SAINTS fans have been warned against protesting against Nigel Adkins’ shock departure during tonight’s game at St Mary’s.
Mauricio Pochettino, Saints’ 14th permanent manager since the turn of the Millennium, takes charge of the club for the first time in front of the live Sky cameras against Everton.
The match comes just three days after the Argentinian was unveiled following Adkins’ sensational sacking by chairman Nicola Cortese.
Some Saints fans have talked up possible protests during the game, with pro Adkins songs and anti Cortese chanting.
But others insist that the fans must all get behind the players during the 90 minutes.
Nick Illingsworth believes the supporters must bring back the spirit of the early 1990s before and during tonight’s Premier League clash.
“Back in 1993 there were regular protests against Ian Branfoot, both before and after games,” said Illingsworth.
“But as soon as the first whistle went, bang!
Everybody would start supporting the team, and that continued throughout until the final whistle.
“That’s the way it should be tonight.
“We are all Saints fans and we all share the common goal of wanting Saints to stay in the Premier League.
“Let’s not make it any more harder than it’s been made in the last days.
“Let’s not make a drama into a crisis.
“I am sure there will be pro Nigel Adkins songs, just as there were pro Alan Pardew songs when Nigel Adkins took over.
“But during the game I hope everyone will just get behind the team.
“We have seen what has happened at St Mary’s before when there has been animosity towards managers and chairmen.
“We have had some disastrous results.
“I was reading in the press last week after our draw at Chelsea that even the best clubs and players find it hard to produce good results if they feel the crowd is not really with them, or they’re having a go at the manager.”
Amid rumours of possible protests, Steve Grant, who runs fans internet forum SaintsWeb, said Pochettino could expect it to be a far from straight-forward start tonight.
Grant warned: “He will have my support but there will be a lot of fans who will take the view that he has got to earn their support.
“It is going to be difficult given the run of games we have coming up.”
Shona Brooks contacted the Echo to say: “I would agree with honouring Adkins with a minute’s applause on Monday night.
“But protests will only harm the morale of the team and, in turn, possibly the results, so we would only be damaging our own club.
“Champions League football does not happen overnight so lets back the manager and team, starting Monday, and support the Saints.”
Grant Goddard also contacted the Echo to add: “The club and fans should pay their respect to all the work Nigel has done for us, with at least a minute’s applause before the game starts.
“But after that the fans need to get behind the team, the new manager and everyone else at the club.
“Waving of a white hankie, like the Spanish do, is not exactly going to get much of a message to our Italian chairman. “And for the people who have been making the comments about the new man not speaking English, I’m sure in no time he will learn.
“It’s really not a big deal.”
Illingsworth admits Pochettino is unlikely to receive overwhelming support tonight.
“If Nigel Adkins had resigned and taken a job elsewhere, the new manager would be cheered,” he explained.
“If Adkins had been sacked at the end of the season, or sacked last November when Saints were bottom, the new manager would have been cheered.
“His biggest problem tonight is that he is not Nigel Adkins. That’s his only crime.
“In the same way, Nigel Adkins’ biggest crime when he arrived was that he wasn’t Alan Pardew.
“But Saints fans have grown to admire and respect Adkins more than they did Pardew.”
Illingsworth admits the timing of Adkins’ sacking took him by surprise, with Saints still very much embroiled in a relegation scrap.
“I’m all for forward thinking and planning ahead, and talk of going up to the next level,” he said.
“But we have to achieve at the level we’re at first, and that means staying up this season. “We have to get the foundations in place before we can think of stepping up, and we’ll come crashing down.
“If we had sacked Nigel Adkins at the end of this season after finishing 15th or 16th, then fans might have understood if Cortese had said we need to move up to the next level.
“If Cortese had sacked Nigel Adkins back in November, there would not have been half the fury there is now.
“The reason there is the fury is because the fans could see that we were improving after a bad start.
“To sack him now is almost beyond belief.
“We have made it hard for ourselves ahead of a very big game.
“We are coming up to a make or break period, and now not everyone will be fully focussed on supporting the team.
“We have been on a bit of a roll and now we have shot ourselves in the foot.
“But we all know what football is like.
“As I see it, we are only four wins and a couple of draws away from staying up. If we get those wins quickly, Nigel Adkins will quickly be forgotten.”