2017/18 The Post Mortem Part 1
Tuesday, 12th Jun 2018 09:32
In the first part of our look back at last season we take a look at the culpability of the owner and board for what almost turned out to be a total disaster.
When setting out to try and dissect the last 12 months and put my finger on just what it was that went wrong it soon became clear that this was not going to be easy, there were more than one reason as to why it went to pot and nearly turned out a total disaster.
That there were many things that were going wrong, some our own fault and some totally beyond our control varying from the petulance of Virgil Van Dijk, through some injury issues, poor refereing decisions and at times just plain bad luck,, there were too many different aspects to look at in just one piece, so I thought I would break it down into a series of post mortem articles and take each in isolation, I start right at the top.
There are many Saints fans who blame Gao Jisheng, Ralph Krueger and Les Reed totally for the season, of course they have to take their share of the blame, but to pin everything on them is unfair.
Football clubs these days and especially those in the Premier League are big operations, the club probably has around 10 times the full time non playing staff it had in the final years of the Dell, over the past decade it has grown at a fast rate as we try to build the infrastructure to support a Premier League football team and that is not an easy task.
Twenty years ago it was a simple structure, the board consisted of local businessmen who essentially ran the club and appointed a manager and a few assistants to run the playing side of things and transfers etc, that method is old fashioned and as obsolete as having a selection committee to pick the team as it was when the club first started, to call for the sacking o the board is short sighted, firstly there are those on it who are not concerned with football matters, why should the finance director or the man responsible for marketing and getting in sponsorship be sacked when they have done an excellent job, you have to pin point the actual reasons why we went wrong and then look at what the solution is..
Some supporters blame the new owner Gao Jisheng, they complain that he has not pumped money into the club and has not revealed his plans for the future.
I would suggest that this is not a major issue, of course Gao will be looked at with suspicion, he is coming from a country far away and has no track record in football, but personally I would rather an owner who silently got on with things rather than promise us the earth.
He has bought into the club because he not only sees it's potential, but he sees that it is well run, you don't get to amass a fortune and succeed in business making knee jerk decisions, so far Gao seems content to let those who know how to run a football club get on with it and have a policy of evolution not evolution.
He was never going to pump millions into the club, that is also good, we have seen what has happened at other clubs, Aston Villa especially right at this moment, the problem with Chinese owners is that at times the government over there block large amounts of money leaving the country, as Villa are now finding, if you base your budget on money being pumped in from abroad you are wide open to issues as is happening to them now, you can't pay the bills if the owner can't get money out of the country.
So Gao is approaching it from the right way, he like Markus & Katharina Liebherr before him wants the club run as a business, it has to pay it's own way and develop itself and be self supporting financially, yes he seems willing to help fund certain projects to aid that development but only when needed.
So although Gao has got stick from some Saints fans, in the main it is unfair and although he does not seem a man to make public pronunciations, that is good an we are already seeing the club develop in other areas including China, so no real blame can be attached to Gao for this season.
Next up is Ralph Krueger, we have been brought up with controversial Chairman who like the limelight in Rupert Lowe and Nicola Cortese and that has blurred our view of just what the Chairman of the club should do, it is not a full time position.
Cortese and Lowe were also chief executive's of the club or for short CEO, it is the CEO's job to run the club and the Chairman's job to ensure that the CEO does his job and make sure that overall the clubis being run well in all departments as well as be the link between the club and the owners, he makes sure that everyone does their job in line with how the owners want it.
The Managing Director responsible for the day to day running is Toby Steele.
From that point of view Krueger is doing a good job, the club is well run, as I said earlier the footballing side of things although the most important are only the icing on the cake, Krueger has but an infrastructure in place over the past four years that has never been there in our history, not under Lowe definitely not under Cortese, if you make mass sackings of key men that that structure could collapse.
So does Krueger have any accountability for the season, yes of course he has to have some, but most of it is indirectly, should he have stepped in over Les Reed's head, indeed we don't know that he didn't.
Krueger seems to have trusted Reed's judgement and kept his nerve, yes it was a tight run thing, but Swansea, Stoke & West Brom all changed their managers earlier than Saints and were relegated, so our gamble paid off.
Now to Les Reed, he is the general whipping boy for the fans being the Director of Football and from that point of view the man charged with making the big footballing decisions, but Reed's role is a lot more complex as he oversees all the footballing structure, he obviously has heads of department under him, but the technological advances at the club and at Staplewood are all down to Reed, as is the running of all the teams etc, it is not just a question of dealing with the first team and sacking managers and signing players.
Reed is a member of the sub board responsible for the footballing side of the club only along with Ralph Krueger and Toby Steel, Reed will report to them what needs to be done and then as a committee they will decide what actions to take.
Saints supporters will say that Reed is to blame because he appointed the wrong manager and failed to sack him, in essence they are probably right, appointing Pellegrino was a mistake, but sacking him is not so simple, remember in November we were comfortably around 10th spot despite the Van Dijk issues, yes there were problems, but at that stage was the manager completely to blame or was being hampered by the Van Dijk situation.
Football clubs who go around sacking managers seemingly every six months ultimately keep making the same mistakes year in year out, Reed was keeping his faith in the fact that the structure was sound and giving Pellegrino time to sort it out.
Not many people would argue with the fact that Reed did give him far too long, but Reed's problem was finding the right man to take over, as the three relegated clubs found out just changing a manager doesn't automatically mean that things will get better, indeed we were linked with all three of their new managers as potential replacements for Pellegrino, there is a case for Reed keeping his nerve and holding out for his man.
There is also the question of transfers, but more of that in another installment
Overall Gao has no real responsibility, Krueger seems to have just kept faith with Reed's decisions and the gamble paid off.
Les Reed has to bear a fair amount of criticism here, but not as much as many would have you believe, the Van Dijk issue was a real problem and disrupted things and certainly the failure to replace him was a big problem, but overall Reed should not be villified as much as some seem to take pleasure in doing.
In football you have to make tough decisions and the proof of whether they pay off is always at the end of the season, mistakes have been made but the reality is that we stayed up, Ralph Krueger's job now is to look at the mistakes made and whether they were avoidable and what changes need to be made going forward.
Certainly there are signs that there is a change in that Mark Hughes is a different type of manager than most we have employed of late, he is more Ronald Koeman than a Pochettino, Puel or Pellegrino.
In essence a football club that panics is one that goes down, this season has been tight, but we have the structure there and we had faith in it and that proved justified.
Photo: Action Images
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