Southampton fans to protest over sacking of manager Adkins
Mauricio Pochettino will walk headfirst into a supporters’ protest when he takes charge of Southampton for the first time against Everton on Monday after the club acted ruthlessly by sacking Nigel Adkins to safeguard their “long-term ambitions”.
The Argentinian, capped 20 times by his country, must also win over a playing squad left surprised and confused by Adkins’s dismissal, given the team have lost only two of their past 12 Premier League games and drew at the European champions, Chelsea, only on Wednesday to move three points clear of the relegation zone.
Fans have strongly criticised the decision and intend to wave white handkerchiefs after five minutes of Monday’s televised game against Everton.
The club’s executive chairman, Nicola Cortese, was absent as Pochettino was unveiled yesterday after signing a two-and-a-half-year contract, with the new manager revealing he had been “researching Southampton for several weeks”. “[Gaining] the kindness of the supporters is the biggest challenge I have,” said Pochettino, through an interpreter. “They are the biggest part of this club and I hope I can convince them with honest and hard work.”
Pochettino, whose new squad has been bolstered by the €4 million arrival of the Norway centre-half Vegard Forren from Molde, added he had the “greatest sympathy and respect” for Adkins, who had hoisted the team 51 places in 26 months in charge and boasts the best win percentage – 54 per cent – of any Southampton manager since the 19th century.
He had been informed that he was to be relieved of his duties in a meeting early yesterday morning, despite having a contract through to 2016.
Cortese had previously considered the manager’s position after the defeat at West Bromwich Albion in November but, having resisted a change then, the sense was that the situation would not be reviewed again until the end of the season.
Yet he is understood to have retained doubts over whether the man who had steered the club to successive promotions had the authority to thrive in the Premier League.
Pochettino’s dismissal by Espanyol, who were bottom of the Primera Liga at the time, at the end of November allowed the hierarchy to pursue their preferred candidate. “This decision has been made with the long-term ambitions of Southampton in mind,” said Cortese in a statement.
“Whilst we acknowledge the contribution Nigel has made during the past two years, for the club to progress and achieve our long-term targets a change was needed.”
Greeted with disbelief
Adkins’ dismissal was greeted with disbelief by Southampton’s supporters. “The fans were 100 per cent behind Nigel,” said Mike O’Callaghan, chairman of the Southampton Independent Supporters’ Association.
“He’s got us two automatic promotions, we’re 15th in the Premier League, so what has he done wrong? It’s farcical what’s going on.
“All we’ve known is success under Nigel Adkins at Southampton. Previous chairmen have made us into a joke, and now the present [executive] chairman is doing the same.”