Times article on Saints

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Times article on Saints

Post  Nostromo on Tue 04 Sep 2012, 12:14 pm

A good, positive article in The Times and hopefully lays to rest any fears about Redtwatt ever returning. We may criticise Cortese over his intractability but it's pretty obvious that he is highly ambitious for the club.

Nicola Cortese is unlikely to lose patience with Nigel Adkins just yet

It has been a torrid start to life back in the top flight for Southampton. The fixture computer was not kind to the new boys in scheduling both Manchester clubs in the opening three games, although Southampton gave both sides a scare before twice falling to late goals and to the same scoreline. It was the 2-0 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic, however, that really set the alarm bells ringing at St Mary’s.

Nigel Adkins, the manager who took the club from npower League One to the Premier League, is suddenly under pressure. There have even been suggestions that Harry Redknapp is being lined up as a potential replacement for Adkins.

It sounds plausible. Redknapp took over at Tottenham Hotspur four years ago after they suffered a dreadful start to the season. He transformed the mood at White Hart Lane and delivered Champions League football to Tottenham. Turning to Redknapp would be an easy call for anyone in the business of quick fixes.

Nicola Cortese, the Southampton chairman, is highly ambitious. He recognised the potential of the club three years ago, when they were in administration, and conducted the deal to buy St Mary’s for Markus Liebherr, the Swiss billionaire. Liebherr died two years ago but Cortese retains a fierce desire to keep alive the dream of making Southampton one of England’s top clubs. Which is why Redknapp is unlikely to get a second spell at St Mary’s, and why Adkins cannot feel totally secure in his job despite consecutive promotions.

Cortese is a demanding character. The Italian comes from a background of banking in Switzerland and is determined to wring every penny of value from every deal he is involved in. Redknapp’s ducking and diving in the transfer market and constant demands to strengthen the squad would be an anathema to the man who has administered the finances of multimillionaires.

The difficulty for managers who work under Cortese is that his level of expectancy is higher than most of the people who run mid-sized Premier League clubs. This is someone who does not see why a top-four place for Southampton is out of the question in the foreseeable future.

His biggest task at St Mary’s has been changing the mindset across the club. Investing money and building a new £5million training ground has been the easy part. Creating a sense of belief and purpose among the players and staff is more difficult but at the core of his philosophy. The doubts about Adkins stem from a feeling that the former Scunthorpe United manager lacks conviction that the club can make a rapid impact on the top flight. Some in the boardroom fear that this could convey itself to the players and create an atmosphere in which basic survival would be seen as a successful season. That sort of thinking infuriates Cortese.

The board would have given a lot of thought over the summer about who was the right man to lead the team into a Premier League campaign. It would have been — and still would be — an unpopular decision to depose a manager whose two-year tenure has seen the club on a constant upward curve, but Cortese is not afraid of making difficult choices. Alan Pardew was sacked two years ago after winning the Football League Trophy and his departure caused a firestorm of disapproval, but the move proved the right one for both parties.

Other people are noticing the impact Cortese is making, too. Over the summer, the owner of a rival Premier club was bemoaning the lack of talented young chief executives in English football. However, he namechecked the 44-year-old as an exception.

It is unlikely that Adkins is in any immediate danger. At Scunthorpe, he made the implausible leap from physiotherapist to manager. He has the potential to grow in stature as the team find their feet among the big boys.

After the international break, Arsenal at the Emirates are the next opponents, capping an unforgiving start, but the next phase of the season should offer the chance of regaining momentum. The signing of Gastón Ramírez for £12 million was a statement of intent, too. The Uruguay forward had plenty of suitors over the summer and it was something of a coup to attract the 21-year-old to St Mary’s.

Despite the start to the season that leaves them bottom after three games, there is much to feel positive about at Southampton. Someone, somewhere, will panic and turn to Redknapp over the autumn or winter to revive an ailing club, and it will probably work. But when the call is made, it would be very surprising if it was Cortese and Southampton on the end of the line.
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