Watching football fans watching the football
In a shock announcement, Nigel Adkins has been sacked by Southampton Football Club.
But you already knew that.
You already knew that because up and down the country fans, journalists and pundits are all using their voices to express their disbelief, shock and disgust at the decision. Their voices are deafening.
A typical Twitter reaction from outside Southampton
Had the average football fan been in hibernation since October, anticipating what is rapidly turning into a harsh winter, then the sacking of Nigel Adkins – a popular figure in Southampton – might not have been a surprise.
However, for the rest of us following the Saints' improving fortunes and continuing good form, this is an embarrassing decision and one that has the potential to put the club back in time by several months. It has just as much potential to put the club back an entire division.
Southampton’s threat of relegation is still far too realistic for comfort. Despite beating Aston Villa and getting unthinkable points at Stoke and Chelsea, Southampton remain three points above the bottom three, which says a lot about their fight for survival.
Even with the likes of QPR and Reading spending the majority of this season looking desperate, they are not out of sight. Results this weekend could be damaging.
Nigel Adkins’ tenure as Southampton manager looked under threat as early as October 7th, when his team were 2-1 down to Fulham at St. Mary’s. Barely weeks before, Saints had been on the end of a 6-1 mauling at Arsenal, but home wins against teams like Fulham can keep teams up – or not.
Adkins directs operations against Fulham
With minutes to go, an equaliser was found, turning a devastating defeat into a valuable point. Adkins was spared but he was still in danger. More so when Saints lost 4-1 to West Ham and 3-0 to Leeds, teams they had bettered just months before with a weaker squad.
He hung on, and the club’s hierarchy were rewarded for what seemed like their sense of faith. Southampton have lost just twice in the past 12 games, and proved they have enough about them to remain in the Premier League.
In recent weeks, Saints have beaten Newcastle, Reading, Aston Villa and QPR – four of the five teams currently below them. Points off those teams are precious. Then there were creditable draws with Arsenal, Fulham and Swansea. For a newly promoted team, one that was in League One not so long ago, 15th place is a fine achievement.
So not only is this a baffling decision, but it has all the indications of a club that has gone mad.
Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese wraps up warm
Many Southampton fans have felt that, should the worst happen and the club get relegated from the Premier League after a single season, Nigel Adkins should be retained. Why? Because he knows the Championship very well: after all, he masterminded the club’s escape from it.
So why has a manager who has worked with this set of players for months, got good results out of them – earned two promotions out of some of them – been replaced by Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino, who has a poor track record, little knowledge of English football and does not even speak English?
Insanity is too weak a word.
The powers that be at Southampton Football Club have already polarised supporters, despite the club’s return to the Premier League and the providing of funds for exciting players.
There have been strange decisions – banning photographers, banning newspapers, sacking programme sellers – but this could prove to be the final nail in the coffin of the relationship between club and fan.
Let us not forget, it was the same decision-makers who sacked Alan Pardew, risking it all to replace him with Adkins, at the time a relative unknown. Pardew had just overseen a 4-0 win away from home, and Adkins was managing Scunthorpe.
So, farewell then...
Adkins should still be the Southampton manager. There should not have even been a question over his position, and the team should have been preparing for the Everton match on Monday with confidence.
Instead, years of hard work has been undone, and the rest of the season looks at best challenging. Perhaps a thought should be spared for Pochettino, who faces an impossible task to win over a fan-base united in its torment.
Relegation would be disastrous. Players on high wages and brought in for high transfer fees could bring the club to its knees once again. Pochettino could well be in charge of the club’s very existence.
Southampton Airport is closed today due to poor weather. Whoever made this decision has no escape. Unfortunately, given the unwarranted ruthlessness with which Adkins was sacked this morning, they probably aren’t that bothered.
Thank you, Nigel Adkins, for all your efforts: they will never be forgotten.
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