Southampton Praised For Keeping Faith With Russell Martin
Tuesday, 7th Nov 2023 09:36
Russell Martin was under fire from a section of Saints supporter base before a ball was kicked in anger, his possession football game plan was ridiculed and when he went on a four game losing streak the knives were out, but those in charge kept the faith and the benefits are now being felt.
Last season saw Sport Republic start to revamp the club, a lot of money was spent in transfer fees and expectations were high, however when it started to go wrong, it could be said the owners started to panic, the sacking of Ralph Hasenhuttl proved to be a disaster as it triggered a chain of managerial appointments and sackings, Nathan Jones was clearly not up to the job in the Premier League and although Ruben Selles started well, he soon showed that he neither had what it takes and the squad descended into chaos and confusion.
So it was important that the 4th Southampton manager in a little over 6 months was the right one.
Sport Republic felt Russell Martin was their man, but many didn't and expressed that opinion on social media, they dubbed him Rusty and called his style Rustyball and waited for him to fail.
Initially with Saints winning 3 of the first 4 games and drawing the other, the criticism subsided, but a 5-0 defeat at Sunderland sparked a 4 game losing streak and the knives were out again for the manager.
So given their track record with managers, it must have been a temptation to listen to the critics and make Martin the 4th manager sacked in 10 months.
Now journalist Benedict Ferraby on footballeagueworld.co.uk has spoken of how the Southampton board deserve credit for sticking with their man and believing in him.
Ferraby points to Saints impressive start to the season, but admits it was littered with "impressive attacking play and defensive errors in equal measure" he claims that many were left in awe of Martin's style of play and cites the opening game of the season at Sheffield Wednesday when Saints set the record (447) for passes in the first half of a Championship game.
But he also points to the fact that Martin's tactics were then exposed in that 4 game losing run, that the high line often deployed left the defence exposed.
That left Saints going into a 5th game facing in form Leeds United at St Mary's and in the lead up to that game Martin's detractors had never been more vociferous, the pressure was on, but this game was pivotal.
Over the previous weeks Martin had revamped the squad from early August, had made some key signings and also had fine tuned the possession football game, not only that, he had also installed a fitness level and mental toughness in his players that had been lacking earlier in the season.
Since then Southampton have reaped the rewards, they have won 5 and drawn 2 of the 7 games played since the final defeat in that 4 game run.
Ferraby makes the claim that the Southampton board deserve "immense praise for the upturn in form" that they kept faith with their man at a time in football when it is often easier for those running football clubs to sack a manager and start again.
In truth that board has changed from last season, Martin Semmens and those around him have gone, they have been replaced by people who know how to run a club from not only a footballing perspective, but also in terms of business, some might take umbrage with that, but sadly football is big business and unless you are the likes of Manchester City or Newcastle who have unlimited resources, then you have to run as a business and that means making money from all areas of the club.
Now with Jason Wilcox as Director of football we have someone focused on what is happening on the football side of things and that is something we haven't had for several years. He has been instrumental in not only identifying and signing some key players, but also in revamping the coaching staff, the recent appointment of Colin Calderwood to the coaching staff being evidence of that.
However we are still only a third of the season gone, there is still a long way to go, unbeaten runs always come to an end, it is only a question of when, some will say that a 7 game unbeaten run proves nothing and they are right, but what it does do is show that Russell Martin deserves a chance to show he can take us forward this season.
Sometimes you only find out how good a manager is when the chips are down and from this perspective Russell Martin has passed the first test.
We now have a squad that has stopped leaking goals, yes we still have the worst defence in the top half of the Championship, conceding 25 goals in 15 games, whilst Ipswich in 2nd place have only conceded 17, but take out those 2 disastrous games against Leicester & Sunderland and we have conceded just 16 in the other 13 and that is much more in line with the rest of the clubs in the top half.
We are still scoring goals and that will only get better with the introduction of Ross Stewart.
We have found the foundations of our side, but more to the point the manager is using his substitutes well, Ryan Fraser coming on and scoring two late winners for instance and there is more to it than that.
We have a squad that plays to a system and now seems comfortable in how they are playing it, it is not luck that we score so many late goals, we wear teams out with our possession game and run them off their feet and we have the quality off the bench that many other teams don't have.
So Russell Martin has earned the right to be judged on what he does going forward rather than that 4 game losing streak and the two debacles that saw us concede 9 goals.
Photo: Action Images
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