Ice hockey chief Ralph Krueger poised to start Southampton role

By Ben SmithBBC Sport
Ralph Krueger
Ralph Krueger

A coach who helped Canada to ice hockey gold at the Sochi Winter Olympics will begin work at Southampton this week.

Ralph Krueger, who was born in Canada but has lived in Europe for more than 30 years, has never worked in football.

The 54-year-old former ice hockey player has been appointed by owner Katharina Liebherr as part of a reshaped management setup at St Mary's.

"We'll look at ways to improve commercially and continue to grow what's already there," Krueger said.

"Katharina was looking for someone to come in from sport on the leadership side. She has strong values and a fresh and interesting perspective on sport."

At this stage, Krueger's exact job description remains unclear but it is understood he has acted as an advisor to Liebherr for some time. He is expected to be in the stands at St Mary's for Southampton's match with Liverpool on Saturday.

During the Winter Olympics, Krueger worked as a consultant to the Canadian ice hockey team, specialising in scouting European opposition and advising on the differences between international ice hockey and that played in the National Hockey League (NHL) in North America.

Canada have now won back-to-back gold medals in the men's tournament, having failed to make the podium in Turin in 2006.

During that tournament, they lost to a Switzerland team coached by Krueger, who had previously managed the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL.

Southampton - and football - will provide a different challenge for the German citizen but he has already spent time at the club and has held a series of lengthy talks with manager Mauricio Pochettino.

He is expected to work on aspects of performance and training, as well as team-spirit and motivation. But the majority of his work will be on the commercial side.

Speaking in Sochi, Krueger said he had no intention of stepping on Pochettino's toes.

"This is the start of a new world for me," he said.

"I've got to come in gently. We don't need sudden changes of direction. What Mauricio doesn't need is someone getting involved day-to-day.

"He and his staff need space so they can continue to grow the group. I've met Mauricio; he's very honest, a strong personality and he has strong values. I will stay in my place. He should feel comfortable."

Krueger is one of three key sporting advisors that Liebherr has worked with closely over the past six months, a time during which her relationship with former executive chairman Nicola Cortese, who left the club in January, collapsed.

Away from ice hockey, Krueger has also made a name for himself in motivational speaking.

His book, 'Team Life: Over Losses to Success' is based on the twin principles of respect for the team and discipline within it. It was a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic.

Krueger's appointment has parallels with Southampton's decision to hire England's World Cup-winning rugby coach, Sir Clive Woodward in 2005.