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Benali Says It's About The Right Decisions Not Money !
Wednesday, 29th May 2019 09:39

Francis Benali has spoken about his hopes for Saints going forward but believes it is not about throwing money at the problem but solving it by making the right decisions.

It cannot be denied that making the wrong decision has cropped up far too often in the past couple of seasons and that has resulted in a lack of continuity and merely compounded the problem.

This ultimately cost Les Reed his job in that although he was doing perhaps 80% of it very well in building up the training ground as well as some key signings, in that final 20% where it is about the big decisions such as manager or paying out big money in Saints terms at least, he was getting it wrong.

That is witnessed by a string of managers who were not right for the club, as well as a number of signings who have been poor value for money, Carillo, Boufal and Elyounoussi being just three who cost the club a total of around £56 million.

Since the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl though things have changed, there is now a more definite plan going forward and we are sticking to that plan rather than panicking as was seen in January when we gambled that we had a squad to keep us up, rather than throw £20 million on a panic buy that merely depleted the fund available for the summer window when we could get the targets we wanted at the right price.

Francis Benali clearly feels that this is the way forward as evidenced at a recent Virgin Media sponsors event covered by the Daily Echo.

When asked whether the club’s chances of making it into the top-10 depended on the amount of money spent, Benali responded:

“No one is happy to stay at the bottom of the table."

“Everyone wants to be punching as high as we can otherwise it’s pointless doing what we do."

“But there is a reality sometimes of the situation you are in that things are tough, and you just have to fight and scrap as hard as you can.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a case of just throwing money at it. I don’t think that’s the solution."

“Of course, making money available helps, but are we ever going to pay a player a quarter of a million pounds a week?"

“I doubt it and I wouldn’t want to see it in some ways. We’ve seen elsewhere that it isn’t always the right thing to do and it doesn’t always make you successful."

“As much as I’d love to see Southampton in a top-six position, I think that struggle each year is becoming much harder when you are up against the might of Manchester City and sides like that."

“There is a bracket of teams that we fall into who want to finish as high as we can and to take the big boys on in the league and cup competitions.”

Wise words from the Saints legend and he more than most will be well aware of the gap that is widening by the season between the so called Big Six and the rest of the League and although the odd club might appear from time to time with allusions of breaking into the elite, the likes of Everton have proved that paying big money is no guarantee to success.

Indeed in the three seasons since Ronald Koeman was lured to Goodison Park with big bucks being thrown in all directions, Everton have been fairly average and indeed perhaps Saints record in that time is better in that we reached a major cup final.

Five years ago there was barely anything to choose between Everton & Spurs, both were vying to make it a Big Six rather than the Big Five it was, in those five seasons Spurs have made massive progress and Everton have fallen way behind.

So the answer outside the Big Six is not money it is decision making !

Benali continued:

“I think we all agree that the last couple of seasons haven’t been what we want it to be and year on year the Premier League seems to get harder to stay with the top sides."

“In some ways, you are almost trying to be the best of the rest. We would all love to be in the top-six or top-four but the reality of that is a different story probably."

“We’ve had a high turnover of players and managers and it would be nice to see some continuity at the club as well."

“We have seen here and at other in the clubs in the past that it helps things. Hopefully, we will see that under Ralph during his time here.”

Again Francis is spot on in clarifying just what the situation is for all bar those Big Six, Saints fans have to set their expectations at a realistic level, perhaps they were skewed in 2016 when we finished sixth and Leicester won the Premier League, but that was not the start of a change in the balance of power, at least not towards the teams outside the elite.

A look at last seasons League table showed that sixth placed club Manchester United, a club in total turmoil were still in the top six with some 9 points to spare from 7th place Wolves, even Chelsea a club that for most of the season were said to be a squad not playing for the manager, finished 3rd that shows how the gap is widening and how a poor year for anyone of that Big Six is still better than the best year for the rest of us, this isn't good for football.

But having spoken of the way it is going to be for Saints in the Premier League Franny is still positive that Saints can move forward and cement their place back in the Top 10 and have exciting seasons in the process.

But it is going to depend on that decision making as well as continuity he has spoken about.

“It’s a very important summer. It’s important for every club now but none more so than ourselves,” continued Benali.

“It’s an opportunity for him [Hasenhuttl] to work with the board and almost mould a squad that is more to his choosing and liking."

“That’s going to be key to going forward next season. Whether we can do all the business he would like to do during the summer will remain to be seen."

“Some things may not be that easy or that quick but it’s a key time in any football club’s stage of the season or non-season."

“I am sure he has thought about what type of player he would like to bring in, maybe not necessarily who exactly, but he will have worked with the squad long enough to know from the current personnel who he would like to keep and who he would be happy to see move on."

“We will only find out who that is when it happens but it’s something that needs to happen I would say. The squad seems quite big and there are a lot of players out on loan.”

So the message for Saints fans is that there is plenty to be positive about at Saints at the moment, but the supporter base needs to patient and accept that some things might not happen, but that doesn't mean that the club didn't try.

I have spent too much time harking on about negative attitudes in the fan base over the past three seasons, whilst there has been some reason for discontent, at times the level of that has been totally out of proportion and this has to change.

With the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl along with the departures of both Ralph Krueger and Les Reed it is a clean slate in Southampton FC and supporters have to recognise that and allow the club to move forward without the negativity of the past.

We in the fan base have to give everyone from Gao Jisheng down a chance to prove their intentions and abilities rather than accuse them of misdemeanours not only without a shred of evidence but before they have done them.

If we all kick in the same direction from now on and leave the past behind us then the future can be bright, we can compete for that 7th place and in doing so compete for a cup or two both domestic and European.

This is the way forward for Saints and it can be an exciting one and put us in a prime position for when the inevitable European Super League happens and the Big Six depart and we can conceivably challenge for a domestic title again.

Yes it will be a watered down league, but surely tat is better than the situation we are in now and indeed one that is widening the gap between Big Six and the rest of us.

Photo: Action Images



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Braveheart added 10:30 - May 29
Thank you Franny for that honest and frank assessment of our club as it is today. Any dream of a top six place is beyond us and always will be until a European super league is in existence. Its not about quality on the field of play that will get us there, we just haven't got the financial capabilities to compete. Gao, in my opinion has no real interest in the development of Saints; he is just using us as a asset on his portfolio for bigger and better business deals elsewhere.
Until a super league happens and we off load the so called "top six" into it then the best we can do every start of a premier league season is to have a minimum goal of a no. 7 spot, so we can build a team on that capability and eventuality. A proper Director of Football is what is needed at Saints, I think that you would be an ideal candidate?
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highfield49 added 10:42 - May 29
I don't know why you believe that a European Super League is inevitable Nick? Surely the Champions League and lesser competitions are already capable of draining supporters pockets with the associated ticketing, travel and accommodation expenses? The budget airlines already increase their seat prices whenever there is a major event around Europe, a simple case of supply and demand. I'm not convinced that regular travel to Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia for example would be affordable for most individuals or families. And why would a Super League require six teams from England taking up something like a third of the league capacity? Maybe you have a different vision of the league structure but I don't see it as a viable proposition even for the wealthy elite teams.
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Whiteknight added 11:09 - May 29
Nick - I have to agree that "surely tat is better than the situation we are in now"!

I think your/Frannie's analysis is pretty spot on. However, when you talk about negativity, I think it is the frustration that poor decision making didn't allow us to kick on from the consecutive top 8 finishes but instead led to two horrible relegation battles.

Highfield, I think you are making an incorrect assumption - that the teams involved, UEFA etc. give a toss about supporters or affordability. It's all about the global TV audience and I suspect there is huge appetite for this in Asia and increasingly Africa and North America. This would make a European League viable in the short-medium term. Eventually I think this would then turn into a "World" league. I would welcome it if it turns the new Premier League into something more competitive and geared towards clubs having a closer link to their communities - plus more local derbies!
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SaintNick added 11:59 - May 29
Braveheart, I state in the story that the only way we can ever move forward s by stopping harking on about the past and giving those in charge now a chance to show their intentions and capabilities and the first reply is you saying that Gao has no interest in Saints, what actual evidence do you have on that ? Gao has done nothing wrong so far and till he does then he should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Highfield, you are right European super league would do nothing for the travelling supporters, a European super league is not about the travelling fans its about generating TV money from around the world, why would Man Utd want a season ticket holder paying an average of £45 a game when they can get tourists in paying £70 plus hundreds in the club shop.

I dont think it would have all the six english teams, meaning that some would miss the boat or alternatively a relegation system.

Whiteknight, I agree with you about wh the frustration is there, but we cant keep harking on about it and looking backwards, if we do then we are part of the problem not the solution, dont forget the negativity was there under Pule when we finished 8th and got to a major cup final, it has to end or we will be dragged down
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bstokesaint added 13:01 - May 29
Nick, at what point do we say it’s time that Gao showed us some of his intentions for the club? It’s not like he arrived a couple of weeks ago. Doing nothing isn’t much better than doing something and getting it wrong! We need something to get excited about. From all that I’ve heard coming out of the club the bigger focus for the Gao regime is on land and property in the area.
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underweststand added 13:58 - May 29
I also think that a European League will come sooner or later.
For better or worse it's still difficult (though not impossible) for most teams to take points off the top 6 , and I'm sure THEIR fans would cherish the idea of playing other top Euro clubs on a regular basis rather than just hoping to beat them in a CL group game.

A good formula might be a league of (say 20/24 teams), with 3 qualifying from the "top countries" and a play-off tournament for the places of those relegated each season.
Then the rest of us - in each country - could get along with honest-to-goodness football without being crowded out of the picture by the likes of City and Liverpool every week.

Most seasons theire are barely a hanful of points between 6th and 15th spot in the Prem. and life would be more interesting for the rest of us to play teams that we are more evenly matched against, than getting pounded whenever we visit Anfield or the Emirates.

Frannie clearly hasn't lost his insight into the modern Prem. game and a lot of what he says is both sensible and highly relevant.
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BoondockSaint added 13:58 - May 29
Super league has no need of traveling fans. Their own fans, TV rights and sugar daddy owners are all they need (and have already)..

A relegation system would just leave us where we are now. If the top 3 of the richest clubs move to the super league, that still leaves the other 3 using their vast wealth to bully the rest of the Prem like they do now. Then say, 2 of them get promoted, that means 2 other mega-rich teams would get relegated into the Prem and resume business as usual.
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Rustyhelmet added 09:59 - May 31
The absolute simplest solution is a wage cap - some form of tiered system where a club can only pay a certain number of the squad a pre-arranged amount.

It then comes down to who you want to play for rather than who can pay you the most.

Clearly this will never work as the modern day footballer is an absolute mentalist who thinks being paid 6 figures a week is the norm.
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