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Saints Sack Coaches As Long Needed Revamp Begins
Thursday, 26th May 2022 10:19

A brief statement appeared on the Southampton FC official website on Wednesday evening announcing that three of the first team coaching staff had been sacked, whilst no one likes to see anyone lose their job, this is professional football and it was needed.

I have long said on this site that the main issue with the club at the moment wasn't the manager, but the lack of coaching ability and experience to back him up, Ralph Hasenhuttl has come under fire of late from some quarters, but those that berate him rarely have any solutions, they have just looked at poor results and blamed the manager.

But that isn't always the full picture, if Hasenhuttl was that bad a manager then why has he been able to take Saints to safety comfortably in each of his three seasons, why has he been able to take the team briefly to the top of the League, something not achieved since 1988 by a plethora of his predecessors and why has he been able to take us to an FA Cup semi final ?

The answer is that he is a good manager, but hampered by financial restrictions and limited resources.

Certainly a look at the Saints coaching set up shows that he has almost no coaches with any real experience in the jobs they are tasked to do and to be blunt the ability to coach a Premier League team to the level needed.

This is why we have been able to be so promising at times and then why we fall away, you see players with plenty of ability, but not being coached properly and making poor decisions on the pitch.

Hasenhuttl has been backed up for the last few seasons by six coaches, three have survived the cull, Richard Kitzbichler has worked with Ralph before, but he is essentially a technical coach, concentrating on analysing data rather than coaching the team, Andrew Sparkes is the goalkeeping coach and Alex Gross the head of sports science.

None of these are crucial in the team as a whole and setting out the training sessions and regimes.

The three who have gone are Kelvin Davis, David Watson & Craig Fleming.

The first needs no introduction having been on the playing staff for 11 seasons, although for the last four of those after our return to the Premier League he was mainly a back up keeper and played just 20 times in those 4 years. From 2016 he was initially given a job in player support, then in January 2018 he started on the coaching staff with no experience at all in this role.

His promotion was swift, he was caretaker manager after the sacking of Mark Hughes in December of that year and since then has been one of Ralph Hasenhuttl's assistants.

Next is Dave Watson who joining the club as a goalkeeping coach in 2014 had a fine pedigree in this role and stayed in it till 2019 when he swapped roles to become a general coach, again a role he had no experience in.

Last is Craig Fleming, he was perhaps the most qualified, as a player he has extensive top flight experience with both Oldham & Norwich, but his coaching experience was limited, spending 7 years with Lowestoft Town as manager, taking them from the Isthmian League to what was the the Conference North he left to join Saints as an Under 18 coach in March 2015.

He rose through the academy ranks with Saints to become assistant manager with the U23 side in 2017 and then promoted to first team coach in 2018/19.

He at least had some coaching experience, but it was not at any sort of level.

Individually you could perhaps get away with having one inexperienced coach in the back up staff, someone learning his trade alongside experienced professionals, but to have all of your three main coaches without the pedigree needed these days in the Premier League was a recipe for disaster.

It would surely have affected the squad in training, most would have played for other clubs under coaches with ability and experience both at club and International level, it must have been demotivating for the players who would expect much more from a club of our stature.

It is hard to see where the individual training for players was coming from, who would be coaching the defenders or the strikers for instance.

I judge the standard of a player on whether he would get into other sides in the Premier League, if I apply

But truth was with so many poor signings on big money, the issues surrounding Covid and little scope in the budget to make changes, Ralph had to soldier on with the staff he inherited.

You could see that he was not happy with the staff, looking at the bench on matchdays, none of the three had much input, they didn't get out of their seats, the manager seemed to rarely consult them or be seen in deep discussion, to put it bluntly he was out there on his own.

I on many occasions mentioned this in articles and since the arrival of Sport Republic have highlighted this as perhaps the first thing they would be looking at.

Now it seems that I was right, the season was barely over for three days and the trio have gone, I would be surprised if the club haven't already identified the men they want in to replace them and are in advanced talks.

Although I am pleased to see that the new owners are already looking at where we have been going wrong and are now taking steps to rectify it, it gives me no pleasure to see these men lose their jobs, all three have been good servants, but as mentioned this is professional football, there can be little room for sentiment.

If you are an academy coach you usually have job stability to a degree, but if you step up to first team level, then you have to be up to the pace.

Ideally the club would find employment for all three, they all have something to offer, but not at first team level.

The clubs statement was short and to the point and is printed below.

Southampton Football Club can confirm a change within the coaching team in the Men’s First Team environment.

The club has made the decision to part with Kelvin Davis, Dave Watson and Craig Fleming following the conclusion of the 2021/22 campaign and ahead of the return of the squad for pre-season training later in the summer.

Confirmation of new additions to the staff will be announced in due course.

The club would like to express its sincere thanks to each of the coaches for their efforts throughout their time at Southampton in various capacities.

Davis joined Saints in 2006, signing from Sunderland and spending ten memorable years as a player, which included the journey from League One to the Premier League and a long spell as captain, before remaining with the club and moving into a coaching role, ultimately joining the first-team staff in 2017.

Watson’s time at Saints began in 2014, initially as Goalkeeping Coach and subsequently Head of Goalkeeping, before he moved into a First Team Assistant Coach role in 2019, while Fleming arrived in 2015 as Under-18s Coach, eventually becoming Assistant Under-23s Coach and then joining the first-team staff.

The club wishes all three the very best for the future.


Photo: Action Images



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Block8 added 11:33 - May 26
It's a start but is it a case of changing the wheels when the engine is not good enough, you can't coach a lemon into being an orange and we have a lot of lemons!
We would all have differing views on who goes, who stays and who is undecided, mine are;
Go - Wallcott, Djenepo, Stephens, Vallery, Cabellero, Long & Broja & forster who have gone any way!

Undecided would be Diallo he is certainly not a defensive midfielder, Elyounoussi and Redmond, Tella they are more difficult to replace in my opinion and deserve a chance.

Keep - KWP, JWP, Livramento, Smallbone, Romeu, both Armstrongs, Adams, Salisu, Peraud, Small and Lyanco although he frightens the life out of me most of the time!

maybe promote a two or three from the other squads and buy/ loan a good spine, Keeper CB, CM and striker!
COYR
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underweststand added 11:59 - May 26
Either the players they were working with weren't good enough, or these fellas failed to get their message over. As an alternative to sacking the manager, it's a start but Ralph can only select from those who are brought to his attention, but at the kick-off - it's clear that you can't make a silk purse out of the proverbial pig's ear...even an expensive one.

As with many of the bottom half clubs (except Everton) none of us has a "sugar daddy" shovelling in £100 million every transfer window, and we have had to work with what we have whilst waiting for the next generation Academy starlets to get up to speed.

Expect to see a good many faces leaving the playing staff, and only hope that the new coaching staff are up to it , otherwise we will have a nervous couple of seasons until someone puts the wheels back on.
2

mattlegod added 12:14 - May 26
I agree these changes are needed but would have expected the technical coach to go too, let's face it our tactics have been questionable at times this season
1

highfield49 added 12:58 - May 26
Your argument is flawed Nick. The key factor this season has been the inconsistency, why can the players produce decent performances against top teams and fail to show up against Villa, Watford, Leeds, Burnley etc, etc? Whilst I agree that the coaching staff aren't good enough and change is essential I don't understand why the lack of tactical awareness, team selection and player substitutions is their issue alone. Ok, so the choice of Austria for pre season training tells us that Ralph is not being replaced this summer but if we see a new batch of coaches sitting on the bench looking similarly bewildered next season will you still be backing Ralph?
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wrathoftazz added 15:14 - May 26
Lmao if Ralph was on the stockmarket, Nick would be a majority share holder. No matter how many games they lose, the decisions made causing the loss, or by how many goals, there is always some for of BS excuse.

TRUE fans want progress and success... others accept mediocrity and offer excuses.
0

philcford added 16:17 - May 26
Surely one more person should have been sacked , the person who gave McCarthy and Stephens another contract.
6

davidargyll added 16:41 - May 26
As I have said before, what defines a good manager is NOT the ability to turn a load a A players into an A team; you can still mess that up, eg Man U, but nevertheless that is a relatively easy task; no, the real skill is to take a load of B and C players and turn them into an A team.
The classic example of this was Brian Clough.

The question is therefore does Ralph have the ability to take our seemingly very average squad and make them into an above average team?

Clearly a lot of people on here think not. But I reckon, on the back of the changes just announced, and without the financial shackles that he has had to endure for three seasons, he must be given the benefit of the doubt at least until Christmas.

4

Colburn added 17:29 - May 26
Who was responsible for ensuring that our players went out for the last 12 games devoid of hunger, passion, desire or intent? For me the manager is the main motivator and he failed to ensure the team entered the home straight with the aforementioned basics for playing at the top level. In addition, the team selections, lack of in-game proactivity and use of tactics and substitutions which failed week after week in these games is also the choices and decisions of the manager.. Our attacking players have lost direction due to the shacking tactics and disinterest in firstly hurting the opposition and secondly killing them off, the reason we have dropped a ridiculous amount of points from winning positions. Ralph hasn't learned from these groundhog moments and I don't see the issue behind that being the sacked 3.. Sentiment as you say has no room in a successful model so why have these changes not been made before? There is no window for coach transfers. It seems however that you reserve plenty of sentiment for Ralph, who has gradually talked down our ability as a team and as individuals to hide from or cover over his poor decision making in games against those outside the top 6. These battles are the only ones he seems to care about and clearly if we can garner results with from these big games then there is no excuse for having such a woeful run against the teams around us. Sure we don't expect to win all of those 6 pointers but to end up with the run we had at the end of the season using ideas like one lone man up front who is only 20 against teams which are below us in the table is a prime example of the negative mindset of the manager. He sends them out with fear, not with a freedom of expression and hunger and after playing the way we did in January tactically, the players must be confused, lost and lacking in interest.. Exactly what we witnessed. This is not down to three back room coaches, I accept the sleepy nature of our laid back goalkeeping style probably is!
At the very best Nick, in essence for months, you have been alluding to the board and top management having no clue of how to appoint a coaching team or take the necessary tough decisions to have a successful season. We are effectively now belittled by the likes of Brighton and Brentford because of negative mindsets and weak recruitment strategies which produce no heart for the badge.
2

felly1 added 18:57 - May 26
As Nicks says there's no room for sentiment in professional football.
So the coaches had to go. I for one want to say thankyou to Kelvin Davis for your long service to the club and all the great memories of your time in goal during the roller-coaster years 2007 to 2012.
He always played with a smile on his face and enjoyed a bit of banter with the Northam End. Maybe not a Prem standard keep but nevertheless a great shot stopper.
New coaches, some new players and a bit of optimism for next season.
I would love us to push towards the top 8 but I'm realistic to know first base is survival, second base is to get above the bottom 6, third base mid table, and fourth is to get to where Brighton did this season.
I would imagine Ralph knows he's on borrowed time if we don't make a decent fist of it in the first dozen or so games.
2

WestSussexSaint added 19:26 - May 26
Is it me or are Ralph and Boris copying each other? Claim to take responsibility for failings under their watch and then sack everyone else.
0

bartley41 added 21:45 - May 26
I agree with so many things you have written over the Season and your heading is a "Long needed revamp" so please when going on to" The Ugly Inside" can you get rid of the opening picture of Danny Ings who left nearly a year ago!
3

SaintPaulVW added 06:26 - May 27
Never a great moment when people lose their jobs. Plus it sounds like they were told about it via zoom rather than in person. However I am glad that a review has been carried out and rapid action has been taken.
2

underweststand added 11:26 - May 27
aside from the number of goalkeeping coaches we have / had, it would seem logical to employ someone who's had good experience of the Prem. (hopefully a former player) and who understands the demands of playing an outfield position, rather than as goalie.

As ever good men are hard to find, but if James Beattie is half as good a coach as he was a striker, I'd interview him tomorrow. Whoever we employ, we need a couple of men who had a good reputation in the game and are good role models for younger players.
0

TeamCortese added 11:57 - May 28
While it's sad to see Kelvin Davis leave the club under such circumstances I am very grateful for his service in getting us to where we are today. His contribution will not be forgotten and I for one would like to see him continue his relationship with the club in another capacity maybe as a club ambassador.

As Nick pointed out the club needs a real shake-up and I think the coaching staff is a good place to start. I for one would like us to poach coaching staff from top clubs in other leagues such as Germany (i.e. from Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Dortmund, and Bayern Leverkusen), Netherlands (Ajax & PSV), France (PSG, Monaco, and Lille), Spain (Sevilla and Athletico Madrid), and to a lesser degree Scotland (Celtic & Rangers). The talent there would be cheaper and more likely to come due to the higher salaries in the EPL.

Moreover, it would be great to poach some of the backroom staff from Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Spurs, and West Ham.

The next step, would be to remove the deadwood. Here's my take below.

Out: Shane Long, Forster, Stephens, Lyanco, Che Adams, Adam Armstrong, Djenepo (too much drama), Walcott.

Maybes: Redmond, Moi, Alex McCarthy (if he doesn't want to be a backup), Bednarak (if he doesn't want to be a backup), Romeu (need a longer-term replacement).

Keep: Diallo (gets one more season), Smallbone (gets one more season), Tella (gets one more season), KWP, Tino, JWP, Broja (if he's interested in joining), Salisu, Perraud, Stuart Armstrong.

Players we need to bring in:

- A solid GK ideally in their mid-to-late 20s. Someone like Dean Henderson or Nick Pope.
- A solid center-half with at least 3-4 years of experience in an elite European league (EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A). Ideally Tarkowski or someone similar.
- A playmaker. This could be a hidden gem from an elite club academy but unable to break into the first team e.g. Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid. Ideally someone similar to Tino Anjorin or Eberechi Eze.
- A solid box-to-box central midfielder to provide additional depth and quality to the midfield. Might need to dip into France, Holland, and Germany as it'll be cheaper.
- One possibly two solid strikers (depending on Broja) who have scored at least 10 to 15 goals in all competitions in leagues such as Germany, Spain, and the EPL. This is will be the hardest to find. However, I know Cornet (from Burnley) is on the market. Pukki would be an ideal replacement for Che or Adam Armstrong.

Once we have addressed the above I suspect we'd comfortably finish in the top 12.
0

felly1 added 12:05 - May 28
Team Cortese, I'd also like to bring Pukki here on a 2 year deal, he's getting on a bit but he'd get goals for us. He's a sharp player and experienced.
1


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