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. leftclick Together we will get justice for the Dam 5 on



    I look forward to your FF up dates tonight:))


    I was gifted a log-in but once was enough as I was asked not to post :)) just laugh but there is plenty bile on there.


    Thank you for being at the front line

  2. SSB- Fighting Fund (sic) money might get used to fund A Club Museum ….bbbbwwwweaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haud oan there’s an auld shoebox you can put the Div 3 Trophy in ffs

  3. TET,


    if so, he’ll have to be REALLY careful about that deferral; they don’t have a history of paying their outstanding bills!







  4. Let’s go round again. Let’s go round like the hands of time. Let’s go round again…one more time.

  5. Gordon Dalziel ” something about this doesent sit right with me” izat right,? Cmere an hit wi this 6lb. Hammer ya feckin screwball, guys as thick as sheet in the neck of a perfume bottle.

  6. Foxy….



    I agree he should not have been interned.



    But these guys need to renounce violence now.



    It is the ONLY way forward for this generation.



    The Planter / Loyalist raisin d’être as the Imperial Master has now been exposed in a modern 21st century Ireland.They will be a minority 25 years from now.



    He should listen to Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries singing about Zombies.These creatures are not exclusive to Govan.

  7. 50 shades of green supports wee oscar and his family.h.h.wee mhan on

    Always thought Godfather 2 was the best sequel ever, however starting to think Administration 2 could be better. :)

  8. Celtic advert on Snyde,background is fans singing “here we go 10 in a row..” nearly dropped some ice cream…

  9. oh the blog is rockin tonight



    alot of happy people



    never realised till i was reading phil mac giolla bhain, that david murray wanted to win the european cup above all else, his obsession burst rangers financially


    fair play to him, he f##ked rangers


    hopefully they will die this time


    but with the sfa, masons and loyal lodges backing them , i wouldnt be so sure



    still comedy gold

  10. leftclick Together we will get justice for the Dam 5 on

    If your going outdoors tonight please wear a hard hat as there are reports of heavy showers of pennies dropping all over sevconia :)))

  11. A Ceiler Gonof Rust Supporting Justice and Freedom for the Dam 5 on

    An unnamed sevco spokesman described Ian Black’s reaction to the lasest betting scandal as “gutted”. “Ian had a tenner at 6/1 with betfred on the boy getting off”.

  12. leftclick Together we will get justice for the Dam 5 on

    Chris Graham‏@ChrisGraham76


    Has an outburst of swearwords at the news and he tipped wallace along with Murray, Whyte, Green and everyother spiv at the hate factory .


    15% ayeeeeeeeeeeeeee right wont meke a dent think bigger numbers


    Goooooooooooooood move Jon Daly:))

  13. leftclick Together we will get justice for the Dam 5 on

    Follow Follow‏@Follow_Follow_3 mins


    And can anyone sober of mind and free from mental disease explain how our FD is still in his job?


    Hmmm Hmmm He is working with the spivs


    from a sober and free (allegedlly) mental disease Tim

  14. ryecatcher



    18:24 on 16 January, 2014






    Guys like Martin Corey should just fade away……the war is over…..the rebels won.



    If he had any real intentions of a peaceful solution then he and his organisation should let it be or their actions will condemn another generation to misery.







    I agree there’s no place in society for paramilitaries but there is also no excuse for interment in the 21st century. If you’re gonna imprison someone you better have good reason otherwise we will be right back to where we started.



    We got neither Truth nor Reconciliation here in Northern Ireland.



    As for the fantasy that the Rebels won, that is the biggest Phantom victory any leaders have ever managed to sell to its people. Remember this is Northern Ireland not IRELAND. We got an agreement which keeps Ulster a part of britain but also gives some Rights to Irish Nationalists.



    Three words for you “FLAG PROTESTS & PARADES”






    Hail hail!

  15. channelislandcelt4DAM5 on

    Hurtin Hun Ralston- “Someone makes a half a million profit from shares one day ,they are asking the players to take a pay cut the next. Something is just not adding up ”



    Good work Sherlock !




  16. 50 shades of green supports wee oscar and his family.h.h.wee mhan on

    O and I forgot to say.



    Congratulations to Kris on being Dec player of the month.