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Back from the brink - Southampton think big

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Paul Fletcher | 23:11 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Southampton executive chairman Nicola Cortese does not like walking past the trophy cabinet at St Mary's Stadium.

"I saw a beautiful samurai sword in there and asked how we had won it," Cortese told me. "I was told it was to commemorate a game. I said we need real trophies."

Given the club's recent history of uncertainty and failure, when survival not silverware was the prime concern, Southampton's battered and bruised fans could be forgiven for wondering just what planet Cortese is from.

Markus Liebherr (left) and Nicola CorteseLiebherr (left) and Cortese have ambitiousplans for the League One club

After all, when German-born billionaire Markus Liebherr's takeover of the club was completed in July, Saints were days from going out of business and, after an unspectacular start to the current campaign, are still on minus points following a deduction imposed last season.

The takeover had been Cortese's idea. Intelligent, hard working and happy with his career, the 40-year-old was a successful banker in Switzerland and Liebherr was one of his clients.

Southampton had first appeared on Cortese's radar in 2007 when he read stories linking Microsoft's Paul Allen with the club, but it wasn't until he received an e-mail in April that he seriously considered the club as an investment.

He thought it would be an interesting private purchase for somebody looking for something a little bit different. Liebherr came to mind.

Cortese initially floated the idea to Liebherr in late May in his office in Zurich and a day later they were standing in the centre circle of St Mary's.

"Markus is into culture and history and had quickly made himself aware of the background of the club. An hour later we were ready to make an offer," said Cortese.

The purchase proved to be complicated, though, with what Cortese describes as "obstacles" delaying the process. One of these obstacles was the exclusivity agreement signed by the rival Pinnacle consortium fronted by Matt Le Tissier. Their bid subsequently collapsed.

Liebherr eventually completed his takeover on 8 July and continued familiarising himself with the club. Liebherr, a big fan of German football, has enthusiastically been watching DVD after DVD of previous Saints teams in action and I'm told he has derived a lot of pleasure so far from his purchase of the club.

"People who know him from business would not recognise him," added Cortese.

Liebherr may be the owner but it is Cortese who runs the League One club.

After the club's pre-season match against Ajax, Liebherr told his trusted advisor that he wanted him to stay on full-time at the club.

"I was giving up a career that had made me very comfortable in all senses," said Cortese. "But Markus said that he needed somebody he could completely trust and talk with about money."

Cortese discussed the situation with his wife, who understood how much time her husband had put into completing the takeover. The executive chairman dryly observed that his wife was prepared to move the family to England but had previously refused to relocate from Zurich to Geneva.

During my conversation with Cortese it became clear the man is calm and controlled. He looked at ease in the surroundings of his luxury hotel. It was easy to imagine why people trust him with their money.

Yet running a football club is a very different proposition to the world of Swiss banking. Cortese wakes up at 5am on the Saturday of a home match and is so nervous that he cannot eat until half-time. His job as a banker was demanding but at least he had weekends off.

Even so, he appears to be relishing his role.

"There is no more internal politics and the club has no debts - nobody dictates our business anymore, we do that," said the executive chairman.

The watchwords from our conversation were stability and discretion. Southampton used to be something of a leaky ship but Cortese is adamant the holes have been plugged. His surprise appointment of Alan Pardew as manager is a case in point.

A lot of Cortese's time at the moment is spent creating a long-term structure for success. There are plans to rejuvenate an Academy that until recently had a proven track record of producing players, redevelop the training ground and empower the club's non-football staff.

Cortese found a workforce understandably suffering from low morale while many staff had multiple duties and more than one line manager. He is carrying out what he terms a "deep analysis".

"People need guidance - and it cannot be three people giving guidance to one person because it is confusing," he said. "People here can add great value but that has not been recognised."

Cortese is also extremely ambitious. At their recent game against Charlton, Addicks chairman Richard Murray asked Cortese where he hoped Southampton would finish this season.

"I told him we wanted to win the league," replied Cortese. "He was about to take a sip of wine but put his glass down without drinking any."

Cortese's plan is for the club to win promotion from League One in two seasons and reach the Premier League in five years. He does not expect Liebherr to enjoy a return on his investment until the club returns to the top flight but reckons Saints can break even in the Championship. In the meantime, there are funds available for Pardew to mould his squad.

Southampton boss Alan PardewSaints boss Pardew is working hard to make his team competitive

A few hours after interviewing Cortese, I watched Pardew working with his players at the club's training ground. As the late summer sun blazed down, the Saints boss constantly interrupted the game in progress to instil in his players how he wanted them to play. It was fascinating to watch him explain in great detail his ideas for how every attack should unfold - what options his players should take and when.

Cortese appointed Pardew after taking advice from a source whose name he will not reveal. Pardew, who had been out of work since he parted company with Charlton late last year, was unsure at first and had to be convinced that taking over at Saints was the right move.

"They were starting the season on minus 10 and some of the best players had left a team that had been relegated - that worried me," the former Reading, West Ham and Charlton boss told me.

Cortese and chief operations officer Andy Oldknow convinced him he would be given the time to build a new squad. The likes of Dan Harding, Radhi Jaidi, Graeme Murty and Rickie Lambert, who cost £1m, have joined the playing staff, while Pardew has bolstered his coaching team with the arrival of such experienced men as former Brentford boss Wally Downes and ex-Brighton manager Dean Wilkins.

Neverthless, I think Pardew has a tough job at Southampton. Yes, plenty of managers would like to be at a debt-free club with money to spend and playing in a top-class stadium - but with that comes big expectations.

Pardew is under no illusions that Liebherr and Cortese want success, and he reckons his experience of managing expectations could prove vital. He talks with Cortese just about every day and is happy with their working relationship.

"The people here have big plans for this club and I am going to be asked to deliver fairly quickly," said Pardew. "Being debt-free is a nice feeling but my over-riding emotion at the moment is that the team needs to improve."

Pardew has noticed a lack of what he calls "nuts and bolts of football". He is talking about good technical players lacking the work ethic and discipline to succeed.

"Just recently I did a talk to the players, I told them they must play like every game is their last. Potentially it is - one injury, one really bad performance and they may not play for the club again," he said.

He wants the Academy to deliver players with steel as well as skill and is, in the interim, prepared to bring in players with the experience and desire to help Saints win promotion.

There is money to spend but Pardew wants to win promotion in a "fair and honourable way" and, in his words, "not be large". Southampton are unlikely to emerge as the Manchester City of League One.

Saints lost 3-2 at home to Bristol Rovers on Tuesday in what I'm told was a thrilling game. Liebherr came over to watch.

The means Saints have still only won one league match all season and remain bottom of the division. Pardew says promotion is not "off the agenda" this year but admits that his team have a lot more growing to do.

I imagine that many Southampton supporters are just glad that they still have a club to support. As for silverware - the League One trophy would do for starters.

You can follow me throughout the season at


  • Comment number 1.

    Good article, yes very thankful that we still have a club. Still unsure of Pardrew as manager though. Wouldn’t mind knowing how they would extend StMarys capacity to 40,000 possibly even 52,000 as part of the England 2016 World Cup bid? Good times are certainly back in Southampton.

  • Comment number 2.

    I fully expect to be shouted down as "yet another bitter Charlton fan"

    (which i am in some respects!)

    But Southampton deserve better than Pardew.

    Apart from his successful stint at the Hammers (only moments away from lifting the FA Cup) he has shown himself to either be fairly incompetent manager and a person lacking moral fibre.

    He took Reading up before doing the dirty on them.

    Took West Ham up, had a great season before completely losing the plot. Only a Managerial great like Curbishley and a talent like Tevez could have saved the Hammers after the damage wrecked by Pardew.

    Came to the Valley, treated like a saviour. The board chucked money at him left, right and centre. Very naive of them.

    Pardew frittered the money away unscrupulously. Signed an unnecessary number of strikers (6/7), but no defenders.

    He was in charge at the start of last season, and felt it ok to start with one match fit centre half (Mark Hudson - i'm not going to start on that one).

    We had some half decent players in our team last season. The reason we went down was because for a massive chunk of 08/09 we were pub league in terms of fitness, commitment and organisation, all things that a Manager should be on top of.

    What riles me the most is that he blamed everything and everyone but himself, coming out with cheesy little soundbites to the press, trying to give the impression he was cool, calm and in control.

    When Pardew was finally sacked for his incompetence, he took his £1.5 million compensation and naffed off to MOTD to be some kind of "expert".

    Around the same time, Paul Jewell resigned and walked away from Derby.

    I understand he didn't cost them anything to get rid of, he admitted his faults and walked like a man.

    Southampton deserve much better than Alan Pardew.

    Rant over.

    P.s. Paul, i like your blog, keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 3.

    Theres some spelling/grammatical errors in my last post.

    But it was a rant

  • Comment number 4.

    He got them promoted, which is always a good thing, Saints haven't been promoted in over 30 years!

  • Comment number 5.

    Great article.

    We need a solid sustainable rise and it looks like we've got the right people to deliver it. Let's just hope that everyone at the Club including the supporters hold their nerve and give Pardew the time to complete the job.

    What a difference a year makes. This time last year we had "clueless Lowe" in charge, this year we have 2 decent guys running the show and I hope they have a long and rewarding spell leading our Club.

  • Comment number 6.

    Agree with the Pardew is clueless brigade. Dropping Mascherano? Muppet. And he says wants to 'not be large' - well 1 win so far isn't - and I don't think that celebration vs Arsenal that riled Wenger so much was the celebration of a humble man...

  • Comment number 7.

    I think we need to give him time as far to much in this day and age is all about the money.We have to remember we are not in the premier league(at the moment)so i believe the new board must give Pardrew time and money.

    A great signing in lambert but i think we need to get the team geling more together which takes time.

    Its great to hear on the bbc and the net that the super siants are coming back, being in Australia with a best mate whos a Pompey supporter is not the best but at least we are not in debt,selling all our players and playing in a ground that only holds 20000(most of them being pompey girls with 30 creyhole earings in each ear)so guys even though we are bottom we are still red and white!!

    As for the new board thank you very much for your vision in buying a club which deserves to be in the top fold of English football.Mr Liebherr has taken a big gamble in buying the Saints and in todays global slow down takes alot of guts to make a massive commitment in terms of money needed to run a football club.

    We all remember or have been told about the great old days of 76 well keep the spirit and we will return to the top.I dont believe we will go up this year but next season is the season we get there.When we go up we can face the old enemy in Pompey as i get up every sunday morining praying for a saints win and a pompey loss!!

    So now the lowe times have gone get behind them and let them no there is only 1 team on the south coast.

    Come on you Saints!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Rupert wasn't that bad! admitibly Premiership relegation was mainly his fault, but last year things were way out of his control, he couldn't do much to save the club. John May from BBC Sport:

    "Lowe has transformed Southampton from a moribund club in a 15,000 capacity shack, into a multi-million pound business with football at its heart.

    He masterminded a seamless £32m project to move Southampton from The Dell to St Mary's stadium without the loss of Premiership status which has bedevilled other clubs moving home.

    In the process, he has shown that a cool, hard head for business is a more important attribute for a football club chairman these days than a fan's passion allied to a bulging wallet."

    Which I feel is a fair point wouldn't have StMarys without Lowe. But enough about the past, put that behind us look to the bright future!

  • Comment number 9.

    Saints prove that, actually

    You can't win anything with kids.

    Apparently, these kids are 'technically gifted', but lack finishing, passing, marking etc. That would be technique then.

    Lambert is a great signing. Apart from that, these kids have proved nothing. I see nothing to believe the hype. They were rubbish last season and worse this season. Nine points out of ten is totally unacceptable.

    I'm not saying anything like sack the manager or some stupid 'easy, quick' (and mostly ineffective) fix like that. But I see nothing to think that they won't be relegated again. That eleven point safety gap is gonna look much bigger after Christmas. (I think it'll still be there.)

  • Comment number 10.

    Anyone who thinks that Rupert Lowe 'wasn't that bad' is clueless! The man became an absolute menace and is singularly responsible for the clubs demise and current periless if not pitiful situation. As for the 'Lowe and the new stadium' brigade, don't make me laugh! Southampton football club along with Southampton City council had been working on this proposal for many many years, it came to fruition during Lowe's tenure but does anyone really think it would not have come about 'if' Ted Bates had still been alive and at the healm?
    When Rupert Lowe first arrived at Southampton football club as an employee of Southampton leisure holdings he was a relatively well off individual as most Chairman of plc's are. His business 'acumen' before any football knowledge soon saw Souness tell him where to stick his job! After a veritable succession of Managers who could not work with the clown or were to be 'sacked' because they would not tow the line he somewhat fortuitously stumbled upon Gordon Strachen. WGS took the club to some wonderful heights but it started to cost him his health because of his run-ins with Lowe over funding to improve the squad.
    The clown then replaces arguably Saints most successful Manager of ALL time with a total novice when talking about the Premiership. 'Luggy' was bought in from Plymouth Argyle (on the cheap as usual) and somehow expected to take the club 'to the next level'. This was to happen with no experience and no real money for new players. Unfortunately James Beattie and other senior players didn't take to Sturrock's Scottish manner and used his lack of Premiership experience and success at this level as a stick to beat him with when bemoaning the clubs lack of 'image' with dear Rupert. Lowes 'master stroke' was then to replace the hapless and unfortunate Luggy with youth team coach Wigley who had even less experience of Managing than his erstwhile predessesor, but came at a wage price even cheaper. Lowe insisted that Wigley was not to be given the title of Manager (hardly surprising with the trades discription act) and would be known as first team coach? Very motivational! Saints league results and position plummeted but still 'the clown' did NOTHING to rectify matters whilst the club was haemorrhaging its Premiership status!
    Whilst ruining the club in that season Lowe 'continued' to take a personal salary of £650,000 pa plus very generous expenses and even more generous 'bonuses' to himself in the form of shares allocations. For his totally inept performance as Chairman Lowe continued to rob the club blind financially over a number of years going from a 'relatively well off' employee of Southampton leisure holdings to become the multi millionaire Chairman laughingly and well known to have 'known more about hockey' than football! He was a laughing stock inside football but unfortunately for Saints he was also a greedily dangerous individual at the healm of the club. An idividual who didn't have a clue beyond the balance sheets!
    When Saints were eventually relegated they had two 'lifelines' realistically available to them to try and bounce straight back up. One was the parachute payments from the Premier league itself and the second was an excellent strike pairing of Philips and Crouch which had just begun to blossom. Philips was sold for peanuts of less than £1m and Crouch to Liverpool for £7m albeit both players still had more than two seasons to run on their contracts! Another piece of wonderful 'business' by Rupert whilst STILL taking his £650pa plus generous ex's and even more generous share bonuses!
    I could write a book about this useless and clueless individual who single handedly ruined a once proud and succesful club built up on a history of honest endevour. Indeed I challenge any Saints fan to 'google' or 'wikipedia' the clubs history and just note how many managerial changes there were during Ted Bates' tenure as chairman and compare that to Lowes' record.
    Rupert 'not that bad'? He very, very nearly put the club out of business He certainly has put the club back by a whole generation! All this whilst racking up a fortune for himself. As they say, at least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask!

  • Comment number 11.

    I really enjoy your blogs Paul, always good to read something about the clubs in the lower league. However I think that both Pardew and the chairman are far to optimistic here in talking about promotion. This season they should be happy with survival, which is not even close at the moment. Obviously money can get them a better team next season, but there a still a lot of decent teams in te CCL1. It took Leeds some time to figure out how to best get out of this league.

  • Comment number 12.

    Nice to see "new" Saints getting some coverage. We've had some terrible times over the last 5 years and I honestly thought we'd go to the wall earlier in the year.

    I am very VERY grateful to Mr Liebherr and Cortese for saving the club and just as importantly, now running it in the right sensible way.

    They also appear to listen to fans, instead of just the usual PR stunts by the previous failed directors and chairman.

    It will take time to grow Saints back to where we need to be and it will take patience from the fans.... a bit of luck on the pitch wouldn't go amiss either!

  • Comment number 13.

    "The clown then replaces arguably Saints most successful Manager of ALL time with a total novice when talking about the Premiership."

    Erm have you ever heard of Lawrie McMenemy Chelsea alan?!

    Gordan Strachan wasnt even in his league!

  • Comment number 14.

    Correction: Liebherr is German-born, but in fact now a Swiss citizen.

  • Comment number 15.

    Christian Daily might indeed be "yet another bitter Charlton fan" but he is so right about Mr. Pardew.

    I have said from day one that I thought the choice to be a mistake and if the man is unable to inspire his team within six games then he should go.
    So having brought him to the club a six game trial would be sufficient to prove his worth and with no wins he has failed simple as that. Since then we have had a lucky win which was followed by an equally unlucky loss at home and draws are simply not good enough.
    Looks to me like the well structured out fit that have now control of Southampton FC are lacking in some departments as this managerial choice shows, sorry Alan but you never made the cut as far as I am concerned and if you are not replaced with some motivation in the managerial chair soon then division two is a real prospect not a dream like that of promotion or play off’s.

    Chelsea Alan is spot on in with his reply all be it apart from one comment, that relating to Mr Sturrock. Luggy was a wise choice at the time, as a new young manager who had already shown lots of promise and it should be noted that he was the man who bought in Crouch, who many at the time saw as a complete waste of money, oh and yes if you look at the old programs you’ll note that he to was only a first team coach. He is having a very hard time back at Plymouth at present but if you watch any of there past few games you can see that they have a good shape and it wont be long before they are back to winning way’s further more he has had a good amount of success since leaving St Mary’s as any honest Swindon fan will point out.

    As for the Red and Whites, Gordon Stracken or even Graham Souness should be sought out to revive our fortunes and please lets not go down the road of ‘Directors of Football’ by all means use the likes of Lawrie Mac or Mattie as consultants to help direct the club forward might be an idea but payment by results would be far better than having them on the full time pay roll or even the board.

    In closing I whish Southampton a speedy recovery but it wont come without the surgery required to correct the first mistake made by our new owner and Sir even the Swiss clock is ticking.

  • Comment number 16.

    Graeme Souness? That immediately gives your post no credibility whatsoever. Souness was a failure at Saints before and has been so at everywhere bar Rangers when he was able to use Murray's wallet. I suggest you read Matt Le Tissier's autobiography to read how Souness treated his players.

  • Comment number 17.

    Fair point made earlier about Lowe and St Mary's - I remember the day after we won the FA Cup being outside the Civic Centre and all the talk from Southampton's Mayor was about a new ground and nothing happened for the next 25 years!

    As for extending the capacity of St Marys, I believe the original designs included a scaleability factor so it may not be a technical issue, just a logistical/financial one.

    And I still think Nicola Cortese has a look of the Mafia Don about him - useful in the dog eat dog world of English football

  • Comment number 18.

    "The means Saints have still only won one league match all season and remain bottom of the division. Pardew says promotion is not "off the agenda" this year but admits that his team have a lot more growing to do."

    It seems Pardew is still living in cloud cuckoo land after his spell at The Valley if he thinks he can get Southampton promoted this season. As we were dropping closer and closer to the relegation zone in the Championship he would keep saying "We're only x points off the playoffs" yet the fans could all see we were clueless.

    Although Southampton are the best team we've played at home this season, I still think they'd do well to finish 20th given their form so far. To stay up, they're probably looking at winning close to half their remaining games. To get automatic promotion, they probably need to win at least 25 of their remaining 36 games and draw the rest. Laughable.

    No chance of promotion.

  • Comment number 19.

    Chelsea Alan...

    you really don't have a clue do you.

  • Comment number 20.

    Well said Chelsea_Alan. SaintDawkins, you should be banned from the ground for coming out with such drivel. Lowe nearly destroyed us!

    The last thing we need to do is change managers again. Pardew only came in with one friendly remaining before the season started, and he inherited a ragged group of players, many of them youngsters who have experienced nothing but defeat in their short careers. anyone who thinks it's going to be turned around overnight is dreaming.

    We're a major scalp in this league, everyone will be after us. Mid table will be a big achievement this season.

    We should also all be grateful we've still got a club to complain about!

  • Comment number 21.

    Re: SaintDawkins and "Wouldn’t mind knowing how they would extend St. Mary's capacity to 40,000 possibly even 52,000 as part of the England 2016 World Cup bid?"
    The ground would not be extended to 52,000 a this is not viable or physically possible. St. Mary's would be extended to approx 42,000 by way of adding another tier (of approx 5,000 seats each) on top of the Northam & Chapel stands behind each goal, on the areas which are currently used as car parks. The extentions would be added in such a way that they would be neither too expensive to erect or dismantle - & hence they would not be permanent.
    This possible future expansion was taken into consideration when the ground was built. It would also be possible to add another small tier on the back of the Kingsland stand, however this would not present value for money as it would be expensive to do due to the work involved in relation to the number of extea seats it would provide.
    I'm a Newcastle fan living in Southampton and would like to wish Saints all the best for the rest of the season & beyond. I look forward to watching NUFC v Saints in the Premier League in the not to didtant future!

  • Comment number 22.

    One of the best articles on Football I have read in here.

    Top marks.

  • Comment number 23.

    OK, let me say a couple of thing about Pards as he seems to be coming in for a bit of stick here.

    I feel it is only fair to point out that the interview with him took place more last Thursday - two fixtures ago. Saints picked up one point from those two games, had they won them both then his comments might not look so out of kilter with the club's current standing.

    I spoke to Pardew for quite a while but had to leave a lot out in the interests of ensuring this article did not become mind-numbingly long. He definitely did not come across as some kind of big-time charlie or a manager who thinks he has got it cracked at his current club. In fact I got the feeling that he wasn't all that far from reaching the end of his tether with some players.

    Someone asked me yesterday if I thought Pards is a good manager. Well, he definitely could not stop the rot at Charlton. He told me that he felt his biggest strength as a manager was recruitment but that when he looked back on his time with the Addicks he made some decisions in that area that did not work out.

    However, he took over at both Reading and West Ham at difficult points and took them towards promotion - so at the moment he is two relative successes and one failure (with the failure being his last job in management).

    I'm sure he would much rather make that 3-1 to the good that 2-2.

    I guess it is worth adding that if Nicola Cortese is true to his word then you will not hear about Pards coming under pressure or in danger of losing his job from inside the club under something decisive actually happens.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think some Saints fans have got too easily into the habit of blaming the manager for everything and being far too fickle. It's another part of the culture of Southampton that has to change.

    Constantly changing managers just does not work. It has not worked. It contributed to Saints dropping down the leagues. I hope this sinks in with some fans.

    I agree with Paul's assessment that Pardew's job is safe. I think it's very much the culture of Mr Liebherr and Cortese to stick with the decision they've made and the three year contract they gave Pardew is the MINIMUM time he will be given in the job (unless AP himself leaves for whatever reasons)

  • Comment number 25.

    Well the ChocolateBoxKid might think there is no credibility in my post he should remember that while I like many Saints fan’s look upon Mattie as one of our all time greats he was always seen as a lazy player and not therefore a good roll model for others to follow, as few would have his special talent.
    Souness, who I detest indecently, was however there to do a job, not to be liked, that is the managers roll, to see that the team trains, is fit and motivated to win. Nothing less is acceptable and that is my understanding of how Graham was and I have no need to read Matties book to assure you that was the case. Should you need further assurance of that then ask yourself why is it that Mr Souness is held in such high regard by Lawrie Mac.
    During the Low rain we had another exceptional player who could and still dose score goals but this man was nothing more than a Prima Donna and spent a long time in the wilderness after leaving Southampton. While here however he used his position via Rupert to undermine the manager, ugh sorry team coach all of which was the start to the downward spiral. Indeed Mr Low was so naive about such matters and continued to believe that he was a good manager of the team instead of sticking to what he should have been doing, making Southampton FC a strong Premier club with a good bank balance. Realising the game was up he did what any one in his position would do these days and asset striped the club, those are the facts.
    Right now the management need to address the more important fact there first choice manager is not up to the job there seems to be no shape or basic strategy to how he plays the team and has always been know to be lacking in motivation. You can take any grope of youngsters and if given the belief in them self’s then any thing is possible.

  • Comment number 26.

    But Paul, look at Pardew's recruitment record in terms of strikers. His only strategy is to just buy the top scorers from the lower leagues. Admittedly this may work out sometimes, but its more of a hopeful punt than a consideration of work ethic, character and gelling with the rest of the squad, which is equally important. Examples: Luke Varney, Izale McLeod, Ricky Lambert (not saying Lambert is a bad signing, just a continuation of his striker recruitment strategy).

    Signing more and more players isn't the answer to everything - a mistake he kept making at Charlton. The reason we've started this season so well is that Parkinson has made ONE change to the starting XI in the first 10 games.

    I'm sure the "big-time charlie" comment may get a few responses from Charlton fans as well...

  • Comment number 27.

    Essentially, did the Saints lose touch with what made them so successful (by their standars) in 2001 when they opened up St Marys? Yes they had to move forward, and the Dell was no longer fit for purpose. But the sould seemed to have been ripped out of the club following the move. Yes 2002/2003 was an extremely successful season, but they succumbed to relegation. Inevitably, crowd numbers dropped. My point being, when bigger clubs drop down, are these huge stadiums like playing in an abandoned graveyard, as such teams are struggling to bounce back. ie Saints, Leicester, Leeds, Wednesday.

  • Comment number 28.

    #11 it didnt take Leeds ANY time to suss the division out. We gained enough points to get automatic promotion in the first year in the league, but had a points deduction, which put us in the play offs and we lost that. We did this with Wise who left and then McAllisters mismanagement, and still got enough points.

    Last year was a mess for a handful of games under McAllister and this was why we didnt go up. Take out those 7-8 games in nov/dec and again we would have gone up. When Grayson took charge, we looked a very good team.

    This year Leeds have a great SETTLED team (for this division), amazing support - we have taken 4000+ to some away games and a very good manager (the main difference). The fans also pay an arm and a leg to go and watch the games, which makes us by far the wealthiest club in the division (but i massively disagree with our pricing for tickets)

    In contrast Southampton have basically a new squad and a new manager. It will take at least 2 years to even think about play offs. Thats if they dont go down this season - and thats a real possibility.

    I admire the price of tickets at the saints, i think it works out about 12quid a game with a season ticket - you cant watch some non league teams for that! But whilst thats great for the fans, it also means less available money for the club in the long run, thus worse football to watch.

    Alan Pardew is also a joke. He says he doesnt want to buy his way out of the league - then splashes 1mill on Ricky Lambert. WAKE UP. 1mill for this division is an incredible amount of money. Even with big money signings, the Saints wont go up. Pardew has NO experience at this level (1st div). Leeds got a tried and tested manager from this division - as have Charlton - look where those two teams are.

    I feel sorry for Saints and in particular the fans. I can sympathise totally. And i will never forget going to the game at St Marys when we were 3-0 down and scored 4 goals in the last 19 minutes to win 4-3. We only had 4 shots on goal and Saints had about 20 and outclassed us for the entire game. Craziest game of football ive ever seen.

    Anyway, this time next year, Saints will be mid table 1st division or mid table 2nd division and Pardew will be getting fired. Until you get a good manager who knows how to get out of this division, you wont get any success im sorry to say.

  • Comment number 29.

    where do the likes of Chelsea Alan get their information other than through rumour and speculation. I am not a huge Lowe fan but he is an easy scape goat. Relegation from the Premier League was of course a huge blow however at least Lowe had the foresight, unlike other clubs, to have such things in place as relegation clauses in the players contracts so as not to be left with a Premier League wage bill in the Championship. If anything the club were in a a better financial position than any other relegated club, because as businessmen the executive had planned for all eventualities.

    The move to St Mary's wouldn't have happened without him and Andrew Cowen. What is often overlooked is the damage that Michael Wilde and Leon Crouch did with overspending and not delivering on their promised investments. In that period Saints took on players that may have looked cheap on transfer fees, but a lightweight chairman and chief exec agreed to stupid salaries that in the end had a crippling effect. I am the first to admit that there was already several nails in the coffin however the blame lies with several people not just the obvious target.

    I hope what's in the past remains there and we can get behind the new owners, manager & players and get back to where we belong.

  • Comment number 30.

    Good article. It's such a relief to see Saints seem to be back on even keel (sp.?) at last. Particularly when you look at what is going on at Pompey now, not paid wages for this month? What IS going on there?!

    As for the manager, I think we need to give the guy time, this season was never going to be easy, and we should be thankful to be playing at all. There wasn't much time after the take over to sign many players and after all the guys who left we were essentially left with kids and the commendable Kelvin Davies, kudos to him for sticking with us.

    I think this season needs to be about survival and ensuring that we are up to the task for next season. We need to make sure we a) stay in the division and b) garner enough of our reputation back to attract good players, while c) developing the ones we have (and holding on to them)

    previousl posts have rightly pointed out that Pardew has won promotion with previous clubs, his record in the prem' was not so great, but frankly who cares?! That's a long way off, and if he gets us a promotion or two who's to say he wont be snapped up by someone else anyway! It's about what is going on now that's important and we need to focus on the realistic and important challenge of simply stopping the fall down the divisions and beginning the preparatory work to climb back up to where a club of our size belongs.

    (Besides you never know, if we finish high enough and Saint Keegan is successful in his attempt to bankrupt the magpies there may be another space in the Championship opened up!!! )

  • Comment number 31.

    Besides the issue of Pardew, I'd also like to know what Saints fans think of Liebherr/Cortese. There is obviously a great deal of goodwill towards them for saving the club but do you like their plans for building and developing the club? Are you confident they are the right people to take Saints forward in the long term?

  • Comment number 32.

    "Are you confident they are the right people to take Saints forward in the long term?"
    Absolutely yes Paul! Liebherr & Cortese have conducted themselves perfectly to the Saints fans. They seem perfect for us. Rebuilding the club is what we need to do without breaking the bank and Nicola comes from the right background and has the right backer for the job.
    Great times are coming!
    No matter how many Charlton or Pompey fans try to bring us down, the core are happy and optimistic for the longterm future of the club; which is the most important thing. Yes, we won't get promoted this season, but the only way is up for Saints now. We won't get relegated again - mark my words!

  • Comment number 33.

    "He says he doesnt want to buy his way out of the league - then splashes 1mill on Ricky Lambert"


    We bought Ricky Lambert because at that stage, Saints had the grand total of ONE striker in the entire squad. Rasiak and Saganowski said they were definitely leaving and the only other forward in the squad was 18 year old Matt Paterson.

    Also, if you are going to buy a striker for league one football, it would appear to be common sense and lowest risk to go and buy the current highest scorer in League One!

    As for the comments about Rupert Lowe. That man is 100% responsible for the mess the club got into.

    The approach of Liebherr and Cortese is an absolute breath of fresh air compared to the preaching and open mocking of supporters by Lowe and his cronies.

    I like what Cortese has said thus far, the recent fans forum on Radio Solent was excellent and very positive. We can only take them at their word they are here for the long run, due to the massive hurdles they had to overcome to save the club, I have no reason to doubt they are committed to the club. Saints fans should be very thankful to have such a great owner and chairman. When you look around football (and not far down the M27) you see all manner of dubious characters doing strange things at clubs.

    Saints have been all through that and finally, we are on the up again.

  • Comment number 34.

    I can't believe that people are still arguing about Lowe!!! Who cares whose fault it was that we are where we are? That is now history, the sniping, divisions and the in-fighting so please leave it there!!! We have a new owner and everything that Liebherr and Cortese have said and done has been spot on as far as I'm concerned. People can have their opinions on Pardew but please lets give him some time, one of the main reasons we are where we are is because we have chopped and changed managers so often so lets not make the same mistakes again.

    I'm happy with the way things are going for the first time in a while, ok we are still adrift at the bottom but bitching and complaining aren't going to change that. We need a couple more players and to get behind Pardew and the team and have a right good go at this division

  • Comment number 35.

    Any move away from the previous encumbment of Lowe / Crouch is an improvement to be honest.

    The aim of 5 years back to the top flight does seem a little optimistic though but at least they recognise that buying the club is not going to make them money any time soon so their motives are grounded.

    We have a chairman who has made all the right noises and an owner who was prepared to wipe out our debts and take on a struggling outfit with the aim to get us back to the prem. I can't think of a better combination to move us forward in the long term.

  • Comment number 36.

    I have been a Saints fan since the 83/84 season after watching them beat Liverpool 2-0 live on T.V. I used to post on Saints forums a few years ago however become so bored and upset with the in-fighting amongst Saints fans that I now just lurk every-so-often.

    This season is like a breath of fresh air after the years of hurt, humiliation and relegation. While results have not met supporters expectations (do they ever?) there is a real feeing of optimism around the club and the future. Most level headed fans, while bemoaning current form, can see the progress being made and believe Pardew is the right man to move this club forward, on the playing side. He has brought in proven players with big personalities on and off the pitch, which will help the youngsters and take some of the pressure off of them. A team spirit is forming and performances are much improved over last year, if not results, though I fully expect the form to improve as Pardew stamps his mark on the team more fully.

    As for our new owners, everything I have read from them is exactly what is needed. They show ambition, enthusiasm and a geniune love of the club and want this endeavour to suceed. I cannot fault them in their actions so far and firmly believe that they are absolutely the right people to bring this club from the brink and for it to finally realise it's potentially as fully as possible.

  • Comment number 37.

    I hope they are the right people to take the club forward, what I have seen so far is encouraging. I came across Cortese when he was in the Banking world and he seemed then to be a good operator.I also believe that out of the few potential buyers being discussed before the acquisition they are clearly the best option for Saints.

  • Comment number 38.

    Time for me to stand up for Pardew:

    As a Reading fan, I think he did a great job at RFC and laid down the foundations for Steve Coppell to take us up to the Premiership. Once he'd got his team, and got it settled, they played fast attractive football with width, and he brought in a number of young players who were (and still are) Premiership regulars. His time at Charlton may have been poor, but no-one gets it right all the time - just look at Benitez's record at Real Valladolid and Osasuna - but I think there are far worse managers out there, and I fully expect him to prove he's a good manager again.

  • Comment number 39.

    Sir Clive Woodward was the best thing that ever happened to Southampton - is he still there??? if so they will go far.

  • Comment number 40.

    Pardew's main problem is believability. When he was Charlton manager I found myself believing he was going to turn things around and that his so-called 'honesty' was a good quality. But looking back on it he spent a lot of his time talking rubbish, he claimed he tried so many things to turn our fortunes around at the start of last season and none of them worked. I couldn't bring myself to believe anything he says anymore and i feel sorry for Southampton fans that they have him.

  • Comment number 41.

    #39 - Are you actually joking?

  • Comment number 42.

    As stated earlier, we are a scalp for all the clubs in Division 1.
    Fans come to St Marys and say it is like coming to a Premiership club!!
    Maybe the ground, but certainly not the team. They think of Saints as a big club, we may be "BIG" up against the other Div 1 teams but we need to be realistic. We are no longer a big club! And we need to start getting results, as in previous seasons the football is nice, but there is a lack of an end result.
    Give Pardew time, I'm sure he will turn things around, but the fans need to be realistic, promotion will not happen this season and who knows after that? We are a challenge and all clubs raise their game when they play us.

  • Comment number 43.

    what's the deal with the 'photoshop'd' photo? very strange.

  • Comment number 44.

    Like most bloggers I feel great to have our club back from the brink; but am I missing something because I just don't get all the hype about Ricky Lambert? Five goals so far, three of which were penalties, might be good enough to be current top scorer but with such a uni-dimensional style, no pace and no flair he's just so easy to defend against. Did he turn up at carlisle? He was pretty much invisible throughout the game and until Holmes came on and Lallana moved to the right side up front the game plan was ineffective - point being more of a leader or a creative player in attack would have induced more variety at a much earlier stage to unsettle the Carlisle defence and would free other players to take more responsibility when in sight of goal. True, we did have a lot of corners so we were attacking quite a bit, for a visiting team, but if it hadn't been for a 'naughty goalie' moment in the extra, extra time we would have been sunk.
    Somebody put me out of my misery and explain what is it about Lambert that makes him worth £1m and an extended run in the side??

  • Comment number 45.


  • Comment number 46.

    As a Watford fan, I always enjoyed our games against the Saints including the most bizarre half of football I've seen in 31 years of supporting the 'Orns at St Mary's last season. My point is that there is a colleague who is a West Ham fan and when he heard that Pardew had been appointed he couldn't believe it as he thought that they would be better off having a manager who has as much or more experience than him but wasn't as high profile so he could just get on with his job with as little fuss around him as possible.

  • Comment number 47.

    "Someone asked me yesterday if I thought Pards is a good manager. Well, he definitely could not stop the rot at Charlton. He told me that he felt his biggest strength as a manager was recruitment but that when he looked back on his time with the Addicks he made some decisions in that area that did not work out."


    Paul Fletcher - Thats classic Pardew bs. He spun you a line and you fell for it.

    Pardew had one of the highest Championship budgets and was one of the highest paid Managers. He turned us into a disorganised, unfit and heartless team. And he still wont admit that it was his fault because he's an incompetent Manager. He's too smug for that.


    "No matter how many Charlton or Pompey fans try to bring us down"

    Chris Marsden - I'm not having a pop at the Saints. I'm saying you deserve better than Pardew.

  • Comment number 48.

    Lambert has scored 6 goals in 12 games so far for Saints, with 3 assists for others. I think those stats are pretty damn good for a player in a struggling team!

    The problem isn't Lambert, but that Saints are taking too long to work out how to play alongside him. He's winning most things in the air, but the flick ons don't get read.

    I've seen Lambert give some lovely first touches, but I'd rather instead of coming deep to get involved that Saints get better at providing him with crosses (like the one he scored from against Rovers with) and also feeding him the ball to his feet in and around the box.

  • Comment number 49.

    A great article and this comment in particular caught my eye:

    "Pardew has noticed a lack of what he calls "nuts and bolts of football". He is talking about good technical players lacking the work ethic and discipline to succeed."

    Spot on, especially given the fact that the players seem to give up before the end of matches. We take the lead then the players either get nervous or complacent and then, before you know it, the ball is in Saints' net. People say the players are 'used to losing' after last season's shambles, but ten games in with only three defeats that can't surely still be an excuse? Also, the club has quite a few new players who aren't 'used to losing'; only the players left from previous team are and frankly, if they still haven't got last season out of their systems then they need to either pull themselves together or get out. This is why I think that Pardew has hit the nail on the head when he refers to a lack of work ethic and discipline to succeed. The lack of a decent pre-season is an issue but, again, we're ten games in and this can't be a valid reason for non-performing any longer.

    I can understand Charlton fans' resentment and annoyance re. Alan Pardew, as we Saints fans feel pretty much the same way about a certain Harry Redknapp who came here to spite then Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric, wasn't really interested in the job and took us down before disappearing back to Portsmouth when he and Mandaric kissed and made up. Not to mention all the crowing and 'Agent Redknapp' taunts that we subsequently put up with from the blue part of Hampshire. So I can see where you are coming from, but don't forget that AP did a good job with Reading and West Ham and let's hope that he does a good job with the Saints too. He needs time, let's not forget the players are the ones on the pitch, it's not Pardew who is letting in late goals and giving up before the final whistle and if he can kick some overpaid backsides and get rid of the really bad underperformers in order to get Saints going again then great.

    There are cries for Pardew's head but, frankly, this is ridiculous and chopping and changing managers by the previous regime (plus some truly dreadful appointments in this area by Lowe and co - Redknapp, Wigley, Poortvliet, Wotte, etc) is one of the reasons we have fallen so far.

  • Comment number 50.

    As a gashead (bristol rovers fan) I think Lambert was an excellent signing for you (even if it did seem strange that he left for a team in the same division, given that he stated he wanted to play at a higher level)

    Like one post said, who better to get. The current top scorer in the division, with a wealth of experience at this level, and who has also scored in Cup games against higher level clubs. And it wasn;t even £1m. it was apparently only about £800k, plus around £200k possible add-ons. How much did Cox go for? Or Delph?

    #44 has a point on his weaknesses, but from what I have heard, the saints have been using him rather differently than the way we did. Partly that could be good (i have heard comments that he has become fitter), but partly that could be bad.

    For us he usually played in a slightly deeper position, off the back of the striker(s). he was NOT played as a traditional striker. That apparently was the what he thought his strengths were (including being involved in everything - pen taker & free kick taker, both of which he is excellent at - we pretty much had to build the team around him, whereas now we have more freedom, and more pace). It actually took quite a while for him to become the striker that he became for us. These things don't happen over night.

    Yes, he has no pace (we did not expect pace from him). And yes, he does drift in and out of games. Yes, he does score a decent percentage of his goals from penalties and free kicks.

    But he does have vision and flair. His passing is excellent. He is a link player, plus a 'traditional' centre forward at times (especially at corners and set pieces). Just don;t expect him to be a deeper link player AND then dash forward and be a predatory striker. Rarely do you get both!

    I was surprised that some Saints fans told Gasheads on Tues that they hadn't seen his shot. He has a top drawer long shot (which goes well with the deeper link role - defenders lay off him, thinking they are safe, and give him room for a shot). One of the most powerful and accurate shots (inc free kicks) at this level.

    use it.

    If your system allows it....

  • Comment number 51.

    After reading this article it reminds me why we all have to be patient and sit through the frustrating games like we all do. Make no doubt about it were playing well under the expectency that comes with a club which is backed by money, but take a moment to reflect on the turmoil this club has gone through the past years and then ask it really all that surprising that our club is the situation it was before Liebherr came along with a vision to take us back to where we all long to be. Lets take a step back and look at who has put his own money into saving our club. " A BUSINESS MAN " Liebherr is a business man in every sense of the word and is succesful enough to know our club was worth saving above all other clubs he could've chosen. The task were all faced with is " PATIENCE " and what a task it is, as i personally find it hard to find the patience to wait for the kettle to boil let alone for the next game to come along. So it is with my ramble out the way that i ask for a UNITED PATIENCE from all fans and before long we will be where we long to be and sure enough we will be back on here moaning about ticket prices in the Premier league. Lets stick together, roar loader than the other fans and be patient as the spirit is returning to the south. SFC FOREVER

  • Comment number 52.

    A few things worth bearing in mind with regards to Saints tepid start to the season- given the off season issues, the Saints pre season preparations really didn't begin until a month after everyone else. Wotte did a brave job keeping the playing ship steady, but now there is more of a long term plan in operation, one feels in both a business and playing sense. The slow results may have a lot to do with that. I wonder if maybe we might come up on the rails late and squeek into the playoffs, from which position anything might be possible.

    I think the new ownership seem very clued up. Liebherr is a bit of a mystery figure, but the money has come into the club (unlike across the coast as P*censored*h.) and that side of things seems a lot more settled. Pardew has a good reputation in the lower leagues, and personally he seems like an inspired choice as manager. I understand the concerns about him from Charlton fans, but he did a good job at Reading, and West Ham. (I seem to remember the poor start which got him fired at West Ham had a lot to do with injuries??) But Pardew is used to clubs with limited budgets. Might take a couple of years for promotion, but I am confident it will come reasonably quickly, and once the clubs gets momentum going it will be worth keeping an eye on.

  • Comment number 53.

    Keep the jokers out of the pack.

  • Comment number 54.

    As a Saints fan I couldn't be happier with the start made by Liebherr and Cortese. The way they have conducted themselves has been businesslike and professional; After the internal politics which almost saw the club fold this is undoubtably a source of comfort to many fans.

    I have no idea who is to blame for the position the club found itself in prior to the start of this season. Varying accounts from inside St Mary's make it hard to tell hero from villan. I'm sure the story, once it is told, will be interesting however, thankfully it will be just that, an interesting story; not the post-mortem it could so easily have been. For this we have Liebherr and Cortese to thank.

  • Comment number 55.

    I have never commented before and I probably never will again but I would just like to say this To all those so called 'Southampton Supporters' who are knocking the current Southampton Football Club Manager, and Team if you are truly Southampton Football Club Supporters then start supporting them!!!

    And that means SUPPORT every person who has anything to do with the Football club from the very top to the very bottom!

    Support, Support, SUPPORT!!!

    Let go of everything about the past that was bad! Let it go now! Let it go forever! It's over, it's dead, it's gone! Move on!

    The longer you keep harping on about what is all done and dusted and the longer you keep knocking OUR TEAM (whoever they are), OUR MANAGER (whoever he is and whatever his past WAS) and/or his staff the longer there will be big, black dark clouds hanging over OUR CLUB and over all of us.

    We, as true SUPPORTERS, welcome your praise and support for OUR TEAM,for OUR MANAGER, and for OUR CLUB and OUR CHAIRMAN and OUR STAFF.

    But if you've got nothing good to say about OUR TEAM then we do not want to hear it because you are most definitely NOT supporting them and are then most definitely NOT a SUPPORTER of Southampton Football Club.

    Encouragement, Support, Positivity and Praise is what everyone needs now and we encourage you to also start thinking and acting that way for the common GOOD of OUR TEAM and OUR CLUB and all of us.

    44 years now I have followed Southampton and all I ever remember is all I ever wanted to do was SUPPORT them and so that is what I do as there is nothing else that I can do to help OUR TEAM.

    So please, all of you, whoever you are, wherever you are, please if you call yourself a follower, a fan or a SUPPORTER of Southampton Football Club then SUPPORT them!


    Today, Tomorrow, Forever "Come On You SAINTS"

  • Comment number 56.

    :O drcachondas, don't talk about Saintdawkins like that!! She is pretty awesome i'll have you know! She may be a pretty shoddy typist but that's not an excuse for her to be banned from the stadium!! I hope you're happy GOODNIGHT!!


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