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Board Shake Up Needed
Tuesday, 12th Nov 2019 11:52

It is fine to put the blame on Jisheng Gao, but the stark truth is that he does not run the club day to day, we have a board of directors with no experience running a football club and that is now coming back to haunt us.

Those who are calling for Gao to go are doing so in blind panic, this is not the same situation as 30 years ago when football clubs where run by local businessmen and could be easily replaced.

Gao is the owner of Southampton Football Club and spent £20 million buying it, a few protests won't make him resign or go away.

He could however simply decide to stop having an active role and that would lead to absolute chaos.

The truth is that there is not a queue of potential owners at the door and if there was the chances of one of them being one of the few people these days being able and willing to invest the fortunes that the owners of Liverpool and Manchester City have done is even more remote.

The big players in football ownership look at the big clubs with the potential to become a Big Six club, that means a big fan base that stays loyal whatever and turns up week in week out, because big fan bases generate big incomes.

So the problem is not Gao per se, he is running the club in the same way that Markus Liebherr and Katharina Liebherr have done with success, the issue is not money spent, but what you do with it and we are paying the price for not spending the money wisely.

The main reason on the playing side we are doig badly is a failure to replace Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk over the past three years and that is down to the people employed by the owners to run the club.

Ralph Krueger and Les Reed have paid the price and a large part of the fan base cheered their demise, conveniently forgetting the work they had done and blaming them for a bad couple of years and demanding they go.

Gao bowed to that pressure, but the problem now is that after the departure of Ross Wilson there is absolutely no one on the board with any sort of experience in running a football club and more worryingly no real footballing knowledge either from a playing side of things or just what makes football fans tick.

Martin Semmens has no experience running a football club and he has no one under him with any real knowledge to impart to him.

Hence the appointments made to the first team coaching staff, it was jobs for the boys which after the departure of Danny Rohl left Ralph Hasenhuttl with a coaching staff with no experience in the roles they are in at Premier League level and to be blunt even Football League level, Kelvin Davis, David Watson & Craig Fleming would not have got assistant coaching jobs at League two clubs let along a club like Saints with aspirations of a top ten placing and Europa League football.

This was an appalling lack of foresight and judgement by the board presumably advised by Ross Wilson.

Now he is gone it is urgent that we appoint a director of football and a head of recruitment now, they need to be in place withing weeks so they have a clear run in during the January transfer window.

January will be crucial, we need to sign a central defender, there are certainly several candidates around, we need to sign one perhaps two, bring in an experienced head, plus someone young and up and coming.

But we cannot do any of this whilst the board has only none footballing men on board, it needs someone who knows what they are doing.

The news leaking out of St Mary's is that a new Director of Football will be in place very soon, possibly this week or next and that will be followed by a shake up on the coaching staff.

Hopefully this will provide impetus on the pitch and help us move forward, last season after Ralph arrived we were a good team, we could win games, we needed only a central defender or two but instead signed two attackers.

But we still have a stronger squad than last season, so why have we become a worse team, the answer is poor coaching and poor team selection and for the latter Ralph Hasenhuttl has to shoulder some responsibility, yes he has been let down by the tools of the job not being provided in his coaching staff and transfers, but he has chopped and changed too much and needs to sort out the defence.

So Gao is not the problem aside from the fact that it is his decision to appoint the board to run the club day to day, his employees are failing him and if anyone should go it should be the executives who run the club not the owner.

Those who say Gao should have been throwing in millions are deluded, he never promised that when he came in, he has not reneged on any promises nor has he run the structure of the club any different than his predecessors in the Liebherr family, Ralph Krueger and Les Reed understood both running sports organisations and in Reed's case football.

No one is saying they got it completely right, but there departure has left us bereft of that vital sporting knowledge needed and this is the core of the problem.

It is a big problem, but a good director of football can set things right and so can some good defensive signings.

We as fans have to stop thinking the grass is greener on the other side, we have to try and change what we can change, Gao is no different to any other Premier League club owner, he is worse than some, but better than others, blame those who deserve blame not those who don't, look how many of our players out on loan are now flourishing, perhaps it is not the Premier League they are playing in, but they are getting confidence back and that comes from the supporters being behind them not on their backs.

If we want Saints to be in the Premier League then we need to get behind the team during the games, it won't mean immediate improvement but we will have a better chance with the supporters behind the team than dragging them down with negativity.

Hopefully in the next week we will see changes made, give those changes a chance and we might have a chance of pulling out of this, ask yourselves where you want Saints to be come next season, no one is saying things are perfect, but sometimes it has to be a siege mentality.

I'm sure I will get some negative comments on this article, all I will say is that when I felt that the club needed to be stood up against I did it along with other like minded people, we did not sit back and moan in the pub or any other medium available back then, we got out and did things.

Either get out on the streets or put up and shut up, happy clapping is not just backing the club whatever, it is doing nothing about something you believe in and leaving it to others.

Harsh words, but commenting on social media is not protesting it is ranting nothing else and ranting does not get you anywhere.

Photo: Action Images

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helpineedsomebody added 12:10 - Nov 12
bring back nic cortese+mr mcmenmey
they know how to run this football club the only problem is it will take a

A1079 added 12:12 - Nov 12
I best keep quiet then!

After all, all I have is a view and an opinion based on what I see and decades of watching Saints, my membership or purchasing a ticket week in and week out, travelling to games, etc does not in itself give me the right to criticise (constructive or otherwise), as long as I keep turning up and paying my monies.....or may be I should just use my hard earned money elsewhere?

1970 added 12:27 - Nov 12
Markus L and Corstese's idea Nick which you always fail to mention was to generate extra profit through youth team and buying cheap and investing all the extra in developing the squad to be able to compete with those at the top,
the difference between these other parasites is that the model is the same but the excess profit go into their pockets without exception,they will even trim the wage to dangerous levels just to maximise profit for themselves,at no point would they consider moving the club forward as a competitive product if you think otherwise you are deluded.
the saints have a grade A academy and the catchment area is the biggest in the UK the fan base is strong considering expectation so for this reason I beg to differ we should be able to attract an investor rather than the asset strippers that we have in place now.

Saintaxidriver added 12:29 - Nov 12
There is obviously something not right in the background though I am not sure what evidence you have of the incompetence of the coaching staff. To me it is a confidence problem caused by Ralph's frankly absurd tactics and team selections. He is the one who chooses the team and the tactics and I presume sets the background to the coaching so having not seen a coaching session I would find it hard to criticise Watson Davies and Fleming. There obviously needs to be a shake up and the main part of that means to get a new manager who can actually organise a defense and form a settled team with consistent gameplans that the players can carry out.

Saintsforeverj added 12:30 - Nov 12
Which is owners in the PL are worse than Gao? You can't make a statement and expect it to have merit unless you name a worse owner in the current PL and explain why they are worse??
Who else doesn't turn up to games, doesn't speak to the supporters and has been in charge during a record defeat?

saintsnutcase added 12:41 - Nov 12
The owners do not pick players completely out of position and make stupid substitutions every week. This is down to the management and coaches, which have been awful since Rohl left.

vanmans added 12:45 - Nov 12
The club should do all it can to get Nicola Cortese back to run the club and give him full backing. If they cant afford to do that they should go and find someone that can.

landsdownsaint added 12:49 - Nov 12
He isn’t runing it the same as NC , if he was RH would’ve gone 3 games ago & his replacement would’ve been identified a few games b4 that !also NC would have a high profile manager as his replacement becouse managers like Potch liked his ambition & his whole image

DorsetIan added 13:00 - Nov 12
It's pretty obvious that the issues on the playing side were there when Gao bought the club. It's also true that there is a lack of football knowledge at management level in the club.

But what, precisely, has Gao done to 'take us to the next level' or whatever it was that was promised about him.

The club has gone steadily backwards since he took over and one of the issues appears to be not being in a position to assist with a bit of extra cash to solve immediate and glaring problems on the field. The fact that that best that we could do to solve the defensive hole we have was bring in an inexperienced 20 something, on loan, on the last day, and only after we had sold tells you all you need to know about the cashflow position at the club.

And what about the commercial uncertainties around Gao? He has sold a big stake in his main company to the Chinese State, but this has nothing to do with Saints!? He has then got us sponsored by a tin pot outfit that just happens to have a name very similar to the name of the company he sold to the Chinese state, but there is no connection there either. Who does he think he is kidding....apart from the EFL, of course.

HythePeer added 13:09 - Nov 12
Will a board shake-up change the bizarre team selections, bizarre tactics and bizarre substitutions? And will RH nominate JWP for the post.

Saintsforeverj added 13:25 - Nov 12
Nick - which PL clubs have worse owners? When Kat sold her 80 per cent she said it was to take the club on (that having Gao would take the club forward). Has he taken the club forward Nick? Will Nick directly answer these questions???

bstokesaint added 13:26 - Nov 12
As Dorsetlan states I thought the Gao administration was brought in to “take us to the next level”. I’m sure I’m remembering that quote on more than one occasion. One thing I certainly didn’t see quoted “was off the edge of a cliff!” As for being deluded, who’s more deluded the man who thinks he can buy a football club for peanuts (and a whacking great loan – I thought it was £200m and not £20m – which is money Gao was never going to physically have) and prove to supporters he can make a positive difference or a lifelong fan thinking mid table and a challenge for regular European football was a possibility? Again, I heard that target quoted several times. I don’t deny there are far more issues at play than the owner and that Ralph picks the side and the players should know how to win a game of football, but the lack of direction from the top is key to any business/company. I’m certainly struggling to think of worse owners in the PL. I mean there’s such a thing as “hands-off” but not interested feels more relevant. As Vanmans says we should be doing everything we can to get Cortese back. He was a perfectionist with a vision and if you don’t think this was the best period for the club in decades then again I ask who is the deluded one?

bstokesaint added 13:33 - Nov 12
I think it’d be fair to say that losing Cortese was like losing one of our top players, maybe even a few. The club’s demise was able to hold off during Koeman’s tenure, in which his top experience and management ability no doubt papered over the cracks. I suspect his decision to leave (as well as the £££) was because he genuinely knew things were only heading one way without further financial backing. He got out before the ship sunk. I feel less resentment towards him these days..

SaintPaulVW added 13:51 - Nov 12
If it was my £200 million investment, and supposedly I wasn't actually worth that much more, I wouldn't be giving a bunch of employees a free hand to botch it.

I can understand Gao not saying anything publicly but if he isn't involved day to day then having and maintaining a dependable top tier of management, and properly experienced coaching staff seem basic requirements for any football club.

Hopefully this is learning curve stuff and we won't pay for it but really not impressed with the current way that Saints are being run. The buck stops with Mr Gao I'm afraid. Whether it is incompetence, niavety or over trusting the wrong people's advice really won't matter if we don't start picking up points fast.

saintmark1976 added 14:05 - Nov 12
Nick, your comments in support of the club's owners become more and more bizarre as each day progresses.As Saintsforeverj asks of you, please tell us exactly which owners of clubs in the Premiership you consider to be worse than Gao /Kat.I suggest that they would have to go a bit to get anywhere near being responsible for the lowesest net transfer spend, appointing a manager currently with two wins from the last seventeen and the biggest home league defeat in top tier English football history. Like Saintsforeverj and I suspect many others, I await your reply with interest.

JohnT added 14:38 - Nov 12
That sounds about right Nick well put

ssxsaint added 14:45 - Nov 12
Was Højbjerg dropped or injured on Saturday?

Block8 added 15:11 - Nov 12
I sort of understand where you're coming from here Nick & don't personally have a problem with the owner. We have, by and large, reinvested most of our transfer income in New players, with obviously some used to offset wages. This is a business first and foremost and relegation is in nobody's interests. The big, big problem is that over the last few years we have reinvested our money incredibly badly. This has left the club paying huge amounts in wages to players nobody will buy. After all it is not a transfer fee that is prohibitive, it is the cost of wages over the length of the contract. The time is coming increasingly close for us to write off most of the transfer fees just to enable us to offload the dead wood at this club.
So it becomes imperative that the right people are recruited from bottom to the top to ensure that this club does indeed March on and I for one want this to happen soonest!t
However as far as my support is concerned, the current befuddled & totally uninspiring team selection makes it very difficult to remain upbeat. We have some talent at this club that needs a chance to play in a balanced and tactically astute formation to take us forward. Which they're not getting at present! AND if there is even a hint of that the support will be there. The lift that Boufal gave the crowd when coming on Saturday is evidence of that.

underweststand added 15:40 - Nov 12
Reading through Nick's article and the various comments /criticisms that followed there are a few points that eveyone see3ms to have overlooked, but everyone who says they support Saints has a right to an opinion..and here were some,
1)..".The Board doesn't have any experience of running a football club" ..maybe - but like every Prem. club ..SFC.. is a £100 million per year business and needs accouintants to handle the finance and not a load of ex-footballing hacks that would lead to disaster . (e.g. Pompey's bankrupcy 10 years ago).
2).." Cortese should return" ?...whislt I wa sfirst to admit that Cortese DAJFU in re-organising the administration ..on his own admission he knew little about football and whilst allowing Pardew/Adkins a scant £5 million to rebuildd a team with Britsh players, but he went abroad with borrowed money and sanctioned the purchase of Ramirez and Osvaldo (that's chapter that Pochettino waon't be keen to put in his autobiography.) Those 2 deals alone cost the club almost £50 millon in fees and salaries . Please no-one tell me the Board should be allowed to buy players.
3) At the time you interview / employ; managers, scouts, DoF you can only select from those who are available at the time, and you do this based on their previous experience.
that doesn't always work with players , many of whom are successful in one club, but are too often given different roles after they move -and they fail. Someone tell me what is the best role for ; Redmond, Boufal or JWP when we play them, because neither Ralph or I have figured it out yet.
4) Managers are left with the task of selecting from those; fit, confident and in-form players he has available on the day. Ralph doesn't seem to know what formation suits us best (his fault for experimenting with 4-2-2-2, 3-5-2- or 4-3-3-.?..- maybe not so).
I think Ralph is under stress because he can't find the rioght formula , but it would be wrong to sack him at this juncture . The next 4 fixtures fixtures may decide our fate for the season. If we are still in the same position.."The Board" will have to find an "experienced, available and successful " manager in January to keep us up.
4) " The bad buys " we made in the past are history. Sad as it is - it's pointless to dwell on them, and (most of) this Board weren't responsible for making decisions to buy them .
5) Back to square 1. ...Get a group of players good enough to play (reasonbly well) in the Prem. and amanger who can coach them well enough to stay up every season.
I rest my case.

St_Gats added 16:29 - Nov 12
Whilst Gao isn't responsible for the full demise of the club, surely it's the board's responsibility to put the right people, with the right knowledge, in the right roles? We can't overlook that his naivety in running the club was exposed over the summer, which is why we are now looking at a panic overhaul in January. He/we are learning by experience rather than planning by strategy. Simple as that and we're paying the price.

DPeps added 16:37 - Nov 12
None of us (Nick included) really know what is happening at the club, but there are things we can infer and observe:
1.) Gao is unable, or unwilling, to invest a serious amount of money in the club
2.) Since he has taken over the club, we have progressively got worse to such a degree that relegation is inevitable if we continue in the same vein
3.) The staff recruitment has been awful, both on and off the field. The players we have bought in the last 3 years have almost all been failures, and we seem to have become specialists at making good players turn bad

While it's fair to say that Gao has spent money, most of this has been reinvestments of money we've acquired from transfers and TV money. That system can only possibly work if your recruitment is good, which it isn't.

I'm afraid I don't have any confidence that we can get ourselves out of this mess. This has been 4 years in the making, with the turning point coming when Koeman wasn't backed. Yeah, we can get defensive and say that Koeman willingly jumped ship, but I think he would have stayed if backed with money. Either way, since then we have slowly got worse and the end game is relegation.

BoondockSaint added 16:41 - Nov 12
So Mr. Gao is not involved in the day to day running of the club, but he has time to read our comments on the uglyinside and bow to the "pressure" and get rid of Reed and Krueger???

"The big players in football ownership look at the big clubs with the potential to become a Big Six club, that means a big fan base that stays loyal whatever and turns up week in week out, because big fan bases generate big incomes."

Winning teams generate big fan bases (locally and worldwide).
As 1970 points out, the catchment area is a huge market with potential for a huge fan base and yet Saints have never been aggressive enough in going after that market. Now the other more successful south coast teams will be able to tap into it.

There have been good owners, average owners and downright dodgy owners in football (and other sports), but can you think of one that would have let that 9-0 thrashing at home go without a apology to the fans/public rant at the players and staff/staff shakeup?
I can't.

P.S. If the Saints want a Director of Football who won't let the players and staff get away with their "Can't be bothered" attitude, I nominate Sweary Mike!

Jesus_02 added 16:57 - Nov 12
"Ralph Krueger and Les Reed have paid the price and a large part of the fan base cheered their demise, conveniently forgetting the work they had done and blaming them for a bad couple of years and demanding they go."

Can quite believe that you are still defending these two. We are reaping now, what they sowed over a number of seasons. The Koeman years where simply Koeman buying players he knew from the Eredivisie to replace Lallana with Tadic and Lambert with Pele. VVD was a good buy but where did that really get us.

Reed and Kruger sold us the dream of a small club with realist ambitions, how romantic, how compelling how disastrously boring. Now Imagine you are a player like Harry McGuire, or Kieran Tierney, of Even Seggeson choosing his next step. Players of this type only a few years ago would have been realistic options. They are now impossible dreams because Reed and Kruger made dreaming impossible.

In short THEY never understood football

redandwhitedee added 17:02 - Nov 12
Gordon Strachan recently took on Director of Football at Dundee. He ticks all the boxes and he is the man we should be appointing to take over at Board Level.

davidargyll added 19:01 - Nov 12
A few points worth making:
1. I understood that one of, if not the main, reason why Gao bought the 80% stake off KL was because he saw development potential in the area around SMS.
2. I entirely agree about running a football club: it is a business which, if it is run badly, will lose money and the value of the club will decline; whether the loss in the value of SAINTS value now - vs £200-odd m when he bought in - is more than offset by the development potential is arguable right now at best.
3. I really fail to uinderstand the semi-support which most people on here are giving RH. The skill of a manager is to make his bunch of players play as a team; look at Leicester for example who have gone from strength to stregth under Brendan Rodgers, having been having a turbulent time under the previous two managers. RH DOES NOT HAVE THE SKILLS REQUIRED TO GET US OUT OF THIS, NO MATTER WHO IS BROUGHT IN IN JANUARY. WITH HIM AT THE REINS WE ARE GOING DOWN NO QUESTION. All this "hope for the best" thinking is utterly ridiculous: I can only compare it to a share on the Stock Exchange: when a Company has a profits warning and it share price falls as a result, 9 times out of 10 it is right to sell immediately no matter how far the price has fallen as it invariab;ly is the start of a long term decline. And it is the same for football managers: RH has ballsed it up, he cannot get the squad to do what he wants, aka play for him, so why oh why should an extra two or three players make a difference? In Stock Market language, we have had more than one profits warning and it is high time to get out, ie sack the manager.
4. The only reason why the Board has not fired him is because they cannot bring themselves to admit to Gao and KL that they have made a mistake and are hoping against hope that a miracle will happen - IT WON'T and the longer we keep him in the post the worse it will get.


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