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Time For Saints Supporters To Put The Past Behind Us And Look To The Future
Wednesday, 5th Jan 2022 10:00

Tuesday 4th January 2022 was an eventful day in the history of Southampton Football Club, an event that some had been clamouring for over the past 3 years, now it has happened the past is over it is only the future that counts.

The last 3 years have seen sections of the Saints fanbase clamouring to then owner Jisheng Gao to leave the club, for some it didn't matter how it was done or who took over they just wanted Gao out.

This happened yesterday when Sport Republic bought out Gao's 80% stake in the club with Katharina Liebherr retaining her 20% holding.

But some on social media could not let Gao leave with dignity, they could not let him go without disparaging his time at the club.

I am not going to go too deeply into his time at the club, all I am going to do is state what the history books will tell future generations, that the club finished 17th in the season he took control, in his 3 full seasons it finished 16th, 11th & 15th and when he left at exactly the half way point of this season it was sat in 14th.

It may also say that during that time the club also reached two FA Cup semi finals, something that it done only one other time since 1986.

What it probably won't say is that Gao was unable to invest because of the situation with China or that he took no money out of the club or that he did not sell to the first chancer that came along, what it might say is that he lost around £100 million on the deal.

But what the records will show is that during his 3 and a bit seasons the club was not relegated from the Premier League and that he left the club in roughly the same position it was in when he arrived.

It is only the last stats that should really concern Saints supporter's that the club is still in the Premier League and money that had to be borrowed because of loss of revenue due to Covid 19 restrictions, something that has affected all clubs, is the only deficit.

Now we have a clean slate in front of us in Sport Republic, we should not stop questioning them and their intentions, but having said that we should also give them the chance to show what they can do for the club.

But we should not expect miracles, they have said that they intend to change little in the way the club is run, one of the attractions for them was the stability the club has in the shape of it's management structure.

But what they will bring to the table is the ability to get things done quicker, we have been heavily burdened throughout Gao's reign with expensive poor signings still on the books, Gao could do nothing to alleviate that financial burden, perhaps SR will be able to inject cash when needed, let's hope so.

So what we have now is a new owner, a chance for a new beginning and the club sat 14th in the Premier League and as near to the top 7 in terms of points as they are to the bottom 3.

It is now time to put the past behind us and move forward backing the club, for it to succeed it needs it's supporters, if a Premier league club did not need supporters then Rasmus Ankersen who until a few weeks ago was Director Of Football at Brentford would have stayed at that club and Sport Republic would have purchased it.

Southampton FC have a far bigger supporter base than Brentford and therefore far more potential, but supporters are no good to a club if they are sat at home and not at games, the team can't hear them and just as importantly their money isn't coming into the coffers.

Something had to happen to get fans back on board and surely a change in ownership is that catalyst that brings the fanbase together again.

If we are to move forward then the past has to be put behind us and not brought up at every opportunity, Southampton Football Club is where it is in the football pecking order, there are at least 11 clubs with bigger stadiums, bigger support, more money and more history.

Then you have those who are around the same level as us in all of those terms, Leicester might claim they are in the top echelon but in reality they are at the same tier as us and Wolves, Brighton & Crystal Palace, part of a group of 5 who should finish anywhere between 12th and 17th all things being equal, any higher and we are overperforming and any lower and we are underperforming.

The Premier League has changed in the past 5 years, the rich are getting richer and the rest are getting left behind.

We have to get behind our team and the new owners who are not going to turn us into the new Newcastle United with £430 billion in hand, they won't even turn us into Chelsea with a mere £15 billion, but they could turn us into Leicester City and get us into Europe and even a trophy and they could even turn us into the Southampton of 2014-2017 when we competed for top 8 place and a Wembley final.

But all that won't happen if we keep looking back to the past, we need to all kick in the same direction turn St Mary's into a cauldron and hopefully see Sport Direct and Rasmus Ankersen do what they intend to do, build a club and indeed a network that will unable to compete, they are not promising billions of investment, nor Premier League titles and top four finishes, in fact they are promising nothing, but they are offering the opportunity for us to build on what they see as solid foundations and make the club better than it is and in doing so be competitive.

Whether they keep good on their stated intentions no one will find out until the future, but that is unwritten so until then we have to trust in them as we have no choice, but they might well be the saviours of the club, who knows, but the past is gone, it is written in the history books and can't be changed, but the future is still there to be changed and ours perhaps did on Tuesday January 4th 2022.

Photo: Action Images

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DorsetIan added 10:21 - Jan 5
Yes, it's certainly time to move on and hopefully this will be your last self-aggrandisement piece/comment about how fans are so stupid/naive and how Gao and his reign were so badly misunderstood by everyone but you.


PaleRider added 10:40 - Jan 5
I agree that we need to get behind the new owners and I only hope that you are as positive about them as you were about Gao. It is fine having opinions but they should really be supported by evidence/fact - something that has been as sadly lacking in your praise of Gao as it was in the criticism of Yoshida.

I actually hope that one of the first things to get sorted is sponsorship. We have been forced into having a betting company as sponsor following the debacle of having a sham business as sponsor and I find it an embarrassment that a club with Saints' ethos is in this position.

Time to move on -hopefully upwards as well.

WestSussexSaint added 10:57 - Jan 5
Personally I think it is impossible to judge what Gao’s contribution to the club was because it was on the face of it there was virtually no engagement either in a positive or negative way. He was very much the silent partner in how things were run so any success or otherwise is really down to the others who had more influence on how the club was run and where it’s resources were spent.

It seems like the new owners bring more than just money to the table with their plans around a multi club group and supported by expertise in data analytics. Whether this proves a successful model or not remains to be seen but at least there is a bit more about them.

In the last 4 years it feels like the club haven’t really progressed but any decline has also been minimal. Stagnation seems like an appropriate word so in the history of time Gao’s impact on the club will barely merit a footnote.

highfield49 added 10:59 - Jan 5
I've been reflecting on the new ownership and couldn't initially work out what was unusual about the events. Maybe I haven't got enough pieces of the jigsaw yet but the news seems to have stemmed from, as posted by Nick, a Sky Sports journalist on his Twitter account. Being more used to the traditional press release or press conference I'm wondering if this is indeed the birth of a new communications strategy for the club. I've got used to a veil of secrecy that had to be almost dragged away to obtain any useful communication from the owners, a kind of reluctance to admit the supporters had any significance. If there is a new openness and positive press generated by the owners rather than the grubby speculation on social media from has been pundits then that will indeed be a new dawn.
Maybe the Sky Sports leak was unintentional but the takeover news certainly broke quickly to the planet. Having got used to player sale speculation, record defeats and points turned over from winning position headlines I'm thinking how good it will be to see some positivity surrounding our club.

ElijahK added 11:28 - Jan 5
Well as FrannysTache said yesterday, we now do know what Gao was hoping to do, and I’m the end it wasn’t good whatsoever for us, as a connection between Southampton uni and our football team ain’t what the teams that win stuff do!
But still I’m relieved that he couldn’t take money out of China to do this, and even more relieved that he’s gone now, as I don’t see why people are at all protecting him as other Chinese owners managed to get money out of the country to invest in other clubs, so why couldn’t Gao?
Still we’ve got a new owner now, and it looks like his plans could benefit the club a lot more that Gao’d, and could lead to us being able to keep the decent players as well as winning stuff!

felly1 added 11:34 - Jan 5
I agree, let's move on. Why waste our time dwelling in the past.
Nick, you really ought to abandon social media. It took me a few years but I slowly realised its a place that people can make all sorts of uniformed claims and opinions when having very little knowledge or understanding of a subject or a situation.
It just makes you feel stressed and annoyed. Life is definitely better without it.

Colburn added 11:34 - Jan 5
Yes, let's all get behind Stephens and all the no.10's who you knocked in your last article which wasn't really worth reacting to.. Of course you praised your favourites, even though they have been weak links this season and indeed you even pointed out that one of your favourites has only really performed in one game, while others have had far less opportunities. At least Elyonoussi has scored twice, unlike the others and Djenepo has hardly played since forging a good relationship with Perraud at the start. Perhaps its also time to drop the incessant attacks on Mccarthy, who may not be the best and may deserve to be dropped but we already have your opinion on him ingrained and while most won't disagree with you, the point doesn't need to be driven home as with your inaccurate summaries of your favourites.
And it is utter nonsense to say that it hasn't been possible to take money out of China for businessmen. If they really want to, they can, others have managed to so why not Gao. He bought it happy to sit on it and do nothing hoping that our way would just automatically make him profits. He couldn't asset strip as it would have merely reduced the value of his shares which were already dipping..
So yes, let's all come together as a fan base (not one local journalist exempt), perhaps you should lead the way by removing the last piece knocking the players you don't like and praising the ones you do, it isn't helpful to your own vision...

Colburn added 11:35 - Jan 5
Felly1, you could not be more correct.. It is a disease..

underweststand added 11:39 - Jan 5
Not much has changed in the last 100 years when it comes to improving the club's finances. Every generation has been forced to sell its top players, both before and after WW2 , and much of the time since. The club's survival has depended on those previous generations of the local men who sat on the Board, and frequently dug into their own pockets just to help keep our beloved club afloat.
I don't expect the new owner to begin splashing hundreds of £ millions every year (ala Chelsea) but it's fairly sure that some of our future transfer deals won't bring everyone out in a cold sweat every time we have to make sensitive transfer negotiations.

For some time past we've heard rumours of "possible takeovers" but clearly Martin Semmens has found what he feels is " the right fit ", and if we can look back on this day in a few years with some degree of success, we might surely recommend Mr. Semmens for ....the Freedom of the City , and say .... Well done Martin!

Colburn added 11:43 - Jan 5
Also the £100m was because Gao put us £90m in further debt. The club is valued at £250m... So he wasn't a very good businessmen really, just a clown with too much money and stupid ideas.. Praise the Gao! He's gone, hopefully the new lot show some passion and pride in the city, and actually care about the clubs history and fan base.

SaintNick added 12:19 - Jan 5
How nice it has been to read the comments about an article that all seem to just vent their anger about things that have happened in the past, as I have said on numerous occasions if anyone disagrees with any of my points and wants to write an article pointing out their own views on a subject im quite happy to print them.

ChristchurchSaint added 12:33 - Jan 5
Underweststand- I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think we all have been waiting for yesterday to come, maybe Mr Solak won’t write out huge cheques, but I hope that, as he has said, we become an important cornerstone in his project. I also think that some people have become very impatient about who was going to buy the club, but Martin Semmens does seem to be genuine, and I believe that we have got a decent deal, under his guidance, and we will benefit from being patient.

pwithers123 added 13:06 - Jan 5
Thank you Nick - well written piece. Factual. Clear - with plenty of back up detail to support the opinion. Some revealing comparative data. Fascinating - I would not have realised some of the facts you presented.

So - I am certainly prepared to give past owner some credit for ensuring a Management team that has kept Saints in PL + got to Cup Finals - despite low investment. Also for consistently supporting Hassenhutl - who is the best manager we have had since Pochettino.

Also feel that Nick is right to outline that part of the fan base has very different views on these issues - and that he is providing some factual responses so we can each make our own judgement - with the detail......

pwithers123 added 13:11 - Jan 5
I am also really pleased to see that Katherina Liebherr has retained her minority stake. She may well the biggest factor in the stability of the club and in the decision to hold out until the right owners came in. We still owe the Liebherr family very full respect in all this

JoeEgg added 13:20 - Jan 5
"At Southampton, Pochettino’s side were a one in a million outfit. Teeming with academy graduates, bargain buys and players who rose from the lower echelons of football, and managed by an individual who has never stopped silencing his doubters and critics, the Saints became the Premier League’s finest entertainers." Luke Osman's words. Yes times will change but at the end of the day the benefit to be brought to our Club by the new owners will reflect the skill and talent of the manager and how well he handles the situation. I will always settle for seeing our Club once again as one of the finest entertainers in the Premier League.

joninjapan added 14:38 - Jan 5
Great article as usual, Nick. Thanks for providing one of the valuable Saints opinion and news sites that I trust. Looks like 2022 could be a positive turnaround year for us. If we're the flagship club in a multiclub group run on smart data, and as a result can more systematically keep buying undervalued players like Livramento, and selling overvalued players like Vestergaard, then indeed we may stay safely in Prem mid table and sometimes "do a Leicester..." Also Midtjylland is not only one of my favorite club names, but doing great in Europe under the strategy of one of our new directors - and it would be nice to loan out our best future players to them for development, and buy their best players which fit our team shape. Think access to better players at reasonable prices may support Hasenhuttl, who has recently shown improved tactical flexibility on top of his strong pressing style. Would be great if the new data-oriented setup can supplement his relative weaknesses such as in game management too. Exciting times.

DSM added 15:01 - Jan 5
I know it hasn't much to do with the new owners (even though I - as a dane - find it interesting with danish - and serbian - owners), but regarding the bit about looking forward (instead of backwards), what do you guys think about the fact that Hasenhuttl will continue untouched? Jeg REALLY like the guy and would love him to be succesful (for many reasons obviuosly!), but come on ... isn't he overrated as a coach/manager? Not to provoke you, Colburn, by knocking players I don't like, but the fact that he keeps playing Jack stephens, apparently thinks Livramento is infallible and therefore forced KWP (fantastic player) out of position (why can't they play together at the right?), again and again miss out on solid, english talent (the latest is going to Huddersfield!) and twice lost 0-9 ... is he as good as he is nice? I'll admit, that I (living in Denmark) can't follow the club the same way you can ... so have you any thoughts? (And please excuse my english and grammar!)

felly1 added 17:33 - Jan 5
Always nice to hear from Saints fans from other countries, as far as I'm concerned if Ralph can keep us in the Premier league playing mainly entertainment football (which we already do) then I'm happy with that. If we really look in trouble and relegation look seriously possible, he will have to go. Simples.

aceofthebase added 17:38 - Jan 5
I feel that the fans will be overflowing at the gates of the Dragans Den. The good news is that the long dreamed for expansion to the ground to accommodate 45,000 is surely the first ambition in the showcase 'Red Bull' ambition.
The future is surely looking brighter today.

worksopsaint added 18:49 - Jan 5
A good article and worthy sentiments , Nic. I was interested in your reasons as to why clubs are successful - size of stadia and fan base plus ‘ history’. I’m not sure what you mean by history . As for size you are probably correct but Newcastle and Sunderland contradict that . It’s probably size plus the wealth of the region the club is located.

I took heart that of all those clubs ( currently in prem or championship or first division) with gates of 28 to 35,00 then we top the list of club with the longest period in the top flight ( prem / first division) , and I suspect by some distance. That makes me feel proud.

In assessing a clubs wealth foundations you make no mention of Academies. Have they no place in the financial well-being of a club because if an Academy produced a £10 m player once every two years that is probably worth the same as an extra 5000 on the gate each match.

Block8 added 19:42 - Jan 5
A few comment on your piece Nick
We are all Southampton fans, some who attend and some who don't but we share a love for this club, so perhaps a bit less antagonistic would be nice, we all have players we don't rate and some would be the same but for different reasons!
And if you forget the past you leave yourselves open to making the same mistakes again.
We do, unfortunately, have a reasonably small real terms fanbase, attendances don't lie so I doubt if we will ever get much bigger in attendance numbers although to fill the ground more often would be nice but at least those that attend are genuine fans and not glory hunters.
To run an academy is actually very expensive and you have to guarantee some success just to break even, which is why so many are shipped out early and we have started to poach promising older lads from other clubs. ( Man City did it to us in November with Max Alleyne)
Lets just hope we can move the relatively small distance to put us on a level with Leicester and be one of the teams that just maybe can with luck get to the very top and upset the moneymen!

davidargyll added 22:37 - Jan 5
I certainly am not going to pooh pooh the takeover, quite the opposite, I think it is very welcome even if I’m sceptical about the whole theory of assessing players using Moneyball analysis - it may have worked early doors but must surely be getting to be old hat by now.
No, what concerns me is that there havevbeen a number of new owners turning up in the PL over the last couple of years, all of whom seem to be saying the same thing, ie they are going to make their new club great (again?), we’ll never be relegated (again?), gEurope beckons etc
The theory of course goes that a new owner = more money for new players = everlasting success.
But history shows that new money coming into the PL only ever leads to the bidding up in price of (lower than) average players across the globe and most certainly does NOT lead to better quality square and higher league positions. Look no further than Everton to bear witness to this.
Of course I hope it won’t be be so in Saints’ case but anybody who thinks new ownership will automatically lead to great things may be disappointed. It didn’t happen with Gao but that wasn’t how it looked when he arrived in 2017. Of course it may happen eventually now but it wouldn’t surprise me one jot if mid-table mediocrity continues for a good few seasons yet.

pintsizedsaint added 23:21 - Jan 5
Good opinion piece Nick, many thanks for it. Ignore the idiots that continue to come on here looking to attack, they’re views are never backed up with any facts, and not worth the paper it isn’t written on. I do look forward to reading their own fansites - given they are so desperate to run yours.


DSM added 00:04 - Jan 6
Thanks for your comment, felly1 (and HI!), but even though it's a bit besides the point in the article, are we playing that intertaining? Ain't there too much panic in defence, too few assists from midfield and too few goals from strikers (except Broja who is on loan) for us to be intertaining for our own fans? I actually think that we have very capable players and yet vi loose to Norwich and have only won 4 out of 19 matches? I just can't see Hasenhuttl as a winner (even though I do like him) ... we could have had Eddie Howe (Winner!).

PaleRider added 11:21 - Jan 6
Maybe we should all just agree that the name Gao is never to be mentioned again on this site!

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