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Saints Are Like Brexit ! No One Truly Understands The Issues
Wednesday, 30th Oct 2019 10:52

Saints supporters are understandably up in arms at the moment, but few actually know what they are up in arms about, a little reminiscent of the situation with Brexit at the moment.

Brexit has been several years of squabbling with both sides of the fence putting out mis information and claiming that they know the truth.

Parallels can be drawn with the situation at St Mary's although the one undeniable truth here is that our infighting and misinformation, meltdowns and bedwetting has been going on a lot longer than the Brexit debate.

Since our defeat against Leicester City the internet has been awash with indignant comments about why Friday night happened and most people know the exact reason why it has, but the problem is that know one truly knows and in the main we are only regurgitating rumours.

Those rumours range from Katharina Liebherr suing Gao for breach of promise down to Danny Ings calling Ralph Hasenhuttl names in the dressing room at half time on Friday.

So far those two rumours have not been substantiated and neither have most that fit in between.

The basis for many Saints fans discontent seems rooted back in Markus Liebherr's takeover, sadly Markus died early, but a utopian vision of just what he intended for Saints is now set in many Saints fans minds and that seems to be he intended to spend most of his fortune making Saints a top club.

The real truth is from the start Markus stated that his plan was to invest in the club initially to enable it to get on it's feet but then it should be self sufficient, he was never going to throw money at transfers, strict budgets were set and where initially adhered too.

When Markus died the then Chairman Nicola Cortese started to reveal his five year plan, in many respects it was simple, promotion to the Premier League and then challenge for the Champions League, what wasn't so simple was how that was going to be funded and although on the pitch the club prospered, off it it was in disarray with little income other than from the Premier League, money wasted on transfers and an owner who was being refused access to the thing she owned, the club.

But this set the benchmark for everything that has gone on since, ambition is often touted, "Cortese had ambition" but ambition is only good if you can realistically achieve it, over the last twenty years there have been plenty of clubs who had that ambition to be a top four Premier League club, look at Leeds, look at Newcastle even Everton, they have spent mega money, they have done no better than us.

So the summer of 2014 was the first summer of meltdown and it's been a regular event ever since, Cortese's ambition is always brought up and everyone since's lack of it cited.

So who is to blame ? lets look at the major players and causes.

Katharina Liebherr

She has been variously touted as saviour and villain, the truth is that she stepped in and rescued her Father's legacy, she could easily have walked away in 2013/14 and let Saints go under, but she didn't, she took control and steered it in the right direction, wrote off some of her families loans and injected new capital.

She refused to sell to any charlatan and still has a 20% shareholding, for a woman who had no real interest in Saints prior to her Father's death, she has stayed true to his legacy and how he wanted Saints to be run. Markus never intended for his family to be owners for evermore.

Jisheng Gao.

He is now much maligned, but few actually can give a reason other than he has failed to throw multi millions of his own money into buying players, but then again let's not a little thing like most owners don't do that sort of thing and if they do it is always a loan that at some point needs to be repaid as Pompey found out.

When he came he did not promise revolution, he clearly stated that he planned to run the club in a similar way to Markus, it needed to be self sufficient, Gao's plan seems to be on building the brand and in doing so building up income, this is a long way forward and we will never be able to command the support of the Big Six, but it is a good long term plan, as Everton & Newcastle have both shown in the past five years, parting a fool from his money is no guarantee of success.

Gao is not the perfect Chairman, but neither is he the worst in the Premier League, he wants stability and that is good, he does not interfere so that is good, he is an easy target and people throw accusations about his failure to attend games, but China is a 15 hour flight, he cannot just jump on a plane and in two hours be at St Mary's as Markus could, for Gao it is a three day trip and the attendant jet lag etc.

So far Gao has done no wrong, yes the people he is employing might have, but as the owner he has not promised us anything he cannot deliver, he has spoken of his vision for the club and how he is going to achieve it, in China there is little social media, in his culture he only needs to say things once, not constantly repeat it.

The enraged fans on social media rant about how he is selling players to get moeny out of the club, the two years since he has been here hasn't seen that happen as the accounts show.

Only time will show if he becomes a good or bad owner, but we have to give him the benefit of the doubt, those that demand Gao go do not understand how football works n the 21st century, it is no longer about asking Guy Askham a local accountant to stand down, Gao owns the club, if he steps back then two things happen, either he sells it and there isn't exactly a lot of people clamouring to own Premier league clubs at the moment, or he just stops being involved.

If he does that then he is just merely a shareholder, Gao will be funding Saints, he will be underwriting things like transfers till Premier League money tranches come in etc, if he stops doing that then we will see happen what happened at Pompey when Gaydamak pulled the plug.

Gao is the major shareholder and de facto owner, but he is under no obligation to do anything other than sit back and hope he can sell his shares at a profit.

Demanding Gao go is not only naive, but dangerous, the Chinese hold great stock in what they call "Face" if Gao feels all this criticism is losing him face then we could be in big trouble because as major shareholder he could effectively wind us up by selling the assets.

He hasn't shown any inclination to go down this way so why try and push him.

Ralph Krueger

He is always dismissed as "That Ice Hockey Coach" but he wasn't here for ice hockey, he was here to run in Americanism a Sports Franchise, he was well qualified to do that and indeed having been a professional sports coach he also understood how sports fans think and how clubs should be run, forget the ice hockey Krueger was a businessman first a coach second, in this respect he was the person best qualified to be a Chairman of a Premier League club, but few saw past the ice hockey, few actually knew what the role of Chairman was as this in the past has been blurred by both Lowe & Cortese being both CEO & Chairman and so despite presiding over the most consistent period in Saints history in terms of League position, Krueger is derided by many.

Les Reed

Again like Krueger, Reed's position in the club was criticised on social media, but how he rebuilt Staplewood, changed everything from the diet & sports science to the way the squad trained and ate should not be underrated and if you think a financial advisor from Switzerland came up with all that then you have no grasp.

Reed was at the core of everything football wise at Saints, but he was not a likeable personality he was an easy target as he was not a people person, trouble is having put everything in place, he took his eye off the ball and as much as he did a lot of good work and let's remember he came in 2010 when the club was still recovering from administration and needed to revamp everything and had a virtually non existent youth set up, he got complacent and made wrong decisions.

After the appointment of both Pochettino & Koeman he started to get it wrong, he picked the wrong me for the job and we fell into a rut of panic buying and failing to deal with the problem areas of the team.

From this point of view Reed has to bare a heavy responsibility for our demise, but equally we are still a long way forward than when he arrived, so we do owe him a lot for his role in building up the club.

So those are the major players, I am not saying all are blameless, indeed each have made mistakes that have contributed to our current situation, but it is the sum total of the situation that has lead us to where we are not just the individuals involved.

Current Board

The concern here is that none have any actual experience running a football club, I am not going to go into it in any depth, but they are experienced and successful at running companies but not football clubs, on a plus side they seem to have realised that and are trying to bring in a director of football and quickly.

I think they are honourable men, they just don't have the knowledge for the task, they have to get it and fast, surround themselves with people who know how to run a football club as a business, Ralph Krueger knew exactly how to do that.

Current Manager.

I like Ralph Krueger and his contribution cannot be overlooked, however he has been dealt a poor hand in the staff he has to assist him, which I will cover next, the departure of Danny Rohl was a big factor, not because Rohl ran the show, but because he was Ralph's foil, his counsellor to bounce ideas off every great manager has one, Rohl does not seem to be replaced.

Current Coaching Staff.
Saints have always made it clear that the way they run things is that they look for a coaching staff that is essentially loyal to the club not the manager, any new manager can bring in an assistant and a coach, but ultimately the rest are in situ.

The hope is that when the manager goes then only three people leave and the foundation stays in place, of course this doesn't always works as the anager may poach good coaches.

But we have taken our foot off the gas here, we have appointed too many men with no experience and that is now coming home to roost, I said this a couple of weeks ago and now the stories are coming out.

Kelvin Davis is a good club man, but two years ago he was a club ambassador, not involved in the coaching side at any level, now he is a Premier League coach, he does not have the experience and does not command the respect in the dressing room, he should be working with the under 18's in the stage of his coaching development he is at, no insult to a loyal club servant, but he is being rewarded beyond his abilities and experience and in the long run it will do him no good.

Likewise Dave Watson, a respected goalkeeping coach who in the summer seems to have decided he wants to scrap his current career and be a full blown coach, again he has not got the experience or ability

Craig Fleming has paid his dues, but not at this level, a couple of years ago he rose from U18 coach to U23 and then up to the first team, this has been too meteoric, he too hasn't the respect or experience needed.

In short if you look at any Premier League coaching staff it will have balance, the manager will have an assistant and then a head coach who runs the training, after that there will be those working their way up the ladder and learning from those higher up.

We don't have that at present, press reports suggest that the training is lacking substance and is not enjoyable, the coaching staff do not seem to be helping Ralph, Danny Rohl would be constantly talking to him during a match, Ralph does not seem to have anyone he trusts to kick over ideas and tactics with, this has to change.

This has been a big bug bear, there can be no doubt we are buying badly, I said five years ago that we do not have to worry when clubs want to buy our players, it's when they don't want to buy them there is a problem and that is the situation now.

But we are not buying as badly as some would have you believe, at least in most areas, but we have neglected one and this is causing us all our problems, I moaned in January 2017 that we did not sign anyone to replace Jose Fonte and then the injury to VVD cost us the EFL Cup, we made a mistake in that transfer window and we have repeated that mistake in every window since.

I am not going to harp on too much, but in the centre back positions we have signed too much like for like, all what used to be termed first knock centre half,s can get stuck in but are not ball players, Bednarek is the best of the bunch but even he like Vestergaard and Yoshida is not a leader, not a natural ball player and this is why we are so vunerable at the back, Jack Stephens is a ball player, but he is not a reader of the game and his passing is not great.

So I would say that overall we still have a decent foundation, however we lack leadership in the boardroom, on the training ground and on the pitch, if we solve these problems we will have no issues and can continue to progress.

But we cannot progress if we are fighting against ourselves all the time, like Brexit nothing will ever change and improve, whatever your feelings you have to get behind the club, this is what we have in common and we presumably all want the same thing. Tis in not happy clapping this is reality about what football is in the 21st century.

We have to quantify what success is with small steps, some moaned that last night's 3-1 defeat at Man City was appalling with all the attendant gripes, but the truth is that it was a step in the right direction, most teams get stuffed at Manchester City we have usually been one of them, we only have a single draw to our name at the Etihad since we won there in April 2004.

So it wasn't pretty to watch but we grew into the game and regained some confidence.

This is what we now have to do, the defensive problems still remain and can't be tackled till January, but we can fight till then and get some results, the games against Everton & Watford are crucial, we need the fans onside for those, I do not slate anyone for walking out early against Leicester a protest needed to be made, but for the crucial games the crowd needs to stick with the side whatever way the game is going.

Perhaps some feel now is the time for protest, over the past 30 years I have been at the forefront of a few myself, but now is the time for a younger age group to step up to the plate, but you need to know what you are protesting about to quote Marlon Brando in the iconic 1950's film The Wild One

"what are you rebelling against?" What've you got?

It might seem like it sometimes, but like Brexit the mis information, the rumours the social media trolls all need to be ploughed through and then we can find out what the real issues are!

Photo: Action Images

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arfurdent added 12:24 - Oct 30
City went through the motions and did enough with a B team that hardly broke sweat, Saturday may well be different as they need the points and the goal difference

This article is no more than PR spin in facour of the club. It is broken and rotten with no quick fixes. The parallel with Leeds is very appropriate although Bolton is more like it

Saintsforeverj added 12:46 - Oct 30
Nick, I don't think anybody can profess to know exactly what the reason is but here is what do we know:
Southampton suffered a record defeat on Friday in more than 100 years - Fact.
As you yourself Nick has stated - the issues in defense have not been been addressed - Fact.
Southampton have a net spend far less than any other Premier League team - Fact.
4 managers in 2 and a half years - Fact
The Southampton Way is not successful. It's more successful to do what Palace are doing.
The team is poor and mentally weak - Fact
New shirts delayed - Fact
Membership cards delayed - Fact
£220 for a coach for very rich fans - currently nowhere near sold out = misjudging the fan base - Fact
An owner who hasn't said a word to the fans - saying absolutely nothing is a worry to me. You cant argue Nick, that a Premier League owner is right to buy a club and say absolutely nothing about his plans or reasons for buying it?

So who is to blame - well, in my view, like any business, school, restaurant, whatever - the person at the very top (Gao) is getting it wrong. He is at the top and everything below him is falling apart. The Current Leicester owner is always speaking to the community and spends on the team - why are Leicester good - Because the ownership is right. Why are Bournemouth good - Because the ownership is right and they invest in the team

Please Nick -True or untrue?


saintmark1976 added 12:54 - Oct 30
Nick, your unswerving support and dare I say it your love of Southampton F C is to be commended.However I'm of the opinion that your support and love is severely colouring your judgement. Honestly, how can you possibly suggest that Ralph is a great manager when all evidence is to the contrary? Once again I respectfully remind you that he has been in charge for the last fifteen Premiership matches and we have won just two.Last Friday we suffered the biggest home defeat in top flight English football history. He should have been shown the door immediately because in my opinion there is no way back for us whilst he's still in position. Keeping him on will only prolong his agony and that of the club's fans also.

WoolstonSaint2 added 13:03 - Oct 30
Saints Forever J- absolutely spot on. Where is our owner? Nowhere. No money, no presence, no ambition. Our club has been sold down the river and us fans are paying the price.

Most of us are disgusted with how Saints are now tottering on the brink of a disaster it will never recover from.

landerwal added 13:34 - Oct 30
Interesting you make no distinction between club and team performances. No matter what goes on behind the scenes in a bad club the team can still play well. Look at Bury last season. Run into the ground by the owner, with players not paid yet the team despite that, got promotion and a place the EFL semi final. Our problem has been uninspiring managers under whom the halcyon days of Pochettino and Koeman have gradually faded away. Yes we sold our top players, but the pressing game of Poch or Koeman never giving an inch of space to opponents has disappeared. The attitude now of players is almost one of can't be bothered , culminating in Friday's result. Saints have to now to start again with a root and branch clear out of the team , even if means relegation this season. In the long run that has to be better than what has been witnessed over the past four seasons.

Block8 added 15:27 - Oct 30
As far as I am aware we are financially sound and believe, that whilst trying to remain so, the club are trying to give something back to the fans. There was the reduction in season tickets, a new much cheaper one introduced & a fanzone set up.
The beers were replaced in line with survey requests & discounts introduced for ST holders. Small gestures maybe but this is a business first & foremost, the days of the benevolent owner are long gone, although Leicester may have been an exception.
We have to sell those players surplus to requirements to release funds, these guys are on big wages, which remain an issue when trying to move them on.
How many of you if you brought a duff motor would go out and buy another without shifting the duff one? And then continue in that vein 3 of more times? You wouldn't as finances (and common sense) won t let you and that to me is the major problem with Saints currently, we are suffering due to poor performances off the pitch, recruitment, which is also manifest on it!
However we still have some talent in this club and Ralph, in my opinion, should carry responsibility if he cannot express that in his team selection and tactics!
I'm with Nick in believing we need to remain together, COYR 💓

richardmdcooper added 16:20 - Oct 30
SaintsForeverJ is spot on. So much wrong with the club at the moment and so you have to start at the top with Gao. It's a complete shambles that he's on top of. I seriously wonder if his business/wealth is legit or if its all state funded and could disappear at any time. I also blame Kat for selling to him in the first place.

Nick - you're also giving Ralph far too much credit and not enough blame. His team selection decisions are frankly baffling and Friday showed that the players are no longer buying into whatever his tactics are. Fair enough, his right hand man left (I am sure there is more behind as well) but he has to take responsibility for his team selections and performances.

landsdownsaint added 16:51 - Oct 30
I’m interested in whose got a worse owner than us ? When Cortese was in charge he knew the club had to go in a completely different direction & get rid of the “Southampton way “the little club on the south coast whose only accolades was a FA cup & a genius player that stayed loyal to a averaged size club , Cortese for a brief moment sold me the dream , well he was got rid of & now we got an owner iv no idea what he’s in it for ?..personally I’d have Cortese over this bunch anytime , The only thing Cortese did that I didn’t like was make MLT pay for his ticket ... that’s it !

Jesus_02 added 17:40 - Oct 30
@landsdownsaint : I completely agree except the MLT part. I think we needed to shed what he saw as hangers on. Cortese said that he and Markus both paid for their tickets also, it may seem as slight of hand as their relationship with the club meant that they were paying it to themselves but it was symbolic.

Also loved it when MLT stood in the stands and when he appeared behind us at the JPT final.

We felt together as one then.

Cortese's way saw us waste 15m on Osvaldo and 12m on Ramerez. Les lost us Alderweireld, and bought us Carillio, Hoedt, Ellenoussi, Lemina all on big money. Then we have Fraser Forster on massive wages and long contract, we have lost Classie for a free, Wanyamma for less than we bought him for. The list goes on.

People point to the money that Cortese was paid, but our board basically consisted of him. We have lost Ross Wilson, Les and Freddie and still we dont know what they actally contributed.

We have a bloated board and no direction, a seemingly decent manager with a bunch of promising kids, squad players and a wage bill that prevents us from getting anyone decent in.

Anyone with an understanding of history will see that its the Lowe policy of finding gems and selling them on that is the "southampton way" that Cortese was looming to shed.

Nick will bang on about Cortese running the club into debt but just look at the squad size in comparison to then. The training facilities that have been attributed to Kat was also quoted as a negative for cortese in the past. THESE ARE ASSETS !!!.

Look at the value of the club pre-Cortese and post-Cortese. Its a no-brainer .

Some people are wedded to the "Struggling Southampton" brand. We could have been Leicester if it wasn't for Les's "realism". That's the issue. That and the fact we where too bloody minded to sign Cahill

Jesus_02 added 17:51 - Oct 30
....nick "if you think a financial advisor from Switzerland came up with all that then you have no grasp"

Cortese literally lifted his approach from the Bundesliga were is studied.

You think Les was a genius ask Charlton Fans... you have no grasp.

Potch speaking of Cortese’s departure and how it affected his players....

“We were all sad to hear of his departure because we all had a personal relationship with Nicola. Of course I’ve spoken to the players because I knew, even ahead of time, that the rumors were going to be massive regarding his departure. I basically said to them what I’m saying to you now. There’s something else that I would like to highlight and to add to what I’ve just said. When Nicola offered me my contract, just as he did when he offered contracts to players, there was only one thing he said to me: to be 100 percent professional, regardless of whatever situation is happening. That puts him on a higher level. He is a stand-up guy, and that’s something that I’d like to say about him.”

landsdownsaint added 19:53 - Oct 30
Jesus02 ... spot on , o was proud when NC was chairman he gave us an identity we never had b4 , I live in Brighton & I’m envious of them having a chairman whose whole heartily a seagull, them & Bournemouth are in so much better state of affairs than us

dirk_doone added 10:11 - Oct 31
On a positive note, Les Reed, the person who bitterly divided Saints' fans, like Brexit has the country, has gone. He's left behind a mess but at least the fans aren't divided like they were when he was here.

SanMarco added 11:24 - Oct 31
Certainly a lengthy essay on where Nick thinks we are. Not sure about the relevance of the Brexit analogy. Surely the point at looking back is to not allocate blame, as such, but to work out what went wrong and learn from it. In that spirit I would say that the personalities mentioned have largely all gone now or would seem fairly unremovable. I will therefore (mainly) not be personal.

Dear old Cortese is the living symbol of the concept 'ambition' - what would have happened? We will never know - he resigned/was forced out. KL gets a lot of criticism, some of it very personal and vile - I would imagine Saints has become a poisonous inheritance for her. I think the sale to Gao was a mistake. As for Gao - we don't know. It would be lovely if he would sell to some wonderful white knight billionaire and I suppose we can keep on hoping, until then he isn't going to spend.

That brings me to my final point on the quality of the squad. The immediate cause of recent misery is that (not all but most) players bought in recent years have either been useless or not suitable to address the acute problems. The reason for Les Reed's unpopularity is that he is seen as largely responsible - in the spirit of not allocating blame I would point out, simply, that whatever else you think about him he certainly seems to have been given too much power. Kreuger I will leave to others as I don't really understand all that. Not able to judge what he did because I don't know what he was supposed to do.

So the lessons: Have a structure that best allows us to buy reasonable players. Certain players we have signed cannot have been watched for very long if those making the decisions thought they were anywhere need good enough for the EPL. Also have a good football brain to prioritise signings - however good Adams might turn out to be, the money would have been better spent on a decent CB. The other thing is dead wood removal. Take the losses and move on. The chances of us recouping on Carillo, Lemina, Hoedt, Vestergaard and Elyannousie are zero. Cash in asap and use the money wisely.

A final point (said in the interests of my own psychological recovery as much as anything!): Before KO on Friday the most likely course of the three coming matches was three defeats. Assuming we lose on Saturday we will have basically got what was expected with a bad hit on the goal difference. After the w/e we move onto some matches we have to get points from. Contrary to popular belief teams who receive right hammerings don't always go down. Saints top division record proves this. We have received more 7+ goals against beatings than I care to remember (Tottenham, Everton twice, Liverpool Luton, Leeds spring to mind) but the only one where we went down the same season was Ipswich. All is still to play for!!

warrens76 added 11:53 - Oct 31
Pravda lives!

bstokesaint added 12:34 - Oct 31
There are some good posts on here. And I have to agree with SanMarco that some of the stuff said about KL is vile and inexcusable. She didn’t ask for her dad to pass away or to inherit a football club. That wasn’t her fault. The bit I do her accountable for is the Gao administration. When I say “her” I mean who advised her. If Gao was such a stand-up guy why would the FA being using him as a prime example of failed due diligence checks on football owners in the Premier League? He was investigated in China, so we should have distanced ourselves from any hint of corruption as far as possible. I could not give a monkey’s if it damages his “face”. I want him gone. If we really were naïve enough to let ourselves get so indebted to him that his walking away would ruin us, then let it happen. Let another Markus buy us for a quid and take us somewhere. Otherwise I’ll “buy” the club tomorrow. I’ll just take out a whopping great big loan and leverage the club’s revenues against it and sell some players! If that’s what it takes to be an owner at SFC. I cannot stand this constant scraping of poor results. Just getting by is ruining the club and upsetting the fans. Football is not an ordinary business and we cannot go on like this. I don’t care what people say about Cortese, he was one of the best things that ever happened to this club. We all bought into enthusiasm and attention to detail. The biggest problem is we lost our owner who had the ambition to match him. He wasn’t just a Swiss banker Nick. As Landsdownsaint said he gave us identity and pride and we all loved the team. That couldn’t be more opposite right now. The other successful components of HIS rein were just part of his master plan. A well-oiled benchmark for how to run a football club.

chinesetakeaway added 17:18 - Nov 1
As another poster has said, we just don't know anything at all about Mr Gao?
How do you get to be rich in a communist country? Not by selling tee shirts?
If he is so rich, how come he had to take out such a big loan secured on the premier league income stream?
There are so many unanswered questions...............................

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