Only A Game? - Southampton go from Saints to sinners

Nigel Adkins is under pressure at Southampton after a poor start to the season
Nigel Adkins is under pressure at Southampton after a poor start to the season

The saying, ‘power corrupts’, is perhaps the best way to describe the nonsensical decision taken by Premiership new boys Southampton, to sack their manager, Nigel Adkins on Friday.

Only 48 hours previous to Adkins receiving his marching orders he watched from the sidelines as his team came from 2-0 down to rescue a point against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. You would have had to have been related to Marty McFly if you foretold that the Stamford Bridge result was to be Adkins’ last game in charge. Friday’s decision just doesn’t make any sense.

Nicola Cortese.

Nicola Cortese.

The man responsible for giving Adkins the old heave-ho is a former Italian banker and current Chairman of the Saints, Nicola Cortese.

It’s an awful error of judgement by Cortese and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Southampton go the same way Blackburn did when they sacked Sam Allardyce.

Adkins left his post as manager of Scunthorpe United to take over from Alan Pardew as boss of Southampton in 2010. Since that time he has led the club to back to back promotions from League One and the Championship respectively.

If that wasn’t reason enough to be dismayed at the decision to ‘relieve him of his managerial duties’ then get this, he has the highest win average of any Southampton manager since the 19th century and Wednesday evening’s draw at Stamford Bridge saw his team move three points clear of the relegation zone.

Mauricio Pochettino.

Mauricio Pochettino.

Did Cortese consider what Adkins had achieved at the club before sacking him? Seemingly not. The way in which Adkins was treated was nothing short of shambolic - he found out his head was on the chopping board after watching Sky Sports News.

Imagine how you would feel if you found out you were going to get the sack via text message from a friend or an email from a work colleague. If it happened to anyone in Derry we would be the first people to be giving off about it and just because he’s a Premiership manager doesn’t make the experience any less traumatic for Nigel Adkins.

Adkins enjoyed the kind of popularity amongst his players and supporters that most managers dream of. Even when 2-0 down against Chelsea during the week, the fans continued to sing out his name.

Reporters descended on St. Mary’s yesterday to gauge the opinion of the players and some of them said they were “shocked” and “gutted”. It’s perfectly understandable.

Adkins had Southampton moving in the right direction and ok he might have spent a small fortune since arriving in the Premiership but the man wasn’t even given a chance to prove himself at the very top of the English game.

The only conclusion I can arrive at for the sacking of Nigel Adkins is that chief executive, Cortese, set out unrealistic expectations that even a manager with such skill and expertise as Alex Ferguson would have struggled to achieve.

Finishing fourth from bottom in their first season back in the English Premiership in seven years would definitely have been a success for both Adkins and Southampton so what was he doing wrong?

Southampton is owned by the Trustees and the Estate of Markus Liebherr - a German born Swiss banker. Liebherr died of a heart attack in 2010 and Cortese has been Chairman ever since.

Cortese, who had absolutely no experience in running a football club before coming to England, appears to have lost sight of the values that have benefited Southampton for years.

Southampton had always been seen as a nice club with nice players and nice people. For the neutral supporter, Southampton was a team that they always wanted to see do well but after the treatment of Adkins it’ll be no surprise if that warm feeling starts to feel quite cold.

It’s because of decisions like the one Southampton took to sack Adkins on Friday that I find myself totally disenchanted with football.

It was once a sport that anyone could relate to but when people start to make decisions based on economics as opposed to decency you know it’s time to maybe walk away.

I am a person who believes in meritocracy - if you work hard and are successful then you deserve all the good fortune that comes your way but the English Premiership and most of modern football is the complete antithesis of this.

Someone has had the king’s ear i.e. Cortese, at Southampton and convinced him that he can do a better job to the one that Adkins was doing. I don’t see how.

The man who will take over from Adkins is an Argentinean called Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino’s only managerial experience before arriving at St. Mary’s was with Espanyol in Spain. The 40 year-old manager performed reasonably well in his first two seasons in charge but was relieved of his duties in November.

He was unveiled as Southampton’s new boss only a few hours after Adkins had been sacked. Obviously for Pochettino to be installed so quickly negotiations had to be going on behind Adkins’ back - yet another example of how the allure of the English Premiership can change a club for the worse.

The way in which Southampton have treated Adkins was nothing short of disgraceful and unless the fans make Cortese listen to them it will be no surprise to see them back in the English Championship before long.