One of the most ridiculous decisions of a madcap Premier League season, (one in which a manager decided to have a stack up with a star striker, a Champions League winner was ousted three months into the new campaign and a west London club waited until January to realise Kieran Dyer was never going to regain full fitness) was made on the south coast this week, that being the dismissal of Nigel Adkins as manager of Southampton. One of the most ridiculous and possibly one of the most damaging also.
Nigel Adkins had done a fantastic job as Saints boss, guiding the club from League One to the Premiership in just two years. If he was to hold his hands up and be honest, the start of his managerial career in the top flight wasn’t the best – 28 goals conceded in his first ten games, resulting in only one win and four points – but there were signs recently that he was beginning to turn things around. Four wins, two defeats and six draws in the last twelve league games points to one thing; that both the manager and his players had maybe been caught off guard with the frenetic pace and superior skill level of the top flight initially but that they had now firmly grasped what was required of them to stay in the top division. The fans certainly thought as much also, chanting Adkins name loudly and proudly at every game. It is also no secret that Adkins is an affable and likeable guy and this is more than likely why his players seem to enjoy playing for him and give all they have in every match. To break all this up mid season, for no apparent reason, is very odd and could be very destabilising for everyone at the club.
It is not however, the fault of new manager Mauricio Pochettino, by all accounts a forward thinking young coach well regarded in Spain. Any manager offered the chance to manage in the Premier League would jump at it so he shouldn’t be scorned for his ambition. He does though need to work quickly and efficiently to bring both his new players and the fans onside, so a win against Everton on Monday night is vital. A loss in his first game at St. Mary’s would put him on the back foot straight away and because of the perceived harsh treatment of Adkins, he may find it difficult to recover.
Southampton were 15th when Adkins left, steadily climbing up the table, playing decent football and learning what the Premier League is all about. If Pochettino doesn’t hit the ground running, all that hard work will be quickly undone and the result could be extremely damaging for everyone at the club.