Why New Chairman Kreuger Is A Backwards Step For Southampton

Nicola Cortese oversaw a dramatic rise on the south coast - but is the appointment of his inexperienced replacement, Ralph Kreugar, a huge faux-pas by the Saints?
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Nicola Cortese oversaw a dramatic rise on the south coast - but is the appointment of his inexperienced replacement, Ralph Kreugar, a huge faux-pas by the Saints?

When Nicola Cortese resigned from the job of Southampton chairman in January I panicked. Most Saints fans panicked.

Cortese wasn’t just your normal chairman, this man was the life and soul of Southampton FC and, arguably, the reason for their meteoric return to first flight football. Losing him put the club, the players, the financial backing - everything, in the danger zone.

So obviously, I am similarly sceptical about the appointment of former Ice Hockey player and coach Ralph Krueger.

Sure, he’s not exactly new to the sporting world. He has been a key part in the Olympic Canadian Ice Hockey team and has actually spent the last year advising the owners on how Southampton should be run.

But he has no experience in football. Neither, to be fair, did Cortese, but he at least had passion and vision.

What Cortese instilled in at the club was what he liked to call “The Southampton Way”: the beautiful attacking football, the emphasis on young British talent, the team spirit.

He was also good with finances, and although not every dip into the transfer market was effective, the players he signed always stated that he was one of the main reasons they signed. No one expected a recently promoted side to sign established internationals such as Osvaldo, Lovren and Wanyama, but we did, and that was in no small part thanks to Cortese.

He made what can often be seen as a constricting and alienated position in a club into a likeable and personal job. Allegedly, he would send a personal Christmas card to every member of staff at Southampton, from the manager to the groundsman. He also knew every single one by name, and their families as well. He created a positive atmosphere and sense of togetherness that has been so important in the Southampton project.

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Even when, mid-season, Cortese sacked double promotion winning manager and generally lovely guy Nigel Adkins, the fans stood by him and barely complained. If the same thing had happened at Chelsea, we still wouldn’t be hearing the end of it.

This is testament to the level of faith we had in Cortese - and we were rewarding by staying up and, briefly, finding ourselves third this season.

So what exactly has Krueger promised so far? Well...to bring out the clubs “untapped commercial potential”.

Not exactly a war cry to rally the troops with is it? Hearing your beloved club, something that you’ve poured time, money and love into, being described in such cold, business terms, is crushing.

Sure, the modern club does have to be run like one, but there is still room for the personal touch Cortese gave.

But hey, maybe I’ll be proved wrong. Maybe he’ll be great, pushing the club further up the league table, creating a stable financial backing and making Saints the Champions League club that Cortese promised us.

At least at his first press conference he stated that he will “continue to nurture “The Southampton Way”, and to me this is the most important thing he could do.

We’ve gone, in the space of a few years, from a club fallen from grace, to one of the most exciting English clubs, possibly even the saviour of English football. And all because of our philosophy and passion.

Krueger’s biggest job this coming summer will be keeping staff and players. With rumours circulating round Shaw, Lallana and Lambert (and Pochettino) being sniffed out by bigger clubs, it is key that he can nail down personnel for next season. Without these key players, we are nothing.

All of this may be pointless however. Rumour has it that Cortese has been abroad gathering investors for his own potential takeover, like Milton’s Satan, biding his time and plotting his revenge. Allegedly, one of these people is the richest man in China.

Whether or not this happens, and whether or not Krueger fits at the club, I just hope to God we don’t find ourselves in League 1 again.