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Southampton's ultimate managerial monster
First published in The Pink on Saturday, November 20, 2010.
ANNIVERSARIES are usually the bane of the football fan’s life.
They have a habit of clashing with cup finals or derbies, resulting in a spot of bother at home with the other half.
So to have an anniversary about football is a bit odd – and if I’m totally honest, it seems a bit pointless, but still, why not?
It doesn’t harm anyone and it provides the perfect platform for loads of us to ponder what it was like over the years – better, worse or pretty much no different.
From great games to awful players we all have our stand-out moments – not from all of the 125 years, for obvious reasons, but a large fraction is certainly covered by the more senior members of the fan base.
With that in mind, I was thinking about the (numerous) managers we’ve had since I started supporting Saints under the last days of Chris Nicholl some 20 years ago – and what were the best aspects of each.
As you can appreciate, for some managers it was easier than others.
I tried to gloss over the all-too-well-known failings, so you may find some descriptions a bit, well, generous, to say the least.
So without further ado, I give you what I think are the features from the Saints’ managers of the ‘Kerins era’ that I would like to build into the managerial version of Frankenstein’s monster:
• IAN BRANFOOT: Physicality. With players like Ruddock, Hurlock and Cockerill, there was no question this was a man’s side. Hard and uncompromising, Branfoot built a team with a physical steel. Sadly, it had not much else.
• ALAN BALL: Vision. His decision to build the team around Le Tissier was a master-stroke. To know how to bring out the best of such an incredible talent is no mean feat.
• DAVE MERRINGTON: Youth. Don’t let the accent fool you – this man is Saints through and though. It was his running of the youth sides that unearthed talents like Le Tissier and the Wallaces. His infectious passion of the club and knowledge of the game gave us many key players of years gone by.
• GRAEME SOUNESS: Sense of occasion. As tempted as I am to plump for his ’tache Souness did get his side to perform when needed. The 6-3 against Manchester United being the stand-out result under him. If only he ever had the chance to plant a Saints flag in the pitch at Fratton Park.
• DAVE JONES: Transfers. If there’s one thing Jones certainly had going for him at The Dell was his eye for a player.
Ignoring Ripley and Hughes – which were signings most of us would have made at the time – signings like Beattie, Pahars and Dean Richards played key roles not just in his side but for years to come.
• GLENN HODDLE: Pragmatism. It may not have been pretty – a lot of wins were rather dour 1-0s, but his tactical approach had Saints fans seriously looking at the top half of the table. He instilled a belief and confidence in the club that had long been non-existent.
• STUART GRAY: Community. He was a nice bloke and his decision to put Le Tissier on against Arsenal gave us one of the greatest moments of being a Saints fan. He also spent many years working in the club's community office.
• GORDON STRACHAN: Spirit. Man-for-man, he may not have had the best squad in the Premier League, but he moulded them into a successful and effective unit.
Strachan’s tenure was the most successful in terms of league position for almost 20 years and he achieved it in the FA Cup Final appearance by simply making the team play for each other and believe in what they could achieve.
• PAUL STURROCK: Excitement. We didn’t have much chance to see it, but his approach to football was more adventurous than previous managers. The matches against Newcastle and Blackburn were end-to-end, thrill a minute affairs. Like Sturrock, I also enjoy fried egg sandwiches.
• STEVE WIGLEY: He beat Pompey.
• HARRY REDKNAPP: What he’s done at Portsmouth and Spurs suggests he is a good manager. Something was definitely wrong at St Mary’s under him though, so I can’t quite decide what to ‘keep’ from him, other than beating Pompey and getting Louise to come to lots of Saints games.
• GEORGE BURLEY: Reputation. One good full season here was more than enough for him to get the top job in Scottish football – despite two partial seasons which were poor at best. He promised much, delivered some and then seemed to stop. But he’s rated highly by others.
• NIGEL PEARSON: Passion. The team were on a hiding to nothing when he came in and turned it around – seemingly against all odds. Similar to Strachan in that respect, rather than make lesser players better, he gave decent players belief in their talents.
• JAN POORTVLIET: Style. This may seem odd if you think of the photo of him pretending to be James Bond, right, but I have never seen such attractive football played by Southampton as I did under Jan. Shame his team couldn’t score. Or defend.
• MARK WOTTE: Self-confidence. Say what you want about Wotte, he believed in himself. Sometimes, that’s all you need. As we know, that doesn’t quite cut it at St.
• ALAN PARDEW: Mentality. When he came, he said he wanted to instill a winning mentality at the club. He certainly did, and I know I’m not alone when I say his tenure was the most enjoyable 12 months I have ever had as a Saints fan. We played attractive, winning football under him – and we won well.
• NIGEL ADKINS: Well it’s too early to really pass judgement on him. Hopefully the Frankenstein’s Manager will end up being him – who knows.
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