Thanks for the memories (Promotion Day April 2012)
I have no idea if this is going to say what I want it to say or not…
The first thing I did was re-read what I wrote when Alan Pardew got sacked
I found myself on Thursday night, getting very annoyed at people worrying about a Daily Mirror article which said that Mauricio Pochettino was to take over from Nigel Adkins. There were no quotes on the piece and it looked like a classic ‘hidden agenda’ piece prompted by a managers agent to a journalist friend. Pochettino’s record is unremarkable on the face of it and why would we want another manager as we were doing well. The timing was wrong as we’d turned our form around and we’re in the middle of a transfer window. If Nigel was going to be sacked it would have been either after the West Ham 4-1 defeat or the abysmal performance in the 2-0 defeat at West Brom or if we get relegated. The article annoyed me because so many people were taking it as gospel when of course, it had to be fabricated – after all, the media are sometimes known to tell porkies.
Today, my preoccupation with snow on the ground and kids schools being closed was replaced with more irritation when I logged into Twitter. The story was growing legs… and a tail and three heads and had been fitted with a rocket engine with turbo-boosters. There are lots of alleged journalists on Twitter and one said “I’m hearing that Adkins has been sacked”, then another and then just before mid-day it as confirmed on the Saints Official Site. What was in fact confirmed was that we had a new manager and it was Pochettino. “Nigel Adkins has been relieved of his duties” was the last line… and that’s the piss poor part.
Nigel has left the building after two and a half years and a rise from 20th in League 1 to 15th in the Premier League. He’s been promoted every season and was on course to keep us in the Premier League this season. He’s been replaced with a manager who doesn’t speak English, has very little experience as a manager and was sacked from Espanyol earlier on this season when they were bottom of the league. There are extenuating circumstances as he’s been forced to live with a player fire-sale that even the Skates would be proud of.
This of course is a decision made by Don Cortese and he will 100% believe that he is right and he will 100% be doing this because he thinks it’s the right thing for Southampton Football Club. I have no problem with that but the manner of it is appalling. An often quoted phrase these days is that “football is about business” and I get that. I just hoped that deep down, my club would still hold some kind of shred of decency towards a man they owe so much to. Today’s events prove though that we as a club, are utterly ruthless in the pursuit of where we went to get to and the speed in which we want to get there and this to me is not necessarily a good thing. I find it quite sad now that there is absolutely no shred of decency left in the game at this level and there is no thought given to treating people fairly. In a ‘normal’ work environment, you have targets and you are judged on whether you achieve them or not. I’d love to know what Nigel’s targets actually were for the season. Maybe it was to qualify for Europe – it sounds insane but after today I wouldn’t be surprised.
Nigel Adkins is a popular man both with us and fans of other clubs (except Brighton fans because they are a very strange bunch) and even the more fair minded Pompey fans seemed to think he was decent and it’s been remarkable how many plaudits we’ve got from fans of other clubs for the way we play, even if we’ve got beat. He combined getting results, decent football and being a success with being a lovely bloke. He’s not arrogant like Mourinho, a bully like Ferguson, a bell end like Holloway, a nasty piece of work like Poyet or a disloyal liar like Appleton. It’s his human characteristics that make this so hard to swallow and on the one hand, I just feel desperately sorry for the guy and it left me feeling sick in the stomach. Saints was his dream job and what an exceptional job he’s done and how do Saints repay him – they sack him. What else could he have done? He’s delivered a 5 year plan 2 years early but it’s not enough. If we’d been relegated this year given the investment in players that went on in the summer then I think most would say fair enough but to do it now is baffling. He’s an honourable man and a decent man and he’ll always be a Saints legend. In my eyes, he’s on a par with Lawrie McMenemy as our most impressive manager.
When it was confirmed I went into a big ‘fuck off and fuck you and return my season ticket’ rant but after calming down I actually thought that as far as Nigel is concerned, part of me is quite pleased for him. He's has two and a half years of success and has left on a high after the recent run so he leaves with 99% of Saints fans wishing him well and appreciating what he’s done for us. The other 1% aren't worth worrying about but they are out there. Also, as a manager his stock is high and like Alan Pardew when he left, he’s been great for Southampton and Southampton’s been great for him so he’ll get another decent job if and when he wants to go back in. Hopefully he’s made a few quid on the remainder of his contract as well and he’ll wake up tomorrow and I’m sure that part of him will be relieved that he’s not got to work for that wanker of a boss in the morning.
Thinking back, there was an interesting interview after the West Ham away game (where we got humped 4-1) and Nigel got as irritated as I’ve ever heard him when questioned about the formation when he snapped “we play 4-3-3”. Since that moment we’ve varied the formation a bit and the results have improved. I have never believed he was being dictated to on football matters but maybe that was the point where Nigel said ‘fuck it – if I’m going to get sacked I’m going to do it on my own terms’. It seems now, (especially with Pochettino's revelation below) that the decision was made round about this time. You wonder if Cortese was hoping we'd get murdered 8-0 on Wednesday to make this easier.
So, to the new guy and Mauricio Pochettino faced the press with his interpreter but unforgivably, Cortese lived up to the stereotype of the Italian coward and didn’t show up. This is amazingly poor. No doubt he’ll say that he wanted the Press Conference to be about the new man and not about Nigel but even so, it was a diabolical lack of support for the new manager as I can’t believe for a second he didn’t realise the depth of feeling there was going to be about this. Fair play to Pochettino for fronting up on his own and some of his answers were interesting. He let slip that he’s been researching Saints for weeks which suggests that Nigel’s fate was sealed before we started playing well which again adds to the ‘shabby’ nature of it all. He also said that we didn’t necessarily need new players, which was a bit of a shock to some people but by the end of the Press Conference it was revealed that Vegard Forren had signed. Pochettino also revealed that he was impressed with the work Nigel Adkins had done which was a nice, if possibly scripted, touch.
So what now? Well, we just have to get on with it. Pochettino is here now and we have to support him and the team. It’s not his fault that he’s here and it’s not the players either as they gave their all for Nigel so who are we hurting if we boo the new manager? I guarantee that Cortese won’t give a shit. If there is a poisonous atmosphere at games now then we won’t be helping anyone and we’ll be just like the Chelsea fans. Their situation is different because they have a manager in Benitez who they know is not up to it and has insulted the club before. Pochettino’s only crime is not being Nigel Adkins. I would suggest giving it a large ‘One Nigel Adkins’ up until the game starts, at half time and even at the end but during the game itself, just support the boys in red on the pitch.
We had a 5 year plan when Markus Liebherr and Nicola Cortese arrived to go from League 1 Minus 10 to the Premier League. Nigel Adkins took over in year two and did all of that by the end of year 3. He did it with a smile on his face, by maintaining his integrity and playing decent football and his reward was to be shown the door in the most heartless way imaginable. Mauricio Pochettino is in a stange position – I wouldn’t think anyone will blame him if we go down and no one with blame Nigel Adkins. Nicola Cortese has put all his eggs in the Pochettino basket and has taken an almighty gamble. If he’d appointed Mourinho then it’s not a gamble and I think people would understand this a bit more but make no mistake, this is a massive gamble. Just as Nigel Adkins gambled on leaving Sir Rickie out on Wednesday but was 100% sure he was right, Cortese has taken this gamble today with the same belief. When men are like this, there are always casualties and I think that Nigel Adkins knew, in his emotional interview straight after we got promoted back to the Premier League, that sooner or later, he would be one of them.
Thanks for everything Nigel Adkins – a true Saints legend and good luck with whatever you do next. It's my round, what you having ?