Despite two promotions and credible start to life in the Premier League, Cortese wields the axe
In the wake of Wednesday's draw at Stamford Bridge, when Southampton came from two-down to draw, Nigel Adkins agreed the comeback made it his team's best result of an increasingly impressive season. Yesterday he was fired and replaced by Mauricio Pochettino whose last coaching post was with Espanyol - until they fired him with the club bottom of La Liga in November.
As his successor let slip yesterday, even a Southampton win against Chelsea would not have saved Adkins, who took Saints from League One to the Premier League in successive seasons and leaves them three points clear of the relegation zone after two defeats in 12 matches. Along the way he has earned the best win percentage of any Saints manager (54 per cent). But his future was sealed during the club's bad autumn. Pochettino revealed he had been "researching" the Southampton squad "for weeks" while Vegard Forren, a Norwegian defender signed from Molde for 4m yesterday, told Norwegian TV he had "known about the change of manager for a while".
The exit of Adkins (above) has echoed of his arrival in 2010 when Alan Pardew was sacked after a 4-0 win at Bristol Rovers. Pulling the trigger on both occasions was Nicola Cortese, the club's executive chairman who tends to divide opinion. One football figure said yesterday: "Nothing would surprise me where he is involved, but don't quote me as he might sue."
Cortese is known within the game as a hard negotiator and he has in the past banned the local newspaper and the chairman of the Saints Trust, and fallen out with several ex-players, notably Matt Le Tissier. The Italian, a banker by profession, brokered the deal by which Markus Liebherr took over the club and has run it since the Swiss businessman died three years ago.
Nevertheless, Adkins' dismissal came as a complete surprise to himself, his staff and to supporters, some of whom said they were "disgusted" by the move. Earlier this season, when Saints were bottom of the league and seemingly bound for relegation, Adkins' name was chanted by fans.
However, Cortese may counter, so was Pardew's, but not for long.
Pochettino said: "[To win] the kindness of the supporters is the biggest challenge I have," and while he will not be given the hounding Rafael Benitez receives at Stamford Bridge he is unlikely to receive a warm welcome when Southampton host Everton on Monday night. …