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Krueger vows to give Poch space
11:29am Sunday 23rd February 2014 in Sport
Incoming Saints director Ralph Krueger has insisted that he will not interfere with Mauricio Pochettino’s management of the team.
The 54-year-old is set to join a new look Saints board also featuring Austrian football agent Josef Lenhart when he returns to Southampton from Sochi where he has been working with the Canadian ice hockey team.
Krueger has been identified by Katharina Liebherr as a key person to bring in as the owner as non-executive chairman restructures the club following the exit of Nicola Cortese.
Kruger, a former coach of the Switzerland national ice hockey team and NHL side the Edmonton Oilers, is known for his management and leadership expertise.
He insists he won’t get involved in the running of the team, though his exact role remains unclear.
In an interview he has given in Sochi he said: “It’s a question of continuing to grow what’s already there, it’s not about rebuilding anything. I have met the coaching staff and Mauricio Pochettino and spoke to the team. I know exactly what he needs - and I know exactly what he doesn’t need.
“He doesn’t need someone getting involved in a day to day running of the team. He needs space to do his work, so that he can continue to grow the group. I get it, I totally get it. I feel the values that drive him.”
He added: “I know this will be a difficult situation, but that’s what makes it exciting and challenging.
“It’s about leadership and management. The sport I come from is irrelevant.
“I’ve had experience in major league sport and the principles are transferable. I will come in at the level of a well-informed fan and, as far as the team is concerned, I will stay in my place. No one has more information about what’s happening with the team than the head coach. I know that. I’ve been a head coach. I’ve been confronted with political situations, people without all the information trying to influence decisions.
“Everything needs to happen naturally. There need be no rush on either side. Pochettino needs to focus on all the important games coming up and I need to make space for him to do his work. He’s a very honest, strong personality with strong values. He should feel comfortable.”
His appointment is inevitably going to draw comparisons with Rupert Lowe’s decision to hire former England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward for an ill-fated spell in 2005-06.
Krueger visited St Mary’s last month to introduce himself and is understood to have kept in contact with staff while away in Sochi.
“Katharina is a woman of such strong values, and she has a fresh and interesting perspective to sports,” he said.
“This is the beginning of a new world for me, and it’s about respecting the traditions of the game and the club.
“But if we - and the club board - are doing our job right, we should be irrelevant to the fans. The most difficult department in any club is the sports department. At Southampton that is very healthy, it has strong leadership.
“I’ve been in a professional team environment since I was 17 and there was a real feeling of honesty in the team and the club. My principles are based on one, respect, and two, discipline – being willing to sacrifice for the sake of the team. I’m going to come in gently.”
He continued: “We’ve done everything very slowly and methodically, which is the way Katharina likes to do things.
“They don’t need sudden changes of direction right now. My strengths are sport-specific on the hockey team-building side, but other strengths are on the leadership side. We need to take the whole leadership side to a different level.”