Ballsy innovation comes crashing


Yesterday, Southampton’s chairman Nicola Cortese resigned.  Depending on how long you have been trailing this story, he is either being tempted to take up the chef exec job at struggling Milan, or has found working under owner Katharine Liebharr too much.  It’s also possible that Ms Liebharr has insisted on a return on her family’s two rounds of investment in the club and forced his hand.

Five years ago Cortese was a working in Switzerland as a banker and acted on behalf of the now-deceased and father of Katharine, Markus Liebharr.  They successfully put a deal together to buy Southampton FC and rescue the club from administration (liquidation is not inevitable, some clubs survive).  Cortese had no previous experience in the football industry.

Southampton are a small club who seem cursed to produce incredibly talented youth players, only to see extraordinarily bad executives spurn their bounty.  I remember writing about their ‘blood on the boardroom carpet’ six years ago.

A year ago this Saturday, Cortese sacked Nigel Atkins, the manager who won them two successive promotions and put them in a comfortable position on the FA Premier League.  Cortese was to 2013 what Vincent Tan is to 2014, the butt of a thousand jokes, but none of us were reading the script.

Cortese’ next move was to appoint Argentine Mauricio Pochettino, the 40-year-old  recently sacked manager of Espanyol.  Southampton haven’t looked back, despite the words “Hooiveld” and “Fox” regularly featuring on team sheets.

Pochettino is now one of the hottest properties in football but he’s not the story, his former boss is.  In appointing a young, low-profile, manager, Cortese tackled square-on the biggest problem in football – the vast risk invested on the shoulders of one man, the manager.  A football manager is expected to be a master of tactics, a motivational dressing room speaker, a media communications expert, a scout and pretty much guru of everything.

None of them are good at all of this.  As a consequence, clubs invest vast proportions of turnover on player wages and transfers, with haphazard diligence being carried out.  The man ultimately responsible for approving this spend is more likely to be a shouty media darling, spending an average of 2.5 years at the club, than someone who has experience of long-term strategic planning.

Cortese figured that what he really needed in a manager was a tactical head, someone who could run a technical team, consulting with scouts, coaches, nutritionists and fitness trainers, and come up with what American football teams call a playbook.  You want to play at Old Trafford?  This is what worked when small teams visited the Bernabeu last season.  Playing teams’ taller/faster/luckier with referees than you?  You’ve got to see how these guys are leveling the playing field in Uruguay.

Football clubs need their manager to be Master of Tactics, and if they can concentrate him on this, they’re doing better than 90% of clubs in the game.  They don’t need someone ‘connected’ to agents in value markets, this attribute can be recruited easily.  They don’t need a good media talker.  Despite being able to speak English, Pochettino gives press conferences through an interpreter.  Yet the fans love him!

Clubs don’t need someone to play to the galleries, or someone with the ability to induce affinity from his public, most of the time results will keep (most) fans onside.

With his technically-proficient and happy-to-be-working-anywhere manager installed, Cortese had all operations working as he wanted, including the inordinately expensive recruitment process.  Sacking a good and successful manager in Atkins was the most ballsy and innovative thing to happen in English football in decades, but he was operating in an industry which is the biggest financial basket case in sport.  So, despite his clarity of vision, the Southampton gig was never going to last.

Today’s newspapers predict a mass exodus as Pochettino and Southampton’s gifted players head for the exit, good news for Joos and Danny, perhaps, but you feel for the beleaguered fans, who were shown a glimpse of how things should be done, but for years will wonder, what could have been?

The rest of us can ponder the opportunity available due to entrenched inefficiencies in football.

“You should always have pressure on you”, Stefan Johansen, 15 January 2014.  I like this guy already.

Last shout for North America based Celtic fans for the Feile, which starts in Philidelphia tomorrow. Full details of the events can be found here. it’s bound to be a great weekend so get along if you can.
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  1. GuyFawkesaforeverhero on

    United dump Celtic out of the cup



    16 January





    How many more of these humiliating headlines from NewsNow is PL and his cronies going to make us endure during this most wretched of all wretched seasons.



    Sack the Bored,it’s the MSM way forward.



    NFA Ideal Stelrad Minor Cup



    West Allotment Celtic A 1 Ponteland United 4



    We have to ask ourselves what is going on with the B team squad if they can’t even get into this team?



































    NFA Ideal Stelrad Minor Cup



    West Allotment Celtic A 1 Ponteland United 4

  2. Philbhoy - Free the Dam 5! on




    She died last Sunday, I believe.



    She was in a series about 4 super heroes called “The Champions”.



    Beautiful women.

  3. Hamiltontim is praying for Oscar on




    I’ve only just begun watching Breaking Bad. Four episodes into series 1, compulsive viewing.

  4. Afternoon all



    Sad to learn of the passing of Roger Lloyd Pack. Obviously best known as the matchless Trigger but a fine actor in other roles as well.



    I met him – at Lords Cricket Ground of all places- and he was a really nice


    chap as well.







    Jimbo67 supporting Oscar Knox

  5. 67Heaven ... I am Neil Lennon, supporting WEE OSCAR..!!.. Ibrox belongs to the creditors on




    “most of the time, results will keep (most) fans onside.” ……… you won’t have to look any further than these ‘pages’ for evidence of THAT….hahahahahahaahahahahaha

  6. prestonpans bhoys dam justice for the 5 on

    Richie #TeamOscar




    13:21 on 16 January, 2014




    Is Sally the only manager in senior football who is paid more than double the salary of his highest paid player?



    another world record…………………………………..??

  7. Ooh new fish bar in the JS lower. £6 for a fish supper seems relatively reasonable (assuming the portion size is ok). Nomnomnomnom.

  8. eddieinkirkmichael on

    Callum McGregor: Wolves consider bid for Celtic midfielder


    By Kenny Crawford


    BBC Sport Scotland Wolves are one of “a number” of clubs pursuing Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor, who is on loan at English League One side Notts County.



    The 20-year-old has scored 12 goals in 27 appearances at Meadow Lane since arriving in August.



    McGregor’s representative Kenny Moyes told BBC Scotland: “There is a number of teams interested, including Wolves. But, as yet, there is no firm offer.”



    However, it is understood Celtic do not want to sell McGregor.



    Therefore, another loan period or a return to his parent club seem most likely when his spell at Notts County ends this month.



    County manager Shaun Derry has already expressed his desire to extend McGregor’s deal beyond January.



    McGregor is a Scotland under-21 international but has yet to make an appearance for Celtic’s first-team.






  9. RIP Roger Lloyd-Pack. As Trigger, he always delivered the silliest of lines with such lovely sincerity. And he had many other fine performances to his name too.



    “If it’s a girl they’re calling her Sigourney after an actress, and if it’s a boy they’re naming him Rodney, after Dave.”

  10. Great article, Paul – ine of your best; very interesting perspectives on what is required at top-level management nowadats.



    RIP Trigger. Roger Lloyd-Pack – defined ‘deadpan’. God bless. Will be watching Gold tonight.

  11. hamiltontim is praying for oscar



    13:28 on 16 January, 2014





    I’ve only just begun watching Breaking Bad. Four episodes into series 1, compulsive viewing.



    They all are compelling and have climatic endings.



    Sainsbury’s has them all in now.

  12. Ht / googy – Breaking bad best thing for yonks. Finished watching it about a month ago and considering watching again it is that good.



    RIP Trigger – comedy genius

  13. tomtheleedstim on

    googybhoy – has it got the last series? That’s the only one I’m missing. Been waiting for it to come out.

  14. tomtheleedstim



    13:56 on 16 January, 2014


    googybhoy – has it got the last series? That’s the only one I’m missing. Been waiting for it to come out.




    Yes I just picked the last series today.


    It is no 50 in DVD charts at Sainsburys

  15. TomtheLeeds,



    Sainsburys online has it. Not sure about individual stores. Mines hasn’t.



    Amazon have it for under 20 quid bluray.

  16. Spending January nights working through every series of Breaking Bad. Currently halfway into Season 2. Great stuff.



    Recently completed:



    Mad Men – 7.5/10



    Classic cool modern historical drama with a cultural hook. Great look, great characters with unexpected darkness and mystery thrown in.



    Homeland – 8.5/10



    Atonisihng first season, then managed to carry the story through to end of Season 3. American POW returns from 8-year imprisonment in Iraq.


    Female CIA agent with operational experienc ein Middle East takes an interest in him as he becomes a national celebrity – question is, has his experince changed him; friend or foe, hero or terrorist.


    Season 1 also has THE most tension-packed climactic episode I think i’ve ever seen on TV. Edge-of-seat mania right through final hour. Don’t miss.




    Gmte Of Thrones – 8/10



    Lord Of TheRings for adults who don’t like Lord Of The Rings. Sweary, violent, laden with sex and nudity, some comedy gold, and Sean Bean stealing the show in the first season. Also packing a great supernatural threat and epic power struggles.

  17. eddieinkirkmichael


    13:42 on 16 January, 2014



    He’ll end up being part of a swap deal with Griffiths if other striker signing options don’t materialise.

  18. tomtheleedstim on

    Googybhoy – not sure we even have Sainsbury’s yet!



    googybhoy/ Geordie Munro – cheers fellas.


    That should see me through the Hell that is booze free January.

  19. RIP Roger Lloyd Pack….a wonderfully sincere and sensitive man.Brilliant actor too.



    A life long socialist of the proper variety……by his actions and not his rhetoric.



    Unlike some of the media darlings,jailbirds and celebrities who claim to be but disgrace the very notion of socialism.Even worse that some are phoney Celtic fans when it suits their agenda.




  20. breaking bad was mince, now Justified on the other hand is brilliant and Marshal Raylan Givens is a Tim.

  21. I was talking to a hun colleague about the mess that is Sevco. I said my guess is that come April time they will apply to to go into admin cos they would probably be the best part of 30 points clear and even with a 25 point deduction would get promoted automatically. I asked him if he thought if this happened would it be morally reprehensible or working within the rules. I’m sure you can guess what his response was.

  22. Oh dear



    Unlike some of the media darlings,jailbirds and celebrities who claim to be but disgrace the very notion of socialism.Even worse that some are phoney Celtic fans when it suits their agenda.

  23. tomtheleedstim on

    I’ll tell you what is brilliant – Outnumbered. Supposed to be a kids programme. My kids bring round the dvds and it’s as funny as feck. I think it has been going for years but I’m new to the party as usual.

  24. ....PFayr supports WeeOscar on

    Burgas Hoops



    you`ll get lynched in here for such calmny



    ive never watched it



    Breaking Bad ..that is

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