Friday, 17 July 2009

What a summer; interesting season in store as Saints step back from the brink

Nearly a year ago, while reflecting on what had been an awful twelve months for SFC, I wrote that the club's affairs "contain more twists and turns than the Middle-Eastern Peace Process." That was disingenuous of me. The past twelve months have seen two changes of manager, fan uprisings, administration, relegation to League One and the club coming to within days of being wound up.

Events in the Middle-East seem positively serene by comparison.

The Summer Sales

For many, the recent takeover saga has been too much to bear; here is a re-cap.

After the club's heart-breaking, if inevitable, descent into League One was finalised in May (not by a looming ten point penalty, but by a season of poor performances), attention turned to graver matters. The search for a buyer had begun as soon as administrator Mark Fry entered the fray at the start of April. But despite plenty of bellicose talk of his hopes for a sale, flogging the once mighty SFC turned out to be a tougher task than initially thought. The task of saving us proved too much even for the man who had done so often before as the Matthew Le Tissier-backed bid fell through. The club's future looked bleaker with every day that passed and player sales (Andrew Surman- shame, David McGoldrick- less so) were required to keep the club operating.

As the club not so much flirted as had an open affair with being wound up, fans lost faith in the ceaseless tide of rumour and speculation about potential buyers. And then, three months on, at last a deal was struck.

After Dutch Revolution, Swiss Evolution?

Southampton Football Club is now owned by Mr Markus Leibherr, a Swiss industrialist. To the surprise of few, shortly after the £13m deal was completed, Mark Wotte was removed from his post as Saints manager. A shame in some ways as his heart was in the job, but a higher level of management will clearly be required if Saints are to advance from the mire they find themselves in. The job of steering the club to a better future has been handed to English manager Alan Pardew, who signed a 3 year deal early this morning. Despite recent disappointment at Charlton, Pardew has a successful track record from his days at Reading and West Ham, taking the latter to within penalties of the FA Cup.

The appointment, together with the equally-important news that Kelvin Davies will be staying, is what fans have wanted and shows that the new owners are serious about restoring SFC to prominence. It remains to be seen whether that can be achieved, but with the club safe and a solid, proven manager in place, fans have a lot more to look forward to this season.

Let's just hope the next twelve months prove less stressful than the last twelve.

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