 2012 before going out on loan to Nottingham Forest this season, and Adam Lallana has eight in 2012.
Top Playmaker: Adam Lallana
Admittedly, I'm giving Adam Lallana a bit of a break here, as Lallana was actually tied with Rickie Lambert in assists over the calendar year of 2012 with nine.
Lallana, sadly, is unlikely to add to his 2012 tally. He is reportedly out until the New Year with damaged knee ligaments. The Saints Academy product leads all Southampton players in Premier League assists with four.
While a song of the Southampton fans, which states that Lallana is better than Lionel Messi, is a bit of a reach, the 24-year-old has drawn attention from others with his play this year.
Lallana got a late call into the England squad by Roy Hodgson for their World Cup qualifier against Ukraine. Alan Pardew, who managed at Southampton prior to Nigel Adkins taking charge, is keen to bring Lallana to Newcastle, according to The Sun.
Saint of the Year (Best Sportsmanship): Jason Puncheon
As shown by Southampton's disciplinary record so far in the Premier League, most Saints certainly fall closer to the saintly side of behavior than the sinner side. Southampton have only accumulated 15 yellow cards so far in the Premier League, the lowest of all 20 clubs.
One player has stood out in his ability not to pick up bookings, Jason Puncheon. That's not saying Puncheon doesn't get involved with physical play at all. The 26-year-old is making 2.3 tackles per game and committing 1.2 fouls per game according to WhoScored.com.
The physical play doesn't cross the line though. Puncheon only picked up one booking in 2012, and that was in the nPower Championship against Watford. The right winger has not gone into the book of any Premier League referee this season.
Best Young Player (21 and Under): Nathaniel Clyne
Since moving over from Crystal Palace, Nathaniel Clyne has been a constant in the Southampton back four, only missing one game.
Clyne made his presence known almost immediately in the Premier League when he stayed step-for-step with Sergio Aguero in the Premier League opener at Manchester City and won the ball cleanly with a sliding tackle from the side. Clyne is averaging over three tackles per match according to WhoScored.com
The England Under 21 International has been very active in the offensive end of the pitch, as Clyne has scored once and assisted on two other goals. The only drawback to his game seems to be his boots, as Clyne seems to slip at the most inopportune times.
With other bright young players like Paulo Gazzaniga, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse making major contributions to the Southampton squad, the Saints' future appears to be bright.
Match of the Year: April 28, Southampton vs. Coventry City, 4-0
The last match of the 2011-12 season in the nPower Championship against Coventry is a no-brainer for match of the year. Partially for the comprehensive result it produced, but mostly for what happened at the end of the day.
Needing a win to secure a win to be automatically promoted into the Premier League, Southampton took control when Billy Sharp redirected an Adam Lallana volley into the net 16 minutes in, Three more goals from Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld and Lallana would send the Saints into the top flight for the first time since 2005.
For a club that was nearly reduced to ashes in administration in 2009, the long journey back from League One was finally over. One of the Premier League originals were back where they belonged.
Best Save: Kelvin Davis vs. Leeds United, March 3
While Kelvin Davis seems to have lost the No. 1 spot in goal to Paulo Gazzaniga, there's no denying the importance Davis played in Southampton's promotion push.
In this March match at Leeds, Davis turned in a man-of-the-match performance in Southampton's 1-0 win. Davis made many key saves, but the save at the 2:27 mark of the video stands out above the rest.
Davis admittedly caused a bunch of the problem by not reaching a ball he came out for. The ball fell to Leeds Luciano Becchio, who had the goal at his mercy. Somehow, Davis crawled about four yards on the ground to cover the near post just as Becchio got his shot off. After the save, Davis was then able to palm the ball away before Becchio could put in the rebound.
Considering that the difference between second place Southampton and third place West Ham United was two points, the two points Kelvin Davis saved with this effort may have saved Southampton from earning their way back to the Premier League via the playoffs.
Youth Team Goal of the Year: Sam Hoskins vs. Newcastle United U21
With the Southampton U18 and U21 squads both progressing to the Elite Groups in their respective youth leagues, it seemed fitting to spotlight the Saints Academy that has produced such top players as Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The competition was fierce for the best youth goal of the season. This Ryan Seager overhead kick from a corner kick against the Aston Villa U18s gets high marks.
But the winner goes to Sam Hoskins for his recent long-range strike against the Newcastle United U21s. At the :23 mark of the video, Hoskins dribbles down the right side of the pitch and unleashes a rocket into the far-post upper-90. The 5-1 victory helped the Saints U21s reach the elite group of the U21 Premier League.
Goal of the Year: August 28, Jason Puncheon vs. Stevenage
The goal of the season has to go to an effort even Matt Le Tissier would be proud of.
While it probably got lost a bit since it happened in the Capital One Cup against Stevenage, the level shouldn't take away from the skill of Jason Puncheon's goal.
Puncheon takes a cleared ball from the Stevenage defense and controls it with his thigh. After a quick pop-up touch, Puncheon unleashes a volley from nearly 30 yards out that leaves the Stevenage keeper rooted to the spot.
Southampton would win the match 4-1 to advance to the second round of the competition.
Player of the Year: Rickie Lambert
If there was any doubt who should be Southampton's player of the year, there shouldn't be.
Rickie Lambert has been a consistent and dominant force for the Saints. He only missed three league matches for Southampton, the result of a red card suspension. Otherwise, Lambert has played in 37 matches, producing 20 goals and nine assists in 2012.
Everyone knows that Lambert can find the back of the net seemingly at will. His record in taking penalties is a perfect 26 of 26. But it's his passing skill that surprises many.
Lambert is tied with Adam Lallana for most assists in 2012. Since moving to the Premier League, Lambert leads Southampton with 2.2 key passes per match according to WhoScored.com.