SAINTS chairman Henrik Kraft insists the groundwork done by Jason Wilcox is in place to ensure smooth running despite his departure.

Man City academy chief Wilcox was hired by Sport Republic in 2023 to become the club's new director of football.

The former Premier League winner brought with him a possession-based philosophy and oversaw a revamp of the club's leadership.

However, Wilcox was then poached by Man United in April after the Red Devils agreed to pay Saints a satisfactory compensation fee.

Saints have not yet hired a replacement for the 53 year old, with boss Russell Martin - hired by Wilcox - suggesting they may not at all.

Ahead of the Championship playoff final with Leeds United, Sport Republic co-founder and club chairman Kraft spoke with the Daily Echo.

READ MOREKraft insists Martin will remain manager regardless of Wembley result

He explained: "Jason came in at a time when we really needed to make a lot of changes to the football department.

Daily Echo: Saints chairman Henrik Kraft has issued a new interview with the Daily EchoSaints chairman Henrik Kraft has issued a new interview with the Daily Echo (Image: Stuart Martin)

"He really helped us do that and obviously, he left sooner than we had hoped because we'd hoped he would stay for many years. 

"But I think the fact that he's gone to Man United, it's a sign that we've hired a good person who's done a great job.

"The foundations he helped us build are there. He brought in a new head of academy, Andy Goldie, who's doing a great job and refreshing that. 

"He brought in Mark Bitcon who's head of performance but is also now really taking over the operations of the football department. 

"He also brought in Darren Mowbray on the recruitment side so actually, all of these things are now in place."

Kraft continued: "I would say all of these guys have stepped up. They have shown leadership since Jason left.

"It's not like he's leaving a massive void in the organisation that we're scrambling to fill, it's working really well right now.

"Everyone's pulling their weight but we will have a think about exactly whether we need to add some additional leadership.

"We will look at the competencies and the skill sets that may still be needed to bring round the table and we're focusing on that now."

Wilcox spent just nine months at Saints before he was plucked to join former Man City CEO Omar Berrarda at the Old Trafford revolution.

Daily Echo: Former Saints director of football Jason Wilcox pictured among the Man United hierarchyFormer Saints director of football Jason Wilcox pictured among the Man United hierarchy (Image: PA)

Mark Bitcon, referenced by Kraft, has regularly been visible at St Mary's since Wilcox's departure as he takes on a more hands-on role.

The Daily Echo reported how he and CEO Phil Parsons came up with the idea of placing advertising boards around the pitch against West Brom.

Kraft went on to praise Parsons, who arrived at Saints to succeed Martin Semmens having been Europe and Asia's president for Dyson.

Kraft said: "There's been incredible amounts of change. The majority of senior leadership is either new or in new roles. 

"We brought Phil in really to help us drive that transformation to drive a little bit of a culture change towards a more entrepreneurial style.

"He comes from a consumer-focused background and one that's tech-savvy, which was important to us to use technology to drive change.

"We have a very close working relationship with him. I speak with him every day and it's a really well-functioning management team.

"On the non-football side, it is amazing what we've achieved already this season. We have brought a lot of local sponsors back into the club.

"We launched a new website, a new streaming service and a new mobile app, which now has more than 50,000 monthly active users, which I'm pleased to remind everybody of every time I get the chance because I'm very proud of that," Kraft quipped.

"I think we're probably one of the only clubs in Europe that does a live man of the match vote by the fans in the stadium and we can do that because of the app and the Wi-Fi.

"We have been trying to engage the fans and our content team has done a great job this year with more creative content - these things all go together.

"The Northam and safe standing is now sold out and I hope a red - or whatever colour - wall can be a real signature feature of St Mary's.

"There's a lot of potential around St Mary's and the space, and we'll work hard to try and continue to make improvements and make it a fun place to come."