Saints Sack Coaches As Long Needed Revamp Begins
Thursday, 26th May 2022 10:19
A brief statement appeared on the Southampton FC official website on Wednesday evening announcing that three of the first team coaching staff had been sacked, whilst no one likes to see anyone lose their job, this is professional football and it was needed.
I have long said on this site that the main issue with the club at the moment wasn't the manager, but the lack of coaching ability and experience to back him up, Ralph Hasenhuttl has come under fire of late from some quarters, but those that berate him rarely have any solutions, they have just looked at poor results and blamed the manager.
But that isn't always the full picture, if Hasenhuttl was that bad a manager then why has he been able to take Saints to safety comfortably in each of his three seasons, why has he been able to take the team briefly to the top of the League, something not achieved since 1988 by a plethora of his predecessors and why has he been able to take us to an FA Cup semi final ?
The answer is that he is a good manager, but hampered by financial restrictions and limited resources.
Certainly a look at the Saints coaching set up shows that he has almost no coaches with any real experience in the jobs they are tasked to do and to be blunt the ability to coach a Premier League team to the level needed.
This is why we have been able to be so promising at times and then why we fall away, you see players with plenty of ability, but not being coached properly and making poor decisions on the pitch.
Hasenhuttl has been backed up for the last few seasons by six coaches, three have survived the cull, Richard Kitzbichler has worked with Ralph before, but he is essentially a technical coach, concentrating on analysing data rather than coaching the team, Andrew Sparkes is the goalkeeping coach and Alex Gross the head of sports science.
None of these are crucial in the team as a whole and setting out the training sessions and regimes.
The three who have gone are Kelvin Davis, David Watson & Craig Fleming.
The first needs no introduction having been on the playing staff for 11 seasons, although for the last four of those after our return to the Premier League he was mainly a back up keeper and played just 20 times in those 4 years. From 2016 he was initially given a job in player support, then in January 2018 he started on the coaching staff with no experience at all in this role.
His promotion was swift, he was caretaker manager after the sacking of Mark Hughes in December of that year and since then has been one of Ralph Hasenhuttl's assistants.
Next is Dave Watson who joining the club as a goalkeeping coach in 2014 had a fine pedigree in this role and stayed in it till 2019 when he swapped roles to become a general coach, again a role he had no experience in.
Last is Craig Fleming, he was perhaps the most qualified, as a player he has extensive top flight experience with both Oldham & Norwich, but his coaching experience was limited, spending 7 years with Lowestoft Town as manager, taking them from the Isthmian League to what was the the Conference North he left to join Saints as an Under 18 coach in March 2015.
He rose through the academy ranks with Saints to become assistant manager with the U23 side in 2017 and then promoted to first team coach in 2018/19.
He at least had some coaching experience, but it was not at any sort of level.
Individually you could perhaps get away with having one inexperienced coach in the back up staff, someone learning his trade alongside experienced professionals, but to have all of your three main coaches without the pedigree needed these days in the Premier League was a recipe for disaster.
It would surely have affected the squad in training, most would have played for other clubs under coaches with ability and experience both at club and International level, it must have been demotivating for the players who would expect much more from a club of our stature.
It is hard to see where the individual training for players was coming from, who would be coaching the defenders or the strikers for instance.
I judge the standard of a player on whether he would get into other sides in the Premier League, if I apply
But truth was with so many poor signings on big money, the issues surrounding Covid and little scope in the budget to make changes, Ralph had to soldier on with the staff he inherited.
You could see that he was not happy with the staff, looking at the bench on matchdays, none of the three had much input, they didn't get out of their seats, the manager seemed to rarely consult them or be seen in deep discussion, to put it bluntly he was out there on his own.
I on many occasions mentioned this in articles and since the arrival of Sport Republic have highlighted this as perhaps the first thing they would be looking at.
Now it seems that I was right, the season was barely over for three days and the trio have gone, I would be surprised if the club haven't already identified the men they want in to replace them and are in advanced talks.
Although I am pleased to see that the new owners are already looking at where we have been going wrong and are now taking steps to rectify it, it gives me no pleasure to see these men lose their jobs, all three have been good servants, but as mentioned this is professional football, there can be little room for sentiment.
If you are an academy coach you usually have job stability to a degree, but if you step up to first team level, then you have to be up to the pace.
Ideally the club would find employment for all three, they all have something to offer, but not at first team level.
The clubs statement was short and to the point and is printed below.
Southampton Football Club can confirm a change within the coaching team in the Men’s First Team environment.
The club has made the decision to part with Kelvin Davis, Dave Watson and Craig Fleming following the conclusion of the 2021/22 campaign and ahead of the return of the squad for pre-season training later in the summer.
Confirmation of new additions to the staff will be announced in due course.
The club would like to express its sincere thanks to each of the coaches for their efforts throughout their time at Southampton in various capacities.
Davis joined Saints in 2006, signing from Sunderland and spending ten memorable years as a player, which included the journey from League One to the Premier League and a long spell as captain, before remaining with the club and moving into a coaching role, ultimately joining the first-team staff in 2017.
Watson’s time at Saints began in 2014, initially as Goalkeeping Coach and subsequently Head of Goalkeeping, before he moved into a First Team Assistant Coach role in 2019, while Fleming arrived in 2015 as Under-18s Coach, eventually becoming Assistant Under-23s Coach and then joining the first-team staff.
The club wishes all three the very best for the future.
Photo: Action Images
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