Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Cortese defends Saints changes

Nicola Cortese has no regrets about his handling of affairs at Southampton

Southampton executive chairman Nicola Cortese has no regrets about the way the club have hired and fired managers.

Having been involved in a number of large deals in European football, the Italy-born Swiss banker convinced Markus Liebherr to purchase the troubled club in July 2009.

Liebherr passed away the following year but Cortese stayed on, overseeing Saints' rise from the foot of League One to the Premier League.

The club now lie fourth in the top-flight with the second-best defensive record in Europe, although the manner of their success has been controversial.

Alan Pardew was sacked two days after a 4-0 win at Bristol Rovers in 2010, with successor Nigel Adkins ruthlessly replaced earlier this year despite leading the club to back-to-back promotions and a decent start to life in the top flight.

Cortese defends the decisions, which were borne out of the desire to keep the club progressing.

"I remember when we changed with Alan Pardew it took about three weeks before we got a manager in," Cortese said at the Leaders in Football conference.

"On the first day everybody said, 'It is a stupid decision to make that change if you've not got anyone lined up'.

"Two years later you do the change and have someone lined up and it was controversial and a cruel decision.

"We changed managers on the back of good results and people say 'Why do you change now?', especially in Nigel's case as we came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 [against Chelsea] at Stamford Bridge.

"But this is progress, especially when you have someone lined up. The decision has been taken beforehand and maybe a lot of people will say 'Let's wait now', but we thought it was the right time to do it. I always planned in advance exactly the day I was going to do it.

"I think, to be honest, looking at those two scenarios, if one day I was in a similar situation again I would do it the same way again."

Former Argentina international Mauricio Pochettino is the man currently charged with leading the team - an important role, but one Cortese does not see as being distinct to any other senior club position.

"We came up with some plans that were not traditional in English football of how we want to structure the club," Cortese said of the takeover four years ago.

"We wanted a more continental approach in terms of the company structure. In terms of the manager, he has an important role but basically is just a department head like others.

"You've got to build a company again. There was absolutely no company culture, no plans, no ambition.

"Just using the word 'ambition' was a problem for some people because we're down here on the south coast."

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