Southampton’s sacking of Nigel Adkins perhaps came to many as more of a surprise than Pep Guardiola’s appointment at Bayern Munich. On hearing the news that Nigel Adkins had been sacked my eyes dilated, my mouth opened and an expletive of disbelief exited it.
This was the man that had achieved back-to-back promotions, was on a run of two defeats in twelve games, and had just come from 2-0 down against the European Champions to secure a 2-2 draw. The decision made by Nicola Cortese is cold hard truth at how cruel football can be and further highlights the ruthlessness of football club owners in English football.
It’s accurate to suggest that most of the football world was sickened by the treatment of Nigel Adkins and I genuinely feel for him. However, as an Aston Villa fan, and speaking from a selfish point of view, it has to be considered as Southampton’s loss and every club that is involved in a relegation fight’s gain.
The appointment of Mauricio Pochettino will scarcely strike instant fear into the hearts of rival managers. Indeed there were probably some Premier League managers that guiltily, along with most of England, opened their laptops and typed his name into a Google search engine.
Pochettino’s managerial CV hardly displays the remarkable ability that Cortese claims to have acquired. It speaks volumes that whenever Pochettino’s name is mentioned the sentence, ‘he’s the guy that gave away the penalty against Michael Owen in the 2002 World Cup,’ follows more readily than any other achievement to date.
It is true that Pochettino steered Spanish side Espanyol away from relegation when he took over in 2008. He also went on to establish them as a ‘top half of the table’ outfit the following season but, at the time of his sacking, last November, his team sat bottom of La Liga with 9 points from 13 matches. If Pochettino was a racing horse his form would best be described as avoidable.
With Southampton currently sitting 15th position in the Premiership, with a game in hand, the Argentine might not even consider the club to be in trouble. But make no mistake about it; he is walking into the snarling rabies filled jaws of a relegation dog fight. Far from being fearful of the new dog in town his rivals will no doubt be wagging their tails and pissing up lampposts with intent.
Apart from television, Youtube and possibly 'Football Manager', Pochettino has absolutely no experience of English football. Save for one well rehearsed sentence he can’t even speak the language and will conduct all team talks, tactics and coaching via an interpreter.
It’s hard to see that the instant effectiveness of “new manager honeymoon syndrome” will take place either. Usually a manager is sacked due to a combination of becoming unpopular with fans and poor results. The circumstances at Southamptonwere quite the opposite. Pochettino won’t be basking in the rampant lust of a honeymoon but, more so will feel as if he has been caught with his pants down amid a very frowned upon affair.
Fan support is critical to any self respecting relegation fight and it seems that Cortese may have alienated a large proportion of them. There are reports that the Southampton faithful are already planning demonstrations for future games. If Pochettino get’s off to a bad start he and the board will be crucified by supporters. It’s not as if the players weren’t playing for Adkins because they were. He had the respect of the changing room and that is something that Pochettino will not have guaranteed. In fact in light of the circumstances he will probably have to work incredibly hard to gain it.
Little over a month ago most football brains thought that Reading and QPR were dead certainties to go down. Then it was a straight fight between Villa, Wigan and Southampton for that last spot, and out of those three Southampton were probably viewed as the strongest team by most.
Since then Redknapp has got QPR playing with heart, Reading have become comeback kings, Villa and Wigan are up and down, and Newcastle have kindly decided to place themselves in the battle as well. The sacking of Adkins, and the appointment of an ‘unknown,’ has made Southampton look incredibly vulnerable again.
In as little as two games time Southampton could be back in the bottom three. Their fans will be even thirstier for blood and Pochettino will have already lost the changing room. To me it’s got the makings of a disaster, one that the Saints loyal following would never let Cortese forget.
It’s never a positive quality to take pleasure from others misfortune but, as a Villa fan at present I have to… I could of course be wrong?