The smile on George Burley's face refused to fade despite his third consecutive defeat since taking charge of Southampton. The South Coast side were beaten by Cardiff City in a dull and scrappy affair at Ninian Park, but the Scot seems to wear the expression of a man expecting time to mould Southampton into a team capable of returning to the Premiership. "I have got to build a squad like I did at Ipswich, Derby and Hearts and try and achieve success," said Burley, appointed as Southampton's ninth manager in eight years.
"It is like anything, you need to change things, and then work for success. You need a bit of stability and I am looking to the long term."
There was no evidence for Southampton's travelling supporters of the promise shown in their last game, against Sheffield United on Wednesday night, during their latest defeat, and though they may be clinging to the hope of a play-off spot, for the new manager there are more pressing aims. "At the end of the day, I have to look at the squad and the personnel. I have got to look at it, assess it and then try and build," said Burley. "There is work to be done, and that is something that I enjoy."
Cardiff, without a win, or even a goal, in three League games before this fixture, needed to take advantage of Burley's tinkering, with the Saints boss making six changes from Wednes-day's side. That was clearly evident at the start as Southampton went behind after just seven minutes after a goal from Joseph Ledley. The Cardiff midfielder powered home Paul Parry's ball from the touchline after fine work in the build-up from Jason Koumas and Cameron Jerome.
Two minutes later it was two, Ledley this time the provider with a pass slotted through a Southampton defence in complete disarray. The powerful striker Jerome showed composure after a clever run, and sent Antti Niemi the wrong way.
Southampton though, pulled a goal back on 25 minutes. The Finnish goalkeeper Niemi's goal-kick created confusion in the Cardiff defence , leaving Dexter Blackstock to steal in and calmly shoot past the goalkeeper, Neil Alexander.
Cardiff were clearly benefiting from the presence of the on-loan West Bromwich Albion midfielder Koumas, with the Welshman at the heart of much of his side's forward play. The second half saw him handed more of a free role in the Cardiff midfield, and Koumas res-ponded in kind with some impressive passes.
Meanwhile Theo Walcott, Southampton's young star, was struggling to find space from his position on the right wing, his display restricted to some trickery on the ball, but his efforts all came to nothing.
Burley brought on Brett Ormerod to replace the largely ineffective Kenwyne Jones on 71 minutes, but the game had long since slipped away from the visitors by that time, and the new manager clearly has quite a task on his hands.