Ralph Krueger has finally broken the silence between the club and the fans, following months without a statement on transfers, the direction of the club or Mauricio Pellegrino’s job security.
The Canadian promised transparency upon his appointment as Southampton Football Clubs Chairman, but despite this, he’s allowed numerous worries to boil over amongst his fan base.
In an interview with the Daily Echo yesterday morning, Ralph krueger answered a number of fan questions, backing Pellegrino and explaining how difficult the Virgil Van Dijk saga has been for the club and manager.
At this point, however, I must give credit to Adam Blackmore and Adam Leitch, firstly for undoubtedly pressuring the club into doing this interview, and secondly for asking questions that cover the worries of so many Southampton fans.
So, join me as I give my take on Krueger’s latest comments….
Mauricio Pellegrino’s job security
The way that you view Mauricio Pellegrino, will determine how you view Krueger’s comments about the Argentine…
If you’re of the belief that we shouldn’t become one of those chop and change clubs, then you’ll be happy.
But if you’ve grown sick and tired of Pellegrino – as I imagine just about every fan has – It looks like bad news. Krueger appears to have solid faith in Pellegrino despite a horrific first half of the season, and seems adamant that he’s the main to take us forward.
“Mauricio Pellegrino from the get-go has completely embraced the way we operate here” said Krueger.
But I couldn’t be less convinced. When we think of a manager embracing Southampton’s style, expressive attacking play and youth development are right at the top of the list. But under Pellegrino’s management, both have seemingly regressed since Claude Puel’s reign last year. We’re yet to find our strongest XI, have found zero consistency in front of goal and youth players such as Jake Hesketh have been forced to ply their trade with the U23’s.
From the outside looking in, it seems like an empty statement backed up with next to no evidence, other than Krueger’s seemingly blind faith.
Van Dijk’s departure
Ever since the Van Dijk saga began, I’ve generally agreed with just about every decision regarding the Dutchman’s future. I backed them when they blocked a move in the summer in the hope that he’d get his head down, and I back their decision to sell him this window.
I think it’s safe to say that the majority of fans agree there too, so credit must be given where credit is due. It wasn’t easy, and the process certainly wasn’t clean, but it’s over and Krueger has seemingly accepted defeat regarding the negative effects that the saga brought onto the club.
He talked about allowing negativity to creep into the club as a result of their decision, and how nobody is happy with where we currently sit, but it’s our reality.
The most encouraging statement from Krueger read…
“I am ultimately responsible for where we are today. Not any individual. I am ultimately responsible for the culture of the club and the mood of the club.”
Compare that to the weak and empty PR produced comments about Pellegrino, and it’s a case of night and day. This is genuine honesty here, and fans will sooner respect and identify that over mindless misplaced positivity.
However, he then goes on to blame large parts of the season’s failures on the toxic energy produced by Van Dijk’s antics. Which in itself wouldn’t be a problem, but when only earlier in the interview he claimed that blame can’t be pinned on one person in reference to Pellegrino, things get a little confusing.
What about the baffling team selections? Or the fact that were yet to deploy a recognisable style? Are the horrific substitutions Van Dijk’s fault too?
I’ve no doubt that the Van Dijk saga placed a ‘dark cloud’ over the club, as Krueger claimed, but to even suggest for a moment that there’s correlation between Pellegrino’s incompetence as a manager and Van Dijk throwing a strop, is simply ridiculous.
On the whole, I get what Krueger is trying to say here. He’s attempting to remind fans that not every year can be record breaking, and not every season will go to plan. Every club in the league harbours these ambitions, and not every club can improve year on year.
Look back at Southampton’s League finishes over the past 20 years and it’s proof that all fans have to ride the highs and lows.
But this feels like a copout. A line that he’s only rolling out now that we’re staring relegation in the face. If we were playing thrilling football and turning teams over as we did under Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, I’m certain that the ‘small club’ line wouldn’t be rolled out.
Back then it was labelled ‘The Southampton Way’ – but now that we’re spiralling down the table, were being told on three separate occasions in one answer that were simply a ‘small club’.
Funnily enough, last night’s performance was certainly that of a ‘small club’. After starting the game as much the better side and consequently going 1-0 up, we decided to sit back and rest on our one goal lead, and lo and behold the inevitable happened, as Palace piled on the pressure and snatched all three points. Don’t forget that similar events happened against Huddersfield, Arsenal and Brighton too.
How can we possibly aim to drag ourselves out of this mess unless we tear down that mentality? We have a talented squad, we invest superbly, have state of the art training facilities and we’ve cemented ourselves as a top Premier League side over the past five years.
This interview was supposed to put the fears of fans to one side; to tell them that the higher forces in the club are seeing the same things that the fans are. But instead I come away from reading this interview with nothing but worries, and feeling even more distant to the board than before.
My biggest fear now is that Krueger will gamble the future of our football club on his inability to swallow his own pride and admit defeat. Southampton Football Club are diving head first into the Championship as we reach the halfway stage of the season, and until managerial changes are made, I’m adamant that our fortunes are unable to change.