Josť Miguel da Rocha Fonte
by, 14-07-2016 at 09:06 PM (2774 Views)
The New Den, Millwall. January 16th, 2010.
A late-late goal by Liam Trotter deprived Saints of a last minute victory. The equaliser in injury time coming only 30 seconds after Rickie Lambert had put us ahead, a bitter blow in our efforts to chase down a place in the play-offs after overcoming a 10 point deduction in our first season in league one. Another few points lost in the grind of this ugly division, an introduction to life at Saints for three debutants, Jon Otsemobor, Dan Seaborne and Josť Miguel da Rocha Fonte.
Six and a half years ago
This was technically a step down for Josť Fonte, dropping a division from Crystal Palace this would not have been the start he invisaged as Saints laboured but could not claw our way into the promotion picture. A trophy did however follow as we triumphed at Wembley in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final, Josť's assured performance providing a platform for our wonderful 4-1 victory over Carlisle, a day no Saint will forget as we burdened the national stadium with a crowd yet unsurpassed by a single club for a cup final.
The next season, after managerial instability made way to progress, Josť found himself rising back to where he started; promoted back to Championship football. Fan's player of the year, League One team of the year award winner. A winning goal against Brighton and Hove Albion, previously unbeaten at home Brighton and Hove Albion, put us in the box seat for automatic promotion. We didn't falter, Josť would never let us falter from that position.
Josť looked every bit the Championship defender in 2011/12. His calm authority allowing Jos Hooiveld, Aaron Martin and Dan Seaborne to look equally capable at that level, a common theme through Fonte's time with us has been his ability to enhance the standard his defensive partner can perform to. Another promotion, but this time against the odds, another vital goal at the end of the season to put us 2-0 up against Coventry (in an eventual 4-0 win) and ensure progress to the Premier League.
The Premier League is unforgiving. Defeat after defeat as our playing style is exposed. Saints rock bottom. We dig in. Josť Fonte digs in. We turn the corner. Josť keeps his place in the side as we push up the table and eventually survive comfortably. He had a challenge, Jos Hooiveld and Maya Yoshida provided competition in the starting line-up yet Josť prevailed and once again was our rock at the back, Jos and Maya always looking better when playing alongside our mainstay.
A new defensive partner, Dejan Lovren arrives. Saints finish 8th, our equal best ever finish in the Premier League era. Lovren takes the limelight, the plaudits for our defensive strength. Lovren is signed by Liverpool for obscene money at the season's end.
Another new defensive partner, Toby Alderweireld arrives. Saints finish 7th, our best ever finish in the Premier League and thanks to cup results we qualify for Europe. Alderweireld takes the limelight, the plaudits for our defensive strength. Toby is signed by Spurs after he declines to make his loan move permanent.
Virgil van Dijk becomes highly-rated defensive partner the third. The story repeats, but the truth is clear. Josť is making his talented team mates look even better then they previously have. Josť is not an underdog who came along for the ride, he is the absolute real deal. A top class Premier League centre back who has blossomed with us, progressed with us. Truly grown and reached his potential with us. Jon Otsemobor and Dan Seaborne didn't, many others didn't. Many who made the journey with him left. Josť is still here, Josť's contribution is up there with the true greats of the club. He has been with us every step of the way as we rose from our lowest ebb to the strongest position we have occupied for a generation.
The events in France this summer underpin his quality. Fonte finally made his international debut for Portugal just shy of his 31st birthday in a friendly. His club form then deservedly led to inclusion in Portugal's squad for Euro 2016. His eventual promotion to a starting place saw his country become all of a sudden defensively impregnable; and naturally his defensive partner stole the plaudits as Josť admirably held the line against the tournament hosts in the Euro 2016 final.
Seemingly from nowhere, a man who could quite easily have become another foreign journeyman outside of the Premier League has dedicated himself to his art and triumphed. For both club and country his star has now risen to this apex. Whilst others take the limelight he is the glue holding things together, he is the foundation. He deserves the chance to bask in the glory he has experienced with his country and deserves to be celebrated in his own right.
Josť Fonte, Johnstone's Paint Trophy winner. Euro 2016 winner. Southampton legend. Our captain.