Saints Fans Should Focus On The Real Problem ! Wednesday, 10th Oct 2018 09:21
Saints poor results in recent weeks has led to a lot of ranting and raving on social media about the cub being rotten to the core, but that is just knee jerk reaction, we need to focus on the real issues.
Each defeat for Saints brings a further bout of ranting on social media ranging from the bottom end of things with just concern about the latest signings to the manager to the top end of the scale where people will froth at the mouth about the fact they feel that the club is rotten to the core.
Now I am not going to patronise people here, but unless we stop ranting and start focusing on the real issues and indeed doing something concrete about it then the club is going to be dragged down by the negative equity.
I am certainly not saying that there is nothing wrong with the club, but it is one area that is failing not the whole infrastructure and that is why we need to focus.
This is not the 1990's when I was involved in protesting against Ian Branfoot, Guy Askham and Rupert Lowe, when football club boards were made up of the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker, it is modern day football and the World over, apart from perhaps Germany, the top clubs are businesses otherwise they would not survive.
To complicate things these days, unless you are Chelsea or Manchester City etc, your whole business plan can be ruined by relegation and leave you with a wage budget you cannot hope to meet in the Championship for very long and that is why 14 clubs in the Premier League start every season worried about going down.
At the top end what is the point about moaning about Chairman Gao, in truth so far he has done little wrong, he has invested heavily in the club, he has not asset stripped as some would claim that he would do, he has not interfered in a business in a country he knows little about, he has let those charged with running the club get on and do so.
Gao isn't here to lose money, he is here to try and built the club up, calling for him to go is fine, but firstly he hasn't done anything wrong and secondly would we get anyone better to replace him ? Look around and the answer is probably not.
Next down is Ralph Krueger, it is easy to dismiss him as Canadian who knows nothing about "Soccer", but he is not here for his footballing knowledge, he is here for his experience in building up sports franchises ( to be pedantic that is what the Premier League is these days).
Those more excitable in the supporter base will scream about why are we creating soccer schools in China or the States when we should be concentrating on the football are way off the mark, this is the 21st century you have to develop a club in all areas and continue to do so, if one area is failing it doesn't mean that all the others are.
Krueger's job which is very much part time is to oversee all these departments, his culpability is if he doesn't deal with a problem in a specific area.
Responsible full time for the everyday running of the board is Managing Director Toby Steele, it is he all the departmental heads report to and in turn Steele's job is to report to Ralph Krueger, here there will always be overlap, as MD, Steele has a brief that he will follow set by the owner and will have to report to Krueger for the truly important decisions like sacking a manager.
In turn the football board responsible for the key area of the club will also sit with Krueger Steele and Les Reed and now we get to the nitty gritty.
Les Reed is effectively the director of football and although he has Krueger and Steele as council and to advise, it is he who runs everything football wise from the training ground to the first team manager.
Over the years Reed has had his detractors, but his track record since joining the club in 2010 cannot be argued with and up till last season could be said to be impeccable, he oversaw two consecutive promotions, a difficult first season back in the Premier League, followed by four straight top eight finishes, a league cup final and two Europa League campaigns.
Say what you want but statistically that was the most consistent period in our history and Reed does deserve some credit for that.
But in the football department it is going wrong and Reed has to bear his responsibility for that and the two key areas we are failing are in player recruitment and to a lesser degree although some will disagree appointing managers, Claude Puel cannt be deemed a failure with his 8th position in the League and a League Cup final, statistically he has had something like the sixth best season since the club joined the league in the 1920's, his only crimes were his rotation policy and not to entertain and he is not the only culprit in that area either at Saints or many trophy winning clubs.
Ross Wilson is the head of player recruitment and he is the one who is responsible for identifying our signings and it is here the real problem arises.
I would say that up to last season it has not been as bad as some would say, even a couple of years ago the main signings of Nathan Redmond and Pierre Hojbjerg and to a lesser extent Aex McCarthy have contributed especially last season, they have not been disasters.
But the big signings have been, yes like many clubs the issue is that although we can get a £20 million player in terms of his transfer fee, that player was only worth £10 million a couple of years ago and the increased payments to Premier league clubs have only pushed up transfer fees and demands, what costs £20 million now, we would have got the same standard player for half that a couple of years ago and this is the problem.
That is Wilson's main problem in identifying targets, he is expected to spend the money but he isn't getting what he is paying for.
But although that is his main problem, it is not the real problem, we are just not getting the bargains anymore, we are not picking up the Virgil Van Dijk's or Victor Wanyama's, this season we have two former record signings in Sofiane Boufal and Guido Carrillo out on loan and on Sunday of the four big summer signings Armstrong and Elyounoussi could not even make the bench and Gunn and Vestergaard although on the bench didn't play, OK Gunn is one for the future, but that still leaves our three outfield signings totalling £45 million not even getting a game, add the £36 million for Carrillo and Boufal and something is badly wrong with the recruitment.
Supporters only see this, they don't see all the good work in other departments being undone by those in one area of the club, they scream for everyone's head but without either understanding how the club works or having an answer about where we are going wrong.
As I said Reed has some leeway, he has the track record, but that track record is down to having the right people in place, just as Krueger being succesful is about him having the right people in place.
So the finger must truly now point at Les Reed who has to manage Wilson and then Wilson himself, yes he has done many good things at Saints, some of his signings have been good, but in the past year the system has been failing, it is not identifying the calibre of player we need, it is not identifying the type of player we need, our biggest problem at te moment is we need a leader on the pitch, why did we not sign one in the summer, our incoming central defender should have met the leadership qualities criteria as much as anything else, but we didn't sign anyone of that nature.
So Saints supporters need to focus on this aspect, at the moment all blaming Gao an Krueger merely glosses over the real issue, it clouds it and allows it to continue.
The root cause of the problem is player recruitment, the club need to deal with it, the next is whether we have the right manager in place and to be blunt Hughes although not covering himself in glory at the moment must feel let down by the players that have come in, although it should be said he would have been part of the process.
Back in the 1990's I got up off my arse along with several other Saints fans and stood up and were counted, today we have social media, but that is not protesting, that is ranting, I saw something about an online petition, an online petition about what ? it will do absolutely nothing, football clubs like any business know that for all the power of social media to promote a business, the negative side is the ability to criticise and rant, however football clubs aren't bothered about online petitions or ranting on Facebook, they know half the people who do so don't even go to the game.
What bothers them is unity, we didn't have the internet in 1993 when we protested against Ian Branfoot, what we did have though was a public meeting that was packed and on TV, we had 2,000 people protest outside the boardroom in the car park of the Dell, that makes the board sit up and notice.
That season saw a lot of protest, but in essence it helped keep us up, not just because it saw Branfoot go, but because it focused the fans anger and it focused them on protesting about what was wrong but also realising that what they wanted was the club to stay up and so during the game it was 100% backing for the team, not the club but the team !
What is now needed is a new Independent Supporters Association, it needs a new generation to step up to the plate, one that will unite the supporters and channel the energy.
Rant all you want on the Internet, anyone can do that, keyboard warriors I believe they call them, but this club needs a supporters association at the moment more than it has done for 20 years, who will step up to the plate !
What you say is mostly right, Nick but I would add that some players - Hobjberg, for example - take a long time to blossom in the EPL. The trouble is, when you're down amongst the dead men you simply don't have that time. Everything today is instant or, at least the requirement is. Many fans are dismayed that in many other clubs of Saints size and potential new buys are paying off. Hughes is not my man but he is not under-performing on the pitch. Take Lemina, he really looked crestfallen at the end of Sunday's game. I thought he gave his all in the second half but he knew, as did I, that it just wasn't enough. Saints aren't cut adrift yet so I won't panic but certainly an improvement is needed against teams in the bottom half. The other point I would make is that settled teams - e.g., Bournemouth, Brighton - tend to fare better than those with new players and a new manager. I think we should work with (and support) what we've got.
Ypu're right to focus on the diabolical recruitment but I think you are discounting the negative influence of Gao.
I don't subscribe to the view that he is simply out to fleece us, but I think its clear that he has little real interest in football and that the purchase was motivated more by either commercial or Chinese political factors. This means that you have an owner providing very little passion and leadership in relation to the football side of things, which is then left to Reed and Kreuger and others. And again, they are doing their best but they are employees/middle men and therefore they will always have an eye on keeping their boss sweet, not just on the team. And if their boss is simply leaving them to get on with it, they are going to be careful and will be trying to second guess what he wants all the time.
This type of relationship leads to a very stilted, cautious approach and little risk taking. Thus, while we sell for really big money, we are much more cautious in our purchases and we ultimately get what we pay for.
I think that what's missing is an owner/leader with a clear and ambitious plan. An owner/leader with some passion, drive and energy. Without that, we just end up ticking the corporate, financial and footballing boxes...and a well run club going nowhere.
DorsetIan. You have a very good point about the natural caution of a business for that is what Saints are. A business tends to behave in a rational cautious way but as a fan I behave in an emotional irrational way most of the time. However good the rational explanations for the state of the club to me it is more emotional. Maybe I am struggling with the spirit and feel of what is going on and am not totally comfortable following Saints if they are just a business.
hong kong seems to be working okay different system but still going allright
the owner is no fool i cannot believe for one minute that he wants to see the team relagated he has far to much to lose , but the next 2 games for mark hughes lose them then he will have to have his & staff & 2 directors a dear john letter + there P45
Since football was first played and at every level from the park to the big stadium player recruitment has always been by far the most important area. Southampton Football Club exists not to bake cakes or brew beer or provide life insurance. It exists so that a bunch of people can run around chasing a ball. Fullstop. All the 'infrastructure', 'marketing' and 'branding' in the world makes no difference if the team is poor.
There are, indeed, complex reasons why we have got to where we are now. Mortality (Marcus dying); the 'Southampton Way' (always a dangerous myth because in no form of activity can you find a simple framework and stick to it forever); bad luck/timing (some of those duds might have been great - Spiderman, Lallana and even Mane were not overnight sensations but had a bit of time to acclimatise/develop) and the absurd way football is becoming a major part of the worst type of modern capitalism. Probably not a lot we can change about most of that but we can buy better players and hire a better manager, even if we have to pay the going rate for proven quality. I feel that those responsible for player recruitment should be considering their position(s). After all, if we were baking cakes and they were of poor quality someone would be taking responsibility. One way or another it is our money that feeds the football gravy-train and for someone to be accountable/responsible is a reasonable request.
None of the above is a rant, in fact it is far less of a rant than the article itself. We are loyal supporters - we have all been watching week in week out over the last 2 and a half years or so. I get loyalty but it would be astonishing if the vast majority of fans didn't have major concerns. Don't blame us for social media - I sometimes disagree with things said by posters on here but they are rarely irrational rants, yes, sometimes they are emotional (especially after yet another performance like Sunday's) but take emotion out of supporting a football team and what is there left?????
Perhaps the transfer policy of the club should change. At the moment board and fans seem to be wanting to buy top quality players, the likes of Van Dyjke, Mane etc. The trouble is these players just move on, leaving a large gap to be filled. Successful "smaller clubs" in the Premiership seem to do well by bringing in less gifted players who play with real passion and commitment, but stay with the club. This season and the last two, I have seen teams who we should have easily beaten, get points off of us because their passion and commitment far outstripped ours Romeau is a case in point. We played better on Sunday when he was on the field. He was not our best player but he gave 100%. If everyone in the team had his attitude we would not be hovering above the relegation zone.
Some good points Nick. I think the absolute frustration especially of regular attendees at st Mary’s is coming to a head. 1 win since mid December. It’s quite possible we could go a year with 1 win at st Mary’s. Remember when Sunderland almost went a year without winning at home and won on the last game of the year ? They were considered an absolute mess and we are really not very far off them in this 12 months.
So the club clearly does have massive issues and I can’t help thinking s few encouraging and supportive words from Mr Gao showing a bit of leadership from the top might not be a bad idea to try and lift the gloom over the club.
As for the team. I still haven’t written off the new signings yet. Maybe Armstrong from what I have seen so far but the other may come good. It’s still the lack of a clear leader that worries me and we could of adddessed that over the summer but it probably meant buying an older player with limited re sale and that’s not our way.
As for Hughes the thought of another management change and the wasted money paying him off says give him longer but lose the next two and I might change my mind.
Everything, everybody is saying points to the conclusion that serious money needs to be spent on a Director of Football who can shake things up. I know nothing about Les Reed as a person, or how much effort he puts into his job, but all our woes currently appear to revolve around his decision making and for that, rightly or wrongly, he should be replaced. I see no point in bringing in new players, new managers, new coaches if the philosophy remains the same. Mr Gao it's time to make a sound business decision and put a new hub at the centre of the wheel.
Good post as usual Nick Im getting mighty sick of the ranting and raving by fans who are doing anything but support the club.Fans were screaming for Kat to sell the club She did no sooner than Gao had bought it then all the negative conjecture calling him a criminal and out to asset strip came out.There are easier ways to make money with 200 million than investing in a football club with little history of winning trophies. The board are blamed for not keeping up with the jones;s(the top 6) its hardly their fault we cant spend hundreds of millions. Lies and twisted stats are thrown out to prove the club is rotten to the core. They are accused of selling players when the fact is the players wanted to go to big clubs and nothing can be done except get the best money for them. The continually moaning about everything is just lowering morale splitting the fan base which is seeping on to the terraces and to the pitch. Little wonder they cant win at home and do better away these fans are doing more damage to the club than Reed and co. Its like some self fullfilling prophecy where these so called supporters will claim to be right if we go down when they are in fact doing little to support the club when needed. The raving at the club and slagging off players when we lost to multi million pound unbeaten Chelsea was embarrassing. We had 6 shots on target that game same as Chelsea losing games like that went send us down but fans getting at the players will.
Very considered comments from all, and started by Nick. One element that has been ignored is our youth /reserve set up, and this does not appear to be bearing much fruit. The online protestations are largely aimless or fractured, so will need much more thought and coordination before achieving any of the relative success of the fanzine generation. It can happen, but needs to start quickly, but beware the divide and rule that is already in place.
Although I don't tend to rant, I can see where these fans are coming from. There seems to be a lack of passion or concern from the clubs (including most of the players), and so fans are filling that void. That seems natural to me. There's a wider point here about the paradox of social media - it can simulate being sociable but can be more alienating and isolating than we think. Related to this, I think that fans' strong feelings about the club on social media actually reflect the disengagement that we feel from the club, and perhaps from modern football more generally. The web of agents, mercenary players, chief executives, directors of football etc that make up football clubs today make it hard for fans to understand who is to blame when things go wrong
I must disagree with you SaintBrock. The headline says we must focus on the real problem, and then Nick goes ahead and lays it all out for us:
Mr. Gao-I am not going to slag him as he is no different from billionaires around the world who accumulate an expensive "toy" collection. A Formula 1 team here, a basketball team there, and a football team here. It's not that he doesn't care, it's just not high on his priority list-unless he starts losing money. I don't know where Nick gets his "invested heavily in the club". If he wanted, he could do as many owners and have one of his other companies become the kit sponsor and charge whatever amount he wanted to funnel into the club, bypassing the Financial Fair Play rules (joke that they are).
Les Reed-I bet when he goes through customs, his passport has a picture of Paul Mitchell.
Ralph "Small Club" Krueger- "experience in building up sports franchises"??????? There is nothing in his record to suggest this, if Nick would only take the time to check Krueger's Wikipedia listing.He has only ever been a coach (manager). Even in this role, his success has be in international tournaments and in the German League-Not the NHL or even the AHL. In his only experience coaching in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, he was let go after only one year.. To be fair, the talent was not there, it was strike shortened season and when they got a new general manager (that is the person who actually "builds franchises" in the NHL) they cleared house. Nick must have somehow confused him with Glen Sather.
There is so much I could say but it’s late and I’m tired. On the subject of Gao though I fail to see what he’s “invested”. He’s just leveraged a very large debt in order to finance his buy in. He and his companies are worth very little and certainly do not have the financial clout to take us forward. We could probably bury him with 3 new record signings! I didn’t want him before he came and nothing has happened since to change my mind. I don’t think “asset stripping” is necessarily the ploy here, but there are certainly financial incentives for him to benefit from in investing in this club. There must have been better options out there. Markus would be turning in his grave right now seeing his dream project going off the rails as it has.
Nick, please stop talking down to us. In particular telling us what we should think and then post on social media. Your site is The Ugly Inside not Pravda.
I said it after the match on Sunday and will continue to say it, quite simply the management team is not fit for purpose. If it were then our recent Premiership record would show more than our eight victories from the last forty eight attempts.Unless there are root and branch changes to our management team our decline will accelerate further, a view currently held by increasing numbers missing from St Mary's on match days.
Hogwash, if Kat and Gao were all about the best for the club, why did a few of us call exactly what was coming, a wild guess, no, the player, management and backroom exodus unseen at any going places club in the history of the PL was the biggest smoke signal in history....moreover players, agents, ex management TWICE have all stated there is no project and no ambition at the club...read up on Wolves ownership and principles for that matter Pompey's plans for club, fanbase and stadium. This article patronises those who dare vent against a truly mercenary ownership and board, who describes their own business as 'small' that was a sackable offence, who say we aim to be single digits, what and who are you going to attract with this mindset. You protested against Lowe, yet Lowe had an excuse no MONEY, this lot could have put the team, the city, the fanbase both solid and fairweather on a completely different footing. Wolves had their first 6 consecutive 30k crowds since 1968, where do you think we would be if Cortese's project had been seen out in light of the massive PL expansion, an expansion which makes his spending look like chump change. The issue begins and ends at the top picking out middle management is risible, Ralph made it clear he works for the owner and speaks 'once' a week, wow.. Protesting at Lowe is actually chicken feed to what has been done purposefully and without need to us.
If I recall correctly this is Kreuger's first job as a Company Chairman. It is likely to be his last as he has failed to demonstrate even a modest degree of competence in the role; no other Company will touch him with a barge pole.
He will be painfully aware of this which is probably why he is clinging on tenaciously to his job. Having entered the gravy-chain beanfest that is a company boardroom, the idea of having to settle for being an ordinary working Joe will scare the tits out of him.
For me the issues on recruitment are plain to see. I see no other club in the land who continually sells their players upwards at the regularity we do. Then we crow about a "black box" (I am guessing stats off Football Manager) and how marvelous we are at signing young hungry players. I have slated Redmond for months now but he is looking decent this year. Hjobjerg has become a revalation this season but for every one of these there is a clasie, a carillo, a boufal, a ramirez, a Dani. When you look at our neighbours Bournemouth you don't see a raft of foreign signings or talk of buying players to get a foothold in the game. You see amazing recruitment. We have Ings, Gabbi, Austin, Long, Gallagher (criminally underlooked in my opinion). Of that lot we have as must chance of scoring as a monk in a nunnery. Yet the cherries have Wilson and King banging them in regularly. Our forwards are top class but as a whole the team is not a team. We have the confidence of a fish on a motorway. Now is this because of players in or through poor management of head coaches, recruitment of staff? I would suggest both. In which case the people running the club are not as wonderful as they claim to be when running fan forums before we can get upset about results or making videos about the "Southampton Way". We gave up on the "Southampton Way" when Koeman left. It has been turgid and downhill since.
Whilst the gloves are off I feel it’s also worth pointing out that a “kneejerk reaction” would be something along the lines of “the team should be forced into a rocket and blasted into space never to be seen again after what the worst game in the history of the game, ever.” Something extreme and said in the heat of the moment, without careful consideration. However after two complete seasons of dross (League Cup run excluded) and en route to our current predicted haul of a whopping 23 points (24 if you round up), I think we have every right to feel aggrieved as fans. I hold my hand up and admit I have been defending this club and board for too long, during a time when I felt there was just a blip in our fortunes and didn’t want to appear ungrateful. I was eternally optimistic, as supporting the club through the 90’s built that character trait within me. However as others have stated this current regime isn’t comparable. We were led to believe that cementing a regular Europa spot and challenging in cups was possible. Instead we are now talking about survival whilst the likes of Bournemouth, Brighton and Watford sail past us. We suddenly have ‘small club mentality’ again and any hope of being a ‘mid-sized club consistently punching’ has all but gone. We’re also the butt of many a joke and the million dollar question for many a pundit is ‘how you describe Southampton’s style?’
One thing I did agree with Nick is the new for a new Independent Supporter’s Association. I would love to see the board facing off against a bunch of disappointing fans/customers. We deserve answers and to understand what the club is doing to get out of this mess. Is it any wonder we assume the worst when the solution is to bring in a nobody from China with no money (and a lot of debt) to take us forward. We’d be in a better position if we just invited the winner of the next Euromillions rollover to take over. The Jack Walker days of spending £100m to win a championship are gone. Now you could spend that on a player. You need billionaires or huge multi-national companies to take you forward. I hate getting so wound up I genuinely do but it really feels that there is a seriously lack of hurting going on.
Nick, sorry, but your posts sound like you are advocate of the Board. No reason to do that, Nick. Just sit and relax. I have one or two historical questions for you. In the well-known popular understanding, who lost the battles for Stalingrad and Waterloo? Is it Germany and France or it is Hitler and Napoleon? I am not expecting answers of these questions but if you think about these two questions, you will understand how funny sounds your post about Ross Wilson!?!?!?!?!?! Wilson is only small part of the problem, Nick. We are doing nothing all last TWO SEASONS. Kruger and Less Reed brings in Puel, Pelllegrini and Hughes. They bought these players and there is no excuse about that. The team can bear 1-2 bad transfers but when this account is go to up 7-8 players as bad decisions, you are in trouble. The managers are "silent witness" of the Board decisions and that's the truth. We all know that. That's why Koeman and Pochetino move away, not only because of money. Koeman said when he left that "Southampton Project" is finished on this stage. There is no way to go further, not because we are selling our best players but because the structure and hierarchy is killing the positive football logic. If you are not able to buy good players, you will go down for sure. That's simple.
Having read all the above comments this far , I'm not sure where I should start. Liking or not liking; Reed, Kreuger, Wilson, Mr.Gao and Uncle Tom Cobleigh doesn't get close to solving the problem. A correspondent on " another Saints site " posted an excellent mail last year detailing the " finacial handcuffs" imposed on clubs by FFP rules which basically controls how much of their income a club can spend, and not based on how rich the owner is.
AGREED - not all of our buys have been good ones. Ironocally, but the likes of Mc Carthy, Redmond and Hjoberg look like bargain buys in today's market but it's the Boufal's and the Carrillo's who are always quoted. Historically clubs go along with a manager's wish to buy certain former players; as they did when Pardew brough in; Fonte, Puncheon and Lambert and successive managers have been given that leeway. We have Puel (Boufal ) and Pellefrino ( Carrillo ) to thank for that as they weree instigators for those buys ; and it was Cortese's poor judgement that allowed Pochettino to but ..Dani Osvaldo..because he thought he could "reform him". So much for that good idea.
The truth lies in the fact that in today's market £20 million might only buy you a reserve player off some Euro clubs bench, whilst the likes of Liverpool, Man U and City can sign almost anyone they like by paying over the odds for the fee and giving the player a long contract with wages starting at £100K /week. (Back to FFP rules again) and Saints, and many other midtable clubs are out in the cold. Every club signs player who don't make the bench, let alone the grade required of a good /average Prem. player. and we are certainly not alone with that problem, and it takes time for new (young) players to find the level required. Unfortunately - it's time we don't have.
One can only hope that there aren't too many players reading this site because (for me asa 60 year fan) it's too often a real "downer". Heaven knows what players who have to go out and perform every week will think, if this is what fans think of them.