Saints chairman Ralph Krueger has issued a glowing endorsement of the work being conducted by Les Reed, and has said any criticism of the club’s executive director is unwarranted.
Reed emerged as the key decision maker on football matters at St Mary’s following Nicola Cortese’s departure last January and he has overseen a challenging summer, featuring five major player sales, as well as the loss of a manager and the appointment of a new one.
Reed has been criticised at times, but Krueger believes the 61-year-old, along with owner Katharina Liebherr, has proved pivotal to the club’s success.
“Les Reed is for me, purely football, the main reason why, combined with Katharina, the Saints are where they are today,” Krueger said in an interview with the Daily Echo, adding that Reed is doing an "outstanding" job.
Reed was appointed in 2010 to oversee what was known as the football development and support centre, which encompassed areas such as the academy, scouting and recruitment, and sports science.
He has since risen to a position on the board, with Krueger saying he has taken many “critical decisions” along the way that have made a positive difference, claiming that, in one example, he helped prevent an even earlier exit for Luke Shaw.
“People might not like the fact that Luke Shaw was sold, but the only reason for me Luke Shaw was still here was because of Les Reed,” said Krueger.
“I know the way that developed and I know what happened, speaking also to the parents and agents that were involved, that Luke Shaw wouldn’t have been here without Les Reed.
“You can say ‘I’m not happy that Luke Shaw was sold this summer’, but Luke Shaw might have been gone two years ago if it wasn’t for Les.”
Krueger added: “I think any criticism of him right now is completely out of context.”
Reed also led the search for Ronald Koeman, who arrived this summer as the replacement for Mauricio Pochettino, following the Argentine’s departure for Tottenham.
Krueger believes the Dutchman is proving to be an ideal appointment, saying he does not simply view Saints as a stepping stone – an accusation that could perhaps have been levelled at his predecessor.
“Ronald came in and fit the bill as far as embracing what was already here, and he also brought the personality we needed, and the long-term vision,” said Krueger.
“We needed to find somebody who was going to say ‘I don’t need for my ego, or my profession, or whatever other reasons, to just see Southampton as a stepping stone.’
“I think Ronald has shown that he is here to make a difference and do something different long-term and truly build something.”
While Krueger is encouraged by the direction the club is taking on the pitch, he also says great work has gone on behind the scenes since the new regime came in.
“I think, more than anything, the overall culture and the overall infrastructure of the management level of the organisation was not in a healthy place,” he said.
Krueger added: “All the changes that were made off the pitch were strong and solid changes for the sustainability of the club.
“We built and really nurtured a very strong executive board level that didn’t exist before.”
Krueger said that, even aside from revenue gained via player sales, the club is in a “good” position financially, with the new board having previously described the situation as “difficult”, following the training ground revamp going over budget and £27m having remained in outstanding transfer fees.
He hopes supporters will come to see the benefits of what is being done.
“I think the fans should get excited about the fact we are building something here that has a long-term future,” he said.
“I think they should also be excited that we’re doing everything possible to make sure this is the only summer they experience like this.
“I don’t like to make promises. I’m not going to sit here and say trust us – we want to earn that.
“But just enjoy the process and believe in one thing – the Saints organisation has an owner that is passionate, loves the team, loves the people and loves what her father passed on to her, and that love is being passed right through the organisation.
“We only have people here now who are here for the right reason. If any changes have been made in the club, they were because possibly people weren’t here for the right reasons, and that’s something important for people to know.”