Saints Flyer - Nigel Adkins & The Sword Of Damocles
Monday, 13th Dec 2010 10:37 by Saints Flyer
It all sounds like a Harry Potter story, but there might not be a happy ending for the spectacled hero in this one.
Of course it was only a matter of time, but the moment that Alan Pardew found another job in football then the pressure was doubled on Nigel Adkins and Chairman Nicola Cortese.
Think back when Rupert Lowe arrived back at St Mary’s and dispensed with the services of Nigel Pearson, installing Jan Poortvliet in his place, before Poortvliet had taken up the reigns he was already damned by a supporter base with the perception that Pearson was the saviour of Saints, when the ex Saints boss was then appointed as manager of Leicester City the pressure intensified, comparisons were always going to be drawn and whilst im not going to debate the merits of either man today, it has to be said that Pearson had money and got the Foxes back up, whilst Poortvliet was weighed down by circumstances and from that respect would never be on a level playing field with his predecessor.
We now have a similar situation arising after the appointment of Alan Pardew at St James Park, in truth most Saints supporters expected Pardew to get another job fairly quickly, although those that would have placed money on it being a Premiership side would have been in the minority and those who would have wagered anything more than Pennies on it being a club the size of Newcastle would be counted on one hand.
But for Nigel Adkins and Nicola Cortese, Alan Pardew’s good fortune is their worst nightmare, firstly Cortese is now the man who turned down the Beatles, the man who sacked a man from League 1 for not being good enough only to see him rise to the top, for Adkins it is of course a lot less personal, in fact not personal at all, but it is still something hanging over his head that he does not need, something that adds to the pressure to get Saints promoted.
Adkins was always going to be judged against Pardew, AP was popular amongst the supporters prior to his sacking and most would have backed him to get it right and get Saints promoted, indeed the 4-0 win at Bristol Rover in his final game in charge perhaps indicated he had already started to turn round a season that was only three games old, yet being described as disastrous by rumour mongerers , from this point the pressure was on Adkins, not just to get the team playing his way but to storm to automatic promotion, it was bad enough to be judged when Pardew was out of work but now the pressure cooker has been turned up several notches.
Saturday was a weekend when Adkins had to get his team to perform and start to lay the ghost of the previous manager, we now know that Saints failed badly whilst Pardew’s Toon Army got off to a flying start under him and the first comparisons were already being drawn in the pubs around Southampton at 7.30pm Saturday night, there is only one way Adkins can dispel them and thats by winning football matches, the room for error has now shortened significantly and every week that sees Saints out of at least the play off spots will see the spotlight get hotter for Adkins, if Pardew keeps winning then it could become untenable, we have seen that Cortese does not suffer what he sees as failure for long and to be blunt, a betting man would put more money on Pardew being at St James Park come the end of the season than Adkins still being at Saints.
In many ways Pardew now has an easier job than Adkins, at least in the short term, Pardew really only has to avoid relegation, and given the team he has and that with the 22 points already on the table he probably only needs another 3-4 wins at most to achieve that, its virtually assured he can star tto build for the long term, Newcastle despite the protestations of their supporters have probably made a wise appointment, Pardew will put down the foundations for Newcastle to build on, whether he is the man to jump them up a level is another question, but for now and probably next season at least around 10th will suffice and that should be well within his grasp.
For Adkins its a lot tougher, 3rd will be deemed poor and 7th would see him undoubtably sacked, but if the league 1 table isn’t a tough enough barometer, Saints eyes will now be on every Newcastle result and if Saints lose and the Geordies win then the debates will start as to why a manager good enough to win games in the premier wasn’t good enough for Nicola Cortese, like Poortvliet and Pearson before its not a level playing field, but since when have football fans been fair.
There is one way forward for Adkins and that is to win football matches, if he does that on a regular basis then the comparisons will stop, in truth Saints should win more games than Newcastle between now and the end of the season, if not then there is something dreadfully wrong, if Adkins does that then nothing else matters if we get promotion, but for every game Saints fail to win or worse as on Saturday, then the Saints manager only needs to look above his head to see the Sword Of Damocles hanging there by a horse’s hair.
This is now a very tough time for Adkins in that Cortese is ruthless enough to make a change mid season, I don’t think you will find one Saints fan who would agree with that at present, but as Pearson and Pardew found, popular supports is useless if the Chairman wants you out, December is crucial for Adkins, if Saints founder then he could find that he has a Chairman who still smarting from Pardew’s rise to the Premier will act irrationally, who will look to win fans over by appointing a big name, there are many who trace the demise of the Cortese/Pardew relationship back to last January when after spending big we dropped out of the promotion race, many of those believe that Cortese will not, in his eyes at least make the same mistake twice and allow a situation to develope. If Adkins gets past January then all should be well, in that he has done his job and won games and will be able to take us forward, if we are still outside the play off spots after New Years Day then expect more fireworks.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
Letters from Wiltshire #30 by wessex_exile
Friday night football – can’t beat it. Gives you that feelgood factor all weekend, sitting back to enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon watching others fail in your wake. Of course, you have to win first, which we’ve been struggling to do for a while now, so be prepared for the possibility of a miserable weekend just in case. We share this evening with Reading v AFC Bournemouth, albeit they kick-off an hour later than we do. In the real world, leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris demanding action on the substantial difficulties they are facing over Brexit bureaucracy, whilst French border authorities are reporting that two-thirds of lorries arriving from the UK are empty (i.e. no exports leaving the UK). Still, at least the NHS can enjoy their extra £350m per week…
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