Friday, 16 May 2008

Rupert's Return: the Saints Soap Opera Continues

Had Leon Crouch and the ex-board chosen to take the fight to the last, today would have seen the EGM where shareholders would have chosen between Crouch and a new board headed by Rupert Lowe and Michael Wilde. As events unravelled yesterday, it became clear that was not going to happen, with Crouch's resignation opening the way for the controversial return of Lowe and Wilde. Their return has split the fanbase, with many supporters devastated at the prospect of the return of two such notorious figures, whom many blame for the club's relegation and subsequent demise. Others recognise the financially vulnerable state of the club and see Lowe as the man to inject a strong dose of financial belt-tightening that will safeguard the club's future, (despite Lowe's tainted history and lack of appeal). All fans feel disappointed at the failure of the club to attract the investment which really would move the club forward. However, with the joy and relief brought by a successful relegation fight comes a general feeling of optimism that the club's problems have bottomed out. In my view, there are five key criteria Lowe and Wilde must satisfy for this to prove the case.

Five Golden Rules

1) Keep Nigel Pearson

Crucial for two reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, of course Pearson deserves to be kept on. When he joined, the club was in freefall under Dodd and Gorman, and despite some bad results Pearson was able to restore confidence, boost fitness and secure a survival that would otherwise have been very much in the balance. His commitment is obvious and he has won the right to lead Saints into the new season. Secondly, he has the fans behind him. A recent poll on the Saints Forum website found that the manager has the support of the vast majority of fans. If Lowe and Wilde are to have any chance of success they must keep the fans onside. Getting rid of Pearson may just push things over the edge.

2) Sort out the club's finances

While talk of imminent administration may be an exagerration, the long term future of the club depends upon getting the club onto a sure financial footing. Despite Lowe's profligacy with managers, he proved himself financially last time by running a very tight ship. More is needed now, trimming the wage bill and raising attentences will be crucial to this.

3) Communicate with the fans

The official Saints website has never been the ultimate source of Saints knowledge, but the last few days has seen the site shamefully overlook the dramatic events at the club. Fans, desperate to know who was coming and going at board level, have instead been fed news about last night's "Legends" match. While I recognise the appeal and importance of last night's charity match, telling fans what is going on at Southampton Football Club is surely the purpose of the site and in that it has singularly failed during Crouch's reign. Fans who look online for Saints news must go to instead. An injection of honesty into the club's communication is thus urgently required. Afterall, who can forget Lowe deriding the D.E as "recidivist much-spreaders." Well Mr Lowe, unless you sort out the Saints site it is to the muck-speaders to whom people will turn for their Saints news.

4) Rebuild the club's academy

Linked to point 2, and important in the long term as another revenue stream. The academy has lost key staff, as well as much of its reputation over the past few years. Growing quality homegrown players is important both in providing talent to the team and in generating revenue.

5) Attract Investment

The investment saga has rolled on for long enough, but its importance cannot be overstated. If we want to get back in the Premiership we need new finance to get us there. Rupert's penny-pinching will only get us so far.

Over to you, Mr Lowe...

I think all fans would unite in saying thank you to Leon Crouch. His heart was obviously in the job, and his appointment of Pearson was crucial to our survival (after the mistake of carrying on with Dodd and Gorman). Without his support, we would not have such a fitting tribute to Ted Bates, either. However, in hard times, hard measures are called for and it is now up to Lowe and Wilde to sort out the club's finances. And if they are to keep fans onside they must keep Nigel Pearson. They now have another chance now to prove themselves. Lets hope they do not let history and bickering get in the way getting the club back onto the path to success.


Sunday, 4 May 2008

It's official: Saints are safe

There were scenes of wild jubilation at St Marys this afternoon, as a 3-2 win over Sheffield United saw Saints maintain their Championship status. The final-day win, which sparked a mass pitch invasion at the final whistle, condemned Leicester City, who could only draw at Stoke, to third-tier football for the first time in their history. As favourites to go down on the final day, the Saints players dug deep to produce a gutsy and heroic performance. A goal from Marek Saganowski came between two goals from hero Stern John, as Saints came from behind to end Sheffield United's play-off hopes. After a dreadful season, Saints have ended on a staggering high, reminiscent of the Premiership dog-fights that characterised the club in the 90s. The emphasis must now be on sorting out the club at boardroom level during the summer, and sorting out a side with which Nigel Pearson can progress next season.


Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?