Do Saints Fans Still Have Faith In Mark Hughes ?
Tuesday, 30th Oct 2018 10:57
There is something missing in the Saints play and some would say it is something that only the manager can give, are Saints getting no spark from Sparky ? Read our thoughts and then vote in our poll.
In the recent year or so The Ugly Inside has come in for some criticism because we try to look at things rationally rather than throw knee jerk reactions into the fray, we are not afraid to stand up and call it how we see it rather than just write what people want to read, we try to inform and challenge people's perceptions and look for the real issues and then solutions, as the lynch mob again starts to form outside St Mary's this time for Mark Hughes, we try and see it from all sides.
You can see why Mark Hughes got the Saints job permanently, there was a burst of euphoria around St Mary's after what had looked like an unlikely great escape from relegation, but was that enough to warrant the Welshman being appointed on a full time basis, performances both this seasons and indeed last might suggest otherwise.
The board were in a difficult position, two years ago they had bowed to fan pressure with Claude Puel, on the surface those not connected with Saints would look at that season and wonder why Puel had been sacked after an 8th place finish and taking the club to an appearance in a major cup final at Wembley.
Statistically it could be argued that this was in the top six of any season in the club's history given that we have only won one trophy and in the modern era this was only our 4th appearance in a cup final.
But the supporters were complaining that they were not being entertained, that Puel's style was boring and season tickets were not renewed in droves forcing the club to bow to pressure, in fairness to Puel there were mitigating circumstances, he arrived to find his Captain demanding a move and that was followed by his leading scorer being injured in early December only to return for the final couple of games and then his best player and defender getting injured meaning we had to play players in central defence that had been 4th & 5th choice the previous season.
Perhaps Puel was judged too harshly, but he had to go as the fans had turned against him more than any manager since Ian Branfoot.
Mauricio Pellegrino was a disaster, the club went again for a coach rather than a manager and he was not up to the job, although it has to be said he too had the issues with Van Dijk and again an injury to Charlie Austin.
So this summer the board took the easy option with Mark Hughes, he was the fans choice, not overwhelmingly but a clear favourite, the cry on social media was for the next manager to be experienced and a leader and not a continental coach that nobody had heard of, it is not surprising that the board went for Hughes and not what had previously been the Southampton Way of looking for coaches after all Pochettino was unheard of when Les Reed earmarked him and make no mistake about it whatever the PR at the time said it was Reed and his team, if you are one minute a financial advisor in Switzerland you do not suddenly become the best picker of managers and players in the country.
But did Hughes really deserve the job ?
The evidence perhaps points to the contary, Saints didn't storm to a great escape coming from behind, when Hughes took over Saints had played 30 games and were 4th from bottom on 28 points and average of .94 a game, Swansea were on 31, Stoke on 27 and West Brom on 20.
By the end of the season we had gained only another 8 points, a points ratio of a point a game, but not exactly much better than Pellegrino had achieved, indeed if not for a handball inexplicably not spotted by the referee at Watford then the former manager would have had exactly the same ratio.
But Saints staying up was not down to our own endeavours as has been shown, West Brom had the best record of the bottom 4 , they gained 11 points from their final 8 games, but what kept Saints up was the fact that Hughes former club Stoke gained only 6, 3 of those in their final game when they were already down and Swansea only two points from their final 8 games.
This perhaps shows that what kept Saints in the Premier League was not so much our own form, but the failure of Stoke or Swansea, especially Swansea to do any better.
But the euphoria swayed the fans and it swayed the board, yes Hughes on paper had saved us, but the reality was that we were really no better than under Pellegrino, except for the final few games when the players own Adrenalin kicked in and they battled for pride, those who remember the 90's will understand what I mean.
But this season has been no better, we hoped that Hughes as the permanent manager and with time to build his squad and not having to press the panic button would be able to restore us to a comfortable position in the Premier league, but that has not been the case, the points per game ratio is 0.7 per game and that is just not acceptable.
Perhaps he has not been helped by the signings, of the 3 outfield players signed, none have truly impressed and looked Premier League material, that is not all Hughes fault, but he had a say in their signing.
But the truth of the matter Hughes himself seems unable to know either his best team or to get the best out of players.
From a selection problem, we are seeing certain players be in the side and then not even get on the bench for a while and then be back in favour, Hughes seems to keep the basis of the same side week in week out, but cannot seem to decide who are the best options for 2 or 3 key position.
Hughes choices of substitutes vary widely and are sometimes baffling, why did he need two central defenders on the bench against Newcastle, one would have sufficed also his changes are often too little too late and have cost us late goals.
So all in all there are few people that feel that Hughes himself is doing a good job so far this season, the best that you can find amongst the supporter base are those who feel that he has not yet had enough time and needs a little more.
I can concur a little with that view, but there does come a time when he has had his chance, the counter argument would be that as he was here last season Hughes has had 18 games in charge, almost half a season, of those games we have gained only 15 points, the points ratio is getting worse not better.
The only thing keeping us out of the bottom three is the fact that there are four teams who are quite a lot worse than in other seasons, usually there is one very poor side this year there are three maybe four, but we can't rely on that going forward, indeed in any other season we would be adrift of safety by some margin given our current points total.
So the fans faith in Hughes is fading, it will be a free hit at Manchester City on Sunday in that a defeat won't really be down to him, but the crunch comes with the Watford game, win that and we move into mid table, lose it and we are truly in trouble.
The board now need to lead from the front, the problem is that to sack Mark Hughes will be to admit to failure in selecting our last three managers and this is down to Les Reed, he is the director in charge of footballing matters, it is fine to drag Ralph Krueger into the mix, but essentially Krueger does not know enough about football to make these decisions, this is not his job and that in itself is a problem.
Les Reed would want to give Hughes all the chances he can to get things right and pull clear, after all if he sacks him then he is basically admitting that he has now erred three times in a row and this is where Krueger does become culpable, his job is to oversee all the departments in the football club and make sure they perform to the required standard, sack Hughes and Krueger has to look very closely at Reed and his role in the last two years.
I still believe that Saints have the basis of a good squad they are better than their position suggests, however that spark is missing and the big question is whether Mark Hughes is the man to find it and inject it into the team, on Saturday Saints handled fairly easily a Newcastle squad who played for their manager but just aren't good enough, we need our players to play with this enthusiasm, with the fearless play of Bournemouth, but we are not doing so, this comes from the manager, its not happening and in football when things are going wrong something has to be changed !
What are your thoughts on Mark Hughes, vote now in our online poll using the link below.
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