Last season Southampton escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth. Only a late change of manager when all appeared lost saved us. A pathetic mistake by the board that so nearly cost the club millions of pounds.
A new manager for the start of the season that quickly seemed out of his depth. At least it appeared that way to the vast majority of Saints fans who paid good money to watch the dross that was offered. Mauricio Pellegrino had our team playing with a safety first style that meant we played a holding game where we kept the ball by passing sideways and backwards rather than forwards with attacking intent.
Pellegrino will be blamed for the poor results but in my opinion, much of the problem stems from the clubs’ Director of Football and the Chairman. We had already seen a similar style of play the previous season under Claude Puel and that wasn’t a great success either.
In their infinite wisdom, we went for the same/similar style of play. This had already seen the points total earned previously fall drastically. Yes, we finished 8th in the league and had a trip to Wembley in the League Cup Final but these only succeeded in hiding the real facts of our slip in standards. Having yet another manager playing keep ball with little end product soon showed how deficient our whole endeavour at playing football had become.
Very early in the season, Southampton supporters began calling for Pellegrino to be sacked. The call grew ever more vociferous but with little acknowledgement from the club. The January transfer window came and went. In came the striker that was going to save our bacon. Guido Carrillo was handpicked by the manager, and what a great signing that quickly turned out to be.
In total Carrillo played ten times for us, starting seven matches. He managed to have nine shots at goal, but failed to score once. The fans kept calling for a change, without seeing one take place. That was until there were a mere eight matches left to reach safety and avoid relegation. The club finally woke up and reacted to our plight.
Mark Hughes came in to rescue Southampton FC from what looked like certain relegation. The team had no spirit and played with no energy. Slow and painfully depressing play had been fed to us fans all season long, and the new man at the helm didn’t have long to turn it around.
Hughes won his first game which was at Wigan in the FA Cup. Next came a 3-0 defeat at West Ham. Quickly followed by another defeat with us losing 3-2 at Arsenal. Another 3-2 defeat at home to Chelsea and we were sinking deeper into the mire.
The fans, even though depressed by the results, could see that the team were beginning to show some fight. Unlucky at home to Chelsea and also at Arsenal, we still hoped for a miracle.
A draw at Leicester followed by another Chelsea defeat didn’t seem to help. Then a really hard-fought victory over Bournemouth began our climb away from the drop. A draw at Everton followed with us winning at Swansea and we had enough points to survive.
Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger has since been interviewed by Adam Blackmore for the BBC, and Adam Leitch for the Daily Echo. He may think that he spoke well but for us fans, he gave a typical PR response to most questions.
When asked specifically about staff changes no answer was given. Although admitting that mistakes had been made, there was little said to give fans hope for a better future.
Time for pussyfooting is over. The club can tell us that next season’s season tickets are now for sale. Us fans have had two abysmal years and the club still show scant regard towards its fan base.
Instead, more was spoken about plans for overseas investment. There was talk of buying a club in Austria or Switzerland to give academy players a way of gaining experience – click here – but nothing concrete about our plans for the team or even the manager. At least we were told that talks were progressing with Mark Hughes.
So many questions need answering and soon. Especially after Krueger said that we have good people scouting across Europe. I presume these same people who brought us in the recent crop of players that have been less than a huge success.
We need straight answers to direct questions. Tell us how we intend to better our squad? Who will be our manager? Will we have a manager with permission to manage, and with the power to say what is needed at our club to help us progress?
Do that and more people might take an interest in listening.