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Lawrie McMenemy admits he was knocked back by Nicola Cortese's decision to replace Nigel Adkins with Mauricio Pochettino
SPEAKING as a manager with more than a little experience – in fact well over 1,000 games at every level from fourth division to internationals – I never get too surprised. But I have to admit that the dismissal of Nigel Adkins and the way it was conducted knocked me back.
Sir Alex, and you’ll get nobody more respected in the world of football, called it “crazy.”
Other leading figures have used words like shameful and unforgiveable.
The bookmakers as ever were ahead of the game and realised something was off when, according to one I saw on TV, bets for as much as £500 were being laid at odds of 25- 1, not only for Nigel losing his job but giving the name of the person to take over.
At his first press conference the new manager tried to evade the question about when he was first approached for the job but did admit he had been researching the team over the past weeks.
It will be helpful to him, and believe me he will need as much as he can get, but it really does look bad as those comments seem to suggest that Nigel Adkins was what I can only describe as a dead man walking.
You have to think he could even have won at Chelsea and would still have been sacked.
I thought I had heard it all when Alan Pardew was sacked three days after winning 4-0 in an away game, but this one beats it all!
I have to accept, like many of the oldies, that the game has changed dramatically.
I have talked on many occasions in this column about the influx of people from other countries, and particularly business types who obviously have no background previously in football.
They don’t try to hide this and make it quite clear they see Premier League clubs as great business opportunities and we seem to be experiencing this with our club at St Mary’s.
I say OUR club but I don’t suppose it is anymore.
I of course can compare the way the boardrooms used to be.
While there were 92 professional clubs there were very few that could match the quality and type of director that ran Southampton Football Club.
It was a collection of experienced businessmen who were working and giving other people jobs in the community, men such as George Reeder, the chairman, who had refereed a World Cup final so had more than a little football experience as well.
They looked on their roles as representing the man on the terrace.
No one can say that is the case here now.
It’s not often that the manager’s name is sung out loud and clear every game, win, lose or draw.
But that shows Nigel Adkins had won over St Mary’s, particularly the area which a previous chairman with great ambitions had called the lunatic fringe, but I call the loyal fringe.
You can’t kid them. They work their socks off to make enough money to support the team through thick and thin, home and away, and when they sing your name they know what they’re doing.
They will be as shocked as anyone.
All right football is a very fragile occupation and a few wins in a row can sometimes make people forget what has gone before, but I think the new man, Mr Pochettino, has got quite a task in a short time.
There are 16 games left and in that time he has to introduce whatever methods he has with the help of a completely new staff and presumably with the use of an interpreter judging by his press conference.
He did say he will be learning English as quick as he can but even Fabio Capello found it difficult when relations with his England players came into focus.
In addition, he has to prove an ability that was not too evident in his last job where his team were bottom of the league when he was sacked.
It would appear from what he has said himself that once he was sacked he had the impression there would be a job going at St Mary’s, otherwise why else would he admit he has been researching the team for the past weeks?
Also in that short time whilst he is taking English lessons there will be the relationships to be built up between first team players, particularly the experienced and hardened pros that owe Nigel Adkins so much.
Don’t forget he was the man that guided all of them into the top flight where virtually none of them had been before.
As in many manager and player relationships they may not have always have seen eye to eye.
There has not been a manager yet born who was popular with every player.
I developed a saying many years ago that you don’t have to be popular, especially when there are more players than the 11 you pick from, so that comes second to respect.
Just 16 games to learn English and gain respect in the club is hard.
It’s not like any other job where you are working 9-5 and have overtime as well if necessary.
With so many games in a short time the training sessions at this time of the season become fewer anyway.
No doubt there will be attempts to do bonding sessions, either at home or away, but, while that might look the answer on paper, I know from my own experience it often isn’t that easy.
While a player might appear to be happy to go away for a few days, even in the sunshine, it doesn’t always go down too well at home.
Most wives and families accept things like this happen, particularly pre-season, but the fact there is an emergency at the club doesn’t make the players’ life any easier with school runs and family time etc.
To get the best out of players they have to be relaxed and happy away from the club as well as in the club.
I do think – with my League Manager’s Association vice-president’s hat on – too many managers are losing their jobs much quicker now than the old days.
Admittedly the rewards are now higher and undoubtedly the contracts will be settled – not always easily but, with the help of the LMA backing, financially the manager sooner or later gets paid up.
The task then of course is to find another job and, whilst we can all say Nigel could walk into most jobs at Championship level if not Premier League, they don’t come up as often the higher up you go and it means yet another upheaval for the family.
After having a taste of the Premier League, the frustration of not being able to complete a full season will hurt.
On behalf of most of the supporters, particularly those of the loyal fringe, I will endeavour to pass on everybody’s best wishes and thanks for what he achieved whilst he was here.
I can only hope that the club holds its Premier League position because I think the chairman might now find another name will be called out during games – and unless every game is successful with three points it might not be a nice one.
For once I think the burden of expectancy of keeping the club at the highest level will not be on the shoulders of the manager but the man who appointed him.