THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Ronald Koeman’s exit from St Mary’s another test Saints’ resolve

23 June ~ Southampton ’til I die. Or at least until I know who is managing the first team next season, their philosophy and vision for the club, and whether or not they will be given the sufficient budget to recruit the new players necessary to be successful.

Saints were once the model of consistency where managers were concerned. In the 30 years between 1955 and 1985 they had two managers – Ted Bates and Lawrie McMenemy. But no manager has stayed more than three years at the club since McMenemy’s replacement Chris Nicholl, who was sacked in 1991. We’ve appointed 25 managers since.  

Football management is more of a consultancy business these days. Money doesn’t even seem to bring immunity to the problem. The announcement of Pep Guardiola becoming Manchester City manager came with the caveat that he would only be at the Etihad for three years. Surely this left some City fans thinking that while their new manager should be able to bring more silverware to their club, is there any harm in romancing the girl a little – why not stay a bit longer?

Ronald Koeman’s exit from St Mary’s was a test of my resolve. Fellow Saints fans reminded me that we are here to support the club over the individuals who represent it. But I don’t just want a manager, I want a relationship – someone I can identify with, someone who will stick around. After winning back-to-back games at Old Trafford we thought that someone was Koeman. I mean, during the summer months he was known to wear shoes without socks – you just didn’t get that with Paul Sturrock and George Burley.

Although back in 2012 we thought that someone was Nigel Adkins, and were really angry when he was sacked, but got over it pretty quickly when his replacement Mauricio Pochettino started winning games. Then he left for Spurs less than a few years later and we replaced him with Koeman and, well, you get the picture – it normally ends in tears.

But the Southampton today is a long way from the club who slipped down into League One in 2010, having nearly gone into liquidation. This is a club who’ve carved out a reputation for finishing in the top ten of the Premier League, selling players for profit while adequately replacing them. They pay managers pretty well too.

It makes you wonder if football is always the only mitigating factor in a manager’s decision on employment. I know Koeman’s new club Everton have a rich history, but Hampshire’s Meon Valley is tremendous for walking and have you tried the venison fillet at Winchester’s Michelin-starred Black Rat? Exquisite. Basically, is it unreasonable to expect a manager to stick around at St Mary’s for more than three years?

Many Saints fans will never forgive Koeman; not for leaving, but for seeming to go back on his word. As a Southampton fan I have to accept that our managers now come on a conveyor belt. We will support whoever is appointed, until of course they do too well (by beating the big boys once or twice) and are tempted leave, or indeed we sack them and replace them with someone we think can do a better job. Mark Sanderson

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