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The history lesson Nigel Adkins cannot afford to ignore
REMEMBER, remember the whole of November; Back in 2004 it was the time Saints lost the plot; Looking back, we saw no real reason; Why Saints allowed common sense to be forgot...
Ok, those famous nursery rhyme words might have been altered from those made famous thanks to Guy Fawkes’ antics way back in 1605.
When some fans are talking about sacking the man who has won 54 of his 96 league games in charge, there is nothing wrong with a history lesson.
Saints’ dismal Capital One Cup capitulation at Championship club Leeds on Tuesday heaped more pressure on Adkins.
It was a game he could certainly have done without on a day he didn’t want to play the fourth-round tie anyway.
The result followed seven defeats in Saints’ first nine top flight games.
On its own, a League Cup defeat at lower division opponents is hardly a great shock when Saints’ recent history in the competition is taken into account.
But add it to league results, and Adkins is already coming under pressure from sections of the fanbase who were quick to elevate him to legendary status after winning back to back promotions last April.
It is obvious, to me anyway, that the acid tests are fast approaching.
Just as they did eight years ago. Back then, Saints were unable to bag enough points in the crucial month of November 2004 to pull themselves away from relegation fears.
Under inexperienced manager Steve Wigley Saints could only draw at home to West Brom and Crystal Palace and lost at Norwich.
The Canaries and Palace accompanied Saints down at the end of the season, and the Baggies were fourth bottom.
That is how crucial those autumn games turned out to be.
In among that lot was a horrendous League Cup loss at Championship club Watford. The three-goal margin of defeat – 5-2 – was the same as Adkins’ much-changed side lost by at Leeds earlier this week.
The shambles at Vicarage Road, though, was worse – much worse – than the Elland Road debacle.
Wigley fielded eight players who had turned out in the Premier League the weekend before, while Adkins didn’t include any.
While Adkins might now be wondering whether his fringe players are good enough for league action, Wigley was given a stark warning that his first team weren’t good enough.
Wigley remained in charge throughout November 2004, but was sacked not long into the following month.
Adkins will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.
Remarkably, Saints have played seven of the current top nine Premier League teams this season.
No other club down with them in the bottom seven have had a tougher start.
A real baptism of fire, as it has turned out.
The only two clubs in the top nine they haven’t met are leaders Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion, and Saints travel to the Hawthorns next Monday.
Saints have only played two games against teams not in the top half at it stands, and put four past Aston Villa in one of them.
If Saints had played seven of the bottom nine, rather than the top nine, and endured the results they have had, we might not be talking about whether Adkins is still the right man to manage the club.
The decision might already have been made.
To stay up this season, it is stating the obvious that Saints need to beat the teams who should be fighting to avoid the drop as well.
This month brings exactly the sort of games they need to be picking up points in.
After the trip to West Brom, Saints are presented with a run of three home games in four matches.
And the away game is at QPR, currently rock bottom without a win to their name.
Swansea, Newcastle and Norwich are due to visit St Mary’s in the next few weeks.
Swansea and Norwich, even at this stage of the campaign, appear games Saints really could do with winning.
Of the three home games, they present the best hopes of three points.
Former boss Alan Pardew, returning for the first time since his controversial sacking by Nicola Cortese in August 2010, will no doubt be fired up when he brings Newcastle to south Hampshire on November 24.
He will have something to prove, let’s make absolutely no mistake about that.
I wrote last week in these very pages that Saints are by no means in danger of being cast adrift in the drop zone.
Two Premier League clubs haven’t even won a game yet, while four others have only won once.
Wigan have won just twice, and even Swansea have only tasted victory once in their last seven games.
On the plus side, Saints have scored twice as many goals as QPR, Norwich and Aston Villa, and more than twice as many as Sunderland.
Stoke are another team that are averaging less than a goal per game in the Premier League.
Only one team outside the top six have scored more goals than the 14 Saints have managed – Fulham (19).
That is the good news.
Now the case for the defence, and some of Adkins’ critics will no doubt jibe that he hasn’t got one.
If he had, Saints perhaps wouldn’t be in their current predicament.
The next few weeks will tell us whether he has been able to solve the main, critical problem – the constant leaking of goals.
Perhaps ‘leaking’ is the wrong word. More of a flood at times.
If QPR, Swansea and Norwich find it as easy to score against Saints as Arsenal, West Ham, Everton and the two Manchester clubs have managed, then pressure will reach boiling point.
By the end of this month, Saints will have played more than a third of their league games in 2012/13.
Nigel Adkins will sincerely hope he is still in charge on December 1, but he really needs more points than Saints banked eight years ago.