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Back To Business For Southampton And Hasenhuttl Is The Man To Lead Us Forward
Tuesday, 20th Apr 2021 09:44

Sunday at Wembley was obviously very disappointing, but things have to move on and we have to try and finish the season with a flourish, let's not let the past bring us down, we have to move forward and Ralph Hasenhuttl Is the man to do that.

Losing FA Cup semi finals is nothing new to me as a Saints fan, sadly losing them with a poor performance is sadly also nothing new either.

Back in 1984 we went into the semi final with a struggling Everton team as clear favourites, we gambled on playing a clearly unfit Steve Williams and put in a lacklustre performance, likewise against Liverpool in 1986 although we did have the excuse that they were en route to a League & Cup double , something that had only been done twice previously in the century up to then.

Back in 2018 we went to play Chelsea at Wembley with no confidence whatsoever and failing to sell our full allocation (although neither did Chelsea) showed an apathy in the supporters that was the backlash from the previous season under Claude Puel who was sacked due to fan pressure despite taking the club to 8th and the League Cup final.

This year we went to Wembley with hope and having spent the last three seasons not having fought against relegation and there is one man to thank for that and that is Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The Austrian has had to work under conditions that are far from under his control, so he has done a great job, some moan about him having no plan B, but for the most part of 2021 he has struggled to have a plan A because of so many injuries.

Yes Wembley was a disappointment in a way that three years ago wasn't the case and this perhaps shows how good a job Ralph Hasenhuttl has done, he has raised our expectations to a level where we expected to beat a side that is sat 3rd in the Premier League and likely to finish at least in the top 4, whereas back in 2018 Chelsea sat 5th when we played them at Wembley and that is where they ended up.

So those who have been decrying the faults of Ralph Hasenhuttl should perhaps consider that we have moved forward under him and before they drive him out of the club, consider just who would replace him, another journeyman manager like Mark Hughes perhaps, a name in football but just looking for another payday with no real interest in longevity.

Ralph Hasenhuttl should have our backing because he has taken us forward into a position where we are expecting success again and he has committed himself to this club in a way that no other manager has since the departure of Chris Nicholl 30 years ago, he is building something at Saints slowly but surely and as they say Rome wasn't built in a day .

Ralph is often compared to Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and it is easy to draw comparisons, when Klopp arrived at Anfield, Liverpool were a side who had not won the title in 35 years, they had tried manager after manager and were starting to fall into the trap of sacking them the moment things hit a rocky patch, but with Klopp they stuck with him, they saw that foundations needed to be built.

He was there to win them the Premier League title, his start wasn't easy in his first season they finished behind us in 8th, it took him four seasons to win a trophy and five to land the prize that Liverpool coveted the Premier League, but Liverpool kept faith and that is what we need to do with Ralph.

Yes the game at Wembley on Sunday was disappointing, it was a dour game and we didn't get a shot on target, but it was a typical semi final and it takes two teams to make a match and the fact is that Leicester City perhaps the 3rd best team in the country at present, didn't exactly do much more than us, the only difference between the two sides we a 30 second spell when Leicester had two shots and scored after a lucky rebound.

Very few Saints fans have actually sat back and reflected on this, they accuse Ralph of a lack of a plan, but to pile forward against Leicester and their counter attacking game would have been folly, the game management was right from Ralph, we could not afford to let Jamie Vardy get one on one too often, if we had then perhaps we would truly have something to moan about.

But now we have to move forward again, no one is pretending that the last few months have been great and no one is pretending that at times the manager has to take some of the blame, but in the case of Ralph Hasenhuttl the truth is our problems have been more to do with what he has had to work with.

Some think that in football problems are easily solved, the owner throws in a big wedge for transfers and hey presto you are competing for a place in the Champions league, Everton are evidence that is not the case and they are also an example of how changing the manager almost yearly just undoes a lot of the foundations that have been built and the new man has to start from scratch.

So do we want Saints to be like Everton of the last five years or do we want to be more like Liverpool and slowly but surely build foundations that can enable us to challenge the top 10 again.

We need continuity and Ralph Hasenhuttl's work at the club runs far deeper than just first team results, he has been heavily involved in planning behind the scenes in the academy and all areas of the club.

Some will sneer and say look at the results the academy is getting and they do have a point, but the 18 -20 year olds in the teams there today have in the main been at the club for 8 years or more, they are a product of a different regime, most of the youngsters that have broken through such as Nathan Tella or Michael Obafemi have joined from other clubs within the last 5 years.

Again we are having to work on bringing the academy up to scratch again and the work that Ralph does in that department is mainly unnoticed.

Of course I am as disappointed as anyone with losing football matches and the way we have dropped since those heady days of October, November and December, but I look at the reasons why we had those defeats and from that perspective Ralph Hasenhuttl is not the main factor, not even close.

I respect people should have opinions, but if you are going to get on the managers back and demand he be sacked at least suggest an alternative and I have seen few rants on social media about Hasenhuttl where a viable alternative is suggested.

I don't want a journeyman manager such as Mark Hughes, I don't want Eddie Howe a man who is familiar with 12 game winless runs in the Premier League having had two in the same season last term, I don't want a name manager who is just looking for a home where he can earn a few bob until the "right" job comes up.

I want a man who is committed to the club, who sees it as a project not as a job, for me that man is Ralph Hasenhuttl, I will take suggestions and explanations as to who will replace him and show me one with better attributes than Ralph and who is a realistic target for the club and I will agree with you.

We have to learn from the past, but we have to stop dredging it up, otherwise it will drag us down.

In the meantime we have to look at the future, the Premier League may be completely different next season, football is certainly changing, I see the European Super League proposals as an opportunity for the majority of football clubs to reclaim the game, lets be honest when we trudge to see the likes of Manchester City at St Mary's we go with trepidation and with little hope, if they are gone every game will be winnable and football supporters go to games to see their team win games, give me a 3-2 win over Burnley over watching some overpaid superstar tear us apart.

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DorsetIan added 10:07 - Apr 20
Interesting tactical analysis: We didn't attack because we didn't want to get caught on the break by Vardy. But we were happy for Forster to keep hoofing long balls pretty much all of which handed possession back to Leicester. And remind me again how their goal came about.

Most fans, me included, really like Ralph, but the questions about his ability aren't going away. And it's not just the results. I just don't get the impression that when the team in struggling on the pitch, Ralph is able to offer much assistance tactically.
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SaintNick added 10:19 - Apr 20
Ian, as I say in the article, dont tell me what the problems are, tell me what the solution is, Ralph's ability is mainly dictated by the players he has to work with in any given game, we were shut down by Leicester who didn't let us play our normal game and likewise we didn't let them play theirs.

You question his ability but don't tell me who could replace him.
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obelisk added 10:36 - Apr 20
I dare say most of us would like some continuity when it comes to Saints management and the coaching team but not if we're going to continue to be served up the stuff we've seen this year. The abject capitulations have become an embarrassment.

That said, Ralph still has time to get the critics off his back in the remaining games. If he can get back to some of the early season form then we can look forward to seeing his plans for next season. Carry on like this and we'll be favourites for the drop next season.
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halftimeorange added 10:57 - Apr 20
At the risk of accumulating negative responses, I wonder if we should approach Jose Mourinho and say to him "Jose, your reputation is sullied, your ability is questioned, we are a medium sized club with a limited budget but, we do have a few talented players. Why don't you take us on as a project, if not as coach then Director of Football and tell the media that you will prove your critics wrong." I wonder if he'd be interested in such a challenge? Trouble is we're bound to play it safe, which hasn't worked since Koeman left. Another season of disenchantment beckons.
0

spud1961 added 10:59 - Apr 20
Totally agree. For the most part Ralph has been a breath of fresh air for the club. Always going to be a long term project when we have to develop young players into what is needed. We clearly cannot compete financially with some other clubs so we have no other option really. Bit concerning that all the younger teams seem that be getting beaten heavily and am surprised that no one at the press briefings has questioned how the 'playbook' is progressing. Ralph seemed to suggest yesterday that some players development has stagnated. Overall though most of the squad are better players now than when he came to the club. I still have faith in Ralph however disappointed I was after Sunday,and football is littered with knee jerk reactions and decisions which invariably don't work out.
4

geezershoong1 added 11:03 - Apr 20
Meanwhile, in the real world...
-1

DorsetIan added 11:10 - Apr 20
Nick, they played their normal game. They scored in exactly the way they planned.

And, for me, it doesn't work as you would like: can't criticise Gao, unless we can identify a better owner; can't criticise Ralph, unless we can identify a better manager. Sometimes, if things are clearly not working, you just have to try something different and hope that it will work out better.

99% of managerial changes are driven by the incumbent proving to be not good enough, and THEN finding a replacement.

And, by the way, I am not calling for Ralph to be sacked, just pointing out that there are big question marks over his ability and it would be neither surprising nor particularly unfair if he were shown the door.

If we can find an ambitious new owner, I wonder whether they would be happy to put their money behind Ralph?

5

Shakin_Stevens added 11:59 - Apr 20
God, I don't think I can take anymore of these articles. Repetitive, inaccurate, deluded, condescending nonsense ☠️
3

ronniedavies added 12:08 - Apr 20
Since we lost Romeu our season basically finished, our replacements have been shite.
By the way, I think Scotty Parker would be worth a shout as a replacement look what he’s done with Reid and Lenin’s this season
-1

Colburn added 12:10 - Apr 20
Very few Saints fans have sat back and reflected on this.. Really? Do you really think you are intelligent and all the other fans are stupid? Please can you confirm our run of results and points since the Liverpool Home game Nick?
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Colburn added 12:24 - Apr 20
To add to Ronnie's point, things haven't been going in the right direction on the pitch since Ings and Bertrand contract talks hit a brick wall. Ralph talked about the train leaving the station etc and whoever wasn't sure about the journey had to make their minds up quickly. Tough talk, not followed through as Ings and Bertrand continue to play ahead of others who want to stay. I hope we start with Adams and Tella tomorrow up front.
To answer your question Nick, I would prefer a young English manager who knows the league and preferably played in it. Lampard or the equally impressive Parker or Eddie Howe. There's 3 for you for a solution..
2

davepid added 13:55 - Apr 20
Ralphs win rate (37%) is virtually identical to Puel’s and Pochettino’ meaning he’s our third most successful top flight manager of any length stretching back to the 80s. Only Hoddle ( 42%) and Koeman (48%) are above him . So why get rid of him ?

Having said that he’s no better than any other at turning academy graduates into regulars - Koeman was criticised for that as well. History teaches us that not many make it into Prem players so it’s hard work for managers . Of the current squad , think of the stick JWP has had over the years whilst he’s done it , Stevens sadly hasn’t quite made it and Valery is out of favour. Maybe Ralph has to take responsibility for Valery .

Another test of a quality for a manager is their transfer record. Whilst Ings and KWP have been great he also bought a one footed striker in Adams and his keynote signing in Salisu has been shrouded with incredulity by most commentators.

So Ralph , in my view, does ok on the pitch but he’s yet to prove to my satisfaction that he’s any better than average with player development or transfer activity.
5

Sadoldgit added 13:59 - Apr 20
I’m not sure what an English manager can specifically bring to the table? How many of big six clubs are English? How many premier players are English and were brought up playing here? It is a multinational league and we should employ the right person for the job no matter where they comes from. Parker is taking Fulham down and if he was in the same position here everyone would be calling for his head. Lampard clearly underperformed at Chelsea given their form since he left. Howe took Bournemouth down. What % of English managers have win the Premier League? Still, it is a moot point because the cub seem happy with the manager we have and he seems happy to stay for the time being. As has been said, it took Klopp time to turn things around at Liverpool, and he had greater resources at his disposal. Instead of constantly looking for the next quick fix perhaps it is time to let someone get on with the job for a reasonable length of time and see any setbacks as just part of the journey?
3

saintmark1976 added 14:25 - Apr 20
Nick, are you still hung over from your Sunday evening garden party ? Because your latest attempt as head cheer leader to persuade us to join with you in the “Cult of Saint Ralph” bears great similarity to every other effort you have made. It’s simply becoming “wash, rinse and repeat” now, after every latest defeat.
3

PaleRider added 14:30 - Apr 20
Nick. Two serious questions:

1) Why do you regularly knock Saints fans and laud Liverpool's fans?
2) What are your solutions to the current problems or are you happy with the situation Saints currently find themselves in?
3

pwithers123 added 14:55 - Apr 20
Good summary - Realistic - even of we all want better.

Our Annual revenue is declining - the last time we were in the Top 30 clubs in revenue terms was 2018.

Our owners are clear about living based on Revenue and not on subsidies from Rich Owners.

We are still financially coping with the decisions on salaries/transfers from prior times.

Ralph has done an astounding job - given resources. the bulk of the time - the team is good to watch - and are brave on and off the ball.

Give him more Investment Support - he will do a better job.

He is head and shoulders above some of the recent managers - Hughes, Pellegrini, Puel.


0

JimmyMeliaPhD added 15:54 - Apr 20
Whether we want RH to go or not, it seems pretty likely that he's staying. If that's the case then Nick's question has to be turned back on him. If we're going to have RH for the foreseeable, what does RH have to do to improve?
There are serious doubts and questions, as well as some damning numbers, hanging over him. In this league where getting your planning, team selection and tactic right is paramount, and where making in-game adjustments and effective substitutions is crucial, RH makes huge errors week in and week out. He also seems unable to motivate his players in any consistent way. So, assuming he's not going to get sacked, how is he going to improve in all those areas?
4

SanMarco added 16:23 - Apr 20
Morale is clearly low amongst us Saints fans - as it always would be after a semi-final defeat AND an atrocious run of results/form. There is a slight sense that some of those fearing 9-0 in the semi are now moaning that is was 1-0. Some of the comment about how dreadful we were have been over the top - lack of confidence and the lack of Romeu meant that we didn't take advantage of Leicester's nervy performance.

The Ralph situation is a very difficult one. He would certainly usually have been long gone by now. Assuming we stay up (99.5% sure now I would say) then Ralph will be here next season. As someone who eventually moved into the 'Puel out' camp and quickly regretted it I am not going to say 'Ralph out'. Having said that this can't go on forever. We saw what happened to Sheff Utd. If we have 6 points from 15 games at the start of next season Ralph will be gone whatever camp I, or any of us, are in. I'd like him to stay and be a success but he can't have forever.
1

underweststand added 16:38 - Apr 20
The trouble is that it's not only Saints' best players who move away, but managers, too.
Pochettino and Koeman had success and then moved up the management ladder. A change of management is not always the best answer to solving indifferent form - (as Spurs may find to their cost in the next season).

Arguably, Koeman's teams were the best since our return to Prem. but we have never properly replaced players of the quality of; Fonte, Mane, Pelle and VvD. Although one or two replacements have DAJFU, the others have cost the club in money and success.
Ralph's plans are still hampered by the abysmal buys made prior to his arrival, and for various reasons those we have at present just don't make it as..." a complete team ".

Indirectly, we have problems all over the pitch. Praise for JV and JB doesn't seem to stem the flow of goals against. There is some skill in midfield, but we are " too lightweight and lack both muscle and creativity ". Up front whoever plays is often starved of service .
Since the home win against Liverpool (14 games ago) - we have managed just 13 goals.
Had we scored just one goal more in even half of those games, we would have been 7 points better off today.

I don't defend Ralph in every decision, but I think he is doing the best he can given the players at his disposal. Surely no-one can doubt the dedication, or sincerity of a man who openly sheds tears after his team beats the League Champions.
Things don't get better overnight just because the manager screams, shouts, throws something, or gives a few words of encouragement. We are still one of the best 20 sides in the country, but at this level every mistake can be punished, and we suffered major injuries throughout the season and the results show that all too well.
Our problem is that not everyone in the squad is there on merit, but because there are not enough good alternatives to choose from and recalling Clint's famous film words ; " a man has to know his limitations " .

Regardless of the finances available, we will never get close to the funds available to the " Big Six" - but nevertheless I think we will see a major overhaul of the squad in the close season, and I for one will be glad to see a repeat of the Ralph's endeavour that got us to the top of the League last Autumn - even if it doesn't last all season.
0

RiverRatGats added 13:18 - Apr 21
My mouth dropped open reading this. How is that poor performances and results are the responsibility of the players and the board and all the successes and good performances are credited to Ralph? You talk about letting go of the past, but every excuse you make for Ralph is based on the past. He's been here 3 years and you're excusing him for not developing academy talent as some of those players have been here for 5 years before his arrival. 3 years is a reasonable tenure for a manager and I do not see that he has driven us forward. As a season ticket holder, I sat through all of his games before lockdown and it has been painful at times. He has brought in Salisu, Adams, Diallo, KWP and Walcott in that time, but team performances and results are no better than it was when he arrived. He is the manager and the manager is required to get the best out of the players. If all of the fault lies with the players when something goes wrong, then I question the value Ralph is bringing to the table. Let's remember he's not here as a favour and he's getting paid millions a year to do his job.

The comparisons with Klopp are ridiculous. Most managers play pressing football these days. Yes, both managed in the Bundesliga and both are from almost the same part of the world, but the comparisons stop there. Klopp had won things before he joined Liverpool and whilst he did deliver their first title in 35 years, you missed off the lorry load of domestic and European honours they won in between. He didn't perform miracles, but he did have a lorry load of cash. I just don't see how you can compare these guys other than for the reason Ralph was once dubbed 'Klopp of the Alps' by the German press. We do not have the next Jurgen Klopp in our dugout.

You talk about fans not having hope and expectations of success since Chris Nicholl left. What an ill-thought statement that is. Nigel Adkins delivered huge hope when he was in charge, as did Poch and Koeman when they came along. Under Ralph, I go into a lot of fixtures hoping we don't get embarrassed. That's how dire we have been under Ralph during the low moments and I've never seen a manager get so much support and credit for such an average tenure. There have been some highs for sure, but they were brief. The lows will live long in my memory and the 9-0 losses will forever haunt me an I sat through the entire home fixture drinking that poison in. As much as you refuse to admit it, Ralph is culpable.

Look at what Moyes has done for West Ham and then reflect on journey men and how good Ralph has been. How long do you want to give this guy? He's had 3 years already and achieved the same as Hughes in the FA Cup and overseen some of the most horrific runs of form and results in the club's history. We cannot afford to keep putting faith in him when his results speak for him. Yes, he's a nice guy; yes, he cares; but no, he doesn't give me hope or optimism about leading us forward. The board must take some responsibility for the lack of investment, but then not everyone has umpteen million to invest. Ralph talked about a small squad and youth prospects/rough diamonds when he arrived, but he's changed his tune now.

I'm not deluded about our status in the game and what we can achieve. What I do struggle with is Ralph's inflexible tactics and the drubbings we've taken over the last few years. Yes, he kept us up, but the players must also get credit for that. We also need to remember that Mark Hughes kept us up whilst we're making all these comparisons. Just because you can't think of a better alternative, doesn't mean they don't exist and that we shouldn't be looking for them.
1

saintmark1976 added 14:07 - Apr 21
Extremely well put RiverRatGats.

I was beginning to think that I was alone in not wanting to be a member of Nick’s “Cult of Saint Ralph”.
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