Ralph Hasenhuttl: A new face at Southampton but will it be same old same old from Saints?

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 04 December 2018, 11:47

CHRISTMAS is a time when the needy feel it most. When want is at its height.

Thankfully we have Southampton Football Club around to give to the out-of-work managers of the world and make this Festive period that bit more comfortable for hungry unemployed coaches.

Mark Hughes has gone and it looks like Austrian Ralph Hasenhuttl is the next man coming down the chimney to fill the most temporary vacancy in the entire country.

Never mind that Ralph has never managed in the Premier League before, let alone a team stuck in a tailspin of decline and fighting yet again for survival in the top flight.

He is coming with a glowing reputation. At 51 he still has the reputation in Germany of being a coach with a ‘modern’ approach to football. He is tactically focused and studious with his planning of matches.

Equally he is an advocate of fast, attacking football. Southampton fans glimpsed a little of that on Saturday watching their team race into a 2-0 lead against Manchester United only to blow it and with it Hughes’ job.

One win this season and a squad so disillusioned that striker Charlie Austin is reduced to ranting at referees and demanding VAR after last month’s draw against Watford.

We all know that there is a much deeper lying problem at Saints. And therein lies the heart of the issue which will confront Herr Hasenhuttl once he gets his feet under his desk.

Hasenhuttl is known for his passion for free flowing football and his up to date philosophy on high pressing and pressure play. He sounds ideal and a real contrast to his predecessors such as ‘whispering Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino and Hughes.

But it doesn’t matter a jot how good you are as a manager or what you do if you don’t have the players to do it.

 

It’s well documented that Southampton have been asset stripped in recent years. It’s a time-honoured tradition that small clubs sell to big clubs but the St.Mary’s car boot sale has reached ridiculous levels.

Every time Southampton fans gather for another deflating matchday experience at home they sit and wonder how different things would be had they kept hold of the rich seam of talent at their club.

Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic, Nathan Clyne, Victor Wanyama and going back in time Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana.

It makes the mouth water and brings tears to the eyes at the same time.

Southampton are the extreme of a process which has been going on for years but is accelerating rapidly along with the distance between the haves and have nots in the top flight.

It’s a miracle Fulham have held onto Ryan Sessegnon for so long. Leicester lost Riyad Mahrez. Then there’s John Stones and Fabian Delph who left English clubs to join Manchester City.

Andy Robertson leaving Hull for Liverpool and Chris Smalling snapped up by Manchester United from Fulham.

The problem is the attitude up top. Hughes, Pellegrino and Puel would have argued all day long to keep their best players but then feeble leadership in the boardroom is happy to flog the family silver then eventually the shine comes off what’s left.

At Southampton as soon as someone can kick a football straight for 50 yards they slap a ‘for sale’ sign on them.

That is Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first and biggest job - to say enough is enough to Southampton’s Chinese owners.

A club can stomach losing one maybe two good players from time to time with the natural economics of the game and the lure of trophies and bigger wages elsewhere. But Saints has been bled dry in recent years and none of it has been the various managers’ faults.

Hassnhuttl’s biggest enemy is not relegation or the attitude of the despairing players he will inherit - it is the self-defeating, fast buck outlook of the very people who are employing him and that has to change. Otherwise Southampton’s new boss will be a former one very quickly.

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Darrell Clarke
(Bristol Rovers)
13th December
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