Will Nicola Cortese return to the Saints?

I cannot say.

Is it possible that he could return to take the helm again as chief executive after his sudden departure this week? Most certainly. He would not be the first chairman to make a comeback in recent times.

If there is one thing we have come to understand about the man who has ruled St. Mary’s Stadium with a determined will, to put it mildly, for the past four and a half years, is that Mr Cortese is quite capable of achieving almost anything if he puts his mind to it.

Certainly I can see a scenario where, if one theory put forward for the personal take-over of the club by multi-billionaire owner Katharina Liebherr proves correct and she is preparing to sell, that Nicola would return at the head of a consortium or even representing a new, extremely rich owner. That, one presumes, would all depend on whether Ms Liebherr would be prepared to sell her father’s club to Mr Cortese, and that we cannot know.

Nicola Cortese and I never met during his time at Southampton. We were in the same room occasionally but never managed to speak. His three-year ban imposed on this paper for reasons never made clear was irksome and difficult to explain to fans, but only served to strengthen our resolve to provide fair, balanced and supportive coverage of Saints. The ending of tension since the start of the new season was welcome.

That we were considered outsiders by Mr Cortese put us in good company. Saints legends found themselves outside of the new regime at the club, including Lawrie McMenemy, Matt Le Tissier and Franny Benali. Others in the city found they were rubbed up the wrong way by the Italian banker as he set about creating his dream for the club.

Not surprisingly the fans, although regretting the ostracising of so many of the club’s heroes, cared little for any off the pitch spats and revelled in the back to back successes Saints came to enjoy. Quite rightly they saw Mr Cortese as the instrument of such success. Quite understandably they will now be concerned at his departure and of what plans Ms Liebherr has for the club.

I hope that they will at least allow her the chance to settle into her role as non-executive chairman. We cannot know what has really taken place behind the scenes that has led to this change of affairs. Certainly some of the more hysterical comment pieces in the national press portraying Ms Liebherr as a “Dream Wrecker” and “Herr Indoors Is In Charge Now” while making comment on her style of dress and appearance, were shockingly unfair, inappropriate and of no relevance. She is believed to be someone who despite her great wealth shuns the spotlight. Her experience of national news coverage this week will have done little to have endeared Britain to her.

I feel certain the fans who loved her father for his generosity in buying Southampton FC at its time of need and investing in its future will remember that this is his daughter.

What the future holds now for Southampton FC I cannot say with any more certainty than any other commentator. I hope the club remains stable, goes from strength to strength, and if it is to be sold it passes into the hands of people who truly believe in its future.

If those people come to include Nicola Cortese then, despite all the history he and this paper have, I would not fear that the man at the helm was anything but committed to Saints’ success.