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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 !

Photo: Action Images

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SaintBrock added 18:44 - Oct 11
Shouldn't think they give a toss, they're on £50k a week +, for sure that will deaden the pain for them. £50k per year would deaden the pain for most. £100K call me what you want!

bstokesaint added 20:09 - Oct 11
Underweststand, you do make some valid points, but I don’t think it’s ultimately FFP that is holding us back. As Brock says I think a healthy pay cheque each week helps our players get their beauty sleep. I know call me a cynic but they don’t feel the pain and disappointment like we do!

NBSaint added 20:16 - Oct 11
Something missing from the analysis: the Academy. We used to regularly feed gems into the first team - Walcott, Bale, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaw. Where is the next generation? Why are there no Saints players in England’s age group squads?

underweststand added 17:11 - Oct 13
To NB Saint....of course you highlighted the question everyone asks ;
Where are the next Academy "stars", (after the list you quoted) but the fact is that the four you mentioned..(you might have throw in Lallana and Chambers too) all made their names at a time when we were either in L1 or Championship , and to be fair most of them (even Walcott and bale failed to make the grade as first team regulars until a couple of seasons after they moved on.

It's a "different ball game now " , and any youngster who makes it to the First team will have to replace an experienced player who has played at international level. (there are exceptions like Austin and McCarthy)... but the point is there to be made.

In recent seasons we have started "loaning out" players, which is good for their development but for the most part they struggle to make a mark even at a lower level.

This season we have held back both Gallagher and Targett, but they find it hard to make our bench let alone challenge for a first team start, so heavens alone knows when they will get game time. It's hard to see Targett replacing Bertrand , and why Sam G. hasn't had more minutes is a mystery to me (or is he injured).

There are encouraging signs with some of the young talents in the U18 squad, who have made the step up to U23, but they are still a long way from making the first team.

Many of the players who go through our Academy make a career in the game, but sadly few will ever become Prem. level and those who do ...(Lallana and Shaw) are easily lured away to Top Six sides who think nothing of paying £30-40 million for players, and pay salaries far beyond our means.

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