Turmoil is a flashback to the dark days for Saints

Daily Echo: Nicola Cortese Nicola Cortese

SO here we are again.

With Saints sitting pretty in the top ten of the Premier League, everything in the garden at St Mary’s seemed to be smelling of roses.

The club possess a very ambitious chairman, a young up and coming manager fast making a name for himself in one of the world’s best leagues, and a host of young players coveted by some of the biggest teams in the country.

One of the best training grounds in Britain, if not Europe, is in the process of being built at Marchwood – 12 pitches, for a start – and there is seemingly no end to the impressive list of players rolling off the Saints academy conveyor belt.

Saints have been to Anfield and won this season, and got a draw at Old Trafford. They have held Manchester City despite being without half their first choice side due to injury.

In a nutshell, the future appears bright.

Very bright.

Certainly far brighter than it did this time five years ago when Saints were on a path that would eventually lead them to administration and third division football.

But Saints’ recent history has been clouded with controversies, boardroom shake-ups, power battles and departures shrouded in mystery.

And now, unbelievably, it's happened again - just at a time when they might have presumed all the above was firmly in the past.

Nicola Cortese – the chairman who has overseen Saints’ phenomenal rise from the depths of League 1 to, briefly last November, the top three of the Premier League – last night sensationally left St Mary's.

His relationship with the Liebherr family – who still own the club that Cortese’s great friend, Markus Liebherr, rescued from the brink of oblivion in July 2009 – has broken down to such an extent that it could not be fixed.

Daily Echo: Markus Liebherr

Where will this leave Saints? Where does Cortese’s departure leave Mauricio Pochettino, who has previously stated he would leave if the chairman departed?

Just how long will Katharina Liebherr be in 'temporary' control?

Daily Echo: Katharina Liebherr

Questions, questions, questions.

It is not easy to answer any of them, but that has often been the case at Saints.

Following Markus Liebherr’s death in August 2010, the high-tech engineering conglomerate Mali Group – based in Switzerland and set up by Markus in 1994 – said the late owner’s daughter, Katharina, would assume overall control of the club.

“Please be assured that we all will continue to carry out his vision. Ms Katharina Liebherr is determined to continue the legacy of her father and his ideas for the future entirely in the interest of servicing existing as well as winning new Mali customers,” said a Mali statement at the time.

Were Saints fans ever totally assured, as the statement asks?

Was Cortese?

When the latest speculation broke surrounding Cortese, it was accompanied by a distinct case of deja vu.

After all, we had been here before.

Four years ago this month, in January 2010, the first stories emerged in the media that Cortese was a target for Italian giants AC Milan.

That speculation didn’t last long, Cortese telling fans he was committed to realising Markus Liebherr’s visions and dreams.

He has since been true to his word.

Then, last May, more stories surfaced in the English national press that Cortese was considering his future.

Pochettino came out in support of his chairman, saying he would go if Cortese left.

Daily Echo: Mauricio Pochettino

It was an unusual statement to make, as there has never before been a high-profile manager quitting a Premier League job just because his chairman has departed.

Back in 2006, then Saints boss George Burley went public in his backing of chairman Rupert Lowe as the latter faced a power battle he eventually lost.

Burley, though, never said he would leave if Lowe went.

Daily Echo: George Burley

Last May Cortese, after a few days of intense speculation, decided to stay at St Mary’s after talks with Katharina Liebherr.

A statement revealing the news was issued the day before Saints’ final home game against Stoke.

The statement read: “Southampton FC is pleased to announce that the Executive Chairman, Nicola Cortese, and the owner of the Club, Katharina Liebherr, yesterday concluded their regular strategy review for the Club and signed off on plans for the Club’s continued development.

“Commenting on the agreement, Nicola Cortese said: “We are now in a position to move forward with our ambitious plans for the Club and I would like to thank Katharina for the very helpful manner in which she approached our talks about long term strategy. I am pleased that this matter is now resolved.

“We can now focus 100% on our preparations for next season. We have tremendous momentum now at the Club and we are looking forward with great confidence to an exciting and successful campaign next season.

“The last few days have shown me the unity that we now have across the Club in the players, the First Team Manager, the staff and the Chairmanship which normally takes years to achieve.

“I have always believed that to create this unity would make us a very strong Club and it is a unity of which I am unashamedly proud.”

Now we know the matter was not 'resolved' at all.

We might never know what assurances Cortese received prior to that statement being issued.

We might never know whether those assurances were concerning the future of the club – whether it would ever be sold or not, and how much power Cortese would continue to wield – or how much money, if any, would be made available to spend in last summer’s transfer market.

We might never know if the straw that broke the camel's back was money related, and whether Cortese was seeking more to spend to take Saints further up the Premier League and, ultimately, into Europe.

That was Cortese’s aim, but the club need to spend a lot more money to get anywhere the top four.

Do the Liebherrs want to put that sort of money in?

Perhaps they do; perhaps they just didn't want Cortese to be the man in charge of spending it.

Perhaps they think Cortese has spent TOO much. We have to ask these questions, but we might never know the answers.

Daily Echo: Markus Leibherr (right) with Nicola Cortese (left)

We might never find out just how much the Liebherr family have ploughed into Saints for new signings, after Markus spent only around £13m to buy the club at a knockdown price in 2009.

Perhaps all the money spent so far has been cash earned from Premier League prize money and Saints’ own ticketing and commercial revenue streams We might also never find out just how much of an interest Katharina Liebherr has taken in Saints in the last few years.

All the answers to these questions we would love to know, but almost certainly won’t.

Saints fan ‘Saint Christopher’ summed it up well on the Echo website dailyecho.co.uk yesterday morning.

“Whatever happens, the biggest disappointment in all this is the turmoil and change that we were beginning to hope was in the past,” he wrote. “Most Saints fans have had enough of that over the past four years and its a shame we might be facing more of the same.

“Just hope it’s a storm in a tea cup and will blow over, but can’t help feeling it may be more than that this time.”

He was to be proved right.

Who knows what the short-term future holds now, let alone the longer one.

Daily Echo: Rupert Lowe

A source quoted in a national newspaper yesterday claiming Saints would go into “meltdown” if Cortese left are surely wide of the mark.

It’s almost a cliché to write this, but no one individual is bigger than the club – whether they score all the goals, pick the team, or sit in the chairman’s seat in the directors’ box.

Such a comment also infers that the Liebherr family will be unable to appoint a decent replacement.

This is the same Liebherr family that successfully run a series of companies boasting a turnover of hundreds of millions.

The Liebherr brand name in Southampton is strong: Liebherr cranes were a common sight in the city long before Markus took the club over.

The family will not want to do anything to tarnish their good name in the area.

There was an outcry almost a year ago to the day when Cortese sacked Nigel Adkins and replaced him with a manager who had himself been dismissed by a struggling Spanish League club a few months earlier.

Daily Echo: Nigel Adkins

That outcry quickly died down. The King is dead, long live the King, etc etc.

Will the same now happen given Cortese's departure, or will his exit be easily the most seismic departure in St Mary’s history?

Cortese had great plans for Saints, we know that. Pochettino too.

One of them will definitely not be around now to see whether those grand plans come to fruition.

The spotlight today will shine on the other, and whatever Mauricio Pochettino says will be fascinating.

If he chooses not to face the media, as planned, at St Mary's ... well, that will be equally fascinating and the speculation concerning his own future will only escalate.

And you thought stability was now a buzzword at Saints!

Comments (19)

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5:26am Thu 16 Jan 14

saintstu downunder says...

With the utmost respect for Nicola Cortese, and the revival of our great football club under his leadership, the Liebherr family have funded that success.

Rather than panic, as the press seem to want us to, can we just relax and wait and see what Katharina does?

If Pocchetino feels he has to leave, then that is also a shame. If he doesn't want to be part of our club, and his tie to us was only due to working with Cortese, then I'd rather see him go too.

Whatever happens, we will go marching on.

Up the Saints!
With the utmost respect for Nicola Cortese, and the revival of our great football club under his leadership, the Liebherr family have funded that success. Rather than panic, as the press seem to want us to, can we just relax and wait and see what Katharina does? If Pocchetino feels he has to leave, then that is also a shame. If he doesn't want to be part of our club, and his tie to us was only due to working with Cortese, then I'd rather see him go too. Whatever happens, we will go marching on. Up the Saints! saintstu downunder
  • Score: 23

5:35am Thu 16 Jan 14

Norwegian Saint says...

I dont think we can compare this scenario to the "dark days" DE
We are sat 9th, safe for another season in the Worlds best league, we have lost a man that helped put Saints where we are BUT we also lost Saint Markus Liebherr and we still made it. We have stars and (at the moment) a very good manager.
In the immortal words of a Cpl Jones....Don't panic (Mr Echo).... Don't PANIC!!!
I dont think we can compare this scenario to the "dark days" DE We are sat 9th, safe for another season in the Worlds best league, we have lost a man that helped put Saints where we are BUT we also lost Saint Markus Liebherr and we still made it. We have stars and (at the moment) a very good manager. In the immortal words of a Cpl Jones....Don't panic (Mr Echo).... Don't PANIC!!! Norwegian Saint
  • Score: 6

6:01am Thu 16 Jan 14

milton road says...

This is not an easy situation, and for Poch with the media making so much of the fact he said he would leave if Cortese did in may. Even if he has changed his mind he may feel he has to so as to maintain credibility.
If he goes then we are liable to lose certain players who said they only signed new contracts because of Cortese and Poch, whether now or in the summer.

The other day I read an article that said the issue was over the fact the owners would not put in the cash necessary to take us the extra step and also wouldn't sell, therfeore Cortese was in a position where there was basically nothing more he could do.

Other reports say it was over the fact the owners wanted to sell. It really is a myriad of speculation.

The problem is if Poch goes, the team he came with may go as well. It may be they wait to the summer. Have to wait and see.

Whilst I understand Poch's loyalty to Cortese, what about his loyalty to us?
I hope he stays after all the comments he made last May were when he had just arrived at the club.
I feel disappointed but I think he will go and the press will put him in a position where he can do nothing else.
This is not an easy situation, and for Poch with the media making so much of the fact he said he would leave if Cortese did in may. Even if he has changed his mind he may feel he has to so as to maintain credibility. If he goes then we are liable to lose certain players who said they only signed new contracts because of Cortese and Poch, whether now or in the summer. The other day I read an article that said the issue was over the fact the owners would not put in the cash necessary to take us the extra step and also wouldn't sell, therfeore Cortese was in a position where there was basically nothing more he could do. Other reports say it was over the fact the owners wanted to sell. It really is a myriad of speculation. The problem is if Poch goes, the team he came with may go as well. It may be they wait to the summer. Have to wait and see. Whilst I understand Poch's loyalty to Cortese, what about his loyalty to us? I hope he stays after all the comments he made last May were when he had just arrived at the club. I feel disappointed but I think he will go and the press will put him in a position where he can do nothing else. milton road
  • Score: 4

6:07am Thu 16 Jan 14

Alicesdad says...

I PREDICT A RIOT
I PREDICT A RIOT Alicesdad
  • Score: -4

6:15am Thu 16 Jan 14

Rising_Son says...

In the absence of facts, there seems to be a tendency for people to milk every maybe that they can think of, and there are an incredibly large number. The only really sensible thing to do is wait, optimistically or pessimistically depending on your personal proclivities and find out what is really happening.
In the absence of facts, there seems to be a tendency for people to milk every maybe that they can think of, and there are an incredibly large number. The only really sensible thing to do is wait, optimistically or pessimistically depending on your personal proclivities and find out what is really happening. Rising_Son
  • Score: 2

6:22am Thu 16 Jan 14

montecristosaint says...

I cannot help thinking, knowing as a fan what Cortese s management style was like, whether the problem was that he excluded the Liebherrs from management decisions, which would have irritated them quite understandably. Would you plough money into a club in which you had no say as decisions? I know I wouldnt. Once a proper corporate structure is put in place, and interestingly Miss Liebherr spent a week in London with her lawyers Allen and Overy one of the biggest around I would guess tha structure was high up on their agenda.. I just hope player sales was not as high up on the agenda either. We need to keep the squad intact for morale, and continuity s sake. Today, with a players meeting on the cards is a huge day in the history of Southampton football club. Hope it goes well. Hang in there boys...
I cannot help thinking, knowing as a fan what Cortese s management style was like, whether the problem was that he excluded the Liebherrs from management decisions, which would have irritated them quite understandably. Would you plough money into a club in which you had no say as decisions? I know I wouldnt. Once a proper corporate structure is put in place, and interestingly Miss Liebherr spent a week in London with her lawyers Allen and Overy one of the biggest around I would guess tha structure was high up on their agenda.. I just hope player sales was not as high up on the agenda either. We need to keep the squad intact for morale, and continuity s sake. Today, with a players meeting on the cards is a huge day in the history of Southampton football club. Hope it goes well. Hang in there boys... montecristosaint
  • Score: 8

6:23am Thu 16 Jan 14

Little Hitler says...

Meltdown my @rse, it surely isn't that bad is it? As stated above, we need to hear a statement from the regime. Hopefully a strong one and ideally TODAY!

Cortese got us so far, to the brink where we were punching well above our weight based on our size. It's a bit like turbocharging a 1.0 litre engine and racing against V6's, problem is the turbo's just blown and buggered off to Switzerland.
Meltdown my @rse, it surely isn't that bad is it? As stated above, we need to hear a statement from the regime. Hopefully a strong one and ideally TODAY! Cortese got us so far, to the brink where we were punching well above our weight based on our size. It's a bit like turbocharging a 1.0 litre engine and racing against V6's, problem is the turbo's just blown and buggered off to Switzerland. Little Hitler
  • Score: 1

6:26am Thu 16 Jan 14

White and red till dead says...

Off topic a little, but the Telegraph are reporting that Wet Spam had a 7m bid accepted on Weds for Sir RL, and that he wants to go. Any truth to the rumour??
Off topic a little, but the Telegraph are reporting that Wet Spam had a 7m bid accepted on Weds for Sir RL, and that he wants to go. Any truth to the rumour?? White and red till dead
  • Score: 2

6:30am Thu 16 Jan 14

Rising_Son says...

montecristosaint wrote:
I cannot help thinking, knowing as a fan what Cortese s management style was like, whether the problem was that he excluded the Liebherrs from management decisions, which would have irritated them quite understandably. Would you plough money into a club in which you had no say as decisions? I know I wouldnt. Once a proper corporate structure is put in place, and interestingly Miss Liebherr spent a week in London with her lawyers Allen and Overy one of the biggest around I would guess tha structure was high up on their agenda.. I just hope player sales was not as high up on the agenda either. We need to keep the squad intact for morale, and continuity s sake. Today, with a players meeting on the cards is a huge day in the history of Southampton football club. Hope it goes well. Hang in there boys...
A good example of milking a maybe.
[quote][p][bold]montecristosaint[/bold] wrote: I cannot help thinking, knowing as a fan what Cortese s management style was like, whether the problem was that he excluded the Liebherrs from management decisions, which would have irritated them quite understandably. Would you plough money into a club in which you had no say as decisions? I know I wouldnt. Once a proper corporate structure is put in place, and interestingly Miss Liebherr spent a week in London with her lawyers Allen and Overy one of the biggest around I would guess tha structure was high up on their agenda.. I just hope player sales was not as high up on the agenda either. We need to keep the squad intact for morale, and continuity s sake. Today, with a players meeting on the cards is a huge day in the history of Southampton football club. Hope it goes well. Hang in there boys...[/p][/quote]A good example of milking a maybe. Rising_Son
  • Score: -1

6:40am Thu 16 Jan 14

Mush On The Beach says...

It’s a great shame that Cortese never got to complete all his ambitions at our club and I’d like to congratulate him for the fantastic journey he helped take us on. It’s unsettling times now for sure and the vultures will be circling to pray on any weakness.
The future makeup and strategy of the club by the Liebherrs will reveal itself in due course. Our club is in an incredibly healthy position and so I remain optimistic that the good times can and will remain here, whoever is in charge.

Southampton FC since 1885.
It’s a great shame that Cortese never got to complete all his ambitions at our club and I’d like to congratulate him for the fantastic journey he helped take us on. It’s unsettling times now for sure and the vultures will be circling to pray on any weakness. The future makeup and strategy of the club by the Liebherrs will reveal itself in due course. Our club is in an incredibly healthy position and so I remain optimistic that the good times can and will remain here, whoever is in charge. Southampton FC since 1885. Mush On The Beach
  • Score: 3

6:46am Thu 16 Jan 14

White and red till dead says...

Now that he's gone. here's hoping we get our stripes back...
Now that he's gone. here's hoping we get our stripes back... White and red till dead
  • Score: 1

7:16am Thu 16 Jan 14

Williepalms says...

I'm still not sure why everyone assumes our club is in a healthy position?
26,000 through the gate for every home game only pays loan interest.
With the money on offer for some of our young players we are in a prime position to be shafted by the owner anytime.
I'm still not sure why everyone assumes our club is in a healthy position? 26,000 through the gate for every home game only pays loan interest. With the money on offer for some of our young players we are in a prime position to be shafted by the owner anytime. Williepalms
  • Score: -1

7:34am Thu 16 Jan 14

Rising_Son says...

Williepalms wrote:
I'm still not sure why everyone assumes our club is in a healthy position?
26,000 through the gate for every home game only pays loan interest.
With the money on offer for some of our young players we are in a prime position to be shafted by the owner anytime.
The average league gate this season is 28,570 (http://www.emfootba
ll.co.uk/attend.html
). Also, since gate money is only one, and not the largest, of our sources of income, I don't see why this is a problem. Perhaps, you would like to explain.
[quote][p][bold]Williepalms[/bold] wrote: I'm still not sure why everyone assumes our club is in a healthy position? 26,000 through the gate for every home game only pays loan interest. With the money on offer for some of our young players we are in a prime position to be shafted by the owner anytime.[/p][/quote]The average league gate this season is 28,570 (http://www.emfootba ll.co.uk/attend.html ). Also, since gate money is only one, and not the largest, of our sources of income, I don't see why this is a problem. Perhaps, you would like to explain. Rising_Son
  • Score: 4

7:57am Thu 16 Jan 14

saint christopher says...

Wow - have just been quoted by by the DE. Does that qualify for an ex-gratia payment or royalties?
Wow - have just been quoted by by the DE. Does that qualify for an ex-gratia payment or royalties? saint christopher
  • Score: 3

8:18am Thu 16 Jan 14

Williepalms says...

It's all good as long as we are getting 26,000 plus for the long term , if there is a sale of our best players and our form drops ( it's happened before ) and in 18 months time we are back in the championship are we still on stable ground ?, ok sorry if it sounded like doom and gloom .
It's all good as long as we are getting 26,000 plus for the long term , if there is a sale of our best players and our form drops ( it's happened before ) and in 18 months time we are back in the championship are we still on stable ground ?, ok sorry if it sounded like doom and gloom . Williepalms
  • Score: -1

8:25am Thu 16 Jan 14

Strasbourg Saint says...

Rising_Son wrote:
In the absence of facts, there seems to be a tendency for people to milk every maybe that they can think of, and there are an incredibly large number. The only really sensible thing to do is wait, optimistically or pessimistically depending on your personal proclivities and find out what is really happening.
Was going to say much the same, RS. I'm sure we have all woken up with plenty of questions and, in most cases, few facts to help with any answers. Furthermore, most - if not all - of us on here have no way of changing the eventual outcome of all this. So, all we can do is sit back, continue to support and see where this journey takes us next.

What time's MP's press conference?
[quote][p][bold]Rising_Son[/bold] wrote: In the absence of facts, there seems to be a tendency for people to milk every maybe that they can think of, and there are an incredibly large number. The only really sensible thing to do is wait, optimistically or pessimistically depending on your personal proclivities and find out what is really happening.[/p][/quote]Was going to say much the same, RS. I'm sure we have all woken up with plenty of questions and, in most cases, few facts to help with any answers. Furthermore, most - if not all - of us on here have no way of changing the eventual outcome of all this. So, all we can do is sit back, continue to support and see where this journey takes us next. What time's MP's press conference? Strasbourg Saint
  • Score: 0

8:43am Thu 16 Jan 14

mack chinnon says...

saint christopher wrote:
Wow - have just been quoted by by the DE. Does that qualify for an ex-gratia payment or royalties?
Your lucky. I got deleted.
U.T.S.
[quote][p][bold]saint christopher[/bold] wrote: Wow - have just been quoted by by the DE. Does that qualify for an ex-gratia payment or royalties?[/p][/quote]Your lucky. I got deleted. U.T.S. mack chinnon
  • Score: 0

8:59am Thu 16 Jan 14

Mush On The Beach says...

mack chinnon wrote:
saint christopher wrote:
Wow - have just been quoted by by the DE. Does that qualify for an ex-gratia payment or royalties?
Your lucky. I got deleted.
U.T.S.
You have changed since you were quoted by The Daily Echo.
[quote][p][bold]mack chinnon[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]saint christopher[/bold] wrote: Wow - have just been quoted by by the DE. Does that qualify for an ex-gratia payment or royalties?[/p][/quote]Your lucky. I got deleted. U.T.S.[/p][/quote]You have changed since you were quoted by The Daily Echo. Mush On The Beach
  • Score: 6

9:54am Thu 16 Jan 14

Licky_Rambert says...

Mush On The Beach wrote:
mack chinnon wrote:
saint christopher wrote: Wow - have just been quoted by by the DE. Does that qualify for an ex-gratia payment or royalties?
Your lucky. I got deleted. U.T.S.
You have changed since you were quoted by The Daily Echo.
haha, not much as made me laugh this morning! well done!
[quote][p][bold]Mush On The Beach[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]mack chinnon[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]saint christopher[/bold] wrote: Wow - have just been quoted by by the DE. Does that qualify for an ex-gratia payment or royalties?[/p][/quote]Your lucky. I got deleted. U.T.S.[/p][/quote]You have changed since you were quoted by The Daily Echo.[/p][/quote]haha, not much as made me laugh this morning! well done! Licky_Rambert
  • Score: 2

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