In his first major interview since the final weeks of last season, Saints chairman Ralph Krueger has backed manager Mauricio Pellegrino.

The Saints supremo also explained the shadow that has hung over the club with regards the transfer saga involving Virgil van Dijk, as well how Saints get out of their current predicament, and his belief that things will turn around.

Here is the transcript of part one of the interview…

If 8th and a Cup final wasn’t good enough for Claude Puel, how does Mauricio Pellegrino keep his job?

We are a club with a plan, a long-term plan of development.

From when I came in here, which was five New Year’s ago, we were on a mission to build a club with sustainability, responsibility, with values and clear direction.

Mauricio Pellegrino from the get-go has completely embraced the way we operate here.

The first half of this season was under the shadow of a stand in principle. It emotionally threw off us balance and financially was a huge business risk that we took in the summer.

A plan was put in place right after the season to consolidate where we were and the transfer that has just gone through is the end of a very difficult phase for the club.

Mauricio was a part of it, and we were all a part of it, including the team and the players.

I in no way, shape, or form, am angry at any one individual for what has happened here in the last few months, because it was bigger than any individual, in our club or outside of our club. That chapter closes now.

The cloud was there, we allowed a certain negativity into our very fragile environment, which is based on positivity, on looking for solutions, on creativity and so on, and I believe we can truly get back to that now.

To take a position, or to take a cup final, or an individual event in our long term strategic approach would be dangerous at both ends, in good times or in bad, and we don’t operate that way.

We operate on a feeling, and our feeling was that after last year something had to change.

Our feeling is at this point we have an excellent group of football people leading our club, that we are well poised to attack the second half of the season out of the position none of us wants to be in. There is nobody happy with where we are at right now but it’s our reality.

I am ultimately responsible for where we are today. Not any individual. I am ultimately responsible for the culture of the club and the mood of the club.

We knew when we made that decision it was going to be an emotional burden.

As a representative of ownership I saw that responsibility, I felt it all the way through, and, trust me, there was a huge financial risk in making the decision we did in the summer.

On the business side it has played out brilliantly and our leaders in those decisions and all of us combined as a board ended up pleased with the way it went.

So it was a good business decision but maybe a mistake as it has affected the manager and players?

Only long term can you truly assess that kind of stand that involved arguably one of the top five clubs in the world.

For a small club as we are in Southampton trying to maximise our potential on a daily basis it’s an earthquake and it takes a while to figure out whether it was the right or wrong thing and I think today is not the day to judge that. Let’s sit here in the future and talk about it.

What I know is that it was an extremely difficult environment. I was 25 years a head coach so I know what it’s like to work in an environment like that, and I feel for the difficulties of that environment.

I think Mauricio has dealt with the situation brilliantly, and first and foremost in the best interests of the club and not of himself. He never used it as an excuse. He’s not an excuse guy and we like the human being he is, the coach he is, and the potential for our squad moving forward with him in the lead.

So he gets a let off for six months? There was a promise of attacking football. Fans will say ‘he said it will be better but we’ve gone backwards?’

I love the passion of our fans. They were at their best at Manchester United. That was insane. They dominated Old Trafford with 70,000. Very proud of our fanbase on that day.

It’s been not only difficult at times for the fans but difficult for all of us.

It’s interesting how in difficult times everybody wants to blame an individual and have somebody’s head taken as a result. That’s easy. It’s very easy to pick on somebody. It’s an easy target and it’s not what we are.

We are all, including myself sitting in front of you, responsible in some shape or percentage point for where we are today. It is not down to one individual that we are now in a challenging position. That is absolutely not the case.

At Southampton we are all in this together. We are all speaking honestly and openly. We are not happy.

We are working on solutions, we are fighting.

That our fans will target individuals is normal and I respect that.

Every letter I get – and I get a lot more now than when we were in the cup final, and that’s just the nature of our world – we have to remember if we take everybody out of the small picture that we are Southampton and we are a small club.

I’m not going to recite the whole manifesto but I am thinking about it.

We are a small club and the reality is every time we finish in single digits it is a fantastic year for Southampton Football Club.

It is our reality that the competition in the league is increasing, that clubs around us are improving dramatically along with us, and that it’s very small percentage points that push you up the table or down the table.

We believe we can climb back up the table with the group we have, we wouldn’t swap this team with any of our equals, we love the potential of the group.

To blame an individual right now and take an easy copout is the wrong approach. It’s not how we work.

I carry the ultimate responsibility for where we are today.

In good times there is a lot less blame going around, and in the bad times there is more, but we stick to our plan and our direction in believing this bump in the road and setback is the next part of our evolution.

The next step can be reached if we learn and if we begin right now in this transfer window.

Has the level of ambition altered? On paper you have gone backwards

The table only counts once and that’s on May 12.

We were in a similar position each of the last two years. It’s not that we’ve always taken easy rides into single digits. We’ve fought our way into single digits.

We’ve had adversity in the four years I’ve been here of many different sorts, whether involving managers, players, just health. All kinds of challenges, which often gave us opportunity to grow and develop to the next level.

We are in our sixth season in the Premier Legate in this new era and it’s the best league in the world because it’s hard, because it’s uncomfortable, and because it’s difficult, and we enjoy that.

That’s why I’m here, the people around me are here and we have an outstanding board, it’s why Mauricio Pellegrino took on this challenge because he wanted to grow and he wanted something like this on his plate and he enjoys it, not where we are in the table but the growth and environment as he adjusts to a new environment.

Our ambition is completely intact and is whole heartedly to find a way back into Europe.

This year the reach is big but, trust me, every single thing we do and every step we take is to find a path back into Europe.

We know the competition many of them are thinking the same.

This is a time of opportunity and we are taking it seriously. It’s not a light-hearted time of opportunity or a fun time of opportunity.

We are re-evaluating everything as we constantly do and re-visiting the plan, our strategy, not only on the pitch but off the pitch ways of the club taking another level.

There are things happening behind the scenes you wouldn’t do if you weren’t ambitious. You would status quo it.

We are doing the things to be a better football team.

In this process I realised as important as the business side of this is as my role as the chairman the football results are the most important barometer of everything else we do.

I have the responsibility in my role with the board to manage the club responsibly which we are doing, and making decisions responsibly which we will, but in the end it’s the wins we are after, just as much as the fans. We have to earn them.

Les Reed gets a lot of criticism as well. If in time as a group you make the wrong decisions who takes responsibility? Who are you accountable to?

I think with every single entity when you are analysing leadership you need to move beyond the moment, just looking at the moment.

But in the last 18 months since Ronald left things have gone backwards?

The cup final and eighth place for Southampton Football Club was a fantastic season, so that definitely wasn’t backwards.

Who is ultimately responsible? We have specialists in every single area which makes us strong and they are able to make their decisions, but all those decisions have multiple factors connected to them.

A player transfer going out carries different burdens with it. You have sell-ons, you have levies, you have all kinds of things that change whatever that number was to a lower number than anybody understands.

Then if you bring in two players for one player then that’s two salaries for one, and so everything has many different layers, as do decisions we make.

If we make a decision on a player there is a legal side, a financial side, so the football experts decide who that person is and then as a group and a board everybody in different percentages whether legal representatives or the financial side plays a role in the final product.

You have to understand that we have built this team over four years now and it’s an extremely efficient, honest environment we work in in the club.

Ultimately I carry the responsibility so knock my head off first.

But who is responsible when fans are booing on a Saturday night at 5pm?

That’s part of the game.

2017 has been a tough year.

But after football everything follows. So who is accountable?

That’s us. That’s first me. It begins there. So fans bring it on! I am kidding there, because I love the passion of the fans. I have said before if you don’t have anybody booing you don’t have anybody cheering.

We need to also check the reality of who we are and what we are as a club.

We have had a strong run for four years and I’m not saying we won’t get back into single digits this year because we still believe that is possible, and we believe if you look at the table it’s very realistic if you play the way you can down the stretch.

In the end let’s not forget who we are, what league we’re in, who we’re up against, and how we’ve done in the past.

I think that needs to be included in the analysis.

You will get extremes now and that’s normal. I love the passion and the mood to turn things around in the building very quickly is in the air.

So Mauricio is given time because of the van Dijk situation and this is really just a phase?

No. Everybody needs to do better.

We cannot sit here and think we will just do the status quo.

Everybody needs to do a few percentage points better. Everybody. Everybody in the club will be challenged by the leadership to do this and dig us out.

Mauricio is not in this job only because there was a cloud over the club for the last six months. It’s because he’s a very good coach.

He’s running a superb environment out there. The training is good, the condition of the club is in a good place.

The passion to grow our players is extreme through our whole supporting staff so he is not only here because of that but many other things.

He has to carry the can in front of everybody

I was a head coach for 25 years and the tough thing is you are the one in front of the cameras every day.

When we communicate we communicate openly and honestly with our fans and the public and they need to understand we can’t do it every day because you can’t run a business that way.

There are certain things that need to develop and evolve. The decisions we made in the summer needed time.

In my position I am much further away from the day to day than I am trying to run a strategic operation here over long periods of time, healthily, and with many different components that need to come together.

This isn’t asking for a vote of confidence, but Mauricio can have time to turn things around without worrying about his job?

That’s your question and I feel it is way too pointed about him as an individual.

I have spoken about the general mood.

He has your backing though? And he knows that?

Of course.

In our club we communicate regularly and we discuss very openly and honestly the evolution and I know Mauricio knows he has the full backing.

We know by the time you get to spend the Virgil money it won’t be £70m, but can we presume you want good money reinvested to improve the squad going forward?

There is no question if we can find a fitting strengthening of the squad in this window already.

We can’t promise anything. You think of deals that happened a minute before midnight, whether it was Virgil when he came in or Sadio when he came in. All those late deals in summer transfer windows, if we hadn’t had those deals we wouldn’t have done them.

This is the way January works too. Football is patient that way and will target specific people they think will strengthen our squad.

Should the win-win deal be there we will make the move, and if not continue through the summer.

Strengthening the squad is a necessity in the Premier League because the competition is doing the same and does not sleep and is also adamantly investing.

We are definitely attempting to strengthen, but take that sum aside we need to look at the squad as a whole and it will be invested over the next two windows.