Adkins sacking breaks Southampton fans hearts, but don’t call Cortese a fool

Nicola Cortese: You can call him many things, but a fool isn't one

Nicola Cortese: You can call him many things, but a fool isn’t one

The sense of loss Southampton fans have felt these past few days is as strong as the rest of the football community is imagining.

Not only was Nigel Adkins the clubs saviour, taking the club from League One to Premier League in consecutive seasons, the fans have also lost a man they loved for his positive attitude and all-round good guy personality. His relationship with the fans made them feel as much a part of the team and as worthy of a pat on the back as the players.

And now, just like that, he’s gone.

But for all the football community’s shock and disbelief that the club’s chairman, Nicola Cortese, could be so foolish, there has been very little in depth understanding of the development of the club over the past few years. There’s a lot more to this staggering progress than the success of one manager, and Saints fans know this.

The media have quoted Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier describing the chairman as a “laughing stock” (a line too juicy for most to avoid). Yet they’re overlooking that this is the same Le Tissier who was beaten in a bid for the club by this very same chairman (and the bad blood has escalated since).

Cortese, an ex-banker, persuaded his millionaire friend Markus Liebber, to purchase the club after he spotted their dormant potential: Premier League ground, phenomenal youth system, and sitting in League One.

Liebber ageed to invest, but only on the condition that Cortese ran the show. The plan was to create a Barcelona style set up that could rule the world: with 50% of the team graduating from the youth team, and playing attacking, progressive, football. No lack of ambition from a club in the lower leagues.

Alan Pardew was recruited with clear objectives: we’ll give you millions to spend, you give us promotion. He did well, but ultimately didn’t fulfil his part of the bargain and was unceremoniously dumped.

Adkins came on board and met the challenge: back to back promotions (although with apparent discontent from the chairman that it didn’t come with any league trophies). In normal football folklore, fairytale stuff. But in the world of Cortese, just another step towards his ultimate goal.

In interviews after Southampton beat Coventry to secure promotion to the Premier League, an oddly reflective Adkins talked as if this was the end of the road rather than the beginning. This was a man who new what was at stake.

Before the amusing titled ‘el sackico’ game against QPR, a feisty Adkins told the media he was up for the challenge and the man for the job. But his message sounded more like it was intended for the chairman than the readers.

Now in the Premier League, after a tough start, the team and Adkins showed growing potential (not many teams come back from two goals down to draw at Stamford Bridge). But if viewed through the eyes of Cortese’s and his targets (people sniggered when he talked about qualifying for the Champions League, but he means it) potential isn’t enough.

Without anyone realising it, Cortese had been lining up a potential replacement all along. I don’t believe Adkins would have found his sacking unexpected, he will have understood well the deal all along, but I suspect he will have hoped he’d done enough to remain until the end of the season.

Appointing a new manager at this time of the season is risky enough. Add to that the fact he doesn’t speak English and has no Premier League experience and you can’t blame outsiders for questioning the chairman‘s sanity.

However, you’re looking at a chairman with massive expectations and no sentiment, with the nerve to risk money and trust his instincts (ex-banker, remember). His modus operandi is meet the agreed target or you’re out. And that kind of mentality is where winners are born. It might not be fun working for him (if you’re lucky enough to keep hold of your job in the first place), but don’t take him for a fool.

Cortese hasn’t got much wrong up till now. In the future, the decision to ditch Adkins could well be seen as astute as the one to sack Pardew.

Written by @louisekyme


7 Comments on “Adkins sacking breaks Southampton fans hearts, but don’t call Cortese a fool

  1. The more intelligent of Saints supporters would agree with this piece 100%. There is one reason Saints are of a sound financial footing and looking up not looking down, Nicola Cortese. You may not like your boss but it doesnt mean he isnt a genius hungry for success. Fellow Saints supporters see this all as a slant on Adkins but in reality Cortese is the ultimate suppporter, with the ability and balls to move the football club forward at the pace he wants. i only hope the lack of english element and timing doesnt back fire. Its always exciting to be a Saints Supporter!

  2. Its a high risk strategy which introduces significant instability at this time Saints could surely do without it. Jury is out for now. I have yet to work out whether Cortese is a “genius” or just another Chairman without a clue who is betting on the new incumbent delivering for him. Success for Saints this year is survival in the Prem which at an improving 15th we were on our way to achieving. The outcome will only be known in May and we will all have to live with the consequences [good or bad]

  3. I guess you must be right.

    Bankers have a fabulous record of decision making and looking at long term benefits rather than short term gain.

  4. I have read the above article and well written it is.I just don’t believe NC is that clever.The new manager has little time to adjust and will be judged very harshly along with the chairman if the team does not progress quickly.One can only hope that both will meet the new expectations.

  5. A very well-written blog. I was aghast when Adkins was sacked. However, Southampton have been steady since Pochettino’s appointment. Highlighted by the win against Manchester City. Early days, but the signs are positive. Maybe Cortese really is an astute chairman?

  6. Early signs of Pochettino’s influence certainly have been very positive. He inherited a super team (see my earlier blogpost on our youthful talent: ) and hasn’t changed an enormous amount from Adkins. The big difference has been volume. Aggressive pressing high up the pitch, hounding the opposition into losing the ball, attack, attack, attack. You won’t find many complaints from the South Coast at the moment after that Man City win.

  7. Pingback: Wonder week epitomises Saints progress | One Foot In The Game

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