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Southampton: Saints alive!


Bill Urban

Bill Urban writes regular columns for USSoccerplayers.com and Round Not Oval, and is currently working on a book....
[full biography]
19/05/2005 10:00:00.
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A number of impertinent questions sprang immediately to mind upon learning that Southampton’s 27 year tenure in the top flight of English football had come to an end with the 2-1 loss to Manchester United last Sunday. Would Harry Redknapp stay on as manager? Would the Saints supporters want him to do so? And would Rupert Lowe fire himself?

Can’t answer the first two, but the answer to the third, and by far most important of the three questions, is easy to guess: no.

For a man who has repeatedly seized whatever spotlight exists at St. Mary’s, contriving increasingly ridiculous ways to thrust himself into situations where he has no business being any part of the discussion, namely anything to do with football, Rupert Lowe will surely pass the responsibility for the Saints’ fall from grace on to someone else, as he did during his serial-firing of managers in his position as Grand-Poobah of All Saints.

Redknapp himself, while pondering his own future, had this to say about the Chairman: “He is a nice man - I can honestly say there is nothing nasty about him. He is different, that's for sure. He is from a public school background and not your average chairman - but he loves the club.”

Certainly, but does this mean that Lowe should still be in charge at Southampton? Redknapp’s diplomatic master-class carefully avoided mentioning the chaos of continued managerial changes, a problem which can be laid squarely at the Not Your Average Chairman’s feet. And Lowe’s involvement in the efforts to wrest control of the FA Cup and more control over England internationals from the Football Association on behalf of the Premier League are as clear an illustration as any that his interests, and whatever skills he brings to the table, lie firmly in the area of football as a business rather than an athletic competition. And will Lowe be forced to step down as one of the Premier League representatives on the FA Board now that Southampton have been relegated?

The fact that the loss against United was the straw that broke the relegation camel’s back for the Saints illustrates an important point. Both sets of fans gave full voice to their displeasures with the men who had taken over their respective clubs, and the opposition to Malcolm Glazer’s buy-out of United is cast into even starker relief when set alongside the gradual collapse of Southampton under Lowe’s leadership. Southampton fans have accused Lowe of running the club “on the cheap” for several years, and it is exactly this prospect to which the United support has raised such strong objection, the practice of pursuing profit whenever and wherever possible, with results on the pitch and the interests of supporters taking a distant back seat if not chucked off the bus entirely.

One can only marvel at the dissociation from events that Lowe is currently practicing. A small sample:

“In circumstances such as these, it is understandable that there should be a degree of antipathy towards the board and in particular myself. I have no intention of resigning as a knee-jerk reaction to Sunday's events.”

Nice one, Rupert. First things first, draw the Board in for their share of antipathy, not that you’ve been noted for sharing credit with the Board in the past when events were of a less negative nature, mind. And focusing solely on Sunday’s relegation neatly avoids all the problems and issues your policies have provoked in the past with the Southampton support. Casting present circumstances as a mere emotional reaction to relegation allows the side-stepping of all past mis-steps in a blatant public relations appeal to move past the issue of relegation and look towards the future.

In the Championship.

I wonder if Sir Clive Woodward will be more interested in working at Southampton now that Lowe has engineered the drop?

And the calls for Lowe’s resignation have been a long time coming, nothing knee-jerk about the latest versions. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Rupert Lowe to do the right and honourable thing; honour and responsibility are the first things cast aside when all that matters is the money, a suitable epigram for Rupert Lowe’s tenure as Chairman of Southampton Football Club...


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