Henry's mentor joins Southampton

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The Independent Football

Christian Damiano, the man who oversaw the development of Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka and Louis Saha at France's Clairefontaine academy, was yesterday appointed as Southampton's first-team coach.

The 54-year-old Frenchman will work under Southampton's head coach, Steve Wigley, in a similar role to those he held at Fulham under Jean Tigana and more recently at Liverpool under Gérard Houllier.

"I am delighted to be back in England and back in the Premier League with Southampton," Damiano said. "They have a very good reputation."

Damiano was chosen by Wigley after a recommendation by the Saints' academy director, the Frenchman Georges Prost. "I was made aware that Christian was available so I rang him and he flew over and we met in London," Wigley said. "The chairman [Rupert Lowe] was very impressed by him and I am delighted he has backed my judgement."

Wigley, 42, succeeded Paul Sturrock as Southampton's head coach in August but has yet to guide his side to a Premiership win in six league games in charge.

Doubts had been raised over whether Wigley would be allowed to continued managing Southampton without being in possession of his full coaching qualifications, but last week the Premier League gave him dispensation to continue until the end of the season.

Lowe yesterday rejected suggestions that Wigley's tenure was coming to an end, and denied that Damiano's appointment was a sign that Houllier would soon be moving to St Mary's as head coach. "This is the management team which will finish the season, with Steve in charge and Christian working alongside him," Lowe said.

Damiano spent a decade working alongside Houllier, a close friend, for the French FA, helping to nurture many of the "golden generation" who won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. He was Houllier's assistant as they led France to victory in the 1996 under-18s European Championship, and also worked as the assistant to two former France coaches, Aimé Jacquet and Roger Lemerre.