Friday, 7 August 2009

Pink Article: After Dutch Revolution, Swiss Evolution?

On the eve of another new season, my thoughts on the months ahead were printed in local sports weekly The Pink on Sunday. Here is the article in full.

It has been a tough twelve months for the St. Mary’s faithful. But, with investment secured and an experienced manager in place, Saints fans have reason to be positive this season, writes Will Wainewright.

So much for a relaxing summer! Pre-season is supposed to be a restful period for football fans, a couple of months free of worried Fridays, stressful Saturdays and gloomy Sundays. Not for Saints supporters.

Even after the season from hell, the takeover saga was something else as the club flirted with armageddon. Despite plenty of bellicose talk from Mark Fry of his hopes for a sale, flogging the once mighty SFC turned out to be a tougher task than initially thought. Even Matthew Le Tissier, our saviour so many times before, failed in his attempts to find the club a buyer.

But now, despite entering highly in the pantheon of football failures, Saints could have a brighter future. The purchase of the club by Swiss Industrialist Markus Liebherr has secured the future of SFC and allowed fans to emerge from behind the sofa.

And it seems there are reasons to be (whisper it) hopeful. Though the shotgun dismissal of manager Mark Wotte is redolent of the Lowe era, the appointment of Alan Pardew is an encouraging sign. The English coach has a strong track record of steering sides to promotion in the lower levels and ranks as a managerial heavyweight in League One. That he would only manage at this level at Saints makes it pretty clear how highly he respects the club – and where he sees its future lying.

Just as encouraging was Kelvin Davies’ decision to remain at the club. Like Pardew, he would not be out of place in the Championship or higher and his loyalty to the club shows his belief in the club’s future, especially after performing so well in such a dire season. Both will be a class above in League One.

Pardew now has the job of building a side that can flourish at this level – by no means an easy task after the years of instability that have resulted in such a ramshackle look to the squad. But with all the off-field drama settled he has a clean slate to build a side worthy of promotion. Thankful to still have a club, fans will give him time to do this and will not be expecting miracles – particularly given our ten point handicap.

It may take two or three seasons – or even more – but that is not the important thing. After the chaos the club has gone through in the last few years, what fans want most is to be able to turn up on a Saturday and know their team will be well-managed and work their socks off. That is something for which Pardew’s sides have been renowned and bodes well for the future.

After the rushed desperation of the Dutch Revolution, we are hopefully in for a period of calm Swiss Evolution. A tandem of stability on and off the field has not been had at Saints for many a year and that is why fans are so positive now. After coming so close to losing their club, all are doubly keen to preserve and support it now. It’s strange, but if you had asked me in 2003 whether I would ever look forward to a season in League One, the answer would have been no. Not any more. Yeovil away – bring it on!

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