18 September ~ After yet another loss for Southampton in his first game at Milton Keynes, new boss Nigel Adkins will face his first home fixture against Colchester today with some trepidation. Following the sacking of his predecessor Alan Pardew, the Southampton crowd chanted "You can stick Paul Hart up your arse" in reference to the then reputed favourite for the vacant managerial post. Pardew had just guided Saints to their first Wembley victory in 34 years in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and, despite a ten-point deduction for going into administration, his side nearly made the play-offs. That Saints missed out had some fans grumbling as the club dropped points at home, but few expected the farce that has followed.
Southampton started the 2010-11 season slowly but Nicola Cortese, the Italian banker installed as chairman by the Liebherr family that brought the club out of administration, curiously decided to sack Pardew after his side had just routed Bristol Rovers 4-0. Pardew's departure also came after a misguided club move to charge the media for images taken at the ground, which provoked derision. "[Cortese's] totally crazy decision to ban national and local newspaper photographers from the game will hurt his club more than he thinks," raged the Sun. "This senseless move will not make him extra money but it will turn the fans and, more importantly, sponsors away from the club."
That row and Pardew's dismissal left many fans embarrassed as their side sank into the early League One relegation zone, while south coast neighbours Bournemouth leapt up the table – just where most Saints' fans expected their team to be. With their recent Premier League history plus a stadium and fan-base three times bigger, few Saints fans view Bournemouth as real rivals, but – in the short term at least – the Cherries have outflanked Southampton.
Cortese then decided to emulate Peterborough by offering Bournemouth's highly-rated manager Eddie Howe a job, but the youngest boss in the Football League turned the post down after going for an interview. Howe might not have fancied moving to Peterborough but St Mary's is less than 30 miles down the coast. He could have stayed at home, got more money and moved to a bigger side owned by one of Europe's richest families. Instead, Howe decided to stay at an indebted club, whose chairman has just sold his leading scorer from under him. When Bournemouth visit St Mary's on October 2 for the first league fixture between the clubs in generations, Howe's side will be in the higher league position and he will be unlikely to envy Nigel Adkins. Steve Menary