On the 30th of April, it'll be ten years since Marians Pahars waved goodbye to Southampton, the club, and its fans.
We wanted to talk to the beloved Pahars, and decided to let our followers ask the questions! Here are his answers:
Have you been back to Southampton since leaving, and if not, would you
like to make it back for a game sometime?
"Yes, just once though. I visited a home match against Norwich a couple years ago. It’s the only time I’ve been back. Of course I’d love to make it more often, not just for the football, but to see my friends and to be back in Southampton. Southampton is very special to me, my kid was even born there!
Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to make it more often. I’ve been to London a few times, but not been able to come to Southampton, but at some point I hope to be back for a match."
Do you still keep track of Southampton and their results? If so, who’s your
favorite current player(s)?
"Of course, I still follow the results and progress. The results the last couple of years have been unbelievable. In terms of stability, the way they play. Despite changing managers, they did well with Pochettino and did well when he left. Players left and nobody was believing in the club. However, maybe they’ve become better since.
Every week I follow the team’s results and try to watch games on Sky if it is on TV. I really like the way they play. They’ve got everything to compete with the top clubs and I think they can be in the European stages.
As for the players, it’s difficult to pick one. They’ve got leaders at each position. Show me two players and if you take them out, the team won’t do as well. It’s like an engine, where everything must be working to succeed. Midfield is very strong, and the captain, Fonte, is a true leader. He has great charisma and is a real captain.
Me being a striker and creative midfielder, though, those are my favorite players. Graziano, Shane Long are both doing well. He scored against us with Ireland a few years back, so yes, he’s good."
What was your favorite moment while playing for Southampton?
"It’s tough to pick one, as there were a lot of special moments. To be fair, every day I spent in Southampton was a positive moment. Of course, maybe with my injuries, I did not reach my full potential. I have no regrets of course, I was very happy with the club.
There were a couple of goals I enjoyed. Maybe my first year there, where we survived and I scored twice against Everton. I didn’t realize the importance at the time, but now when I look back, I realize how special that was."
Who do you still keep in touch with from your time at Southampton?
"I go to see friends from my time at Southampton, not just at the club, but friends I met around town. We talk about the current team, but I don’t keep too much touch with many players. I keep in touch with James Beattie through text and phone calls occasionally. When I went back I met Jason Dodd and a few others, and we had a chat. I saw Gareth Bale once. I don’t see people too much, but when I do, it’s a special moment."
What do you remember from your 45 minutes in a trial game at Staplewood
vs Oxford’s reserves?
"1999. I scored three goals and that’s all I remember. I was sick before the game, and completely unfit and I was wondering, "what am I doing here?" I only knew one player, so that was great to play. I never scored another hat trick after that!"
Which famous goal did you enjoy more: Your nutmeg and goal at Old
Trafford or against Portsmouth at St. Mary’s? What makes each goal so
special? You realize you completely ruined the poor lad with that nutmeg?
"Every goal was special, so I can’t pick one. Maybe for fans, these were really special, however my first goal against Blackburn, when I came on and scored. I remember being so relieved to finally score. I was feeling uncomfortable in my first month due to language barriers and being away from home. But that goal gave me belief, it gave me confidence. It wasn’t a beautiful goal. So whether it’s against Manchester United, or a smaller club, I’m always happy to score.
I scored a left-footer against Derby, scored two against Liverpool, those were fantastic and memorable as well. Every player dreams to score at Old Trafford, and yeah, I feel a bit bad for Jaap Stam, because everything came so natural. Fans still remember that, so that is really a funny memory to look back on."
What do you think of James Beattie saying that you were the best player he
played with? What did you like best about Beattie?
"I never heard Beattie say that, and I don’t know if he meant that, but it was definitely the best partnership. He was around when we just banged in goals for fun and we both assisted each other in that, and that was one of the best partnerships in the league. I could say the same, maybe he was my best partner and player to work with. He was such a prolific goal scorer."
Who is the best player that you played with, and against, throughout your
"There were a few, and that’s not an easy question. For sure you’d have to mention (James) Beattie, like I said, we had such a good partnership and scored many goals together. When I was there, I didn’t see the best of Matt Le Tissier, unfortunately. But when I saw him score goals, I could definitely put him as one of the best I’ve played with. I didn’t see much, but when scored, it was easy to see what a talent he was.
There were others: Niemi, Dodd, Lundekvam to name a few. It’s hard to pick though because I enjoyed playing with all of them. It’s not important, because there are always a different leader and player who steps up and produces. It was a fantastic group.
Against, this is easier. The two best were, first, Thierry Henry. Arsenal were one of the best at that time and Henry was my idol. I was impressed whenever he played, whenever he spoke. Ryan Giggs is the other. I enjoyed watching them play, and I learned so much playing against them."
Were you the Latvian Michael Owen, or was Owen the English Marian
Pahars? What did you think of that nickname, "The Latvian Michael
"Ha, I don’t why people still talk about that. People love comparisons, that’s our nature to compare. But I don’t like to compare. Owen was one of the top strikers in the country, so I don’t mind, because he was a great player. I’m happier that they don’t call me the Latvian Ali Dia, that played a couple of minutes and completely flopped. So I’m compared with a top player, so I have no problem then, I’m happy with that."
Are there any Latvian youngsters that you think would be good
enough to follow in your footsteps at Southampton, and would you ever
recommend Southampton to a young player looking to improve?
"Of course I’d recommend a young Latvian player to Southampton, and I hope he’d do even better than I did. We have talented players, so who knows? Maybe in the future. It’s harder to make that a reality. Right now, a young man that plays for Reading: Deniss Rakels, who plays for me in the national team. In my opinion, he’s a top player and can definitely succeed in England, but we’ve got good young players so maybe in the future we will see one at Southampton.
I’d definitely recommend that. But Southampton have the right scouts and coaches, and they aren’t struggling to find good players. If any of our players ever had a chance, I’d definitely recommend it though. Southampton is the best club in England to make the most of what they have. They train players and develop them to their full-potential."
What advice would you give to coaches that train youth footballers?
"I don’t like to give advice, because everyone has their style and own ideas. What I do understand, managing youth players is a tough job. It’s not as hard to manage the senior players, because usually you don’t have to get them fit and to their potential. It takes so much time and energy to develop young players, and you have to always concentrate on the positives. You’re not there to yell and shout at them, you have to be a best friend and father figure to them. You have to educate them not only as a footballer, but as a man, as a human."
*A quick thank you to both Marians Pahars and Latvian National Team Media Officer, Viktors Sopirins, for aiding us throughout this interview and answering our questions!*
Tell us what your favorite Pahars memories in the comments!