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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Southampton: Have the Saints lost their soul?

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Sqf Steve Coulter general

Le Tiss scoring worldies, Mick Channon's whirling arm, the famous red and whites striped shirts. Throw in Lawrie Mac and The Dell and there you have my iconic images of Southampton Football Club.

The Saints have always had something to charm the neutral.
In recent years new South Coast heroes have emerged. The goals of Rickie Lambert rescued the club from the lower reaches of League One to the riches of the Premier League. Oh I forgot Nigel Adkins, the manager who masterminded the latest golden age. My lapse in memory seems to have been shared by Nicola Cortese, the big cheese at St Mary's.
You see I like to see the good in people, temporary memory loss must be the only logical explanation for Adkins sacking. While the Saints were drawing at Stamford Bridge, the Southampton chief executive was already making plans for Nigel. You might expect a new contract to be in the pipeline, but the old tic tac was top of the agenda.
In a season of harsh sackings this one is right up there. But hey if a European Cup winning gaffer can be shown the door, a boss with back-to-back promotions was always skating on thin ice. Like our Russian friend in West London, Southampton is the plaything of Mr Big.

Democracy is dead in the age of the football dictator. An individual whim has replaced collective responsibility. Gone are the days of middle age suits decided on a manager's shelf life. The sacking is a departure from the club's ethos. Between 1955 and 1988 the club only had two managers. Legendary bosses Ted Bates and Lawrie McMenemy transformed Southampton's fortunes. The country cousins became a force to be reckoned with. Adkins looked the modern day McMenemy.  But we will never know.
I guess if you court the devil you risk a messy divorce. Most fans long for a rich sugar daddy to transport our favourites to the promised land. But money is normally a bed fellow of power. Maybe Adkins lacked glamour in the global Premier League, a lad from Birkenhead has been replaced by an ex-Argentine international.

Maybe Mauricio Pochettino is the next Mourinho or Wenger, but if it's not broken why dash for the super glue?
The change in manager was the latest erosion of Southampton's identity. Don't get me wrong I like the red shirt and pin stripes and I can why the young dudes of Hampshire may be prepared to part with their cash, but I want to see Lambert and co trot out in stripes. The club did don a natty penguin number in the early 1980s but they still looked like representatives of the sea faring port. Now I have to remind myself that I am watching the 1976 FA Cup winners.
Back in those days the Saints played at The Dell,  now I grant you, it would struggle to get planning permission today. The Health and Safety mob with have a field day, but The Dell had character. In contrast to St Mary's concrete bowl, the Dell was made up of sloping stands, particularly behind each goal. The goals had the depth of a five-a-side contraptions. There was so little room between the touchline and the terraces. In all fairness safety and comfort should outweigh wistful nostalgia.
But if The Premier League is the new rock n roll, I'm opting for When The Saints Go Marching In.

Calling all Southampton fans: Have the Saints lost their soul? Can Pochettino keep you up? Does Nicola Cortese really have your club's best interests at heart? How confident are you of beating the drop and staying up? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.


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Antony Melvin



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