Southampton Football Club have not made things easy for themselves this season. First there was the decision to only give accreditation to one photography agency this season, an ill-advised move motivated solely by profits which has alienated the club from the press and led to a boycott of ‘Digital South’ by regional news outlets.
Then there was the tragic death of club owner Markus Liebherr, an event which cast some doubt of the clubs long-term financial prospects. However, just when those issues had been resolved and clarified, Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese seized the opportunity (in a rather cynical fashion) to impose his own “vision” on the club.
It had been widely rumoured that Cortese’s professional relationship with manager Alan Pardew was a poor one, but few thought that the Italian would be brash enough to fire the former West Ham boss – Pardew having guided the club to a more than respectable seventh placed finish last season with the added handicap of a ten-point penalty. However, following last week’s 4-0 victory over Bristol Rovers, fire him was exactly what Cortese did.
This seemingly wilful, apparently personally-motivated act of self-harm angered a majority of Saints fans and, with no mention of the sacking other than a rather perplexing club statement having been made, the worryingly despotic Executive Chairman seems to be attempting to sweep the whole affair under the proverbial carpet.
With the club obviously not seeing Pardew as a manager capable of taking them into the Championship, fans now wait with an irascible interest to see who Cortese is able to bring to St Mary’s. There have been rumours that both Martin O’Neill and (frighteningly) Phil Brown have applied for the job, although just how accurate such reports turn out to be remains to be seen.
Dean Wilkins, a member of Southampton’s coaching staff, is temporarily taking charge of the first team, but results have not been good – today’s 2-0 defeat to Rochdale being a case in point – and it is looking increasingly like the Executive Chairman’s actions have done far more harm than good.
A traditionally turbulent club with regard to turnover of managers, it had looked like Southampton were finally embarking on an extended period of stability under Pardew’s leadership. Alas, it was not to be so and the club’s remarkable capacity for self-destruction has again come to the fore.
Cortese, a somewhat erratic and power-hungry businessman, needs to act fast and find the club a manager better-placed to guide the club up the league pyramid than Pardew – a very difficult task indeed. If he is not able to do so then Southampton, a club that has been through so much in recent years, could be back to square one.