In his latest end-of-season review, Vincent Ralph looks back on Southampton's campaign.
You have to admit it was strange. With Southampton 15th in the Premier League, and having just come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Chelsea, manager Nigel Adkins was given his marching orders and replaced with a man no one had heard of.
Okay, maybe some people had, but when Mauricio Pochettino took charge of the Saints back in January there was a sense of befuddlement among both fans and outside observers.
And then he started talking…in Spanish! And there was some bloke next to him translating. And what hadn’t made much sense before suddenly made even less.
It was said that Pochettino’s first training session was well-received by his new players. But the fact that he had to do most of his talking through his assistants must surely have baffled a team still in shock following the sudden departure of Adkins.
That was when I predicted it would all go wrong. That a man who seemed nice enough despite the fact I couldn’t understand a word he said, would undo all the good work of the man who had achieved consecutive promotions, taking Southampton from League One to the top flight in two moves.
But in hindsight, the decision by chairman Nicola Cortese to replace one man with the other was exactly the right thing to do. Perhaps he saw before most the fact that any of the bottom half could be pulled into a relegation fight. Perhaps he just panicked. But the side’s outstanding wins over Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City not only gave them bragging rights, those points kept them in the division.
That they fell short elsewhere is something to be worked on next season. But were it not for three upsets masterminded by the Argentinian, the Saints’ top flight stay would have been a brief one.
At the start of the season I predicted the Saints would be struggling until the very last day. Show me a harder start to a Premier League campaign than Southampton’s and I’ll show you a literate fan of Fifty Shades of Grey.
As it was they proved me wrong…twice…because I also thought a manager needing subtitles couldn’t possibly inspire a side to success.
It just goes to show that football is less about words, more about actions. And while I had planned to finish this piece in Spanish the truth is I could never pull it off.
image: © mischatuffield