Saints fans protest with white hankies to greet Mauricio Pochettino

 

Mauricio Pochettino probably thought he had left Spanish football behind when he was announced as Southampton manager on Friday, two months after being sacked by Espanyol. But he will find that the traditional sign in Spain of fans' displeasure, the waving of white handkerchiefs, has followed him when he takes charge of the team against Everton tomorrow evening.

Southampton supporters have described as "farcical", "embarrassing" and much more the dismissal by chairman Nicola Cortese of Nigel Adkins, who led the club to successive promotions and 15th place in the Premier League, and whose name they sang at every game this season.

"It seems an appropriate way to protest at Nicola Cortese's ruthless treatment of Nigel Adkins," Perry McMillan of the Southampton Independent Supporters' Association said. "As this match is live on TV and will be seen throughout Europe, it's a great opportunity to show how we feel." Pochettino, who said on Friday that "football has an international language", will understand that Cortese is the target. But the adverse effects on a team of a dissatisfied crowd have been seen this season at Chelsea, and the new manager will have to hit the ground running, with visits to Manchester United and Wigan and home games against Manchester City and QPR in the offing. That means winning over the players quickly, even though he speaks little English. "You always have to convince players," he admitted.

Much has been made by the fans of the fact that Adkins was sacked with Southampton in 15th place, but they are only three points above the relegation zone. Espanyol finished Pochettino's first season 10th in La Liga after being in relegation trouble when he took over, and he delivered three more mid-table finishes before player sales eventually took their toll last November and he was sacked with the team in bottom place.

That coincided with Southampton hitting their lowest ebb since promotion, and it was only when Adkins gave Luke Shaw, the most promising academy graduate, his debut in the same month that the defence steadied and results improved. Adkins had always supported Cortese's vision of the academy driving the club's fortunes, but Shaw's instant impact may, paradoxically, have persuaded Cortese that Adkins was not promoting its products fast enough.

That is Pochettino's strength, with 20 youth-team graduates given first-team debuts in his four years at Espanyol, but he has more immediate concerns, including getting the best out of his fellow South American Gaston Ramirez, the club's record signing. "The biggest challenge is to win the games that are ahead of us," he said. "In the background is a project and we'll keep on growing as a club, with one of the best academies in the country."

The Argentinian is expected to bring in Espanyol goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez and midfielder Joan Verdu, and he will also need a backroom staff. Assistant manager Dean Wilkins, who filled the same role under Adkins's predecessor, Alan Pardew, and was instrumental in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's first-team breakthrough, has also left, along with coaches Andy Crosby and Jim Stannard.

Although the sackings came as a surprise to supporters as well as Adkins and his staff, Spain's TV3 channel reported on Wednesday afternoon – well before kick-off in Saints' 2-2 draw at Chelsea – that Pochettino was within hours of joining Southampton. Adkins was doomed even if he had won, but the result was still the team's best this season. It will strengthen Adkins's appeal to chairmen of ambitious Championship clubs and be a benchmark by which the new man will be judged.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones