Southampton are the very definition of ‘bouncebackability’. Whether it’s the loss of playing staff or a much-loved manager, the south coast club always find a way to rebuild and, often, rebuild on stronger, grander, foundations.
From the doldrums of their spell in League One, Southampton are now a stalwart of the Premier League’s top half with a supreme reputation for making do with whatever situation they are thrown into. The days when Nigel Adkins was sacked saw protests, amazement and concern for the club, as did the summer that hosted the sales of Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert – the Saints’ captain and leading goalscorer. The loss of Mauricio Pochettino, Morgan Schneiderlin and others saw the tipsters claim that the club could just not survive in the top flight any longer.
Now, Ronald Koeman, Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama have left. Koeman, who has been one of the league’s best managers over the past two seasons, opted for a questionable move to Everton and there is a worry that he will snatch a few more of Southampton’s best before the summer is out.
It all seems so doom and gloom for the red and white on the south coast. New managers are being disparaged already and this could, if you believe the murmurings, be the start of the downfall of Southampton with the club ready to plummet towards Plymouth Argyle rather than shoot up to be England’s own Atletico Madrid.
This is probably not true, let’s face it. Each summer we have all shown some nail-biting concern for the club. Again, they will hire a manager with intelligence, and understanding of the club’s beliefs, and will spend wisely. Their scouting system is unrivalled, their academy is fruitful and there is a calm demeanour about the place.
There really is a huge amount to admire about Southampton. This is not a club who panic in their managerial selections, or overspend wildly, even if things did begin to slip towards relegation, there is no suggestion that Saints have overstretched themselves financially.
They are a great example of how to run a football club. Pochettino was doubted when he was appointed and people raised-eyebrows about how Koeman would cope with a weakened squad, yet they just continue to achieve and improve. It is about the way that the club approaches everything, from day-to-day running to signing a player – it is sensible, it is refined, it is mature in a way that we seldom associate with the Premier League.
Whether it is Claude Puel, Marcelo Bielsa or Gary from the corner shop, Southampton will muddle through. In fact, they’re likely to do a fair bit more than muddle through, they will be a success, you’d expect. Some clubs just seem to know how to deal with change and boy have Southampton had some practice. The loss of Wanyama is far more of a concern than the erratic Mane, but does that make you question if they will recruit properly? Of course not.
There are probably easier jobs in the Premier League than Southampton, yet there are few clubs that give the same support to a manager. Koeman was allowed to adapt the side in both style and personnel to his own desires, as was Pochettino. Few managerial hierarchies are able to give managers both autonomy and the necessary restraint like Southampton do. it is a model that more should admire and even more should follow.