It could well be perhaps the most depressing and disappointing moment of 14 seasons covering Saints.

When the phone rang on Friday evening and it became clear that Ronald Koeman was more likely than not to leave Saints and take over at Everton there was an unusual feeling.

Having seen so much down the years, and been so close to goings on at the club, you tend to develop a thick skin.

While fans may hurt over players or managers coming and going, it becomes all part of the job. Even promotions and relegations blur in the memory over time.

However, just the thought of Koeman’s potential departure was in equal measure shocking and very sad.

On a personal note, this was not only a man I very much like and enjoy working with, but one who you always believed was different, who represented what felt like a bygone era in football.

You get used to so much of modern day football being about money.

It’s why whenever the question is always put to me ‘why would (insert name here) want to go (insert club here)? They are a hero at Saints and won’t even get a game there,’ the answer is obvious. Maybe £20m. Personal development and pride are often secondary factors.

Players are guns for hire. Despite popular belief, most do care and work hard, which is why the majority of the time the word mercenary isn’t fair, but still with agents working busily behind the scenes, money becomes a motivating factor amongst people who already earn shed loads of the stuff.

It’s why when you hear announcements of new four or five year contracts, it is constantly bemusing why they are so celebrated.

All you are celebrating is a business (a football club) protecting an asset (a player).

It means next to nothing to most footballers in terms of loyalty if they are outside of 18 months remaining on their previous contract.

If you had three years left on your deal and somebody asked you to sign for an extra two for a sum total of an extra £5m, say, you’d do it, because you also know that if a club comes in that wants you and is prepared to pay the cash you can go anyway. It’s not a statement of loyalty, it’s a no-brainer.

Until recent years managers have felt somewhat exempt from that, but Saints have become sucked into a change in that situation.

Mauricio Pochettino’s departure may have been frustrating, but it was also entirely predictable.

For all the good things about Pochettino, he was totally career focussed, and in fairness to him never even hinted he was going to stay at Saints if a better offer came along.

Were Saints naive in the way they handled that situation? Maybe, along with the departures of some of the big name players at that time, but even so it was hardly a surprise.

It’s a very different story with Koeman.

Here is a man with a history of honouring contracts. Indeed, a man of honour in so many ways, a very classy individual, who generates great respect from all those lucky enough to be around him at Saints.

He has always spoken and acted with authority, dignity and a sureness that can only come from such a successful career behind him.

Like Pochettino, he has never pretended that Saints is the final stop on his managerial journey. We know he sees himself as manager of Barcelona one day, the club where he was such a legendary player, and inevitably the Netherlands national side, probably as a last job before retirement.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, when the signs became very positive, there was a real doubt that he would extend his contract and stay at Saints behind the one season he had remaining.

However, what you felt you could say with absolute certainty, a concrete truth, is that he would at least see out that contract.

He was asked so often about it, and was always definitive.

Koeman never gave assurances about his long-term future, but the one thing he was certain about was that he would honour his current deal.

In football you rarely trust such statements, but Koeman has seemed one of a dying breed who believed in these things, and he preached it to players who wanted away as well.

If he is to walk out with a year left on his contract it is less a bitter blow to Saints – though it is that also – and more a depressing tale of modern day football.

There has seemed at least one person above it all, which gave hope that more were too.

Should he somehow end up staying, we can cling onto that.

If, as seems far more likely he leaves, it would shatter that illusion. How can we really trust anyone again? Don’t bother announcing contract extensions with fanfare please, just don’t bother. It’s a worthless gesture.

For Saints’ part, it’s hard to know what more they could have done as this has played out. If they were strung along a little by Pochettino, there was little they could do about Koeman.

The talks they had with him were so positive it seemed a new contract was a mere formality.

In the end Everton’s cash could be the telling factor. Would it be in terms of Koeman’s personal wealth or the promise of what he could have to spend? You really hope the latter, as otherwise the saga is even sorrier, but who really knows?

As much as Saints are getting stick too, another word of defence.

If it was only about salary, then do you want a manager who is simply going to hold you to ransom? Koeman deserves to be well paid, but the figures being talked about with Everton are crazy money for Saints.

If it’s about ambition, as Koeman will surely say if he makes the move, then firstly, you can debate all you want about whether Everton is a bigger club than Saints but, with all due respect, it would be a strange choice given all that talk of Barcelona, who live in a different stratosphere.

Secondly, Saints are right not to try and match it.

Ultimately, the truth of Saints as it stands is that they are a self-sufficient business.

They have money to spend on players, but within budget. Katharina Liebherr is not going to be pumping her billions in to fund a title winning squad, and nor should she have to.

What it does mean is that these departures will probably keep happening. Saints will continue to haemorrhage top talent to those who can offer more money. That is a fact. Depressing, but it’s a fact.

If Koeman goes it is fair to surmise that he feels Saints cannot fulfil their ambitions and dreams of breaking into the Champions League with their approach, and that Everton are better placed to do so with the way they are aiming to do things. In short, he will have concluded what he has achieved at Saints is as good as it gets, and the likely scenario is that the magic will wear off in time and there will be struggles ahead.

Maybe he’s right, hopefully he’s not, but if he doesn’t see out his contract after all that talk, to just up and leave now. Wow, that would hurt.

If the club’s ambitions don’t match his then don’t sign the extension, do your best for another year and then, no doubt, walk into any number of great jobs. But don’t go against your word and go now.

It’s less the loss of a manager, and more the reality that football has changed to such a depressing extent that cuts so deep.

This hurts, and no matter how much people try to put a brave face on it and give a ‘look to the future’ attitude, there is something so hard to swallow about this.

It feels like the ultimate kick in the guts.