Saturday 22 March ~
Southampton are having the worst season ever experienced by most of their supporters. The club, who were in the Championship play-offs last season, are two points above the relegation zone, with a vital match today at home fourth-bottom Coventry. Meanwhile local rivals Portsmouth are sixth in the Premier League and one game away from their first FA Cup final in 69 years. Next season they could making their debut in Europe while also being two divisions above Southampton, which hasn't happened since 1958-59. Southampton may be thrown into further turmoil now that a controversial former chairman Rupert Lowe, who was in charge when they were relegated from the Premier League three years ago, has announced that he wants to return.
Lowe was removed in a boardroom coup in 2006. Now he has joined up with the man who deposed him, Michael Wilde, who in turn stepped down as club chairman last year. The pair and their allies own 46 per cent of the club and could force a takeover. The fans' reaction to the local paper's report on this development shows how divisive it could be.
There is never a good time for a power struggle at boardroom level, but there could hardly be a worse moment to choose than eight games before the end of the season with relegation looming. If Lowe does return, Saints supporters can expect him to be full of ideas – indeed they might be what this detractors are afraid of. After all, this was the man who appointed former England rugby coach Clive Woodward as "technical performance director" in 2005. The team was expected to benefit from Woodward's knowledge of sports science but his suggestions appear to have been resisted by Harry Redknapp, one of eight managers engaged by Lowe during his decade in charge. Another, Gordon Strachan, resigned a few months after taking the club to the FA Cup final in 2003.
Lowe had only watched his first football match a few months before taking over, something that didn't impress one manager he worked with, Graeme Souness. That isn't so unusual now, at a time when football clubs are being snapped up as playthings by international billionaires, but there are no such people on the current Southampton board. Indeed supporters appear to blame the team's failings on the sale of, and failure to replace, key players from last season such as Kenwyne Jones. Some clearly feel that Lowe and his cohorts are primarily concerned about the impact that a drop into League One will have on the value of their shares – which will take another knock if the team that lost its last match 5-0 also goes down today. A win over Coventry is vital for all concerned. But Southampton's fate doesn't seem likely to be resolved before the final day, whoever is in charge by then.