Chairman goes from saint to sinner overnight
On Tuesday, Southampton lost 3-0 at home in the Johnstone Paints Trophy. On Saturday they won 4-0 away at Bristol Rovers.
Unless you have buried your head in lower league sand, you will be aware that in between these two matches, Alan Pardew has lost his job as manager, along with Wally Downes and Stuart Murdoch. Pardew had been at the helm for 13 months.
On the surface the sacking seems incredibly harsh. Pardew had the highest winning percentage of any Southampton manager since 1897. Last May he led the Saints to victory in the Johnstone Paints Trophy Final. Don’t get me wrong, this is no major honour, but it was Southampton’s first meaningful trophy since the FA Cup in 1976. Last season, with the club starting the campaign on -10 points, they finished one place off the playoffs, scoring the second most goals and conceding the second least. They lost nine games; Leeds in second lost more. Even this season,despite home defeat in the first game, they had gained a draw before Saturday’s big win.
The reaction from the fans has been apparent. The vast majority clearly feel that the chairman, Nicola Cortese, has lost the plot. Forums, local news websites, and the local area are ringing with the sound of disillusionment. Many clearly felt that Pardew was the man to finally provide a sense of true stability.
There have, however, been murmurings of discontent on the South coast. There were reports recently that some of the staff at the club’s training ground had resigned from their positions due to their lack of desire to work with Pardew. Whether these are rumours or substantiated events, Cortese’s decision is at least brave. If, as he stated on Monday, the decision was being taken to provide stability in the long term with a new dawn for Southampton, then fair play to the Italian. For what it is worth, he did help the former Premier League team stave off financial meltdown, and clearly has a strong affection for the club. Perhaps he has a successor lined up to take Southampton back to the promised land? After all, Pardew was not a Cortese appointment.
One question remains, however. Why now? Why allow a manager to spend nearly £3million in January on 13 players, to then publicly back him at the end of the season? Why say that reports in pre-season of Pardew leaving are “ill-informed” to sack him three weeks later? Why allow the manager to bring in five players in this window? Why sack a manager one day before deadline day, so there will be no chance to bring in late deals? Why sack a manager after a 4-0 away win?
Saints’ fans will hope that these questions can be answered sooner rather than later. If last night’s performance is anything to go by, the “achievement of its well known targets”, the new man has a difficult job in pleasing the chairman.