Southampton are a football team who many will admire. A lot of this is due to the players they have developed through their academy, who in turn had to be sold on because of interest from richer and more successful clubs.
The likes of Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana, Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have emerged from the club’s conveyor belt of talent during the noughties. Going further back, Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer were two of the greatest goal scorers the Premier League ever had the privilege of watching after they came through the academy.
Alan Shearer, who of course went on to become the Premier League’s highest goal scorer, said at a charity event last month at The Doncaster Dome how more English teams have needed to replicate The Saints’ academy.
He said: ‘‘The big problem in this country is young English players don’t get a chance. There is an element of risk in playing youngsters as a manager when your neck is on the line so they buy international players instead.
‘‘Southampton are constantly producing kids. They are the only team who are consistently doing that.’’
What makes #SaintsFC‘s Academy so successful? 🤔
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) April 18, 2017
Despite Shearer’s words though, it’s anything but rosy at St Mary’s irrespective of their reputation as a promoter of young British players.
Moving from a financial position of £38.9 million pounds of debt in 2016 to now being in a position where they have savings of £2.9 million is an impressive turnaround on face value.
However, for a club who once had a £80 million player on their books-and only sold him to Tottenham for £10 million (after an appearance total was met), they have been left somewhat short-changed.
Managing Director, Toby Steele, paints a realistic picture despite the club being free from debt: ‘‘In terms of financially and the ability to invest, we continue to recycle. Summer 2017 was the first time we have spent more than we sold.’’
Southampton are therefore a club fighting for survival because they have been unable to bring in high-quality players to replace the ones they let go.
Having been relegated to the Championship in 2005, then League One in 2009, because of off-field financial difficulties, the club recovered well to now find themselves in their sixth successive Premier League season.
Yet, given the club’s inability to develop due to constant selling, their Premier League status is well and truly in jeopardy this season. This would have surprised many before a ball was kicked this campaign, given the club has not finished below 14th in their previous five seasons in the top-flight.
Currently sat in 18th place, The Saints sacked Mauricio Pellegrino after just one win in 17 games. Pellegrino won only five of his 30 games for the Hampshire club. Only Steve Wigley has a worse win percentage from Southampton’s 15 Premier League managers.
Just hope we don’t get Hughes… pic.twitter.com/1GP4qCPPLI
— Joe (@JoeSalter89) March 13, 2018
Despite being sacked by Stoke in January with The Potters in the bottom three, Mark Hughes has been tasked with the responsibility of keeping Southampton in the Premier League. The Saints are one point above Hughes’ former club but have a game in hand.
If Hughes was to lead Southampton to victory in their next game at West Ham-where unsavoury fan protests created a poisonous atmosphere at The London Stadium in their last game-then The Saints would jump out of the relegation zone.
Lose that, and the ensuing matches against Arsenal and Chelsea will become all the more difficult.