On Monday night just before 9pm, the news finally arrived that many Southampton fans had been waiting months for – manager Mauricio Pellegrino had been sacked.
It had certainly been a decision that had been a long time coming, with those outside of the city probably not quite fully aware of just how bad things had got for the south coast outfit following a run of just one win in 17 Premier League matches.
The 46-year-old arrived at St Mary’s from La Liga outfit Alaves as Claude Puel’s successor last summer with a promise from vice-chairman Les Reed that he would come in and play the exciting, attacking football that had been distinctly lacking under the Frenchman despite an eighth-place finish and reaching the League Cup final.
Things started off promisingly on the opening day of the season and while their match against Swansea City at St Mary’s ended in a goalless draw, the hosts showed their attacking intent with 29 efforts at goal.
That dominance and excitement in the final third has rarely been reproduced – if at all – since then, with the club’s only Premier League victories throughout the campaign coming against a West Ham United side that played for an hour with 10 men, a Crystal Palace team in the middle of a seven-match losing run where they failed to score, West Bromwich Albion – who look destined for the Championship – twice, and finally against an Everton side that had just been beaten 5-1 by Atalanta and were struggling under David Unsworth.
Southampton have got used to being relatively strong at home over the course of the last three or four seasons in the top flight, but it hasn’t been the case this term.
They have failed get more than a point against relegation rivals Swansea, Stoke City, Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town and Brighton and Hove Albion, while they were beaten 2-1 by Crystal Palace – who are currently in 18th-place – at the start of January, which left fans on social media furious.
After many of those games you could have made a reliable case for Pellegrino to get the chop, but it never happened.
Alarm bells would have been ringing for the supporters when they were beaten 1-0 by Burnley at St Mary’s in November, and then 4-1 by Leicester City on their own patch the following month.
The Argentine boss was showing time and time again that he wasn’t as tactically adept as some of his rival managers, and that he wasn’t learning from his mistakes.
While there were a few grumbles and murmurings at the final whistle following each of those defeats – and the one against Palace at the start of 2018 – the majority of Saints supporters didn’t really make their feelings known in the stadium after the final whistle, and it was strange.
In the modern day if you want to get media coverage and force the club to make a decision that needs to be taken, you need to do it in the public eye and really make it clear that the manager needed to go for the sake of their Premier League status.
Now, I’m not saying Southampton supporters were wrong not to chant for Pellegrino to go during games – they were right to support their team – but before or after the final whistle they could have done more to ensure that the clearly out of his depth 46-year-old didn’t make it to almost mid-March still in a job.
There has been few – if any – signs that he was changing things around, and while the fan base have been particularly vocal through social media platforms like Twitter about wanting Pellegrino to go, they didn’t do enough on matchdays when it would have made the biggest difference.
The supporters as a whole must take some blame for that for being too nice and almost turning a blind eye to the plight of a team that secured four successive top-eight finishes previously.
They aren’t the only ones who have made mistakes in this whole sorry affair though, with Reed, Ralph Krueger and new owner Gao Jisheng – who the St Mary’s faithful have barely heard from – also having plenty to answer to.
One point above the relegation zone and with eight Premier League matches left to play this season – including against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City – everybody must now unite behind the new manager to ensure the club doesn’t suffer a disastrous relegation.