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Watt View - Disastrous appointment means survival now extremely difficult
Monday, 13th Feb 2023 10:30 by Matt Watts

It is managerial merry go round time at Southampton Football Club again, Matt Watts gives his opinion on the situation as Saints once again look for a new manager for the 2nd time in 3 months.

What an absolutely disastrous appointment that was for everyone concerned with Southampton Football Club.

In the week of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s sacking back on 7 November I wrote in Watt View: “I would like to have seen a commitment from the club to enable assistant Ruben Selles to take interim charge for a short period to enable a period of calm and stability from within.”

Instead of placing Selles in charge in November while they assessed the options, owners Sport Republic appointed Nathan Jones the day after that column was published - committing the club to an unknown quantity during what everyone knew would be a vulnerable period.

When Hasenhuttl was relieved of his duties Saints had only won three in 14 so, despite many retaining fond memories of the highs during the Austrian’s tenure, there was a feeling the time had come for a change - but that was with the expectation any change would be a measured one.

Yet here we are, three months after Jones was appointed, with Selles placed in temporary charge once again having been stood down a day after he oversaw the Carabao Cup victory over Sheffield Wednesday.

What a waste of three precious months and eight vital league fixtures which preceded the daunting upcoming run against Chelsea, Leeds United, Leicester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, West Ham and Manchester City.

By now we could have experienced the dust settling period under Selles while the club conducted the selection process during the World Cup break. Instead we have endured a torrid time under Jones, who managed one league win in those eight games.

He presided over a catalogue of fiascos during his short reign - the shortest serving non-caretaker manager in Southampton's history - and left everyone astonished by his perplexing and insulting interviews.

He may have racked up some cup victories but they were often less than convincing, though he did pull off an excellent and unexpected Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Pep Guardiola’s Man City. That will remain one of the two significant moments of his brief reign alongside his solitary three points taken at Goodison Park.

The overwhelming historical record, though, will be one which documents countless irrational, inflammatory and contradictory media statements, reports of disagreements and bust-ups with players after matches and on the training ground and an inability to find a consistent starting 11.

So here we are. Back where we were at the start of November, only this time the outlook is far bleaker.

It was clear after the 3-0 debacle at Brentford and the awful and Jones’s much-debated post-match interview that the appointment was a major mistake and had to be rectified sooner rather than later.

Pressure had reached its peak, with outside influences including high profile pundits joining fans in questioning whether or not Jones could continue and calling for the club to take action in light of the interview. There was mass agreement this needed to happen before Saturday’s visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Due to that fact, fans’ forums such as the one which took place at St Mary’s on Tuesday when such a staunch defence of Jones was put up by the club’s leadership seem like a complete waste of time in my opinion. What is the point.

Sport Republic’s CEO Rasmus Ankersen, Sport Republic’s Chairman Henrik Kraft, Saints’ CEO Martin Semmens and Saints’ managing director Toby Steele all spent an hour answering questions from the 100 supporters present which largely focused on the future of Jones.

"I appreciate you are looking at it from the outside and you have certain reference points with the games and what is said after the games. When we are on the inside, we have a lot more reference points,” Ankersen said Tuesday evening.

"We see what goes on every day and we see the quality of the work that is being carried out, the relationships with the players and all these things. Do they look right? Are we comfortable that all of these things will lead to better results? We are not happy with the results. You are not happy with the results.

"But our job is to try and improve it. And as long as we think that the work that is being carried out by Nathan and the team, and the players at the training ground every day is high quality, then we have something to believe in, that this is going to get better and we can turn it around.

"Another thing is worth taking into consideration is we have just been through a transfer window where we have spent a significant amount of money in trying to address some of the weaknesses the team had, especially in terms of creating chances and converting the chances that we create. That is the part of the game that is harder to coach, because it is down to individual quality.

"Lots of defensive things can be coached and improved on the training pitch and Nathan has been part of selecting the players and selling the project to them, and I think it is fair that he gets the chance to show what he can do with the new weapons that he now has."

Within five days of those comments and after a shocking 1-2 defeat to 10-man Wolves, Sport Republic drew the curtain on Jones’s time in charge. We all knew it had to come. What was the point in the effort of the comments above? It makes a mockery of holding sessions with fans and reduces trust and faith.

The appointment shouldn’t have happened in the first place but, at the very least, the decision to part ways should have happened last weekend. More time wasted.

As soon as the announcement was made, a host of familiar names began surfacing online and the rumour mill kicked into action. By yesterday afternoon odds were slashed on Saints appointing recently-sacked Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch, with reports of a “meeting” with the club imminent. Reports from within say others “have been contacted”.

The difference between now and early November, though, is that eight winnable games have passed by. Survival will now be extremely difficult for any incoming manager and the weight of expectation means if a permanent appointment is made it has to be one of much better judgement and one that instils some hope of progress.

If the owners make a rash choice in haste then the argument will be made that they could have settled for Selles taking temporary charge while they plan for a likely relegation and look to appoint the right man to push for an immediate return from the Championship.

What I am sure of is that, if Saints are to go down, I would much rather suffer that experience with Selles in charge than have Jones at the helm routinely criticising fans and providing little hope for the future.

If the owners have learnt their lesson and are looking to make a solid, evidence-based and immediate permanent appointment then I am all for it. But another gamble with the future already looking ominous could be costly in more ways than one.

We all want a turnaround and I hope dearly it happens. The right appointment will be the lift everyone needs - players and fans alike - and they could work a miracle. Here’s hoping.

Photo: Action Images

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felly1 added 10:49 - Feb 13
Selles should take charge and see out the season.
No pressure on him and we have a free hit to see if we can survive.
The reality is we are going down barring a miracle.
Yes there are plenty of games left but nothing Ive seen on the pitch tells me we can get out of this now.
Let's start afresh next season with a new manager who's not been beaten down by defeats, and the players and fans already questioning his tactics etc.
Norchich appointed Smith halfway through their relegation season from the Prem. They still went down and he carried on losing lots of games in the Championship.
Burnley when they sacked Dyche, appointed a temp manager, saw the season out and started afresh with Kompany in the Championship and its worked out really well.
We need to find a way to end the culture of defeat and doom and gloom that pervades over our club.
I think we may need to take a step backwards before we can start start again.

StRipper added 11:13 - Feb 13
Interesting read and sets the scene well. We have to stay positive and not be defeatist. We're still in a situation where a few good results could change everything.
It's hard for us as fans to identify a "safe pair of hands" and few if any of the suggested candidates with EPL experience fill me with hope.
I'd rather we chose a replacement based on success in overseas leagues to expand the quality of the pool to select from. If we can persuade a candidate with proven tactical nous to take the job, that for me would give us our best chance, providing one of those candidates would be suitable to stay with us if we get relegated.

obelisk added 11:14 - Feb 13
What's that stat I read sometime over the weekend?
Eleven managers have taken at least 1 point away with them from matches at St Mary's so far this season. Jones wasn't one of them.
Says it all.

saintmark1976 added 11:30 - Feb 13
A well reasoned approach to our current problems felly1 and I agree that giving the job to Sellés is the sensible way forward given that relegation now appears nailed on, with the bookies having us at 2/9 to be playing Championship football next season.

However, I can’t see it happening given that Ankersen, Kraft, Semmens and Steel gave me the impression of being totally detached from reality at the last Fans Forum. I fully expect that they will now appoint a manager from a long list of previous failures, ultimately making our situation worse rather than better.

Ifonly added 11:57 - Feb 13
It was a disastrous appointment, but that's not the major issue that has made survival unlikely. I agree with Gary Neville who said " obviously Nathan Jones gets the sack, that’s the way it goes in football," he said. "But the players that they’ve got there are nowhere near good enough I don’t think, watching them last week being the first time I’ve seen them live this season. They’re well off where some of the other teams are down the bottom."

That's the reality. It was shown again by the 2nd half on Saturday. So, whoever we put in charge now is likely to take us down. More important is getting next season right. Make a temporary appointment now and start planning for the summer.

Ali_Diarea added 19:42 - Feb 13
“Instead of placing Selles in charge in November while they assessed the options…” the scary thing is they did assess the options and decided that Jones was a perfect fit, hence the 3.5 year contract.

There is now even more pressure for SR to get the next appointment right.

Agreed with Felly that we should use the rest of the season as a free hit then start again in the summer with a new manager who can assess what’s left of our current squad.

Monksway added 13:15 - Feb 14
I agree with the other posts. There is no time for a new manager to shuffle the pack, find his best team etc etc. Selles needs to take temporary charge, assume relegation and start planning for after the fire sale. 3 managers, bloated under-performing squad, no system, loads of youngsters means relegation using anybody's metrics. On a positive note, we have more saleable assets this time around.

underweststand added 15:28 - Feb 14
Simple. Give Ruben Selles a chance and make a decision after the Chelsea game regardless of whether win, lose or draw. He's been around long enough to call the shots.
IF ...we begin to look like a Premier League side then, but at least we'll have a manager who knows the players identities and their strengths and limitations.

Yet another new man will take a month to know who is who and have to make desperate selections based on a few days kick about training at Staplewood before he thinks he might have an acceptable team, and there simply isn't time for more lost points.
I still don't want to use " the R word", but it 's beginning to look ominous and we can all see the that, on current form, there aren't 3 teams worse than us.
Whilst NT carries the can, and goes off with his remuneration, the fact is that we need a minimum 7 wins to get anywhere close to safety before the end of the season.

Selles knows the way to drive to Staplwood, but another month of bad results may result in relegation will be an albatross around any new manager's neck before he gets started.


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