Adkins advocates evolution not revolution at Southampton
Saints manager says club must recruit – but not at the expense of the values that earned promotion
Nigel Adkins, the Southampton manager, says that the publication of next season's Premier League fixtures will be the moment when the significance of the club's promotion to the Premier League after an absence of seven years sinks in, although, to judge by his reaction, there were at least four others on Saturday. His celebration of each of the goals that confirmed their elevation was uncharacteristically demonstrative, but the usual calm demeanour was back by the time he considered the task ahead, not drenched in champagne, but holding a cup of tea.
A time for cool appraisal lies ahead, which will mean business as usual for the former manager of Bangor City and Scunthorpe United, who admitted privately that he will be looking out for the fixtures with Liverpool, where he was a schoolboy goalkeeper. He still has his signing-on form, bearing the signature of Bob Paisley – like him, a physiotherapist-turned-manager – and has cited the Anfield boot room in the days when the Reds were serial trophy-winners, where the emphasis was on the group over the individual, as an influence on his management style.
Player recruitment this summer will not compromise those values. "Everyone contributes to the team ethic we've got and that's the biggest thing – it's about the team," he said. "Together everyone achieves more and the players work very hard for each other, which is backed up by the staff. We know what type of player we're looking for and we've been out there working very diligently to try to find players that are better than we've got but we're not going to disturb the team ethic. We'll take the momentum forward but we will be looking to improve the squad we've got and that's the natural evolution."
The style will remain unchanged on as well as off the field. Adkins spoke of other teams having proved that a winning style of passing football can transfer successfully onto the bigger stage, and the example of Norwich City is obvious, not least because they also secured successive promotions from League One and the Championship.
For Southampton to prosper, they will have to hope that Rickie Lambert can duplicate the success of Norwich's Grant Holt. Like Holt, Lambert is an old-fashioned centre-forward and a late developer who will taste the Premier League for the first time at 30. He silenced those who doubted his chances in his first experience of the Championship with 27 goals, but must now prove a new set of assumptions wrong.
Even if he does, reinforcements will be needed in other areas, with pace in central midfield and defence an obvious requirement, and that will require some immediate outlay. Nicola Cortese, the chairman, wants to base the club's future on the model of Barcelona's largely homegrown teams, with Saints' vaunted academy providing a sustainable core, and graduates such as Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain staying at St Mary's rather than being sold to plug financial holes.
Unfortunately, although Cortese is backing up his vision with continuing levels of investment in training facilities that already rank among the best, there are no Xavis or Iniestas with Hampshire accents on the verge of a first-team breakthrough. So the financial muscle bequeathed to the club by the late owner, Markus Liebherr, will have to be deployed on the first-team squad in the short term.
But a strong vote of confidence came last year when Saturday's outstanding performer Adam Lallana, 23, chose to commit himself to Southampton. "I owe the club everything," he said. "It gave me a chance. I got relegated with the club three years ago and to now be in the best league in the world, I'm just delighted. It's been a graft but it's where we want to be because we have big support, financially and from the fans, so why can't we stay there? If we keep things going we are going to do well, and not just survive. Norwich have, Swansea have. We work for each other and we have got the rewards today."
Latest in Sport
How Liverpool can catch Manchester United and secure Champions League football next season
Arsenal transfer news: 'We are not close to signing anybody. We need to lose some players,' says Arsene Wenger
Danny Jones: Keighley Cougars half-back dies after cardiac arrest during league game
Chelsea season player ratings: Grading the entire squad of the new Premier League champions
Floyd Mayweather beats Manny Pacquiao by a unanimous points decision - but Pacquiao thinks he should have won, saying 'he did nothing'
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils