NIGEL Adkins is not the only football manager in Hampshire with defensive worries to sort out.

Saints’ return to the Premier League this season has so far seen them concede 26 goals in only nine games.

It is the worst defensive record in the top flight, by some distance.

Though he probably hasn’t got the time, Adkins should spare a thought for Andover New Street under-11s in the Testway Youth League.

After just six games of the 2012/13 season, Andover have conceded 95 goals.

That’s right – ninety five.

In just six games.

And Adkins thinks he has problems!!

For the record, Andover’s results this season have been:

Upper Clatford (H) L 1-14

South Wonston (H) L 2-9

Tidworth (H) L 1-20

Upper Clatford (A) L 0-14

Fordingbridge (H) L 0-21

Wallop (H) L 3-17

It is, whichever way you look at it, a sorry tale.

I only hope that everyone involved with that team – players, manager, parents – do not lose heart because of the tidal wave of goals conceded so far.

It would be the easiest thing in the world for some to jack it in, purely because of results.

Kids don’t like losing – certainly my ten-year-old son Ben and his eight-year-old sister fall into that category (especially when playing against each other).

There is losing, and there is being hammered.

And Andover are being hammered.

I have known adults decide they won’t turn up to play because their team are on a poor run of form, or they have a Sunday morning trip to the back of beyond and, quite frankly, they can’t be bothered to get out of bed.

Once, when I was playing Sunday football, one of our team walked off the pitch because we were losing, got in his car and went home.

He was useless, anyway, but that wasn’t the point!

I hope the kids of Andover New Street under-11s have a better attitude than my former team-mate.

It boils down to the centuries-old question: Is it the winning or the taking part that matters?

At the very highest level, it has to be about the winning.

Otherwise there is no point in taking part.

Not everyone can win, though, so if you can’t win then at least do the very best you can.

The lower down you go, the more the emphasis changes.

It is the taking part that matters in leagues like the Testway Youth League, certainly with the younger age groups.

Yes, the winning is all very nice. I’ve never met anybody who would prefer to lose than win.

But, thankfully, it is not the be all and end all.

That will come later.

Last season my son Ben’s team, Fordingbridge under-10s, finished mid-table in the Testway.

We were the epitome of inconsistency – won six, drew four, lost six.

As frustrating as that was in terms of results, you could see players improving their game as the season went on.

This term, after just five games, you can easily see there has been a further improvement.

That is the main thing at this age level. To keep improving. If you do that, results should follow.

It has to be that way.

Get the kids playing some good football, and worry about the results after that.

As always with football, there is no one magic factor in the team’s improvement so far.

It could be down to the fact the lads are getting physically stronger as they grow up.

It could be down to playing on bigger pitches this season with more space in which to show off their skills.

It could be down to a new manager fielding some players in different positions to last season.

Whatever the ingredients that have been mixed together, something is working - in their last four games, the team have scored 37 goals and conceded just the one.

They have already scored more goals this season in five matches than in 16 last term.

That is mainly because we beat Andover 21-0, as I mentioned earlier on.

The team were delighted, understandably, especially as most of them managed to get in on the scoring act.

And, lest we forget, at their age they all love to score goals.

They all want to get in on the act - not many kids aged nine or 10 love defending, do they?

Ask a team of youngsters to pick their preferred starting position and you’d end up with a formation not seen since Kevin Keegan’s first spell at Newcastle United.

Ben, who had never scored a league goal previously in his young life, hit a hat-trick at Andover.

He was absolutely thrilled, mainly because I’d promised him a tenner if he got three goals.

I’ve since told him, though, that football is not all about winning 21-0.

It’s certainly not all about relieving me of large amounts of cash.

I took more enjoyment from the fact Ben and his chums won their last game 3-1 against good opposition in Worthys than from the 21-0 victory, and not just because he didn’t score and I kept my diminishing supplies of coins in my pocket.

If Fordingbridge Town under-11s go on and win the league or win promotion, we will remember the games that mattered – and they won’t include a 21-0 stroll.

If we go up it will be because we’ll have beaten teams like Tidworth Tigers and West Harnham, who both have 100 per cent records as I write.

They will be the key games in the months ahead.

As for Andover New Street, I wish them all the very best, I really do.

It can’t be much fun losing by such huge margins every week.

I can’t even contemplate what it would be like to see my son’s team concede double figures once, let alone almost every week.

When I was playing Sunday league adult football in Dorset, my team once lost to Guys Marsh 16-3 and the scoreline is seared into my brain.

I will never forget the humiliation (though Marsh’s 13th goal was definitely offside ...) I will keep my fingers crossed that Andover New Street’s fortunes will pick up in weeks to come.

Hopefully, they will one day bag a win which would no doubt see the biggest smiles anywhere in Hampshire football – youth or adult – that particular weekend ...

.... unless Saints can keep a clean sheet, that is!