Argentine Mauricio Pochettino inherits a Southampton squad in shock and a fan-base in revolt after replacing Nigel Adkins as manager of the Premier League club.
Supporters of the south coast side say the former Espanyol boss can expect a fans’ protest in his first match in charge, at home to Everton tomorrow, as they express disgust at the sacking of a man who led Saints to back-to-back promotions.
Adkins was shown the door by executive chairman Nicola Cortese on Friday despite a barnstorming draw at European champions Chelsea in midweek and a victory at Aston Villa last weekend.
Fans are being urged to wave white handkerchiefs at St Mary’s Stadium to draw attention to their anger.
“As Spanish supporters wave white hankies as a form of protest 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.
“It’s important we send out this message and as this match is live on TV and will be seen throughout Europe, it’s a great opportunity to show how we feel,” he said.
“When you think about how hard he [Adkins] worked to get us into the Premier League, this leaves a bitter taste,” he told Southampton’s local newspaper the Daily Echo.
After a shaky start to the season in which they lost eight of their first 10 Premier League matches, Saints have suffered only two defeats in their last 10 league outings.
However, it proved too little too late as Cortese wielded the axe, saying a new man was needed given the long-term ambitions of the club.
Adkins reportedly left the club in tears, and his backroom staff were dismissed with him. Southampton had won 54 percent of their matches under Adkins — a better record than any Saints manager in more than 100 years.
That figure, though, is massaged by those games in the second and third tiers in which Adkins won promotion.
There are a number of former Saints bosses with a better winning record than Adkins’ 23 percent in the top flight, lending weight to Cortese’s decision.
Still, fans and players past and present were struggling to come to terms with the news.
Exciting full-back Luke Shaw pledged his future to the club just days ago, and after hearing the news turned to Twitter to tell his followers he was “very confused”.
Former players registered their disgust at the chairman’s ruthless treatment of Adkins.
“Once again I think he has made Southampton a bit of a laughing stock,” Saints great Matt Le Tissier said of the Italian, who has waged a feud with the club’s local newspaper and has a fractious relationship with a number of former players.
Former left-back Francis Benali said: “I’m gobsmacked and stunned at the timing of it. Nigel Adkins’ record, as every Saints fan would tell you, speaks for itself.
“Even if Nicola Cortese felt that Nigel wasn’t the right man to take the club forward then surely he should have been relieved of his duties well before now,” he said. “I just hope this doesn’t have a huge negative impact on the club and its results.”